The further adventures of Rollie Chambers.
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Rollie Chambers was speeding. Weaving through traffic he jumped a yellow light and roared through another intersection. Damn rush hour, he thought. City's getting too crowded. Rollie cut in front of a car on his right, getting a one finger salute and a long horn blast for the maneuver. Turning into the lane leading to the Washington University Hospital emergency room, he did a power slide up to the door.
A security guard approached Rollie as he left his truck. "You can't park here," the man said in an officious voice.
"Police business," Rollie replied as he rushed past the guard and into the emergency room lobby. "Keys are in it, move it if you have to," he yelled over his shoulder.
He had lied to the security guard so he wouldn't have to take the time to find a parking place; Rollie wasn't with the police anymore. He'd resigned three months earlier due to his disgust with what he called the 'Oh So Politically Correct Brass Hats' running the St. Louis Police Department.
Rollie knew it was possible that the real police would either be waiting for him or would look for him in the hospital. It didn't matter to him; he had to get to his friend, Ted Crowe.
Ted had retired from the First Patrol Squad as a Patrol Sergeant of the St. Louis Police after 30 years of service. Almost 5 years ago he and his wife Donna had bought and remodeled a neighborhood bar and grill, renaming it First Squad. They served good food and honest drinks to their customers. The clientele was mostly off duty and retired police and/or their families; there was also a good number of cop wannabes and groupies. The place was known as a "cop bar".
Rollie had been on his way out the door that morning when his friend, roommate, and girlfriend called to tell him that Ted had been brought into the emergency room. Rollie's lady was Jessica Talbert, a Doctor of Psychology. She had been making morning rounds at the hospital and learned that Ted was being treated for injuries caused by a severe beating. Jessica said Ted asked a nurse for her and then asked her to call Rollie.
"I'll be there in 20," Rollie told her.
Whatever it is, whoever did this will answer to me," Rollie thought as he walked up to the nurse's station. Two nurses were gossiping about a new doctor in the department. One of them glanced up but ignored him and continued the gab fest with her friend.
"Excuse me. Could you stop talking about the new doctor's cute ass long enough to help me?" Rollie asked sarcastically.
"And who are you?" The older of the women asked.
"Not that it matters but I'm Detective First Class Rollie Chambers of the St. Louis Police Department. I'm looking for a man that was brought into the emergency room this morning." Rollie didn't feel bad about his subterfuge.
"Oh sorry, Detective," the nurse said. "Who were you looking for?"
"Ted Crowe, he was beaten very badly. I'd like to talk to him."
The woman typed for a few seconds on a computer. "Mr. Crowe is in Trauma Room 4. Go to the end of the hall, make a left into the emergency room and check with the nurse at the desk. She will direct you from there."
"Thank you. You can go back to talking about Doctor Sweet Cheeks," Rollie said with scorn as he turned and walked away.
Jessica was waiting at the nurse's counter when Rollie walked in. She took three or four steps toward him and put her arms around him.
"How's Ted?" Rollie asked.
"He's stable; the doctor says he's going to be okay." Jessica tried to swallow the sob that threatened to come out. "Oh Rollie, they almost beat him to death."
"Ted won't say. He wouldn't talk to the patrolman that found him or to me. He asked me to call you." Jessica paused and added, "That's all I know."
"Take me to him please. When we get there, get anyone in the room out and close the door as you leave. Okay?"
Jessica nodded, hugged Rollie again, and took his hand. She led him to Trauma Room 4. There was a nurse adjusting the monitoring device hooked up to Ted. Jessica identified herself and herded the nurse out of the room, closing the door behind her.
Rollie stepped closer to the man on the bed. Ted's left eye was swollen shut, he had a gash that had been stitched closed on his left cheek, and it looked like his nose was broken. The injured areas were beginning to bruise and Rollie knew his friends face would be black and blue in another couple of hours or so. There was also a cast on Ted's right arm. As he stood there, looking down, Ted opened his one good eye.
"Glad you could make it Rollie. You missed the party though."
Rollie took Ted's left hand in his. "Sorry, but next time send the invitation a bit earlier."
Ted's smile was almost gruesome because his lips were cut and swollen too. "I'll remember that next time."
"Who did this Ted? Do the police have any ideas?"
"I didn't talk to the patrolman. Acted like I was in too much pain to talk." Ted chuckled and winced at the pain it caused. "Wasn't far from the truth either. Have a seat and I'll tell you about it." Rollie pulled the only chair in the room closer to the bed, sat down and waited.
"About a week ago two big gorillas came into the First Squad right after I opened. They introduced themselves as the Dalton brothers. Said they represented the Carondelet Neighborhood Redevelopment Association and they wanted me to join. Told me that the dues were $1000 a week. I told them to go to hell; that I knew a protection racket when I saw one." Ted paused and asked, "See if I can have some water will you? They wouldn't let me have any before."
Rollie stepped out of the room and talked to Jessica. She had the nurse bring a pitcher of water, a glass, and one of the straws that could be bent to make it easier for the patient to drink. After Ted took a few sips he continued his story.
"I asked them if they knew who most of my customers are and they just laughed. Said I wouldn't tell the cops about them if I knew what was good for me and that I would pay up. Sooner or later they said. I told them to go to Hell and they turned around and left the bar without another word. I was coming out of the First Squad with last night's receipts on my way to the bank. Just like every morning. The Daltons grabbed me and pushed me into the alley." Ted asked for more water and Rollie held the glass so he could drink.
"They told me that they were going to give me a little example of what would happen if I didn't join up. The bigger one, Riley I think I heard the other guy call him, told me that if I reported any of this to the cops they'd throw a Molotov cocktail through the front window of the bar. And if that didn't convince me they would find my waitress Tina and invite her to a party. One of them grabbed my face, looked me in the eye and said my wife would be next. Then they beat the hell out of me. I tried to fight back but these guys are huge; like professional wrestlers or something."
He paused in pain. "They took the receipts from the bar. I told them there was more than the $1000 they originally wanted in the bank bag. The one called Shawn laughed; said I should consider it an initiation fee." Ted grabbed Rollie's hand. "I can't tell the police and take a chance on Donna or Tina getting hurt. That's why I wanted to talk to you. Could you maybe look into these guys and get them off my back?"
Rollie looked at his friend remembering how Ted and Donna had helped him when his wife, Susan, died. She had been beaten and raped. When Susan discovered she had also been infected with the HIV virus, she had committed suicide.
"Ted, you and Donna were there for me when Susan died. I know I would have made it but your help made it a lot easier." Rollie got a faraway look in his eyes for a few seconds. "I'll take care of it."
He squeezed Ted's hand. "Give me a description of these guys."
"The one called Riley is bigger and older than the other one. Shawn," Ted said all at once. He tried to snap his figures but winced in pain. "That's the other guy's name, Shawn. Riley told Shawn not to go crazy on me." Guess Shawn doesn't take direction well." Ted gave Rollie a painful smile.
"Riley Dalton, 35 to 40, Caucasian, 6' 6, about 270 pounds, dark brown hair, brown eyes. He's got scars around his left eyebrow, like he was a boxer or something. Shawn Dalton is his brother, late 20s, Caucasian, 6'4, 230, light brown hair, blue eyes, tattoo on his right forearm; a shamrock with the words Erin go Bragh in a circle around it. "Oh yeah, Shawn has a hell of a punch. Don't think I've ever been hit that hard." Ted paused. "That's all I can remember."
"Thirty years as a police officer taught you something," Rollie said with a laugh. He got serious and asked, "Where's Donna?"
"She's down in the waiting room. I wanted to talk to you before she came in here."
"I'll go get her," Rollie said. He left the room and Jessica joined him. "Donna is in the waiting room. Can you go get her or send someone for her? I've got a couple of phone calls to make."
"I'll get her," Jessica replied. "I can tell her about Ted's injuries and reassure her that he's going to be okay."
Rollie took his cell phone out of his jacket and punch in a number. "Hey Tully. How's the washed up Gunny today?"
Jacob Tully was a Sergeant on the St. Louis Police Department. He was a retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant with 20 years of service. After retiring he joined a National Guard unit, just to keep his hand in he said, and shortly was deployed to Iraq. Tully lost his right leg below the knee while serving with his Guard unit. The prosthetic leg he wore didn't hinder him from running the Department's main shooting range. Tully had helped Rollie find and apprehend a rapist; most recently he had assisted Rollie in returning a kidnapped girl to her father.
"Fine, until you interrupted me," Tully replied. "I was showing a pretty young rookie officer the finer points of using the Weaver stance when shooting."
"Male or female rookie?"
"Female you overgrown pervert," Tully said laughing. "What can I do for you?"
Rollie explained about the protection scam and Ted's attack. "You know a couple of patrolmen that would like to make some extra money when they're off duty? And that can keep their mouth shut."
"Yeah. I want an around the clock presence until Ted get's out of the hospital. He won't get out by the next meeting with those idiots. I don't think the Daltons will try to get to him in here but these guys aren't the sharpest tool in the shed."
"What makes you say that?"
"If you want a guy to pay protection money, you don't beat him so bad that he can't work."
"Sounds like amateurs to me." Tully thought for several seconds. "You know Rollie if you've got uniformed officers outside of Ted's door, the Daltons are gonna think he went to the cops. It could cause them to overreact."
"I need Ted and Donna protected and I can't hang around," Rollie said. "I'm gonna be busy finding these idiots."
"Call Williams Security Specialists," Tully suggested. "I'll email the number to your cell. John Williams is a friend from the old days. He retired about from the Department about three years ago and opened Security Specialists. They provide armed guards, body guards, and security details for just about anything." He hesitated and added, "It's gonna cost though Rollie. Those men can't work for nothing."
"I'm not worried about the money. Thanks Tully." Rollie hung up and before he could put his phone away he got a message alert that he had the email from Tully. He called the number.
"Williams Security Specialists" a receptionist answered.
"John Williams please," Rollie requested.
"May I tell him who's calling please?"
"My name is Rollie Chambers. I'm a friend of Jacob Tully's."
"Oh yes, Mr. Chambers. John is talking to Tully right now. I'll put you through."
Don't waste any time do you Tully, Rollie said to himself.
"Hi Rollie. This is John Williams. Tully explained what you want to do. How many men and how do you want them dressed?"
"I want my friend protected around the clock until he gets out of the hospital; two men outside his door at all times. I'll leave up to you as to how many men you'll need each day. Could we have them dressed in business suits like body guards? Oh, and I want them armed."
"No problem. When do you want them to start?"
"Could we start today?"
"I'll have to rearrange the schedule but I can have two men at the hospital by 3:30."
"That'll work. I'll stay on until they get here. Ted's in room 614, have them ask for me at the nurse's station. Thanks John and send the bill to me. Tully's got my address."
"We'll worry about that after. I need to get to work. Call me if you need anything." Having said all that needed to be said, John Williams hung up.
Rollie went back to Ted's room. Donna was sitting with her husband's hand in her's. Jessica stood by the window with an angry look on her face.
"Hi Donna. The docs say our boy is going to be fine."
"The old fool should have told me about this earlier," Donna said giving a smile to Ted. "He'll probably milk this for a long time to get out of doing any work."
Rollie chuckled and Jessica lost the angry look and smiled.
"When are the Daltons supposed to come back and see you Ted?" Rollie asked.
"They said they'd be back to see me in three days."
"Have the doctors told you how long you're going to be here?"
"Four or five days.
"I don't think they realize how much damage they did to you. There's no way you can meet them in three days." Rollie thought for a moment. "I've got guards on your door until you get out." Donna looked alarmed and Rollie added, "I don't think they'll try anything but then again they weren't too smart putting Ted in here to begin with."
"Are you going to be able to find them Rollie?" Jessica asked. "And what are you going to do if you do find them?"
"Don't have to find them; they'll find me. I've got three days to find out as much about them as possible. When they come to the First Squad to collect from Ted, I'll be there instead." Rollie hesitated. "What I do will depend on them." He saw the concerned look on Jessica's face. "That's the best I can offer Jess."
Rollie left the room and roamed the halls for about an hour. As he past the nurse's station for the tenth time, two large men dressed in business suits approached him.
"Mr. Chambers. I'm Todd Stevens and this Joey Simpson. Mr. Williams told us to report to you."
Rollie shook hands with both men and explained the job. Todd and Joey nodded and then smiled.
"No worries Mr. Chambers. We'll take care of Mr. Crowe."
Rollie re-entered the hospital room. "Okay, there are armed guards on your door Ted. There'll be two guards all the time until you get released. I'm going to leave now but I'll be back tomorrow to see you. If you need me call my cell."
"Where are you going Rollie?" Jessica asked as she followed him into the hallway,
"I'm going to find out everything I can about the Daltons and put a stop to this protection racket." He put his arm around Jessica, pulled her close, and gave her a quick but emotion filled kiss. "Why were you so mad when I came back into Ted's room?"
She was embarrassed that her emotions were so easy to read and chuckled. "When I do my rounds, I see people hurt and injured all the time." Jessica took a deep breath. "But to see someone I know, a friend, beaten up for money, well it just pissed me off."
Rollie smiled and hugged Jessica tighter. "A champion of the underdog aren't you? That's my girl." He kissed her again. "Jess please don't forget to tell the hospital about the guards. I'll call you later."
As he left the hospital Rollie called Tully again. "Thanks for the help Sarge," he said when Tully answered. "Need another favor. Can you run wants and warrants on Riley and Shawn Dalton. See if they're in the system.
"That the two bastards that did Ted?"
"Yeah, that's the guys. See what you can dig up will you? Call me if you find out anything."
I've got three days to find out as much about these scumbags as I can, Rollie thought. On his way to his next meeting Tully called back.
"Nothing on the Daltons locally. I'm checking a national data base now. It'll take an hour or so. Call you back."
"Thanks Tully." Rollie said as he parked his truck in the driveway of a very large home. He got out of his truck and rang the front door bell. The last time he'd been here he had beat on the door with his fist. The door opened and Rollie smiled.
"Hello Leo," he greeted the squat heavy set man that had answered the door. "Beat up any young girls latterly?"
Rollie had met Leo a few months previously. He'd been looking for Frank Rossi's daughter. Rossi was the head of the crime family that controlled the rackets in St. Louis; Leo worked for Frank's brother Vito. Vito was the apparent head of the Rossi syndicate but Rollie knew better. Frank was the power behind the throne. Leo and Rollie had crossed paths when Leo was strong arming a young woman for information about Frank's daughter. Rollie had forcefully put a stop to his efforts and there had been bad blood between them ever since.
"What'da you want Chambers?" Leo asked with a sneer.
"Frank around? Like to talk to him if possible?" Rollie stepped past Leo into the entryway. "This time I'll wait here until you ask him."
The last two times Rollie had been to the Rossi home, he'd brushed past Leo like he didn't exist. Leo growled and went toward a closed door. Rollie knew that the door led to the formal sitting room; he'd been there before. Three minutes later Leo opened the door and motioned for Rollie to come in.
Frank Rossi sat in a big easy chair. He didn't get up as Rollie walked into the room but motioned to another chair across from him.
"Have a drink Rollie?" Frank saw Rollie smile and shake his head. "What's so funny?"
"We're going to act like two gentlemen are we?" Rollie asked still smiling.
Frank smiled too. "I suppose not; it's not our style. "What can I do for you?"
"Need some information and I think you're my best bet."
"What kind of information?" Frank asked.
"Couple of hoods calling themselves Riley and Shawn Dalton are trying to set up a protection racket. They approached a friend of mine and when he turned them down they did a number on him; put him in the hospital. I thought these guys must be new to this type of thing and maybe new to St. Louis. Know them or anything about them?"
"Why come to me? We're not in the protection business."
"Always found that strange," Rollie said. "It's a money maker for families in other cities."
"It's a business that isn't really cost effective and it can lead to trouble," Frank said. "All it takes is one macho hero to report it to the police. If you've got a Mayor or D.A. running for office, they come down on you like the wrath of God to make a name for themselves. And it's not only the protection racket they attack; they go after you all across the board. I don't think the money's worth the eventual trouble."
"Okay I believe that you're not involved but you know more than most what goes on it this city."
Frank could see that Rollie was angry and intense. "I'll check around and see what I can find out. Your number still the same? I'll give you a call if I find out anything."
"Appreciate it Frank." Rollie took a card out of a small leather card case and handed it to Rossi. "This is the number where you can reach me."
Rossi looked down at the card and smiled. The card read:
CHAMBERS AND ASSOCIATES Investigations & Security 314-555-4141
"Made it official did you?" Frank asked.
"Not really. I only work by referral and won't take just any case."
"Can't be too picky about your cases. That's not conducive to making money Rollie."
"Frank, you should know I don't care about the money. Think about what I charged you for finding your daughter."
Rossi's nodded his head in understanding. His daughter, Angela, had faked her kidnapping to get money from him to go to Europe with her friends. But her boyfriend took over and really did kidnap her. He'd demanded $250,000 for her release. Rollie had found her and brought her home. He had a tape recorder with Angela admitting her part in the scam but Rollie destroyed it to protect Rossi's reputation. The only fee charged was $100 to replace the recorder.
"Well I still owe you for that Rollie. If those boys are local, I'll find out about them."
Rollie nodded his thanks and walked toward the front door. "See ya around Leo," he called out as he left. Leo gave him a dark look as he walked past. I shouldn't rattle his cage like that, Rollie thought. But I just don't like him.
He drove back to his apartment and found Jessica in the kitchen making a sandwich. Dr. Jessica Talbert had been Rollie's therapist when his wife Susan committed suicide. They had been thrown together again when Jessica worked as a profiler for the St. Louis Police on the "Campus Rapist Case"; Rollie was the lead detective on the case. Rollie persisted and she had finally gotten over her ethical concerns about dating a patient. He had pointed out that he was no longer her patient and wore her down. Jessica had moved into Rollie's place after the case of the kidnapped daughter.
"That looks good," Rollie said as he kissed her hello.
"I make a pretty good sandwich," Jessica replied. "You want one?"
"Oh yeah, a sandwich. That looks good too." Jessica smiled and swatted him on the shoulder.
"I'll grab a shower and be right back," Rollie said. As he came back into the galley style kitchen, Jessica was putting sandwiches, chips, and drinks on the breakfast bar.
"Thought you'd still be with Ted and Donna," Rollie said.
"No need with those two behemoths you've got outside Ted's door." Jessica hesitated. "I know you were rushed but couldn't you have found guards that didn't look so out of place. Todd and Joey are sweethearts but there's no doubt what they are. I mean they wear suits and all but you can see the bulge of their guns. They look like what they are; armed guards."
"That's exactly the look I was going for," Rollie explained. "I couldn't use uniformed police so I got the next best thing. If the Daltons are stupid enough to beat a prospective client the way they did, they might be stupid enough to visit Ted in the hospital. The guards will warn them away just like cops would."
"You can be a devious man Rollie Chambers, a devious man," Jessica said. Then she got serious. "Are you going to find those two gorillas? And if you meet them at the bar, what are you going to do? How will you explain your involvement?"
"I'll tell them I'm Ted's partner and since he's in the hospital they'll have to deal with me. If I can get them on tape trying to shake me down, I can call in the police."
"If you can't record them what will you do?"
Rollie looked down for a few seconds in thought. "Jess, I'm going to bring their plans to a halt. With the police's help if I can, but I will stop this." She started to protest but he held up his hand to stop her. "I know what you're going to say, you're going to talk about rights and legalities and letting the authorities handle it." He took her hands in his. "Sometimes you have the right to protect yourself and people you care about ... I promise to let the police handle it if I can."
Jessica looked into Rollie's eyes and knew he would put an end to the Daltons scheme; one way or another. "I want to be there when they come," she said. Now it was her turn to hold up her hand to silence Rollie. "Maybe I can get a feel or handle on them." She smiled. "Besides it's a free country and I can go where I want to."
"Won't do me any good to ask or tell you to stay away, will it?"
"If trouble starts, if they get aggressive, you have to do as I say and do it with no questions. Agreed?"
"Okay," Jessica said. "Now what was looking so good to you earlier?"
Rollie smiled, took her hand, led her to the big comfortable couch in the living room and showed her what he meant.
Frank Rossi called Rollie. "Can't find out anything about those two guys; they must be from out of town. I'll keep checking and let you know if I find anything."
So three days later, Rollie was working behind the bar at First Squad. During those three days Rollie checked around the neighborhood and found four other shops and restaurants that were paying the Carondelet Redevelopment Association. They were reluctant to talk about it but Rollie knew what was going on. It's not just Ted that's being hurt, Rollie thought.
Jessica sat on a stool at the end of the bar. In spite of Rollie's objection, she had refused to stay away from the bar that particular night. "Ted and Donna are my friends too," she stated leaving no room for debate.
Directly across from Rollie, against the wall Tully took up space in one of the booths. Tully had also refused to be left out of the meeting. "Ain't fair you getting to have all the fun, Rollie. Besides you can't stop me from going to have a drink and relax at my favorite bar."
Rollie glanced at a blank faced Jessica thinking she ratted me out to Tully. Then he smiled at her.
Rollie had put a sign on the front door: "Closed from 7:00 until 10:00 for private party" the sign read. He'd hoped to keep away any of the cops that normally came to the bar. Rollie wanted the Daltons to feel safe enough to come into the First Squad that evening and talk openly.
"Not much of a party," one of the two men said as they came into the bar.
Rollie looked up. This must be the Daltons, he thought; there's not many men that big in St. Louis. They match the descriptions Ted gave me. Me and Tully aren't small but those two almost make us look like runts.
"Where's Ted?" The bigger of the two said.
"Who's asking?" Rollie answered.
"I'm Riley Dalton, this is my brother Shawn. We've got business with Ted. Who are you?"
"Rollie Chambers, I'm Ted's partner. Some bastards put him in the hospital so I've got to work the bar"
Riley didn't like the term Rollie used. "I wasn't aware that Ted had a partner."
"Right after he bought the bar, he needed money for renovations. I gave him money for a 30 percent share of the business." Rollie wiped some glasses like bartenders had done forever. "If you got bar business with Ted, you'll have to deal with me."
"Perhaps we should come back when Ted is back at work," Riley said.
"Nope, I'm in charge now. You'll have to do business with me."
Riley stared at Rollie for several seconds. His eyes darted around the room taking in the other two people in the bar. He ignored Jessica at the end of the bar. Shawn had turned toward Tully and was watching him with almost a sneer on his face.
"Very well Mr. Chambers, we will deal with you." Riley unbuttoned his jacket, showing the butt of a gun in a shoulder holster and rested his hand just below it. "We represent the Carondelet Neighborhood Redevelopment Association. Ted's membership fee, and now yours, is $1000 a week."
"What do I get for $1000 a week?"
"We 'protect' your business by making sure no one robs you or throws bricks through your front window. We also make sure none of your customers are assaulted or robbed as they leave your bar."
"We also make sure what happened to Ted doesn't happen to you," Shawn spoke for the first time.
"Basically you're shaking us down," Rollie responded. "We pay you 'protection' money or bad things will happen, right?"
"I guess you could put it that way," Riley said. "We prefer to call it insurance." The tone in his voice changed to a demand. "Now give us the first weeks dues," he ordered.
Rollie caught Tully's eye and said, "We don't need or want your services Riley. But I tell you what I'll do." Rollie pulled his Glock .45 from under the bar and pointed it at the Daltons. "I'll give you one chance to drop your weapons on the bar. Believe me you won't like the consequences if you don't."
Tully also had his pistol pointed at the Daltons. Riley and Shawn were surprised to see that even the woman at the end of the bar had a pistol pointed their way.
Riley tensed and then sort of relaxed. Slowly, using two fingers, he pulled his weapon from his shoulder holster and carefully laid it on the bar. Shawn's face showed an excitement, almost anticipation, and he made no move to disarm. Riley stepped next to his brother.
"Shawn, you don't stand a chance."
"You think this old man can stop me?" Shawn asked with bravado pointing at Tully.
"You're gonna be real embarrassed telling everyone this old man kicked your ass," Tully said as he stood up.