Crooked Deals Excerpt
Detective Sergeant Rick Malone stood at the crime scene, looking down at the corpse—a pool of dried blood beneath the victim’s head, his hands tied behind his back, face beaten to a pulp. The deceased was a white male, mid-thirties, about six-foot-one, and over two hundred pounds. A large metal filing cabinet stood in the office, along the far back wall, all the drawers open, files and folders strewn on the floor. The room was cool, a slight hint of cigar smoke swirling in the air. On the desk was a computer and monitor, the screen saver still on, little white stars moving through black space on the display. All the desk drawers were open, as if someone had rifled through them. Reaching into his blue blazer’s coat pocket, Malone grabbed a pair of latex gloves, snapped them on, and knelt down next to the deceased.
“Some of the most heinous crimes are committed in Miami,” Malone said, turning the victim’s head from side to side. “His eye sockets look fractured. So, does his nose and jaw.”
Detective Jenny Peterson sighed. “Someone was out for revenge.”
“What do we have to go on?” Malone got to his feet and looked around the office. His fellow police officers were running crime-scene tape, questioning a couple employees in the hallway, and keeping onlookers out of the room. Malone felt confident in his team’s ability to conduct a thorough murder investigation.
“The victim is Ted James,” Peterson said. “His secretary found him this morning. He was the CEO of this company—Bright Source. They specialize in providing residential and commercial lighting products.”
“Did she say anything else?”
“The secretary doesn’t know anyone who’s got a grudge against him.” Detective Peterson pressed her lips together. She was slim and strong looking, as if she spent most of her time at the gym. She had dark skin, a narrow face, and deep-set brown eyes. Her black hair was cut short, just above the ears, and parted on the side. “She swears he was a stand-up guy.”
Malone was silent for a moment. On their way into the building, they had walked past the company’s warehouse, about fifty feet long, with several loading bays. There wasn’t any activity taking place at the company, no employees loading or unloading freight from tractor-trailers. The warehouse was hardly filled with merchandise. Even though there weren’t many employees at the business, he still hoped they could find someone who could give them a lead on the case. “Did anyone else say otherwise?”
“One employee overheard him arguing with a guy last month. It took place here, in this office. Apparently, Mr. James yelled at the guy for calling his loyalty into question.”
“That’s interesting.” Malone cleared his throat. “Did you get a description?”
“He was a big white guy, solid and muscular. He’s about five-foot-eleven, mid-forties, bald, and has a black goatee.”
Malone was happy Peterson was his partner. She had a knack for interviewing witnesses, collecting important facts, and reading between the lines. “Call the sketch artist. Tell him to come here today and talk with her.”
“Consider it done.”
Malone saw Dan Henderson, the Crime Scene Unit crew chief, come into the office and set down two heavy cases. He had a mop of black hair, wide brown eyes, and a heavily pockmarked face. He issued orders to a few techs. At once, they went to work, taking photographs, dusting for fingerprints, and collecting evidence. Considered to be one of the finest employees of the Miami PD, Malone looked forward to getting Henderson’s input on the crime.
“Good to see you again,” Malone said. “Too bad it’s not under better conditions.”
Henderson knelt down beside the deceased. “Look at the marks on his neck, all those purple and black bruises.” With a gloved hand, he pried open one of the victim’s eyes. “There are little red dots in his eye, extensive petechial hemorrhages.” Henderson got to his feet. “This was personal. No doubt about it. Someone strangled him to death.”
“Does anything else stand out to you?”
Henderson gave him a solemn look. “I’ll get back to you later, after I’ve processed the crime scene.” He took out his camera and started photographing the deceased from different angles.
Malone looked at Peterson. “Do we know anything else?”
“No, that’s it,” Peterson said. “That’s all we have so far.”
Malone looked back at the victim. “He was a big guy. He looks like he could have handled himself pretty well. So, that’s probably why the killer bound his arms behind his back.”
“That means at least two people were involved with this crime. Someone pointed a weapon at the deceased, while the other person tied him up.”
Malone felt himself getting angry. This was a violent, brutal crime. Outnumbered and tied up, the victim never stood a chance against them. He vowed to find out who committed this murder and to bring them to justice. “Look at those bruises on his face, all of them confined to one side. It indicates the killer is right-handed.”
Peterson gestured at the filing cabinet. “What were they looking for?”
Malone knew earnings were the lifeblood of corporations. He thought about how revenues, costs, and expenses were summarized on profit and loss statements. “It probably has to do with the firm’s bottom line. Income minus expenses equals profit.”
“So, you think a business deal went bad?”
Malone walked to the filing cabinet and stood over several folders on the floor. Three files caught his attention—purchase orders, sales orders, and invoices, all for the current year. He scooped them up and walked back to Peterson.
“Take out your cell phone.” Malone said. “Get pictures of everything in these files.”
“Is there anything else I should do?”
“This plaza contains a lot of businesses. Have our guys question business owners and their employees. See if anyone saw or heard anything suspicious.”
“What are you going to do?”
Malone bent over, grabbed a cell phone from the deceased’s waist, and accessed the call log. Four calls were made to the same number earlier this morning, each one about one minute apart. So, the victim was desperately trying to reach someone. That’s an interesting development. He checked the text messages that were sent earlier this morning. He could feel his body grow tense. One message caught his attention: He’s onto us. He knows what we did. He’s coming here to kill me. And then he’s coming to Mills & Associates to get you.”
Peterson gave him an alarming look. “I’ll go with you.”
Malone shook his head. “No. Stay here. I’ll handle it.” He headed to the door. “I’ll meet you back at police headquarters in a few hours.”
Copyright © 2021 RUSSELL WILLIAMS
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, businesses, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental and is not the intention of the author.