Dog was leading us right to where my shine was telling us to go, so I stayed quiet during the car right across town. Hopefully, Clarence would give me a ride back to Hawk’s place when this was over. Otherwise, I’d have to take a cab…money wasn’t an issue at this moment, so I suppose I shouldn’t worry about cab fare. Things must have been better for Hawk than I thought. The money. The more I thought about it, the more I realized it didn’t add up. I knew where Hawk lived, his identity wasn’t secret. He didn’t have a day job, so far as I knew. He wasn’t independently wealthy; he didn’t do product endorsements like so many other shiners. Where did all that money come from?
Typically, a trail like this leads to a dirty warehouse somewhere, maybe down by docks or in the shipping district. Not this time. Tonight we ended up, after an hour traveling between ten and fifteen kilometers an hour the whole way, at a small ranch style house surrounded by established suburbia. The place was dark. Looking around I noted that the street was dark as well, only one streetlight hadn’t been broken out, conveniently, it stood close to our target.
“Cotta Terrace. Hit hard by the mortgage crisis. Probably only one in ten of these places is occupied by the legitimate owner.” Clarence said.
“You get a lot of problems out here?”
He shook his head, “Only when the new owners go to move in and find squatters. Most places have had the wire stripped out of them already, appliances taken, insides painted up and vandalized. Kid stuff really. Honestly, we don’t even see much of that anymore; all the kids moved away with their parents.”
When Clarence got out of the car, I did too. Dog and Patricia bailed out of their vehicle and came back to ours.
“He’s dead.” Dog said without pre-ample, “I can smell the blood from here, someone tried to cover their scent from me. Skunk.”
I caught a pungent whiff in the air.
“Not the real stuff.” He went on, “The kind hunters buy in small bottles and use like perfume. Big mistake; it irritates me but doesn’t put me off the scent.”
“There are things that put you off the scent?” I asked innocently.
Dog gave me a hard look and turned towards the house. “Patricia, you wanna go around back with Clarence? I’ll go through the front, Billy you can watch from here.”
Clarence was technically the ranking officer, he just shrugged, “Did you call it in?”
“I sent for a wagon, they’ll get here when they can. Busy night for the coroner.” Dog answered.
“C’mon, Patricia,” Clarence said, “I’ll go right you go left.” The two split off, leaving Dog and me there alone, he turned back to me.
“You ain’t crooked are you?”
The question surprised me, and he must have seen the look before I answered, “No.”
“I didn’t figure you were, but your smell is all over Hawk’s place. In places, it shouldn’t have been in. I can testify in court you know, give evidence. We found the safe, your smell was on it. Do you know the combination?”
“What’d you take?”
“He left me a letter.”
“And money. I smelled it up until you puked. It’s got a very distinct odor. Smells like sweat, blood, and lost dreams. I want half.”
My first instinct was to deny it, but Dog wasn’t on the take, I didn’t know what he was doing, “Why?”
“I figure, and stop me if I’m wrong, I figured Hawk did leave you money. You’re an okay guy, I’ve worked around you for years, you were his friend, you wouldn’t steal from him, I don’t think. So why take the money? I thought about that over the last hour as we followed this scent. Hawk hired you. You were his contingency plan. One thing I know about Hawk, that you probably do too, is the guy isn’t one to forgive and forget. This Buddism bullshit? It was just that. The man had a temper, and he liked nothing more than getting revenge. So you’re his revenge. I want in on it. Half. And we’re his revenge.”
“I owe him.”
“So why not do it for nothing?”
Dog snorted, “I would, if I had to, but if I don’t have to...?”
I nodded, “He left me twenty large.”
“Not that I don’t trust you. Let’s be clear, I mostly trust you on this, but why do I get the feeling he left you forty? So that would be more like twenty as my share. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be a silent partner in this one. I’ll pull my weight and give your investigation some legitimacy.”
Having Dog along on this one would help considerably; his official contacts could make things easier. “You said the hitman is here, dead.”
“The one who pulled the trigger isn’t the guy Hawk wants, and you know it. C’mon, their gonna get nervous waiting for us.”
I followed Dog up the walk to the front door of the house. He was wrong about one thing, though; all I had been contracted to do was find out who killed him. I couldn’t parlay the deal he had made with me into more than it was. If his killer were here, I’d have to find out who was behind the killer without my shine to aid me.
The lawn was mowed, but the shrubs were wild and overgrown. The frame of the door had been popped, probably with a crowbar by an enterprising wire thief, and it pushed open on squeaky hinges at Dog’s touch.
“Always noisy, these doors. Like the contractor used the same crappy hardware in every damned house.” Dog said.
“They probably did.” The smell of skunk was strong here like someone had saturated the place with it. Dog took a deep breath through his nose, taking it in. “Makes my eyes water just to smell it, how can you stand it with your nose?”
“Some things I can filter out, oil, cleaning supplies, you know, manufactured stuff. I don’t know why; it came with the gift. This skunk odor isn’t real skunk; it’s shit. Man-made, foul smelling shit and I can cut right through it. You’re puke, though, 100% natural. Good call on your part. Would have been better to vomit in the kitchen, though, it might have worked.” Dog moved into the house, flashlight highlighting the despair of abandonment.
“Back here,” Clarence called.
“As if I needed someone to tell me that.” Dog muttered.
We moved through the house to what used to be known as a ‘family room’ from back when families still got together and did activities. Clarence and Patricia were there, playing their lights on the body. At first, I thought it was two bodies, then I realized it was one, just cut into several pieces.
“Slice,” I said, “Is he out of prison?”
“Yeah, must be.” Dog said, “I knew that smell. Thanks, Billy, for the name, it was him.”
“You got him?” Clarence asked.
“Yep. Put me in a room with him, and I’ll confirm it.”
Dog’s scent ability was recognized by the courts; he could and had put away criminals based on his word and nose alone.
“So we pick him up,” Clarence said he turned away, stepped out back and started making noise on his radio.
Patricia looked at the body. “It’s pretty distinctive. You guys had experience with this Slice before?”
I nodded, Dog shook his head, “Before my time, but I’ve smelled all the evidence for every criminal so I can tag them again if I ever need too. Even the cold cases, you just never know when you’ll get lucky.”
“What about you, Bill?” Patricia asked me.
“I…was involved with him at one time. I saw what he could do. This looks like his. I thought he got life? How is he even out now? It’s only been…twelve years?”
“Kept his nose clean, remember he went down for murder two, not the big one,” Patria said, “We studied it at the Academy.”
“You’re making me feel old.” I grumped, trying to avoid looking at the body.
“You’re not old, you’re experienced.” She affirmed, making me feel older than ever.
“Well, my experience doesn’t include Mister three piece here. I don’t recognize him. Do you guys?”
Dog grinned, “Mister Three Piece, good one.”
“No. He ain’t familiar.” Patricia said. “Looks young, maybe early twenties.”
“And he killed Hawk. A shiner in their early twenties that no one has heard about who kills a veteran in their 60’s everyone knows.”
“Who sent him?” Dog asked.
“This was the payoff, I bet. He came here to collect, and Slice killed him.”
“No, he didn’t,” Clarence said, stepping back into the room.
“What?” I asked this was Slice; he was messy.
“Slice is still in prison. He made his parole, but his release date is three weeks away. Someone else did this.”
I was going to protest, but to one side Dog shook his head slightly. Instead, I said, “So we have a new Slicer?” I shook my head, “One was bad enough, maybe I should retire.”
We stayed with the body until the coroner arrived, which took until almost dawn. Clarence gave Patricia a ride back to the station, Dog got some alone time with me as he gave me a lift back to Hawk’s place. The body was stripped; no id, no money. All ten of his finger tips had been cut off, and even the man’s teeth had been cut from his jaw. Someone was really covering their tracks.
“Overkill, Billy. It’s a message.”
“It was Slice who did it.”
“Get me in a room with him, and I’ll let you know for certain. I’ve got the scent. I’d say I’m 95% positive on it right now, just from sniffing around the old case files. He have a twin brother?”
“No. I think you can arrange to get in a room with him easier than I could. I know Clarence can.” I said.
“We gotta think about this, Billy. Clarence isn’t shiny. We are. I think we should keep this between ourselves as much as possible. Two shiners dead in one night, a third murders our murderer? I got a bad feeling about this.”
“You’re a cop, you’re paid to have bad feelings about everything.”
“And the whole world knows that private dicks are cheery optimists? So if I’m so wrong, tell me how good you feel?”
“Can’t. ‘Cause I don’t. I need sleep. You working swings again tomorrow?”
“Yeah. Call me and Patricia for a coffee on shift or wait until after and I’ll come by.”
“You know where I live?”
Dog just looked at me like I had asked another stupid question. “I’ll get my twenty g’s then too.”
I nodded. “Closer to twenty-two and a half.” I figured it was better to concede that I’d gotten more money than giving up too easily and letting him reach the same conclusion. He stopped his car beside mine, and I opened the door to get out.
“I thought you mighta been holding back a bit, probably still are, but that’s okay; I have a steady job. Watch yourself, Billy. Hawk was the last high profile shiner living out here, until now. Now that title falls to you.”
He drove off while I pondered his last words to me. The sunrise didn’t seem so clean and pure anymore; it only brought the dirt that covered the city into the light.