HOME INVASION 6
When we pulled up to the house, it was a media circus. Every local channel and a few cable channels had set up a temporary camp. We had talked on the way over about our “No comment” and “Active Investigation.” And “as soon as we find a lead for the public, we will be sure to let you all know.” And “Nothing has changed since this morning.”
We made our way through the media, flashing our badges with our catch phrases pretty quickly and walked through the front gates up the driveway to the house. The outside looked so peaceful in the daytime; you couldn’t tell what horrors lay inside.
Safely inside the house, away from prying eyes, Erik began to reveal more about the case. “By the time the cruisers got here, the van was out of sight and attempts to locate that vehicle ever since have been unsuccessful. We think there may be a repair shop close to the scene that they casually drove to. Yours was the only house to be discovered so quickly, so we think we’re close to the point of operations. The warehouse must be close too. All other crime scenes were farther away and discovered hours later, the trail was cold. “
I gazed around the room again. My furniture looked fine yet obviously used somehow. The clean-up crew had already removed any evidence of the party but hadn’t cleaned the furniture. The trash was taken away, parts of the carpet carefully vacuumed, things were missing; the missing things though, I could not remember from the night before – was it the forensics team or the suspects?
No sense in trying to figure it out now.
I walk up the stairs and look down to the scene below; stopping on the first landing to take a wide sweep of the room. The graffiti seemed a permanent fixture now. From this distance, I could almost read it – WCECB. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that WC and EC were West Coast and East Coast since most gangs identify themselves by geographic areas when they want to take control of territory to establish who they are. And these were new kids on the block. And to try to show their solidarity the B probably meant Brotherhood; meaning this was a new gang reaching out for members so they were establishing some pretty high connections. Answers might be found in other gangs who did not like them nor appreciate the fact that they were stomping on someone’s territory.
Mark is out in the backyard and I proceed upstairs. Black stains are on the carpet where the woman expired less than twelve hours ago. The stain of blood was so familiar, yet in my home, it was as if someone put a black hole in the middle of the floor…Suddenly, the home phone rang in the office. I could make it if I ran carelessly but decide to just retrieve my messages while I am in there. I wonder how many messages are on the voicemail and if any of them have to do with this robbery. I know my message is one of them, but that tape was confiscated into evidence. Someone must have put a new tape in to catch any incoming tips in case anyone who knows me calls. …I hear a female voice “Erin? I saw you come home with the detective…at least I thought that was you. Please pick up. It’s Penny from 1317.” I walk a little faster to reach the phone just before she hung up.
“Penny, hi, it’s Erin.” Mark was rushing in the door as soon as he heard me with the greeting, I put Penny on speaker phone, “Penny, I have a detective with me, so I hope you don’t mind that I put you on speaker?”
“Ummm, no, I guess,” she answers, not realizing the tape was still running too.”I’m so sorry to hear about your break in. The neighbors were all talking last night and we had to have an emergency neighborhood meeting with one of the LAPD officers to get the story straight at around 11PM last night. We didn’t know where you were”
“She organizes everything for the neighborhood, knows everyone.” I whispered to Mark, “and everything going on, not a gossip – but does know everything”
“Penny, did you see anything yesterday?” I answer getting straight to the heart of what we needed to know.
“I told the officer yesterday about the moving truck and van in your driveway. The truck looked like a medium sized moving truck and had a huge logo on the side, painted professionally that said ‘Alexander and Sons’, I thought you were replacing furniture or something. You know we never see you at meetings or get-togethers, so I just had to assume. No one ever knows what’s going on with you.” She had a slight edge to her voice then, as if she was trying to defend herself against something.
“Erin, is there a place we can meet and talk?” she asked. “The detective can come too”
“Sure Penny. You name it, and we’ll be there.” I tried to remain upbeat and lively although I knew this was going to be serious.
“Well, someplace safe. Your house is surrounded with all that media attention and your phone is probably bugged – I don’t want to be on tonight’s news. How about we go to the Dungeon for lunch? They have those tables that are all enclosed so no one even sees the other patrons dining?”
The Dungeon is a wild medieval restaurant, very cozy, menu from the actual food from the period and it was a fun place to go. I gave Mark a smile. “The Dungeon it is then, want to meet at noon? We’ll lose anyone tailing us, and they’ll never suspect to see us in a place like that. Good choice”
Penny added, “I heard the FBI uses it a lot…but that’s only a rumor” She laughed.
We both laugh.
At noon we arrive at The Dungeon. The place is fairly empty and we see Peggy right away, greet her and walk in to get a table for three.
It’s a quiet table, way in the back and Sir Callahan is our server. He has a quiet English accent, but in LA, the budding wanna-be actors are all around. We send him off swiftly with our order and quickly get to business.
Penny was so anxious, she started in right away. “Well, I heard what happened from the neighbors when we were gathering in the street trying to figure out why all the cars and lights and ambulance was at your house last night. Of course, the story wasn’t clear and you know how first hand accounts with neighbors can get mixed up.” She sat back, rolled her eyes and paused before going on. “Anyway, I read the story in the paper this morning which I assume is the real story? I saw the picture of that dead woman they found in your house. “
Erik and I look at each other and back at Penny. She paused as if she wanted us to say something so Erik said, “Yes, we had no identification on her, and she had been beaten pretty badly. We got the photo from her driver’s license once we obtained her finger prints. It turns out she was some kind of fortune teller?”
Penny then looked deflated. “I met her last week in Long Beach at the Carnival. She went by the name Madam Rosalie. I didn’t think I believed in that stuff, but she seemed to know everything about me. She looked at my Palm and told me everything about my life, my kids, and my husband. We’re having a rough time lately. Todd, my husband fell into a bad crowd a few years back and got out of it but a couple of the others went to jail a month or so ago. We’ve been struggling financially to keep what we have, and Todd has been working two jobs, but he wouldn’t do anything illegal. When he realized what these guys were into, he backed out. I swear he was never a part of it, not Todd.”
I was really confused now, what did this have to do with anything? “Penny, can you tie this together with the fortune teller please?”
“Well, Erin, like I said,” Penny was shaking, “Todd would never do that, so please, don’t have him indicted…”
“Penny, why would you be so afraid of me?” I asked plainly.
“Erin, I know you were in the Secret Service. Remember when you first moved in and we talked that one afternoon?” she just spilled it all out now, sobbing, “I know the Secret Service is investigating Counterfeit Money operations for the Treasury, and you keep strange hours, we never see you. The fortune teller warned me that one of my neighbors who I didn’t know well was plotting against me and I had to protect myself. For another twenty five dollars she would protect my house and loved ones with a charm. – I swear Erin, I know everyone else really well, you are so secretive and I know about your law enforcement background. “
“Penny, I told you I retired, and that I was a writer! I came up here to get away from all of that. Besides I worked protection, then Dallas homicide! What did you tell the fortune teller about me?”
“Everything I knew; your schedules, the layout of your house, that you lived alone, that you carried a weapon. At that moment, I was completely convinced that you knew about Todd’s acquaintances and were working undercover to put him in jail along with them for their counterfeiting scheme. I couldn’t let that happen to my family.”
Penny was really crying now. “I heard that there was a dead woman in your house and I feared that it was you. I spent all last night crying until I got the morning paper. That’s when I realized it was her. But the whole thing is my entire fault, I had to tell you. I don’t know why they killed her! I was so relieved to hear it wasn’t you. But it could have been you and I’m so sorry.”
Erik spoke up finally, “Penny, these are gang members who use people like you in their cons to get what they want. They prey on your vulnerability. “he looked at me, “In this state, she made up a generic scenario, your mind fit the other pieces into it and made Erin the villain in your story. We see this all the time in con operations. It’s not your fault. We will however need you to make this into a statement down at the station because it is very important information. Any details about ‘Madame Rosalie’, her manners, other people around there that day or anything in the neighborhood leading up to and including the day of the robbery would be helpful.“
“There was a man in her tent with her. When I sat down for the reading, he left the room.” Penny offered.
“Do you have a description?” I ask.
“Dark long hair looked like a biker with his mustache. He fit with what I would think a fortune teller would go for, so I didn’t look too closely. About 6’ and wore blue jeans and a tee shirt. When he closed the red curtain I noticed a yin-yang tattoo on his bicep. I am looking to get a tattoo so I notice them when I see them.”
Our lunch was delivered, and we ate discussing Penny’s fortune teller experience in great detail. I found myself assuring her that I no longer worked for the Secret Service and besides, if her husband had something to do with the counterfeit money scheme, they would have at least questioned him already.
Penny was off to the station to give her statement. Erik and I are heading down to the Long Beach Carnival just to scope it out.
Other HOME INVASION Chapters
- Short Story: Home Invasion
copyright pending 2011 by Erin Le Fey I worked a little later than usual today. So it was dark as I was driving home in traffic listening to nothing. Too much going on in my head to be distracted by...
- Home Invasion 2
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- HOME INVASION 3
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- HOME INVASION 4
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- HOME INVASION 5
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