Monday November 27th.
Bill Maloney opened his eyes. After a few sluggish seconds he realized it was the ringing of the telephone that had awakened him. He squinted at the alarm clock/radio on the table next to his bed.
“Five 0’clock? Geez, who the hell wants me this early?” He moaned.. He reached over and picked up the receiver. Early morning calls are never good, he thought.
“Um…hello,” he mumbled into the receiver.
“Bill, it’s Maria,” came the reply. All of a sudden Bill was wide-awake.
“Hey Maria, uh…where are you? You sound far away, like Mars far away,” he said.
“I am at the Wamena airport, just about ready to board a flight to come back to Dallas. I am sorry I had to wake you, but it’s important.”
“No, that’s ok. What is it?” He sat up on the side of his bed and got a better grip on the receiver.
“Bill, have you ever seen the movie Death Wish?” Maria began.
“You mean you woke me up just to ask me about a movie?” Bill replied, somewhat annoyed.
“No really, Bill. This is important. I don’t have much time. Did you see Death Wish?” she urged.
“Yeah, I saw it,” he replied. “It was with Charles Bronson. He went out at night looking for thugs. When he found one he would kill him.”
“Right,” she said. “And do you remember why?”
“Sure,” he said. “He was a successful… architect, I think. Anyway some guys broke into his house. They raped and murdered his wife and daughter. The cops never found the killers. He was so enraged that he became consumed with revenge, or justice, whichever you prefer.”
“Exactly, Bill,” came Maria’s impassioned reply. “I think that’s what happened to the Lawn Man. I think some normal, everyday guy from north Dallas was victimized by violent crime. Somebody, maybe a close relative, a wife, or a child was murdered. Not only that, but in his case the killers were never found. The man felt betrayed, believing the system of rules he had always played by had let him down. He probably also blamed himself for not being able to prevent it from happening, loss of control. Remember that’s one of the things that Frankie talked about the night we were at Pescados. He sought his own personal justice by taking revenge on gang members. Just like in Death Wish, he wore the cloak of collective responsibility. Any gang member would do.” Maria paused for a response.
“That’s an interesting angle. Keep going.”
She did. “I think if you go back into the police records and check to see which non-gang families have lost blood to gang violence, you will find our man.”
“I’ll get all over that,” came Bill’s answer. “I’m off today but I’ll make the call now. I have to meet Frankie tomorrow to go over our cross-referenced data.”
“Look, Bill, I gotta go. The plane is about to leave without me. Good luck, I’ll see you guys when I get back to Dallas,” Maria said, holding the receiver for a few short seconds, anticipating a reply.
“Ok. Take care,” Bill said. Then, “Hey Maria?”
“Yes?” came a somewhat anxious reply.
Bill hesitated. “Have a safe flight.”
“I will, bye.” Bill heard the click of the receiver on the other end.
He immediately called Frankie explained Maria’s theory. Being enamored with theory the way he was, Frankie was so pleased with it that Bill thought he was going to jump through the phone.
Next, Bill called the Records Division and requested a list of gang-related homicides for the north Dallas region. This done, he headed for the shower. As the hot water was bringing him to life, he tried to concentrate on the case. He couldn’t. He kept thinking about Maria, part concern and part something else. He seemed always to be in a better mood after seeing her or talking to her, and for a brooder that was big. He found her to be a thoroughly interesting woman, deeply intelligent, independent and resourceful. He couldn’t shake the image of how she looked the night she walked into Pescados. He wondered what it would like to caress her luxurious brown skin and entangle his hands in her long hair. “Geez,” he said quietly as the water streamed over his head, “I never thought I would feel this way again.” He laughed, and with the steam basking him in the enclosed canopy of the shower, he reached down for the COLD knob and cranked it up full blast.
The next day Bill met Frankie in Conference Room A of the north Oak Cliff substation. Captain Boggs soon joined them. They went over the data lists again. The tree and van data had matched eighty-nine persons who currently owned a Chevy van and also had ordered delivery of a Chinese Pistachio within the past five years. Analysis of the blood taken from front treble hook of the fishing lure found in Cortez’s indicated Type B. Frankie had also compared that list of matches with the blood type information obtained from the deep background reports. Thirty-six people on that list had Type B blood. Piece by piece, the puzzle was fitting into place. They were getting closer. Now all they had to do was wait for the gang victim’s list. That would be ready by late afternoon.
As they were about ready to wrap up their meeting, they were interrupted by Dispatch. Another body had been found in Oak Cliff. A maintenance worker had found the victim, a male Hispanic, aged twenty-one, at a high school soccer field off Jefferson Avenue. His name was Emilio Vasquez. He was a member of the Chalk Hill Rojos. When Bill and Frankie arrived at the scene they found Vasquez in a sitting position, bound with monofilament fishing line to one of the soccer goal posts. They also found a soccer ball attached to his forehead with duct tape, as if to imitate a header. The pre-mortem blow to the left side of the head, the foam and the grass in the mouth were identical to other victims.
While looking over the crime scene Bill got a call from Captain Boggs. There had been a drive-by shooting, in broad daylight, at an apartment complex two blocks north of Rafael’s Super Mercado. The victim, a thirty-one year old Hispanic male, was a reputed lieutenant in the Blanco gang hierarchy. It was as Maria predicted. The Blanco leadership vacuum caused by Julio Guerra’s death had resulted in a status scramble among would-be Blanco chiefs. Though Boggs and the rest of the Dallas police did not know it at the time, six more Blanco gang members would be killed by their own kind in the next four months before the leadership stabilized.
By the time Bill and Frankie had returned to the substation, it was four o’clock.
Waiting for them was the results of the victim search. The data analysts had gone back ten years, and in that time there had been nineteen cases where someone had been caught in the middle of a gang shoot-out, and killed. Of the nineteen, all but six of the homicides had occurred in south Dallas, west Dallas, and Oak Cliff. Of the six, there were only three cases where the killers had not been caught. Of the three, only in one case had there been a delivery of a Chinese Pistachio to a person with blood type B. As it turned out, the Chevy van had been registered under a false identity. The victim’s name was Brittany Brinkley. The name of the father on the police report matched the name on the tree delivery, Evans Brinkley.
By five-thirty Bill and Frankie had obtained search warrants for Brinkley’s house and detached garage. They arrived there, with two back-up units, at a little after six. By now darkness was beginning to fall over Dallas. No one was home at the Brinkley residence, so, after announcing himself, Bill proceeded to kick in the door. They didn’t find much of anything unusual. Frankie spotted the only thing of note. As he walked across to the sliding glass doors that opened onto the back yard patio, he turned on the yard lights. A smile came across his face as he saw the Chinese Pistachio. Next they searched the garage. In it they found weed killer, duct tape, twenty-pound test monofilament fishing line, and a pair of pruning shears that contained a dark residue on the blades. Frankie was sure the residue was blood, and that it would match the blood of Juan Cortez.
Back in the house, Frankie combed through Brinkley’s desk. Examining each drawer carefully, he pulled out pencils, pens, paper clips and assorted office supplies. In one drawer, Frankie found a sheet of paper, folded neatly next to a stapler. Opening it, he saw a list of names and across from each name, a list of holidays.
“Holly smokes, Bill come look at this.”
Bill sauntered over and Frankie handed him the sheet of paper. Bill whistled as he studied it. “Shit, it’s a list of all the gang members, with check marks next to most of them.”
“Right,” Frankie said. “and look. Those check marks are next to the one’s that are dead, and across from them the associated holiday: Cortez on Easter, Hernandez on Memorial Day, Guerra on the Fourth, Escobar on Labor Day, and Vazquez just this past Thanksgiving.”
“This tells us that our guy Brinkley is killing these guys according to a ritual schedule, and that he has one more to go…a guy named Estaban Baca. He’s going after him on Christmas Eve.”
“That’s good,” Frankie said. “We’ve got time to get him before he kills again.”
Everybody was too busy tagging evidence and searching the grounds to notice the white Lexus that passed slowly by the house, like a silent ghost pausing in suspension for a look-see, and then disappearing into the darkness that was the next block.