Body blow, p.1
Body Blow, page 1
A John Rockne Mystery
Also by Dan Ames
About the Author
A John Rockne Mystery
Copyright © 2017 by Dan Ames
BODY BLOW is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from the author or publisher.
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A John Rockne Mystery
“Where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
They used to call him Dynamite.
Billy “Dynamite” Dawkins from Detroit.
Pound for pound, one of the most ferocious light heavyweights of all time. Each fist was a bundle of high-powered explosive, ready to detonate along the chin or body of every opponent he faced.
The logo they’d used was a pair of hands, each wearing a boxing glove, holding a stick of dynamite.
Now, the man known for some of the most vicious punches and body shots in boxing history, was having trouble threading fishing line through the eye of a lure.
“Damnit,” he said.
The sun hung directly overhead. Another gorgeous summer day in Good Isle, Michigan, a picturesque community along the northwest shore of the state’s lower peninsula. Lake Michigan was a deep blue but when it reached the shallows, the water became beautifully clear and almost Caribbean blue.
Dawkins squinted and finally managed to fit the line through the lure’s tiny opening, and he quickly tied a fisherman’s knot. He already had one bait in the water, a lively chub minnow that was probably exhausting itself trying to break free.
Fishing with a lure from the Good Isle pier didn’t make a lot of sense.
It was too late for smallmouth, too early for the big pike that sometimes moved in. That didn’t matter too much to Dawkins. He was just happy to be out in the sun on a beautiful day, not sweating it out in some dark, damp gym that smelled like a bunch of men who hadn’t bathed in weeks.
He cast the lure and varied his retrieve, bouncing it along the rocky bottom, lifting his rod tip to bring it up over a small weed bed he’d been able to vaguely make out.
The line with his live bait had moved under the pier so Dawkins cast out his lure again, a long arcing heave that landed a good thirty yards from the pier.
He set the pole down and picked up his line with the live bait, but he knew the minute he did so that the chub was gone. It had either worked its way free or been chewed off nimbly by some small fish.
He brought the rig back in, fastened the empty hook to one of the guides on the rod and set it down. He picked up the pole with the lure and reeled in until it suddenly stopped in his hand. His hope for a bite quickly diminished as he realized he was snagged. He pulled, and his rod bent nearly in half before popping free. The line was completely slack.
Another seven dollar fishing lure donated to Lake Michigan.
He reeled in the rest of his line, picked up his other pole and tackle box, and headed back to his vehicle.
His tennis shoes thudded softly on the dock’s wooden boards. Children’s laughter reached his ears and he saw a small group of kids with a woman by the ice cream stand, near the bathrooms.
A large sailboat nosed its way into the marina, a woman in white shorts and a pink polo shirt stood ready to help guide the boat into its slip.
Dawkins walked toward his vehicle, thinking about the morning. He had only caught one fish, and it had been a carp, which he’d dumped back into the lake. He hated carp and would have preferred to throw it on the bank, but the pier stuck out into the middle of the lake and he had no way of disposing of the trash fish. So he’d reluctantly let it go.
Tonight, if he wanted to have fish for dinner, he’d have to get it the old-fashioned way. At the grocery store.
Doing the math in his head, he realized that if he’d just gone to the store and bought a filet, instead of losing his lure, he would’ve been even right about now.
As someone told him once, that’s why they call it fishing and not catching.
Dawkins got to the parking lot and his mood immediately lifted. His vehicle was a lovingly restored Ford Bronco, over thirty years old. It was his pride and joy and every time he looked at it, he felt a sense of satisfaction. So much of his professional life had been on the road, riding in other people’s vehicles, that when he’d finally called it quits on his career, having his own car had been an unexpected pleasure.
Now, as he reached his SUV, Dawkins went to the back, unlocked the latch, and lifted the rear window, and then lowered the tailgate.
He would stow his gear, and maybe stop at the diner downtown for lunch.
A sudden sharp, stabbing pain between his shoulder blades made him jump.
Goddamn bees, he thought.
He dropped his fishing pole and tackle box, reached back to feel where the bee had stung him, and his fingers found a small dart protruding from his back.
His vision became fuzzy and he felt faint.
Dawkins put a hand out to steady himself but he was suddenly shoved forward and he felt himself being lifted into the back of his vehicle.
Darkness overtook him as he heard the tailgate being slammed shut.
It's not easy telling parents that their son is a thief.
I knew that firsthand because I was just about to do exactly that.
Eugene and Laurie Weborg were the proud parents of two children. Katie was a senior in high school at Grosse Pointe South.
The other child's name was James.
James had been spending a fair amount of money recently and since he didn't have a job, his parents had become suspicious about how exactly he was buying a Rolex watch and expensive artwork hanging in his bedroom.
Laurie was a friend of Anna, my wife, and so they hired me to look into it.
James was several years older than his sister, but had dropped out of college and was living at home. I’d never met him, but the Weborgs showed me some pictures of him and he was a good-looking young man who looked like he had a bright future in front of him.
After being officially hired, I followed James and it turned out that he had a very good friend who
And not only did he spend a lot of time with the family, I noticed that he rarely left the house empty-handed. Often times there was a bag, box, or briefcase that he left with but that he hadn’t been carrying when he arrived.
I knew that James often visited the family when his friend wasn't even there and that he had obviously befriended the elderly parents.
Finally, I noticed that James had his own unit at a self-storage facility in St. Clair Shores.
I followed him, and used binoculars to see that he had his own little treasure trove of antiques. I saw artwork and even furniture.
As an investigator, one should never jump to conclusions, but I strongly suspected that James was simply stealing from his friend’s family. The next time he visited his friend’s family, I used a camera with a high-powered lens to document his outing. First, going into the house empty-handed. Second, leaving with an object, in this case, framed artwork. Finally, his arrival at the storage unit, where he placed his new acquisition among the others.
Additionally, I was able to track James as he took one of the objects directly to a pawn shop in Detroit and sold it for cash.
So now I was faced with telling Eugene and Laurie that the evidence quite clearly showed their son was a thief. Of course, final proof meant getting into the storage unit, documenting what was inside, and then contacting the friend and his family to corroborate the items were, indeed, stolen.
That would require the Weborgs to take over. Or, it meant I would have to contact the police.
As always I decided breaking bad news with humor was the best route.
"I'm a big Rolling Stones fan and you know what my favorite album of theirs is?"
The Weborgs looked at me with blank expressions.
Realization dawned on Laurie's face while Eugene continued to wear an expression of skeptical indifference.
"Your son is most likely a thief,” I said, to clearly get the point across to Eugene.
This time Laurie gasped and Eugene's face turned red.
“I'm sorry to be so blunt about it," I said. “But there's just no way around it."
"I'm going to kill that little piece of shit," Eugene growled.
“Are you sure?” Laurie asked me. I detailed my investigation, and showed them the photos of James stockpiling his loot in the storage unit.
“Technically, as a PI, I’m supposed to report crime to the police, but I think this is something that can probably be handled between the families,” I said.
Eugene’s jaw jutted out. “That’s right,” he said. “We’ll take care of this.” He turned to his wife. “Cut him his check.”
He glared back at me.
“I don’t want to hear from you ever again on this matter,” he said.
“Don’t shoot the messenger,” I said.
Laurie slid a check across the desk to me and I saw she had added a bonus.
They left, with Eugene giving my door a nice slam on the way out.
I signed the check, and then used my phone to take a picture of its front and back and deposited it into my business checking account through my bank’s app.
Closing a case always gave me a good feeling, especially when money landed in my account. It was time to close up the office and head home, see if Anna had made pasta. I was hungry.
My phone rang and I considered ignoring it, but then saw that it was my sister, Ellen, also known as the Grosse Pointe Chief of Police.
"No thank you,” I said, after picking up my phone and connecting. “I don't want to buy any of your Mary Kay Cosmetics."
"Really? I would think you'd like to buy a lot of my wrinkle concealer," Ellen said. “You’re aging faster than the overripe bananas in my kitchen.”
"Not needed, thanks to my youthful exuberance," I pointed out.
"That and your pre-adolescent sense of humor.”
I looked at the clock and thought about Anna’s pasta. My tummy growled a little bit.
“Do you have a dog in your office?” Ellen asked.
"No, I’m just hungry,” I said, a bit annoyed that she had been able to hear it. “So what do I owe the pleasure of this phone call? As enjoyable as it always is."
"Ever hear of a town called Good Isle?"
"Sure," I said. "I've even been there once. It’s a little town up north, right on the lake? Right?"
“Yep." There was a pause and then she said without her usual snarky tone of voice, “It turns out they're looking for a new police chief and they invited me up to talk about it."
That stopped me in my tracks and visions of Anna’s pasta left my head.
"Are you kidding me?" I said. “You’re leaving Grosse Pointe? Since when were you thinking of doing this?"
"I wasn't, really. Until they called me."
To be honest, despite all the times we've joked and made fun of each other, I couldn't imagine not having Ellen around Grosse Pointe. Both personally and professionally.
“But that's not why I called," she said. "When they booked my room they actually reserved two rooms and I have them for the weekend. I wondered if you and Anna and the kids wanted to come up and join me. It’s supposed to be a beautiful weekend, sunny and it’s a free place to stay. Plus, I know you never take your wife anywhere."
I thought about it and although I wasn't always up-to-date on the Rockne social calendar, I didn't think we had any obligations for the weekend.
"Tell you what,” I replied. “I'll talk to the boss at home but I would love to come up north for a long weekend, even if you’re there."
"Okay let me know," she said. “It might be fun, especially if only Anna and the kids come.”
“Good luck with the interview," I said. And even I had to admit that I hadn’t said it with any kind of enthusiasm.
Ellen Rockne strolled down the main street of Good Isle, Michigan and breathed in the crisp, cool air.
She was glad the interview was over, even though she thought it had gone quite well. There'd been the usual suspects: the mayor, city commissioner other city council members. They’d also included one of the long-standing deputies.
The questions were mundane and everything she'd expected and prepared for. She mostly came up here because she figured she was getting a free weekend up north away from Grosse Pointe.
Apparently, her name had been given by a Gross Pointer who had moved up to retire and who was a friend of Good Isle’s mayor.
When the chief of police had been forcibly removed, Ellen’s name had been given to the mayor. She still hadn’t gotten the full story behind the former chief’s dismissal, but her curiosity was definitely aroused.
One thing led to another and now she had just completed a two-hour interview for chief of police of Good Isle, Michigan.
Afterward, she had thanked everyone for their time, nodded when they said they would get back to her, and left. She had driven to the small downtown and parked.
Now, she continued to stroll and occasionally looked into shop windows where she saw a curious mix of high fashion and sporting goods.
At one point, she caught her reflection in the widow of a furniture store. She had dressed casually, but she was in good shape. Still young, she had short brown hair, a lean face that could appear sharp at times, and friendly blue eyes that could go cold in an instant.
Ellen usually downplayed her looks in her line of work, but for the interview she’d gone with a little bit of makeup.
Dressing down could become a habit, and she only realized it on those rare occasions when she had to do the opposite.
She continued walking, all the while the stunning blue of Lake Michigan was off to her left. And a high bluff, covered in pine trees, was to the right.
The town was picture-postcard beautiful.
And suddenly Ellen found herself seriously considering the
She had to admit, she was tired of Grosse Pointe. There, she said it. She was tired of the small community right next to Detroit. Yes, she had a lot of friends and she had her brother and his family.
There was a history with Grosse Pointe, a comfort level that was undeniable. She also liked Grosse Pointe’s neighbor, Detroit. The city had experienced a major comeback in recent years and was now becoming home to more and more cool restaurants and bars.
Sure, there was still no shortage of crime, but the city looked nothing like it had ten years ago.
Ellen wondered if she simply needed a break and that’s why she was suddenly considering a move.
The fact was, being in law enforcement in Grosse Pointe presented its own unique challenges. And as beautiful a city Grosse Pointe was, she got tired of the constant policing that involves being next to one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
Nothing against the city of Detroit, it had its own unique charms. But she had to face facts she was no longer necessarily a spring chicken. She was not involved with anyone at the moment, and her last serious relationship had been years ago.
Ellen had never even really considered moving up north. But Good Isle was a fantastic, beautiful town. Yes, she was not naïve. She knew that even small towns could be snake pits when it came to politics. As bad, or even worse, than big cities.
by Dan Ames / Mystery & Thrillers / Historical Fiction / Literature & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes