By Jacqueline Thomas
They had the tapes and a rough list of who was at the poker game Duke played with. Duke was right, some of the men at the table were real movers and shakers in Chicago. He was right to wonder why they were playing cards in Jim Danwood’s garage. The whole thing reeked of organized crime. The killer had to be involved somehow, and Ben and Marty knew it. They just had to put the pieces together.
Marty and Ben left for the parking garage. Had they been one day later, all of the tapes for the month would have been deleted. They still used tapes, it had to be the last garage in the city that did. The garage only kept them for ninety days. The security guard was all too happy to have them out of his cramped office. Ben and Marty stashed the tapes in the trunk and left the car to go grab a beer across the street. It had been one hell of a day. They walked we passed a small music shop on their way to the bar. In the window stood a cherry-wood music stand. It looked like an antique. The legs were ornately carved with the shelf for the music, scrolled in elegant swirls. It made Ben think of Rachel. The shop had just closed but he could still see the owner inside.
“Hey Marty, you go ahead, I’ll be there in a sec.”
“Nothing, I want to buy that for a friend,” Ben said as he pointed at the stand in the window.
Marty shrugged his shoulders and walked on towards the bar.
Ben went up an knocked on the door.
“We’re closed.” The elderly gentleman said as he looked at me through the door.
He pulled out my badge, hoping it would work. It did. The old man came up to the door and unlocked it.
“How can I help you, Officer?”
“This isn’t police business, but I’ve been working a case all day and I forgot to buy a birthday present for a friend of mine, she would love the music stand in the window. Can I buy it?”
The old man stood aside so Ben could come in and locked the door behind them.
“Does she play music?”
“Yes, the cello.”
He walked up to the window and pulled the stand out.
“It’s an antique, a real beauty. She’s one lucky girl.”
He set it in front of him, Ben thought it was more beautiful up close. He ran his fingers over the top of the smooth cherrywood.
“She must be a very special girl for such a lovely gift,” the man said as he rang up the tag for the stand.
The old man smiled.
“I may have a bow in the back.”
The old man rung up the stand.
“That will be $682.00. please.”
The price was way more than Ben had been expecting but it was the perfect gift for Rachel, today was her birthday after all. He paid the man and he went back to find a bow. The clerk came back a minute later with a large white satin bow. He handed it to Ben and said there was no charge for the bow. Ben thanked him and carried the stand out.
Three hours later Ben pulled into his driveway with the music stand in the back seat. It was late, too late to go knock on Rachel’s door. She had said the boys would be back and she had her sister’s kids tonight. The last thing he wanted to do was wake the whole house. He pulled the stand out of the back seat and carried it inside. Ben wanted to give it to her but he wasn’t quite sure how. They had chemistry last night, they both felt it. Something spooked her, maybe a memory. He wanted a relationship with her and he would go as slow as she needed me to. He decided to write her a note and attach it to the music stand. He would leave it on her porch. He didn’t want to make her uncomfortable. Ben grabbed a piece of paper out of the printer and began to write a note on it. Frustrated, he crushed it up and decided to start again. He knew he had to play his hand carefully. Ben was lucky he had decent handwriting, had Marty written it, it would have been undecipherable. Ben looked down at his note and reread it, it said;
Happy Birthday. Something to inspire your music.
Ben had wanted to say so much more but he didn’t want to come on too strong and frighten her. He folded the paper in half and slid it underneath the bow. He grabbed the stand and took it across the street tucking it far up on the porch so it wouldn’t be stolen.
Ben walked back across the street, fed the cat, took a shower and went to bed. It had been a long couple of days. Tomorrow would surely be longer. He slept hard that night, knowing that he had something to go on with the South Side Strangler case, he knew that asshole’s days were numbered, Ben would find him.
The sun streamed into his bedroom, shining on Ben’s face the next morning. He woke up and used the bathroom. As he got dressed he looked across the street and the music stand was still on the porch. He was glad it had not been stolen in the night. He glanced at the clock on his nightstand. It was still early. The newspaper was still on the sidewalk in front of her house, she had not been outside yet. He went downstairs and started the coffee maker as he looked through the bills that had been in yesterday’s mail. Ben peeked back across the street, no activity. He didn’t want to walk outside as she did, that felt weird.
Ben finished my coffee and fed the cat before he grabbed his keys. He couldn’t hang out any longer, he needed to get going. It was going to be a busy day. Ben petted Felix, “You’re in charge now buddy.” he joked.
Ben opened the door and saw Rachel standing on his porch. She jumped at the opening of the door.
“Good morning,” Ben said.
“Oh, you scared, me. I just wanted to come over and thank you for the beautiful present. It must have cost you a fortune.”
“You’re welcome, I saw it while I was out yesterday and thought it would have a good home with you.”
“It was very sweet, thank you.”
She turned to walk away.
“Rachel, wait. Do you have a second?”
She looked back towards the house.
“The boys are up and unsupervised, I really should get back.”
“Can I walk back with you?”
Her brown hair seemed to glow in the early morning sunlight. She was so beautiful. She smiled at his question.
“I just wanted to say about the other night..”
She cut him off.
“Ugh, I am so embarrassed, I am sorry about that. I know that I led you on and I am sorry.”
She stopped walking as they reached her front steps.
“You don’t have anything to be sorry for. I got your note. I am just going, to be honest, I really like you and if we can only be friends right now, that’s fine, I just like spending time with you.”
“That is really sweet. I enjoyed spending time with you too. Were you on your way somewhere? Do you have a second more to talk?”
He nodded. Ben really didn’t but he knew this might be his only chance with Rachel and he didn’t want to blow it.
“Okay, let me check on the boys and just wait here, okay?”
She returned a minute later with two cups of coffee in her hand.
“I wasn’t sure if you are a coffee drinker.”
She handed him the mug.
“I just wanted to explain the other night. I just..”
“You don’t owe me an explanation.”
“No, I do. I don’t want you to think it was something you did. My marriage with Rhett ended badly. It has taken me a long time to heal from that. I haven’t dated since. I am sorry if I freaked out on you. I am so embarrassed and angry with myself because I enjoyed our dinner together and I feel like I made a mess of it.”
“You didn’t at all. Life gets tricky sometimes. I’ll tell you what, you have an open invitation for dinner, or a movie or whatever you want when you are ready. I’d like to get to know you better, but you’re in the driver seat here. I will follow your lead. I don’t want you to feel any pressure from me.”
“Ben, that’s sweet. I would like to get together again. I don’t know if I am capable of being anything more than friends right now, though.”
“I could always use another friend.”
She put her hand over his and smiled. Her touch although delicate and soft felt like an electric charge. Ben looked down at her delicate hand and put his over her’s. He wanted to reach out and kiss her, but he knew he couldn’t. Something caught Ben’s eye and they both turned to look. They had been spotted by Laura, their neighbor, she quickly pulled her front curtain shut, at being spotted. Ben turned back to Rachel, both silently understanding that Laura was not happy with this scene.
“Mommy,” Luke came out onto the porch, his pajama shirt soaked through. “Mommy, I spilled the milk. It’s all everywhere and Tommy won’t help me clean it up.”
Rachel took a deep breath.
“I’m sorry Ben, I have to go.”
“Mr. Carter, do you have your gun today?” Luke’s face lit up.
“Yes, because I am a detective. I need it to catch the bad guys.”
Luke looked up at Rachel.
“A detective is a police officer who catches bad guys. We need to let Mr. Carter go to work.”
“Bye” Luke waved, “Get lots of bad guys today!”
Rachel waved as well. Ben turned and walked back towards my car. He turned around when he reached his car. Rachel was still watching him. Ben knew it was a good sign.
He walked into the station as Marty was giving updates to the others about the day’s work. They had a lot of people to question. Marty and Ben were going to go question Jim Danwood and Rae Lynn. Their fellow detectives were going to go talk to the poker players that had been at the game.
Forty minutes later Ben and Marty walked into Danwood Roofing. The door was locked but clearly, the office was open. Marty knocked on the door but no one came to answer. Ben looked at the business card taped to the door and dialed the number. They heard Rae Lynn’s desk phone ring. Watching through the door Marty and Ben saw the door to Jim’s office open. Rae Lynn stumbled out, as she quickly buttoned her blouse, and made her way to the phone. Her lipstick was smeared and her hair was disheveled. She picked it up and Ben stepped completely in front of the door so she could see him. He noticed a trace white dust around her left nostril.
“Hello Danwood Roofing, how may I help you?” She answered as she wiped her nose with her hand.
“Hi Rae Lynn, it’s Detective Carter. Look up at your front door.”
“Oh, hello Detective. Hold on a sec.”
She put the receiver down and came over and unlocked the door. Marty and Ben stepped inside. There was a look of alarm in her face, although she tried to hide it. Ben had become good at spotting it, that look when the guilty realized the police had just shown up.
“How can I help you, Detective? Are you looking for Stephen? He doesn’t work here anymore. He quit last night. Thank you for whatever you said to him that made him leave.”
“We actually wanted to talk to your boss.”
“Yes is he in?”
“Um… let me see if he’s in a meeting.”
She walked quickly back into the office and shut the door behind her. Ben glanced back at Marty. They heard quick movement coming from within the office. Ben looked back at Marty again then he walked towards the door. He opened the door as Rae Lynn and Jim froze. Looking at both of them, they appeared to be high. It was Ben’s lucky day.
“Detective Carter, how many times do I have to tell you. I don’t know anything about no fucking tapes.” He whined with frustration.
Ben walked towards the desk. He ran his finger over the white Formica top and looked at his fingertip covered in white dust.
“That’s not mine!” Rae Lynn blurted out.
Jim grabbed her arm, to shut her up.
“Detective, I want you to leave my premises. I didn’t invite you in.”
Ben had just started to speak when he heard Marty walk in behind him.
“Looks like you all are selling more than roofs here.” He held up several small bags with white powder in them.
“You can call your lawyer from the station.”
Marty and Ben cuffed both of them and brought them both into the station.