The Crusader Chapter 3 My Way - Cover

The Crusader Chapter 3 My Way

by woodmanone

Copyright© 2011 by woodmanone

Mystery Story: Detective Chambers changes his life, helps a father, and begins a new career. This is a continuation of the Crusader series.

Tags: Crime   Drama   Detective  

Another story about the adventures and life of Rollie Chambers.

Constructive comments and emails are more than welcome and appreciated.

Detective First Grade Rollie Chambers stood to leave the small office. He'd just spent 40 minutes talking about his plans to resign from the St. Louis Police Department.

"Are you sure this is what you want to do Rollie?" Captain Pete Mallory had asked. "You're too young to retire. You've got a good career started with the Department and could become one of the movers and shakers you know."

Pete Mallory was Rollie's boss, mentor, and most importantly, his friend.

"Retire, resign, quit whatever you want to call it, I've got to go Captain ... Pete," Rollie said in answer to his soon to be ex-superior's question. "I can't take the bullshit anymore."

"That's part of the job for us peons," Pete kidded. "You get used to it and go on and work the cases."

"Maybe you or Det. Call or Wren or even Major Taylor can do that but it's not for me." Rollie looked at his friend for a few seconds. "You and the Major got all the crap about the cost of the task force. We did what the rest of the Department couldn't do; we caught a man that raped and beat five women."

Rollie snorted in degust. "And all you got was the bean counters bitching about the cost of the overtime we put in. No, job well done or atta boys; just complaints about the money we cost." Rollie pointed his finger at the Captain. "And the same movers and shakers you talk about sat back on their fat asses and said nothing. Hell even the Commissioner didn't defend us. We made them look good and they whine about money. I can't and won't take it anymore Pete. I'm done."

"This wouldn't have anything to do with the psych evaluation you went through about the Bradley Thomas case would it?" Pete's voice was soft and low like he was almost afraid to ask the question.

Bradley Thomas had raped Susan Chambers and infected her with the HIV virus. Susan had taken her own life rather than take the chance of passing it on to her husband Rollie. Rollie spent 10 days looking for Thomas and found him in a rundown flea bag hotel in the inner city. Thomas resisted arrest and charged Rollie holding a large knife; he was killed in his attack. There were questions about Rollie putting sixteen 9MM rounds into Thomas.

"You'd think after four and a half years and me working on the task force they'd get over the fact that I shot a rapist that attacked me." Rollie was exasperated

"It wasn't that you shot him; it was that you shot him 16 times," Pete explained.

"I told you, Thomas was on Meth and the first three rounds didn't slow him down at all. And I'll be damned if I was gonna stand there and be a chopping block just so some idiots in the psych department can feel good about letting me work." Now Rollie was getting mad at having to defend his actions all over again. "So I shot until he stopped."

"You know as well as I do that the doctors wanted to find out how you felt about Bradley's brother Collin being the "Campus Rapist". And how did you feel about Collin saying he attacked those women because you killed his brother."

"Those asses asked me if I felt responsible for Collin raping those girls," Rollie said almost exploding. "Can you believe that crap?"

"What did you tell them, after you told them to go to Hell?" Pete saw the look Rollie gave him. "Yeah Doctor Johnson called and complained about your language."

"I told them that whatever Collin did, he did because he was a piece of garbage," Rollie replied. "I told them that if it wasn't about his brother he would have found some other reason to attack those women. And I told them that the only regret I had was not being able to send him to join his brother."

"Can you blame them for thinking you might be a dangerous person after that?"

"I can blame them for a lot. All those damn psychiatrists work out of a book. They spout their psycho babble to show how smart they are and they have no idea what the real world is like."

"What about Jessica Talbert?" Pete asked. "You think she's like them?"

"Jess is different."

"Why is she different?"

"Because she cares. She's not interested in showing how smart or educated she is, she's not really interested in the money; she's just wants to help people."

"Do you really feel that way or is it because you're sweet on her?" Pete smiled and asked, "How are you two getting along now that you're not working together every day?"

"We're dating now and then; sort of taking it slow," Rollie replied with a smile. In a voice too low to hear he added, "She's something special and she's worth waiting for."

"It's sort of strange the way you two got together," Pete said. Rollie nodded thinking back to the first time he'd met Jessica.

Dr. Jessica Talbert had been the therapist for Rollie's wife after Susan had been attacked and raped. She and Rollie had talked several times while Susan was in therapy. When Susan committed suicide Jessica approached Rollie to help him with his grief.

They hadn't seen each other for several months after Rollie finished his therapy sessions. He had grown to admire Jessica and wanted to get to know her on a personal level. Rollie had talked to Jessica several times after his therapy but she wouldn't go out with him. She felt it was unethical to date a former patient. Aside from the ethical question, Jessica was also concerned about Rollie's true feelings and motivation so soon after his wife's death.

Then Jessica was hired as a consultant, sort of a profiler, and assigned to the task force hunting a rapist that had attacked five women. She had worked on a daily basis with Rollie and the other detectives.

Rollie went undercover and tracked down and arrested Collin Thomas aka "The Campus Rapist". To celebrate Rollie invited Jessica out for a steak dinner. She finally accepted one of his many invitations and Rollie was slowly overcoming her concerns about dating a former patient.

Rollie brought himself back to the present. "To answer your question, my decision doesn't have anything to do with the evaluation. Don't get me wrong Pete, there are a lot of good men, good cops, in the brass but right now the political correct, don't make waves, worried about their careers, brass hats are in charge. I don't want and I won't I put up with them any longer."

Pete Mallory had known Rollie for several years by now. Rollie would listen to the opposite side of a debate and several times had changed his mind or adjusted his thinking. But once he came to a decision it was hell to get him to change and Pete knew the young detective had made up his mind.

"What are you going to do?" Pete asked his young friend.

"Not sure right now," Rollie answered. "You know my folks left me their house and some money when they passed away, so I don't have to work right away or for years if I'm careful."

Pete nodded and waited. He knew Rollie had something in mind. The boy wasn't one to not have a plan.

"I might try the private investigator road for a while or I might get into security for some company," Rollie added. "I'm not sure just yet."

"When are you leaving son?"

"I thought I'd finish out the next shift rotation. That'd give you about six weeks to bring someone on board. I've got three weeks' vacation accrued and nine personal days coming. I'd like to take the personal days and the vacation after shift rotation. I'll officially resign after that. So you've really got about three months before I'm out of your hair." Rollie hesitated and added, "Course if I'm in the middle of a case I won't leave until it's solved."

"Okay, but until then I'm still your boss," Pete said with a grin. "Get back to work."

"Thanks Captain." Rollie returned the grin and walked toward the door.

"Rollie?" The Captain called. You can always change your mind you know."

Rollie nodded and went to his desk, picked up a file, and started the long process of investigating a crime.

Pete Mallory watched his young friend for several seconds, picked up the phone, and punched in a number. A receptionist answered and he asked, "Is she in? This is Captain Mallory."

"Hi Pete it's nice to hear from you," Dr. Jessica Talbert said by way of greeting.

"Hello Jessica." They talked about routine things like how have you been, what's new and how's your family. The question about family came from Jessica. Her parents had died while she was in college and she had no other relatives.

"Okay Pete what can I do for you?" Jessica asked. "As nice as it is to talk to you, you're not one to call for no reason."

"You're a very astute young woman. I called to talk about Rollie," Pete admitted. "Has he told you about resigning from the Department?"

"Yes, we talked about his resignation at dinner last night."

"That must have been a good time. So what do you think about it?"

Jessica hesitated, not sure if she should discuss Rollie's plans with anyone. Then she laughed at herself. This wasn't a case of doctor/patient confidentially; it was a just one friend being concerned about another friend.

"Rollie is, well I won't say burned out, but he's really tired of all the political maneuvering in the Department. It's affecting his motivation and work ethic. As a psychiatrist, I think he's right to get away from it; at least for a while."

"What about as his girlfriend?" Pete asked.

"As his friend," Jessica pointedly didn't use the term girlfriend, "I support him in his decision." She paused and said, "I know how hard this is for Rollie and for you but he's got to get away from all the crap, as he calls it, before he explodes. This is the best thing for Rollie." And for Rollie and me, she said to herself.

"So I guess I can't count on you to try to talk him out of quitting can I?"

"Nope, I think he's got a good handle on his feelings and right now those feelings tell him to get the hell out of Dodge."

"It was nice talking to you Doc, even if I couldn't get you on my side," Pete said with a smile in his voice. But the next request was serious. "Keep me informed on how he's doing will you? You know he won't call me if he had a problem so you call me if I can help with anything."

"Yes sir, Captain Mallory sir," Jessica replied with a laugh. "See ya Pete." Jessica hung up and leaned back in her chair.

Girlfriend huh, she thought. I guess maybe I have passed from friend to girlfriend. Jessica chuckled and said aloud, "And that's okay by me."

Rigazzi's was its usual busy place. It is considered the best of the restaurants in the Italian neighborhood called "The Hill" on the near west side of St. Louis. The area had been a destination point, a refuge, and a gathering place for Italian immigrants since the mid 19th century. In less politically correct times it was known as "Dago Hill". The Italian restaurant has an interesting and diverse clientele. Rigazzi's was just south of Forest Park and on any night you could see men in suits and tuxes with their companions in floor length and formal gowns enjoying dinner after a night at some high society doings. There were usually players, men or women, from softball, flag football or bowling teams also enjoying good food and cold beer. Mixed in were dating couples and families with Mom, Dad and all the children. Rigazzi's had been a landmark for generations of hungry people since 1957, no matter their social standing.

Antonio Rigazzi, the owner of the famous restaurant, had met Rollie while he was still a patrolman for the St. Louis Police Department. On a stormy hot typical summer night in St. Louis, two young ignorant thugs had mugged and tried to rob Tony of the day's receipts as he left the restaurant after closing. Rollie came around the corner in his patrol car just as one of the men started to hit Tony with a short wooden club.

"If that club connects you're going to jail for armed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon," Rollie said as he stepped out of his cruiser.

The men turned and saw Rollie with his pistol trained on them. Tony got up from the sidewalk and with a big right hand knocked the man that had held the club to the ground. Rollie stepped between the irate victim and his other assailant. He arrested the two would be robbers and called for a paddy wagon to escort them to the city jail.

"I'm Antonio Rigazzi, I own this place. My friends call me Tony." He was smiling and shook Rollie's hand in gratitude. "Come for dinner tomorrow night Officer Chambers," he suggested as he leaned over to read Rollie's name tag. "Bring your wife or girlfriend. It's on the house; I owe you one."

Rollie saw a man that didn't fit the stereotype of the Italian restaurateur. Tony was taller than Rollie at 6' 3 or 4. His wide shoulders narrowed down to this waist giving his torso a "V" shape. Rollie noticed that his forearms and hands below the shirt sleeves were large and muscular. Tony did have the coal black slicked back hair of a young Italian, but his eyes were a piercing green. His chin was blue with a beard that no matter how many times a razor was used would never quite go away. All and all a very impressive young man.

"Thanks but we can't accept gifts," Rollie said. "But I will bring my wife to your place. I've heard good things about the food and the service."

The first evening that Rollie didn't work he took his wife Susan to Rigazzi's for dinner. As soon as Tony saw them come in he took over. He escorted them to the chef's table just off the kitchen and personally served them. After the best Italian dinner Rollie ever had he asked for the check.

"No, no Officer Chambers, no check for you," Tony said. "It's not much but it's my way of saying thank you for stopping those two last night."

"Thank you Mr. Rigazzi but I can't do that. As a police officer I shouldn't accept gifts."

"My friends call me Tony, I'd be honored if you did too. And if I want to buy dinner for a friend, it shouldn't matter what he does for a living," Tony replied. "That's all this is; a gesture from one friend to another." Turning to Susan he asked, "You won't let him hurt my feelings now would you Mrs. Chambers?" Susan laughed along with Rollie and shook her head.

"Good. I'll say a prayer for you at St. Ambrose during Sunday mass," Tony said as Rollie and Susan got up to leave.

On their way out there was a large plastic water cooler bottle with a sign asking for donations for the St. Ambrose Catholic Church Youth Program. Rollie caught Tony's eye and put a twenty dollar bill into the bottle. Tony nodded his thanks and understanding.

Years later when Susan died, Tony closed his place then organized and set up the after service visiting at Rigazzi's because Rollie was in no condition to think of it. He provided food and drink for what was essentially an Irish wake. It's the last thing I can do for my friend Susan, Tony thought as he watched Rollie accepting the condolences of the many friends and acquaintances.

Now it was six years later Tony watched as Rollie finished his second helping of Mostoccioli with meat sauce. He walked over to the table where Rollie and Jessica sat.

"When are you gonna order an entrée instead of one of the all you can eat specials? Tony asked with a pretend frown and a fake Italian accent. "You're gonna put me out of business." He turned and said, "Hello Jessica."

"Hello Tony," Rollie replied with a smile. "I'm unemployed now so I have to get the most for my entertainment dollar." The men shook hands the way old friends do.

Tony pulled a chair closer to Jessica. "When are you gonna let me take you away from this big guy?" It was just a way to tease a friend. Tony was happily married and was devoted to his wife. But like most men he could appreciate Jessica's good looks and that's all it was, a man's appreciation of a beautiful woman.

Jessica was 5' 9 with a slender but athletic body. She ran every morning to keep that trim build. Her long auburn hair cascaded down her back almost to her waist. Those blue eyes could bore holes in your soul, Tony thought. She looks like she could still be in school.

Jessica laughed at Tony's teasing. "I don't think Adrianna would like that too much do you," Jessica teased back.

"No, you're right. My wife has no sense of humor," Tony said. "I guess I'll have to love you from afar." He hesitated for a few seconds and turned back to Rollie. "Wait, what do you mean you're unemployed?"

"I resigned or retired or quit, whatever, from the Department," Rollie answered. "Today was my last day so Jess and I came here to celebrate."

"What are you going to do now?"

"Nothing, I'm going to sit back, relax and let the rest of you peons work."

Tony looked at his friend and could see he seemed more relaxed than he'd been the last time he was in Rigazzi's. "Good for you Rollie. You already look less tense." Tony stood and said to Jessica, "I'll buy your dinner tonight beautiful lady. It's the least I can do since you won't run away with me. I'll even throw in ole what's his name's here too. "Come back and see us soon." Tony walked back toward his kitchen.

Rollie and Jessica waved good bye to their friend and walked out to Rollie's car. On the way back to her apartment Jessica stared at Rollie's profile as he drove. Tony's right, Rollie does look more relaxed, she thought. And it's only been a few hours since he quit.

They got out of the car and walked to Jessica's door. Rollie pulled her close and they kissed several times and for several minutes. He leaned back and asked, "Any chance for a last cup of coffee?"

Jessica smiled and stepped away from him. "I don't believe its coffee you've got on your mind Mr. Chambers." She leaned in and gave him a quick kiss. "I have early rounds at Washington U Hospital tomorrow morning and I doubt your cup of coffee would be finished anytime soon. Talk to you tomorrow Rollie, thanks for dinner."

Jessica gave a little wave and entered her apartment. Rollie waited until she closed the door and he heard the dead bolt being thrown. They hadn't made love yet but Rollie didn't mind waiting, too much. She's worth waiting for, he thought as he drove home.

Ten days later Rollie returned to his condo from his morning run to find a classic '56 Cadillac Eldorado convertible parked in his driveway. He was dripping wet from the very humid summer weather. It's got to be Tony, Rollie thought. To prove the point, Tony got out of the car as Rollie came up the drive.

"Thought you only drove that on Hill Day," Rollie teased his friend. He was talking about the annual block party on The Hill that celebrated the Italian heritage of the families that lived there.

Tony gave a small smile. "I need to ask you a favor."

Rollie motioned Tony to follow him into the condo. Tony accepted a cup of coffee and looked around Rollie's place. Nice place, Tony thought. The apartment was one of four in a huge old house built in 1874 by a railroad tycoon and faced Tower Grove Park. The homes surrounding the park were built by the leading business men, financiers, and wealthy people of the time and reflected their success.

When Rollie's parents sold their farm and moved to St. Louis they stayed at a friend's house while they looked for a place to live. During a drive around Tower Grove Park they saw a "For Sale" sign on the dilapidated old house. Like many in the area the property had fallen into disrepair. Rollie's father and mother were simple people but that didn't mean they were dumb. They saw a business opportunity and purchased the two story building and grounds. Using the profit from the sale of their farm they quickly began work renovating the home into four very large apartments with separate entrances.

Three of the apartments were leased out; most of the tenants were what was called "Yuppies" at the time. One of the ground floor "condos" was their home for many years. When they passed away they left their home and business to Rollie. He still lived in the same apartment.

The condo had two bedrooms and a bath down a hallway on one side of the apartment with the master suite on the other side. They were separated by what would be called a great room in a house. The kitchen, dining area, and living/family room was all one big open space. Fourteen foot ceilings and ten foot windows along one wall let in a lot of light.

Rollie quickly took a shower and returned to the kitchen table. He got a cup of coffee for himself and sat down. "I don't know why I bother taking a shower; in this heat and humidity; ten minutes after I'm dressed I'm all wet again." He took a drink of coffee, added a little sugar and tried it again. Satisfied with his coffee Rollie looked at Tony.

"What do you need Tony?"

"You're not working right? You're not a cop anymore right?" Tony asked. Rollie nodded his head. "I've got a friend of a friend that needs a ... well, an investigator. I thought you having been a Detective First Grade maybe you could help."

"Help with what." Rollie was a little suspicious of the friend of a friend scenario.

"You know Bartolo Rossi?" Rollie nodded. "He's my gumba, known him since the second grade. His wife's uncle has a problem. When Bartolo told me about it I thought of you."

"What's the uncle's name?"

"Frank Rossi," Tony replied.

"Frank Rossi! The Frank Rossi?" Rollie exploded. "Isn't he the brother of the boss of the Rossi crime family?" Rollie didn't wait for Tony's answer. "I don't do favors for those people. Up until a couple of weeks ago I arrested them."

"No, No, Rollie. It's not like that," Tony protested. "Frank's daughter has been kidnapped. He can't really go to the cops, considering who he is and the note from the kidnappers warned him not to. Also if other people in the rackets, his competitors, found out about this they would consider it a sign of weakness and go after Frank's family. He wants to keep his people out of it as much as possible." Tony added. "Frank said his men are great at busting through doors but he needs someone to find the door first."

Tony waited for further objections and when Rollie didn't make any Tony added, "Come to my restaurant tonight and meet Frank. See what he wants before you decide. If you don't like it walk away. But if you can help it'd be worth a lot of money."

Rollie got the coffee pot and refilled the cups. "Money won't enter into it if I decide to help him, but I can't tonight. Jessica and I have tickets to The Muny." Rollie thought a day's delay might resolve the problem and get him out of the middle.

"I'd consider it a personal favor if you'd at least talk with Frank," Tony said. "Maybe tomorrow night?"

Rollie stared at the table for almost 30 seconds before adding, "Okay Tony I'll meet him, just as a favor to you. Tomorrow night 7:30 at your place."

"I'll call and see if that's good for Frank," Tony said.

"He wants me, he'll be there," Rollie replied in a hard voice. "If not let him find somebody else. And I'm not saying I'll do anything but I will listen to him."

The Muny is an outdoor venue located in Forest Park providing theatrical productions, usually musicals during the spring and summer months. Forest Park was opened in 1876 and at the time was on the western border of St. Louis. Of course the city had grown around and further west of the park and it now resembles Central Park in New York City. The Muni offers a chance for the elite of St. Louis to see and be seen. Conversely it is also a great place for normal people to go on dates and even for families to spend an evening doing something besides watching TV.

Later that night, after the show, Rollie and Jessica were sitting in a little coffee bar reliving their evening at The Muny. They had seen a very good stage production of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." Jessica watched as a woman wearing a fur wrap over a floor length gown and a man in a tuxedo sat at a nearby table. Rollie just smiled and shook his head.

"It has to be 85 degrees and she's wearing a fur stole," Rollie chuckled. "She must have a cold cold heart."

"Rollie, be nice," Jessica protested but laughed with him. She took a sip of her tea.

"Are you really going to work for a mob boss?" Jessica asked with concern.

"I might help him with a problem, but I wouldn't say I'm going to work for him." Rollie explained the situation than Tony had described. "If a young girl is in trouble I'll have to see what I can do." He looked at Jessica. "Can you understand I have to help her if I can? That's just my way."

Jessica smiled. "Rollie Chambers, The Crusader, saving young damsels in distress." She put her hand on his arm. "You always worry about others don't you? It's one of the things I admire about you Rollie." Jessica grabbed Rollie's hand.

At 7:30 the next evening Rollie entered Rigazzi's. He saw Frank Rossi and another man sitting in the VIP booth near the back wall. The second man's back was to him but as slowly he walked toward them Rollie recognized the second man. It was Vito Rossi; head of the St. Louis crime family. Every major city in the country had a crime syndicate that was the guiding force behind drugs, prostitution, gambling, loan sharking, and a host of other illegal activities. The mob, organized crime, the Mafia, or the Cosa Nostra as they were known; the names all meant the same thing. Vito Rossi and to some extent his brother Frank were the head of that syndicate in St. Louis. They were dangerous and powerful men.

"Detective Rollie Chambers," Vito greeted him. "Please have a seat and get something to eat. Try the beef medallions in wine sauce; Tony made them special for us."

Rollie stood for almost ten seconds before he sat down. "I'm not a detective anymore, I'm just a civilian. And I'm not here to socialize."

"I know. We heard about your ... shall we say discontent with the hierarchy of the St. Louis Police Department." Vito's smile would freeze most men in their tracks. It was the smile of a hungry shark. "I'm..."

"Vito Rossi, head of the St. Louis family," Rollie interrupted. "I know who you are Mr. Rossi." He accepted the espresso that the waiter brought and took a small sip. "Let's cut through the bullshit Mr. Rossi. You can't intimidate me, you can't buy me, and you damn sure can't recruit me. Just so we understand each other, I agreed to talk with Frank out of respect and friendship for Tony." Turning to Frank Rossi, Rollie asked, "What's the problem you need my help with?"

Frank turned his head to look at his brother. Rollie said, "I agreed to talk to you Frank, not your brother. Now why do you want my help?"

"I don't think you understand Chambers," Vito said.

"It's you that doesn't understand Vito. You don't come into this." Rollie looked back at Frank. "Frank?"

"Please Vito," Frank said to his brother. Turning back to Rollie he answered, "My oldest daughter, Angela, has been kidnapped," Frank answered with a sigh. He handed Rollie a piece of paper. "This is a copy of the ransom note I got in the mail two days ago."

Rollie picked up the note and read:

We have your daughter. Put $250,000 in small bills in a duffle bag. Call 555-1616 and leave a message when you have the money. We will contact you with further instructions.

Do not contact the police or the FBI or you will never see your little girl again.

"I called the number yesterday and told them I have the money," Frank said dejectedly.

"Nothing since then?" Rollie asked. Frank shook his head. Rollie continued with his thought. "Sort of funny. I mean who ever this is must know you almost carry that kind of money in a rear pocket. Why would they wait to give you instructions on where to make the drop?" Rollie studied the note for a few seconds. "I need a copy of the original envelope too."

Frank and then Vito shrugged. "You're right; I can get that kind of money from my own backup fund."

Rollie said "Burner phone, a throwaway eh? Bought at Radio Shack and untraceable." Frank nodded.

"Tell me about Angela," Rollie requested.

"She's 19, a student at Washington U, and is a Daddy's girl," Frank answered. "I guess I've been over indulgent with her, but what the hell.

"Does she live at home while she's going to school?"

"I lease an apartment near the campus for her. Her friend Greta lives there with her."

"She ever been in trouble? You know drugs, alcohol, or anything?"

"No, she's always been a good kid. Oh a few little things, like skipping school a few times; things like that. Nothing serious, like any teenager."

"Does Angela have a boyfriend? Someone special?"

"She dates a little but no one special." Frank sighed. "I talked to Greta and she said Angela usually goes out with a group of kids"

"Excuse me for a minute," Rollie said. He got up, went to the bar, and ordered a large draft beer; it was a stall for time as he thought. Returning to the booth he asked, "You or your men talk to anyone else?"

"No. Vito wanted to send some of the guys to track her down but I was worried that the people who've got Angela would panic. They could hurt her if they got scared."

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