Diamond In The Dark —- segment three

Here’s a taste of my WIP: Diamond in the Dark.

Jake used his one phone call to contact Hollie. She contacted their usual source in the Atlanta area. Smoke Jackson helped a friend back in Jake’s baseball days, so Jake had kept the contact information handy, just in case.

Standing at the bars of the cell, Lt. Goldberg lifted the keys. “Your bail’s been paid, Diamond. I need you to stay in the area. Can I count on that?”

“Sure, Lt. Not a problem. I want to find out what the hell is going on as much as you do. We both know I didn’t kill anybody, not even Doc Anderson. How could I?”

The Lt. shrugged. “Just stick around, okay?” He rattled the keys in the lock, and opened the cell door. “Give me a call once you get settled in wherever. We need to talk. About a lot of things,” Goldberg said.

Jake nodded as he walked out toward the check-out desk. The clerk on duty pulled his personal property envelope up, dumped it out on the desk, and said, “Everything here?” in a disinterested voice.

Shuffling through the items, Jake noticed something missing. “Where’s my watch?”

“There wasn’t a watch in the envelope. I checked the stuff in myself last night.”

“I was wearing a watch when I was arrested. I gave it to the officer in charge. Where’s my watch?”

The clerk looked at Lt. Goldberg over Jake’s shoulder. “Sir? I promise you, the watch wasn’t in here.”

Lt. Goldberg frowned. “I’ll take care of this, Diamond. Who was on duty last night, Sherry?”

She picked up the roll sheet. “Sam McIlveen, sir.”

“Why wasn’t Bill Thomas on last night? That’s his normal shift.”

“Sam said Bill called him to fill in for him, said he was sick.”

Lt. Goldberg pulled his cell from his pocket, punching numbers as he did. He waited a few seconds. “Hey, Laura. How’s Bill feeling? Sherry says he called in sick last night…He left like usual about 5…he sometimes gets breakfast before he comes home from his shift. Yea, I know that. Has he come home yet?” He looked at his watch. “No, that’s okay. He’s probably just not done eating yet. Yes, I’ll call you once I find him.”

Goldberg pocketed his watch. “I got a bad feeling about this, Diamond. Come with me. We gotta find out what’s happened to Bill.”

#

Jake looked at Lt. Goldberg as they drove down the crowded street toward wherever it was they were going. The cop drove with his hands clenched on the steering wheel, knuckles showing white against the black steel. Jake cleared his throat.

Goldberg threw him a glance. “What?” he said, focusing back on the road.

“Why am I riding in your unmarked car, helping you with your investigation, when by rights I should be still locked up? Why did that magistrate set such a low bail? Do you know what’s going on? Or more to the point, what do you know that I don’t know?”

“Sam McIlveen is under investigation by IA, has been for six months. He doesn’t know. Nobody knows but me and the IA guys. So the fact that he’s just shown up in the middle of this muddle raised a red flag.” He shifted on the seat, loosening his hands on the wheel. “And for some reason, I think you’re being railroaded into a tunnel without a light at the other end. I don’t like that. From what I have read and discovered, you’re an okay guy, just trying to make a living.”

“Thanks. Now where are we going?”

“Bill likes to eat his breakfast at Della’s before he heads for work or home. I met him there once. Great food. I’m wondering if Bill ever made it to Della’s, or if something stopped him on the way there.”

Jake leaned his right arm on the window ledge, watching the traffic on Morland Avenue as they got closer. He remembered grabbing a bite at Della’s once or twice. Always great. But the Lt. was right. If Bill never made it to Della’s, something had to have happened to him.

They drove up into the parking lot of the place, between a convenience store and a hip-hop talent place. Goldberg and Jake walked up to the order window. Goldberg flashed his badge. “Hi, Zeke. Bill come in yet?”

“No, Lt. I ain’t seed him in a couple of days. He usually shows up about 1 in the am, chows down on some Gunn Slingers and heads out. Something up?” answered the tall black man behind the counter.

“Don’t know yet, Zeke. If Bill comes by, tell him to call me. His wife’s worried. Didn’t come home last night.”

“Now, Lt, Bill do a lot of things, but he don’t never not go home to that lady of his. He love that woman.”

“I know, Zeke. I know. Now that we’re here, we’re gonna have a couple of Gunn Slingers and some coffees. That okay with you, Jake?”

Jake nodded. His eyes wandered over the parking lot, found a couple of seats just outside the tent. When Goldberg brought the food back out, he had the sandwiches on a tray with two ceramic coffee mugs and a pot of coffee. Creamers and sugars piled on the side took up the rest of the tray.

The two men dug into the food, conversation at a halt. Finally Jake leaned back in the chair. He eyed Goldberg over the rim of his cup as he finished off his second cup.

Goldberg took a long swig of the coffee, set the cup down. “In case you’re wondering why I’m no longer in a hurry, did you notice anything while I was talking to Zeke?”

“Yes. The lady behind him in the kitchen pretending not to listen. She twitched when Zeke mentioned Bill loving his lady. You think that could be important?”

“Maybe. I’m just waiting to see if she gets up enough nerve to come and talk to me. That’s why I sat with my back to the door. She coming out yet?”

Jake looked around, trying not to be obvious about it. “Yea, she’s peeking at you from the side door, then looking back into the kitchen. Wait. She just yelled something in to Zeke. Here she comes.”

Goldberg grunted. “Let me talk to her. She doesn’t know you yet.”

“No problem. This is your turf, not mine.”

Jake kept his eyes down on his plate, pretending trying to decide if he wanted another one. He could see the woman coming up to their table, carrying a water pitcher and three glasses on a tray. She set the tray down on the table, then poured them each a glass of water. She then filled one for her, and sat down at the end of the table. Sipping on the water, the two men glanced at each other and then back to her.

The woman put down her glass, hands around it, wiping of the moisture beading up on the sides. Her fingers trembled a little. “I know something about Bill that he don’t tell nobody else.” She stopped talking. Her hands stilled on the glass. Taking a deep breath, she continued.

“He don’t not love his lady, you unerstand, he just need space sometime. So he talk to me when he come to eat here. I don’t wanna get him in no trouble, but when he not come yesterday night, I got worried. Can’t say nothing to Zeke. He don’t unerstand.”

Jake shifted on his seat. Goldberg didn’t say anything, just looked at the lady. She kept her eyes on the glass.

“He say other day he gonna come inna some money, but he don’t wanna share with his lady. She got enough money on her own, he say. I just lissen, you know? I don’t say nothin’.   I guess he like me cause I don’t talk back.” A little smile quirked the left corner of her mouth. She settled into the seat a bit more, looked up at Jake, avoiding Goldberg’s eyes. “He say he gonna share that money with me. I axed him why. He said cause I need it more than she did. I dunno if that help you, but I thunk you oughta know.”

A faint call came from the open kitchen door. She stood up suddenly, leaving her glass and ran back to the building.

Jake looked at Goldberg. “What do you think? You think the cop scrammed with his

money?”

“No. I don’t think he was ever going to get any money. I think our dirty cop did something worse than just take Bill’s place.”

“You think Bill’s dead?”

Goldberg shook his head. “I don’t know. I wouldn’t put it past whoever is pulling the strings of this operation.” He looked up at Jake. “You have anything you haven’t told me yet? Anything, no matter if you think it isn’t important, I need to know.”

Jake stared at the people in line at the stand. “Not sure if it matters, but somebody in

Boca tried to kill me before Mike came to see me at my office. In my line of work, I expect people to get upset with me, try to knock me down in a personal fight. I never expected people to trail me across town and try to shoot me through my back window…” Jake’s voice trailed off as he realized something. “Wait. If it’s the same person here as in Boca, the one who’s making all this shit happen…”

Goldberg smiled. The kind of smile Jake was glad wasn’t about him. “They might be here in Atlanta. That kind of mindset doesn’t trust underlings too much.”

“My thoughts exactly. So, I have an idea. Want to know what it is?”

“Yes. I think we’re on the same wavelength here. Let’s get busy.”

Later that night, after Jake’s long planning session with Goldberg, he flopped onto his hotel bed, exhausted. But ready for the next day.

Time to start laying breadcrumbs out. Time to stop being the prey and become the hunter.

And he knew just where to start.

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