Monday, June 5, 2017

#FreeDailyThriller - Lust, Money & Murder - Book 10, "Black Widow" - Part 56

Chapter 65

When Luna had answered the annoying phone call from Dmitry that morning, her mouth had been full of toothpaste. He had called at six a.m., Atlanta time, and their short conversation had left her in an irritable, agitated frame of mind.
The man’s eccentricities drove her crazy. His aversion to hotels, his constant desire to “sleep in jeep,” and always referring to Elaine as “Janyet,” even though he knew damn well that name was only an alias she’d used a long time ago. Sometimes, she thought he was doing it just to get under her skin.
But she knew that she was actually keyed up about confronting Lonnie Hendrix, who, hopefully, she would finally meet face-to-face in less than an hour.
It was now seven-fifteen. Luna was in her rental car, heading towards Dawsonville. Last night, Burt had showed her where Hendrix’s trailer was located, off a twisty gravel road about two miles north of Gainesville. She had taken Burt straight back to Sandy Springs and dropped him off at his car. She wasn’t about to step onto Lonnie Hendrix’s property in the middle of the night, with no body armor, a single pistol with no extra ammo, and no backup. She had learned through her experience at the FBI that the best time to show up at a criminal’s abode was just after dawn, when there was plenty of light and the suspect was either still soundly asleep, or better yet, hung over. So she had waited until morning.
 By the time Luna reached the gravel road that led to the trailer, the sun was up and shining brightly in a hazy early morning sky. While still a quarter mile away, Luna stopped momentarily and pulled her pistol from her holster, turned off the safety, and laid it on the passenger seat in a position where she could quickly grab it if she needed it.
As she continued along the road, patches of fog hung on either side of it, briefly obscuring her view—there was farmland all around, with leafless trees lining the fences.
The gravel road took a sharp left. She finally spotted the trailer itself, just as Burt had described it, set back about one hundred feet from the road, with a long, rutty dirt driveway. A pair of greenhouses were to the right of the trailer, separated by a fence, which were apparently part of a neighboring farm.
As she rolled up to the trailer, she could see that there were no cars or other vehicles in front or behind—it looked like Lonnie Hendrix wasn’t home, not that she was one hundred percent sure that he even lived here anymore.
 Some junk was scattered around the front of the dwelling—a rusty bicycle chained to a stack of concrete blocks, broken down charcoal grill, and a stack of four decaying automobile tires.
Luna parked the car. After holstering her gun, she got out, glanced around, then climbed up the short row of steps to the door. Leaning as far as she could to the right of the door to avoid getting shot, she started to knock, but looked down and noticed the door was actually cracked open about a half inch.
She knocked anyway, the tap of her knuckles swinging it open a little.
“Mister Hendrix?” she called uneasily.
She gently pushed the door open wider. It gave a slow, ominous squeak.
She found herself looking into the trailer’s living room, with the kitchen also visible. All the curtains were closed but the early morning sun was hitting them, throwing enough light into the rooms to see fairly well.
Luna drew her gun. “Mister Hendrix?” she called out again, louder.
There was still no sound except the hum of the refrigerator. The living room looked normal enough—an imitation leather couch, two easy chairs, a TV set...
There was a stack of mail on the kitchen counter. Flyers and bills—a past due electric bill was on top. Without touching anything, Luna turned her head to look at the name in the address box.
Mr. Lawrence Kavanaugh.
This is it, Luna thought. I’ve got him!
She quietly turned and advanced down the hallway towards the other rooms in the trailer, both hands on her pistol, holding it ahead of herself.
“Mister Hendrix?” she called once more. Her nostrils flared as she inhaled, checking the air for the smell of a decaying body. The air was stale and dusty, but otherwise inoffensive.
When she reached the bathroom, she swung her gun inside and aimed it around, but the room was clear. She glanced down at the sink, and looked behind the shower curtain, into the bathroom—everything was dry as a bone. She had the feeling Lonnie Hendrix might not have been home for several days.
She went back out into the hall and slowly continued into the bedroom, but stopped short at the door.
The room looked like it had been ransacked. Almost all the dresser drawers had been thrown wide open.
But then, just beyond the end of the bed, Luna spotted a cowboy boot. It was turned sideways, with only the underside of the sole and ankle portion visible.
“Mister Hendrix?” she said. Her throat now felt like it was coated with cotton.
When she inched her way further into the room, she saw that it was only a boot, with no leg attached, thank god, its mate tossed haphazardly next to it on the floor.
The room had not been searched, she realized—Lonnie Hendrix had packed up and left in a big hurry.
She holstered her gun and moved quickly about the space, glancing around, taking it all in. Some of the drawers had been emptied. There were no suitcases anywhere.
Then she stopped just short of one of the nightstands.
On the carpet beneath it lay a single shotgun shell, unused.
She touched it with the tip of her own boot, rolling it over.
Luna went back into the bathroom and noticed that virtually everything one would usually find in a normal bathroom was gone—no toothbrushes or toothpaste, no shampoo bottles in the shower. Just a sliver of soap.
Hendrix must have been warned that somebody was looking for him, Luna thought. Maybe one of the many people she had questioned this week…but it might have been Tutter.
She wondered if Hendrix had gone away carrying a loaded shotgun, ready to kill whoever was after him.
Luna went back into the living room, glanced around, and then noticed the telephone and the answering machine next to it.
She stepped over and looked at the display on the device.
Fourteen messages waiting!
Luna pushed the PLAY button.
The first message, received almost a week ago, was a hang-up.
So was the second.
And third, the fourth, the fifth...
Somebody was trying to reach Lonnie and kept slamming the receiver down.
Luna watched the number in the display slowly decrease until there was only one message left.
The machine’s speaker crackled to life so unexpectedly in the silent trailer that Luna jumped.
“Goddam you, why aren’t you answering your phone?” a voice screamed hoarsely. The man had an accent that was so familiar to her—a Pittsburgh accent.
It was Thomas Tutter.
There were a few seconds of heavy breathing. “Now you listen to me, you son-of-a-bitch! Some fedral agent came nosin’ around my house askin’ know what.” Tutter paused, as if having trouble controlling his rage. “You have to get lost, and fast, and I mean real lost! In fact you better leave the damn country! I kept my mouth shut about everything, but if she finds out what we done, it’s all on your ass! Do you understand me? It was your deal—she even knows about that item you left behind.”
He means the cardboard tube, Luna thought.
“I’m not gonna fry for you, Lonnie, do you understand me?” Tutter hesitated, breathing hard, as if he was about to finish the sentence, but then just slammed the phone down.
There was a beep indicating the end of the message.
It had come two days after she had been to Brownsville and questioned Tutter.
Luna stood there in the trailer, her heart racing from the frantic tone in Tutter’s voice, trying to think of what to do next.
Thomas Tutter could be in serious danger, she thought. Hendrix might very well try to silence him.
It only took her a second to decide she had to warn him no matter what impact it might have on the investigation.
Luna pulled out her phone and immediately called Tutter’s landline. It rang and rang. Finally there was a click. “Hello, this is Thomas, unavailable now, please leave a message. Thanks.” Beep.
Luna hesitated, but of course she couldn’t risk leaving a message on Tutter’s machine. Hendrix might find it the same way Luna had just found Tutter’s message.
She didn’t have Tutter’s cell phone number, but she could get it easily enough.

* * *
Five minutes later, Luna was back in the car, speeding down the gravel road in the direction of the nearest ramp onto I-85, on the phone with one of the administrative assistants at the Secret Service office in Lyon. Before leaving Hendrix’s trailer, she had recorded Tutter’s message on her phone. She thought there might be older messages on the answering machine that could be retrieved by a tech, messages that could be incriminating.  But due to search and seizure laws, she couldn’t risk taking the answering machine itself. It was risky enough just entering his trailer without a warrant.  She had merely made sure the trailer door was locked when she left and hoped that the machine would still be there when a proper warrant was obtained.
“Yes, that’s right,” Luna said over the phone, to the assistant in France. “Thomas James Tutter, Junior...” She read off Tutter’s driver’s license number and home address on Water Street in Brownsville, PA so that they could get his cell phone number, assuming he had one. “I need that ASAP, it’s an emergency.”
When she reached the on-ramps to I-85 north and south, she pulled over to the side of the road, unsure of how to proceed. She had to think this through.
Now she realized she had almost made a serious mistake herself—in her own panic, she had jumped to the conclusion that Lonnie Hendrix had fled the trailer in a reaction to Tutter’s message, but there was no evidence of that. In fact, he might have left before he’d received it, for some other reason. That would explain why he hadn’t taken the answering machine with him.
After a couple of minutes the administrative assistant in Lyon called back with Tutter’s cell number, and she punched it into her phone immediately.
The phone on the other end rang three times and she was transferred to Tutter’s voicemail.
“Damn it,” she muttered. She sat there on the side of the road for another minute, considering calling the Brownsville police or the county sheriff’s department and sending someone to warn Tutter...but that would open a whole new can of worms.
She decided she needed to go back to Pittsburgh herself. She could warn Tutter and also interrogate him much more aggressively about Lonnie Hendrix, play the damn message for him on the machine if necessary. From that message it was clear that he and Lonnie Hendrix had worked together to murder Elaine’s father—it was possible that Tutter had met with Spyro Leandrou himself. This was her chance to press Tutter and offer him lighter treatment if he could finger Leandrou as the contractor, or get Lonnie Hendrix to do it. And Tutter could help her reel in Hendrix, too.
She started to pull onto I-85 but hesitated, wondering if she could make it to Pittsburgh faster by plane...but it would take at least an hour and a half just to reach Atlanta’s busy airport, and to slog through the city’s world-famous road traffic, probably much longer. Not to mention buying a ticket to get her boarding pass, going through security, and all the other hassles associated with air travel these days.
If she drove fast, she could make it to Brownsville, PA in six hours.
She pulled onto the I-85 north on ramp following the signs for Greensville-Spartanburg. Fortunately, traffic was very light in this relatively remote part of Georgia. Reaching over into the glove compartment, she pulled out the blue dash strobe, which she’d brought from France, plugged it into the cigarette lighter, and turned it on.
She floored the accelerator and didn’t let up until the little economy car was roaring along at one hundred and ten miles per hour.
She gave Tutter’s cell phone another try but without success.

Next Part =>

If you would like to receive an email notifying you the moment each new part of this book is published, with a link directly to the post, click here.

If you would like to buy the ebook so that you can read it in full on your own device,  at your leisure, you can order it here on Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Google Play, and Smashwords.

No comments:

Post a Comment