Pat Ruger: Caribbean Shuffle

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Chapter 15

Fosse gave us security cards and the code for opening the detention rooms, ‘91746.’ I went to the last door on the left, slid the security card through the slot and punched in the number on the keypad. The door clicked loudly and began opening slowly out into the office.

“The door opens out?”

“The detainees can’t hide behind the door when you open it,” Fosse explained. “That’s how a lot of people break out.”

“What about jumping the door when it opens and rushing the guard?”

“Try it.”

I pushed on the door as it opened and couldn’t budge it from its automated path and speed. I tried 3 or 4 angles without success. “I’m impressed.”

We left Junior cooling in the detention room, and he seemed okay with it. I figured he was considering it protective custody, though the kid we left looking after him was all of 19. Even with a firearm, he would be no match for someone who wanted Junior dead.

The captain was more than happy to accommodate our scheme. Fosse and I were sitting at a table near Mr. Daniels’ assigned seat and Jimmy sat near the captain’s table. We had them place a special candle in front of his seat so we’d know it was him.

Soon a slight but taller fellow sat in front of the candle. He had a boyish face but he was wrinkled around his eyes and lips. He looked like he had a farmer’s tan and the brown on his arms was leathery. His brown hair was sticking out around the back of his Royals cap.

Daniels looked pleased when he was asked to join the captain. He took off his baseball cap with one hand and reached for his comb in the other, and proceeded to try to get his cap hair under control. He stood, his hat in hand, and followed the waiter toward the captain, who was himself smiling like a Cheshire cat. Fosse and I fell in behind them. Before reaching the table, we steered our suspect toward Jimmy and we all entered the galley doorway.

“What’s going on?” Daniels began, looking back and forth, but I stuck my pistol in his back and he quieted down and continued with us without protest.

We ushered him down the rear galley steps to a storage room and closed the bulkhead door. “Sit down, Mr. Daniels,” I instructed firmly. He obliged.

I stayed standing but Jimmy and Fosse joined him at the table.

I started. “Let me introduce your hosts. I’m Pat Ruger, hired by this cruise line to investigate a suspicious death. This,” I waved my hand at Jimmy, “is Police Detective James Stewart, also hired by the cruise line. And this,” I pointed my hand to Fosse, “is the cruise line’s security officer,” I paused trying to think. “Jesus, Fosse, what is your first name, anyway?”

He reached out his hand to shake. “Security officer John Fosse, at your service.” I ignored the outstretched hand and Fosse sheepishly dropped it.

“John Fosse, as he says,” I continued. “Do you know why you’re here?”

“I haven’t a clue. But I’m an American, as are you, so you better start filling me in.”

“Well, funny thing about that,” Jimmy cut in. “We’re in international waters on a Scandinavian ship, and the captain has hired us as consultants to do an investigation. We’re not cops here but we do have the right to detain and question you.”

“I got nothing to hide, what do ya want to know.”

“Glad you see it that way,” I answered. “First, where are you from, Joe … can I call you Joe?”

“Joseph. I live in Overland Park, Kansas.”

“Okay, Joseph, then. Isn’t Overland Park a suburb of Kansas City?”

“Not really, it’s about 20 miles or so away. Why?”

“Twenty miles,” Jimmy interrupted, now in a slight Gaelic brogue. “That’s pert near the same neighborhood, wouldn’t you say, Patty boy?”

“That’s what I was thinkin’ …” I raised my phone up. “Smile!” I snapped Daniels’ pic and began emailing it to Amanda.

“So, Joey,” Jimmy distracted him from what I was doing. “Where do you work?”

Daniels was starting to get flustered, which was what we wanted. “I’m a barber.”

“You make a living cutting hair, enough to go on several cruises?”

“I’m good at it and I have a good clientele. Somethin’ wrong with that?”

“Not at all, no sir. It’s a respectable profession. But most of the barbers I know who make a good living call themselves ‘hair stylists.’ Women pay the big bucks, or, even better, trannies. Right?”

“Right,” Fosse answered the rhetorical question. “The gays pay pretty good, too.”

“He’s right, Joey. How many gay dudes do you cut?”

“A fair share.”

“How much you get for a cut?”

“What’s all this about my job?” Daniels was getting angry.

“Simple,” I rejoined the conversation. “The girl who was killed yesterday lived in Kansas City. She was from a crime family … and here you are.”

Daniels sat quiet, and I couldn’t really read him.

Jimmy said, “It’s no sweat to us, Joey. She was into some bad stuff. You got swindled or blackmailed, and you didn’t like it. You got even.”

“I didn’t even know her.”

“You were seen with her, Joe.”

“It’s Joseph!” He slammed his palm on the table. “It wasn’t me!”

Just then my phone rang. It was Amanda. I stepped out of the room and took the call. “Any luck?”

“You could say that. How’d you boys find two members of crime families in two days?”

“Lucky, I guess. Who we got?”

“The Thumb.”

“Come again?”

“The Risotto family has several enforcers. You found one.”

“He’s a hit man and his nickname is the ‘Thumb’?”

“Yes. I’m sure there’s a fancy story behind it.”

“I can’t wait to hear it. What else can you tell me?”

“His real name is Joseph Daniel Cesaro. Don’t mess with this guy, he’s bad news, a killer.”

“Who does he work for?”

“It’s presumed that he works directly for the head of the family, Giavanni Risotto. But no one has ever been able to prove a connection.”

“Until now. I think we have some leverage.”

“Be careful.”

“I will be. Thanks, hon.”

I hung up and thought for a moment. I opened the door and asked Fosse to step out, which he did.

“Is your infirmary fully stocked?”

“I think so. Should I go get the doctor?”

“Yeah. I need a strong sedative. Tell him we need to knock out a Mafia hit man.”

“A hit man? Really?” I think there was a hint of excitement in his voice.

“Make sure it’s strong and bring it to me. Knock on the door and I’ll come out to get it.”

“You got it … back in 10 minutes.” He left in a cloud of dust.

I stepped back into the room, and Jimmy was laughing with our guest. “Patty, you’ll never guess where Joey went to school … in Fort Collins, of all places.”

Daniels was smiling, too. “Only until I was 10, then we moved to Kansas City.”

Good going, Jimmy, I thought. We needed him friendly for a little while.

“Oh, yeah? I know a lot of people in Fort Collins. That’s just an hour north of Denver, you know.”

Daniels nodded.

“I used to go fishing there with my best friend … in Horsetooth.”

“My dad used to take me there, when he wasn’t working.”

He became sullen and Jimmy interrupted. “Tell ’im about how you almost drowned.”

I began regaling them with the story I’d told many times, how my best friend Angel and I were enjoying a beautiful day fishing on a bass boat near an inlet of the Reservoir, minding our own business, when a speed boat full of drunken party animals slammed into us with me in mid-cast. I fell overboard and Angel jumped in and helped me to shore.

“What happened to the guys that hit you?” Joe asked.

“Nothing, really.” I replied. “They learned their lesson.

“I would have made them pay,” he said. “Seriously.”

A knock on the door interrupted us, as planned, and I stepped out.

Fosse handed me the syringe and told me to make sure I used it all. “The doc said this should put him out for about 4 to 6 hours.”

“That’ll do,” I said as I turned back to the room. I hid the needle behind my back and went back in the door. I winked to Jimmy and he got the hint.

“So, Joey, boy, what line of work was your father in? Was he a computer geek, too?”

I stepped behind him and was ready.

“No, he was …”

I grabbed one arm and Jimmy grabbed the other. I stuck his shoulder with the syringe, pushing the plunger all the way in, then popped it out and waited. Daniels fought us for a few seconds, but the tranquilizer worked pretty fast.

“So, what was that about?” Jimmy asked, seeming annoyed to be out of the loop on my plan.

“This is an enforcer for the Risotto family. You didn’t want to walk a killer through the ship to a holding cell, did you?”

“This pipsqueak? A killer?”

“Don’t judge a book, James. Don’t judge a book.”

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