Book Title: Wolf’s Remedy
Author: Doc Macomber
Genre: Detective Murder Mystery
Release date Jul 24, 2007
What secrets lie hidden in the WWII Harley Motorcycles? Why was a harmless young man assassinated in a crowded train Depot? And when do avenging angels cross the line to become killers? Follow Air Force Investigator Jack Vu as his hunt for a murderer uncovers an aged cadre of veterans set on making one final attempt to redeem themselves by recovering and returning a cache of treasures to Holocaust survivors. As time runs out, and the true wounds of war are revealed, a sense of urgency propels these modern day Robin Hoods forward. This historically accurate tale forces moral choices by these unforgettable characters that will stay with you long after this satisfying thriller reaches its conclusion.
“As addictive and satisfying as my first tattoo, Wolf’s Remedy left me craving more.”
– Lyle Tuttle, Tattoo Legend and Historian
“Lean back, crank the throttle open, and hang on. This turbo charged tale is as gratifying as a Harley hitting the open road.”
–Jason Rogers, Co-Owner of Columbia Motorcycle Harley Davidson
“Doc understands the seamier side of life. His characters are complex, loaded with contradictions and wholly believable.”
– Dan Schilling, Special Ops Commander, Co-Author of The Battle of Mogadishu.
Jack Vu searched in vain for his pills. Unable to still his anxiety, he again checked his watch. Amtrak’s Crescent from New York City to New Orleans was behind schedule. The passenger train was due at 2200 hours. It was now past midnight.
A chill crept up his body from the leaden pavement, the origin of which seemed more than the damp night or his fretful nature. Yet he couldn’t put his finger on it. He flipped up the stiff collar of his wool coat and continued his solitary vigil. Fog descended over the depot, its silent jaws slowly swallowing the hazy glow of the yard lamps. Miles of deserted track fused Vu’s worrisome thoughts. Relax. It was just fatigue, he reassured himself. It’d been a very long day. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“Sergeant, why don’t you go inside and grab some coffee?” Vu’s eyes snapped open as a young military policeman approached on the platform. “I’ll call if I hear it coming.”
“Thanks, but I need the fresh air.” Vu said.
The SP reached inside his jacket and removed a mustard-stained napkin. He blew his runny nose, then walked off and tossed the tissue in a can nearby. Vu wondered why he’d struck up a conversation with the young man earlier, inside the depot. It ran contrary to his solitary nature. He’d said nothing special to the airman, but now he couldn’t shake him. What had he said his name was? Ronny? Airman First Class, Ronny?
Ronny returned, rubbing his hands together to stay warm. Cloudy jets of moist breath sprayed from the young man’s nostrils.
“It’s freezing out here,” Ronny said.
Vu reluctantly nodded. A Buddhist, Vu accepted it might be his path this lifetime to change his comfortable isolation. But did he have to start that journey tonight?
“Who ya waitin’ for again?” Ronny persisted.
Vu winced as the SP snorted back phlegm and spat on the ground.
Vu smiled absently. After an awkward pause, the kid turned and struck up a conversation with another stranger. Smokers huddled on the platform. But Ronny’s chattering, the frigid weather, the massive decaying depot – it was all getting to him.
Surrendering, Vu drove his hands into his pockets and located the missing bottle. After the Lyman case he thought he wouldn’t need them any more. He shook the green pills into his hand, found a faucet near the entrance to the depot and chased them down with rancid tap water.
* * *
Two blocks east of the train station behind a deserted warehouse, former Buck Sergeant Bud Cooper lazed behind the wheel of a rental car, smoking. Cooper breathed in the damp air and watched the westbound tracks. Anytime now…
He pulled a scrap of paper from his pocket, checked the train number one last time, then crumpled it and dumped it in the ashtray. He used his cigarette to kindle the paper. When he was finished, he defragged the filter and tossed it out the window in the same calculated manner as the last two smokes.
Cooper rubbed the rough scar on his cheek, the result of a bar fight in Germany, the closest he’d ever gotten to combat. He’d been a three-striper back then working on his second hitch when he fell for a shit-hot female dope dealer, got addicted to pussy and crack, and ended his military career in the brig. Since he knew weapons and small unit tactics – and a less than honorable discharge didn’t help him find regular work – he turned to what he knew.
Cooper checked his image in the rearview mirror. The scar was history. The makeup he’d boosted from the hooker in Gulfport had done the job.
From the trunk, Cooper removed a duffel bag and placed it on the fender. He opened the bag and reached inside. A 1951 High Standard “Super-Matic” .22 complete with homemade plastic Coke bottle silencer duct taped to the muzzle was suspended in the center of an empty half-rack of Budweiser. Two cardboard templates mounted crossways held the pistol steady. He’d used a K-bar to cut the slot in the duffel; allowing ample room for his hand to reach up inside and locate the trigger. Cooper slammed the trunk lid and retied his boots. No sound of the train’s rumble yet. He slung the duffel over his shoulder, adjusted the six-inch slot on the left side about midway, and began walking.
Cooper was proud of his work. He slid his hand in through the hole and touched the trigger. It felt like wet pussy….
It’d taken several hundred rounds and two duffel bags to work out all the bugs. The pistol was old, but that was the point. It had been a rare score on the street. He was impressed with the weapon, but not the spook who’d sold it to him. He remembered shaking his head at that amateur Aunt Jemima’s furtive glances over his shoulder and the obvious way he’d shielded the pistol with his jacket as he passed it off.
“Hey, whatcha doin, man!” he’d squealed, dancing around nervously. Cooper got out the squib he’d prepared earlier. The shine freaked.
“Back off,” Cooper said, holding the cartridge out for him to see. “It’s a blank, all right? I pulled the bullet and dumped the powder. I wanna test it.”
“Hey, Jessie James, I told you it works. Don’t you trust Daddy C?”
“I don’t even trust myself.” Cooper said.
He dropped the blank into the chamber, pointed the gun at the spent needles and condoms strewn around the alley floor, and squeezed the trigger. The click was louder, like a crackly lady-finger, but the tongue of flame at the muzzle assured him the primer at the base of the cartridge had ignited.
Cooper pulled back the slide and caught the shell as the gun spat it out. The dent where the firing pin had hit was clean, even and deep.
He dropped the pistol into his pocket and pulled out a wad of cash. You could never tell anymore about these fuckin’ spooks. Some of them didn’t know jack about the merchandise.
Cooper pointed his fingers like a gun at the black man and made a skull-like grin. Daddy flinched, but never let his eyes leave the wad of twenties wedged in Cooper’s fingers.
“Okay! We cool then?”
Cooper nodded, allowing the money to slip out of his grip. The man reached out and snatched the cash. Cooper latched onto the man’s arm.
“I have another request…”
* * *
Vu detected a low vibration under his feet and peered down the tracks. The engine’s pulsating spotlight carved a hole in the dense fog. The shrill sounding whistle shattered the silence of the depot.
Anxious family members spilled out of the station and pressed toward the train. Maybe he could relax now. Perhaps the crawling skin had been nothing more than the itchy wool sweater he’d put on today. Betty told him he looked good enough to eat in it when she’d given it to him. He’d worn it tonight simply to please her.
The Crescent steamed into the station like a gallant ship. Her engines deafened and her exhaust bellowed. Vu covered his ears as the enormous hulk of pounding pistons rolled by. He calculated sixteen cars in all, a massive modern day feat of aluminum, iron, and steel.
Two conductors simultaneously popped out of the first and second passenger cars. One placed a portable step on the pavement while the other opened the side door to the baggage car and began unloading suitcases. Some of the train’s curtains opened. Sleepy faces peered out. The wait seemed to take forever before passengers disembarked. Vu hated being boxed in by crowds. It made his survival mode switch to high gear.
As the platform swelled with bodies, Vu stood on tiptoe, his view shadowed by the onslaught of taller Americans. He remained attentive to avoid being trampled by a sea of bodies swaying toward the terminal. He watched four boys jump down out of one of the cars carrying backpacks, followed by a second wave of passengers lugging heavy suitcases. A young couple broke free of the crowd, racing into each other’s arms. Through the swarm of bodies, Vu thought he caught a familiar glimpse through a window.
Instead, a young airman in a wrinkled uniform hopped down out of the cabin. Another weary soldier heading back to base, he assumed. The steam and clatter of the engines and the loud droning sound of voices broke his focus. A clumsy passenger swayed past and smacked his ankle with a vintage trunk. Then another jostled him from behind.
As he regained his footing, he caught sight of the back of a man’s head wearing a baseball cap and lugging an Army duffel, bullying his way through the arriving passengers. The man searched each approaching face before his head finally locked on a target. Vu’s nostrils flared an alert and his eyes narrowed. Time stopped.
“Jack! Over here!”
Betty appeared from the middle cabin, grinning at Vu, dragging two bulging suitcases and a hatbox. On her head was a plastic crown of the Statue of Liberty. Relieved and distracted, Vu dashed toward her. As Betty embraced him, he spun her around and scanned the crowd.
Her lips opened in a welcome kiss, then snapped shut.
Jack was not smiling up to kiss her. He wasn’t even aware of her. Instinctively, she turned toward his line of vision.
Vu craned to get a better look at the man in the baseball cap. Then he spotted the tired soldier approaching through the crowd. The stalker shifted the duffel and approached the soldier, meeting him with a venomous grin. Recognition flashed in the soldier’s eyes as both he and Vu stared into the abyss of death.
Instinctively, Vu pushed Betty to the ground. He pulled out his gun. “Don’t move!”
The soldier’s silent cry went unheard, drowned out by the noisy chaos in the station. Two rapid, muffled, hollow points exploded his intestines while a third bullet shattered the soft cartilage between his eyes.
The crowd froze. Then a lone woman stumbled backwards under the dead weight of the soldier falling into her arms. Her legs trembled as she struggled to break his fall, but his lifeless gravity overpowered her. The soldier’s body slapped the pavement. The woman looked down at her quivering hands, smeared with a stranger’s blood.
Through the chaos, Vu espied the baseball hat just disappearing onto the train as he encountered the collapsed soldier. Gasps of air frittered away from the boy’s lips. Blood spilled from his forehead and two faint red trails oozed across his uniform. Vu stooped and checked his pulse, as life poured from his body. Breathe. Faint, then nothing…
The blood-smeared woman stared down at the soldier, a low keen escaping from her lips. Several screams echoed out as panicked passengers ran for the safe harbor of the depot.
Ronny scrambled toward Vu. “What the fuck just happened?”
“There’s been a shooting.”
Ronny focused on the twitching body. Suddenly, his face emptied. He sucked in a trembling breath, then reeled instinctively in panic.
“Don’t let anyone leave the area.” Vu said. It was an order that fell on deaf ears.
With his gun drawn, Vu boarded the train and ran through the empty passenger cars. The lavatories? Then he heard someone shouting outside.
Vu looked out the compartment window. He saw a flashlight shining on a dark field on the far side of the depot and for a moment made out what looked like a man falling on the eastbound tracks. He strained to see through the fog and exhaust, but before he could be certain, the figure had disappeared in the vapor.
Vu checked his watch; it was 0048 hours.
Cooper stayed down until the sirens passed. Then he followed the deserted two-lane highway out of New Orleans. A few miles further, he turned off and parked at a dead end road on the bayou. From the glove box he pulled out a pint of Wild Turkey, tore off the wrapper, and started drinking. The job had not gone as well as he had hoped, but it was not a total fuck up either. The tip had paid off. The problem was taken care of. But who the fuck was the slope with the gun?
He turned on the dome light and checked himself out. No blood. Just a minor scrape and his hand ached. Something nasty had lodged under the skin. It’d probably happened when he stumbled in the rail yard, ramming a chunk of wooden railroad tie into his palm. He rubbed the oily creosote onto his pant leg. The hand would have to wait. He swung the door open and climbed out.
It was warmer here, but it smelled rank – like someone had pulled a handful of stinky out of their butt crack and flung it skyward. He dropped the duffel, lit a Marlboro and sank into the wet rotting grass. A swollen moon shone down on the ancient decaying swamp.
Somewhere out over the vast darkness, a heron squawked to safer climes.
Cooper stubbed out his cigarette and got down to business before the booze took hold. First things first – disassemble the weapon. The gun had been on the street for years and might have a bullet-mark document history. He removed it from the duffel and placed it at his feet. He tore off the duct tape, cardboard and homemade silencer. The .22 separated into three pieces in seconds. He had sanded the barrel with crocus cloth to obscure any telltale bullet markings, the slide, receiver and all traces of cardboard, tape and duffel, were strewn over miles of dirty swamp.
It had been a long night and it was about to get longer. New Orleans’ homicide detective Dorene Gates flicked her toothpick onto the empty tracks as she and her partner entered the depot. Gates wore faded blue jeans, Tony Lamas, and a leather jacket. It was a sharp contrast to detective Bruce Hill’s gray suit and polished Italian shoes. Gates had lipstick smudges across her ebony cheek. Vu knew he would suffer for being the one who ruined her evening.
They had butted heads on the Lyman case months earlier, which had turned to shit for her late in the game, and Gates was still pissed at him. Vu was certain they were old adversaries who had met over many lifetimes. This certainty enabled him to deal with the obvious disdain Gates held for him in this life.
“Oh this night just keeps getting better and better,” Gates barked, glaring at Vu. Vu gave her a cryptic smile and stood his ground.
Hill, yawned, stepped around his boss, and shook Vu’s hand. “Good to see ya, Vu. It’s been awhile.” Hill turned toward Betty. “Welcome back Betty – how was the Big Apple?”
Betty picked her crown up off the ground and brushed it off. “What’s more fun than a forensic convention? Except maybe a murder.”
Gates cocked her hip and turned to Betty, ignoring Vu.
“So what’s your take on this?”
Gates watched in bemusement as Betty replaced the crown on her head.
“Looks like two shots to the chest, one to the head. I’ll know more once I open him up.”
Gates turned and looked down at Vu. “And you Sergeant?”
“I believe the shooter knew his victim. He identified the target and fired three quick rounds.”
Vu knew it as the Mozambique method – “two to the body, one to the head, just to be sure he’s fuckin’ dead.” The government had taught him this method of killing at a special training course at Quantico. He also assumed the killer knew it would circumvent the nominal three-minute bleed out time for a center of mass shot. But for now, he kept this to himself.
Hill lit a cigarette and pointed out the lipstick on his boss’s cheek. Gates swiped a sleeve across the smudge, though made no bones about her sexual preference.
“You’re certain it was a him?” Gates smirked.
“He had a man’s build.”
“So do I.”
She had a point. Vu made a physical comparison of the shooter to Gates. They both had square shoulders and broad backs; however, Gates was larger and more buff. He hadn’t seen the shooter’s hands. Gate’s hands were rough looking, but there was no mistaking them for a man’s.
“I think the shooter is a white male, approximately 6’. He had a duffel bag slung over his shoulder. And he was wearing a fatigue jacket. He had on a baseball cap and blue jeans. I pursued him onto the train, but he got away.”
“What’d he look like?” Gates continued.
“I never saw his face. He was moving away from me.”
“Don’t worry,” Hill said, billowing out a puff of smoke.
“This place was packed. There should be a hundred witnesses around.”
“It happened very fast,” Vu said. “The noise and crowd provided perfect cover.”
Vu stepped aside, allowing Gates a closer view of the lifeless body. A crowd was starting to form. Seemed everyone now wanted to get a look at the dead soldier. The victim’s last conscious moment would remain with Vu for a very long time.
“Hill – get these people away from our crime scene.”
“The entire station and area surrounding the train encompass the crime scene.” Vu pointed out. “The shooter came from inside the depot and exited through the train.”
“Well, we have to interview people somewhere. The depot’s all we’ve got.”
Hill waved his arms and shouted. “Move back people. Wait in the depot. Officers will be taking your statements.”
As the crowd dispersed, Gates jotted down a few preliminary notes and then turned back toward Vu.
“So where are the witnesses?”
“None have come forward … except me”
“I’m sure we can find a few,” Gates challenged, then snapped at her partner. “Hill! Get some bodies out here to start interviewing the passengers.”
Hill nodded, and shrugged off toward the depot. As Gates bent over the body, she spotted the uniform.
“The stiff’s military?”
Vu read from his notes. “Yes. According to his ID, his name’s Ernie Margolis. Age 20. He’s a member of the 926th Tactical Fighter Group at the Naval Reserve Station in New Orleans.” Vu reached into his jacket pocket and held out a Ziploc containing the soldier’s meager belongings. A wallet, keys, some change, and a roll of breath mints…
“You’re unbelievable.” Gates snatched the bag. “I have jurisdiction here.”
“We share jurisdiction.” Vu replied evenly.
“As you’ve noted, he’s in uniform.”
Betty jumped between the two. “I’ve already logged the items from his jacket pocket and completed chain-of-custody. Nothing else has been disturbed on the body.”
Vu stared at Gate’s jacket. Did the shooter’s jacket have any identifying marks, insignia or stripes on the sleeves?
“I believe I saw the shooter crossing the eastbound tracks. He could still be in the vicinity. If I were you, I would start my search in that area.”
“So the crime scene now covers a square mile?” Gates retorted, turning away.
Vu followed his own advice and left. He waded through the wet grass across the tracks looking for footprints, a piece of torn clothing – anything left behind. He approached a bored police officer searching the area with a dim flashlight and held up his badge.
“Nothing out here.” The policeman shrugged. “Except for a few curious rats.”
Rats? The rodents terrified Vu.
After the fall of Saigon, most of the remaining South Vietnamese who were friendly with the American troops were put into internment camps infested with rats and disease. During Vu’s two years in that confinement, the rats were a constant threat. They would feed on the sick during the night. By sunrise, the dying would be dead – their limbs stripped of skin.
The officer grinned. “Hey – no offense, but don’t your people eat rats?”
Vu held his head regally. He’d never gotten used to American’s bigotry disguised as humor. No offense, but are all Southerners racist?
Since Vu was the ranking detective on the case, he asked the policeman if he had anything else pertinent to report to him. He shook his head and Vu headed back toward the light of the station.
Back at the depot, things were winding down. Off to the side, Betty was all business, talking to the Coroner who had finished his initial examination of the body. Vu approached, aware of the increase in his heart rate.
“Looks like our homecoming will have to wait until tomorrow, Jack. I need to go downtown. According to Bert,” Betty motioned toward the Coroner, “it’s been a very busy night.”
Vu cradled Betty’s waist in his arm. He smiled as he felt his heart beat in rhythm with hers. Light was beginning to streak the gray horizon. “Tomorrow’s already here.” Vu stole one nuzzle against her warm neck, then let her go. “See you tonight.”
Hill was finishing up with a female passenger. He caught Vu’s attention and motioned him over.
“Find anything?” Hill asked.
“Yeah. I found out there were a shit load of blind people on that train.”
“Have you interviewed the passengers still onboard?”
“That’s next. The conductor told Gates there were about twenty sleeping car passengers.”
“Let me know if you come up with anything.”
Hill lowered his head, “Gates is the primary on this…”
“I understand.” Vu shook Hill’s hand and headed toward Gates with all the enthusiasm of a man in route to his own execution.
He walked up extending one of his business cards. “I would like a copy of the preliminary ballistics report.”
Gates threw Vu’s card on the ground, intentionally trampling it as she moved off down the platform: “Sergeant, you and I are done. C’est affiche’!”
Hill, always the loyal foot soldier, walked over, picked up the card, and slipped it into his jacket pocket. He shot Vu a quick smile.
“Just like old times…”
Inside one of the sleeper cars, a large, bald German closed the curtains and sat back in his chair. The situation outside was serious. His companion, Mimi, also a foreigner, rolled over in her bunk, removed her sleeping mask, and sat up.
“What’s the delay – Wolfee? We’ve been here a long time.” Mimi’s negligee fell open revealing well-endowed breasts suspended above taut red scars that crisscrossed her tanned stomach.
“You better get up, kitten.” Wolf told her. “There’s been a disturbance at the station.”
An urgent knock shook their door. It was the conductor. His cap was ajar. Worried lines creased his face. “Excuse me folks! I’m very sorry for the intrusion. But the police would like a word with you. They’ll be by your cabin in a few minutes.”
“What’s this about, sir?”
“The police will explain.”
Mimi sat up, alarmed. Wolf stepped out into the hall and closed the door behind him. The conductor stopped him. “Please, sir. Please do not enter the hallway. I’ve been instructed to have all passengers remain in their cabins.”
Before closing the door, Wolf listened to the conductor announce the same message to other sleeper compartments. A painful memory suddenly jolted him.
Back in 1939, he’d only been a boy when the Nazis boarded his train and confiscated everyone’s passports. He’d cowered behind his terrified mother as the arrogant soldiers savagely beat his father and pillaged their belongings at gunpoint. But, the worst was yet to come. One day while he and his sisters were at school, the soldiers took his parents from their home. After over half a century, he still found himself searching for their faces in crowds.
Wolf closed the door. A stoic man, he fought back raw emotions as he walked to Mimi and stroked her long blonde hair. It calmed him. This simple manifestation of their long physical relationship must have signaled his current state of mind.
After a quiet moment together, Wolf cupped her chin. “You’d better get dressed.”
Mimi crossed the small quarters, and checked her reflection in the mirror. Nature had blessed her with a lovely face. However, beneath the soft features and intelligent eyes, was a crafty, hardened survivor.
“Do you think the cargo is safe?”
“The police in this county are much less thorough than our Polizei.”
The official knock on the cabin door silenced them. Tipping her head to Wolf, Mimi stepped into the tiny bathroom and out of sight.
“I’ll be right there!” Wolf announced, and slid his bunions into a pair of elegant slippers.
Wolf was surprised to greet a black woman in cowboy boots and a better dressed, but clearly subordinate white male. These two plainclothes detectives claimed to be from the New Orleans Police Department.
Wolf blocked the door with his body and huge sloping shoulders, and asked for identification. Their names were Gates and Hill. Her reaction was defiant and his was amused.
After he confirmed their identities, Gates asked if they could come inside. He waved them into the tiny compartment, which contained a small chair and desk in addition to the bunk beds, and offered the chair. “Please have a seat.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Gates said.
“Now, may we see some identification?”
“What is this about?”
“I’ll explain that after I see your I.D.”
Wolf opened the small compartment where his jacket was stored. On the top shelf was a travel bag. A blanket on the bottom shelf concealed a loaded 12-gauge shotgun and Mimi’s .38 Smith and Wesson. From the side pocket of the travel bag, he removed both his and Mimi’s passports and, ignoring Gate’s outstretched hand, turned them over to Detective Hill. Hill opened the top one and compared the picture on the passport to the face of the man taking his measure. Wolf’s self-assured behavior seemed unnerving to Hill. Perhaps that was because the detective lacked experience with foreigners.
Gates glanced about the room, noting the book lying open on the desk, the reading glasses, one empty and one partial glass of red wine with red lipstick on its rim.
“Where is your wife?”
Wolf thought about correcting the detective’s mistake, but let it go.
“Mimi, hurry dear. Just put on a robe. The police would like to speak to us together.”
The bathroom door opened and Mimi joined them, further compressing the tiny space. In a few short minutes Mimi had transformed her sleepy face into a work of art. She had the warm skin and angular curves of a twenty-five year old; however, her mannerism had the mature elegance only a woman near fifty could possess. Hill was writing notes and, mindful of Wolf’s watchful gaze, didn’t look up. Gates, on the other hand, was interested in this surprising addition to their party.
“Please make yourself comfortable.”
Gates pointed to the chair.
“Thank you.” Mimi wasted no time regally positioning herself in the small chair. The silk robe casually parted, revealing her long shapely legs. Gates cleared her throat. Mimi lowered her eyes, but made no attempt to cover her legs. She was well aware of the effect it was having.
Hill tapped his partner’s shoulder, breaking the spell. “Want to see these?” He said, holding out the passports.
Gates took Mimi’s passport and studied it.
“We’re sorry to disturb you at this hour, but there’s been an incident this evening. A passenger was shot and killed.” Gates stated.
“How dreadful.” Mimi’s eyes never left Gates.
Gates handed Wolf the passports. He slipped them into his pocket and glanced at Mimi. “We weren’t aware that anything had occurred.” Wolf said.
Gates stared at Mimi. “So you saw and heard nothing?”
Mimi smiled wearily. “Train travel is so noisy. I always wear earplugs and an eye mask when I sleep.” Mimi looked toward Wolf. “Could you show the officer my eye mask, dear? It is on the top bunk.”
“Certainly.” Wolf swept his arm across the bunk and retrieved the silken mask. Gates’ eyes glinted at the sight of the delicate blindfold.
Wolf and Mimi both caught the moment.
“Do you think someone on the train did this?” Mimi’s voice betrayed an edge of fear as she reached out and touched Gates’ arm.
“No – ma’am,” Hill interjected. “But we have men patrolling the area.” Hill addressed Wolf. “What’s your destination?”
“Baton Rouge,” Wolf answered.
“What is the nature of your business in Louisiana?”
“I run a company called Antiques Unlimited. Mimi and I are selling our merchandise at The Baton Rouge Convention Center.”
“I see,” Hill said. “What kind of merchandise?”
“Cycles imported from Europe. Some are collector antiques.”
Hill jotted something down in his notebook. “Antique bicycles?” he asked.
“No, sir. World War II motorbikes. We call them das motorrad. The Allies abandoned thousands of them after they defeated Germany. Mimi and I travel frequently to the U.S. in order to exhibit and sell these rare motorcycles.”
“So you’re both from Germany?” Gates asked.
Wolf said: “I moved here several years after the war and obtained citizenship in this country. Mimi is on visa, which I’m sure you’ve ascertained from inspecting her passport.”
Mimi clarified, “I am French, but obtained German citizenship as a teenager. I live in Hamburg now, when I’m not traveling.”
“We have something in common,” Gates smiled. “I come from Creole ancestry.”
“How nice.” Mimi smiled.
Hill broke in. “While you were on the train did either of you speak to any other passengers?”
Mimi paused, looked up at Wolf, who lowered his eyes and remained quiet. “A few, yes,” she answered.
“Do you remember their names?”
Wolf interrupted. “Perhaps if you would tell us who you’re looking for?”
“The victim was a young man in uniform, dark hair, 20, named Ernie Margolis.”
“A Jewish boy?” Wolf and Mimi exchanged a look.
“Possibly,” Hill answered, surprised at the question.
“I’m afraid not.” Mimi said.
“So neither of you spoke to a young man fitting that description?” Gates pressed.
“No.” Wolf’s voice had an edge. “Are we suspects?”
Hill, taken aback by the tone of the question, stood slack jawed.
“No,” Gates intervened. “We are interviewing everyone.”
“I’ve always felt safe in this country.” Mimi’s voice rose. “To think a young man was shot right outside our room.…”
“There is no need to be alarmed.” Hill assured Mimi. “This doesn’t appear to be a random shooting. We believe the victim may have known his assailant.”
“An assassination?” Wolf shifted his weight and leaned forward a bit crowding Hill’s already limited space.
Gates glared at Hill for discussing the case. “We don’t know anything yet. We’re just gathering information.”
Hill closed his notebook. Gates took out her card and gave it to Mimi.
“Thank you for your time. My partner and I are sorry to have disturbed you. We won’t keep you any longer. If you think of something that might help our investigation, please contact us.”
“When do you think we will be underway again?” Wolf inquired.
“The conductor will let you know. In the meantime, please stay in your cabin.”
After the detectives left their cabin, Mimi opened the curtain and stared out the window, her features hardening. She caught a glimpse of the Coroner’s crew loading Margolis’ body onto a gurney.
“Are we in jeopardy?”
“I don’t know.” Wolf crossed to the closet. “We must return to New York at once.” Wolf pulled out his WiFi computer and began typing.
Mimi’s calm demeanor collapsed. “How do we tell Sam?”
NAS Joint Naval Base sprawls across Belle Chasse, on the west bank of the Mississippi River. Officially, it houses the Coast Guard Air Station, Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 54, 159th Tactical Fighter Group, Louisiana Air National Guard and 926th Tactical Fighter Group. Unofficial documents indicate it houses the 99th AFOSI unit, a special investigative unit, created after 9-11, and headed up by Air Force Major John Harris. Major Harris is the only officer assigned to the special unit. Three non-commissioned officers have the privilege of working under Harris’s tutelage – SSgt. Jack Vu, TSgt. Ricky Little, and MSgt. Mike Buck. Little was out on medical and Buck had been deployed to Iraq on Operation Enduring Freedom. This left Harris with Vu, a recent transfer from Maryland, a man he was still trying to get the feel of. There always appeared to be something moving behind Vu’s eyes when they spoke. Admittedly, his comfort level with Asians was low. Still, he needed to advise Vu of the escalating military interest in the Margolis shooting from his superiors. Vu was a man of habits, and he knew where to find him.
The gymnasium had been built during Roosevelt’s Presidency. A gray brick building with small windows turned yellow with age. Workers were applying a fresh coat of paint on a flagpole outside the main entrance. As Harris entered through the west door, a foul odor greeted him. The old boiler in the building still functioned, but emitted an unbearable stench on occasion.
Vu was alone in the big gymnasium. He sat on the floor in a lotus position wearing a gi, eyes closed in meditation. He always meditated following Akido practice. Vu had practiced the ancient Japanese martial art for twelve years. Aikido appealed to him because of its beauty and its ability to divert destructive behavior back onto the opponent.
He was focusing on his chi when Harris walked up from behind and cleared his throat. “Sergeant!”
Vu opened his eyes and looked up. “Yes, sir.”
“This place reeks, doesn’t it?” Harris blew his nose.
“Compared to what, sir?”
Harris sorted through specific offensive odors, then stopped himself. Vu’s way of answering questions with questions would take some getting used to. “I need a status report on the Margolis case.”
Vu stood up and brushed his knees. “With all due respect, I have just begun making inquires.”
Harris looked Vu hard in the eye. “I’m aware of that, but Burke is chomping at the bit.”
Vu looked surprised. “You’re getting inquiries from the General?”
Vu nodded slowly. “I know the airman was on leave visiting relatives in New York. I spoke with the father this morning on the telephone and he said his son boarded the train at Penn Station on Friday night. The train was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on Sunday, so he assumed he was on his way back to base.”
“How long was he on leave?”
“Ten days, sir.”
“Did he stay with relatives the entire time?”
“Yes. He has an uncle outside the city. According to the father, he spent the majority of his time there.”
“Have you spoken to the uncle? Maybe the kid told him something during a fishing expedition together.”
“We haven’t been able to reach him yet. The father indicated he lives in a cabin outside of Florida, New York. A recluse. No phone or email. They will contact him personally and make arrangements for an interview. ”
“How’d the family take the news?”
“They have any idea if their son had problems?”
“When do you search his room and interview the roommate?”
“I am meeting his First Sergeant at 1230 hours.”
“Any word from forensics?”
“I received digital photographs of Margolis’ personal belongings and copies of the crime scene.”
Harris thought he detected something darken in Vu’s eyes.
“Their office should have the preliminary ballistics back by now. Right?”
“There were no casings recovered from the scene. That’s not surprising if my theory is correct.”
“You think the weapon was concealed?”
“Yes, and probably silenced. They’re still examining for material fragments.”
“What about the autopsy?”
“Still waiting for the results.”
Harris blew his nose again. “Anyone who can nail two center of mass hits and follow with one to the head on a moving target in that time, is one skilled SOB. I want you to take your time. Watch your back. It could be drug related. Check with DEA. Find out what you can from the roommate”
“And Vu,” Harris paused a moment. “I expect you to conduct a by the book investigation on this case. With the others out of the office, we haven’t had an opportunity for a real sit-down since your reassignment. I know I haven’t been too specific on how I run things here. For now, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that we’ll see eye-to-eye on how you handle things. Do we understand each other?”
Harris rubbed his head thoughtfully.
“Look. I read your case file. Is Detective Gates going to be an issue?”
“She will be no problem, sir.”
“That’s good. We don’t want to make waves. Let the Navy do that….”
Wolf’s Remedy Audio Book – UNABRIDGED on 6 CD set
Produced and recorded By Maine Streaming Media. Maine Streaming Media Narrators: Jerry Lyden and Giz Coughlin