SOMEONE MUST DIE (my 2nd book)
SOMEONE MUST DIE by Daniel Schultz Chapter 1
"Hello!, Hello!" Jack Bonner fumbled the phone and it bounced to the floor.
"Daddy? Dad?" Tina's voice was muffled from the darkness under the bed.
"This better be good," he yelled toward the phone, then grabbed his hangover head. He dangled over the side of the thick, stuffed mattress and fell to the floor. Slapping around under the bed, his hand finally found the cell and he repeated the sentence into the mouthpiece; "This better be good!"
"Daddy?, it's Tina. Are you ok? It sounded like someone was beating the snot out of you. It's 2 p.m., were you still in bed?"
"Yeah, I'm ok," he moaned "Was just catching up on my sleep. I've been up late, staking out some asshole cheating husband for a client."
Bonner had been a detective for the small town of Benbrook, New Hampshire's police department for twenty years. Nothing much exciting ever happened in Benbrook, until one day three years ago, some crazed gunman with an ax to grind, walked into the police station and fired off a barrage of lead that killed one officer and wounded a half dozen others. Jack ended up with a 9mm slug in his knee cap that left him with a limp that kept him from passing any law enforcement fitness tests and ended his "protect and serve" career. Since that time he had started his own not-so-successful private eye service. His clients mostly consisted of jealous housewives who were sure their love starved husbands were bonking their secretaries, or he'd occasionally work as a store dick at a fancy department store, putting the finger on smalltime shoplifters. It was menial work, but he needed to keep his mind off the fact that his wife had left him for a snot-nosed younger man, shortly after he lost his job on the police force. Copious amounts of alcohol eased the pain of both his injury and the divorce some, but he eventually needed to move around to keep his knee from locking up. AND he took the work to keep his mind occupied, so HE didn't end up a crazed gunman too.
"So Dad, you coming to our 4th of July cookout?"
"When is it honey?'
"Uuuumm, the fourth of July? You sure you're ok?"
"Oh yeah, I'll be fine as soon as I get about a gallon of coffee." He hobbled to the kitchen and set the darkly stained pot on the burner, and turned the fire on high.
"Are you still using that gross, stained percolator? When are you going break down and get one of those automatic coffee makers?"
"They don't make REAL coffee," he said gruffly.
"Whatever! So, are you coming?"
"Coming where? Oh, the party. I don't know hon. I don't do well in crowds. Besides, if I have to listen one more time to that little twit your mom's dating, I'm liable to do something I'd regret. He never shuts up about how great his business is doing."
"Oh Daddy, he's not that bad. It sounds like you're a little jealous."
"HAH! Jealous of him? I don't care HOW much money he's got, he's still an ass. It's almost a month until your cookout, I'll let you know by next weekend."
"Ok Daddy, I hope you can make it, I love you, bye."
"Me too, bye baby."
The innards of the pot on the stove began to vibrate as the water boiled, and Bonner slumped into the torn naugahyde chair and poured some hair of the dog into a cup, stained as badly as his pot. The dark black coffee steamed and swirled into his nose as he rested his spinning head onto his propped elbows, over the grungy cup. He was just about to doze again when the phone rattled the kitchen wall.
"Good grief! What is it?," he growled. "It's your dime, hello!" There was a sound of shallow breathing, and voices in the background. "Last chance, I charge for my time." The phone went dead and he slammed it back onto the cradle. "Damn fool advertisers. So much for the no-call list." Bonner went back to bed to sleep off the little too much hair of the dog, before his shift as a floor walker at Benjamin's department store.
The movement of his rundown houseboat bumping against the dock, soon rocked him back into a deep sleep. He felt safe there lately, where he didn't have to deal with his pain or his tortured thoughts. He put on a good face in front of people, but being alone wasn't for him. He had dated a few women when his wife left, but after thirty years with Lynda, it just seemed like too much trouble to go through the process of wooing a woman again, when it would probably not work out. He was too set in his ways, and wasn't about to change for anyone. Besides, it was his opinion that women today expected waaay too much from their men. For the next two hours, the alchohol blissfully blocked out any bad dreams or leg pain, before the ring, ring, RING woke him with a start. He slapped the snooze button on the alarm, which was damaged from years of slapping, but the ringing persisted.
"Not AGAIN!" He grabbed the cell and in a syrupy sickening voice said; "Hellooo, Jack Booonner," hoping the creep on the other end would reveal himself this time.
"Bonner?, Jack Bonner, the detective?" It was a female voice that quivered as she spoke.
"Oh good lord, yes I'm Jack Bonner. Did you hang up on me earlier?"
"Well, no. Yes, yes I did, but you sounded so nasty." Jack, sensing a possible client, softened his tone.
"Sorry, it's been a rough few days. What can I do for you?"
"My name is Donna Boorman. A couple years ago my brother Eric was found dead at his apartment."
"Sorry to hear that. Were you close?"
"Yes, VERY. Anyway, they said it was suicide."
"And you don't believe that?"
"No, no I don't. Eric wasn't having any kind of financial difficulties, he didn't drink excessively and I never knew him to do drugs."
"He had a girlfriend he adored. They were planning on getting married in June of ‘07, but he died in March."
"Look Mrs. Boorman, I haven't done any investigating like that since I left the force, three years ago. You should probably hire someone else that's still in the business. I just handle simple cases anymore. What's your husband think? Does HE believe it wasn't a suicide?"
"My husband passed away ten years ago from cancer."
"I'm sorry to hear that, and I'm sorry about not taking your case, but I just don't think I could give it my full attention. If you'd like, I can give you the name of a detective friend who may be able to help."
"Thank you, I'd appreciate that." Jack hung up the phone and headed for Benjamins, and another boring night of strolling through the ladies underwear and sporting goods departments, drinking cup after cup of java to keep his bloodshot eyes open.
At 9 PM he scanned is time card and headed out across the darkened parking lot. The drizzle drained off his head and down the back of his neck. Pulling his inadequate jacket up tight, he hurried to his rusting,1995 Chevy Caprice. He wiggled the key in the lock until the door opened, and a binding sound echoed into the darkness. It was Saturday night and the streets were bustling with people heading to dinner parties or movies with friends or family. He drove on toward his boathouse, but as usual, when he approached the street that led to the home he used to share with his ex wife and wonderful daughter, his hands involuntarily turned the wheel. The car coasted to a stop just across from the house and he slumped in the seat. He'd sometimes sit for hours, listening to nostalgic music, hoping to get a glimpse of them. But tonight, although the music was soothing, he saw only shadows passing along the walls.
Tap, tap, tap, the car window rattled, and Jack sat up abruptly. "You camping out again Jack?," Bobby O'Shea, his old street beat buddy, chuckled through the glass. Bonner rolled down the window.
"How ya doin' Bobby? Nooo, I just got off work and was feeling tired, so I pulled over to rest my eyes."
"Just accidentally right in front of your old place huh? You working ‘til 3 AM now?" Jack squinted at his watch.
"Guess I must have dozed off for awhile."
"We missed you at the police picnic last month. Everyone was asking about you."
"Probably TALKIN' about me, more like it. I didn't want to come alone. Besides, I was working that day."
"Like you couldn't get away from Benjamin's for a couple hours. All I'm saying is you have good friends down at the precinct, and should hang out sometimes. A bunch of us are getting together at Kelsey's for some drinks next month. Try to join us."
"Ok, I'll try to make it."
"YEAH, YEAH, it was good talkin' to you. Be careful going home buddy."
Bonner started the engine and pulled down the block before turning on his lights. A strong breeze blew through his long black hair as he walked down the dock toward the boat. The waves would help him sleep tonight. They and Jim Beam.
Bonner carried on with his mundane existence for the next few weeks, only enduring the boredom by the anticipation of his meeting on the 4th with his daughter
The morning sun shown through the small window just above his single bed, and Jack squinted at the brightness. As the boat rocked, a single sunbeam flashed back and forth across the wall, occasionally reflecting off the mirror and into his face. It was only 7 AM, and as usual he had only slept his regular 4 or 5 hour night. He turned the TV to the national report, propped himself up and slurped at his boiling hot coffee. The continuous bad news that spewed from the tiny TV day after day tended to depress him. In times past, before his injury, Bonner could hit the streets and do something about the scum that terrorized the neighborhoods. Now, he could do little more than fret about the criminals, the way the rest of the population did.
Jack's old Caprice looked out of place parked among the Cadillacs and BMW's that lined the street in front of his former residence. He glared at them as he strolled up the small incline toward the back gate. From inside, he could hear the sounds of people laughing and splashing in the pool. The unmistakable sound of his ex's favorite music droned in the background. She was a country person, where as, he had always preferred good old rock and roll. Many times they had squabbled over what radio station to play as they drove along I-95 to their summer cottage down the shore. He slowly slid inside the gate, trying to avoid being noticed. Everyone was dressed in their preppy looking cookout garb, and now Jack knew how his car felt, sitting out on the street among all the luxurious sedans and sporty convertibles. He pulled his wrinkled shirt down and was about to sneak back out the gate.
"DADDY!," Tina screeched out, and the place got instantly quiet. All heads snapped toward Jack and he felt his face flush. "I'm so glad you made it." She squeezed his shoulder with the hand not holding the frozen margarita, and pulled him in the direction of the crowd. "EVERYONE, this is Jack, my daddy." Jack gave a nonchalant queen-like wave. A lot of the faces he recognized, but it was obvious Tina had invited a lot of friends from her upstate college. A half dozen young girls in skimpy bikinis lounged by the pool, while the boys splashed and chugged tallboys.
"I suppose one of those ruffians is your boyfriend," Jack said sarcastically.
"Right there," Tina pointed, "the one with the beach ball. You'll like him Daddy, he's the grandson of the chief of police."
"I might like HIM, but I've heard his grandmother rules the precinct with an iron hand. I'm glad I'm not still there. So he goes to your college too?"
"Yes, we met in my computer sciences class. He may not look it, but he's a real computer genius."
"Believe me, he looks it. What do they call 'em, geeks?"
"Oh Daddy!" Tina playfully slapped his shoulder.
Bonner endured the many introductions with the help of whatever mixed drinks or beer he could snatch from the waiters trays. There had never been cookouts or pool parties this extravagant when he was man of the house. He guessed he just didn't realize, this was the life his ex-wife Lynda had desired.
"Lynda," he nodded cordially as they crossed paths.
"Jack," she replied in kind. "I see you still have no one to tell you how to dress." Jack tugged at his wrinkled shirt.
"Yeah, it's really great," he fired back, and Tina tugged him away.
"DADDY!, you know you can never win an argument with mom. C'mon, I'll introduce you to my science professor." Tina pulled on his arm as Jack looked back at his ex in disdain. When he finally turned back, he was face-to-face with an absolutely stunning brunette. Daddy, this is Dr.Donna Boorman, one of my professors from college." Bonner was tongue-tied.
"Why hello Donna, very meet to nice you. I mean- -"
"So," Donna interrupted, "I finally get to meet the one and only Jack Bonner." She had a tone of sarcasm in her voice.
"What do you mean, finally? Do I know you?"
"Well, we HAVE spoken."
"Refresh my memory. I know I'm getting a little long in the tooth, but I'm sure I'd remember a sweet voice like yours."
"Well, my sweet voice may have been slightly strained last month, when I spoke to you about my deceased brother."
Bonner's cheeks instantly reddened.
"Oh, Mrs. Boorman, YESSS, it's good to finally meet you too," he said, trying to sound sincere to her plight. "I was planning on calling you soon."
Mrs. Boorman rolled her eyes. "Really? I left three more messages on your answering machine."
"Oh, that thing only works sometimes. I'm terribly sorry." He flashed his eyes at Tina, and she gave him a disappointed look.
"Well, now that you know, I'm sure you can try to help her, RIGHT DADDY?"
"Sure, sure. Let's talk before the day's over. May I get you a drink, Donna?"
"Yes, thanks. A nice frozen margarita would be wonderful." Jack hurried off toward the bar by the pool.
"Daddy seems a little gruff sometimes, but deep down he's a pussycat."
"He's really quite handsome, in a scruffy sort of way," Donna laughed.
"I've tried to dress him up, but living alone does that to a man, I guess."
Jack came back with a tallboy beer, and quickly passed off the margarita, shaking his hand.
"SHIT!, my fingers are frozen. Oops sorry."
"Well, I'll leave you two alone to talk business." Tina turned and jumped into the pool, making a cannonball splash, and landing in the arms of her boyfriend. Jack guzzled the tallboy and snatched a margarita from the tray of a passing waiter.
"Really thirsty," he said in a shaky voice.
"Relax Jack, I won't bite." She tugged him to an empty table and pushed him into a chair. "And, I'm not going to pressure you to take a case you're not interested in."
"Now, don't rush to judgment. I'm not completely heartless." As he spoke, Bonner couldn't take his eyes off Donna; her perfect creamy skin, her glaring blue eyes and pouty lips. "So, tell me about yourself."
"I'd rather tell you about my brother."
"I'll get to your brother, but I'd like some background on you. That will help me to more thoroughly understand your problem." Jack lied. He could have done without that info, but he was smitten, smitten like he hadn't been for such a long time. Just listening to her sweet voice increased his heart rate. "Let me get some contact information. I need your phone number again, I misplaced it."
"Misplaced it huh?" Donna grinned as she fumbled through her purse for a pen.
"Here, use mine." He clicked it and slid the pen across the glass table.
Donna spoke passionately about her brother, Eric, and her suspicions surrounding his untimely death. Jack listened intently, occasionally scribbling notes on a pad, all the while extracting bits of personal information about HER. As she spilled out her heart-felt story, Jack couldn't help but recall how he had heard similar allegations from distraught family members in past cases. Ninety nine percent of the time their suspicions turned out to be unfounded. It was just too hard for them to accept the obvious explanations by the police, like drug abuse or suicide, when it cast a bad light on a loved one.
"Ok Donna, I think I've got enough information to start poking around a bit at the station. I still have a couple friends there who may be able to pass along some of the documents concerning the case. In the meantime, if you have any of your brother's personal effects that I can go through, you know, letters, diary, bank statements, etc, bring them around to my boat."
"Boat? You live on a boat? How quaint."
"I find it quite tranquil after a hard day on the job. I mean, it's nothing fancy, but it's what I like."
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean that as an insult. It's just, I've never known anyone who lived on a boat."
"Daddy?" Tina came up behind Jack and wrapped her arms around him. "This is my boyfriend, Dillon."
The young man stretched his arm out, for a people power kind of handshake, that didn't match Jack's. They both switched, then just kind of saluted each other.
"Dillon, daddy, Dillon. Now you stop that!"
"Oh right, Dillon, sorry."
Tina gave her father a stern look.
"Sooo Dill, what's yer thing?"
"My thing sir?"
"Yeah, yer thing. You know, whatcha gonna be when you grow up? I need to know your THING if we're going to be related. Your intentions ARE honorable aren't they, I mean with my little girl?"
"DADDY? We have no plans at the moment to do anything that would make you related in any way. Just ignore him Dillon."
"I'm studying computer sciences at the moment Mr. Bonner."
"There's a call for that huh? I guess there's some use for it, but I can't see it," Jack said matter-of-factly.
"The world is an open book when you have computer skills," Dillon explained. "Everyone, EVERYWHERE is connected now, and the information age it at your fingertips."
"Can't think of much more I'd want to know," Jack said somberly. "My head would explode if I knew anymore."
"OH DADDY! Pay no attention to him Dillon, he's just being a smart aleck. Ok Dad, we're off to some friend's house. I'll stop bye for a visit later on this week."
"Ok sweetie, bye, love you."
"Love you too poppy."
Jack shoved his hand at Dillon's and gave it an exaggerated shake.
"You take good care of my princess," Jack scowled and turned back to Donna. "Now where were we?"
"Your dad's a little on the edge isn't he?, Dillon whispered to Tina, as they rounded the corner.
Jack savored his last few minutes with Donna, then strolled toward the gate.
"If you think of anything Donna, no matter how insignificant it may seem, call me and let me know. I'll be heading over to the precinct sometime next week, to see what I can scare up."
"Thanks Jack, I appreciate it, I really do. If I come up with anything new, maybe we could talk about it over dinner."
"Sounds great." Jack stuck out his hand, more gently this time, but Donna gave him a little hug instead.