Blood Crumbs: Chapter 11Mature

    West Valley City is located, as you might guess, just West of Salt Lake City itself. In recent years there had been cries to rename the city. The logic behind the outcry was that the current city name had negative connotations with a ‘west-side’ mentality that increased crime in the area. The proposal asked that the name be changed to, drum roll please: Best Valley.

    Personally, I thought it was the drugs, gangs, rising poverty levels and sinking property values that were leading to the increase in crime in the area, but what do I know? Maybe switching a ‘W’ to a ‘B’ really does make people want to love one another. I’m sure there are studies to prove it.

    The drive to West Valley, however, was not without its merits. Especially since I was able to stop at a small local diner called Jacob’s. Now, Jacob’s isn’t exactly the quaint happy-go-lucky diner that you might expect from small towns. They are locally owned and operated, but their service does not come with a smile. It comes with thinly veiled contempt and a side of hostility. However, they have some really good halibut and chips served with honey-butter scones, all at a decent price. Customers are all too willing to put up with Jacob’s service or the lack thereof.

    Thirty minutes after leaving the Rec Center, I was pulling up beside Officer Thaton’s cruiser outside of Kathy Mullner’s current residence. The house was the cookie-cutter split level theme that was repeated on every street and road in the surrounding area. Everything was bland and run-down and Kathy’s house was no exception.

    Weeds sprouted defiantly across a front yard of dead grass and patches of dirt. The first snow would probably take care of the weeds but I would bet the farm they would sprout uncontested again when summer rolled around. A wood fence erupted from the sides of the house and made a feeble attempt at encasing the back yard. The wood was rotted and weathered and slats were missing with entire sections of the fence sagging forlornly into the yard.

    “The only B that’s gonna fix up this place is Butane. Which needs to be applied liberally on the fourth of July." I mumbled as I got up out of the car.

    “What?” Thaton had been leaning against her car smoking casually as I attempted to dislodge myself.

    “Nothing, just talking to myself.” I said. I took a final sip from my coke and threw it into a garbage can that was splayed out on the street. I looked up and down the block and noticed this was the only can. Trash pick up was not in the recent past or near future in this neighborhood.

    “Jacob’s? Really?” Thaton said with a disgusted wave at the cup.

    “Hey, just because you have some self-respect doesn’t mean I can’t debase myself for some deep fried goodness every once in a while.” I huffed.

    She poked an accusing finger at my belly. “Every once in a while? Looks like you cram that stuff down your gullet morning, noon, and night.”

    “You should be happy I do or else you’d still be stuck canvassing those apartment buildings.” I said, “Only reason I brought you along is in case someone decides to run. I’m in no mood to chase some crack fiend who has it in his head that all cops are out to get him.”

    “And you chose me? You forget that I suck ash twenty times a day?” She said flicking her cigarette butt at me.

    “Yeah but I’m in the Good Ol’ Boys club and you’re one of them women-folk. You’ve got so much more to prove, I figure you’ll run harder.” I stamped out the glowing red end of the butt as it rolled against the dry grass. “Hell, if you go into cardiac arrest they’d probably give me a bottle a scotch and a box of cigars.”

    “One of these days, Burton, one of these days.” She shook her fist at me.

    “What the Hell are you cops doing hanging outside my house?” A rough male voice came from the house.

    We both looked up to see a man, presumably Steve Hanner, standing on the porch wearing a white ‘wife beater’ and cut off jeans. A silver chain around his neck completed the ensemble and his shoulder length hair was sticking out in all directions. He had a few days worth of stubble crowding his chin and upper lip and tufts of brown chest hair poked up from his neckline and sat on his shoulders. Suddenly I was reminded of words Bishop had used earlier. “Podunk, USA” he had said, “Population: the Smith family tree.”

    “This guy is just a mullet away from a walking, talking stereotype.” Thaton mumbled under her breath as I waved.

    “Uh, sorry to bother you, sir. My name is Detective Burton and this is Officer Thaton and we were told we could find someone here. A Ms. Kathy Mullner.” I walked up along his driveway, making sure not to step on his beloved lawn, and showed him my I.D.

    “Look, I don’t know what someone has told you, but-“ He started. I shot him a look that ended whatever objection he had decided to go with.

    “Hold on, please.” I slid my badge back onto my belt and maintained a pleasant tone. “Now before you go and say something stupid or suspicious and we have to call the West Valley PD and tip them off about whatever’s going on here. Let me explain. My friend and I are with the Sandy PD so whatever you’ve got going on here, it’s not really our problem. We just have a few questions to ask Ms. Mullner and then we’ll be out of your hair.”

    Steve’s back straightened and a small smile crept to his lips. I saw the change and frowned knowing what was about to happen. I don’t know if it was the polite tone, or the veiled insults, or the fact that he had learned about our jurisdictional predicament; but our friend had just decided he wasn’t going to talk to us. And people wonder why cops have to be jerks all the time…

    “Well whatever these few questions are, they’re just going to have to go unanswered until you get yourself a subpoena.” He said as his smile grew.

    “A subpoena?” Thaton chuckled.

    “Someone’s been watching too many lawyer shows." I said shaking my head. I stopped suddenly and grabbed my holster, “Wait a minute, what was that?”

    Steve’s smile faltered. “What was what?”

    I looked back at Thaton, “Did you see what I saw?”

    “I’m pretty sure I did.” Thaton replied gravely.

    “Sir, did you just brandish a gun at a police officer?” I said stepping up close to my new friend. He was only a few inches shorter than me, but I knew how to make it count. I towered over him.

    “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He said cautiously and began to shuffle back away from me.

    Before he knew what was happening I had grabbed him by the shoulder, spun him around and slammed him face first into his own door. He turned his head at the last second and narrowly avoided breaking his nose, though there was still a pleasant thud as his skull made contact with the door. I grabbed his left arm in mine and locked it painfully behind him then proceeded to pat him down with my right hand. There was a bulge in his front left pocket and I removed a bump of crystal meth. I held it up for Thaton to see.

    “Can you believe this guy? He walks outside to question what cops are doing on his lawn and doesn’t even have the smarts to hide the meth he’s carrying.” I laughed.

    Thaton walked up and leaned her head against the door so that their eyes could meet. “My mom always told me if you’re going to be stupid; you’d better be pretty. Take it from me, Steve, you're not that pretty.” She said sweetly.

    The door opened causing my prey to lose his balance and fall inside the front entryway almost pulling me with him. I released my grip and he tumbled through the door and landed with a grunt. Kathy Mullner was staring at me from under her curly blonde bangs.

    She was wearing some tight jean shorts that barely reached her thighs and a huge Salt Lake Olympics hoody that hung loosely around her. Her arms were folded and her head was bowed, her chin nearly touching her neck.

    “What do you from me?” She asked.

    I guessed it was a question, but her tone was such that I would just have to assume.

    “Well Kathy, it looks like you down-graded.” I said with a nod to the man currently splayed across her floor. “At least Emilio was smart enough to know how to act around officers of the law.”

    Kathy flinched at the dig like I had slapped her across the face. I didn’t relish the bad cop act but sometimes it’s good to rattle the cage of the person you’re questioning. Emotional people are easier to trip up.

    “I see tact is not a word you’ve found yourself well acquainted with, Officer..?”

    “It’s Detective Burton. And I don’t see any reason to tip toe around the subject of deadbeat boyfriends when we’ve got one wiggling around on the floor in front of us.”

    It might seem cliché but I was setting up Thaton for a good cop, bad cop scenario. I’d go in direct and blunt with questions and if Kathy seemed to be shutting down it would be Thaton’s job to cut me off and take over with a more delicate approach. Cliché or not, it was a method that often wielded results.

    The boyfriend coughed and got up painfully. There was a small cut on his cheek where a dot of blood blossomed and ran down the side of his face like a tear. He wiped it away and looked like he was about to say something. Kathy put a hand on his shoulder and gently shook her head. He gave her a sharp look and she flinched but quickly composed herself.

    “I’ll handle this. Go take care of that cut.” She said sweetly.

    He walked away and she stepped through the threshold into the open air and closed the door behind her. It was a telling move. There were to be no invitations inside, no offers for coffee, no catching up on how old Ramirez is doing. The door clicked softly shut, but she might as well have slammed it. Make this quick, it said.

    “Well since you came here well aware of my history with Leo, and since you’re a detective rather than another officer. I’ll assume he’s gotten himself in serious trouble again.” She said.

    “You could say that,” I replied coolly, “So I take it since you are intimately acquainted with his ability to make trouble, you know  that he’s been out of prison for three months.”

    She looked up at me and nodded noncommittally. She seemed genuinely ignorant of where my line of questioning was going. “Yes, he got out and found me about two months back. Caused all sorts of Hell when he came over. Steve had to scare him off with a baseball bat but things spiraled a little out of control. Cops were called in for disturbing the peace, and it takes a lot of ruckus for neighbors in this area to stop minding their own business.”

    I nodded but I hadn’t seen Ramirez’s name on anything recent when I was going through records. “His name wasn’t on any of the reports?”

    “Well, uh Leo’s head made contact with Steve’s bat and he booked it before the cops could get here. We felt it best to leave that part out of the reports.” She said wiping her bangs from her face.

    “Can you tell me where you were last night between the hours of midnight and one AM?” I asked.

    Kathy’s eyes opened in surprise. “Holy shit, he’s dead isn’t he? Someone finally killed him.”

    “Finally?” Thaton piped up.

    “Well, yeah, I mean, Jesus, Leo was always doing the worst kind of stuff and ratting out some pretty scary people. I always wondered when it would all catch up with him. It was bound to happen at some point…" She said with a shrug. "To answer your question Detective, last night Steve and I were at the Tavernacle to celebrate my birthday. I’ve got a receipt from a tab and while it was crowded they might remember me. They did a whole birthday thing for me. We also went a little over the top and the staff had to call us a taxi after last call.”

    “I’ll check that out, thanks,” I said, “I don’t suppose you knew the names of any of his associates?”

    “Not even remotely. Leo didn’t expect me to know anything, and, at the time, I was just doing whatever I could to get my next fix from him. There aren’t many specifics I remember about our time together.” She said quietly as she pressed her hands to her belly and rubbed it gently.

    I asked her to grab the receipts and thanked her for her time, making sure she knew to stick around in case we had more questions. As soon as she left earshot, Thaton spoke up.

    “So, what do you think?”

    “Sounds to me like she’s telling the truth about her alibi and I think she seemed genuinely uninterested in his demise. Murdering someone like Ramirez would take effort that she just doesn’t seem willing to waste on him.”

    She nodded in agreement. “Where does that leave us, though?”

    “Scalpels and hand drills.” I said thinking of my only other two leads.


    “Nothing. We’re good for now, go back to the station and see if you can help Gavin out. I’m sure he’d appreciate a fresh set of eyes.”

    She nodded and got into her car. As she drove off, Kathy returned with a taxi receipt and her bar tab and I thanked her. I got in my car and tried to ignore the weariness that was seeping into every crevice of my body. There were at least two more leads to follow before the day was over.

The End

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