Thursday 22 October 2020

Case 2 - Episode 17 - Sykes has a chat with Ned Blines

 It was like an archetypal stand-off in the middle of a dusty western town, two gunmen eyeing each other off, waiting to see who drew first.

Ned had seen Sykes approaching but didn't move.  Instead, he kept his eyes on the Detective whilst nonchalantly smoking his cigarette.

Sykes stopped about fifteen feet from Ned.  After a few seconds, he said, "Hello Ned."

Ned gave him a long hard stare, blew smoke into the air, and took another puff.  He knew Sykes, and the two had sparred before.  "What are you doing here.  This is private property."

A technicality Sykes thought, but as an officer of the law, he had the right to enter if he considered a crime was being committed, or about to be.

"It's also a crime scene, so I could ask you the same question."

Ned flicked the cigarette butt into the air and watched it land about six feet away in a pothole in the road surface.

"You or that other detective find who killed Theo.  The other detective reckoned it was a woman whom he surprised when she was snooping around."

"She wasn't snooping around, and no, she did not kill your brother, someone else did, one of your many enemies, Ned.  You and Theo are not very well-liked."

"By the cops maybe.  You find the girl?"

"Yes.  And she was not responsible for his death.  Theo had five bullets in him.  One stray, and harmless shot, by the girl, and four from the killer.  It was a professional hit, Ned, so you and Theo are working for the wrong crowd this time.  Just what are you, and Theo before you, doing here?"

Sykes had noticed Ned had stopped leaning against the car, resisted the urge to have another cigarette by putting the pack back in his pocket, and stood ready for what might come next.

"Doing my job.  Why are you here?"

Sykes noted that it was not exactly a welcoming tone or stance.  He took a moment to check, mentally, if he could get to the gun quick enough if Ned rushed him.  Borderline.  He made a mental note to get in some more practice at the gun range.

"Is that the same job your brother Theo was doing?  Exactly what was he doing that got him killed?"

"Nothing wrong.  It's a simple security guard gig, watching over the property and make sure no one affects an illegal entry, more for their safety than anything else.  The property beyond the fence line to the water is unsafe."

'Effect and illegal entry'?  That, Sykes thought was Ned's brother Willy speaking.  Ned's vocabulary was limited, as was Theo's.

"Have you checked it yourself?"

"Why would I?  Didn't you just hear me tell you it's unsafe?  My job is to stop people from hurting themselves and hitting the owners with a huge insurance bill."

It was a simple set of instructions Willy had given them, but nothing like the truth. It was a case of keeping it simple stupid for his brothers 

There was another reason for their presence which no doubt Willy knew so it would have to wait till he saw him.

Sykes pulled out a card with his name and number on it, took the five or six steps to reach Ned's car, and put the card on the end of the bonnet.

"You call me if you see anyone snooping about before they try to shoot you, too.  Or if any girls turn up.  And a word of advice, Ned, so you don't end up in jail for life, Theo's killer was not the girl so if you or the equally dim-witted brother, Willy, try anything, I'll know and you will both be the first people I call on."

Ned said nothing, just stood silently, glowering at Sykes.

"Good," Sykes said.  "I'm glad that's settled. Say hello to your brother and let him know I'm coming to see him."

Ned glared at him for a few seconds then went back to leaning against his car, totally ignoring the card Sykes had left for him, and lit another cigarette.

He waited until Sykes had left before getting out his cell phone to call his brother.

© Charles Heath 2020

Wednesday 14 October 2020

Case 2 - Episode 16 - Sykes revisits the dockland crime scene

 It wasn't the first time Sykes had been down to the docks, especially this section that had been scheduled for reclamation for at least 10 years, but a series of setbacks had seen it put on hold or the subject of lawsuits, takeovers, and government red tape.

But that was only part of the story.  

There were a plethora of ownership claims, from gangsters to allegedly crooked businessmen, to multinational companies whose origins were wrapped up in so many trusts and shell companies that the owners were all but completely obscured.

Sykes' forensic accountant was only two levels back in the tangled web, and not likely to find much in a hurry.  Perhaps a little old-fashioned police work might yield results quicker.

He made sure that he left his destination with the desk officer in case of running into trouble.  He was also given the benefit of the colleague's advice, take someone with him, or get eyes on the back of his head.

It appeared everyone had a bad story about the docks.

Even in daylight, the disused docklands were eerie, and the place sent shivers down Sykes's spine.  It was still reputedly the burial ground for a long list of missing persons, sometimes gangsters who got caught in the crossfire, informants who all lived on a precarious edge, or people just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He walked the half-mile main frontage, feeling that there was more than one set of eyes watching him, and took in the details.  

There were old warehouses on one side of a wide street some all but falling.  On the other, there were large signs posted everywhere about the hazards of venturing past the chain wire fences, highlighting the fact the wharf was rotting and very dangerous, and the buildings near the wharves were equally subject to imminent collapse.

Back to the street and the fencing, five gates were all secured with new chains and locks over rusting metal fencing. It may have looked old and decrepit, but when Sykes tested it, it felt extraordinarily strong and sturdy. A closer inspection of parts of the fence showed signs of recent repairs.  What was intriguing was that someone had gone to great effort to make the whole structure look like something it wasn't.

He crossed the road and walked alongside the more sturdily constructed warehouse buildings made of brick, with mesh-covered windows and thick locked doors that would withstand to the pounding of a ram.  He knocked on a few, discovering they were very thick and the locks on the doors were new too.

A glance at the step showed under some of the doors, showed the door hadn't been opened in a long time, because of the lack of scrape marks.  Except for one, two buildings from the end where the door showed signs of being recently opened.

This had to be the one where Felicity had run into Theo.  Sykes conducted a methodical search within 50 yards of that doorway, and it led him to the point where Theo Blines had died.  Felicity had told him she had accidentally shot Ned close to the doorway.  There were still drops of blood on the steps, but none on the ground heading away from the doorway, showing that Theo Blines had been carried from the doorway and the building as if to remove an association from it.

That had been either mistakenly or intentionally omitted in the report Sykes had received. So, a new fact, Theo Blines had been moved and likely killed in that spot.  He would have to check the medical examiner's report again.

He went back to the doorway and pounded on the door.  He was not expecting anyone to answer, but it would be remiss of him if didn't try.

Back out on the street, he could hear a car coming, slow down as it approached the building, then stop.  It sat there for a minute before he heard a door open and close, then nothing.  Still in the doorway, it would be difficult form the car occupant to see Sykes, but poking his head out from the wall Sykes could see the occupant was standing beside their car, not looking in his direction, but instead smoking a cigarette and infrequently looking in one direction, then the other.

Even from that distance, he could recognize the form.  Ned Blines, taller and meaner looking than his younger brother Theo, a man with the gift of belligerence.  First to start a fight, and usually, the last man to leave with the least amount of damage.  Not someone to take on alone, not unless he had a gun, which, by a quirk of fate he was carrying.

He waited until Ned finished his cigarette, then stepped out from behind the wall.

Sykes had covered 50 yards before Ned saw him, turned, and stood waiting for him.  The fact Ned hadn't jumped in his car and fled meant he thought he was not doing anything wrong.

Technically, he wasn't.

© Charles Heath 2020

Monday 5 October 2020

Case 2 - Episode 15 - Old Adversaries

 After some thought on who to see next, the notion of questioning what essentially was a blunt instrument considering Ned Blines was as daft as his younger brother, it was clear that it was a better idea to go to the eldest brother Willy, and see what he had to say first.

Whoever it was that sent them on the surveillance mission must not have known they were pushing the junior brothers to the upper limits of their capabilities. Sykes doubted Willy was masterminding this operation, his responsibility would be limited to finding work that was supposed to keep them out of trouble.  

Willy was the smartest of the three, but that didn't mean he could see trouble coming, or know that the work he was being given could lead to unexpected results.  Unlike his brothers he had a day job, working as a property manager for one of the councilors who was reputed, through a series of shell companies, the owner of a lot of decrepit buildings that were about to be rezoned.

Where there was money to be made, James Quirk was at the front of the line.  Once a prominent defense lawyer, he inexplicably changed sides to become a DA, and then an elected Councillor.  Joel may not have made the connection, but Sykes did.

Quirk’s ambitions, as everyone knew, didn't stop there, and he was now looking at the state legislature.  The only thing holding him back was the necessity to keep fighting brush fires, the likes of the rezoning scandal just one of many.  And those skeletons in the closet, lie Sykes, and what he knew of him.

Despite Quirk’s best efforts his affairs on the down-low, rezoning, for one, had made the news, but with some deft sidestepping, and another scandal involving a rival candidate surfacing at just the right moment, made Quirk’s problems just as quickly disappear.  That and the news of Willy Blines suddenly put his hand up and tendered the necessary ownership documentation.  There was no law against a city employee owning property, so long as he had no influence over decisions regarding that property.

For Blines part in alleviating Quirk's problem, he got a nondescript job in City Hall, and the rezoning proposal was shelved to take the heat out of the discussion.  It was an election year, and rezoning scandals were the last thing any of the incumbents rerunning for office needed.

The story at the time had piqued Sykes' interest, not only in that it was about a man, that very dame James Quirk, with whom he held a grudge going back many years, but also that it might have something to do with the docks.  With several areas up for possible residential rezoning that land would go from worthless to worth billions overnight, and a reason for corruption if ever there was one.

Sykes also had a history with the Blines brothers, having known them from the early years when they were the muscle for the penny and dime crime bosses who organized 'protection' for the shop keepers and aa collection agents for the loan sharks among the poorer tenants of the city.  Sykes himself had grown up in those very same apartment buildings, in that very area where the low-income families eked out a living in substandard housing and inconsistent employment.

After his parents had both died in a tragic fire, Sykes had escaped and moved to New Jersey.  A lot of those he'd grown up with hadn't. 

It was, in it's purest form, the survival of the fittest, and the Blines had always known which side of the law was most beneficial to them, as gad their father and his father before him.  For the Blines and their ilk, it had always been the wrong side of the law.  

Sykes picked the right, and as soon as he could, he signed up to become a cop, and as soon as he'd completed training he vowed he would come back and clean up the streets, and the old neighborhood.  

It didn't take long for Sykes to realize that it needed more than good intentions and a large dose of enthusiasm, it needed assistance from those who were in a position to affect a change.  Inevitably he had to concede, eventually realizing they were part of the problem.

Which, of course, led him to this point in time, still working the area as part of his beat, and had been for quite a few years now, with the same intentions, and still being one step behind.  The players were the same, only they were prospering, and his cold cases were mounting.

It was easy to see why.  Tracks were being covered, alibis being handed out, and the money trail was getting murkier and murkier. 

But, mulling over the developments arising from talking to Joel, Sykes realized that he might be moving into very dangerous territory, particularly if he was going start accusing a candidate for the DA’s job of corruption.

And now he had a new piece to the puzzle, Walthenson senior.  A cold fish if there was ever one, but he didn’t look, to Sykes, to be a master criminal.  He seemed to be more like the right man in the wrong place and then finding himself in a dilemma that he couldn’t get out of.  So, if he could find Walthenson, perhaps that might become another lead, and perhaps connect a few dots.

Perhaps a little more desk-bound investigation might be wise to see who else might be involved, before he started digging a very big hole for himself, one that he might not be able to get out of.

© Charles Heath 2020