The apartment building looked like it was supposed to have two members of law enforcement climbing its front stairs.
Bruno tried the front door, and to his surprise, it opened. The same held true of the door in the lobby.
“I guess the state of the art security system is a key feature in attracting new tenants,” Bruno quipped over his shoulder to Wally, who was finally dressed in civilian clothes.
“White lived in 3C,” Wally told him. “I don’t see an elevator, so I guess we’re taking the stairs.”
“Even if there was an elevator, there’s no way in hell you could ever convince me to use it,” Bruno stated for the record as he led the way up the rickety staircase.
3C was at the end of the dimly lit, graffiti littered hallway. From the top of the stairs, they could see that the door was ajar, so they approached with caution and guns drawn.
When they arrived at the door, they could here someone rummaging around inside. Using hand signals, Bruno conveyed how he wanted them to enter.
Once they were inside, Bruno shouted, “Police. Show yourself!”
The bedroom door immediately slammed shut, and there was the distinct sound of a window being thrown open.
“Follow him down the fire escape,” Bruno ordered. “I’ll get the car, and try to head him off at the end of the alley.”
Both men sprung into action, with Wally moving much quicker.
By the time Bruno turned into the alley, the perp was running directly at him. The guy was maybe twenty-five feet from the front fender when Wally suddenly appeared behind him. He was just a head and a left arm from Bruno’s perspective, but he was flying through the air.
Wally landed on the perp’s back, and dragged him to the ground in an open field tackle.
Bruno slammed on the brakes, and his car screeched to a halt only ten feet from the men. He got out of the car and ran over to the fray.
By time he got there, Wally had the guy cuffed.
“Holy $%^&, kid. That was amazing!”
Wally smiled and yanked the man to his feet. “I was an All-Conference safety in college. Being a cop is a lot like patrolling the secondary, only you get to have a gun.”
“Ain’t you full of surprises!” Bruno made no attempt to hide his awe.
“This is abuse!” the guy whined.
“Shut up!” Bruno and Wally yelled in unison.
“What the hell were you doing in that apartment?” Bruno demanded as he poked the guy hard in the chest with his index finger.
“What do you mean what was I doing there? I live there!” the guy countered.
Bruno raised an eyebrow to indicate he wasn’t buying the garbage this guy was selling.
“If you live there, why did you run when we said we were police?”
“Cause I didn’t believe you,” the guy shot back. “The people in this neighborhood ain’t exactly trustworthy, and I’ve had some recent experience with unexpected visitors.”
“Maybe you ran because you ain’t exactly law abiding, neither,” Bruno suggested.
“I got the right to remain silent. So I ain’t saying nothing until you get me a lawyer,” the guy tried to be all tough. “And I’m gonna sue for excessive force.”
Wally gave the guy a smack on the back of the head to help him adjust his attitude.
“If that really is your apartment, do you know the previous tenant?” Bruno pressed despite the guy’s invoking his right to silence. “The name’s Charlie White.”
The guy snickered. “I never me the guy, but I did meet a couple of his friends the other day, and based on the kind of company he keeps, I don’t think we woulda been friends.”
Bruno let out a heavy sigh. This was clearly going nowhere fast.
“What do you want to do with him?” Wally asked.
“Call it in, and have someone bring him to the station,” Bruno explained. “Then meet me inside. I’m gonna try to find someone who knew our guy.”
“You’re arresting me?” the guy asked angrily. “What the hell for?”
“How about for making me sweat for starters?” Bruno snapped back.
He then pulled out his cell phone. “Say cheese.”
Bruno snapped a photo of the guy, and then headed back to his car, but before getting in, he looked over at Wally.
“Hey, kid…try not to lose this one.”
Wally wanted to say something, but he knew he deserved it, so he, too, invoked his right to remain silent.
Alberto Rodriguez, the building’s super, lived in 1A. He did not seem at all impressed with Bruno’s gold shield.
“You know this guy?” Bruno asked as he held up the photo on his phone.
“That’s 3C,” Rodriguez replied. “What did that one do?”
“He was a general pain in the ass,” Bruno mumbled. “We’re looking for Charlie White. Our records indicate he lived in 3C.”
The super shook his head. “Not for like four, five months. Charlie was a good guy, but he never had any money for rent. That all went to booze, drugs, and bad bets.”
Most detectives would have checked their notes at that point, but Bruno didn’t need that. He had a mind like a steel trap.
“White was pinched two weeks ago, and he gave this place as his address.”
The diminutive man in the doorway shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you, boss. Maybe Charlie didn’t want people to be able to track him down. I had the feeling he owed a lot of people money, and they weren’t all as nice as me.”
Bruno smirked. “So nice you put him out on the street?”
“Hey, at least I didn’t break any of his bones trying to collect,” the super countered.
“Any idea who he owed?” Bruno pressed.
Another shrug. “A couple of days ago a couple of gangbangers showed up looking for him, and really scared the crap out of 3C. They wouldn’t believe the poor guy when he told them he didn’t know Charlie or where he was.”
That definitely piqued Bruno’s interest. “You get their names?”
“It’s not like they stopped and introduced themselves on their way up the stairs,” Rodriguez replied. “But they’re from whatever gang wears the purple bandanas.
At least that was a start. “Thank you for your time.”
Wally entered the foyer just as the super closed his apartment door.
“Find out anything?” the rookie asked.
“Yeah, our mystery man was a lot more mysterious than we realized…”
TO BE CONTINUED…
If you missed any of the first six parts of The Vanishing Corpse, go back right now and read them. And if you are enjoying this serial, please feel free to share the link on social media and tell your friends to read it!