Once again, two challenges are colliding. Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is “Squares and or Triangles.” Meanwhile, the Thursday Doors Writing Challenge is still running, and I was inspired by the contribution from Manja. First, let’s see what Cee wants for the #CFFC:
“This week our topic is celebrating Squares and or Triangles. Just make sure your lines are clearly visible in your photo. Have fun.”
Well, I had fun, but you might have to look close to find the squares and triangles in some of the photos in the gallery. And now, the story for #TDWC:
“Unit forty-two to base. Can you confirm the address on Paul Liston?”
“One Thirty-Five Nathanial Hall Drive, Rear.”
“Are you sure it’s in our town?”
“Confirmed, forty-two. One Thirty-Five Nathanial Hall Drive, Terryville. Is there a problem?”
“No. I mean, I found the address OK, but I can’t believe somebody lives here. This place is a dump.”
“Unit forty-two, Jerry, this is Lieutenant Briscal. You aren’t writing this place up for Better Homes and Gardens. You’re there to confirm occupancy.”
“I know, loo, but seriously. Take a look at this place. I’m sending you a text.”
The lieutenant’s phone chimed. He opened the text message and stepped back about a foot, as if to run away from the image. “Yikes! I see what you mean, but that’s the address listed on his Statement of Candidacy. I suggest you go knock on the door.”
“The brown five-panel job on the ground? I don’t think anyone’s gonna answer.”
“Up the stairs, Detective, and hurry. We need to wrap this up before the other candidate accuses us of playing favorites.”
Jerry DeVon stepped around the cinderblocks and other bits of rubble. He almost tumbled off the stairs when he grabbed the steel railing. “Clearly, this is for decoration.” He thought. Then he laughed as he remembered his father talking about “putting lipstick on a pig.”
He knocked on the door. After thirty seconds, with no response, he pounded on the door and announced himself. “Police!”
“Hold your horses. I’m coming.” Came the reply.
The detective listened as several locks, and deadbolts were being unlocked. The door opened a few inches before a chain stopped it. “Let’s see some ID.”
Jerry flashed his badge toward the crack. The guy inside moved around a little, then pushed the door closed to release the chain.
“OK Detective Deee-von. What can I do for you?”
“Do you mind if I come in?”
“You got a warrant?”
“Look, it’s hot out here. I’m just here to talk. Do I need a warrant?”
“OK. Come in. Have a seat if you like. Just push Muffin off that chair. It’s the cleanest one in the place.”
Jerry laughed. Not at the guy’s comment about the chair, but at the fact that a six-foot-four, bare-chested, unshaved man who clocked in at about two-hundred and sixty pounds would have a cat named Muffin.
“Let’s go Muffin. Hit the bricks.” Jerry gave the cat a scritch and then gently nudged her to the floor, on which he noticed three actual bricks.”
“So, what can I do for you, Detective?”
“Paul Liston, candidate for City Manager, listed this address on his Statement of Candidacy form. His opponent alleges that Mr. Liston doesn’t live in the city. I’m here to verify whether this is his address.”
“What difference does it make where the guy lives?”
“Candidates for city offices are required to live within the city limits.”
“Oh, I getcha.”
Both men turned toward what looked like the kitchen/dining area when something started beeping incessantly.
“’Scuse me. I gotta get that. It’s broken. It won’t shut up now until I yank the plug. You want a cup of coffee?”
“Coffee would be nice.”
“I hope you take it black, ‘cuz I ain’t got nothin’ to put it in.”
“Black is fine.”
The big man took a mug out of a dish drainer, filled it and handed it to Jerry. “Here ya go.”
The detective took the mug and nodded. “Thanks, um, I didn’t get your name, Mr.?”
“Richard. My friends call me Rock. Take your pick.”
“Thanks, Richard. So, tell me, does Mr. Liston live here?”
“Yeah, sure. He lets me stay here when I’m in town, but he pays the rent. That’s his mail on the table.”
“And Muffin, is she his cat?”
“No, Muffin is mine. She stays here all the time, even when I’m on the road. Paul feeds her.”
“Do you know where Paul is today?”
Rock slurped down the last of his coffee and returned to the kitchen for more. “He’s at some campaign thing over on the southside. You want any more coffee? It’s gonna go cold.”
“No thanks. I’m fine.”
Jerry looked around. The living room, as he guessed he was in, was cluttered, but not entirely untidy. There was a sixty-inch TV in one corner. A sofa that looked like it doubled as Rock’s bed. Muffin had curled up on the pile of blankets left at one end. There was a pizza box on the coffee table, but Jerry realized he was guilty of doing the same thing.
“Richard, you said that Mr. Liston pays the rent. Do you know who he rents this…” Jerry paused as he considered the appropriate word. “Uh, apartment, from?”
“He rents from Benny.”
“Yeah, Benny. Oh, you want this for your investigation. In that case, it would be Bernard Trapis, you know, Trapis Construction.”
“Thanks Richard. I think that’s all I need.” Jerry walked his cup over to the kitchen and placed it in the sink. He tried looking beyond into what was perhaps a bedroom, but the door was almost completely closed.
“Thanks for the coffee. I can see myself out.”
“No problem, Detective. Just don’t let Muffin out. She likes to hide behind that plant.”
Jerry looked down and, sure enough, Muffin was crouched behind the pot for a large palm tree. As soon as he opened the door, she jumped out. He pushed the door closed and looked back toward Rock for help.
“Hang on, I’ll get her. Com’ere sweety.”
Rock picked the cat up, and Jerry left. After he returned to his car, he called Dispatch.
“Hi Sharon, patch me through to Lieutenant Briscal, please.”
“Briscal! What do you have for me, Detective?”
“The place is an apartment. Living room, kitchen, bedroom, and bath. According to man I spoke to, Paul Liston rents the unit from Bernard Trapis.”
“Trapis the load shark? Trapis the bookie? Trapis the murderer?”
“According to my source, a.k.a Rock, the owner of Trapis Construction.”
“Yeah, Trapis Construction. The company that puts ten men on a paving job and only one is drawing a paycheck. The rest are working off a gambling debt or a loan.”
“What do you want me to do? You want me to find Liston and ask him for some cancelled checks? Maybe he has a copy of the lease.”
The lieutenant thought about the reputational damage if they took the word of a guy named Rock and closed the investigation. “Yeah, you better verify this. Start with Trapis. I’m guessing if he is involved, there’s a reason. You need the address of their office?”
“No, I’ll punch it up on my phone. It’s easier than the system, and it’s usually more accurate.”
Jerry snagged the directions and took a quick look at Google Maps Street View. Tapis Construction was a four-story brick building in the heart of the historic district. He drove over and parked on the street in front of the main entrance.
The directory inside the door listed Trapis Construction on the upper two floors. Reception was on the top floor.
Jerry stepped out of the elevator into a reception area. He recognized the woman behind the desk. In fact, before he made detective, he had arrested her.
“Can I help you?”
“Detective Jerry DeVon…”
The receptionist interrupted. “Hi Jerry. I thought that was you. You’re not here for me, are you?”
Jerry studied the woman for a few seconds, trying to remember her name. After it came to him, he smiled. “No, Tina. I was hoping to see Mr. Trapis.”
“Do you have an appointment?” She giggled. “Or a warrant, either will do.”
Jerry laughed. “No, neither, but it’s a simple matter. It doesn’t involve Mr. Trapis directly.”
“Have a seat. I’ll go see if Benny, I mean, Mr. Trapis, has some free time.”
Jerry sat on a small Windsor bench. He studied the pictures on the wall. Paving jobs, bridges, parking lots, and the municipal ballpark. Photos during construction and photos of Benny shaking hands with various politicians at groundbreaking and ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
“You can follow me, Detective. Mr. Trapis will see you now.”
The inside of Bernard Trapis’s office looked like a nineteenth century library. Solid wood-paneled walls, bookshelves filled with leather-bound books. More construction photos showing even more impressive politicians shaking hands with Benny.
“Pleased to meet you, Detective. Have a seat.” Benny pointed to the Windsor chairs in front of his large Queen Ann desk.
Jerry eased himself into the chair on the left so as not to be behind Benny’s large monitor. “You have a beautiful office.”
“Thanks. I made this desk, and those chairs. Woodworking is a hobby of mine. I find it relaxing.”
“You do amazing work.”
“Thank you. Now, Tina says you have some business, but it doesn’t involve me. That piqued my curiosity. I’ve been visited by police officers before. You guys are always trying to link me with some illegal activity. Thanks to you, my lawyer is my highest paid employee.”
“Well, hopefully, we won’t need his services today. I’m here to check up on the Statement of Candidacy provided by Mr. Paul Liston. He’s running for office – City Manager, in fact – and he listed an apartment on Nathanial Hall Drive in Terryville as his residence. I visited that apartment this morning. It’s a charming little place in a building I believe you own.”
“I don’t own anything. Everything is in the company’s name. It’s simpler that way. Was Paul, I mean, Mr. Liston at the apartment?”
“No. I spoke to a man named Richard. I didn’t get his last name…”
“Rock. Nice guy. Big sweetheart. He does some odd jobs for me when he’s in town. Did he tell you if Mr. Liston lives there?”
“He did, but I’m afraid the Board of Elections will require something official.”
“I could send Rock over there. They would take his word for it. He has an air of authority around him.”
“He does. Still, can you confirm that you are renting an apartment to Mr. Liston?”
Tina rushed into the office. “Yes, Mr. Trapis?”
“Tina, can you see if we have a lease, or some sort of agreement on a rental of the apartment on.” He looked at Jerry. “What street did you say that was, Detective? I got a lot of apartments.”
“Nathanial Hall Drive.”
“Can you dig that up, honey?”
“I’ll be right back.”
“While we wait, Detective. Maybe we should get to know each other better. Do you ever do any freelance work?”
“Freelance? You mean like detective work? I’m afraid I wouldn’t be allowed to do something like that.”
“That’s not what I asked. I asked if you ever do any.”
“No. I play it strictly above board.”
“That’s too bad.”
Tina walked in and up to the desk. She handed Benny a manila folder. “Here you go, boss.”
Benny studied the contents of the folder. He looked up at Tina. “Would you be a sweetheart and make the detective a copy of all of this? Everything but the last two pages.”
“Sure. I’ll have it ready at my desk when you leave, Jerry.”
Benny gave a sly glance in the detective’s direction. “Jerry? Do you know Tina? You said you didn’t do any freelance work.”
“Haha – no, nothing like that. I had some, let’s say, professional dealings with her a few years ago. When I was in uniform.”
Benny nodded. “The folder will have a copy of the lease and copies of all the checks he’s paid with to-date. He’s current on the rent.”
“I know it’s none of my business, but I’m curious about those last two pages.”
“You see, Detective. That’s the unconventional kind of thinking I’d like to have working for me. But, you’re right, it’s none of your business.”