Bite the Bullet by David Macfie
Fletcher sighed. He was working on a very complicated case and it was driving him crazy. It had a bit of every crime he could think of. And all this in a mid-sized town in North Carolina in the good old US of A. He was nowhere and he was losing faith and interest. Fletcher gave himself a lecture.
“You have to snap out of this attitude, my boy. You know a few facts and you have some well-founded suspicions. So what’s your problem? You must just get off your butt and get the evidence you need to tie this thing up. It’s not fun work but it’s got to be done. Just bite the bullet and do it.”
Fletcher sighed again – a gut wrenching sigh, filled with frustration and irritation. But the lecture had worked. He got to his feet and headed for the Captains’ office.
Jonny Rourke invited him in and told him to sit.
“What’s on your mind, Fletcher? You look like you’re carrying the world on your shoulders.”
“Feels that way, chief. I need to bounce some stuff off of you. You got time?”
“Sure. This about the double murder that came in today?”
“Partly, but I think the killings are part of a bigger picture.”
“Oh! And what do you think is connected?”
“You know I’ve been busy for over three months on the organized crime activities in the town?”
“Of course. You think Big Max is back in business.”
“That’s right. I have individual crimes ranging from drug pedaling to extortion to intimidation to assault and now, I think, to murder. I think it’s all related and I think Big Max is involved in it all.”
“What have you got so far?”
“I have solid evidence on the minor crimes. So I can put away a couple of street punks. But I haven’t got anything I can use in court on the connectivity of it all, nor anything that ties back to Big Max. It’s getting under my skin. I’m sure all the stuff is part of a big picture, but I haven’t got the evidence.”
“And you want what from me … Sympathy?”
That at least got a smile on the detective’s face.
“Yeah, boss. That would help. But I was thinking more of advice or suggestions.”
“That I can do. Two things. First, old fashioned police work – digging, checking, finding information from any and all possible sources, and working your snitches. Second, I’d start with the murders. They’re fresh and in your face. Begin there and work backwards.”
Fletcher sat still for a moment, his face scowling in concentration. Then he grinned.
“Thanks, boss. That’ll do. I got a couple of ideas now. I had nothing before. Let me get back on the treadmill.”
“You do that, Fletcher. And, remember. It’s a shit job, but somebody has to do it.”
That got a belly laugh out of the retreating figure.
He began by visiting the mortuary. Both Coroner McKay and his assistant Billy Walker were there, each working on one of the victims of the double murder.
“Hi guys. Anything for me on these two?”
Fletcher, sometimes you’re like a bad smell. You sneak up on people when they least want you there,” grunted the Coroner without looking up. Billy grinned as he flushed in embarrassment.
I love you too, Mister Coroner, sir,” quipped the detective returning Billy’s grin.
“Anything to get you out of here,” returned the Coroner, testily. “We have identification. Not difficult because both have records as long as your arm. The little runty guy on Billy’s slab is Bobby Ford, a drug pusher at the moment, but he’s been a few other things in his time – a getaway driver, a messenger, a drug mule and a pimp. He was versatile but right at the bottom of the food chain. My guy is Ferdie McIntyre, known as Big Mac, on account of the amount of meat on him. He was long on muscle but short on brains. He was always an enforcer. Both of them worked in Big Max’s mob. Looks like the same killer, even though the bodies were found in different locations. Both shot through their teeth, at close range, with a small caliber pistol. A 22 I think, but I’ll confirm once we’ve looked at the bullets.”
“I was just thinking about the expression ‘bite the bullet’,” commented Fletcher. “This puts a whole new spin on it.”
“Very funny, I’m sure, Fletcher,” grumped McKay, without a twitch of a smile. “But I’m busy so go do a stand-up act in town. The bullets are both still inside the heads. We were just about to remove them when we were rudely interrupted. Bobby went first at about two in the morning. He was found in the waste ground behind the bus station. That’s a known location for pushers to link up with addicts. Ferdie followed about half past three. He was found in the alley behind the Blue Grotto night club. Your friend Mahoney and his partner were on duty and were called to both. Forensics have done their inspections, but the sites are cordoned off if you want to take a look. That’s it. Now get out of here so we can get on with our work.”
Both went instantly back to their grisly tasks. Fletcher silently left and looked for Mahoney in the café next to the station. He always had breakfast there after night shift. Sure enough, the big patrol cop was busy tucking into a huge plate of steak, eggs, bacon, grits and grilled tomato. He had a giant sized coffee to wash it all down. Fletcher asked the waitress for coffee and sat opposite.
“Morning, Mahoney. I hear you had a busy night. What can you tell me?”
“Not a lot. Both sites were spotless. Waste of time you going there. No signs of a struggle, no cartridge cases, no footprints, nothing.”
“So what do you think?”
“Professional hits, both of them.”
“I agree. Did you know they were both Big Max’s boys?”
“No, but I’m not surprised. Word is Big Max has some competition.”
“You got any details?”
“Not yet. This is pretty recent.”
“Thanks. Sorry to interrupt breakfast.”
“No problem. Good luck.”
Mahoney ordered another plate as Fletcher left to go to his workstation. He started calling snitches. The first two had nothing so he phoned Weasel, his most reliable source.
“Weasel, what do you know about Big Max’s competition?”
“Man you gonna get me killed, I answer that. Place is fulla tough guys wid evil in they eyes.”
“Tell me what you know and I’ll give you a hundred next time I see you.”
“Drive a hard bargain, you do. Street talk says a new gang came to town. Boss is a dude from Chicago, name of Luigi Corleoni. And don get cute askin if he the Godfather. Nickname’s Lew, not Big Lew, just Lew. He got a crew of heavies, a bunch of pushers, a coupla pimps an’ a houseful o’ leggie lovelies. Word is he moving in on all Max’s rackets. Other guys all gone to ground so’s not to get in the crossfire. Got two more tings. Max’s money man is Harry Coleman, Lew’s, is Frank Miller – look them up. Last, Lew’s got a cold eyed hit-man with a girly gun. He a nasty son ofa bitch. I wan nofin to do wid him. He know I talk to you, I’m dead.”
“Thanks, Weasel. That’s worth two c-notes, when I see you.”
Fletcher powered up his computer and found the money guys easily enough. Both looked legit and both were partners in respectable accounting firms. He needed to dig deeper. He signed onto his regular news site and looked for them. Quickly he found scandals attached to both of them. In the body of these, he got names of people involved that gave him a starting point for a lot of following up. One name, in particular, stood out. Peter Flynn had been shafted by Harry Coleman. Fletcher googled him and got a contact number. He called immediately. When he briefly explained what he wanted Flynn agree to meet him and agreed a time and place.
The time was in half an hour and the place a coffee shop in the main shopping center. Fletcher got there early and sat facing the door. As Flynn entered, the detective recognized him from photos in the stuff he’d read. He stood and waved. Flynn quickly crossed the floor and sat opposite.
“Thank you for agreeing to talk to me,” Fletcher began.
“Any opportunity to get even with Coleman is a joy to my heart.”
“What did he do to you?”
“Set me up then made me a fall guy for a scam he was pulling. Ruined me. I lost everything. Since then I’ve been watching and collecting dirt and waiting for the right time. I hope this is it.”
Fletcher explained his own interest in Coleman and Frank Miller and Flynn laughed.
“Then this is your lucky day. Miller and Coleman were partners once. So I’ve been doing the same for Miller as for Coleman. I’ve got the goods on both.”
“Yes. And witnesses.”
“Does it tie in Big Max and Luigi Corleone?”
“Like Christmas presents.”
“Will you help me put it all together?”
“Thought you’d never ask.”
Over the next week the two worked together collating evidence, organizing witnesses, linking the evidence to the relevant cases and making sure everything was good enough to get convictions. Flynn had been busy on all this stuff for over five years and he had been meticulous. At the end when they were ready to move, Fletcher congratulated Flynn.
“You would make a great detective. This work is outstanding.”
“Hate is a great motivator,” replied Flynn, with a happy grin. “May I be present at the arrests?
“Let’s go and talk it through with my captain.”
Jonny Rourke loved it. He even tried to get Flynn to join up as a detective. After scrutinizing the content he gave it his blessing and signed off the warrants of arrest. Fletcher took it all to the Judge and had it approved.
Meanwhile, Coroner McKay had informed Fletcher that the two bullets had come from the same gun. Fletcher had also got the name of the hit-man from Weasel, who said it was included in the two c-notes. He’d thrown in an address.
Fletcher went first to arrest the hit-man. He stationed backup at every bolt-hole from the man’s apartment and took two armed officers with him just case. They waited until they saw the killer enter the apartment then broke down the door and rushed inside, guns leveled.
“Sonny-Boy Munroe, you are under arrest for the murders of Bobby Ford and Ferdie McIntyre. Drop your weapons and lie face down on the floor with your arms and legs spread.”
The man went for his gun and he was lightening fast. But Fletcher had briefed the two officers well and he had got close before shouting. He grabbed the gun-hand wrist and twisted it up behind Sonny-Boy’s back, then removed the pistol with a gloved hand. One officer cuffed the guy and read him his rights. Then the killer was taken to the station. When it was shown that his gun had fired the two fatal bullets, Sonny-Boy negotiated a plea bargain and fingered Lew as being the man who’d ordered the killings. This with Flynn’s evidence was enough to arrest Luigi Corleone and Frank Miller as well as the other members of the crime boss’s Organization. Flynn was present when Miller was cuffed. He said nothing but his smile told a story. Next Flynn and Fletcher visited Harry Coleman in his fancy office.
“Hello Harry,” greeted Flynn as he came through the door.
“Peter Flynn, what the hell are you doing here?”
“I’ve got a surprise for you. This is detective Fletcher. He’s here to read you your rights and arrest your ass.”
The money man leapt to his feet, his face flushing with anger.
“Don’t be ridiculous. On what charge?”
With great delight, Flynn explained. The more he spoke, the more Coleman deflated. When Flynn was done, Fletcher completed the formalities and another criminal came to the station.
“This was the best moment of my life,” commented Flynn on the way.
Meanwhile patrol cops had been sent to roll up Big Max’s boys so it only remained for Fletcher to visit The Man. Max was waiting, patiently at his house.
“I knew you were on your way, Fletcher,” he said, with a self-satisfied smile. “Coleman called me from the station. He said you had me dead to rights this time. But don’t count your chickens. I haven’t been convicted yet. Lots can happen before that possibility occurs.”
He was smiling calmly as Fletcher completed the arrest. He only realized how much trouble he was really in when the detective went through the evidence with The Man’s lawyer present.
“Max, you can’t beat this,” the lawyer said. “It’s too detailed and comprehensive. I suggest you try to make a deal.”
“There will be no deals on this one,” commented Fletcher, tersely. “You’re going down this time Max.”
And he did.