The clock is ticking...
...as the hunt for a serial killer continues.
Fear grips the city.
Frank's fight with cancer continues, but it's not keeping him off the job. This killer is clever. As chemo clouds his mind, he struggles with a nagging feeling that something isn't right.
Is the killer toying with him?
Will he choose justice or vengeance?
His partner, Mary Ann, has her doubts, too. The leads are few and seem to be telling different stories. Her profiling skills are put to the test as she wonders if they're chasing a single killer. Is she letting her affection for Frank cloud her judgment?
As the body count rises...
...the new sheriff doesn't think Frank's up to it.
Will they be able to stop the murders and save Frank's job?
You'll love this nail-bitter of a thriller, because justice comes in many forms.
Get it now.
Release date: September 6, 2018
Print pages: 250
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
It was 8:07 when I pulled up to Joey Chapman’s apartment off Goodlette. A light drizzle intensified as Joey trotted to my car. The timing was perfect. The Dark Sky app said heavy rain would hit around 8:22. God was truly in control.
Joey jumped in, brushing the rain out of his hair. “It’s gonna come down.”
I pulled away. “You can set your watch to the summer rain.”
“Whaddaya need help with?”
“You’ll see when we get there.”
“What are you, all full of mysterious shit?”
“A friend from church is down-and-out. That’s all.”
Joey reached for the radio. “What the hell you listening to? It’s like elevator shit.”
Passing under 75, heading east as Chapman hunted for a country music station, I kept thinking, who’s going to eliminate evil sinners, if not me? They’ve had opportunities for redemption and blown them all. They’re irredeemable.
I snaked off and on Collier Boulevard, back to Golden Gate, making small talk. Approaching Wilson Boulevard, I said, “The devil has a hold on you, Joey.”
“What the fuck you talking about?”
“Hey, I’m trying to change. It ain’t so easy.”
“You’re hopeless, you’re not interested in changing.”
“Bullshit. I’m making progress.”
The windshield wipers couldn’t keep up with the volume of water, so I slowed down.
“We’ve got different definitions of progress, Joey. You robbed that convenience store in Bonita and put that poor man into a coma.”
“No way. I had nothing to do with that.”
I shook my head. “Lying only compounds your sin, Joseph.”
“I swear to God, it wasn’t me.”
“Look at you. Now you’re taking the name of God in vain.”
“I’m just saying it wasn’t me.”
“Larry told me you asked him to commit the crime with him.”
“He’s a fucking rat.”
I checked the rearview mirror—not a car in sight—and pulled over.
“Why you stopping here for?”
“You’re getting out.”
“What, are you kidding me? in this rain?”
Hand trembling, I reached under my thigh. Ignoring my back pain, I pulled a Colt .45 automatic out. “Get out. Now!”
“You fucking kidding me? You grow balls or something?”
As Chapman got out, he said, “You’re fucking crazy, you know that?”
Sliding into the passenger seat, I opened the window. “Step away from the car.”
He took two steps back, and I fired two bullets into the heathen’s chest. Chapman collapsed into the gully, sending a splash into the air. I looked left and right—was he dead? It was tough to see if he was breathing, with all the rain. Opening the door, I hung on to the steering wheel and leaned out. Chapman was facedown, water covering his ears. He couldn’t be breathing.
A smile erupted on my face. Pride coursed through my body. It felt unbelievable being God’s avenger, exactly as Romans 13:4 said, ‘I was God’s servant, an avenger carrying out God’s wrath on wrongdoers.’
We were in a battle with evil to the end, and I was finally a warrior for the Lord.
I was tired of all the talking, begging people to change. It was the same worthless plea made for centuries. History proved people don’t change when the devil gets a hold of them. Once Satan corrupts them, they’re beyond saving.
I knew God would protect me as I carried out his work, but I had to be smart about it, lest I be taken off the battlefield.
Grayness battled the sun for supremacy on the morning of June twenty-fifth. It was only 8:10. By nine, the sun would prevail, as it always did. Pulling behind three police cars with blazing lights, I took a long look around. It was as close to desolate as you could get fifteen minutes from Golden Gate. Was time an issue for whoever did this?
The responding officers had restricted traffic to a single lane on the opposite side of the road from where the body lay. It wasn’t enough. I shouted an order to have the road completely closed. Who knew what we’d find combing both sides of the roadway?
As two patrol cars maneuvered into blocking positions, I approached the body. A Caucasian male, medium build with dark hair, lay sprawled headfirst in a drainage gully. A thin, black jacket was scrunched up, revealing a white tee shirt and a hint of a tattoo. Plant particles and dirt were scattered on his shoulders and hair, unfortunate evidence that water had rushed over him.
Pulling on gloves and booties, I stepped into the muddy gully. The corpse’s face lay on its right cheek, and his left eye looked hazed over. Bending over, a chill shot up my spine as a red ant crawled out of his nose. I took note of a thin scar on his forehead before reaching into the back pockets of his worn jeans.
A cheap wallet, which I bagged, was in the left pocket and a phone in the right. The phone wouldn’t turn on. I couldn’t tell if it was the battery or if it had shorted from getting wet and dropped it into another bag. Either way, the lab would get me the contacts and usage information.
It took two of us to roll the body over. He looked to be in his mid-thirties. Caked with mud, the victim’s right eye was open, no doubt dead when he collapsed. His white tee shirt was reddish brown, partially masking two entrance wounds, one in the left pectoral area and the other, dead center, below the rib cage. I wanted to check the front pockets, but they were caked with dirt. I wouldn’t risk losing any forensic evidence. We eased the body back to its original position as the CSI van pulled up.
A pair of crime scene investigators I’d worked with, more than I cared to recall, approached. I told them how I handled the body, and left, hoping they’d give me something to work with. As four of the uniformed officers began a grid search for evidence, including bullet shells, I took out the wallet.
According to the driver’s license, the victim was Joseph L. Chapman. Residing on 104th Street, the thirty-six-year-old was five eight and a hundred and fifty-five pounds. The wallet was stuffed with twenty-dollar bills and contained a Visa debit card and two pictures that were impossible to decipher. After bagging it, I called Vargas, asking her to look into Chapman.
“It’s okay, I’ll get my own. What’d you get on Chapman?”
“You'd better grab a coffee. This guy has a long history, and none of it’s good.”
Moving close to Vargas’s desk, I caught a whiff of her candy-like perfume. “Let’s hear it.”
“Chapman spent half his life behind bars. Break-ins, a handful of armed robberies, and two nasty assaults are the highlights. He wasn’t on the outside long. Chapman just got out of Immokalee seven months ago.”
I slumped into a chair. “We’ve got to waste time chasing this down? Whoever killed him did us a favor.”
“I’m just saying, this Chapman was a punk, and we’ve got to waste resources on finding who finally stopped him?”
“So, you’d rather do nothing and let some vigilante mete out justice?”
I frowned. “I was hoping we could bury this somehow. You know I need to take some time off to find a place to live.”
“I told you, the cabana is all yours.”
It was perfect, but Vargas and I had just started dating. We’d had three dates, and things were going well. Even though the cabana was separate, we’d know each other’s comings and goings, and it didn’t feel right.
“Believe me, it’d make things a helluva a lot easier and take the pressure off, but I don’t want to, you know, screw things up between us.”
“Come on, Frank, we’re adults.”
Maybe one of us was. I lowered my voice. “But I really want this to work with us.”
“That’s sweet, Frank. I understand. Whatever you’re comfortable with is good by me.”
After reading the title of an email, I said, “Hey, Vargas, the autopsy on Chapman came in.”
“Anything?” Vargas came around my desk. Her honeysuckle perfume sure smelled good. It was the same one Kayla used to wear. She was something, someone who I thought would work out for me. I wondered if she was with anybody and whether I should risk calling her when Vargas said,
“Hello? You there, Frank?”
“Yeah, yeah. The bullets were hollow points. Whoever it was wasn’t taking any chances Chapman would survive. Maybe there was something, a secret of some kind, the killer wanted to die with Chapman.”
“They never found any shells at the scene, right?”
“Nothing. The killer picked them up.”
“Maybe, but I was thinking, what if he or she shot this guy from a car or truck. The shells could’ve ended up in the car.”
I really liked Vargas, she was a good detective, but I was getting tired of her coming up with scenarios that I used to spit out. Losing my bladder to cancer wasn’t enough? The chemo had to take my memory?
“I was thinking the same thing. When we track this down, we’ll have to look for any burn markings the casings might have left.”
“Besides the hollow point info, there’s nothing but a time of death of around nine p.m.”
“Forensics discover anything?”
“Nada. Said the rain could’ve washed away any fibers or hairs,” Vargas replied, adding, “Let’s start with the victim’s mother.”
I had zero interest wasting time on a small-time thug, but I wasn’t gonna say anything and be labeled insensitive.
Chapman’s mother lived in one of a series of yellow cinder-block units off Terry Street in Bonita. Vargas and I were greeted by loud Mexican music that was spilling out of the open windows in the next apartment. No air-conditioning? In late June?
Anita Chapman, a bird of a woman, showed us in. There was a galley kitchen and a bedroom beyond the living room. It was tiny but clean and it had a window AC unit humming away. There was a smell of something that’d been baked. If nothing else, maybe we’d get a cookie out of the visit.
Vargas said, “Please accept our condolences, ma’am. We know how difficult this must be, but we need your help and have some questions for you.”
“It’s a parent’s worst nightmare to have your child die before you do.”
I swallowed hard, pulling out my notebook.
Vargas said, “We’re sorry.”
“Joseph wasn’t an easy child, but I can tell you, it doesn’t make it any easier.”
Her lips quivered, and Vargas rubbed her back.
“Why don’t we sit down?”
My stomach reacted to a plate of cookies on the counter. Eyes on the dish, I pulled a chair away from the kitchen table, and Chapman’s mother sat.
“Mrs. Chapman, we need your help with some background on your son.”
Vargas glared at me and said, “If you’re ready to talk. Can I get you a drink of water?”
She nodded. “Thanks. I’m okay, what do you want to know?”
Vargas asked, “When was the last time you saw your son?”
“Day before yesterday. He came to see me, said he was doing good, even paid back some money he’d borrowed.”
I said, “Mind if we ask how much?”
“Five hundred dollars.”
I said, “That’s a lot of money. You know where he got it?”
“I stopped asking a long time ago. Look, my son was no angel, but he seemed to be doing good.” Her voice took on a vibrato quality. “He had a tough time growing up.”
“He was bullied?”
She nodded. “Joey was different, and everybody knows that kids can be mean.”
Amen to that. Even this detective gets embarrassed when he recalls the taunting he took part in.
I said, “What about his friends? Anything you can tell us? Was there anyone new?”
“He was mostly a loner. I mean he had some friends and all, but he kinda bounced around.”
I said, “Joseph had been in a lot of trouble with the law over the years. Most people like him tend to hang around with the same crowd.”
“I never liked the people he ran around with, and I told him so. But I was talking to myself. I don’t know. What he really needed was a father around to straighten him out.”
Vargas reached across the table and patted her hand. “I’m sure you did the best you could.”
“But you know, it’s funny, maybe he was listening after all, because the other day he said he was leaving to meet a friend from church.”
I felt bad for this lady. Who knew if she was a good mother or not? End of the day, her kid was lying on a stainless-steel tray in the county morgue.
Vargas asked, “Is there anyone you could think of that could do something like this to Joseph?”
We asked a few more questions, said our goodbyes, and headed for the car without a cookie.
Pulling away from the curb, I said, “That was a complete waste of time, time I don’t have.”
“We know he was flush with cash.”
“You ask me, Chapman pulled a job, and whoever he did it with offed him.”
“Maybe he stole from the wrong people. A narcotics dealer or something.”
Another angle I should have thought of. “Could be, but they did us a favor.”
Phone in hand, Vargas exhaled. “You know, Frank, sometimes you can be an ass.”
Vargas, phone to ear, shook her head as she tracked down where Paul Lenin lived.
Appropriately named, Moss Wood Road had a collection of wood-framed houses, horseshoed around a gravel driveway. The homes were checkered with plywood patches and blue tarps on the roofs. These places would be destroyed in the next hurricane, if the big bad wolf didn’t come by first.
Pulling up, a flash of red caught my eye. A guy in a tee shirt was walking away from Lenin’s place carrying two red bottles of Tide.
“There he is.” Vargas pointed to a covered car park framed by a pair of spindly palm trees.
Loud rap music, now that’s an oxymoron. rap and music in the same sentence, assaulted us as we approached. A tall man with a shaved head and a beard was on a stool next to a folding table.
“Yeah, you cops?”
I hadn’t yet pulled my badge, but the criminal element had a sixth sense when it came to law enforcement. Their problem was it didn’t extend past recognition.
I stuck my badge out. Scanning the table, I saw hooks, metal fish, and colored strings. “You making lures?”
“Yeah, you fish?”
“No, but my dad used to go out every now and then.”
“You should get into it; it’s very relaxing.”
“Maybe I will. We wanted to ask you about Joseph Chapman.”
“I don’t know anything.”
“You know what happened to Chapman?”
Vargas said, “When was the last time you saw him?”
Lenin’s eyes moved from her face to mine. “I had nothing to do with that. Me and Joe were friends.”
“She’s not saying you did. Her question was about the last time you saw him.”
He hesitated. “A couple of days ago.”
Lenin had a record but had stayed out of trouble or hadn’t been caught over the last two years. I said, “If you had nothing to do with his death, you don’t have to worry. We’re looking for information to solve his murder. Anything you tell us won’t go anywhere.”
“I don’t know anything.”
Vargas said, “You two were friends. What was Chapman up to that could have gotten him killed?”
Lenin picked up a hook and was gently tapping a thumb on the sharp end of it.
“You’ve got nothing to fear. Detective Luca already told you any information you provide will stay with us.”
“Joey was Joey. He didn’t say much. We didn’t see each other too much anymore. We were out of touch.”
I made like I was looking at the array of fishing gear and sneaked a look in the window. There were four rows of boxes, stacked three high, emblazoned with the Tide logo. I wouldn’t need any sodium thiopental to crack this criminal clam open.
“Cut the crap, we don’t have time. You don’t start talking, I’m gonna get a subpoena and turn your place upside down.”
Vargas’s eyes widened, and I said, “Either this guy has a fetish about washing his clothes, or we found some of the stuff from the trailer that was hijacked out of Walmart’s distribution center.”
“It wasn’t me. I swear.”
Oh, if he’s swearing, it’s got to be true. “Look, I told you up front, I’m not looking to bust you. I want information. You talk, and I chalk you up as a clean-clothes nut.”
Vargas said, “Tell us what you know.”
Lenin clamped his eyes shut for a second and then spewed. “He came to me about a couple of jobs he wanted to pull. I told him I don’t do anything like that anymore. I mean it, I don’t. I steer clear of that. I ain’t going back in.”
“Jobs? He was planning robberies?”
“You know if he did them?”
He nodded. “It was in the papers. He robbed the 7-Eleven off Golden Gate. At least I think it was him.”
We’d have to check the CCTV video. “He wanted you to do the 7-Eleven with him?”
“Yeah, that one, and a gas station convenience store on Airport.”
“The Chevron station?”
“Yeah, that’s the one he said.”
Lenin didn’t give us anything else, but as far as I was concerned it was enough. Plus, if we could tie Chapman to the robberies with the video feeds, we’d solve two crimes. Chapman was a cretin, and I didn’t want to waste any more time tracking down his killer, who probably settled a dispute with a gun. I’d have to find a way to let this case fade away.
The western side of the sky was charcoal gray and the morning air cool as we crossed the police line on Vanderbilt Drive. I scanned the area from the southern tip of the Cocohatchee River Park to Island Marina. The water was moving westward to the Gulf of Mexico.
A jet ski laden with two onlookers came into view. It slowed to an idle as it approached. How did people find out so soon?
Vargas asked the responding officer, “Who found the body?”
“Guy was going fishing and saw him floating over there.” He pointed toward a small alcove. “Took his boat over to see what was going on and called it in.”
“He touch anything?”
“He prodded him with the back of his gaffe to see if there was any movement. Then he dragged the body into the mouth of the marina.”
We bounced down an aluminum gangway onto the Trex docking toward the strobe lights. A photographer was documenting the scene, and it was a tough crime scene. There were an endless number of places the body could have entered the water. Was it off a boat deep in the bay and the current carried it, or was it dumped off land?
A small tropical depression had passed through yesterday, bringing heavy rain and unfavorable marine conditions. How long was the body in the water? There were a lot of questions needing answers.
Bobbing gently, the body was pressed against the bow of a police boat. Bracing myself with a piling, I leaned toward the body. Faceup, it was a male in his thirties dressed in jeans and a black shirt. There were at least two gunshot wounds, one in his right chest and another in the gut.
There was limited bloating and no deterioration. It was likely the body was in the water well under a day. Pocketing the first answer, I ordered the police boat to fish the corpse out and turned to Vargas.
“Let’s see if he’s carrying any ID.”
“You think he was killed elsewhere and dumped?”
“That’d depend on who he is. If he owns a boat or goes fishing, he could’ve been shot on the water, where there’s a helluva lot less witnesses.”
“Chapman also took two shots to the chest.”
“Tough to forget that one, even if he deserved it.”
Vargas glared at me and turned away.
“Hold on, Mary Ann, I’m just kidding.” I wasn’t, but we had a date tomorrow, and I might need her cabana to live in.
Water laced with seaweed draped off the body as it was lifted out of the bay. I made a note that the corpse was dropped onto the tarp-covered dock, too heavily for my taste. The body’s feet were bare. Was that a sign he’d been on a boat? Or was he wearing flip-flops when he met his maker?
Pulling on gloves, I bent over the body. There were only two wounds I could see.
“Vargas, let’s put him on his side.”
I lifted his upper torso as Vargas twisted his hips. There looked to be at least one exit wound. Vargas dug into the back pockets, fishing out a wallet and phone. We eased the body back, instructing the officers it was okay to wrap the body for transport to the coroner.
The cheap wallet frayed as Vargas opened it.
“Be careful. Just see if there’s a license and leave the rest for the lab.”
Vargas slid out a laminated license, examined it quickly, and handed it to me as she bagged the wallet.
As soon as I got to our office, Vargas said, “Tinder’s got a rap sheet.”
“He’s no Chapman, but two burglaries and a pair of domestic violences.”
“Don’t think so, but he’s got a temper. The complaints were from different women.”
“Frigging coward. Maybe it was a girlfriend who got sick of being abused by the piece of shit.”
“You know that’s not likely, Frank.”
“I know. Still, we’ll need to talk with them.”
“You want to start with them or his mother?”
“Has she been notified?”
“Yeah, Alvarez went.”
“Good, let’s start with whoever's closer.”
“The mother lives in Leigh Acres—both women in East Naples.”
“East Naples, here we come.”
“Okay. I also sent a car out to his neighborhood—see what they come up with contact wise.”
“Good move. Let’s get going.”
As Vargas holstered her gun she said, “I asked the lab to run ballistics on the bullets used on Chapman and Tinder. It’s an outside shot they’re connected, but we got two bodies in just under two weeks.”
She was good. As a nonbeliever in conspiracies, I didn’t see the connection, but it was the right move. If we had a serial killer on our hands who was wiping out thugs, I was of the opinion we either drag our feet or add them to the force.
I couldn’t even put a value on a place like the one Tinder’s girlfriend lived in. The cinder-block home was missing roof tiles, and a piece of graying plywood covered a window. The front yard of Jean Baron’s home was littered with plastic furniture and bicycles in various states of disrepair. I rang the bell with my car key.
Jean Baron had a drinker’s nose and was still in a housecoat, though it was near noon. Her eyes were red. Either she’d been nipping a bottle, or she knew about Tinder. I could hear one of those stupid courtroom shows playing on a TV.
Vargas said, “Jean Baron?”
Baron nodded slowly.
“We’re detectives Vargas and Luca from the sheriff’s department.”
“You’re here about Brett, right?”
Vargas nodded. “You know what happened to him?”
She nodded. “His mother called me.”
“May we come in?”
Baron moved to the side, and we stepped into a small family room with a flat-screen TV so big it overpowered the room. The place smelled of fried chicken.
“Can I get you anything?”
“No thanks. We’d like to ask you some questions about Mr. Tinder to get some background as to how this could have happened.”
“It was inevitable.”
I asked, “What do you mean by that?”
“I mean Brett had some good parts of him. He was good with my kids, and he didn’t have to be. He treated them like his own. It was the only reason I stuck with him.”
“How long were you with him?”
“Off and on about six years.”
“Why’d you leave him?”
“Come on, you know damn well. I filed against him. He beat the hell out of me in front of the kids.”
“Was that the first time he laid a hand on you?”
She shook her head. “Like I said, I hung around for the kids.”
I said, “You said his mother called you. Are the two of you close?”
“Emily’s a saint. She ain’t got nobody but Brett, and he was always in trouble. I felt for her.”
“What did Mr. Tinder do for a living?”
She snorted. “You mean besides stealing and dealing?”
I stole a glance at Vargas before asking, “He dealt drugs?”
“Nothing big, but I caught him with a big bag of pills one day. That’s the first time I threw him out. He begged to come back, and like a fool I took him in. But he kept his word on that at least, because I never saw any drugs, and believe me, with two kids, I looked.”
I asked, “Did he know someone named Joe Chapman?”
“Chapman? No, I don’t think so.”
Vargas handed her a photo of Chapman.
“I ain’t never seen this guy before.”
Vargas took back the picture and asked, “You said Mr. Tinder was always in trouble. What do you mean by that?”
“Really? You guys arrested him and sent him to prison, didn’t you?”
“Detective Vargas was looking for information unrelated to his record. Things he may have gotten away with.”
“Brett was a thief, inside and out. He would steal something almost everywhere we went, like it was a game.”
“Did he have anyone you’d consider an enemy?”
“He’d get into fights, come home all bruised up. But it’s been a good two years since we’ve been together, and I don’t know what he was up to.”
“Can you think of anyone we should be talking to? Any friends that could help in trying to catch who did this?”
Baron gave us the names of three guys Tinder ran around with while she was with him, and we left.
On the way to the car, I said, “Well, doesn’t seem Chapman and Tinder knew each other.”
“Maybe, but it’s two years since they lived together.”
Two of the names Baron gave us were a total waste of time. It’s not like we expected them to talk like women in a hair salon, but the thugs were guarded, afraid they’d reveal something about their own criminal behavior.
We figured we’d have an easier time with the last guy, Joey Horchow, as he was sitting in the Stockade Road Jail in Immokalee. Boy, it sure seemed like everything was in or off Immokalee. We’d stop and have a chat with Horchow before going over to his dead buddy’s apartment.
The Stockade Jail was a three-story, white cement building, encircled with ten-foot-high fencing, topped with razor wire. I’d been here so many times we didn’t have to show our credentials to get through the gate.
Horchow was wearing a bored look and an orange jumpsuit. Comparing the mental image of his mug shot, something about him looked different. He’d been inside for just over three months as he awaited trial on a string of burglaries.
“This is Detective Vargas, and I’m Detective Luca. We’re from homicide.”
Horchow stiffened. “Homicide? I ain’t got nothing to do with no murders.”
“We’re here to ask you about your buddy Brett Tinder.”
“Oh. What about him?”
“He was murdered. Shot in the chest and dumped into the bay by Wiggins Pass.”
“How’d you hear that?”
“Come on, man, you don’t know nothing about jails? Anything on the outside gets in, just like water finds its way.”
Water? Was that a signal?
“Hey, you got a smoke?”
“Smoking is not allowed.”
“I’ll take one back with me if you got one.”
“What can you tell us about Tinder?”
“Why should I tell you anything?”
Vargas said, “Mr. Horchow, it’s likely you’ll be convicted and receive a sentence of ten to fourteen years—”
“If he’s lucky.”
She said, “Either way, you’ll be going away for a long time. If you cooperate with us, we’ll tell the prosecutor how helpful you’ve been. I can’t promise anything more than that, but you’re going to need all the help you can get if you expect to see daylight before your fiftieth birthday.”
“What kinda stuff you want?”
I said, “Anything you know that could help our investigation into who killed him.”
Vargas said, “You mentioned that information from outside seeps in here. What did you hear about his murder?”
“Not much, just that he was shot and was floating in the Cocohatchee.”
“Who did it?”
He shook his head. “I donno. If I did, I’d be trading it to get outta here.”
“Who had reason to do away with him? Anybody he had a beef with?”
“Brett was like two different people, you know. One day he would be going along, and next day, he was like, no way I’m doing that.”
“Look, Joey, I like a riddle as much as the next guy, but what do you mean by that?”
“I gotta be careful. I say something and you gonna use it against me.”
I said, “Unless you’re talking about a homicide, nothing you say is going anywhere. Don’t worry.”
Vargas added, “And if it is a homicide, and you have information about it, we’re prepared to negotiate an offer for the information.”
“Man, I wish I had it, but Tinder was a thief, a fucking good one, but nothing more.”
“So, what were you saying before about him being a chameleon?”
“Most of the jobs we worked, we did as teams. It makes it a lot safer.”
Yeah, so safe you’re sitting here looking at ten-plus years in the slammer. “Go on.”
“What would piss guys off was we’d plan a job, and Brett would be all in one day, and then just before we’d do it, he’d pull out. He did it more than once, and it made guys mad, real mad.”
“Mad enough to kill him?”
“Anybody come to mind?”
“Come on, Joey.”
“You really gonna talk with the judge and all?”
Vargas said, “Absolutely. We help each other here, and we both win.”
I said, “You have our word, Joey. Now, tell us, who do you think had it in for Tinder.”
“Where was this fight?”
“At the body shop we hung out at on Taylor.”
“Where does this Chenko live, and does he have a first name?”
“Alex. He’s out of Leigh Acres.”
“Any idea why Tinder would be flip-flopping all the time?”
“Brett was a good guy, deep down. He liked kids—”
“And to beat his girlfriends up.”
“He felt bad, really bad about it, but he had anger issues. He tried to control himself, even started going to church.”
“Guess it didn’t work.”
“I donno. Since he was going to church, he didn’t explode so much.”
“How long did you know Joey Chapman?”
I offered a picture to him. “Joey Chapman.”
He shook his head. “No idea who this is.”
“Was Tinder gay?”
“You mean like a homo?”
“Nah, he was straight, man.”
Vargas said, “Maybe your buddy was conflicted and had anger because he was confused about who he was. Does that make sense to you?”
“So, you saying he flipped out and beat his women because he was a queer?”
I said, “There are numerous examples of men who portray themselves as heterosexual but are really gay. It takes a toll, and they sometimes get violent, many times with women.”
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