REVENGE OF A DEAD HITMAN PART TWO
Murphy’s unit remained locked and undisturbed. Whoever did this did not yet know who purchased the contents of 336.
The auction! They would come looking for the winning bidder, and there was only one logical place to find that information. He cursed himself for not seeing it earlier and punched a number into his phone from memory.
“Well, good morning, Quinn,” Tracy greeted him. “I was going to call and see if you wanted to come to my place for lunch. Clothing optional.”
“Tracy, I want you to peek out your window and check for anything unusual.”
“That’s a strange way to ask for a second date, don’t you think?”
“Humor me, please. My new storage unit was emptied this morning. The same people broke into the office and set fire to the gate security records.”
“Oh my God! Who would care about what’s in a lousy storage locker?”
“I’ll tell you what I know, but first, look out the window. Do it without being seen.”
The line went silent for a moment. “Now that’s odd,” she finally said. “I see four big guys standing beside one of those low-rider cars in the parking lot. They’re definitely not from around here.”
Murphy was already connecting the dots and didn’t like where they were going. “Do you have another way out of your condo?”
“Yes, a path out the back leads to a shopping center. Why?”
“Listen carefully. Get out of there fast, then text me your address as soon as you’re somewhere safe. I’ll come to meet you.”
“Quinn, do you really think that—”
“Questions later, Tracy, please. Get out of there now!”
Tracy’s text message came in as Murphy ran back to the front gate. He flagged down a state trooper he knew standing beside his cruiser. “Danny, I believe there’s going to be a second attack,” he explained, showing the officer the auctioneer’s address.
The officer radioed in the call. “I’ll take this myself,” he said, jumping into the driver’s seat and squealing off with lights flashing.
Murphy followed a short distance behind. The phone in his pocket vibrated, and he read the display; Katie Rakowski. He pushed a steering wheel button to accept the call.
“Well, that was quick,” he said, shooting through light traffic.
“I had a hunch about the caliber of your pistol. Quinn, a body was discovered in the Washtenaw landfill over ten years ago. This guy was a bodyguard of Antonello Leoni. Not only was the murder weapon a twenty-two, but the corpse had eight slugs, which was coincidently the capacity of this pistol. Somebody emptied their weapon into this guy. The eight shell casings are still in the cylinder. Talk about your smoking gun. You don’t often find this kind of evidence. But this was overkill. Definitely not your typical triple-tap execution with two to the torso and one to the head. This looked personal.”
“Have you run ballistics matching up the slugs from the body?”
“Yes, I have. Five of the eight slugs were in good enough condition to compare. The barrel striations match the markings on the slugs. Sorry to break it to you, but you won’t be getting your new pistol back anytime soon. This was a murder weapon. I’m sending it over for fingerprint analysis. This shooter didn’t wear gloves, and it is covered. Oh, and by the way….”
“Yes?” Murphy said.
“The lieutenant wishes a few words with you. I had to bring him into this when I verified the ballistics.”
“Understood, Katie, and thanks. Oh, and Katie, I sent over some pictures of an old bank bag. Let me know if this links up to anything.”
“Sure, Murph, I have tons of time. Who needs a lunch hour?”
Murphy ended the call just as the phone began vibrating again.
“Quinn, it’s me.”
“Tracy, are you somewhere safe?” he asked.
“I think so. I’m in a grocery store behind my condo complex.”
“Good, I know the one. I’m about two minutes away. Do not come out until you see me, got it?”
She clicked off, and Murphy’s phone rang yet again.
“Officer Murphy, you are one busy man for someone on injured reserve.” The lieutenant’s voice was calmer than what Murphy expected. “You want to explain your involvement in a ten-year-old cold case murder?”
“Quite accidental, sir. I stumbled upon the pistol through a storage unit auction. Everything else is a result of that.”
“Rakowski filled me in on that part. That was good police work getting it to us uncontaminated. This is the first solid lead we’ve had in the case, and it’s practically an evidence orgy.”
“Lieutenant, I sent a trooper to the residence of the auction coordinator who sold me the storage unit. I believe these people are looking for the buyer’s identity and may have sent some hired guns to get it out of her. Do you have any word back on what he found?”
“Yes, he’s on site now. The front door was kicked in, and the inside was ransacked. These guys were searching for something.”
Murphy sighed heavily. Tracy had left her apartment scant minutes before the men in the parking lot forced their way in.
“Sir, I have some more loose ends to work out. I’m headed downtown and will tell you everything I know when I get there.”
“Good enough,” the lieutenant said. “We’ll talk then.”
Murphy cruised alongside the grocery store and spied Tracy peering cautiously out from behind the constant parade of customers with shopping carts. He rolled his window down. As soon as she recognized him, she made for his car in a barely controlled walk, sliding into the passenger seat. She wordlessly pulled the door closed and belted up, then stared forward. Murphy could see her pulse racing through a vein in her neck.
“What’s going on?” she asked, her cracking voice betraying a false sense of calm. “What do these people want with me?”
Murphy started driving. “We’ve stumbled upon some very damning evidence inside that storage unit of an old murder. Right now, the safest place for us is at the police station. I’ll fill you in on everything else along the way.”
* * *
The Michigan State Police post in Detroit buzzed with excitement over the newly discovered evidence in the old murder case. Murphy and Tracy were directed to a meeting room where Lieutenant Stormzand awaited, along with Katie Rakowski, her forensics lab supervisor, and a few other suits that Murphy didn’t recognize.
The lieutenant rose and shook both their hands. “I’m glad you could join us, Officer Murphy.” The lieutenant read Tracy’s guest badge. “And Ms. Beddow.” He directed them to a pair of open seats, then pointed to one of the unknown guests. “This is District Attorney Max Diego.”
The DA held out his hand to Murphy. “Excellent work, officer,” he said.
The lieutenant continued. “These two gentlemen are with the FBI Criminal Investigation Division and will want a few words with you when we’re finished here.”
He took a breath and grinned. “I will begin by saying this has been an extremely fortuitous day for justice in Michigan. The newly discovered weapon has yielded clues to a decade-old murder. I’ll have Kate Rakowski fill everyone in on our progress since she was the one who started the ball rolling on analysis.”
Rakowski rose and stood beside some documents on the bulletin board at the front of the room. “The pistol obtained by officer Murphy was almost too good to be true. It has now been positively identified as the murder weapon of Vito Stucci, a former bodyguard of crime boss Antonello Leoni. Stucci’s body was discovered days after his murder at the Six Mile Landfill in Washtenaw. He had been shot eight times with a small-caliber weapon.” Rakowski held up an evidence bag, smiling. “This weapon. What makes this such an amazing find is the fingerprints.” She pointed to an image of the crime boss flashing one of his infamous smug smiles. “They belong to Leoni himself. And checking with the weapon manufacturer, we found that this pistol was custom-built for Leoni. It was his personal protection pistol, a gift from his wife. This begs the question, why would he do the killing himself with his own gun? We have never seen such careless behavior by these people before, and if not for the quick wit of Officer Murphy, it may have eluded us forever. We also have evidence tying him to an armored car robbery in 1978.” Rakowski gave Murphy a wink.
The lieutenant eyed the DA. “You’ve seen the evidence, Mr. Diego. Have we given you enough to set a court date?”
“That and more,” Diego said, nodding. “Leoni has managed to run his underground empire hidden in plain sight. He and his henchmen have a hand in most of the illegal drugs, smuggling, loan sharking, and human trafficking within a five-state region. He now outsources most of his wet work and drug distribution to local gangs. We suspect the attack and fire at the storage unit and the break-in at Ms. Beddow’s residence were committed by members of the Latin Counts. We already know they’re on his payroll. Leoni has somehow always managed to stay one step ahead of the law. As Ms. Rakowski pointed out, we have never seen him make such blatant blunders. Well, all it took was one.” He looked over to Murphy. “You have my sincere gratitude for bringing this evidence forward and giving us what we need to take his organization down once and for all. There is enough here to try him for first-degree murder. And you have my promise that I will prosecute this case to the fullest. The reign of Antonello Leoni is about to end.”
“Great job, everyone,” the lieutenant said, clapping. “And a special thanks to Officer Quinn Murphy, who managed to break one of our biggest cold cases while recuperating on disability. Fine work, son. This is a great moment for law enforcement. Now, since you’re the one who found it, would you care to guess why this pistol was sitting in a storage unit belonging to one of Leoni’s henchmen rather than being destroyed like every other weapon utilized in a hit?”
Murphy didn’t have to think hard for an answer. “Insurance,” he quickly offered.
“Come again?” The lieutenant asked.
“Leoni’s men were all expendable. Vito Stucci found that out the hard way. Maybe Gianni Bassetti wanted to hold back something in reserve just in case his own life was ever threatened. This gun would have been his insurance policy so that the mob couldn’t put him out to pasture— or under it. It looks like he was done in before he could use it against his boss. I think the best he managed was a little revenge from beyond the grave. But that’s just my theory. Unless someone steps forward to clear their conscience, I doubt we’ll ever know what really happened….”
* * *
July 8th, ten years earlier
“That bastard dies tonight!” Antonello Leoni growled from the front passenger seat, angrily rolling the cylinder of his chrome-plated revolver. Click, click, click. He gritted his teeth as he glanced back at the black Escalade following them as they made their way up the dark, winding road to the top of the landfill.
“Boss, I think you’re making a mistake,” Gianni Bassetti cautioned from the back seat. “Let us just rough him up real good. Break a few bones. He’ll get the message. Besides, you don’t want blood on your hands.”
“This is personal, Gianni! Do you know how much money I had tied up in that broad? The condominium, the clothes, the car. She was great in the sack, and she kept her mouth shut. And that backstabber took all that away from me when he started banging her.” Leoni stared and pointed at Bassetti and the other bodyguard sitting beside him. “Nobody, and I mean nobody, takes from me that which is mine.” His voice softened, and he asked, “Did she suffer?”
Bassetti shook his head.
“Good,” Leoni nodded. “I didn’t want she should suffer.”
Both cars came to a halt, and all occupants piled out. Vito Stucci was led from the other vehicle to the ledge overlooking the day’s deposited garbage. His hands were tied, his mouth gagged. He looked back through reddened, terror-stricken eyes.
“I trusted you,” Leoni said, walking toward the man, the pistol held at his side. “I paid you well, treated you like family, and what did you do in return? You disrespected me, Vito. Of all the women you could have had, you chose the one that was not yours to take.” He wagged an angry finger. “You shot me in the heart. And now—” He took aim with the ivory-handled revolver. “Now, I’m returning the gesture. Rot in hell, you son of a bitch.”
Leoni emptied his gun into the man, still pulling the trigger after all his ammunition was spent.
Vito Stucci staggered but remained on his feet, staring back defiantly as though unaffected by the eight rounds shot point-blank into his chest. A moment later, his eyes rolled up, and he dropped lifelessly into the garbage heap below.
Antonello Leoni peered over the edge, grimaced, and spat on the dead man. He turned and strode casually back to the car where Gianni Bassetti stood holding the door. Leoni pushed the still-smoking gun into Bassetti’s gloved hand, eyed him with a scowl, and said, “Make this disappear.”