The Retiring Type

By James P. Hanley 

Gregg Walters pulled the pillow over his head to block out the sound of pounding. When the wood of his door frame shook from the heavy blows, he knew he had to get out of the bed and answer the door. Reaching for his gun in the side draw, resting on the metallic badge, he threw on a bathrobe over his body barely covered by saggy briefs. Stumbling into the living room, he nearly tripped over the empty bottle of rye that rolled from a push by his toes. At about five feet from the door, he stopped and yelled out, “Who the hell is it?”

“It’s me, Eddy Castillo from next door.”

Walters didn’t recognize the voice but he hardly knew his neighbors. Cautiously, he opened the door, one hand in the pocket of his bathroom where the gun was. Like a gust of wind, Eddy Castillo charged in and without a word of greeting, launched into a long explanation, none of which Walters understood because of the rapid, accented speech.

“Slow down, I don’t even know if you’re speaking English.”

Castillo was a small man, his diminutive size exaggerated by the oversized sweater and sweat pants. He hadn’t shaven for days and the stubble grew unevenly in patches of white and brown. His nostril flared as if the only passage for breath.

“My daughter; I’m so ashamed.”

Walters laughed sardonically, “You have to tell me more than that.”

“Okay, I know you are a policeman —”

“Detective,” Walters corrected.

“Sorry. My daughter’s picture is in some terrible magazine and,” his words slowed as if difficult to get out, “and she’s naked. My baby is only sixteen.”

“Call the magazine and tell him how old she is and they’ll have to pull the pictures.”

“The issue is already being sold.”

“So what do you want me to do?”

“Arrest the publisher, Bill Telman.”

“I can notify the vice squad, but let me tell you what will happen. They’ll charge Telman, he’ll post bail, if any. A swarm of lawyers will come out of the shitter and say all sorts of nasty things about your daughter, how she lied to them, gave them false documents, that she’s a slut. The newspapers will pick up the story and while they won’t give the name, people will know. And sales of the magazine will go sky high, so you’ll be doing them a favor.”

Castillo burst into tears. “He can’t get away with it,” and stormed out.

“One more year,” Walters muttered; one more year before he retires, one more year to hand over a good chunk of his paycheck to the leech — his ex-wife, one more year before he moves to the Philippines where they won’t find him.

At the precinct, Walters worked on the few cases he was assigned. Meticulous but not bound by the rules, he was often praised and frequently reprimanded, often for the same case. His I don’t give a shit attitude didn’t win many friends but he didn’t care. At the end of the day, he headed for the gin mill not far from his house, so he could walk home when he overindulged — which was often. As he neared, he could see his neighbor, Castillo, sitting on the steps, undoubtedly waiting for the detective.

“The picture is on face look, and all her friends at school have seen it and call her terrible names.”

“You mean Facebook. That’s what happens, somebody scans the picture or else the magazine puts the photo on its website not knowing her real age; even if they pull it it’s probably been downloaded already. And it won’t go away.”

“I’ll kill the bastard,” Castillo said.

The next morning, Walters had the day off and decided to look into the picture of the young neighborhood girl. Remembering the name of the publication from a comment Castillo made, he purchased a copy of Naked and Young and flipping through the pages, found a photo of a voluptuous-beyond-her-years and nude girl staring seductively in the camera while a man stood behind her, face not showing, with an arm reaching in front. No wonder his neighbor was pissed, Walters thought. At home, he looked up the picture on the internet and found the same image with lascivious comments attached. By the time, he’d found the illicit photo, he was a quarter of the way into a bottle of bourbon. Still early evening, he decided to confront the publisher, hoping the man would do something that would give him a reason to make an arrest. Waiting outside the building where Naked and Young was produced, he looked for the publisher, Telman, to leave, identifying him by a photograph in the front pages of the magazine. Shivering in the late January weather, he was considering returning home, having sobered enough to rethink.  At about eight, a man came out of the building and even though he wrapped his coat tightly and buried his face in the wool collar, Walters knew it was Telman.

Walking to a position behind the publisher, Walters had to increase his pace as the bulky man realized someone was following him and was in a near trot.

“I’m a detective,” Walters shouted, and pulled his badge from his pocket to display.

“What do you want?” Telman said gruffly.

“I want to talk to you about the photograph in your publication of an underage girl.” By the time he spoke, Walters was two feet from Telman.

“Are you arresting me?” the publisher asked.

“No, I just want —”

“Call my lawyer.” Telman said sardonically, taking a business card from the inside of his coat and throwing it at Walters. He turned and continued walking.

The tossed card angered Walters and he grabbed Telman; when the publisher raised his hands to unlock the detective’s grip, Walters thought he was going to punch so he pushed the big man who tumbled backward into an alley between the buildings. As he tried to regain his footing, Telman’s foot landed on a piece of pipe and combined with the momentum of the shove, he flew back, striking his head hard against a brick wall. Identifying himself, Walters told a dispatcher to send an ambulance. The resulting problems accelerated.

In the morning, Walters was told to report to the Precinct Commander and after a lengthy tirade from the Captain on the run-in with Telman and the possible lawsuit that will follow, the senior officer said, “You’re going to screw up your pension, and you’ll have nothing.”

“I don’t give a shit about a pension. That guy put a picture of a nude child in his filthy magazine, and I’m sure he won’t admit it, but he knew she was underage. He was appealing to pedophiles.”

“You can’t prove it. Besides, according to vice, if the girl showed them phony ID, the likelihood of a conviction is remote, even if they weren’t diligent enough in checking her papers. But you stay away from that man.”

That day, Walters went directly home and knocked on his neighbor’s door. The daughter answered the door, her eyes swollen from crying and her cheeks colored with bruises. “What happened to you?” he asked the girl as she backed away, trying to hide behind the half-opened door.

“I’ll tell you what happened,” the voice of her father came booming out of a side room, “the other girls made fun of her and boys made lewd remarks; when she spoke to a boy who felt sorry for her, another girl came at her, punching and screaming not to go after her boyfriend. This is all that magazine’s fault.”

“Can I talk to your daughter?”

The girl shook her head violently, but her father spoke to her softly and said Walters would help deal with the publisher.

Answering the detective’s question, she explained why she posed, “That arm in the picture is my boyfriend, Matt. He’s eighteen and said he wanted to marry me but we’d have to go to a state where someone my age could get wed without a parent’s permission, and we needed money. He knew how we could make lots for taking off our clothes for a few minutes.” She looked at her father, knowing the words were hurtful. “But,” she sobbed again, “he left me and I never saw the money.”

“You arrest him, can’t you?” Castillo pleaded.

“I’ve been told to lay off but I’ll see what I can do. I want to talk to the boyfriend.”

Castillo looked defeated, Walters thought as he walked out.

After the Castillos, he went to the home of the boyfriend. The door was opened by a surly man who groused at being interrupted from watching a movie, which the detective could see was a film of nude women running along a beach. “What did the punk do now?” With that, a round woman came lumbering out of the kitchen and yelled at her husband, “Don’t call him that.” As if on cue by his parent’s squabble, a pimple-scarred teenager came out of his bedroom, shutting the door behind him to block the throbbing music from his CD player. Walters asked the kid his side of the story and as expected, the eighteen year old said the photograph was her idea and having seen her naked many times before, didn’t see the harm in making some money from exposing her body. He added that he always thought she was eighteen. Walters didn’t believe any of it.

At two o’clock that morning, the phone rang in the detective’s bedroom. He angrily grabbed the phone and yelled, “What’s the matter with —”

The duty sergeant interrupted his tirade. Walters recognized the voice of the cop who he’d once worked with and liked. “That publisher Telman was killed tonight, strangled. I heard about what happened with you and him. You know the shit’s going to hit the fan.”

“Thanks for the warning, Billy.”

As expected, Walters was grilled by the detectives assigned to the case, and with no alibi, he knew he’d be on top of the “persons of interest” list. The warning was stated forcibly to stay out of the investigation. “If you stick your nose in, you can kiss that pension goodbye,” the Captain said.

As he left the office, Walters muttered, “You can kiss my ass. I’m not going to sit on the sidelines when I’m a suspect.”

When Walters went home, he stopped by the Castillos.  Opening the door partially, Eddy Castillo said, “The cops told me I can’t talk to you.”

The detective pushed the door open, and walked in, “Bullshit. You got me in the middle of this; you’re going to talk to me. Obviously, you’ve been questioned by the police. Did they tell you anything about the investigation?”

Eddy answered, “No, nothing. I did tell them the boyfriend should be questioned, but they knew about him and he had an alibi.”  

“Probably his parents. They’re as seedy as the son.” Shifting to an accusatory tone, hoping to catch Castillo off guard, he said, “Did you do it?” His words had a reaction he didn’t expect, Eddy wrinkled his face and cried. Guess the answer’s no, Walters thought. “Alright, quit bawling.”

Next, Walters arranged to meet the publisher’s personal secretary. Ms. La Russa looked like one of the women in Telman’s magazine: her long legs stretched out for a good distance from the hem of her skirt and she missed quite a few buttons of her blouse so that her frilly bra filled the space between. With blond-streaked hair and makeup that had the appearance of a lengthy, patient application, she was a knockout, Walters thought. Offering a few well-timed sniffles as an indication of grief, she sat across from him in the cavernous office of her boss.

“I’m conducting a special, undercover investigation, so if one of the regular detectives questions you, don’t mention our conversation.”

Looking marginally impressed, she vowed secrecy. When Walters asked the first question: “Did he have enemies?” she had to cover her mouth to stifle an ugly guffaw. “Do you know how many self-righteous bigots there are out there?” Walters guessed that the words were a repeat of something Telman had once said.

“But any threaten harm, like with murder?”

Ms. LaRussa didn’t hold back the laugh the second time and barely catching her breath, said, “His ex-wives, both of them, and his current. The bitches! One even tried to get me fired. Well, she got fired.”

“All three?”

“Yeah; you know men marry a type, sometimes over and over. They all had tempers. He told me that made them good in the sack.”

“He talked to you about his sex life?”

“This kind of business inspires you.”

“Guess you told him about yours.” Walters realized the question was off base and moved on, “Go through his emails and any letters and make me copies; don’t email anything to me, send them overnight, I don’t want the other cops to see that I have copies. He wrote his home address on the back of his business card. “They’ll soon be here to access his computer. I’m looking for correspondence that is personal and has threats.” 

After getting a list of the ex-wives and the current spouse, Walters visited them in marriage order. Wife number one was a tall blond with dark roots that were growing out and pushing the lighter strands further out. Her makeup seemed applied with a paint brush and she dressed in slacks and blouse that had been purchased when she was a smaller size. Throughout the interview, she pulled squares of chocolate from a box that she carried around like a treasure. Even the mention of the dead man’s name brought an angry response and a list of foul names, some of which were new to Walters. She concluded, “I’m not sorry the bastard is dead, but I needed him alive for alimony.” Wife number two, attractive with striking eyes and a chest that would have kept the titanic afloat, was the most vitriolic, claiming that he was influencing their daughter. She ended by saying that she wished she had the nerve to kill him, but didn’t. She also mentioned that another detective had called and said he would stop by. Walters knew word would get back to his boss. Telman’s current wife, only recently crowned with the title, was very different: unattractive with large-pore skin, a boxer’s nose, and ears that could carry her for miles in a good wind. She was willing to spill any secret and air any misdeed. “He used much of my money to keep that filthy magazine afloat. He thought of himself as a younger Hugh Hefner and cheated often. Would you believe it but I still have feelings for the louse.” Walters didn’t believe her. The others, he suspected, sought solace from someone who offered a shoulder in return for access to her whole body, but the current stayed with him and he wasn’t sure why.  The emails and letters Walters received in the overnight mail would require a lot of time to investigate and uncertain if there was much there, he left that part of the investigation to the assigned detectives. When he called Ms. LaRussa to thank her for the help, he asked, “His second wife said he’s been influencing his daughter. Has she been at the business much?”

“All the time. She’d even been in the room when they’re taking photographs.”

After that call, he decided to revisit wife number two. When he knocked on the door, she seemed surprised. “I’ve answered your questions and gave you an alibi; what else do you want?”

“What did you mean he influenced your daughter?”

“You leave her out of this. He should have.” She slammed the door.

Returning late to his apartment, Walters took his small, yappy dog for a walk in the park down the street. The fifty-acre park was dimly lit with a few lampposts at the entrance; most of the paths wound between the trees thick with leaves and were in darkness. While Walters waited impatiently for the dog to empty its bladder, seemingly drip by drip, a figure crept behind him and by the time the detective heard faint footsteps, he had no time to react before a fist struck his kidney and he sunk to the ground as the following blow crashed into his temple. He felt hard kicks push into his side and a stomp across his forehead, causing his vision to blur. Then, there was the sound of a siren near the entrance to the park. The attacked fled. Looking quickly around, he couldn’t find the dog and saw the dark-clothed man was running toward the park entrance. Walters tried to pursue but could barely get to his feet. Stumbling to the front of the park, he called out to the officer who was giving a ticket to a stopped driver and asked the cop if he saw a man run out. The young officer answered no and offered to take Walters to the hospital, but the detective declined.

“See if there are any cameras in the area that might have captured the bastard.”

“Will do, sir,” the young cop answered. “We’ll check the area for your dog.”

“Don’t bother. The mutt’s probably gone back to my ex-wife, bitch to bitch.”

“So if we find it, bring the dog to the pound?”

“No, give me a call.”

That night, Walters couldn’t sleep, partially because of the pain from the beating but also because of the anger. When he arrived at work the next day, he was summoned into the Precinct Commander’s office, and the stern-faced Captain began with, “You look like hell.”

“Thanks, a man needs encouragement early in the day. My ex-wife was good at that, too.”

“We know who did this to you. A street camera did get the car with the license plate visible. There was no one else in the area at that time, so we’re pretty certain he’s the one who attacked you. This all may be because you’ve been nosing around where you were told not to.”

“Who is this guy and can I get a few minutes — alone — with him?”

“No, and his name is LaRussa.”

Walters jumped up when he heard the name. “That’s also the name of Telman’s secretary. I’m going to talk to her.”

“Damn it, stay out of this.”

“This guy hurt me and if she’s behind this —” Walters stormed out and drove to the magazine’s headquarters. Ms. LaRussa was emptying the contents of her file draw and when she saw the detective come charging in, she looked up with a surprised expression.

“I’ve been asked to leave,” she said, “which is a polite way of saying I’m fired.”

“I know where your next job will be, state prison. Sit down and answer my questions. Were you screwing your boss?”

Ms. LaRussa’s eyes filled and she responded with a head nod.

“And did you have a relative go after me, maybe because I was getting too close? Probably the same guy you had kill Telman because maybe he was moving on.”

The secretary shrieked and hyperventilated. When she calmed, she became angry. “First, detective, he hadn’t moved on. I knew the relationship was going nowhere, but it was fine for now, for both us. We agreed no strings. I don’t know where you got the idea that I’d have someone in my family go after you. I only have a brother near here and he’s married with two kids; the rest of my relatives are over a thousand miles away.”

“The guy caught by camera was named LaRussa.”

Growing indignant, she said, “Do you know how common the name LaRussa is? Telman even had a wife whose maiden name was LaRussa — no relative.”

Walters sat back in his chair. “Which wife was that?”

“The second. Now, this is still my office until the end of the day, so get out, unless you arrest me. I hope you do, so I can sue your ass.”

Walters scowled but left, calling the precinct as soon as he was in the hallway of the building. “Captain, I spoke to the secretary and she claimed it wasn’t her brother and —

“It wasn’t. Her brother does check out. We’re picking up the car owner now. You coming back here?”

“No, I got one more stop to make.”

When Walters showed up at the home of wife number two, he was greeted with an angry stare, but she reluctantly let him in. “If you come here to harass me —”

“Sit down. I’ve been threatened and punched. I’m in no mood. The cops are going to pick up your brother, or whatever he is to you. He’ll likely squeal and say you put him up to the murder and the attack on me.”

Her face twisted and she began to cry. Reaching in her purse for a handkerchief, she pulled out a gun instead. “That bastard was making our daughter into a —” She struggled to find the words. “My daughter, my fifteen-year-old, wanted to pose in his magazine. Can you image that? And he was going to do it. My baby’s naked picture in that smut rag. After his first wife soaked him for alimony, he wasn’t going to be trapped again, so he made me sign a pre-nup. But our marriage did give me my little girl and he was taking that from me. He was making her into something horrible. She started dressing like a whore, stayed out late and told me once she was old enough, she was leaving and would live with her father. I had to stop all that.”

“So what happens now?”

“I don’t know,” she said while crying. “I have to kill you then run away.”

Walters realized why Telman left her: she was nuts, and that made her dangerous. He figured if he made a sudden move toward her, she’d fire, but if he lunged to the side, she’d shoot where she expected him to be — directly in front. While she stood, he jumped off the chair and behind a coffee table to his right. As he expected, she pulled the trigger but aiming where he had been, and the bullet penetrated the chair he was sitting on. Before, she could get oriented, he dove into her, and she flew backwards, dropping the weapon as she hit the floor. From there, it was easy to subdue her and place her in cuffs. In a few minutes, they could hear sirens getting close.

While they waited, Walters asked, “Why did you have someone attack me?”

“I asked my brother to take care you. He’d hurt you so you’d be out of commission for a long time. The other detective told me you were retiring in a few weeks, so I figured you’d be out of commission, them go retire. Those other cops didn’t seem interested in me, so with you out of the way, I thought they’d move on. So many people hated that bastard ex-husband, they’d be looking for suspects for a long time. But when I mentioned my daughter to you, twice, I realized my mistake; I’d given you reason to look at me. Besides you’re such an irritating person, I figured there’d be no shortage of people trying to hurt you, that’s what the other detectives would think. They didn’t like you much.”

After both had been brought to the precinct and interrogated — Walters watching from the two-way glass — the siblings were charged. The Captain approached Walters. “You can go home now. Start thinking about what you’ll do while retired.”

“About that, Captain. I believe I can withdraw my retirement request, so I’m going to. You guys need me around here,” he said with a laugh as he walked away.

“Great news,” the Captain shouted after him, the sarcasm inflecting the words.

James P. Hanley has had articles published in professional journals but has concentrated more on fiction in recent years. His stories have been accepted by mystery magazines such as Crimespree, Futures, Detective Mystery Stories, Savage Kick and others, as well as in mainstream/literary periodicals: MacGuffin, South Dakota Review, Concho River Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Center, Fresh Boiled Peanuts, and Westerns: Western Online. His first novel, THE CALLING, will be published in November, 2014 by 5 Prince Publishing.

Four of the author's short stories were previously published on the omdb! website — “Murder at First Sight” (May, 2014), "The Murder of a Fund Manager" ( September, 2012), "The Tuna Mystery" (March, 2012), and  "End Times" (October, 2011).

Copyright 2014 James P. Hanley. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of the author is prohibited. OMDB! and OMDB! logos are trademarks of Over My Dead Body!

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