Those Two Pages – TDWC

This is my final entry for the Thursday Doors Writing Challenge. Its a follow-up to last week’s story. I warn you, I finished this late last night and it may not be typo-free – sorry. For this story, I used one of the doors I offered as inspiration.

Those Two Pages

Detective Jerry DeVon picked up the folder from the receptionist after his meeting with Bernard “Benny” Trapis ended abruptly.

“Thanks Tina. It was good to see you again, and very good to see you working in…” Jerry hadn’t thought this through and was about to put his foot deep into his mouth. Fortunately, Tina took pity on him.

“…A different kind of professional environment? It’s OK, Jerry. I’m not trying to hide my past. I know what I was, and I’m proud of the fact that I’ve moved on. Benny gave me a chance when a lot of ‘respectable’ employers wouldn’t.”

“I’m happy for you, Tina. Take care of yourself.”

Jerry flipped through the folder in the elevator. The lease looked like a standard form you could download from the Internet for a few bucks. The details were filled-in by hand, and the forms were signed in ink. The checks were all drawn from the same account, but they were copies of the checks, with no confirmation that they were ever deposited. He was worried about being questioned by Paul Liston’s opponent – “Did you find cancelled checks going back to the requisite point in the election cycle?”

He got in his car and picked up the radio handset. “Dispatch, this is unit forty-two. Patch me through to Lieutenant Briscal, please.”

“Briscal. Is that you Jerry? Get what you were looking for?”

“Yes and no, loo.”

“Jerry, I don’t have time for riddles. We need a lease or legal agreement and evidence of payment. Do you have that, or not?”

“Benny gave me a copy of the lease.”

Lieutenant Briscal interrupted. “Benny? I didn’t think you were there long enough to get chummy.”

Jerry laughed. “Sorry, Rock, the ape I talked to this morning and Tina McGuire, Trapis’ receptionist both called him ‘Benny.’ I guess I picked it up.”

“Well put it back down. The opposition candidate is already hinting that the police are in bed with Liston. We can’t afford to make it look like he’s right. Also, Tina McGuire – is she the hooker you arrested a few times?”

“She is. She seems to have turned things around. As for Bernard Trapis, message received and understood.”

“Alright, back to your riddle, what about payment?”

Jerry noted the frustration in the Lieutenant’s voice. “Well, I have several checks from Paul Liston to Trapis Construction, but there’s no indication that they were deposited.”

“What bank are they drawn on?”

“Fifth Third Savings and Loan.”

“Fifth or third? Which is it?”

“Fifth Third – it’s an odd name. They’re not a big bank, but they have a branch out in Glendale.”

“Yeah, probably near where Paul Liston really lives. I’ll get a warrant. Visit that branch. See if you can confirm the account and the fact that those checks were cashed. Then we can put this to bed.”

Glendale, an upper middle-class neighborhood, was about fifteen minutes outside the city limits. Jerry confirmed that the lieutenant had obtained a warrant and then stepped inside. The branch manager was a man named Triphone, Albert Triphone. Jerry explained the situation and showed him a photo of the warrant that the Lieutenant had texted him.

“What exactly are you looking for, Detective? Mr. Liston is an important customer. I’m sure you can understand that I am reluctant to violate his privacy.”

“I understand, Mr. Triphone. You need to understand that I have a search warrant. It’s specific and limited, but it requires you to provide information about when these checks were cashed by Trapis Construction.” He showed him the check copies in the folder.

“Well, it seems all in order. Follow me. I can look these up and give you copies of the security screen from the back of those checks.”

They walked over to one of the unmanned teller terminals. Albert entered a series of text and numbers, apparently to log into the system. A few pecks later he must have been on the inquiry screen because he finally picked up the page with the check copies.

He made some entries but the look on his face was one of frustration, not satisfaction. He pulled the second page out of the folder. More typing. More frustration.

“Is there some kind of problem Mr. Triphone?”

“No, I’m sure it’s just some system glitch. I can’t find any of these checks. It might be me. I haven’t worked one of these terminals for a while. Excuse me while I ask one of the tellers for some help.”

Jerry nodded. It wasn’t like he had any options. He watched a conversation and then the teller as she pecked away at her terminal. A few minutes later, she stuffed the pages back in the folder, handed it back to Albert. “I can help the next customer over here!”

Albert returned to where the detective was waiting. He handed Jerry the folder. “I’m sorry, Detective. It appears none of these checks have been cashed. There is more than enough money in the account to cover all of them, but they simply haven’t been presented.”

“That’s it? There’s nothing else you can add?”

“There’s nothing else, period. If you’ll excuse me.”

Albert Triphone returned to his desk. Jerry followed. “Excuse me, Mr. Triphone, can you give me Mr. Liston’s phone number.”

This time, Albert was able to use the terminal on his desk. He took one of his own business cards out of the little plastic holder and scribbled two numbers on the back. “The first is his cell. The other is either home or work. Good day Detective.”

Once back in his car, Jerry called Paul Liston’s cell phone. The call went to voicemail. He left a message indicating an urgent need to talk about the lease and the checks.

Jerry returned to the precinct and checked in with the Lieutenant. “If he returns my call, loo, I’ll see if I can meet with him tonight. I’ll have an answer for you in the morning.”

Paul Liston returned Jerry’s call a little after six o’clock. “Detective, I’m sure I can straighten this all out. Trust me, it’s a misunderstanding. I’m on my way to Maioli’s for dinner. Are you familiar with the place?”

“Yes, I know where it is.”

“Good. Meet me there. But do me a favor, park in the back and slip in the back door – the one by the dumpster. I don’t want anyone putting the two of us together. I’ll be in a booth across from the oven.”

Maioli’s was an old standard among restaurants in town. Located in the historic Italian district, the neighborhood had fallen on hard times but was slowly bouncing back. As requested, Jerry parked in the small back lot and entered the back door. He walked up a small hallway between a row of tables for two on the left, and the side of the huge wood-fired pizza oven on the right. The oven was bigger than Jerry’s bedroom.

He crossed in front of the business end of the oven, where cooks handled fourteen foot long peels. There was a break in the row of booths, opposite the serving station in front of the oven. Liston was sitting in the last booth behind the break, with his back to the room.

Jerry slid into the opposite side. “Mr. Liston, Detective Jerry DeVon. I hate to interrupt your dinner. I just have a few questions. Once we…”

Paul Liston cut him off. “Please, join me for dinner. The cioppino here is excellent. You like seafood?”

Jerry nodded. He hadn’t eaten all day and he thought maybe this conversation would be better over dinner.

The waiter brought a nice selection of homemade bread with some spiced olive oil. Paul ordered wine and food for both.

“I would have asked if you wanted an appetizer, but no one ever finishes the cioppino. Now, Detective, about those checks.”

“Yes, Mr. Liston, about those checks. I’ve been assigned to verify your residence within the city limits. I’ve been to your apartment. I spoke to Richard. I gave Muffin a scritch. I had a cup of coffee. Richard, Rock, whatever, said you rent the apartment from Bernard Trapis.”

Paul nodded. “That’s all correct, Detective. What’s the problem?”

“I went to see Mr. Trapis. He gave me a copy of your lease and rent checks for the last eight months.”

The waiter arrived with a bottle of wine and two glasses. He opened the wine, poured a sample for Paul, and once accepted, he poured Jerry and Paul a full glass, and stuck the bottle in a chilled terracotta holder.

Paul raised his glass. “Cheers, Detective. I’m afraid I can’t force my landlord to cash my checks. Tell me, when you were in Benny’s office, did you see Tina?”

Jerry was taken aback at that question. Fortunately, their meals arrived. That gave him time to organize his thoughts.

After a few bites of shrimp and one of the numerous clams, Jerry took a sip of wine and responded. “I saw Mr. Trapis’ secretary, if that’s who you mean.”

“Detective, I think we can be candid here. You have a history with Tina, and I do, too. This combined history explains the apartment, the checks, and the two pages in my folder you weren’t given copies of.”

Jerry put his fork down. “To what history of mine are you referring?”

“The last time you arrested Tina was her third arrest. She would have done some serious time if you hadn’t forgot to read her her rights. It was suggested that you were alone in a room with her for quite some time. You follow?”

Jerry topped off each glass of wine. “Mr. Liston, Paul. I waited with Tina, in an interrogation room, with the door open, until a female officer arrived. When the officer arrived, I thought I had already Mirandized MS. McGuire, you know, force of habit. There’s nothing else to it.”

“Liston.”

Jerry was puzzled by that simple response.

“Liston? I don’t understand. I was talking about Tina McGuire.”

“McGuire is, rather was her married name. Thomas ‘Bunny’ McGuire was her husband. Tina is my sister. Bunny got her hooked on drugs, pimped her out and routinely used her as a punching bag.”

“Bunny McGuire? Didn’t he die in a suspicious car accident a couple years ago?”

“Paul. Picked up a shrimp and pointed it at Jerry. You, sir, have a good memory. I think that was before you made detective because it was shortly after her last arrest. The one you botched.”

Jerry took a drink of wine. He let the ‘botched’ comment slide. “I wasn’t a detective at the time, but I was in the loop. Bunny’s alcohol level was well over the legal limit, but I remember the detectives being concerned that there were other tire tracks at the scene where his car went over an embankment, yet no one called for help. Still, I think we’re getting off-track, Paul. I’m really only concerned about your residence.”

Paul looked over while twirling some linguini. He was either choosing his words carefully or wondering if he should speak. “Are you concerned, Detective?”

Surprised by the question, Jerry asked for clarification.

“You’re running a residence check on a candidate for City Manager. Do you really care who the City Manager is? If you do care, would you rather have someone who understands the good work the police do, or my opponent?”

Jerry smiled. “Police officers aren’t elected. There’s no residency requirement. I don’t live in the city. I don’t care much one way or the other who wins. I’m just trying to make sure it’s legal.”

Paul put his fork down. “You don’t care? My opponent says that ‘the police department is the only organization where increased automation has never led to reduced staff.’ He yammers on about Shotspotter, laptops in your cars, links to the FBI and State Police databases, but claimed they only make law enforcement more expensive.”

Jerry finished his wine and divided the bottle between his and Paul’s glass. “I guess what I meant is that I need to be impartial.”

Jerry chuckled. “If I win this election, I’m supposed to be impartial, too. I can tell you; I won’t be.”

“What? Isn’t that a rather bold statement to make to the police officer running a background check, of sorts, on you?”

“Bold? Perhaps, but not dangerous. You see, I know you were interested in the pages from my folder at Benny’s place that Tina didn’t copy for you. Those two pages provide some details the detectives who were keeping you in the loop, would be interested in. So, I need to win this election. Once in office, I need to conduct myself according to my ‘landlord’s’ wishes.”

Paul stopped for a minute but motioned for Jerry to wait.

“If I don’t, I will likely be going to jail, and Tina will definitely be going back on the street. I can’t let either of those things happen.”

Jerry nodded. “So, you killed Bunny? For your sister. Is that what’s on those two pages?”

“Yes. I got Bunny good and drunk. Then Rock and I pushed his car over that embankment.”

Jerry shook his head. He had cleaned his plate pretty well, but he wanted something else to eat. He wanted time before he had to reply. He settled for another drink of wine – probably not the best move.

“Paul, you’ve just admitted – to a police detective – to murdering a man. There’s no statute of limitations on murder. I have a duty to report what I know. Why did you tell me this?”

Paul smiled. “Because you won’t do anything, Detective. You see, Benny has two pages in a folder with your name on it.”

“My name? What have I done?”

“It’s not what you’ve done, Detective, it’s what people will believe you’ve done. You might not lose you job. You certainly won’t go to jail, but your career ends here. This job, in this city, where no one will trust you.”

Jerry motioned for the waiter. “Excuse me, could we have separate checks for dinner. I need to be leaving.

The waiter smiled. “Dinner is on the house, sir, at the request of one of the owner’s business partners. He also suggested dessert. The pastry chef is preparing two orders of tiramisu, as we speak. Can bring you more wine? Perhaps an espresso?”

Paul answered for the stunned silent detective. “Two espressos, please.” He looked over at Jerry.

“The tiramisu here is wonderful.”

Just a few pictures today. These have been posted before.

55 comments

  1. This story and this entrance are well paired! Something about two black doors, a black awning, and a dying plant that would probably keep me away from the shrimp. Nice!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The door choice is most fitting, although perhaps not murky enough for your Italian place. 😉I feel like this should be your next book, Dan. I swear you’re shaping up to be the next Mickey Spillane. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wait… politicians, police, and business owners making deals and getting special treatment? You have quite the imagination! I’m so happy you finished your story; we were all wondering about those two mysterious pages. Well done, and I’m looking forward to hearing about your “larger storytelling project.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dan, from technical expertise to mystery writing, you’ve got it covered! Nice twist on a mafia type story. Italian restaurant, back door entrance, booth near the kitchen. The slow unfolding story. Your career is taking off. Waiting for the launch! 📚🎶 Christine

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The plot thickens. I don’t think I could enjoy a meal with that kind of conversation. Though the wine probably helped. Still, it was a fun read. You may have found your retirement career as a successful fiction writer.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Dan
    I think I would have gotten more out of this if I read the other entires first
    But I still enjoyed the posts
    To take away – for some reason – was the smooth way you brought in the food – but of one of the clams –

    Then the specific dessert at the end

    And for some reason I was thinking red wine until the terra cotta chiller –
    Question- do white wines need to be sampled first like a red ? Perhaps so – but the nice details let us feel the dialogue and dinner

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Yvette. It’s always those pesky little details that interrupt the flow. If I ever return to Jerry,Tina, Richard and Muffin, I’ll work it out.

      It’s interesting you mention the food. That’s a theme in my books as well. I’ve read a lot of books that talk mention food simply as “They stopped for lunch.” Then I read some that incorporate the meal scene, and it always made the characters seem more alive to me. I liked it when I would read it, so I took that approach.

      Like

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