Finally, it is here;) I bring to you this week’s FREE short story of the week, entitled TAG TEAM. It is the third installment in the PARTNERS series. Detective Herbert Vale’s life is about to get very complicated. Find out how in the story below, and as always HAPPY READING!!!
Cover Design by ten21 Design Company
An affiliate of BSIC Publishing Company
Cover Copyright © 2013 by ten21 Design Company
Cover Copyright © 2013 by BSIC Publishing
Christopher Lee Cousino
Copyright © 2013 by Christopher Lee Cousino
Copyright © 2013 by BSIC Publishing Company
This is a work of fiction. All characters, organizations, locations, and events portrayed in this story are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any real person, living or deceased, is completely coincidental.
“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
Nelson Mandela (1918-PRESENT) South African anti-apartheid activist and politician who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999
Detective Herbert Vale glared at the dark house up the street from where he was parked in his old Buick. It was late, after midnight. The house he was intently focused on sat smack dab in the middle of a dead-end circle drive. Despite being a good distance away, its position gave Herbert a good view. The old detective could see it perfectly. Make that, the old suspended detective. Didn’t matter, he didn’t need to be official to dish out the kind of justice he had planned for tonight.
It was a nice house. A two story brownstone with a three stall garage. The third stall for the owner’s boat. Yard and landscaping both professionally manicured. The place screamed rich and famous. The man that lived there wasn’t famous, but he was definitely rich. Or at least his parents were. Without seeing, Herbert knew there was a fancy walk out patio in the back. One that led to a huge underground pool. He knew that because he’d been here before. Years ago. Now he was back and ready to get to work.
After his run-in with Briggs at the station, Herbert had been confused at his fellow detective’s crypted message. But once he figured it out, Herbert had been like a kid in a candy store. The address belonged to a man that he’d always suspected had kidnapped and killed his little girl. Herbert wasn’t sure what evidence Briggs had found to link the owner of the address to Mckey’s cabin, but it didn’t matter. He’d waited years to get justice for Gloria. Herbert Vale had waited long enough.
Everything was ready. His Skylark was packed with all the necessary equipment needed. Herbert had left his wife sleeping peacefully in their bed at home. It hadn’t taken long for Abbey to check out, the stress and worry of the night finally gone since she knew her husband was safe. Once her breathing proved to Herbert that she was in a deep sleep, he’d quietly gotten up and dressed. After his car of choice was packed up and ready to go, he’d left Abbey a note saying that he couldn’t sleep and went for a drive in the old Buick to clear his head. What he was really doing was clearing the world of one more murderer. The most important one to him. One that had almost gotten away with killing his precious child.
His prey wasn’t home. The vermin was probably out at the liquor store. From what Herbert had heard, drinking seemed to be all the murdering scumbag did these days. He was most likely already drunk. Or at least that’s what Herbert was hoping. It would make things easier. Either way, he had time. Waiting patiently in the dark, Herbert’s thoughts drifted back many years. To the day Gloria Vale died.
Herbert Vale narrowed his eyes at the person sitting opposite him. Across the counter was his adversary. The game was in full motion, and things were getting intense. It was an extreme case of cat and mouse, and the detective was determined to come out on top. No matter the odds. Running multiple scenarios through his head, Herbert made his move.
“Go fish.” A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as Herbert waited for his daughter Gloria’s response. Looking from her hand of cards to his, she shot him a glare.
“Daddy, you better not be fibbing. You aren’t allowed to cheat. Are you sure you don’t have a purple mermaid? Because if you do, I win.” Herbert tried to stifle a laugh as he looked at his hand and the joyful purple mermaid it contained.
“No, dear. Have I ever cheated at Go Fish?” Gloria rolled her little eyes.
“Uh, yeah. And at chutes and ladders. And hide and seek. And…” Herbert cut her off, his laugh finally escaping.
“Alright, alright, easy now. You win. Good detective work, my dear.” He tossed the card containing the purple mermaid across to his now beaming daughter. She snatched it up, paired it with the one she’d had and laid it down. Then she folded her hands in front of her and stuck her tongue out.
“I win. Now you have to dance like a ballerina.” Herbert folded his arms and huffed.
“What? You are really going to hold me to that?” Gloria nodded. Herbert tried a different approach. “Now, darling, your father is a decorated detective for the Detroit Police Department. You wouldn’t make a prestigious figure such as myself dance like a girl? Would you?” Unmoved, his daughter nodded again. Throwing up his hands, he sighed.
“Alright, fine.” Preparing to dance and twirl just as Gloria did at her ballet shows, Herbert shook his head. “At least you aren’t making me wear a tutu.” Gloria’s eyes and mouth flew open as an excited yelp escaped her mouth. Then she took off quickly for her room. Herbert called after her.
“No! Gloria, I was kidding. Your tutu will never fit me.” Before he could follow, the sweet sound of his wife Abbey’s laughter filled his ears. Turning towards the stove, he grinned at the love of his life.
“What are you laughing at, beautiful?” Abbey carried a stack of pancakes to their kitchen table and set it down next to a heaping plate of crispy bacon.
“You, dear. You’ve always known how to make me laugh. Not to mention the thought of you in a tutu is just hysterical. I just love watching you and our little girl together. You are such a wonderful father. Gloria is lucky to have you…and so am I.” She reached her arms out for an embrace and Herbert happily obliged, hugging his wife tightly.
“No, darling, I’m the lucky one.” He gave her a kiss then let her go and rubbed his hands together, looking at the spread on the table. “Looks great, babe. Thanks for making breakfast.” Abbey went to the fridge and grabbed a carton of orange juice.
“You’re welcome. Now eat. You need to get moving or you’ll be late. Quincy may be your friend but he will be forced to get after you if you are late again.” Herbert dug in to his breakfast and waved off Abbey’s remark.
“Yeah, yeah.” Footsteps behind him caught his attention and Herbert turned. Gloria was standing proudly in the doorway to the kitchen, holding up a tutu that wouldn’t even fit around Herbert’s thigh. Before he could answer, Abbey burst out laughing.
Herbert sat at his desk, looking over some case files. His partner, Jack Young, was organizing knick knacks and office supplies on his own desk for the second time already this morning. The guy was a good cop, but was a little OCD. Herbert chuckled. Jack looked up from his painstakingly slow task of moving his stapler to be even with a clipboard.
“What are you laughing at, Herbert?” Herbert shook his head.
“Nothing, Jack. Just thought of something funny.” That something funny was that Herbert couldn’t wait until Jack left to use the bathroom or get coffee. The second he did, Herbert was going to move things around on his desk just enough to screw with Jack’s head. Jack, oblivious, nodded and got back to his rearranging. As Herbert reveled silently in his soon-to-be prank, Captain Quincy Jones flung open his office door and called out to the two.
“Vale, Young, got something for you.” Both detectives shot to their feet and approached their captain. He offered a file.
“Robbery homicide over on 7 Mile, get over there and check it out.” Both men nodded and headed back to their desks. As they gathered their things to go, Herbert’s desk phone rang. It was Abbey.
“Hey babe, I can’t talk long, me and Jack have a case we are about to head out to. What’s up?”
“Oh, okay honey, nothing major. Just wanted you to know I’m going to take Gloria to the park. Didn’t want you to call home and wonder where we were.” Herbert smiled at his sweet wife’s thoughtfulness.
“Thanks, hon. I appreciate that. Are you just going to the park up the road from home then? The one by that little lake.”
“Yeah, Gloria likes the slides at that one.”
“Okay, have fun. Just be careful and watch our girl like a hawk. You know how certain people I’ve told you about like to visit parks and look for unsupervised kids.” Abbey sighed.
“Yes, I know, Herbert. I won’t let any suspicious characters steal our child. Now get to work, I love you.”
“Love you too.” Herbert hung up and looked at Jack.
“Sorry about that, Jack. You ready?” Jack nodded and turned to leave. As Jack headed for the door, Herbert smiled and made sure to bump a few items around on his partner’s desk as he followed.
The robbery homicide was ugly. The elderly woman manning the counter never had a chance, Herbert thought. Blowing out a sigh, he set the sheet back down to recover the corpse of Margaret Davis. Jack was questioning the stock boy that had been working in the store when the robbery happened. His name was Will Benson. He looked to be sixteen, and very scared. Herbert strolled up just as the kid began answering Jack’s latest question.
“Like I told you, I was back here by the door that leads to the freezer. When I saw the guy pull a gun, I panicked. I’m not a cop or some hero, I’m just a kid. I mean, come on. I’m only sixteen. Mrs. Davis was always so nice to me. I liked her a lot. I wish…I wish I could’ve done something. But I didn’t. I hid in the cooler until he…” The kid’s eyes teared up and his lip began to quiver. Jack seemed unfazed.
“Right. Answer a question for me though. How’d Mrs. Davis’ body end up way back here, kid? If the guy pulled a gun on her up front, why did she get her brains blown all over the cooler doors back here?” Herbert sighed.
Jack wasn’t the best with kids, or adults. Honestly, Herbert didn’t think Jack knew how to deal with people in general. Herbert prided himself on reading people. He didn’t see a murderer in the Will Benson. So, since the kid obviously wasn’t the shooter, the younger detective stepped in before Jack emotionally scarred him even worse.
“It’s alright, kid. We got it. You were in the cooler hiding out, so you don’t know. What can you tell us about the shooter?” Herbert ignored the glare from Jack at his interruption. The heat from the stare was pretty hot, but Jack would never say anything about it. He was too professional, too calm. The kid sniffled and wiped his nose with his forearm before answering.
“He had a hooded sweatshirt on, so I couldn’t see his face. Since his back was to me, you know?” Jack piped in.
“How’d you know it was a he, then?” Herbert rolled his eyes. For someone so OCD, Herbert couldn’t believe Jack needed to ask such obvious questions. He answered for the kid.
“Probably the voice, right kid?” Will nodded. Herbert thought of a possible way to find out at least the skin color of the shooter.
“Was he wearing gloves? Could you see his hands?” Will’s face scrunched up in thought. Then he shook his head.
“I’m not sure. He either had dark gloves on or he was dark skinned. His hands were dark.” Darn, Herbert thought. He put a hand on Will’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze.
“Thanks, Will. Appreciate the help. Sorry about your boss. We’ll find the guy who did it.” Will nodded, sniffled, and then walked out of the store to head home and grieve. Herbert and Jack walked slowly back to the covered corpse of their victim. Jack’s voice broke the silence.
“So, you think the kid is our shooter? I think there is something he’s not telling us.” Herbert shut his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, struggling to keep down a groan of frustration. His partner was a stubborn ol’ bird. But Jack was a good man, and he was Herbert’s partner. Herbert had his partner’s back, always.
“No, Jack. I don’t think the kid did it. But who knows? We’ll keep it in the realm of possibility for now. Let’s go review the security camera from the store.” Herbert nodded to forensics that the two detectives were done with the body and headed back to the front of the store.
Herbert and Jack got back to the precinct a couple hours later, the security camera turning up nothing. The reason it turned up nothing was because there was no tape in the VCR recording anything from the camera. Had the victim not put a tape in that morning, Herbert wondered. Or had someone removed it after she was killed? Or before? There were 30 other tapes in a drawer by the VCR, all marked 1 through 30. The date that morning, the 31st.
Was the 31st tape missing? Or was there only 30? Some business owners got lazy when it came to security camera surveillance, thinking nothing would ever happen. But Herbert figured if you were going to have 30 tapes, you’d get one more. Those thoughts were nagging at him as his desk phone rang. Picking it up, his heart sped up when he heard crying on the other end. It was Abbey.
“Honey, what’s wrong? Talk to me?” She spoke through anguished sobbing.
“Oh, Herbert…I’m so…sorry. Gloria…our sweet Gloria…she’s…she’s…” Herbert was panicked beyond belief.
“Abbey, darling…what happened to Gloria?”
“She’s gone!” Herbert’s eyes widened. He felt weak as he reached back and barely found his seat in time to sit.
“What do you mean, she’s gone?”
“Someone took her…at the park. She’s been kidnapped. I’m so sorry.” Herbert shut his eyes and laid his head down onto his desk, his body going numb. As he listened to Abbey apologize and cry, his mind drifted to thoughts. Bad thoughts. Very bad thoughts about what was happening to his precious little girl at this moment. Possibly at the hand of a pedophile. This couldn’t be happening, he thought painfully.
He wanted to speak, to ask Abbey more questions, but he couldn’t find his voice. A police officer, apparently already at the house with Abbey, took the phone from Herbert’s inconsolable wife and said they’d stay with her as long as Herbert needed. When Herbert didn’t answer, the officer offered his condolences hung up.
Herbert stayed how he was, silent and dazed, while the disconnected phone continued beeping in his ear. He stayed that way for a while, until he felt a hand on his back and a familiar voice. His friend and boss, Captain Quincy Jones.
“Herbert, I’m so sorry. You should go home, be with Abbey. We’ll find her. We’ll find Gloria.” Herbert stood up quickly, swatting the captain’s hand away as the phone fell from his grasp and smacked against the desk.
“No. I’m a detective, damn it. I’m on the case. You can’t keep me off it.” Quincy put his hands up, motioning for Herbert to calm down.
“Now, Herbert, I know this is tough. I’m sorry. But you know damn well that I can’t let you work the case of your own daughter’s abduction. You are far too close to this one. Besides, you are homicide. That is not what this is, and we are going to make damn sure it stays that way.” Quincy stepped closer and put both his hands on Herbert’s shoulders, opening his mouth to say more. Before he could, Herbert knocked the captain’s grip on him away and stormed out of the precinct.
Sitting in his car outside, he struggled with what to do. His heart wanted to go find Gloria. To save her and severely punish whoever had taken her. But his head knew that Quincy was right. He was too close. There was nothing he could do. No trail to follow. He was a homicide detective. There was nothing for him to investigate. No murder, no body. Not yet. That thought loosened his hold on his emotions and he lost it. Herbert curled up in the driver’s seat of his car and sobbed.
Herbert sat in his recliner, staring at the phone, willing it to ring with news of Gloria. He glanced to his left at the police officer standing guard in case he was needed. Herbert couldn’t believe Quincy had saddled him with a babysitter. Like he, who himself was one of the best damn detectives in the freaking city, needed a street cop watching over him and his wife. Shaking his head in disgust, Herbert looked to his right and down the hall into his bedroom. Curled up in the fetal position under the covers was his Abbey. The frustration disappeared from his face as his features softened at the image of his wife.
She wasn’t making any loud sobbing noises, and looked peaceful enough. Herbert hoped she’d fallen asleep. But he doubted that very much. He knew how horrible he felt, and he hadn’t even been there when it had happened. Abbey had the scars of being the one in charge of Gloria when she was abducted. Poor Abs, Herbert sighed. He hoped she’d come out of it. Herbert knew what would help her do so. Finding Gloria, alive and safe. Looking back at the phone once again, he focused his will on making it ring. Suddenly, it did just that.
Before the cop standing guard could react, Herbert hopped up and snatched the phone from the receiver.
“Hello, this is Detective Vale.” It was Quincy’s voice on the other end.
“Hey, Herbert, how are you and Abbey?” Herbert huffed.
“We’d be a lot better if we had our Gloria. I’m going crazy just sitting here, Quincy. Please tell me you have something for me. Anything.” Quincy sighed.
“Not much. Just the names of everyone who was at the park when Gloria went missing and their statements.” Herbert ran a hand through his hair. Everyone who stuck around after Gloria disappeared, that is.
“Okay, that’s a start. Read the names to me.”
“Okay, Herbert.” So Quincy rattled off the names. Herbert didn’t recognize any of them. That is, until the final name was rattled off. His stomach flipped.
“Wait, Quincy. What was the last one?” Quincy cleared his throat.
“Um, hang on. Oh, a young kid. A teen…name was Will. Will Benson. Said he’s been coming there since he was a kid and likes to do his thinking there. Said he didn’t see anything. Weird kid, but nothing suspicious about him. Why do you ask? Know him?” Herbert’s mind raced.
Will Benson, the teen from the store homicide he and Jack had worked that morning. The kid must have gone to the park after he left the crime scene. Jack had asked if the kid was the killer. Herbert had dismissed it, but now he had his doubts. The missing security tape, the non-descriptive description Will gave of the shooter. Damn, Jack may have been right. Herbert cursed to himself for being so dismissive.
And now the same kid ends up being at the same park as Herbert’s wife and daughter, at the same time Gloria goes missing. Could he have known Gloria was Herbert’s kid? Did Will kill Mrs. Davis? If so, was he feeling the heat from Herbert? Could he be going after Herbert to save his skin, to use Gloria as blackmail to drop the case? If so, how was Herbert going to ever forgive himself for letting the bastard walk away from the store that morning?
Maybe Herbert was jumping to conclusions. It seemed far-fetched. Maybe it was all just a coincidence. But then again. Something Herbert had learned during his time as a detective was that there were no coincidences when it comes to crime and criminals. You have one guy at two crime scenes within a couple hours of one another. Odds are he is involved in both, somehow, someway. Herbert’s grip tightened on the phone.
“He was at the store homicide Jack and I worked this morning. He was the stock boy, supposedly saw the whole thing. But Jack had his doubts…and now, so do I. We need to talk to him.”
“About the Davis homicide?” Herbert gritted his teeth as he answered.
“No, Quincy. Both Mrs. Davis…and Gloria.”
Herbert, Quincy, and Jack sat in the living room of the home of Don and Dana Benson. Parents of Will Benson, the possible murderer of Margaret Davis. And the possible abductor of Gloria Vale. Herbert tapped his feet impatiently.
Will wasn’t home currently. Very convenient. Quincy took a sip from a styrofoam cup of coffee that Dana Benson had given all three detectives and asked Don Benson another question.
“So, when do you expect your son, Mr. Benson?” The elder Benson shrugged.
“Not sure. He was very upset about Mrs. Davis, so he said he needed some time alone. Terrible tragedy, that poor woman’s murder. She was always so nice to Will. What a day, huh? That murder, and now that poor girl that was abducted from the park. What was her name…Glenda…no, Gladys…hmm.” Herbert crunched his styrofoam cup, hot coffee splashing all over his hand and onto the floor.
Quincy and Jack looked uncomfortably at Herbert, and then slowly set their own cups down, sensing the time to go was approaching. Before they could speak, Herbert did so.
“Gloria. The girl’s name is Gloria. Sorry, we just really want to find her.” Don and Dana just stared. Then Dana rushed off to grab something to clean up the coffee mess while Don nodded, then swallowed very hard. Herbert continued.
“Anyways, where does Will go when he needs time alone? We really need to speak to him.” Don looked at Herbert skeptically.
“He’s not in any trouble, is he?” Herbert shook his head and forced a smile.
“No, sir. We just need to ask your son some follow-up questions about his boss’s murder.” Don nodded slowly before answering.
“Okay, right. Well, he likes to take my boat out on the lake. He says it clears his head. That’s where he is now.” Herbert stood, soon followed by Jack and Quincy.
“I need a description of your boat, Mr. Benson. And the access point you use to get onto the lake. And I need it now.”
Herbert’s car skidded to a stop as he slammed on the brakes in the dirt and gravel parking lot of the lake access point. Will Benson was tying his boat to the dock anchors, just having finished his excursion. Terrible thoughts of his sweet daughter’s body sinking to the bottom of the lake flooded his mind. Maybe he was letting his imagination run away with him, but working in homicide in a big city can do that to you. That imagination coupled with the sight of Will made his blood boil. Before he could calm himself down, Herbert exited his car and sprinted towards the young teen.
Ignoring Jack and Quincy’s cries for him to slow down and stop, Herbert made a b-line for his only suspect. He let his anger and pain cloud his judgment and all he saw by the time he reached Will Benson was the color red. As the young man turned and saw the much larger Herbert, his face grew fearful. But once he saw who it was, he lightened up, obviously remembering Herbert’s kindness at the murder scene that morning. It wouldn’t last. When the seething detective got within striking distance of Will, he struck.
Herbert’s fist connected with Will’s jaw in a vicious right hook. Will let out a pathetic whimper and fell to the ground. Herbert wound up his leg for a hard kick to the teen’s ribs but he suddenly felt himself being tackled to the ground. Who the hell was on him? He had to make his daughter’s kidnapper talk. Had to make the little weasel pay. Throwing an elbow, he caught his attacker in the nose, hearing a satisfying crunch. A gruff voice rang out in pain. It was a voice he recognized. Quincy?
The red haze flooding Herbert’s brain dissipated and the confused Detective looked around, breathing heavily. Will was still on the ground, looking terrified and rubbing his quickly bruising jaw. Jack was standing by the kid, looking at Herbert in shock. Next to Herbert, holding his nose with both hands as blood seeped through his fingers was Quincy Jones, the Homicide Department Captain. But more importantly, Herbert’s friend. He’d broken his friend and superior’s nose. Great, he thought. Way to go, Herbert.
“Damn it. I’m sorry Quincy. I lost it there for a minute.” Quincy shook his head as he uncovered his nose and grabbed a handkerchief from his pocket. His nose was busted up pretty bad. Herbert only caught a glimpse of it before the captain shoved the white cloth against it.
“Apology accepted. Asshole.” Herbert chuckled.
“Does this mean I’m not fired?” Quincy glared at him.
“No, you aren’t fired. But I’m going to kick your ass later.” Herbert almost laughed, but the sound of Will’s voice turned his mood sour once again.
“What’s going on? Why did you punch me, officer?” Herbert got to his feet and started towards Will, but Quincy was up too and stopped him with his hand. Herbert looked down at his friend’s hand and then took a deep breath. Staying where he was, he answered the kid.
“What’s going on is you were lying to me and my partner Jack this morning. What’s going on is someone tampered with or stole the security tape from the store. What’s going on is you were scared shitless this morning and gave us nothing to go on. I should have picked it up then like my partner. Should have dragged your ass in for questioning when I had the chance. But I didn’t. Then you went to the park. The same park a little girl was abducted from. My little girl!” Herbert’s voice dripped with hellfire and brimstone when he mentioned Gloria. Will turned pale.
“I-I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t do nothing to that missing girl. I didn’t even see anything. I swear. I already told the cops that.” Herbert was practically foaming at the mouth.
“Liar!” Quincy got in Herbert’s direct line of sight, blocking his view of Will.
“Damn it, Herbert. Get control of yourself or you are out of here. Understand?” Herbert sighed heavily, but nodded. Quincy moved back to Herbert’s side. Before he could ask Will another question, his partner Jack beat him to the punch.
“Okay kid, we can talk more about whether or not we believe your story about the park in a minute. You didn’t say anything about the murder of your boss this morning. You were lying then, I could tell. Start talking. The truth this time.” Will shook his head, his mouth trying to find words as his gaze drifted to nothing. Finally he started shaking and teared up.
“Fine. I was lying, okay. But I didn’t kill Mrs. Davis. I swear. She was always nice to me, and I really liked her. It was someone else. Really.” Quincy piped in.
“I can’t tell you. I just can’t.” Herbert growled and thought about charging the little brat again, but he was surprised to see the usually mild mannered Jack pick the kid up off the ground by his collar as the old cop got right in the punk’s face.
“Damn it, kid, we don’t have time for this. We need to find my partner’s little girl, but here we are pussy footin’ around with you and your bullshit. Now spill it!” Terrified, Will nodded faster than Herbert had ever seen someone do so. Go Jack, he thought.
“Okay, okay. But you gotta protect me and my mom and dad. Promise me that first.” Quincy sighed.
“Sure kid, but we can’t protect you from something we know nothing about. Talk. Now.” Jack let go of Will and the kid smoothed his shirt out and started telling his story.
“My mom and dad are loaded, you know. I love them and all but they make my life hard. Being the richest kid at school isn’t as cool as it sounds. My parents want me to earn my own way. They will pay for my college someday but I have to buy my own stuff, like if I want a video game or a new bike, or whatever…you get the picture.
Everybody treats me like an outcast, like they think I think I’m too good for them. I’m not popular at all, I don’t have any friends. I’m not good at sports or anything like that. I’m shy and just, I don’t know…I just don’t fit in. Well, I figured maybe if I had a cool car, I could get people to notice me more. Maybe get a girlfriend at least. But my mom and dad said I would have to save money up to get a car. They offered to match whatever I could save up. That’s why I got the job at the store with Mrs. Davis.
But I make minimum wage there. It would take forever to save up enough money to have half of what I needed for the car I wanted. So, I started getting pissed at my parents, and at my stupid job. I asked Mrs. Davis for a raise and she said no. I was mad, but I understood I guess. Anyways, I was looking for a way to get some money fast.
There were these guys that came into the store all the time. They dressed really cool and had a lot of fancy jewelry and watches and stuff. What I liked most about them was that they seemed so confident. So sure of themselves, unlike me. They had a kick ass car too. I was jealous of them, wanted to be like them. Well, one day I was sweeping the parking lot and they were hanging out there and motioned me over. I couldn’t believe they were talking to me.
They asked if I liked their car and if I wanted one like it someday. I said heck yeah and they said they would pay me some money to do odd jobs for them. They said I’d make way more than being a stock boy. I said sure and they gave me a brown paper bag with the top rolled down. Then they gave me an address and said to deliver the bag to the address. If I did good, they promised more jobs like that. It seemed so easy, just deliver a lunch bag to some place and get paid. So I did it.
Next thing I know they come the next day and seem pissed. I didn’t know what was going on. They said I stole some of the stuff from the bag. I told them I didn’t, that I delivered the bag just the way they gave it to me. But they didn’t believe me. They said they knew I stole drugs form the bag. When I heard that, I freaked. I didn’t know there were drugs in there. I guess I was being dumb to not expect something like that. When I denied it more, they got really mad and started threatening me. Then it made sense.
They said they knew who I was and who my parents were. And they said I needed to pay them back for the drugs and then some. They called it interest. I think they set me up. They knew I didn’t steal from them, but they used it as blackmail. They figured I’d rather get money from my parents than tell them I delivered drugs for some gang. They knew who’s kid I was the whole time, and they used me.
They wanted ten grand or they said they would kill me and my parents. Little did they know my parents would never give me anything close to that amount of money. I had like five hundred bucks saved up at that point. I tried to tell them but they wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Finally, they said that I could have a couple days to figure something out. They wanted me to steal some cash or valuables from my parents, or take bank account info from them. In the meantime, they wanted me to prove to them that they could trust me. They wanted to rob the store. Mrs. Davis’s store.
They told me they were going to come back the next morning after the store opened. They had been coming in the store all those days, scoping out the place. That was how they knew Mrs. Davis didn’t make daily deposits to a bank. She just put the money from each day into a safe. They told me to sneak into her office and take out the security tape for the next day after Mrs. Davis started it. They promised no one would get hurt. I swear. I didn’t know what else to do.” Jack shook his head.
“You idiot. You should have called the cops.” Will ran a hand through his sweaty hair.
“No, they said if I did that I was dead.” Jack just kept shaking his head.
“Whatever, kid. What happened?”
“I snuck into Mrs. Davis’s office and took the security tape out. I tried to do it without her noticing but she caught me. She was so confused, wondering why I did it. Then the gang showed up with ski masks on and guns in their hands. They locked the door behind them and started yelling at her to open the safe. She caught on quick and was furious at me.
The gang leader told me to get to the back of the store, so I did. Mrs. Davis wouldn’t talk to them. Wouldn’t open the safe. Then the leader hit her in the head with his gun, knocking her down. They all started kicking her…and she was crying. Finally, she just told them the combination.
Once they had all the money out of it, all the gang ran off, except the leader. Mrs. Davis was back on her feet now, leaning against the cooler doors. She was bruised up and bleeding. She was just staring at me with a hurt look on her face. I was so ashamed. Then all of the sudden the leader pointed the gun at Mrs. Davis, right at her face. Then he looks at me and says this is for you kid. This is your get out of jail free card. Then he shot her.
One second she was alive, the next she was dead with a hole in her face. He ran off after that and I called 911. I don’t think he did it to help me, he just didn’t want me to go to jail because he still wants to blackmail me into getting him my parents’ money.” Will Benson sniffled and stared at the ground, his story done. Herbert had more questions for him though.
“Okay, kid, so you didn’t kill your boss. But you are an accessory to murder. And what about the park? What about my daughter? Did that gang tell you to kidnap her too? Did they know she was a detective’s daughter? Do they want a ransom?” Will made a pleading motion with his hands as he replied, his voice cracking with anxiety.
“I swear, I only went to the park to think. I really have been going there my whole life. I wasn’t lying about that. I…I saw, um…nothing. Like I said, I didn’t see anything, I swear. I was spacing out and all of the sudden a woman was screaming her daughter was gone. That’s it. Please believe me!” Herbert was about to tell the little weasel that he didn’t believe him when Quincy stepped in.
“We can talk about all that at the station, kid. We are going to have to bring you in and sort all this out. Can you come willingly, or do we need to cuff you.” Will kept looking at the ground.
“No cuffs, please.” Quincy nodded at Jack, and the older detective grabbed Will by the arm and led him to Quincy’s car. Herbert didn’t trust the kid, he thought he knew something about Gloria. He told Quincy so as they followed after Jack and Will.
“I think he is keeping things from us, Quincy. He knows something about Gloria, I know it.” Quincy sighed.
“I don’t know Herbert, he may just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. We’ll keep on him, but we may want to start looking elsewhere for Gloria’s abductor.” Herbert just shook his head.
Will Benson had to be involved in Gloria’s kidnapping. Herbert felt it in his gut. The tired detective got into his car and started it up, realizing that the feeling in his gut might not be intuition, but dread. If Will Benson didn’t know where Gloria was…who did?
Will Benson made a deal, getting five years in a light prison where he was protected and segregated from the gang’s reach. Along with the prison time, he got probation for years afterwards. All for his part in the murder of Margaret Davis. In exchange, he gave up the gang that committed the crime. They all got much longer sentences, the trigger man getting life. If that scumbag wasn’t still rotting in prison, Herbert would very much like to introduce the gangbanger to Hannibal for what he did to poor Mrs. Davis. Hannibal wouldn’t be disappointed, though. He was still going to eat tonight.
Benson always maintained that he knew nothing about Gloria’s disappearance. Herbert always thought he was lying. There was something Will wasn’t saying, something he was hiding. Herbert could feel it in his gut. And his gut never lied. He’d looked into the kid’s life and past and found some possible red flags.
Will Benson had volunteered with some local children programs. After school stuff, weekend organizations. He also had talked to family and friends about working with kids as a teacher or social worker someday. Of course, that was before he became an accessory to murder and went to prison. To most people, a young man who enjoyed being around kids would be a good thing. But to a cop, it was a possible red flag. But no matter how deep Herbert dug, he never found any obvious clue or reasons to suggest Will Benson was anything other than what he said he was. Innocent of Gloria’s abduction.
No other suspects ever turned up. Despite the help of Quincy and Jack. Jack Young had long ago retired from the force, but Herbert kept in touch with him. Two or three times a year, they would grab dinner somewhere and catch up. They often talked about Gloria’s kidnapping, what they may have missed. What angles they could have looked at differently. Jack always thought Will was keeping something from them too. But it didn’t matter.
Everyone that was accounted for at the park that day checked out, so whoever took Gloria had slipped in and out unnoticed. As time passed, Herbert gave up hope that they’d ever find his daughter. Every night, he drove around, looking for something…anything that would help him find Gloria. But he never found anything. Soon it had been twenty years, the case had gone cold, and Gloria was still missing.
Herbert knew she was dead. His little girl was buried somewhere in an unmarked grave or at the bottom of a lake. Abbey, however, had always held out hope that Gloria was still alive and would someday come home to them. She figured until she saw a body, their little girl was still in the land of the living. Herbert didn’t have the heart to tell her what was most likely the truth. So, he went along with her version.
Not knowing was the worst part, Herbert had always thought. He’d rather been able to see his little girl one more time, know what had happened to her, no matter how bad, bury her properly and have the chance to grieve and say goodbye. Wondering what happened to her, where she ended up, how much pain she endured…it was all too much. Herbert and Abbey had seen counselors and psychiatrists for years to help deal with the emotional damage. It hadn’t helped, but they’d learned to live with the not knowing. Maybe tonight Herbert would finally get some answers. From Will Benson himself.
Will Benson’s parents’ address had been on the paper Briggs had given to Herbert. Will was almost forty now, so at first glance it might not have made sense for his parents’ home to be the residence of Gloria’s killer. But Herbert had been keeping up on the life of Will Benson. So to the old detective, it made perfect sense.
After his prison stint, Will had trouble finding any kind of work. He couldn’t take any classes at any school without everyone ridiculing him or showing their disgust. The kid slipped into a deep depression, fell into heavy drug use and alcoholism and basically gave up on life. But his parents couldn’t give up on him. He lived with his mom and dad for years, until they retired to a nice little condo village and left their house to their son. The house Herbert was staring at. The house that had been on the paper Briggs gave him. The house that Gloria’s killer resided in technically belonged to none other than Will Benson.
Herbert figured his target was out making another liquor run at the local drug store. He did so every night around this time. Herbert knew this because he kept tabs on Will. The detective had done so after the kid got out of prison, and he’d never stopped. Once Will Benson came home, it was all about to pay off. All Herbert had to do was wait.
As if on cue, a dark sedan passed Herbert and coasted to a stop in the Benson driveway. The car shut off, the driver’s side door opened, and out stepped the man Herbert had spent most of his life loathing. Brown bagged liquor in hand, the disheveled ghost of a man shut his car door, locked it, and headed inside his home. Herbert waited a few minutes, took a deep breath, and got out of his car. Time to get to work.
Walter Ryan sat at his desk, his head resting in his hands. It had been a long night. He should have gone home hours ago, but he just couldn’t bring himself to do so. All he could keep thinking about was his partner and what the poor old guy must be going through. Poor Herbert.
When Walter first learned he’d been partnered up with Herbert Vale, he’d had mixed emotions. From what everyone around the precinct said, Detective Vale was a joke. A washed up shell of his former self whom rookie detectives got stuck with. But Walter also did his research on Herbert, and was impressed at what he saw. Awards, accolades, impressive arrest lists. It was all there. Herbert Vale was one of the most decorated and brave detectives Detroit had ever seen. So, Walter had wondered, what the hell happened to him?
Working in the field with Herbert had been an eye opening experience. He’d learned so much from the man. Walter could see that all-star cop still inside the old guy and to watch him in action was a thing of beauty. But other times, Herbert was a completely different person.
Distracted, dismissive, and lost. He was like a strange, warped version of Jekyll and Hyde. Except when he changed he didn’t turn homicidal, just clueless. He was both Sherlock Holmes and Elmer Fudd. It baffled and frustrated Walter to no end. The younger detective just couldn’t figure it out. But he didn’t need to.
He had grown to admire, respect, and care for his partner. And he had his back, no matter what. Besides, the man had lost his daughter years ago. She’d been abducted at a park and had never turned up. The fact that Herbert showed up to work every day, did his job, and was a good man, even after all that, was a testament to how strong of a person he was, not how weak. Walter couldn’t imagine what he would do if something like that happened to his child. On cue, his phone rang.
Looking at the picture of his wife and son that served as his home phone’s contact photo, he sighed and hit ignore. He knew Chareece was worried about him, but he just didn’t want to talk right now. Walter had called his wife after everything went down with Briggs and Herbert. He’d told her then he wouldn’t be home until late, so not to wait up. But she’d kept calling and texting him. The messages just said to come home and that she missed him. Or that she was worried about him. As long as her and Ben were fine, he just couldn’t bring himself to call her back. Not yet. He had to figure out what to do about Herbert. Or rather, for Herbert.
His partner was going to be suspended for a while, but Walter knew he could keep up on the cabin case. Try to find Mckey, get some damn answers from him. Or try and find his cabin mate. The one with the article of Gloria’s disappearance on his wall. Walter had felt sick when he’d seen it. He’d wished Herbert could have avoided seeing it, but there was no way around it. The sight of that damn article had snapped the last thread Herbert had to been hanging onto his sanity with. His partner had lost it. And he’d almost killed Briggs in the process.
Leaning back in his chair, Walter looked over at Detective Briggs himself, who was just sitting down at his desk. Walter wondered why he was still there so late. Must be working on a case. The bastard sure looked happy with himself. A little too happy with himself, Walter thought as he got to his feet.
Approaching Briggs, Walter tried to keep the disgust out of his voice.
“Briggs, how are you feeling?” Briggs kept smiling.
“I’m feeling fantastic. How ‘bout you, Ryan?”
“Fine, just worried about Herbert. Thanks again for not pressing charges. I’m sure you understand what seeing Gloria’s kidnapping article there must have done to him.” Briggs smile got bigger.
“Oh yeah, I definitely understand.” Walter had had enough. Briggs was up to something and he was going to find out. Besides, he was sick of the weasel’s annoying smile.
“Briggs, what the hell is going on with you? Why are you smiling like that? And why are you still here so late?” Briggs just chuckled.
“Same as you, just concerned for our mutual friend.” Walter shook his head. He was calling bullshit on that.
“Bullshit, Briggs. Tell me what the hell is going on.” Briggs shrugged, his cheesy smile never wavering.
“Oh, I’m just waiting around to see if Herbert does anything…hmm, interesting tonight.” Walter felt his blood boil. Leaning forward over Briggs desk, he glared at the joyful detective.
“What did you do, Briggs?”
“Let’s just say me and ol’ Herbie had a nice chat. I made his night.” Walter was getting annoyed. And worried.
“Enough crap, Briggs. Tell me what you did, straight up.” Briggs stood up, his smile disappearing.
“I got revenge on that loser partner of yours. He put his damn hands on me, embarrassed me in front of other cops. I couldn’t let him get away with that. Him getting in trouble for what he did to me wasn’t good enough. We all know that him and the captain are best buddies, probably give each other reach-arounds every morning. No way Jones was gonna do shit to Vale. And his past reputation would buy him favor with any judge, especially when they looked at the fact that I was always razzing him and what he saw at the cabin right before he attacked me. The bastard would have gotten off with a slap on the wrist. Oh no, no way. Not after what he did to me.” Walter was around Briggs’ desk before the other man could blink. Shoving the elder detective back against the wall forcefully, Walter held him there by his shirt collar.
“What the fuck did you do to Herbert, Briggs!? What did you say to him!? Tell me! Now!” When he said now, Walter emphasized it by slamming Briggs back into the wall harder. Briggs just glared.
“I told him I found out who Nate Mckey’s cabin mate was. Told him who had Gloria’s kidnapping article mounted on their secret cabin wall. Told him who his daughter’s killer was.” Walter couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“What!? You don’t know who that was. No one does.” Briggs smiled again.
“No shit. It isn’t real. I just gave him the address of someone that he would easily believe did it. Someone he always thought had. You should have seen his face. Priceless. Almost worth it all. But not as good as seeing him throw his career and life in the crapper when he goes after the wrong guy and does something stupid.” Walter’s mind raced.
“You don’t know that. Herbert went home with his wife. He’s probably sleeping in bed next to her as we speak.” Briggs rolled his eyes.
“Come on, Ryan. You know as well as I do that Vale is unhinged. We both know he is going after the person I served up to him.” Walter was in shock.
“But…you might have just condemned not only Herbert, but an innocent man as well.” Briggs made a disgusted face.
“Trust me, the guy is anything but innocent. He’s an alcoholic, druggie loser who got a nice old lady killed years ago. No one’s gonna miss him.” Walter was at a loss for words. Then he thought of something.
“Why are you telling me this? When I report what you’ve done, you are going to be in huge trouble. Your career, your life…everything is going to be finished.” Briggs started laughing.
“Oh no, Ryan. I’m not that stupid. Nothing can be traced back to me. It’s Vale’s word against mine. And after what he did to me earlier tonight, and what he is going to do as we speak or later tonight, no one will believe him.”
“Oh yeah, Briggs. What about me? You think no one will believe me?”
“You ain’t gonna say nothing either, Ryan. You wanna know why? Because the only scrap of evidence Vale would have would be the paper I gave him with the address written on it.” Walter’s brain searched for a hole in Briggs’ cover-up.
“Yeah, well a handwriting expert can prove it was your writing.” Briggs shook his head.
“Nah, they can’t. Because it isn’t my writing, Walter. It’s yours.” Walter was confused for only a minute. Then it donned on him. As he cursed to himself, Briggs continued. “Ah, yes, there it is. Remembering now, huh? Earlier, I asked you so kindly to look up an address for me. I said I was so shaken up and upset that I needed a break. But I needed an address looked up. You jumped at the chance, probably sucking up to me and hoping I’d drop Vale’s charges. So go ahead and try to tattle. But what do you think people will say when it turns out the address Vale followed to his victim was written down by his own partner. Sorry, kid, there ain’t no way the finger can be pointed at me.” Walter shut his eyes in disgust.
Briggs had thought of everything. The conniving piece of shit had them by the balls. Briggs was right, he had been trying to be overly nice and helpful to the jerk in hopes that he’d drop the assault charges. Thinking back, Walter tried to remember the name attached to the address he looked up. What was the name…oh yeah, he thought, Will Benson.
Letting go of Briggs, he rushed to his computer, looked up the address again and grabbed his coat. As he headed for the door, he heard Briggs calling after him.
“You’ll never make it in time, Ryan. Your buddy is finished. It’s been hours. He’s already killed Benson by now and there is nothing you can do about it. I’m going to be right here waiting for the call to come in. Then I will make sure I’m there when that old son of a bitch gets arrested. And I will enjoy every damn second of it.”
Walter ignored Briggs, pulling out his cell phone and dialing Herbert. He had to stop him. As the phone rang, Walter pushed through the doors of the precinct and dashed to his car. Please Herbert, he thought, please don’t do anything stupid.
Herbert stopped by the back door, trying to figure out if what he was about to do was stupid. Was it really going to be this easy? Could the person he’d been hunting for almost half his life be the very same person he always assumed it was? Was there something he was missing? Shaking his head, he told himself no.
He couldn’t doubt himself, couldn’t pause or take time to think about things too much and get cold feet. Gloria deserved, no needed, justice. And he was the one that was going to give it to her. Along with Hannibal, of course. Taking a deep breath to steel himself, Hannibal grabbed the lock pick set from his duffel bag and prepared to pick the lock. Just as he began, his phone rang.
When Gloria was young, she loved to sing Jesse’s Girl by Rick Springfield. Herbert and her would listen to the song, dancing and singing for what seemed like hours. So when Herbert first got a cell phone, he set that song as his ringtone. And he’d kept it the same through the years. Just another way to never forget his little girl. Now he wished he’d had a much more subtle ringtone. Or that he’d at least silenced his phone. Or left the damn thing in the Buick.
The stupid song blared out into the quiet night like a rock and roll band. The cold stillness of dark and complete silence of a subdivision full of sleeping residents made the song sound all that much louder. Benson was going to hear it for sure. Any moment now the bumbling drunk would come pouring out the door and Herbert’s edge of stealth and surprise would be lost.
Fumbling the phone out of his pocket, Herbert saw it was his partner, Walter Ryan. What the hell did the kid want? He’d been there for Herbert tonight, and the old detective appreciated that. But he didn’t have time for a heart to heart right now. Walter cared about his old partner, was worried about him. He thought Herbert was a good, honest man. Sweet kid, Herbert sighed, but he was a terrible judge of character. Hitting ignore, Herbert turned off the phone. Then he quickly got back to picking the lock. Hoping Benson hadn’t heard anything. Didn’t take long to find out.
In deep focus, Herbert let out a startled gasp when the doorknob suddenly turned and the door swung inward. As light flooded his vision, making it hard to see anything, Herbert heard his lock pick set clatter onto the ground. Then a voice.
“What the-” As his vision cleared, Herbert got to his feet. Benson was squinting, and swaying. It appeared he was already drunk. He found his voice, and it came out slurred.
“Who the hell are you? And what…what are you doing here?” Herbert just stood there, fighting down rage at the sight of his daughter’s killer. Taking a good look at Will Benson, Herbert wasn’t impressed. The man looked like shit.
The hair on his head and his face was unkempt, unruly, and unclean. His beard was long and uneven, stretching down his neck and to the sides of his neck. Benson’s clothes were rumpled and stained. He stunk of stale beer, stale sweat, and stale urine. And terrible body odor. Herbert felt his nose twitch as his stomach soured at the smell. Benson leaned forward and looked closer. Suddenly, the look on his face seemed to convey he recognized Herbert. Pointing a finger, his eyes got big.
“You.” Herbert smiled.
“Hello, Will. Mind if I come in?” As Benson started to shake his head frantically, he tried to shut the door. Herbert stopped it and forced it back towards the alcoholically weakened man. The drunkard stumbled backwards, lost his balance, and fell on his butt. Herbert stepped into the house and shut the door behind him. Benson started shuffling backwards, doing a half-assed crab walk to try and scurry away. Herbert couldn’t have that. The old detective strode up to his prey and kicked him in the face. Benson moaned and collapsed to his side, holding his face.
“Why did you do that? What do you want?” Herbert set down his duffel bag and started rifling through his gear as he answered.
“You know why I did that. And you know exactly why I am here. And what I want is something that is long overdue.” Benson was whining now.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I haven’t seen you in years. I served my time for what I did to poor Mrs. Davis. If this is about her, just kill me and get it over with. I deserve it. What I caused to happen to that poor, kind old woman-” Herbert grew frustrated at the pathetic scumbag’s lack of understanding. Dropping the pack, he rushed over to Benson and backhanded him, evoking another moan.
“You think this is about that woman you got killed! It isn’t! You know what this is about! Stop acting like you don’t!” Benson started crying.
“I don’t know what you want, I swear. Please, just kill me. I don’t deserve to live. Not after what I did to Mrs. Davis.” Herbert’s blood boiled. Growling, Herbert kicked Will in the ribs. Again, and again. And again.
“Stop saying that woman’s name! This isn’t about her! You know what you did, damn it! I’m here to pay you back for what you took from me! I’m here for my Gloria!” Finally stopping, Herbert stood breathing heavily. Benson was curled up in the fetal position, holding his injured ribs. Blood was running from his mouth.
“What…who? Gloria?” Herbert growled again, prepared to resume his rib stomping. Benson put his hands up.
“No, please! No more. Gloria…wait. Your daughter? Why…oh. I told you years ago I had nothing to do with it. I was just at the park. Just like all those other people. Please, believe me. I didn’t do anything to your daughter.” Herbert spoke through gritted teeth.
“You’re lying, I can tell. I suppose you are going to tell me you don’t know anyone by the name of Nate Mckey either, huh? Or that the two of you don’t share a cabin?” Benson gawked at Herbert with confusion.
“I swear, I have no idea what you are talking about! I’ve never heard of anyone by that name and I’ve never owned a cabin. I swear!” Herbert had heard enough. Turning back to his pack, he removed a syringe and brought it back to where the huddled, shaking form of Will Benson laid. Before the other man could object, Herbert jabbed the syringe into his neck. Benson began to groan and moan, but Herbert shushed him.
“Quiet now. This is going to help you go to sleep. Relax now, can’t have you causing a scene when I take you out of here.” Benson’s eyes widened with questions but he was unable to answer as his eyes clouded over and he drifted into unconsciousness. Grabbing his rope, Herbert got to work on tying up Hannibal’s soon to be meal. Tying the knots tightly, Herbert grabbed a roll of duct tape and placed it over Benson’s mouth. He also wrapped it around his body. Just to be sure. Herbert grabbed the taller man by the legs and dragged him to the door, but stopped before he got outside. He had to think.
Herbert hadn’t planned on having to carry a limp body to his car. He’d had a well thought out plan that if it had worked would’ve saved him the trouble. But things hadn’t gone smoothly, starting with the phone call from Walter. There was no way Herbert was going to be able to carry Benson’s dead weight to his car from here. Not quickly and not without breaking his back. He could drag him, but he was likely to be noticed by someone. That left one choice.
Herbert would just have to back into Benson’s driveway and hope no one woke up and looked out the window. And if they did, he’d have to hope they didn’t get a good look at him, his car, or his license plate. No time to worry, Herbert thought as he exited and shut the back door behind him. Walking briskly to his car, he hopped in, started it up, and coasted towards the Benson home. Turning right, Herbert got parallel with the house, and then backed into the driveway as far as he was able to. Leaving the car running, Herbert popped the trunk and got out.
Opening the back door of the house once again, he was happy to see a still-resting Will Benson in a heap on the floor. Grabbing both feet, Herbert dragged his victim out into the backyard and around the side of the house as quickly as possible. He made sure to hug the side of the house and the darkness it supplied. Once he reached the car, he opened the trunk just enough to allow Benson’s body to fit through the opening. Reaching down, he grunted as he lifted the limp body in a cradle-carry and dumped it into the trunk.
The old Buick rocked and squeaked from the force of the body landing in the back. That, coupled with the loud thud the body had made caused Herbert to worry that someone may have heard him. Scanning the area, his eyes stopped on a car. It looked familiar. And had it been there before? The car was not running, headlights were off. Squinting into the darkness, Herbert tried to see if someone was in the car, but it didn’t look like it. He was just worrying over nothing, his nerves getting to him.
Forgetting the car, he surveyed the rest of the quiet neighborhood. Looking around, he felt himself calm down as it appeared everything was still silent and unmoving. Shutting the trunk as quietly as possible, he went back into the Benson home.
Grabbing his duffel bag, Herbert surveyed the kitchen to ensure nothing he’d brought into the house would be left behind. He didn’t want to leave any evidence behind that could be linked to him. All he saw when he looked around was Will Benson’s blood on the tile. Satisfied, he left and shut the door behind him, locking it from the inside before doing so. Then he got in his car and drove away, heading for Delray and a meeting with his secret partner.
As he passed the car he’d spotted earlier, he threw a glance at it. Dark and quiet, no one was inside. Nothing to worry about. He was just letting his imagination get the best of him again. As he turned out of the subdivision and onto a main road, he began to relax. The hard part was over. There was no turning back now. He hadn’t gotten caught and now he was in the clear. Glancing in his rearview mirror, he noticed tail lights quite a ways back. For a second, he wondered if he was being followed.
It was very late, not many people were on the road. He figured that was probably why he was so worried about one car. It seemed so secluded, like it was the only other car besides him on the road. Like it had to be following him. Herbert was just being paranoid, or at least that was what he told himself. His worries were erased when the car turned and disappeared from sight. Blowing out a sigh of relief, Herbert shook his head. No turning back, he thought. No turning back.
Walter Ryan couldn’t believe what he’d seen. He’d left the precinct and rushed right over to the address Briggs had conned him into writing down. The same address the conniving detective had given Herbert Vale to set him up. When Walter turned onto Benson’s road, he’d known immediately something was wrong.
He saw an idling car backed up into the driveway, so far back it seemed unnecessary…unnatural. Walter hadn’t recognized the car. He’d slowed to a stop and parked on the side of the road, killing his lights and the engine. Hoping Herbert hadn’t gotten there yet, Walter settled in, expecting to wait out Benson himself or one of his friends returning to their still running car. Imagine his surprise when he saw his partner, Herbert, back around the corner and down the side of the house.
He was hunched over, apparently dragging something. Or someone, Walter thought with dread and worry. His concerns were proven right when he saw Herbert lift the still form of a person and toss them into his trunk. The whole car shook and made a very loud noise. Herbert noticed and looked around, making sure no one had heard. Walter sunk in his seat, not wanting to be spotted. He swore Herbert looked right at him, but then the older detective shut the trunk and went back around behind the house.
Walter had thought about going over right then and there and stopping Herbert. But then he decided better of it. His partner had already done something to Benson, either knocked him out or killed him. Approaching Herbert here would only cause a scene. Which was the last thing Walter wanted. He had to admit he was still holding out hope he could save his partner. He decided to wait this out and follow Herbert to his next destination.
In a couple minutes, Herbert came back out from around the house, got in his car and drove away. Walter sunk down in his seat all the way to ensure Herbert wouldn’t see him. He was surprised Herbert didn’t recognize his car. Then again, he’d driven Chareece’s car to work that day, due to the fact that she thought it was making a strange noise. Herbert had only seen Walter’s wife’s car a handful of times. But still.
The sound of the old clunker rattling by without stopping had calmed Walter’s nerves. He forced himself to wait, just to be safe. Walter waited an excruciatingly long minute, then followed. Not wanting to throw up any red flags, the young detective was sure to stay far behind.
After a while of long distance following, Walter decided to use a trick he learned in the academy. With no one else on the road this late at night, Walter knew that his experienced partner would become suspicious of him if he kept following without turning. His idea was going to be risky, but Walter felt it was necessary.
Turning right, he quickly made a left at the next street so that he was now driving parallel to Herbert. After a few blocks, he turned right again and got back up to the street he’d originally been on. Taking a right, Walter’s stomach dropped for a second when he thought he didn’t see the tail lights of Herbert’s Buick. Had he lost him? Had his trick move turned out to be a huge mistake?
Speeding up to gain ground, he looked frantically back and forth, hoping against hope that he hadn’t screwed up. He blew out a sigh of relief when he gained enough ground to see the back of the Skylark in the distance ahead. No more tricks, he told himself. Walter couldn’t risk losing Herbert again. He would just follow him slow and steady from a safe distance. But where was he following him to? And what the hell was Walter going to do when they got there?
Herbert slowed to a stop near the old abandoned subway entrance he’d come to know as a second home. Third home, if he counted the police station. Not that that was a home to him anymore, the old detective thought with a sad sigh. How had he screwed things up so badly? Well, at least he was going to get something right tonight. Finally, after all these years, he was going to give his baby justice.
Turning off the loud engine of the old car, Herbert listened through the sudden silence to see if he could hear any noise coming from the trunk. He’d hoped his old friend would’ve begun stirring by now. Unfortunately, he was disappointed to hear nothing at all. Cursing, he opened the door and got out. He sure hoped he hadn’t killed the bastard.
The sedative was old and he was never sure how his victims would react to it. If it had finished Benson off, Herbert would be very disappointed. That would have been too good of a death for the murdering scum. Stomping around to the back of the Skylark, Herbert dug out his keys and unlocked the trunk. Flinging it open, he found the still form of Will Benson.
Quickly placing his fingers to the man’s neck, he checked his carotid artery for a pulse. Heaving a sigh of relief, Herbert was overjoyed to find Benson was still alive. A weak pulse, but a pulse none the less. Reaching into the trunk, Herbert slapped Will Benson across the face. Hard. He noticed the man’s eyelids flutter, but they stayed shut. So he did it again, even harder. Benson’s eyes opened slowly. Confusion filled his eyes until they landed on Herbert’s face, then they filled with something else. Fear.
Benson tried to scream, but the tape over his mouth muffled it out. Thrashing wildly, he looked down at himself, noticing he was tied up and in the trunk of a car. After that realization, he thrashed even harder. Herbert shook his head.
“Calm down, boy. It isn’t going to do you any good. Let’s go.” Benson continued screaming muffled screams and thrashing around as Herbert reached into the trunk and grabbed hold of him by the ropes that were still securing his arms and legs. Despite his best efforts, the captive failed to stop his abductor from heaving him out of the car. Herbert tossed the struggling form of Benson onto the grass, where he landed with a hard thud. Squatting down next to Benson, Herbert pulled out a gun. At the sight of the weapon, Benson’s muffled screams turned to muffled crying.
“Listen. I’m going to untie your legs so you can walk. If you try to run or kick me…I will shoot you. Understand?” Benson nodded slowly, eyes squeezed shut tightly. Herbert untied his legs and lifted him to his feet.
“Now walk.” Benson was sobbing now, shaking from fear and the force of his cries. He tried to take a step but fell forward onto his face. Herbert cursed.
“Come on, Benson, get up. Be a man for once. Own up to what you did…for the first time in your pathetic life.” Herbert gave Benson a hard nudge forward. He stumbled, but kept his footing, then limped slowly towards the abandoned subway entrance. Benson tried to mumble a response, but the duct tape was still making it difficult. Herbert rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. You didn’t do it. It wasn’t you. You don’t know anything about what happened to my little girl. Just stop. Stop the lying and be a damn man.” Herbert glanced ahead at the dark entrance to the subway.
He wondered if Hannibal was already there, waiting. This was an unscheduled drop in. But then again, they all were. Herbert never told his secret partner a specific day or time. The only deal they had in place was that Herbert had to bring someone every week, or else the evil monster would find a human meal on his own to satisfy his hunger. Maybe it would be someone who would deserve it, but if Hannibal wasn’t picky, Herbert couldn’t risk it. He didn’t want innocent people to die.
So, the old detective brought the demonic bastard a live meal whenever he could. Always someone who deserved it. It was never the same day or time each week, but Hannibal always seemed to be there, ready and waiting. As they got closer, Herbert thought he saw movement in the shadows of the entrance. A loud, snorty huff like a horse would make came from the darkness. Ah, Herbert thought, his partner was there. Benson heard the noise too, freezing in place. Herbert nudged him forward.
“Come on, keep moving.” Benson wouldn’t budge. He started shaking his head, trying to say something. Herbert sighed.
“I said move.” Nudging him harder, Benson stumbled forward but once again kept his footing. A growl came from the subway, deep and dripping with hunger. Both Herbert and Benson looked at the dark opening and saw a flash of Hannibal’s horrific face. Fangs and all. As Herbert shuddered inwardly, Benson turned around suddenly.
At first, Herbert was worried his captive was going to try and attack him, but the look in the man’s eyes said otherwise. Still shaking his head, a wide-eyed Benson was screaming, trying to tell Herbert something but it was not understandable through the tape. Herbert pointed towards the shadowy spot Hannibal was waiting.
“You did this to yourself, Will. Now go.” Benson just kept shaking his head no, trying to say something through the duct tape. Herbert took a step back and pointed his gun at Benson’s face.
“I said go, Will. Stop stalling, damn it. I will shoot you and drag you over there if I have to.” Tears began to fall openly now from Benson’s eyes as he jumped up and down, still trying to talk. The father inside Herbert wanted to shoot his daughter’s killer. In the leg, or in the gut…somewhere painful, but not immediately lethal. Then drag the son of a bitch over to Hannibal so he could dig in while Benson was still alive. But the other part of Herbert, the detective part…wasn’t ready.
There was something in Benson’s eyes. Herbert knew the man was terrified, but there was something else. Something that wasn’t there before he saw the quick flash of Hannibal’s face. It wasn’t fear…Herbert swore the look in Benson’s eyes was recognition. Almost like…hell, Herbert thought. Almost like Benson had seen that horrible, monstrous face before. Herbert didn’t want Benson to scream and cause problems for him, but he had to know what that look on the man’s face meant. Herbert kept the gun trained on Benson’s face.
“Okay, listen. I’m going to take the tape off so you can tell me whatever it is you are trying to tell me. Do not scream, do not bullshit me. Say what you need to say. Any theatrics, I shoot you in the gut.” To emphasize his point, Herbert lowered the gun so it pointed at Benson’s abdomen. Then, Herbert reached up with his free hand and ripped off the tape. Benson cried out softly in pain, then immediately started talking.
“Listen, we have to get out of here! Now! That…that thing…I’ve seen it before. A long time ago. Please, we have to leave!” Herbert narrowed his eyes.
“What do you mean, you’ve seen it before?” Benson looked nervously behind him, then back at Herbert.
“I mean I’ve seen it before, just like I said! Christ! You want to know what happened to your daughter, detective? Ask that thing in there!” Herbert’s stomach dropped out. His heart started racing. Jamming the gun into Benson’s stomach, he growled a response.
“What the hell do you mean by that!?” Benson’s eyes were wild with panic.
“Don’t shoot! Please! Just get me out of here, I’ll tell you everything once we are gone from here!” Herbert shoved the gun deeper into Benson’s belly.
“No, you will tell me now!”
“Fine, fine! I never told anyone what I saw that day. At the park. I was worried people would think I was crazy. Hell, I thought I was crazy. That I was imagining things. Plus, I didn’t want to draw any more attention to myself after what happened with Mrs. Davis. Anyways, when I saw that fucking face just now, I know I wasn’t imagining things. That damn face has haunted my dreams for years!” Herbert felt sick to his stomach.
“What did you see, damn it!?”
“I was sitting on one of the benches, the one that I sat on every time I went there. It had a nice view of the little man-made lake the park overlooked. I would sketch or read comics or just look at the water. Anyways, this day I was just looking at the water, thinking about poor Mrs. Davis. That was when I noticed the little girl…your little girl. She was wandering away from the playscape area towards a small building. A shack, more like. A small, cement shack like building. I figured it was some kind of drainage or septic tank thing since it was closer to the water.
So, the door to the thing was open a little bit, and the girl was just walking right towards it, like she was being called over…like she was in a trance or something. I was confused at first, and then I got worried. Something didn’t feel right. I got up and started that way, thinking I could snap her out of it. That’s when it happened.
I didn’t get more than a few steps before she got to the door. I was about to call out to her when the door opened quickly, and something grabbed her and pulled her into the darkness of the building, the door shut tightly behind it afterwards. I didn’t get a great look, it happened so fast. But I saw its face. A face straight from the depths of hell.
I thought I was delusional, daydreaming. I looked around and no one was freaking out or acting like they’d seen it. I told myself to calm down, that it was the stress of the morning. I sat back down and tried to convince myself I imagined the whole thing. That’s when a woman, your wife I guess, started screaming for her daughter.” Herbert couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
Could it be true? If Benson was telling the truth, then that meant…Herbert couldn’t bear to think of it. Could the building Benson mistook for a pump house have been an entrance to the old abandoned subway. No one knew how far the tunnels stretched across the city or where they came up. Hell, a few months ago Herbert didn’t even think they existed. Now, he knew they did. And maybe Will Benson wasn’t what Herbert thought he was.
All that time when he interviewed and talked to Benson, he always thought he was lying, that something wasn’t right with him. If this was the truth, then it wasn’t that Benson had been lying…he’d just been keeping the truth from everyone. Hiding what he’d seen. That was what Herbert had picked up on. But could he trust Benson’s word now.
The man was a drunk. A confessed murder accomplice. He had to have known once they got to Delray that Herbert was going to kill him, and maybe when he saw Hannibal’s face he made up the whole story. Hoping it would get him off the hook. No, Herbert thought. That wasn’t what was going on here.
Benson had never been a good liar. And Herbert had developed a knack for spotting a liar when he talked to one. Will Benson was telling the truth. But that meant something horrible. If Benson wasn’t lying about what he saw, then his poor little girl was taken by a monster like Hannibal. Hell, it could have been Hannibal himself. That thought filled Herbert with rage. Lowering his gun, he strode past Benson, mumbling to the man as he passed.
“Go back to the car, Will. I’m sorry about all this.” Benson whined.
“No, you have to come too…we have to get out of here. It will kill you!” Herbert whirled around, raising his gun and pointing it at Benson once again.
“I said go to the fucking car, Will! I am going to get some damn answers! Now go to the car, or I will shoot you for real!” Benson backed up slowly. Just as Herbert was about to lower his gun, a voice called out from his left.
“Herbert! Put the gun down!” Herbert’s head dropped. Shutting his eyes, he sighed. Shit, he thought.
Detective Walter Ryan trained his handgun on his partner for the second time in the past few hours. He’d followed Herbert all the way out into the boonies of Delray, his gut filling with dread the further away from society they got. By the time Herbert finally pulled his car to a stop, Walter was convinced the old guy was going to kill Will Benson and dump his body. Or just the latter if he’d already killed the man at his home.
The young detective had turned off his lights and parked far away enough to keep from being noticed, but close enough to see what was going on. He’d been relieved to see a living, breathing Will Benson exit Herbert’s trunk. Walter had hoped that meant there was still a chance to stop Herbert from making a huge mistake.
He’d watched anxiously as Herbert forced Benson to his feet, pushing and prodding him forward towards a strange looking structure looming in the distance. It looked like the opening to a secret cave or something. Whatever it was, it gave Walter the heebie jeebies. When he saw Herbert point a gun at Benson, Walter had grabbed his own guns, cocked them both, and silently gotten out of his car. He held one gun in his hand, and strapped the other to his calf strap under his pant leg, just in case.
Once out of the car, Walter noticed Herbert had pulled the tape off Benson’s mouth, allowing him to speak freely. Walter had been too far away to really hear what they were saying, but he was glad for the momentary distraction. He’d begun to quietly make his way towards the pair as they argued, not wanting to startle Herbert and cause him to shoot out of shock.
When he got close enough and saw Herbert angrily point his gun at Benson once again, Walter decided it was time to make his move. Now he had the advantage. Herbert would have to turn completely to shoot at Walter. If he did, the younger detective would have all the time in the world to shoot Herbert. Walter didn’t want it to come to that, though. He hoped he’d still be able to talk some sense into his partner.
“Herbert, drop the gun. Please.” Herbert was hanging his head, pinching the bridge of his nose. But his gun was still pointed at Benson. Benson called out to Walter.
“Please, sir, we have to get out of here. We are all in danger. Please, let’s all just go.” Walter kept his eyes on Herbert. He moved slowly towards his partner, circling around to approach him from the back. Herbert finally spoke.
“Walter, he’s right. You and Will should go.”
“No way, Herbert. I’m not leaving you here to do anything else stupid tonight. Come on, give me the gun.” Herbert shook his head.
“No, Walter, I need it. Just go. Please. Listen to me, kid.” Walter kept closing in slowly, now only ten feet away.
“I’m not leaving you alone with a gun. So you can, what? Kill yourself? What about Abbey, huh? Damn it! What the hell were you thinking, Herbert?”
“I’m not going to kill myself. And I’m here because I got a tip.” Eight feet, Walter thought.
“I know about Briggs, Herbert. Your tip was bullshit. He was setting you up, you and me both. He conned me into to writing down Benson’s address so the handwriting wouldn’t be traced to him. Then he gave it to you and sold you on thinking that Benson was the co-owner of Mckey’s cabin. It was all a lie. He knew you’d buy it. Knew you were desperate to get justice for Gloria. Knew you’d always suspected Benson. He wanted you to do something like this, ruin your career…your life. It was his payback for what you did to him earlier. None of this is real, Herbert. Except the trouble you’ve gotten yourself into.” Herbert let out a big sigh, the realization of Walter’s words obviously setting in. Letting out a curse, Herbert shook his head. Four feet now, Walter thought. Benson spoke up anxiously.
“Seriously, it’s okay. I won’t press charges, we can forget this ever happened. Just get me the fuck out of here!” Walter was close to Herbert now, within grabbing distance.
“Come on, Herbert, put the gun down and give it to me. It’s over.” Herbert was still shaking his head slowly. As Walter reached for his partner’s gun hand, a loud roar erupted from behind him. The startled detective turned back towards the strange cave opening and it turned out to be a poor choice.
Herbert took advantage of the distraction and tackled Walter to the ground, knocking his gun out of his hand. As the two struggled, Walter noticed Benson hobbling away quickly towards the cars.
“Herbert, what are you doing?” Herbert rolled off Walter and scrambled to his feet, snatching up Walter’s discarded gun.
“Trying to save your life, now get out of here.” Walter was about to say no again when a loud voice boomed from the dark opening.
“Herbert Vale, I have grown tired of waiting. I see you brought me double the usual meal. I am much obliged. Partner.” Walter turned a shade lighter as the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. His mouth became very dry and his throat constricted. He tried to find words, but he was crippled with fear. For the moment, the world around him faded away. His concern over Herbert slipped to the back of his mind. He forgot all about the gun strapped to his leg that he’d been reaching for. All he could focus on now was that horrible, blood-chilling voice. What the hell was going on? Had that demonic voice just called Herbert…partner?
Shit, Herbert thought. Shit, shit, shit. Hannibal thought Walter and Benson were both on the menu tonight. Truth was, neither man deserved to be. Walter Ryan was one of the best damn cops Herbert had ever met, not to mention one of the best men. He had a wife and kid, was a good husband and father to them. Now he was here, his life in jeopardy all because he gave a shit about Herbert.
And poor Will Benson was a tortured drunk who screwed up as a kid and had been paying for that mistake ever since. He wasn’t a child killer. And he didn’t deserve what Herbert had done to him. Not tonight, or for the past twenty some years. Briggs had played Herbert like a fool. Benson wasn’t the bad guy. In fact, the only evil human being there was Herbert himself. There wasn’t time to dwell on his mistakes, though. He had to get them out this. Finding his voice, he ignored Walter’s shocked stare.
“Hannibal, there has been a mistake. Neither of these men are criminals. You will not be dining tonight. I’m sorry.” Herbert made sure both guns in each hand were cocked, and then looked at Walter.
“Get the hell out of here, Walter. Get yourself and Benson to safety. I’m sorry about all this.” Then he started walking towards the subway entrance, hoping Walter would follow his instructions. Raising the guns, Herbert addressed Hannibal once again.
“But you and I have a lot to talk about, partner.” Herbert was sick of it all. Sick of all the lying, the sneaking around, the murdering. Sick of watching the demonic piece of shit inside that opening eat human beings every week. Human beings that Herbert had served up to him on a silver platter. He’d thought he was giving the victims of his victims justice. But he wasn’t. He was just being controlled like a puppet by something much worse. Hannibal was no better than the scum he ate…and neither was Herbert.
He was sick of being controlled. Controlled by his obsessive, psychotic need for revenge on someone for what happened to Gloria. By Briggs. By Hannibal. Herbert was done taking orders. Done being played with. He knew he’d screwed up big time, yes that was true. And he also knew he should just run, that he shouldn’t confront Hannibal. But damn it, he was going to find out if the monstrous son of a bitch took his Gloria.
And if his secret “partner” was responsible, then Herbert was going to do everything he could to make sure the bastard got what was coming to him. Ten feet from the opening, he opened his mouth to ask Hannibal for the truth about what happened to Gloria. But the words never came out. Hannibal’s satanic voice drowned out Herbert’s.
“You do not say when I eat, or who I eat, Herbert Vale. I grow tired of your demeanor and attitude. I am hungry. I am eating now.” Before Herbert could react, a flash of fur and fangs sprung from the subway opening. A huge hand swatted him away like a bug, sending him flying backwards. Herbert soared through the air, smashing into his Skylark, which was parked a good twenty yards from where he had been standing a second before.
As he struck the hard metal shell, the back of his head bounced roughly off some part of the Buick. Crumpling to the ground in a heap, his vision blurred and the last thing he heard before the world went black was a gun firing and a monster growling…followed by lots and lots of screaming.
That’s it, hope you enjoyed it! Have a great night and we will see you next week with a new short story:) Take care and have a great week!