Tuesday, January 27, 2015
"Breath of the Undead" [PG-13] - 9/15
"BREATH OF THE UNDEAD"
Darryl leaned back into his chair and sighed. "Murdered. Cole thinks that Ronald Wong may have been murdered before becoming a vampire? By someone else?"
"That's right." Olivia sat down in one of the empty chairs next to her partner's desk.
Shaking his head in confusion, Darryl remarked, "I don't get it. Didn't you and Scott say that a Chinese vampire can't turn his victim into another vampire?"
Olivia sighed. "European vampires can turn their victims into vampires through a blood transfusion. It's different for Chinese vampires. They can't. A chiang shi is created in other ways. If a person suffers from a violent and sudden death, lack of proper burial or a curse, he or she will become a chiang shi. Ron Wong was in good health right before his . . . death. He didn't die from an accident. His car was found in his driveway. So, Cole and I came to the conclusion that he may have been murdered. By someone other than a vampire."
Another sigh left Darryl's mouth. "Well, that's just great. That means that we'll definitely have the FBI breathing down our necks."
"Yeah, I heard that he was one of the Department of Justice's prosecutors for the Curt Decker case." Olivia paused. "I guess you know who Curt Decker's father is - Maxmillian Decker of Decker Enterprises. The family owns the Lange Vineyards not far from the Giovanni Vineyards, near Oakville."
Darryl nodded. "Yeah, and I also know why Curt Decker is on trial. He's facing charges of drug manufacturing and trafficking. The Feds believe that he had a small operation on his daddy's ranch. Mr. Decker might be involved, as well."
A thought occurred to Olivia. "If Ronald Wong had been murdered, is it possible that someone in connection to the Decker case killed him? Of course . . ." she paused, ". . . I don't see how. I mean, Ron wasn't the primary prosecutor. Right?"
"John Reyes is," Darryl answered. "Wong was merely a . . ."
The police lieutenant broke off, as a grim-faced Scott appeared in the doorway. "Guess what? Another body has been found. In the parking garage near the Monadnock Building." Scott paused dramatically. "Same M.O. as Jai, Remar and Alamdar."
Both Olivia and Darryl rose to their feet. The latter grabbed his overcoat. "Look, Scott, Carlotta and I will check this new body," he said to Olivia. "I want you and Marcus to look into Ronald Wong's disappearance. Maybe one of the neighbors saw something."
"Sure thing," Olivia replied with a nod, as she followed Darryl out of his office.
Clutching his backpack, Alonzo Giovanni slowly walked out of Stanford University's Green Library and nearly collided with a man and a woman dressed in dark suits. He flashed a brief frown at the pair and stepped aside to continue his trek. To his surprise, the pair again blocked his path. Only this time, they did it deliberately.
"Excuse me," the young student retorted. "Do you mind?" He tried to continue walking, but the pair refused to step out of the way. "What the hell?"
The woman, a light-brown haired woman in her late thirties flashed a badge. "Pardon me, Mr. Giovanni. I'm Special Agent Alicia Black of the FBI. This is Special Agent Roger Hamill. We need to talk to you about the Curt Decker case."
Panic struck within Alonzo's chest. For several seconds, he wondered if the FBI had discovered his investment into Curt's little operation . . . like the mysterious caller, who has been blackmailing him. Projecting a coolness he did not feel, Curt sardonically replied, "Sorry, but I don't follow the news that closely."
"That's odd," Agent Hamill commented. His dark eyes bored into Alonzo's. "Considering that Curt Decker happens to be a close friend of yours."
Coolly, Alonzo shot back, "Not anymore. I don't hang around with drug dealers. Now, if you'll excuse me." But the Federal agents refused to move. "Look, if you don't let me go, I'll call my attorney and sue your ass for harassment!"
"Mr. Giovanni, we would simply like to ask you a few questions," Agent Black merely said.
Alonzo struggled to maintain his temper and not panic at the same time. "Look, I don't know anything!"
Agent Hamill shot back, "I suppose that you don't know anything about Decker's attorney, Dean Corbin?"
"What about him?"
The two agents exchanged wary glances before the female agent answered, "His body was found near his car, earlier this morning." Alonzo stared at Agent Hamill in shock. "Are you able to answer a few questions, now?"
Around the same time, a pale-looking Janet Hui entered Cole's office, carrying two thick accordion files. "I'm sorry that I took so long, Mr. Turner. I was in Mr. Kline's office." She paused before taking a deep breath. "He, uh . . . it was about Ron. I guess that word had got around."
Cole nodded. "I understand. You can put the files on my desk." Janet did as he had suggested. The half-daemon continued, "Right now, I have a few matters to clear up before I can begin on the Macmillan case. However, I would like you to set up an appointment for the both of us to see her, tomorrow." He paused, as he glanced at Janet with concern. "Are you up to it?"
"Yeah. Sure." Janet flashed a wan smile. "I think I need work to get my mind off . . ." She let out a gust of breath. Her eyes flickered momentarily. "To get my mind off Ron." Shaking her head, she added, "I just can't believe that he's a vampire." She frowned at Cole. "And you . . . are you a . . . witch? Like Harry and his family?"
Cole contemplated an answer to the question and wondered how Janet would react to the truth. "Uh, no. No, I'm not. However . . . I do know magic. Some would call me a sorcerer, instead of a witch, since I'm not an initiated priest."
A hint of unease gleamed in Janet's dark eyes. "So, you know all about magic? Do you . . .?"
". . . use magic to win cases?" Cole finished, fully anticipating the junior associate's question. His face grew hard. "No, I don't. If I did, I would have never lost the Fujikowa case."
Repentance softened Janet's expression. "Sorry. I should have remembered about Harry. I had once asked him the same question about his dad's business. He nearly bit off my head."
"It's okay. I can understand why you would ask." Cole reached for one of the accordion files. One of his telephone lines buzzed. He answered it. "Yes?"
His legal assistant replied, "I'm sorry to interrupt you, Mr. Turner. Alonzo Giovanni is on Line Three."
It took a great effort on Cole's part not to heave a loud sigh. "Exactly what does he want to speak to me about?" As if he did not know.
A pause followed before Eleanor answered, "Uh . . . he said that it was a private matter."
"Well, tell Mr. Giovanni that I'll talk to him, later. I'm in the middle of an . . ." He flashed a knowing smile at Janet. ". . . important meeting with another client."
Eleanor mumbled, "Yes, Mr. Turner." And the telephone line went dead.
Janet frowned. "Was that Mark Giovanni's son?"
With a contemptuous roll of his eyes, Cole answered, "Unfortunately . . . yes. He probably wanted my help in maintaining a bad habit of his - spending too much money."
"It's funny," Janet continued, with a shake of her head. "Ron had suggested to Reyes that they should subpoena Alonzo Giovanni for the Curt Decker trial."
Her words took Cole by surprise. "Wait a minute. Ron? You mean your . . . uh, boyfriend? The one who's missing? He was involved in the Curt Decker trial?"
Janet nodded. "He is . . . was one of the prosecutors. So you know that that your client's son . . ."
". . . Alonzo was friends with Curt Decker?" Cole nodded. "Yes, I do. I had to accompany that little sh. . . Giovanni's son to the local FBI office, last October. John Reyes wanted to question him about Decker."
Janet asked, "Do you think that Alonzo Giovanni knew about Decker's drug operation?"
"Who knows?" Cole replied with a shrug. "He seemed surprised about Decker's arrest and the charges. But if your friend is . . . dead, there is a possibility that the Decker case might be the reason." Janet stared at him with wide eyes. "Just a thought."
Inside the semi-lit parking structure, the three police officers watched the paramedics load the dead body upon a gurney. Just as the two medics prepared to wheel the body toward a van marked CORONER, voices echoed throughout the lot. Darryl glanced up and saw two men rush toward the body.
"Wait! Wait a minute!" cried one man. Darryl recognized him as FBI Special Agent Lee Alvarez. The other man, he decided, must be Alvarez's partner, Jay Ruhl.
His hands tucked inside his coat pockets, Darryl asked in a nonchalant manner, "May I help you fellas?"
"We'd like to see that body," Alvarez replied in a hard voice. "Now."
Sneering, Scott retorted, "Why should we bother? I have a feeling that you guys already know who's underneath the sheet."
Ruhl fixed Scott with a challenging stare. "We don't have time to deal with local cops who are out of their depths. I suggest you stand back and let us handle this."
"We will 'all' handle this," Darryl firmly added.
Alvarez took a deep breath. "Look Morris, I'm sorry but this is now a Federal case. Especially since we believe that this victim might be Dean Corbin, the defense attorney in the Curt Decker case. Which happens to be Federal."
Darryl nodded. "You're right. The victim has been identified as Dean Corbin. However, we believe that his death may be linked to the body found in Ronald Wong's driveway." He paused dramatically. "Along with two other bodies found earlier this week. All four deaths have the same M.O."
"In that case, we'll handle this case," Alvarez coolly replied. "So, if you and your detectives will just . . ."
"Not so fast," Darryl insisted. The two Federal agents bridled with impatience. "Whomever is responsible for Dean Corbin's death and the body in Ronald Wong's driveway, is also responsible for the deaths of Kenneth Jai and Bernard Remar. Are those two connected in any way with the Decker case?" When the two FBI agents failed to answer his question, Darryl continued, "I see. So, either we all work together on this case or we'll conduct our own investigation. Whether you like it or not."
While Ruhl began to grind his teeth, Alvarez heaved a large sigh. "Fine. We work together. But if we do find out that Jai and Remar are connected to the Decker case, we will assume full jurisdiction over this case."
"Fine," Darryl replied with a nonchalant shrug.
The two agents responded with curt nods and walked away. As the three police officers watched their retreating figures, Carlotta said, "I noticed that you didn't mention anything about Olivia and Marcus digging further into Ronald Wong's disappearance."
Darryl allowed himself a brief smile. "Must have slipped my mind." Then he turned on his heels, leaving behind two gaping subordinates.
Olivia handed a sheet of paper to her colleague. "Here. This is a list of four addresses on this street."
"Four?" Marcus stared at the sheet of paper in his hand.
"We had tried to interview as many neighbors as we could when Ron Wong was reported missing," Olivia continued. "But eight of them weren't home at the time. Maybe we'll have better luck, this afternoon." Both she and Marcus climbed out of the car parked on Tenth Avenue. "Good luck."
Ignoring Marcus' grumbling, Olivia walked across the street. She approached a two-story, gray clapboard house and knocked on its front door. Nearly a minute later, the door swung open. A tall, elderly woman with steely gray eyes stared at her. "Good day, Mrs. . .?"
"Who are you?" the elderly woman demanded sharply.
Olivia flashed her police badge. "Inspector Olivia Turner, San Francisco Police. I'm investigating the disappearance of one of your neighbors - Ronald Wong. He lives across . . ."
"I know him," the woman curtly interrupted. "The young Chinese man, in the dark green house, across the street. He lives with his girlfriend." Her eyes narrowed. "He's disappeared, you say?"
Smiling politely, Olivia replied, "Yes, Mrs. . .?"
"Mrs. Jamelia Kolchek," the woman finished. She relaxed slightly. "I heard that a body had been found in his driveway."
Olivia nodded. "That's right. A Mr. Jan Alamdar. He also lives on this street."
"Maybe Mr. Wong had killed Mr. Alamdar and disappeared," Mrs. Kolchek suggested. "Ran off with another woman." She gave Olivia a cool stare. "But you don't think that, do you?"
After a brief hesitation, Olivia decided to be discreet. "I suppose that's possible," she said. "However, Mr. Wong's car is still in the driveway. I guess I can't see him leaving his car behind after killing Mr. Alamdar or running away with another woman."
Mrs. Kolchek shrugged her shoulders. "I guess you have a point. Mr. Kolchek didn't leave his car behind when he left me." She sighed loudly.
Feeling slightly embarrassed, Olivia immediately changed the subject. "Speaking of Mr. Wong, did you see him on the day before yesterday?"
"No, I didn't," Mrs. Kolchek primly replied. "But then I'm not nosy like some people." She sniffed.
O-kay. "So, do you have a nosy neighbor on this street?"
Mrs. Kolchek sniffed again. "Well . . . I don't like to speak ill of anyone, but . . ." She paused dramatically. "I think that Mr. Shea is something of a Peeping Tom . . . if you know what I mean."
Olivia frowned, as she checked her list of addresses. "Mr. Shea? Where does he live?"
"At 6015," Mrs. Kolchek answered. "Two houses to my left. And his name is Thomas Shea."
"Thomas Shea." Olivia gave the older woman a quick nod. "Thank you for your time, Mrs. Kolchek."
The elderly woman sniffed one last time. "Glad to help. I hope that you find Mr. Wong."
Olivia smiled and turned away from the woman. Next stop . . . the home of Thomas Shea. She rang the doorbell of a two-story tan Victorian manor. After three rings, the front door finally opened. Olivia found herself facing a pale, balding man in his mid-fifties of medium height and protruding pale blue eyes that regarded her with barely concealed lust. "Thomas Shea? I'm Inspector Turner of the San Francisco P.D."
A sheen of sweat broke across Mr. Shea's large forehead. The lust in his eyes disappeared. "The police? Oh! Uh . . ." His eyes shifted nervously. "Um, did someone call about . . ."
"I'm investigating the disappearance of one of your neighbors - Ronald Wong," Olivia explained. "He lives across the street at 6012."
Mr. Shea's rounded shoulders sagged with relief. "Oh yes! Mr. Wong. When I heard about his disappearance, I meant to call the police."
"Oh?" Olivia wondered if she had hit pay dirt. "Why?"
After clearing his throat, Mr. Shea continued, "I didn't exactly see what happened to Mr. Wong, you understand. It was at night. But I recall seeing a strange car parked near his home. A silver Lexus. It had been parked there for nearly forty minutes. Then I saw Mr. Wong's car pull into his driveway. A blond man climb out of the Lexus and approach him." He paused.
Olivia frowned. "What happened next?"
Mr. Shea took a deep breath. "Uh, the phone rang. It . . . it was my brother, Ritchie. Our aunt, who lives in San Jose, had a stroke. When I returned to the window, I saw the Lexus drive away."
"Why didn't you tell the police about this?" Olivia demanded.
"My aunt. I had just returned from San Jose only a few hours ago."
Olivia scribbled the last of Mr. Shea's information on a notebook. "By the way, Mr. Shea . . . did you notice anything unusual about the Lexus or the blond man?"
Mr. Shea squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. "Well . . . he was rather tall. The blond man. About at least six-feet one. And I saw just a little of his license plate as he drove away."
A suspicious thought entered Olivia's mind. "You saw all this at night? You must have x-ray vision."
Looking slightly embarrassed, Mr. Shea murmured, "Um, more like infra-red binoculars. I had ordered a pair from this . . ."
Olivia held up one hand, interrupting the man. "Please, Mr. Shea. Let's not go there." She sighed. "You said that you had seen part of the license plate?"
"Yes," the older man said with a nod. "Um . . ." He closed his eyes again. Then . . . "I got it. Six-seven-two." He opened his eyes. "That's all I saw."
After scribbling the information on her notepad, Olivia replied, "Thank you, Mr. Shea. You've been very helpful."
Olivia paused, as she turned to walk away. "Oh, one last thing, Mr. Shea." She gave him a piercing stare. "I suggest that you consider using those binoculars of yours for less private matters. Like bird watching. Understand?"
Mr. Shea's face became deathly white. "Ye-yes, of course. Of course. Thank you. For the suggestion."
The redhead shot one last smile at the man and walked away. She caught up with her colleague, as he was about to approach another house. "Hey Marcus! How is it going?"
With a sigh, Marcus replied, "Difficult. I had a close encounter with a forty-something widow, who wanted to do more than just talk." Olivia held back a snicker. "However, one neighbor did see a silver Nexus parked in front of Miss Hui and Mr. Wong's house that night."
"I did better. A Mr. Thomas Shea had not only seen the silver Nexus, he saw the man who drove it, approach Ronald Wong. And he saw part of the car's license plate."
Marcus looked dubious. "He saw all of that at night?"
Olivia paused dramatically. "With infra-red binoculars. I'll give you three guesses on what he used them for." Judging from the way Marcus' jaw had dropped and the look of disgust in his eyes, it seemed quite apparent to Olivia that it had only taken him only one guess.
END OF CHAPTER NINE