The Real Estate Offices of Miles Fitzpatrick were located in the tallest glass building on the other side of the river.
Most residents thought of that side of the river as the good part of the city. Detective Bruno did not agree with this line of thought, however. He avoided the area as much as possible because he didn’t trust people in expensive suits. He preferred blue collar and lower income types because “at least they had souls”.
Bruno hated Fitzpatrick immediately. He was handsome, well dressed, and had the kind of smile that could only be achieved after hours of daily rehearsal in the mirror.
“I’m Miles Fitzpatrick, but my friends call me Fitz” he greeted them with that smile in an opulent office that was larger than the bullpen back at the station, and had the kind of view of the city that only gods and airline passengers should ever have.
“I’m Detective Bruno and this is Officer Wainwright, Miles Fitzpatrick,” Bruno replied with the coldest of looks upon his face.
Fitzpatrick chuckled and turned to Wally. “Does this guy ever smile?”
“Don’t try to form some sort of fleeting bond with me, Miles Fitzpatrick, over a perceived mutual dislike of my partner’s serious demeanor,” Wally answered. “We’re not here to make friends or to buy any property.”
“Please have a seat,” he offered as he pointed to the comfortable chairs in front of his desk.
Neither Bruno nor Wally flinched.
“We’ll stand,” Bruno informed him gruffly. “You know this man?”
Bruno extended his cell phone so the real estate agent could see the photo of Charlie White on the screen.
“No, I do not,” Fitzpatrick replied after taking a close look.
“Of course you’re going to say that,” Wally said very accusingly.
“I never have. I swear,” he insisted. “Look, I’m a Real Estate guy. This whole biz is built on being able to schmooze and charm potential clients. As a result, I never forget a name or a face. That impresses the hell out of people. If I’d ever seen that man, I’d be able to recall his name without hesitation.”
There was definitely panic in Fitzpatrick’s voice, and that brought Bruno joy. However, he did not show it. He kept the pissed off look on his face, and tried to further unsettle the man with his coldest glare.
“You ain’t gonna deny paying homeless folks to sleep in St. Sebastian’s parking lot, are you?” Bruno growled. “Cuz then I’d know you were lying.”
Wally nodded that he concurred with that statement.
“Yes, I admit to doing that,” Fitzpatrick conceded sheepishly.
“You wanna tell us the name of the guy you paid to do that? The one with the messed up nose and long white hair?” Bruno asked in a way that was not a request.
Fitzpatrick nodded. “I didn’t want to know his name, but he spoke in the third person. You know: ‘Champ is going to deliver for you. Champ has lots of friends who’ll sleep in a parking lot for cash.'”
“Does Champ have a last name?” Wally pressed, doing his best angry Bruno imitation.
This time Fitzpatrick shook his head. “I’m sure he does, but I don’t know what it is.”
Bruno narrowed his eyes at the sass in Fitzpatrick’s reply.
“Don’t be a dick with your answers,” Bruno warned. “How’d ya pick Champ for the gig?”
“To be honest, I was killing two birds with one stone,” Fitzpatrick began like he was going to tell this long, complicated story, but then he noticed the blank stares shot back at him. “He used to panhandle in front of the building. I told him there was an extra hundred in it for him if he chose a new place to set up shop.”
“All very convenient,” Bruno replied.
“You can’t go a block in any direction in this city without seeing a homeless person, Detective,” he answered defensively. “I merely selected the closest one. And it’s not like I did the man any harm. He was well paid for the simple task of sleeping in a place that I’m certain was quieter, cleaner, and safer than wherever he was sleeping around here.”
“Don’t kid yourself, Miles Fitzpatrick,” Bruno advised. “They ain’t gonna make you a saint because you gave Champ a Benjamin to trespass someplace so you could lower property values before you snatched it up for whatever seedy deal you were working for whoever your soulless clients are.”
Fitzpatrick opened his mouth to say something, but wisely chose to remain silent.
“What would happen to property values if someone got killed in that parking lot?” Wally called out from off in the corner where he looked at the framed photos on the wall of Fitzpatrick with celebrities, politicians, and athletes.
“Was there a murder?” Fitzpatrick queried with obvious panic in his voice.
Now Fitzpatrick looked really concerned. “No. Why do you ask?”
“You sure?” Bruno pressed.
“Of course,” he answered. “I’ve got state of the art security systems at both locations. If anyone unexpected had even approached either site, I would know about it.”
Bruno extended his phone again so that Fitzpatrick could see the photo.
“Burn this face into your amazing memory, Miles Fitzpatrick. This is Charlie White, and he’s vowed to ruin you for defiling sacred Church ground with the homeless. He’s one of those religious fanatics who ain’t gonna stop coming at you until one of you is ruined.”
The man’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. “Can’t you stop him, or give me police protection until he’s arrested?”
“No can do,” Bruno answered with a shrug. “Separation of Church and State. We can’t get involved since it involves his religious beliefs. If I was you, I’d hire a coupla round the clock bodyguards until this is settled.”
Fitzpatrick nodded emphatically.
Wally, who was on the other side of the room, raised his hand to his face to cover his smile.
“I appreciate your coming to me with this Detective,” Fitzpatrick said softly as a million stressful thoughts crashed around inside his brain.
“Do yourself a favor and call off your homeless slumber party,” Bruno suggested. “That might buy you a reprieve from this zealot.”
Fitzpatrick just nodded.
Bruno could sense that he’d done enough damage for one visit, so he motioned to Wally that it was time to go.
Once they were safely outside the office, Wally spoke up. “You sure he wasn’t involved?”
Bruno nodded. “He ain’t nothing but a greedy prick. I believe he didn’t know the victim, and no one’s gonna wanna buy or build on land where a murder happened. He nearly shit his pants when you asked about it.”
“Advising him to hire round the clock bodyguards was a nice touch,” Wally complimented.
Bruno finally cracked a smile. “I wanted to kick him in the balls, but that woulda been too much paperwork. Kicking him in his financial sack is almost as satisfying.”
TO BE CONTINUED…