The First Shot by E.H. Reinhard by E.H. Reinhard - Read Online

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The First Shot - E.H. Reinhard

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THIRTY-SEVEN

CHAPTER ONE

David sat behind the foldout metal table on the third floor of the abandoned three-story redbrick cigar factory. The building probably hadn’t produced a cigar in fifty years and, from the looks of it, could have been vacant for that long as well. A black motorcycle mask covered his face from his eyes down. A baseball cap sat on his freshly shaved head. Mirrored sunglasses shielded his eyes. A propane lantern lit the room.

David caught the time from the laptop sitting before him—a bit after three in the morning. They’re late, he said. He looked over at the six-foot-four, two-hundred-and-thirty-pound man dressed in tactical gear with a similar mask and hat setup concealing his face. Under the mask, and gear, was a man named Chris, a guy that David had worked jobs with in years past. Go check the alley and take a lap around the building. Make sure nothing funny is going on out there, David said.

Sure, Chris said. He motioned to Tim, also dressed similarly but six inches shorter and sixty pounds lighter. They made for the stairwell leading down.

David had yet to make up his mind about Tim, the group’s dark-haired latest addition. Tim had done time with Brad, their driver, who was parked outside around the block. Brad had vouched for Tim, and Tim was brought aboard the crew. David was the lead and brains behind their scores—to David, Tim seemed to have eyes on his job title.

David turned on the office chair to the window directly behind him. He took the sunglasses from his eyes and stared down at the alley below. A single street lamp lit the area between the building he sat in and the small chain-link fence that separated the alley from the vacant lot in the distance. He craned his neck and looked up and down the alleyway. He saw nothing aside from the garbage that collected at the base of the fence. A moment later, he saw Chris and Tim exit the building and walk up the alley. A car’s headlights lit them rounding the corner. The pair drew weapons on the car. David turned back toward the table and placed his leg up on his other knee while he waited.

Minutes passed before he heard the loud clank of the metal door two floors down. The sound of footsteps came up the stairwell. David replaced the sunglasses over his eyes. He saw one Caucasian and two African-American men being led into the room at gunpoint. The agreement was for only Charles and Michael to be there, though David knew who the third man was. The Caucasian man, Michael, was roughly six foot tall and slim—he had blond spiked hair and wore a black T-shirt and jeans. The men in the center of the group were Charles, whom they’d been expecting, and LaMarcus Taylor, Charles’s lieutenant. Charles was a stout-built, six-foot-two career criminal—everything from drugs to guns to identity theft. His black hair was short, his hairline as straight as a razor’s edge. He wore a suit and tie, as did LaMarcus, walking beside him. LaMarcus stood a bit shorter than Charles, and his black hair was a bit longer on the top than the sides.

David lifted his hand and waved the group toward the table.

Move your asses! Chris said and shoved Charles forward with the barrel of his shotgun. A briefcase hung from Charles’s hand and bounced against his leg as he walked.

You checked them? David asked.

We did. They’re clean, Chris said.

Good. David pointed at the two metal chairs opposite him at the table. Charles, LaMarcus, have a seat. Michael, you stand, he instructed.

The men looked at each other, seemingly confused at how the seated and masked man before them knew their real names.

Charles and LaMarcus sat, and Chris and Tim took up the space directly at their backs. Chris kept the shotgun aimed at the seated pair. Michael was held at gunpoint by Tim as he stood to the side.

Briefcase on the table, David said.

Charles did as instructed.

I didn’t request the presence of Mr. Taylor here, David said.

He goes where I go, Charles said.

Apparently. No matter. Shall we get down to business? David asked.

Charles said nothing.

David could see the look of anger covering Charles’s face. Well? Something to say, Charles? Or do you prefer I call you Eighty-Six? That’s the name you go by on the streets, is it not?

You’ll pay for this, Charles said. I’ll find out who you are.

Technically, you’re the one paying for this, David said. Now open the case.

Charles rolled the locks with his thumbs and flipped the latches. He lifted the lid and spun the case. Charles shoved it toward David.

The combination? David asked.

Eight six, eight six, eight six, Charles said.

Cute, David said. He briefly looked inside and told Tim, still holding the gun on Michael, to begin counting the money within. Make sure it’s all there. Check each stack.

Got it, Tim said. He holstered his weapon and took the case from the table. He walked to the edge of the room and set the briefcase on the floor.

Where is my proof of life? Charles asked.

David smiled. He could feel his thick beard pull against the inside of his mask. Been watching ransom movies, huh? he asked.

He didn’t receive a response.

Where is my mother? Charles asked.

David pulled the laptop on the table nearer to himself. He clicked a few keys, and a live stream of two females, one African-American and one Caucasian, played on the screen. The women were tied up and gagged inside of a van. David spun the laptop toward Charles.

Charles took one look at the screen and shot up from his chair and over the table toward David.

Chris leaned forward and delivered a strike to the back of Charles’s head with the butt of his shotgun. Charles collapsed to the table, momentarily stunned, and Chris yanked him back into the chair by the shoulder of his suit jacket.

David’s eyes went to the man named Michael standing on the far right, next to LaMarcus. Michael’s eyes were fixed on the screen.

Charles reached for the back of his head and brought his hand in front of his face, inspecting it for blood. Shit, Charles mumbled. He turned back and looked at Chris towering over him. Yeah, you’re going to wish you hadn’t done that. Believe me.

Chris said nothing.

Who’s the other woman? Charles asked.

You don’t need to worry about that at the moment, David said.

Whatever. You have your money. Free my mother.

We’ll get to that part, David said. It looks like my guy is still counting over there. David clasped his gloved hands together on the surface of the table. So, Charles, from what I gather, you’re the president. David pointed at him. And LaMarcus here is the VP. He pointed at LaMarcus. Guessing Michael here is your treasurer. He looked back at Charles. So who do you guys report to?

I don’t report to anyone, Charles said. His voice carried an air of pride.

Self-made, eh? David asked. You’re positive there’s not a Mr. Big above you? Maybe even that your guys here don’t know about.

Nobody, Charles said. I run this crew.

David tapped his fingers on the table. That’s too bad. I was going to present you with an offer.

An offer? Charles scoffed. He yanked his head back. You kidnap my mother and you think there’s a chance that I’d take you up on an offer?

I have a feeling that you would have. David let out a long breath. But seeing as it looks like you’re the top dog, I guess we can get this wrapped up. He looked over at Tim counting the money. Are we good? he asked.

Tim brought the briefcase back and set it on the table in front of David. It’s all there, he said, speaking through the slits on his motorcycle mask.

Okay, David said. Now, I’m going to need all of you to remove everything from your pockets and all of your jewelry and place it on the table.

What? You think you’re going to rob us too? LaMarcus asked. Man, I ain’t giving you shit.

You will, David said. Or I give the word and a bullet goes through your boss’s mommy’s head. He watched the anger in Charles’s eyes.

Just give him whatever you got, Charles said. You guys better hope to God that I never find out who you are.

I’m not concerned, David said.

The men removed wallets, watches, and jewelry and set it all in a pile on the table. David asked Tim to pat the guys down again to make sure they were holding nothing back. Once he confirmed the men had nothing left on them, David gathered up the items and placed them inside of the briefcase.

David looked at Charles. Do you want to know how I came up with the dollar amount? An amount that I knew that you would have on hand and be able to deliver?

Charles rubbed the back of his head and looked at his hand again. How?

Well, you see, people will do funny things when a family member is in danger. Especially if they don’t have the money to pay if said family member was abducted. So what we did was abduct Michael’s mother. She’s the other woman in the video. Now, Michael here sure doesn’t have the kind of money to pay us for our troubles, but what Michael did have was information on his boss, which of course is you. He let us know how much money you had at your immediate disposal. Me saying he was the treasurer wasn’t merely a guess. Michael also supplied us with the whereabouts of your mother.

Charles’s head snapped to the left, his eyes burning a hole through Michael. You’re dead. The second we walk out of here.

David stared at Charles. Michael also had to do one more thing for us. Michael, whenever you’re ready.

David watched Michael reach into his waistline and pull out a pistol. He placed it to LaMarcus’s head and squeezed the trigger. Blood spattered Charles, seated beside him. LaMarcus’s body slumped forward in the chair, slid off, and hit the metal table on its way to the floor. Charles didn’t get a word out of his mouth before Michael drew aim on him and fired another head shot. Charles fell off the side of the chair to the floor.

One in the chest on each, Michael, David said.

Michael did as he was told, standing over each body and firing another shot through their chests.

Now place the weapon on the table and step away, David said.

I did what you asked. Let my mother go.

We will, as agreed, David said. Put the gun down and step back.

Michael didn’t budge.

David looked at Chris and nodded.

Chris brought the shotgun up into his shoulder and held the barrel inches from Michael’s face. Put it down or your head goes all over this room, Chris said.

Michael leaned forward and placed the pistol on the table.

David casually rose from his chair and scooped up the pistol. He walked around the table. Michael took two steps backward.

No. No, David said. You come here. With his left hand, he reached out and snatched Michael by the front of his shirt.

Michael tried pulling away.

David yanked Michael back toward him and placed the gun beneath his chin.

What the hell? I did what you asked, Michael said.

Thank you for that, David said. But I planned on killing you, anyway.

David squeezed the trigger. The sound of the shot echoed through the room. David didn’t flinch when the blood spattered the lenses of his sunglasses. He stood, his eyes wide, and watched Michael’s spiked blond hair move as a mist of red came from the top of his head and hung in the air. He shoved Michael’s body backward when he felt his knees give way. Michael came to rest, face up, on the wood plank floor a few feet away. David jammed the pistol in his waistline and returned to the table. He closed the screen on the laptop and looked at Chris and Tim. They both stood in place, staring back at him. David took the blood-spattered sunglasses from his eyes, wiped the blood away on the front of his shirt, and tucked them into his pocket. Call Brad, David said.

Chris pulled the radio from his hip, pressed the button on its side, and said that they were ready.

Grab that light. Let’s go, David said. David took the case of money and laptop from the table.

They left the bodies, walked down the stairwell, and exited the building into the alley. A moment later, a dark-colored van with its headlights out came around the corner of the alleyway. The van stopped before them, and the driver’s door opened.

The man driving, Brad, stepped out and walked to the group. All good? he asked.

David handed him the briefcase and laptop, which Brad set inside the van.

Yeah. Get the women out, David said.

Brad walked to the passenger side sliding door of the van and pulled the two women from inside. A white cloth had been tied around their hands. Two similar cloths gagged and blindfolded them.

Down on your knees, David said.

The women didn’t move.

David nodded to Chris, who assisted the women down onto their knees. Both women cried and mumbled into their gags.

David walked to the first woman, Charles’s mother. He placed the barrel of Michael’s gun to her forehead and squeezed the trigger. David noticed Tim jump as he fired the round. The woman fell forward—facedown, dead. David immediately panned the weapon two feet left, took aim at Michael’s mother’s forehead, and put a round between her eyes just as she began to scream. The woman joined Charles’s mother, dead in the alley. David put a round through the backs of each woman as they lay at his feet. The killings didn’t take David much more than a single second.

What the hell was that? Tim asked. He ripped his mask down, exposing his thin face and the black-and-gray goatee wrapping his mouth. He gave David a shove. We agreed to let them go.

David took a step toward Tim and went face-to-face with him. He gripped the pistol tightly in his hand, his finger still resting on the trigger. We’re not leaving any loose ends, David said. Do you have a problem with that?

David watched Tim’s eyes glance down at the pistol he held. Well? David asked. The money splits a lot easier three ways. Make your move.

Whatever, Tim said.

That’s what I thought. Now let’s get the hell out of here. David tossed the weapon into the garbage strewn in the alley and walked to the front of the van.

CHAPTER TWO

I made a right off East Fourth Avenue onto North Twenty-Fifth Street in Ybor City and pulled my new Shelby Mustang behind the last TPD patrol car in line. I glanced at the car’s thermometer—forty-five degrees, crisp for a Tampa winter morning. I killed the motor, hung my badge from my neck, and stepped out of the car. The time was a few minutes after seven thirty—my shift didn’t technically start until nine. I crossed the street and walked to the alley that ran behind a vacant old redbrick cigar factory and connected to North Twenty-Sixth Street. A small chain-link fence littered with garbage took up the right-hand side—the old factory on my left. I looked past the police tape at the scene. A pair of tarps covered what I assumed to be two bodies dead center in the small strip of roadway. I saw evidence cones around the bodies. Five or six of our Tampa PD officers walked around the roped-off area, searching the ground. I walked to the police tape and dipped under it.

Officer Henry, a uniformed patrolman, looked up from surveying the ground as I approached. Morning, Lieutenant, he said.

Henry, I said. Just the two? I jerked my chin at the covered bodies.

Another three inside the building, Officer Henry said.

I nodded and continued up the alley, spotting my sergeant and, for all intents and purposes, my partner, Hank Rawlings. He wore a winter cap pulled low over his short dark hair. Hank stood near the tarped bodies, talking with a shorter bald-headed man in a suit with his back toward me. As the man turned, I noticed he was Detective John King, from our drug unit. John’s presence at our homicide scene could only mean that our murders were more than likely drug or gang related. Hank was writing something in a small notepad. He slipped it into his suit jacket’s inner pocket as I walked up.

Morning, Kane, Hank said.

Hank, I said and then looked at Detective King. John.

Anything new on the Angel Guerro front? John asked.

Angel Guerro was a local Hispanic gang leader that had been killed a few weeks prior. His body, riddled with bullet holes and missing a thumb, was found on the shoulder of I-275, seemingly dumped out of a moving vehicle in the late hours of the night. We’d brought in a number of his associates, but no one knew anything, or they simply weren’t talking and sought retribution of their own.

Not that we’ve heard. Dead end after dead end, I said.

How are the new wheels? John asked. He motioned to my Mustang on the street, past the police tape.

I’d purchased the car a few months back. While I’d imagined spirited weekend drives and taking it to the track, the reality was I mostly drove it from my condo’s parking structure to the station’s parking structure, which was about a three-minute drive down city streets that were usually gridlocked. Fifty of the car’s two hundred total miles were racked up bringing it home from the dealership. Only a couple hundred miles, I said. Can’t really open it up yet. Still breaking her in. Just you here, Hank? I asked.

Jones is inside, Hank said. I thought you were going to shave that off?

I gripped my hand around the almost-two-inch-long dark brown-and-gray hair covering my cheeks and chin. I hadn’t had a shave in months, which was more me not caring than actually trying to grow a beard. I opted to not. That’s a pretty winter cap, though, I said. Wife pick that up for you so your little ears don’t get chilled?

She might have. And screw that, it’s cold out, Hank said.

This isn’t cold, I said.

I suppose, being from Wisconsin, you think this is still shorts weather, John said.

I can guarantee you if it was forty-five degrees there right now, you could drive around and spot probably a dozen people outside in shorts.

John smirked.

I pointed my chin at the pair of bodies under tarps ten feet away. Who do we have there?

Females. Executed. Unknown identities at the moment, Hank said. No IDs on the bodies. One Caucasian, one African-American. Both tied and gagged. I’d put their ages around fifty or sixty.

Females, executed, tied and gagged, fifties or sixties—nothing Hank said remotely resembled a typical homicide that we worked.

Define executed, I said.

One in the forehead on each. One in the back on each.

I rubbed my eyes. Murder weapon? Anything else found? I asked.

Hank brushed his knuckle against his mustache and sniffed. Yeah, we have a pistol tossed among the garbage on the edge of the alley. Glock 17. Shell casings too. The weapon and casings are marked with cones. More shell casings inside the building. I have the patrol guys putting markers by anything that may be of interest to forensics.

Speaking of forensics, is Rick on his way? I asked.

I talked to him about ten minutes ago. He and Rob should be here shortly, Hank said.

Who called it in?

City bus driver. She saw the bodies in the alley while driving past, Hank said.

Okay. I glanced toward the building. Officer Henry said there was another three inside?

Correct. Three males, Hank said.

I looked at John. I assume that you’re familiar with someone inside?

Yeah, that’s why I got called out here, John said. One of them is Charles Treadwell.

I was familiar with the name. Charles Treadwell was a known local gang leader, drug dealer, and anything but low level.

What are you thinking? Rival gang, deal gone bad, what? I asked.

Hard to tell at the moment, John said. You can take a peek inside and see what you think. I made a few calls, though. We’ll see what comes back as far as what the latest word on the streets was about Treadwell.

Sure, I said.

John’s phone rang. He took it from his pocket, glanced down at the screen, and excused himself.

I turned my attention back to Hank. Anyone call Ed at the ME’s office? I asked.

I called him, Hank said. "He just said to have Rick call him whenever forensics is