April at the Antique Alley (7 page)

The most likely source of clues would come from another source. We had confiscated ten kilos of someone’s drugs that would represent a huge investment.

Someone would be very mad, and word would get out on the street that the drugs had been seized. Hopefully one of the snitches that owed one of the cops a favor would hear something and report it. In the mean time, I had zilch in the way of leads.

There was one other source of clues. Three of the four victims had now been murdered after enduring Satan’s Path, so it was expected that the same person had committed all three crimes. That person had left behind a bunch of bullets and the

 

techs would analyze each and every one of them trying to identify a specific gun the bad guy had used. They would do this in several graduated steps. First, of course, was a simple visual examination to determine what caliber the bullets were.

If the caliber was different between one crime and the next it would prove that there had been more than one gun used. If, on the other hand, the bullets were all the same kind then they would continue with the next step. The next step would be to search the gun manufacturers literature and build a list of which gun types might have been used. Then they would examine each bullet under a microscope to see what marks were left on the bullet as it scraped its way out of the barrel of the gun.

If all the bullets had similar rifling marks it would indicate that a single gun was used. The rifling could then be used to narrow down even further the list of possible guns. Finally, of course, they would compare the specific rifling marks against another cops’ database that had test fires from specific guns so that a specific weapon might be identified. All of this weapons forensics though would be done by highly qualified professionals and not by yours truly, and unfortunately not immediately.

My cell phone chirped to life and when I picked it up I found Eric Samuels on the line. He reported two things of interest to me. The first was that the autopsy on Lola’s body had been completed. It hadn’t yielded any specific clues other than the obvious gun shot wounds were the cause of death. They still had not found any next of kin so the body would be buried in a county funded funeral sometime in the next few days. I suggested that they schedule it for the following Monday because the antique shops would all be closed that day so it would give her comrades an opportunity to attend the service and pay their last respects. He told me which funeral home would be handling the details and requested that I contact them and make the arrangements. I really did not want the task but accepted it.

The second bit of news Samuels had for me was about Lola’s estate. A CPA that worked for the police had gone over her books and found what he could. Eric gave me a summary of the report over the phone but also promised me a copy next time I saw him. Lola’s father had died twenty years ago and almost all of what she had today she had inherited from him. She owned the building the store was in and the land it was on and they were totally paid for but the taxes on them were pretty stiff. She had operated the business by herself for that past twenty years and never really made any profits from it but also had not lost money on the deal either. What little profit she got from selling junk paid the bills and taxes but could not have supported her. She owned the contents of the store but no inventory had yet been done, and unless they could find a next of kin in the next thirty days the contents and the building would be auctioned off. She owned and lived in a house just two blocks from her store but so far no one from the police department had yet visited the house and done an inventory. Samuels asked if I might want to do that task for

 

them and at this point he suggested that they would pay me my standard fees for doing so. I accepted that assignment as well and promised to pick up the keys from him the next morning.

In addition to the business and the house, her father had also left Lola a small bundle of stocks that were worth about half a million the day he had died.

She had done very little with the stocks. She had not bought or sold any shares of anything, and most of them paid quarterly dividends, and apparently that is what she had been living on. The value of the stocks now was about one point two million and the next quarters dividends would top out at around eighty-five thousand. She had a checking account with two thousand dollars in it and a savings account with twenty-five thousand in it. In addition she had four different CDs with different values and maturity dates. If left to mature they would total another two-hundred thousand. If Lola had a next of kin it is sure he or she would like to know about the estate.

Even though the county was arranging her funeral the CPA had figured out a way to get Lola’s saving account to pay for it, so Samuels let me know that I should pick out a plot and a nice casket. Oh hurray just the kind of thing I enjoy doing.

If we could identify a next of kin in thirty days the business, the house, the stocks, the CDs, everything would go to that person. If we could not identify a next of kin in thirty days the business, the house, and the contents of each would be auctioned off and the funds they raised would be placed in trust along with her stocks and other assets for one year. If, at the end of that year a next of kin still had not been identified, then Dallas county would become the rightful owner. If an inheritor did come along they would have to pay a pretty stiff inheritance tax but then receive something like two million bucks.

Of course, all of this could change if a will were found. With that in mind Eric Samuels told me to investigate and inventory the house but to make sure I looked for anything that looked like a will and also be careful about address books and such as she might have the will filed with an attorney and he might not yet know she is dead. If I could find any contacts with lawyers we could at least ask them to see if she had ever filed a will with them.

So officially my vacation was over and I was back at work. I would get my standard fee plus expenses which would certainly help my financial status. The very first thing I did was document the time I had already put on the case hoping I could somehow slip that time onto my bill when the case concluded.

I asked Detective Samuels if they had done the background checks yet on all the store owners. He admitted they had not yet finished that task and told me he would let me know what he could when he could. With that I hung up from the long phone conversation.

 

I thought a bit about my standard contract that included my standard rate per day and so forth. I now had to admit that I had a partner. Jill was now living mostly in my house and helping with my cases. I would have to come to some agreement with her about how and how much I would pay her. I knew that if I raised my rate or charged an hour at that rate to a client that Jill had actually worked I would have to get her licensed. We had not yet done that.

For several years now my business had not been complicated. I would get paid for doing a job and out of that pay I would pay my bills and the rest would go in my savings account. Once it was there I sort of figured it was mine to do with as I wished. Currently I had plenty in the savings account but I had to admit that soon, if not already, Jill was entitled to some of that money. I would have to consider opening a completely new bank account so that I could separate out my own money from the money that belonged to my business and would get divided at some ratio so that Jill got her fair share. I would probably then have to hire some accountant to look over my accounting practices and make sure I wasn’t breaking any laws.

What had once been so simple would grow in complexity and I was just going to have to be a big enough girl to go with the flow. It was time.

 

CHAPTER-08.

 

There were three specific things I wanted to accomplish today, Wednesday.

First, I wanted to get by the antique alley when business started for the day and photograph the tires of the cars that likely belonged to the owners of the stores. It would be too easy to have one of these cars show off the strange diamond shaped tread, but unless I looked I would never know. That meant that I would have to go to the alley and make an excuse for talking to each store owner and hopefully being able to get a few quick pictures of his/her tires without them knowing what I was doing. I figured right when the business was opening was a pretty good way to insure that the owner’s vehicle and only the owner’s vehicle was in each parking lot. I also figured that announcing the date of the funeral would be a good excuse for showing up at their places of business. It is not like any of them were suspects or anything but eliminating them would do a lot of good.

The second thing I wanted to accomplish this day was to go by the funeral home and make the arrangements. I would have to go by the Dallas P.D. first and collect some paperwork but that could be done early.

I was not much looking forward to either of the first two tasks on my list.

The third task on my list though really did interest me. I wanted to get into Lola’s house and snoop around for a good long time. I guess I am a natural born snoop and at this point finding some paper trail that would lead to a next of kin was pretty

 

important. In addition, it was technically the only thing I was being paid for, so I wanted to log a bunch of hours just to put gas in my car. On the other hand even though Samuels had warned me several times to stay away from this case he had also actually hired me to work on it so I would format reports for him that included all of my activities connected with the case, not just the inventory from Lola’s house.

Wednesday morning was beautiful but there was rain in the forecast for the afternoon. For some reason Jill wanted to drive so I folded my large body into her VW Bug and we headed towards downtown Dallas. Back in the sixties and seventies we made lots of jokes about how tiny a VW Bug was, but in truth here in the new millennium her car yielded both more head room and more leg room than my Taurus.

Samuels was sort of busy so he could spend very little time with us, but he did give me the key to Lola’s house and the address. In addition he gave me the warnings I had expected about what to look for and what to bag as evidence. He knew I was good at my job so he didn’t go into too many details, but he, being the professional he is, did go over the basics and made sure we knew enough to wear rubber gloves. He also handed me an envelope which had all the information that I would need when talking to a funeral director concerning Lola’s funeral. The envelope contained also a list of funeral homes that were used often by the county but one had already been picked out. The list was there, Samuels had explained, only in case the one they picked was booked for the day we wanted the funeral.

Jill and I arrived at Uptown Treasures at 9:30 loaded down with a bag full of blueberry muffins which we shared with Jana. Her store, as well as the rest on the block, would all open for business at ten sharp. Therefore we were able to spend a nice peaceful thirty minutes before the business day began.

We talked a bit about when Lola’s funeral would be and made plans for dinner back at my house/office for this evening. Jana and I looked longingly into each other’s eyes. Jill and Jana chatted like good friends. Their discussion seemed to center around the Adonis-like Donald Smith, and how to lure him into Jill’s grasp. It was a pleasant thirty minutes and it passed much too quickly.

 

I worked the alley in the same order I had during my initial investigation. I started at the east end of the block and worked my way west. That put Parnell’s Prize Antiques first. Parnell was happy to hear the date of the funeral and quickly pressed me for more details like where and what time, so I had to play dumb and once again promise an update soon. I found only one car in the parking lot so I made the assumption that it was his. I wrote Parnell’s name in my memo book as well as his license plate number, then I took pictures of his license plate and each of his tires. I really had not thought up any quick story to tell the owner of the car

 

if he caught me taking pictures of his tires. I probably would simply tell him that I was working hard to try to eliminate him as a possible suspect. In this case however, Parnell was busy in his store, so he didn’t see me in his parking lot photographing his wheels.

Lola’s building was next and that is when it occurred to me that we had not yet identified a car belonging to Lola. I wrote myself a note to look for a car when we got to her house later in the day.

Antiques of Dallas was next. I just stayed outside photographing the one car in its lot while Jill went inside for this one. She was inside for perhaps ten minutes.

When she came out she reported that Fredrick Smith was there but his gorgeous son Donald was not. Fredrick Smith had asked Jill once again about the availability of Lola’s space and the contents of her store. Jill reported that she had told him the things about thirty days and one year depending on when we found the next of kin.

At Buy It Bare we found an old pickup truck and a new sedan in the parking lot. We did not, at this time know which vehicle belonged to which employee, but I left the tire photography duties to Jill while I went inside. Shelly was there dusting off her counter top and Rubert was sitting behind the counter with a huge mug of coffee. Neither seemed surprised to see me and Shelly immediately asked if I had details of the funeral. I gave her what I could and tried to figure a way to ask who drove which vehicle. It is difficult to come up with lie after lie but while I was trying to think up something clever to ask about, Shelly told Rubert to move his truck around back so it wasn’t taking up a parking space for customers. He begrudgingly agreed and all I could do was pray that Jill had put the camera away by then.

I was alone with Shelly for a few minutes and really wanted to drill her on her relationship with Rubert, and how they managed the store together. It is often difficult though asking people direct questions. I started by looking at some of the naked furniture and mentioned that I was looking for a new dining set. She showed me some chairs and a nice table, and quite quickly she was explaining to me the process we would need to go through to stain and finish the furniture. She never did get into any girl talk about her relationship, and I chose, at the time, not to push her.

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