Another part in the saga of Rollie Chambers.
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Thank you for taking the time to read and possibly comment on my work. I hope you enjoy this chapter.
"Rollie Chambers," he said, answering his cell phone.
"Hi Rollie. This is Julie. Perhaps a strange question, but have you seen Tully today?"
Julie Colwell was 40, she was the RN supervisor at St. Louis University Hospital, and she was Jacob Tully's significant other. Tully was Rollie's best friend, mentor, and part of Rollie's detective agency, Chambers and Associates.
"Hi Julie. Last time I saw Tully was at dinner with you guys the other night. Why?"
"It's probably nothing, but he and I had a little spat day before yesterday and he left in a hurry back, to his own place after our date. Said he wanted to chill for a night. You and Tully are like brothers and to be honest I thought he might have called and talked to you about our discussion."
"No, like I said I've haven't talked to him since the dinner."
"Well ... Our disagreement was about my 20 year class reunion," Julie said. "It's in two weeks and I was telling Tully about some people from that class and mentioned Ken; he's a guy I went out with for almost three years. I'd told Tully about him before, just in passing. I think Tully thought Ken was the reason I wanted to go to the reunion."
"Sounds like jealousy is rearing its ugly head," Rollie said with a chuckle.
"It's not funny Rollie," Julie complained. "I asked Tully to go with me but he refused."
"He say why?"
"Tully said he wouldn't know anyone there and didn't want to spend the evening watching me and my old boyfriend get re-acquainted." Julie hesitated and added, "Then I made a big mistake."
"What did you do?"
"I smiled at him and asked if it would bother him to see me talk and dance with Ken. I was just teasing and fishing for a compliment, but he took me seriously. We'd been sitting together on the sofa and he stood up. Said I should give him a call when I got back from the reunion. Then he said, very sarcastically, that maybe Ken and I could get re-acquainted. That's when he left and I haven't heard from him since."
"Okay, Julie, I'll do a recon mission and find our wayward Gunnery Sergeant. Call you when I talk to him." Rollie hung up and stared out of his office window. Julie's right, Rollie thought, Tully should have checked in by now.
Rollie stood, took his Glock 21C out of his desk drawer, and put it into a holster attached to his belt in the small of his back. Maybe I ought to run by Tully's place before I send out the troops, Rollie thought. He had a key to Tully's apartment and let himself in. The place was a shambles.
One of the two big easy chairs usually in front of the fireplace was pushed against the wall and the other one was lying on its side. The big screen TV had been knocked off its stand onto the floor; it had a big crack across the screen. There were three table lamps on the floor. One of the metal ones was bent almost in half and had a blood smear on it; as if it had been used as a weapon. Rollie's practiced eye saw the two bullet holes in the far wall. Guess that answers a lot of questions, he thought.
Rollie made several calls, trying to track down his friend with no success. Then he made two more calls. The first was to his one of his Confidential Informants. Calvin had been "working" as a CI for Rollie for a number of years while he was a detective and continued after Rollie left the force. He was the largest fence for stolen merchandise in the St. Louis area, but he knew a lot of street people who were on the fringes and the wrong side of legal. Rollie had kept Calvin from going to jail and now the men were friends.
The second call was to Ricky Willard; a "reformed" computer hacker and geek who worked for the St. Louis Police Department. He could find most anything and everything if it was posted on a computer someplace. Ricky would track Tully's credit cards and bank account to see if they showed activity.
Rollie tried to call Missouri Tactical Academy but got an answering machine. He got into his truck and drove out of St. Louis to the facility. The Academy instructed civilians in proper shooting techniques and held Concealed Carry Permit classes. They also instructed and trained policemen and even military personnel in urban tactical situations. It was run by a group of former military and police personnel. Tully was the majority owner and head instructor.
"Hey Rollie," Ray Jenson said as Rollie entered the office. Ray was also one of the owners.
"Hi Ray. I called earlier and got your voice mail. You all by yourself?"
"Sorry, I've got desk duty today but I had to step out to the shooting bays and explain some safety procedures to a new client. Ever since Mike Thomas left us, I've been doing double duty."
"Yeah, I heard Mike sold his share of the business to you guys. Why'd he leave?"
"He moved to North Carolina to be with his son and his family. They've got three kids now and Mike wanted to be closer to his grandkids." Ray smiled, "Tully's the one that bought Mike's share. Makes me the minority stockholder. What did you need?" Ray asked.
You seen Tully in the last day or so?"
"No, in fact I was just gonna call him with a reminder. He's got a class for some of the rookie Hillsboro police this afternoon."
"Tully won't miss an appointment. Have him give me a call when he shows up," Rollie said. He didn't go into details about Tully's strange actions and the condition of his apartment. No need to get people freaked out, he thought.
"Sure thing. Nice to see you Rollie. Come back sometime and we'll have another shooting contest." Ray grinned. "I want a chance to win my money back."
Nodding, Rollie smiled and waved as he left the office. He didn't want to get Ray and the other instructors at the Academy involved just yet, he thought. Like Tully, almost all of them were former Marines, Seals, or Green Beret. They'd treat this situation like a search and destroy mission. If Tully's in trouble, they might chase whoever is involved underground.
He headed back to Tully's place again. Maybe I missed something, he thought. The previous time he'd checked the place, he'd just walked in and called out for Tully; this time he stopped just inside the door and let his eyes slowly examine the living room. Then he saw something he'd missed the first time.
Tully had lost his right leg, below the knee, to an IED while serving in Iraq. He wore a state of the art, titanium and carbon fiber, prosthetic leg. The prosthesis was lying under the coffee table in front of the sofa with one of the sofa cushions over it. Rollie walked over, bent down, and picked up the device. Tully might go off on his own to work something out or to get his head straight, but he'd never leave his leg behind, Rollie thought.
On the floor under the coffee table was a brochure for Missouri Tactical Academy. Rollie looked closer at the glossy pamphlet. It was opened to the second page, which had a mark on one section. It looked like someone had used a fingernail or something to underscore and mark one line. That line was one that advertized that the Academy had several fully automatic weapons on site; both for rental with the right permit and for instruction.
While on the St. Louis Police Department, Rollie had been, if not the best, one of the best detectives in the Precinct 16 squad and the Department for that matter. The intuition that made him a good detective came into play. Why would Tully have an advertisement for his own business in a prominent place on his table? And why would he or someone mark a section?
After another hour of searching, Rollie went home. In spite of his concern for his friend, he had to smile when he entered his apartment. Jess was cooking, standing at the stove barefoot and wearing one of Rollie's shirts. Nothing sexier than a woman in a man's shirt, he thought; especially when she's as beautiful as Jess.
Dr. Jessica Talbert had been the therapist for Rollie's wife, Susan, after she had been attacked and raped. Jessica 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 later worked closely together when Jessica was brought in as sort of police profiler on a serial rapist case. Their relationship built quickly after the rapist was caught.
They had discussed marriage and decided they liked things just as they were at least for now. Jessica had been married after a two year live in relationship, but it ended in divorce. She said things changed after the wedding and they sort of lost who they were. After Rollie's wife ended her life, he wasn't sure he wanted to get married again so the hurt for each was still close to the surface. Rollie and Jess were totally committed to each other and neither thought a ceremony or paper work could make their life any better.
"Hi Sailor, looking for a good time? Jessica turned to greet Rollie. The shirt's top three buttons were undone and the resulting view when she turned proved that she was wearing nothing but the shirt. She saw the look on his face and asked, "What's wrong Rollie?"
"Tully's sort of missing," he replied. Rollie explained Julie's call and what he'd found at Tully's place. He laid Tully's prosthesis on the coffee table. Tully wouldn't go on a 'walk about' or bug out without telling me and he certainly wouldn't go without this."
Jessica walked over, hugged Rollie, and said, "You're right Rollie, something has happened to our big brother."
"I don't know what yet, but I'll find him," Rollie promised.
Later Jessica said, "Julie still hasn't heard from Tully and I know you'll find him but is there anything I can do to help?"
"Not that I can think of, but I'll let you know if something comes up. In the mean time, I've got Calvin and some other CIs checking for info on the street; also told him to find out anything about weapons deals. Talked to Frank Wendt down at Precinct 16; he said he'd put out a BOLO on Tully. Said if it's a false alarm, he'd fade the heat; but he agrees with me that something isn't Kosher." Rollie paused. "That pamphlet on Tully's table has me concerned. Jessica nodded and Rollie continued, "I think whatever is going on has something to do with Missouri Tactical."
"In what way?" Jessica asked. By now she'd learned to trust Rollie's instincts.
"Nothing solid, just a feeling. What I do know is that Tully's in trouble." Jessica raised an eyebrow and Rollie continued. "Tully's place has been trashed. Someone was looking for something or there was a fight or maybe both. Tully's leg was left at the apartment; he would never leave it behind. You know how much he hates using crutches. And I still can't shake that pamphlet I found under the table with the markings by the full auto advertisement."
Rollie's cell gave out its annoying ringtone, something Jessica had programmed into it. They'd been to a concert at the Fox Theater and one of the songs, "It's Your Love" by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, really seemed to strike a note with Jessica. The next day she programmed the song into both of their phones as a ringtone.
"I can't believe a woman as intelligent and well educated as you would get all mushy and worked up about a song," Rollie protested the first time his cell rang. They were sitting side by side on the large sofa in their apartment.
Jessica moved over, sat in Rollie's lap, put her arms around his neck and kissed him. "It reminds me of us," she replied. After that statement, Rollie didn't dare delete the ring tone from his phone.
"Chambers," Rollie answered. "Oh, hi Ray." Jessica listened to Rollie's side of the conversation. "No I haven't heard from Tully either. He missed his class with the Hillsboro Police? Yeah, that's not like him at all. I think something's not right. I was at his apartment after I talked to you." Rollie explained what he'd found at Tully's, including the marked pamphlet.
"I think whatever is going on involves you guys. Y'all keep frosty, but we don't need your crew going on a recon or search and destroy mission just yet. Yeah, okay, I'll call you as soon as I get any more intel."
He hung up and turned to Jessica. "That was Ray; Tully missed an instructional class today."
"I heard," she replied. "You're right, something is wrong." She took Rollie's hand. "You've got to find him, Rollie. He's family."
Nodding his head, Rollie said, "I'll go see Calvin tonight; see if he's heard anything."
Rolling to his side, Tully looked around the room. His hands were tied behind him and his legs were tied together above his knees. Bastards could have brought my leg, he thought. I can't believe I let these assholes take me; must be getting old.
Tully had answered the knock at his door without checking the peephole. Maybe Julie came over to tell me she's not going to that damn reunion, he was thinking. Before he could react, the man at his door stuck a hypodermic needle in Tully's chest and pushed the plunger. Tully grabbed the man and started to beat on him. Three others jumped in and the battle was on.
Got to finish this, Tully thought as he fought the four men. He was giving as good as he got but he could feel the effects of whatever was in that shot affecting him. Tully threw one of his assailants against the wall and grabbed another man's head and was just about to twist the guy's neck so he'd be looking over his shoulder but the others wrestled Tully to the floor. Very little time passed before the drug turned Tully into a zombie.
Now, lying on what felt like a cold tile floor over concrete, Tully was on his side with his hands tied behind him and trying to decide which one of the four men he would kill first. They've got me trussed up like a hog tied steer, he thought. Smells like we're on the riverfront. Probably one of those old buildings north of Laclede's Landing. The sound of a tugboat's loud fog horn could be heard. Yep on the river, Tully thought. He took a closer look at the four men who jumped him.
The apparent leader was a Hispanic, who the others call Jorge. The other three were a black man, Tyrone, an Asian, Chang, and a white guy, Tommy. They each wore a satin jacket with a large circle embroidered on the back and a smaller one over the left breast in front; in the center of each circle were the script letters SLRC. Strange mix for a gang, Tully thought. He must have grunted or something because Jorge came over to check on him.
"Back with us old man?" Jorge bent and checked the ropes on Tully.
"I'm gonna show you old man when I get loose," Tully replied.
"Like you did before?" The young man laughed and kicked Tully in the side.
"You drugged me or I wouldn't be here." Tully's eyes were hard and cold. "I'm gonna rip off your arm and beat you to death with it boy."
Jorge saw the look in Tully's eyes and in spite of the "old man" being tied up, stepped back. "Shut this old fool up," he ordered. Tommy came over, stuffed a dirty piece of cloth into Tully's mouth and used a strip of duct tape to keep the gag in place.
The four men gathered in the middle of the room and talked among themselves, ignoring Tully for the time being. Rolling closer to the wall behind him, Tully managed to get into a seated position and leaned back. Tyrone watched their captive until he was sure Tully wasn't trying anything. After a few minutes, Tully let his chin droop down onto his chest as if he was sleeping.
The group's voice rose in an argument. "Pipe down," Tommy said in a stage whisper voice. "The old man will hear us."
"Like what's he gonna do," Chang said. "He's under control and pretty soon he'll give us what we want." Chang looked at Jorge. "Then we can get rid of him. Right?"
"Not until we get the weapons in our hands and get away," Jorge answered and then he smiled. "Then you can have him Chang."
In spite of his appearance, Tully was paying close attention to the discussion. Weapons? He asked himself. Must be something to do with the Academy.
"When are we gonna get the guns?" Tyrone asked.
"My guy says the full autos aren't prepped yet," Jorge answered. "He said they are packed in Cosmoline."
"It's a sort of a gel, like Vaseline, only thicker. They use it to rust proof guns and it's a bitch to get off. So we'll let the boys at Missouri Tactical clean em up and then we'll take them."
"This guy you talk about, who is he?" It was Tommy asking.
"Name's Brian Davis; he owes me money. It was either help us or go to the hospital; maybe even to the morgue. After the deal with Delgato fell though, I contacted Brian." Jorge smiled and added, "All we have to do now is wait. Soon as the guns are prepped, we'll force this old fool to give us the security codes to get into the building. It'll be just like shopping in a grocery store. Maybe we can call it 'Guns or Us'."
So that's what they wanted me for, Tully thought. Jorge my friend, Tully said silently, you'll play hell getting those codes.
Driving his old beat up truck, Rollie parked in front of Calvin's "pawn shop" on Chouteau Avenue. The area was a run down, inner city slum, with many boarded up stores and houses. Glad I didn't drive the Vette, Rollie thought, observing the less than upstanding residents hanging out on the street.
He saw, what the politically incorrect, would call a wino, leaning against the front of Calvin's place. He was eyeing the old truck; his thoughts of scoring enough for alcohol apparent on his face. Rollie walked over to the man, took a $20 bill out of his pocket and tore it in half. "Tell anybody that gets around my truck that it's not worth dying for," Rollie said and slid back his jacket showing his Glock 21C.
He handed half of the twenty to the man. "If nobody bothers my truck, I'll give you the other half when I come back." The wino stood up straighter, took the half of the bill and nodded. He walked over and leaned against a light pole near the truck, looking like a mangy guard dog.
"Hey Rollie," Calvin called out a greeting from the back of his shop. He saw the serious look on Rollie's face and swallowed the smart ass remark he'd intended to make.
"Heard anything Calvin?" Rollie didn't return his CI's greeting or the smile; he wasn't in the mood to be social able.
"No hello, no how are you, nothing," Calvin replied. He saw Rollie's eyes get hard and quickly added, "Yeah, heard a couple of things."
"Sorry Calvin," Rollie said. "I guess I'm running a little hot right now." He walked over and shook Calvin's hand. "So what did you hear?"
"Haven't heard anything about Tully, still got the word out on him. But something else interesting popped up. You know Anonymous Andy?" Rollie nodded his head. "He tolt me a guy came to see him lookin to score some guns. Not a gun, but guns.
Andy is like me, we don't deal in that shit. Jewels, paintings, silver service, yeah but not guns; too dangerous for my blood." Rollie waited, not too patiently and motioned for Calvin to get to the point.
"Andy said he tolt the guy to check with a cat named John Delgato; he's got that place down the street from Union Station. It's called Mississippi Nights; he owns the place and does his business out of the back room. You know the place I mean?"
"Yeah, used to be a good place to listen to blues," Rollie answered. "But with Union Station going downhill the whole area has gotten a little rough."
"Delgato was tryin to put a deal together but he needed time to get the goods. The buyer reneged on the deal and booked. Seems he didn't want to wait so long and word is, Delgato was tryin to clear enough to retire on." Calvin reached under the counter and pulled out a bottle of good bourbon. He sat two glasses on the counter and motioned with the bottle to Rollie. Getting a nod, he poured the drinks. Calvin took a sip. "Don't know the buyer, neither does Andy"
"Only his name. From what I hear, his father was some kind of big shot along the Mexican border in Texas; El Paso I think. Anyway he came to St. Louis after some guy and met a woman. They had a thing and Delgato was the result."
"His father still in the picture?"
"Nope. Father's dead. He found the guy he was lookin for. Seems his machismo crap from Texas wasn't such a big deal after all."
"I bet this Delgato knows the buyer," Rollie offered. "And he might just be a little pissed that the buyer jumped ship on him." Rollie paused in thought and then said, "I think it's time I paid Mr. Delgato a visit." Rollie finished his drink, thanked Calvin and turned to leave. As he got to the door, Calvin called out.
"Rollie, be careful. This Delgato cat is the real deal; he's not like his father. He might not like you askin questions."
"Don't much care if he does. I've got a feeling that Tully got involved some way with that gun deal. Delgato will tell me what he knows or he won't be doing business in St. Louis again; maybe he won't be doing business, period."
Calvin had seen Rollie agitated and involved before but he'd never seen him this intense; or angry. He'd never seen Rollie's eyes so hard and deadly looking. I feel sorry for Delgato if he gives Rollie any crap. He waved at Rollie as he left the shop.
Rollie's truck was untouched and unharmed. Walking over to the derelict, Rollie handed him the other half of the $20 bill. "Good job man," he said and climbed into his truck.
Rollie drove into the parking area at the west end of Union Station, got out of his truck, and walked further west along Market Street. Union station had at one time been the world's largest and busiest train station; handling over 100 thousand passengers a day. The main part of the building was constructed out of Indiana limestone and was a National Historic Landmark.
As railroad traffic declined the building fell into disrepair, but in the 1980's was renovated into a large hotel, with shops and restaurants. Now, better than 20 years later, the grand old building and the surrounding area were again headed toward the seedy side.
The spray from the huge fountain in Aloe Plaza across Market from Union Station caused Rollie to duck his head as he walked. Strangely, in spite of developing blight in the area, neither Union Station nor Aloe Plaza had been plagued by graffiti artist or taggers as they were called. A lot of people called them vandals.
Entering Mississippi Nights, Rollie stepped to the side of the door to let his eyes get accustom to the low light of the bar. He saw a door with an "office" sign at the end of the long carved wooden bar. In front of the door stood what could have passed for a big bear. The guard was about 6' 7 and as nearly big around as he was tall.
Rollie walked toward the door and tried to step around the Grizzle Bear. "This is private, you can't go in there," the big man said as he stepped in front of Rollie.
Pulling out a $20 bill, Rollie handed it to the guard. "Tell Mr. Delgato, that Rollie Chambers would appreciate a few minutes of his time. Tell him I've got a business proposition."
The guard made the twenty disappear and turned toward the door. "Wait here," he ordered. In less than five minutes the man returned. "Mr. Delgato is busy. He says to come back another time and maybe he'll talk to you."
Rollie sighed and shook his head. He tried to walk around the guard and go through the door, but the man put his big hand on Rollie's shoulder to stop him. Rollie, using the training he'd gotten from the St. Louis Police Department and his friend Tully, grabbed the hand and twisted it inward.
As he twisted with his right hand, his left pushed against the elbow which forced the giant to his knees. The man was cussing and yelling in pain; Rollie reached over and slapped the guard over the ear with his palm. The big man used his uninjured hand over his ear.
"I'm here now, so I guess it would be better if I could see him tonight," Rollie said.
The tone of Rollie's voice, the look in his eyes and the easy way Rollie had put him down, made the big man decide that he could be brave another day. He just watched as Rollie went through the door.
"Thanks for your help," Rollie said as he closed the door behind him.
"Who the hell are you?" The man sitting behind a desk asked when Rollie entered the office. Another behemoth, leaning against the back wall, straightened and started to pull a pistol out of his waistband. Rollie drew his Glock 21C with a speed that would have done justice to an old time western pistolero.
"That's not a good idea," Rollie said and pointed the Glock in the man's direction; the man raised his hands and returned to leaning against the wall. Turning back to the man at the desk he holstered his gun and said, "You must be Mr. Delgato; I'm Rollie Chambers and I'd like a few minutes of your time."
"I've heard about you," Delgato replied. Motioning toward Rollie's pistol he said, "I think you won't use that." Delgato smiled. "You're one of the good guys."
Rollie stared at the man for a few seconds and the smile faded from Delgato's face. The only thing Hispanic about Delgato was his name; the man had blond hair and pale blue eyes. "Normally you'd be right John; I don't shoot people for no reason. But this isn't a normal time. If you don't answer my questions I'll put a bullet in your knee. Each time you refuse to answer, I'll find another spot to shoot you."
The guard leaning against the wall stood up straight again. "Better tell him to leave, because if he moves again you'll be short a man."
Delgato decided that Rollie wasn't bluffing and motioned his man out of the room. Rollie took a straight back chair and lodged it under the doorknob. Then he did the same to the door leading outside.
"Now we can talk uninterrupted," Rollie said.
"What'da you want Chambers?"
"And here I thought we were on a first name basis John. Oh well. About a month ago you had a weapons deal fall through."
"How'd you know that?" Rollie waved for Delgato to continue. "Yeah, I did. The bastards wanted the guns like right now and they didn't want to pay for the special handling." While he was talking, Delgato slowly, as if by accident, moved his hand toward a desk drawer and the pistol hidden inside.
"John, don't be stupid," Rollie ordered. Delgato leaned back in his chair. Rollie nodded and said, "Better. The way I heard it you couldn't get the guns as quickly as they wanted and you tried to make a year's profit on that one deal." Delgato started to respond and Rollie motioned for him to be quiet.
"I don't really care why the deal went south. What I do care about is who the buyer or buyers were." Rollie gave Delgato an evil, menacing grin. "Think you could give me that info John?"
Delgato hesitated and then slumped in his chair. He believed Rollie's threats. "Four guys, cat named Jorge and one named Tommy did all the talking; the other two didn't say nothing."
"Descriptions please," Rollie requested.
Delgato described the four men. "Funny thing, Jorge is Hispanic, Tommy is a white guy, and the other two were a black and an Asian. Never saw a group like that."
"Anything else about them; scars, tattoos?"
"Jorge's got a spider web tattoo on his neck. You know one of those macho, barrio type things. Macho my ass, my old man had one too, and look what it got him." Delgato's eyes sort of lost focus as he thought about his father. Shaking himself, he looked back at Rollie. "One other thing, they all wore the same kind of jacket. Satin or something shiny with a circle on the back; they had the letters SLRC inside the circle."
"Any idea what it means." Rollie asked.
"I asked Jorge about it; he said the letters stood for St. Louis Rainbow Coalition. He didn't say what that meant."
"One more question John. What type and how many guns did they want?"
"They wanted semi auto .45s and 9MMs. But the thing that torpedoed the deal was the full autos they wanted." Rollie motioned for Delgato to continue. "They wanted 10 fully automatic assault rifles and a couple of HK MP 5s. Those would have taken some time to get and Jorge didn't want to wait. Cheap bastard didn't want to pay the price for them either."
"I was wrong; I've got another question. Did they give the reason they wanted an arsenal like that?"
Delgato nodded. "Tommy said something about their gang takin over the South Side. Then Jorge said there was a new sheriff in town and laughed like hell." The gun dealer looked at Rollie for several seconds. "I know you used to be with the police. "You gonna get the cops down on me?"
"The other rackets you've got going, the prostitution, gambling and such, isn't my concern; that's the police department's job." Rollie stepped closer to Delgato. "But the gun running impacts the whole city, including my neighborhood. I suggest you get out of that business. If you don't, I won't call the cops; I'll deal with you myself. We understand each other?" Delgato hesitated and then nodded.