Book II: Red Harvest
Part I: Scenes IX-XIV
Jack Murphy once again delves into the murky underworld to find a missing girl. Armed with only his dry-wit and cynicism, he journeys to a quiet little farm town called Waterston. It’s a beautiful place, renown for its cherries and the orchards that dotted the landscape against the rolling green hills beyond. But it’s also a world where the hunter becomes the hunted and where the forces of good collide with the evil cloaked in the myth and mysticism of an ancient belief.
It’s also a place where some find "the Red Harvest sinfully wild to enjoy, while others find nothing more than disappointment and regret . . ."
The Legal Stuff: Murphy's Law: Book II - Red Harvest © 2009 by josie.
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Scene IX: Professor Rutherford
Jack walked up the steps of Lindquist Hall. He was on his way to an appointment with Dr. Carl Rutherford, a specialist in Eastern European Studies at NYU. Alongside him, a hurried crowd of young men and women dressed up in the new-age uniform of the day. Sandaled vagabonds dressed none too flatteringly with hair that required a second look to single out the girls from the boys. All filled with the hope and the promise that would one day be replaced by disappointment when faced with the reality of how the real world worked. “They’ll learn,” he smirked like a cynical man who’d long since lost the optimistic spirit of youth.
Then he spotted a vision bouncing down the steps, her golden blonde ponytail arched high, like a prancing young filly on promenade. He looked favorably upon the fullness of her pink and white gingham dress. The eagerness painted on her parted, red stained lips. Her fresh, rose-pink complexion and that whiff of teen spirit that could bring even the most cynical to his knees. Yes, he looked upon her fondly. Wanting nothing more than to overcome his doubts if only for a moment just so he could embrace that optimistic spirit of youth again. Hopefully, before “she” escaped him entirely.
Jack walked down the cavernous halls of the south wing of the building, his echoed footsteps announcing his arrival before he had even located room 301. He found Dr. Rutherford perusing some documents and lighting up his pipe as he stepped into his office. A short, full bearded man in his mid 60’s, he was a well respected scholar who knew everything there was to know in his chosen area of expertise, perhaps better than anyone in the country.
Jack handed him the picture of Dr. Sanda Vladimirescu then went over all he knew about her and that clandestine group of ex-patriot Romanians living just outside Waterston.
“So you’ve an interest in finding out if they share a common background, is that it?” he asked with a rather raspy voice, again repacking his pipe.
“Yes, and I’d like someone to explain to me what it is that brings this particular group together.”
“Well, for the most part, many of those who’ve fled the Soviet Bloc have managed to do so through East Germany. Most, though not all, with help from outside groups who have the muscle and the money to arrange it. Many humanitarian, religious and political groups play a large role in this. Identifying and locating the records of those individuals is a relatively simple matter in which I will be able to assist you.” He replied then discretely coughed into the palm of his hand. It was the sign of a man who’d been savoring the taste of fine tobacco for a dangerously long period of time.
“However,” he continued after clearing his throat, “organized crime plays a role in this process as well. Not for altruistic reasons unfortunately, but to seed criminal ventures throughout the world, the United States ranking high on that list. There are no records or documentation on these individuals, so if that is what you hope to find I’m afraid I can’t help you.”
“Now in answer to your question, Detective. Romania, like many East European bloc countries are basically ethnic states with Soviet influence currently superimposed on top. Primarily due to geographic location, the area has come under the influence of many peoples and forms of governance throughout the centuries, but throughout it has been regional ethnicity and cultural ties that remains the binding force.”
“Of course governance from the outside most often meant rule with an iron fist. Thus many of these groups were driven underground to avoid brutal repression, and sometimes worse. That would be the state of things today, a period of totalitarian rule where hundreds of thousands are being persecuted. Some imprisoned, some murdered, some committed to asylums, their children forced into institutional orphanages where they are warehoused by the state and abuse is common place.
“As a result, these secret societies are now stronger than ever. With help from the outside, many have managed to flee, yet remain united by their shared ethnicity, customs and culture that date back centuries. No doubt that’s the same common ground that unites your group as well.”
“Yes, but Arina Stansila spoke of ‘privileges’ which to me implies a hierarchy and their secretiveness tells me they have something more important to protect than simply cultural identity.”
“Well, as I said, not all these groups work for the good. The conditions are such that it also provides a perfect breeding ground for the unsavory to flourish as well.”
“You’re suggesting syndicated crime?”
“Yes, more or less, though I’m afraid I can only provide limited help in that regard. Still, a bit of research might shed a few clues,” he labored to explain, his raspy voice tailing off as he again studied the picture of Dr. Vladimirescu.
“Take this photo for instance,” he followed. “Those are Striped Maples in the background. They’re indigenous to this region, so that tells me it was taken here. Likewise, the girl is fashionably dressed. That tells me she has integrated nicely into her new life in the U.S. as well. Yet Dr. Vladimirescu looks as if she’s still a civil servant employed by the State, a high ranking civil servant at that.”
“Is that a fact,” Jack broke in then came around to look for himself.
“Oh yes. You see, in Romania dress styles tend to be rather regimented. Especially for those who work for the State. The cut of the lapel, the length and style of the skirt, even the color is often prescribed. You might think of it as a sort of populous uniform if you will.”
“Ah-ha,” Jack mutters, perusing the details pointed out, “but how can you tell she’s a woman of high rank?”
“Quite simply. You’ll note the high buttoned collar and the decorative tie. That style only comes with status.”
“There’s something else of interest I’ve found in this photo. You’ll note the ring on her right index finger. That would be looked upon quite suspiciously in current day Romania, so I assume it is something she started wearing since immigrating to the west. I find it odd she’d feel the need to dress as if she were still working for the politburo down to the style of her boots, yet wear such a ring. Not a wedding ring, but a large and conspicuous ring on the wrong hand and on the wrong finger. I find that rather incongruent. Very much out of character it would seem to me.”
“You’ve a sharp eye doc,” Jack replied, leaning closer in to make out what he could. “It looks almost like a fraternity ring with a red stone.”
“Whatever it is I suspect it’ll require closer examination. May I keep this? I’d like to have a copy enlarged.”
“No problem, doc.”
“There are other things we need consider as well. For instance, let’s consider her name for a moment. Vladimirescu is a family name with Transylvanian origins. Specifically Vlachian, and when coupled with Sanda, it makes for a very unique name. You see, the derivation of the name Sanda is ‘Defender of the people.’ It is rarely given, usually reserved for those who once occupied a status of great strength and power.”
“Great strength and power,” Jack straightened back up. “I’ve heard those words used to describe her before. Mrs. Donizetti, I believe.”
“Indeed! Well, given her last name I’d venture to say this woman belonged to a very old and established Vlachian Transylvanian community. The same with the name Mihaela Ceausescu, though in her case, her name has Moldavian origins, long standing allies with the Vlach. Likewise, Mihaela is not a common household name. It means ‘like a god.’”
“Yeah, so. She was a nursemaid for the kid, not some deity standing atop Mount Olympus.”
“Yes, that much I am certain, at least that’s how we see them in the here and now. Although you must remember, the family lineage goes back centuries and the same ethic, cultural and social allegiances that bound them then, may well be the allegiances that bind them today.”
“So you think you’ve something to work with here, professor?”
“Yes, I think so. It should prove interesting, though I can’t promise I’ll find what you need. Still, with a little luck I might be able to solve some of the mystery.”
“How long, Dr. Rutherford?”
“Hum, well, give me a week or two to see what comes up.”
“Ah, sorry doc, no can do. I’m in the law business where time might mean lives.”
“When do you need it?”
“Mr. Murphy, I don’t think you need a political Scientist from NYU. What you need is divine intervention.”
“Sorry doc, don’t have the time for that either. Besides I’ve tried and I keep getting a busy signal.”
“Yeah, okay, call me Friday afternoon and I’ll give you what I’ve found.” Jack slipped on his fedora, shook his hand and told him he would be in touch.
“Say doc, you know you ought to be thinking about lightening up on that pipe. Else wise you might be looking for a bit of that divine intervention yourself.” Carl Rutherford lowered his head and averted his gaze like a guilty man on this way to the gallows. “Already tried, but unfortunately I keep getting a busy signal.”
“Touché!” Jack nodded with a tip of his hat. It was meant in the way of a compliant, of course. After all, he was grateful for the man’s help, though privately he wondered whether anything useful will come of the visit. He rather doubted it.
He started to leave wondering whether he would have had better luck with Madam Caruso and her crystal ball when the professor’s raspy voice again pierced his thoughts.
“You know, all this sort of reminds me of a very old and obscure Vlachian text I once read. More folklore than a historical narrative actually, but it did mention an old creed that somehow comes to mind.”
“Huh!” Jack grunted. “Yeah, so, what’s that got to do with Dr. Vladimirescu?”
“I’m not sure exactly. It’s probably nothing.” He replied, though it was evident his words were wholly disassociated with his thoughts. “Well then I’ll be in touch.”
Scene X: Pretty from Head to Toe
Francine Frangella escorted the already visibly shaken Cecil into her “Pretty from Head to Toe” salon. By now the place had taken on almost mythical proportions in his mind’s eye, and it didn’t disappoint. The room styled in a French boudoir motif had lush burgundy-red velour furnishings, brass fittings and mirrored throughout. The air was rich with the sweet smells of perfume and along the walls hung framed autographed portraits of the most notable actresses of the era.
One photo in particular caught his eye. Engraved on the wall above the front desk it read, “Transformation that will obscure the lines beyond your imagination.” Below it, an autographed picture of Jane Mansfield posed in a provocative scarlet-pink swimsuit.
All the pomp and pageantry seemed a bit rich for our disheveled rookie. The tell-tale signs could be heard in the knock of his knees, read on his shell-shocked face. Although you couldn’t say the same for the elegant creature sporting a rather mischievous smile who greeted them at the front desk.
Tall and sumptuous, she wore a red sequin off the shoulder pencil dress that hugged her hips like honey on a spoon. While on top of her head she wore a beehive bouffant which she seemed prone to want to balance upright as if fearing it might fall off should she happen to look down. “Francine, darling, come, come, let me have a look at this lovely thing you’re escorting.” She broadcast loud and clear. He looked around and saw every eye in the place riveted on him.
“Marge, this is Cecil. Cecil, this is Marge,” she naughtily smirked.
“Cecil is my effeminate friend in much need of a makeover. So I thought to myself who better to do it than Ms. June. Is she ready to spin her magic?” she asked, again with that mischievous smile.
“Yes, of course. If you’ll escort this lovely thing I’ll get you situated and Madam Magnifique can begin to work her miracles.”
“Caroline!” Ms. June’s unassailable voice entered the mix. “Quickly,” she snapped her fingers, “I want two holes punched in both ears, and Marilyn, he’s yours first. I want a complete defoliant job, and . . .” she leaned in to whisper in her ear, “be sure to use the industrial strength grade paste.” Marilyn giggled as she escorted him through a door to the right.
An hour later his sat in a styling chair in the main lounge. His skin a fiery red, his eyes were closed, his body taut seemingly detached from himself while a cadre of specialty artisans working on every aspect of him. The manicurist, pedicurist and cosmetologist giggled and fastidiously pampered and toyed with his nails and his face with practiced hands. While Ms. June busily prepared the landing strip for the gorgeous “golden blonde do” she planned to cement to the top of his newly shorn, spit-shinned head.
“Not to worry, you sweet thing, I’m using only the finest grade glue.” She smirked as an assistant was busy centering the appliances to his chest with the same fine grade glue. “It’s brand new. A compound developed by the space agency. You know, Sputnik and all that. Guaranteed to withstand the winds of Jupiter, or so I’m told.”
Francine sat in a chair close by watching the product of her innovative thinking take form. His lips burned a cherry red. His brows spread like wind-swept wings over hazel-green eyes that pierced through the shadowy hollows of black kohl and violet. Add to that picture nails of a viper and the most gloriously wavy blond hair and you have a picture of a cleaning woman on hyper-drive. Especially when you consider it was all wrapped up in a pretty little package that flaunted a pair of 42d cups that weren’t going anywhere.
“I assume you’ll be taking, Cecil, err, Cecilia next door when we are through,” Ms. June asked Francine, looking up for her work.
“Yes, we’ve an appointment at 5 o’clock. I’ve my eye on a particular set of pumps and a Pink Flamingo number that’ll land her on a casting couch in a heartbeat.”
“Face down, I’m sure,” replied Ms. June and giggles spring up from all within ear shot.
“A cleaning lady, right?” Caroline enquired as she attached the long strand earrings in place.
“Yeah, well, I’m sure she’ll be going some cleaning alright.” She puckered up and made a giant sucking sound. “We’ll just slap a smock and cap over top to her get her in. Once inside, all the rest is for her to enjoy.”
By 7 P.M. Francine was walking back to her car, while following behind Cecilia struggled to keep pace in those impossible 4” heels. “Yes darling, that is definitely you. Now don’t you go worrying you pretty little head about the expense. I understand Captain Turner is covering the whole cost personally. He said something about owing you a favor and you can consider it a debt repaid.” She beamed a bright smile. “So you just run along, have a good time and I’ll see you in about 6 months. Hopefully that glue will have given up the ghost by then. Although don’t hold me to that,” she chuckled.
Poor Cecil, err, Cecilia, her cheeks where already mussed with watery streaks of black kohl and violet.
Scene XI: The Girl in the Window
Jack drove past the surveillance van parked across the street from Michael’s apartment. Not wanted to give the location away, he parked a block further down then slipped on a pair of sunglasses and an overcoat before making his way back. He opened the unlocked side door and found Arn Fife with field glasses in hand and his nose pressed up to the viewing portal.
“Ssssh, quiet Cecil,” Arn whispered with his magnified-eyes glued to the window. “I think I’m on to something big, kid.”
Jack had met Arn before. He was the guy who always drunk himself into a stupor at the Policemen’s Ball, year after year. He had never worked with him, but more than once he had offered to drive him home. There he’d give the front door to his house a decent pounding for 30 minutes, sometimes longer, before his wife would eventually relent and open the door.
It was always the same scene. He’d somehow manage to drag Arn inside, the whole while kicking and screamed, “No, no, please. Lock me up for the night. Shoot me, anything I don’t care. Just don’t leave me alone with her.” He did none of the above of course, but he did manage to disarm that tough-as-nails, Jack booted, German Howitzer with a 12 inch skillet clutched in her hand before leaving. Not that it did much good. Two steps out the door and the clank of yet another skillet rang out across the yard. Poor slob, and folks wondered why he drank.
“It’s Jack, Arn, not Cecil.” Startled, Arn jumped out of his seat and landed on the floor. “Damn, Lieutenant, you scared the piss out of me.”
“Huh, well perhaps next time I’ll knock first and ask if anyone is home.”
“Ah, sorry, sir, I was just observing the activities in the Chapman residence and I guess I was a bit engrossed in my work.”
“Arn please, the name is, Jack.”
“Got’cha, Jack. I guess first names are only fittin’ since you seen me take a lickin’ or two.”
“Sweet wife you got there, Arn. I got to admire her tenacity. She’s got more bite than a Pit-Bull.”
“Well, it ain’t like I don’t have a ‘Beware of’ sign posted on the chain link fence.” Arn laughed.
“So what’s got you so engrossed my friend? You catch him necking with his boyfriend?”
“Boyfriend? Lieutenant . . ., I mean, Jack, you’ve got this kid all wrong.”
“Surprise, I can usually spot them a country mile away.”
“Well, have a look for yourself. His got his sweetie up there prancing around in her underlies like she’s practicing for one of them strip tease shows. Fact, just before you came in the bra was coming off next.”
“You don’t say? Mind if I have a look.”
“Aaaah, no, course not,” Arn stammered, realizing he was being asked to give up his seat in the first row. Reluctantly he handed him the glasses with a grimace as Jack took up the vacated seat then peered out zeroing in on the vision dancing behind that thin veil of curtains.
“Who is she?” Jack asked, wondering if this was the girl Mr. Turley had seen driving Michael’s car.
“Don’t know. We thought you might.”
“I can’t really tell. She’s standing too far back from the window and with the curtain between I’m not getting much definition. Personally I can’t see what you’re so excited about, Arn. You can’t really see a darn thing.”
“You just got to learn to fill in the missing gaps, Jack. From the way you be rememberin’ it.”
Jack looked up, shaking his head, “Old memories, Arn?”
“Old, but believe me, those kinds of memories you take to your grave.”
“Well, you probably won’t get much, but I’d like you to try and get some pictures to show, Mr. Turley. Meanwhile, now that we’ve got her, I think we should pay them a visit.”
“You’re going up there?”
“I’ll wait until Cecil gets back, but yeah, I am.” Jack replied as he returned to watching the scene play out.
“You know, you could send me.” Arn followed.
“I would but I’m afraid you might not come back.”
“Are you beginning to fill in some of them missing gaps yet, Jack?” Arn asked while whipping the corners of his mouth with a hanky.
“Huh, musicians, go figure. I guess I had the kid figured all wrong,” Jack replied, sounding a little disappointed for having misjudged the kid.
“Are you done, Jack?” Arn could scarcely draw in his hanging tongue.
“Yeah, go for it,” Jack replied, handing him the glasses.
Arn snatched the glasses and jumped in. “Ah, now that’s the way I like them, cute and perky. You know what they say, more than a handful,” Arn glanced back and grinned like a cat licking milk from its whiskers.
“Yeah, whatever,” Jack followed only half listening and too mad at himself to even care.
How could he have been so mistaken about Michael? Just because his hands were smooth, his nails well kept and he had effeminate mannerisms didn’t make him gay. Nor had he asked Michael specifically if he played guitar. He had just made the assumption based on his having pointed to the guitar case. It might not have even been his. Perhaps he had just pointed to it because it was there, as a handy point of reference. For all he knew, he might have played the Triangle or a Tambourine.
It was a serious misjudgment, coming after he had promised himself he’d not fall into that trap again. Passing judgment on others based on one’s own biases, prejudices and beliefs was dangerous and wrong. There’s no place in police work for someone like that. Especially someone with the temerity of “Spike,” that rash, reckless, audacious voice inside to which he still remained a victim. No less so than were the crows, blinded as they were by their ravenous lust.
“So, where’s Cecil?”
“Ah, he’s making preparations to follow the kid into the club tonight. He says he needs to see what’s going on inside.” Arn followed, still absorbed with whatever was going on behind that curtained window.
“What sort of preparation? Is he buying a new suit, or something?”
“Ah, yeah, it’s something like that. He said he’s got to conform to the dress code.”
“Well la-de-da. First assignment and Mr. Fancy-pants is already putting on the Ritz. Good for him, shows character.”
“Yeah, well, I reckon them new pants are going to be pretty fancy, and plenty la-de-da, that’s for sure.” Arn replied. His eye still glued to the scene playing out in Michael’s apartment and still only half listening.
“So when do you expect him back?”
“Soon, Jack,” was all he managed to get out between the ooo’s and aaah’s.
“I’m going out to get me a burger. You want anything?”
“No, I’m fine,” again seemingly too preoccupied to response.
“Don’t forget, if she leaves while I’m gone I want all the photos you can shoot, got it?”
The trip to the Fast Freddie Burger took a bit longer than he expected. So he brought one back for Arn in case he’d changed his mind. He was making his way back to the van when he saw the unidentified girl who had been in Michael’s apartment walking out the front entrance of the tenement. She was wearing a hooded fluorescent pink windbreaker, a white knee length pleated skirt and low-top tennis’ without socks.
“She certainly fits the bill alright,” he thought as he watched her standing at the curb waiting for the opportunity to dash across the street between the passing cars.
Jack backed into an alcove nearby and watched as three of the local unemployables sitting on the tenement steps next door jump up and rushed to her aid. Actually street thugs with gangland tattooed all over them would have been more like it. Although he would’ve been hard pressed to prove that in a court of law the way they jumped out into the street, stopped the oncoming traffic and escorted her to the other side. And what was their reward for behaving so gentlemanly? A smile and a wave as they backed away genuflecting as if praying to Mecca.
“Huh!” he grumbled. “Talk about parting the Red Sea,” he thought as he watched her walk into the cleaners nearby.
“What is it about this girl and Michael and the tenement he lived in that commanded such reverence and respect from these people?” He would’ve though the girl, like Michael would have been run out of the neighborhood long ago fearing for their lives. “Yet here they roamed unmolested, free of worry, as if the building was some holy Greek temple.”
Well, he wasn’t so sure about that ‘holy temple’ business. Narcotics, prostitution, gangland affiliation sounded more like it. Whatever it was, even a blind man could tell Michael was part of something with a long and powerful reach. Something that could reach down into this neighborhood and hold sway even over groups with roots so vast even the police couldn’t weed them out. One thing was certain. The girl was pretty, but even he couldn’t garner that kind of respect without a hammer that could squash them like bugs.
On a hunch he decided to follow her in. Why not? They had never met. Besides, with the overcoat and dark sunglasses no one was going to recognize him regardless. When he got there he stood in the line awaiting service from the clerk, two customers behind the unidentified girl.
He watched as the clerk took possession of her pickup receipt then brought back her freshly laundered clothes. He placed her receipt in a wire basket next to the register, rang up the sale then thanked her in his broken English before she turned to leave. Unfortunately she was looking away as she passed, but on the upper right shoulder of her pink windbreaker he saw a stenciled picture of a pink flamingo and “Tatiana” written beneath.
His eyes followed her as she again crossed the street and into the Michael’s tenement only to find he was next in line to be served. “Receipt Please,” the smiling Korean held out his hand.
“Ah, sorry, I must have left it at home. My name is John Smith.”
“Okay,” he replied in his rather abbreviated English. While the clerk was in back looking, Jack reached into the basket and pulled out the receipt. The name read, “T. Darcos,” in very legible script. However, the address below read: “6230 Cl . . .,” followed by some scribble. Her name was written in pen, her address in pencil. Obviously it had been written by two different people. One who knew how to spell Dracos, the other by someone who hadn’t a clue how to spell whatever the street name was.
It was a small local business so he felt it safe to assume the street would be in the general area. “No find clothes, Mister,” the clerk shrugged with a pleading look as if praying that would be the end of it, and thankfully it was.
“Oh, sorry, I must be the wrong cleaners,” Jack bid his good-bye and hurried back to the Van.
“Did you get it, Arn?”
“Sure did,” he beamed while holding up the Nikon with a telescopic lens. “36 shots, and with this lens you’ll be able to spot the color of her eyes.”
“Perfect! How long before you can get them developed?”
“Well, I can have the patrol car meet me at the corner to pick them up. The lab should be able to wrap it up in about 90 minutes, perhaps less.”
“Great, you got a map?” Arn dug out a map from the front cab and waited while Jack searched for the street. He found only two streets nearby beginning with “Cl.” One was Clement, the other was Claymore farther away and thus not likely.
“Got it! Okay, here’s the deal. When Cecil gets back show him the pictures and tell him the target has changed. Instead I want him to focus on this girl. Her name is Tatiana Darcos. Her address is 6230 Clement and she works at the Pink Flamingo. The same thing applies. Follow her. I want to know everything about her.
“Got it, Jack.”
“Where are you headed?”
“I’ve got business in New Jersey to attend to.”
Scene XII: An Ode to a Vampire
It was late evening Moscow time, 8 A.M. New York time when the final faxed transmission lay sprawled out over Dr. Rutherford’s desk. Knee deep in documents, he had been at it non-stop for the past 23 hours and he looked it. He was on his 8th cup of black coffee and his office reek of Timberland tobacco. He looked up at the clock then sat down and picked up the phone to call the receiving desk. “Morning Martha, it’s Professor Rutherford again.”
“Yes, yes, a very long night. Tell me, has that text I requested from Dr. Caruthers at Columbia University arrived yet? Sure, I’ll hold.” Carl tucked the phone under his chin and managed to unzipped yet another pouch of tobacco before Martha White again came on line. “It is? Finally!” He sighed, “Thanks Mrs. White, you’re a lifesaver. I’ll be right over.”
An hour later Jack received a call from an excited Carl Rutherford. After hanging up he hurriedly dropped what he was doing then dashed off to the University. Carl hadn’t said what he found, but whatever it was Jack knew it had to be important. Then when he saw the haggard Professor slumped over his desk he was sure of it.
“Mr. Murphy, please come in. As you can see it took some doing, but I think I’ve got the thing you were looking for. Come, have a look,” he beckoned Jack to have a look at the faxed documents. Topping the agenda was a document with a letter head that had been translated from Romanian to read, “Bureau of Medical Science and Research.”
“Tell me, how did you get access to all this?” Jack beamed in wonderment.
“I got it from an old friend who works for the Russian police in Moscow. He’s high enough up the food chain to get the Romanian’s to forward what I needed. He owned me one so I decided to call in the favor. Now I’ve taken the liberty to translate the Romanian, but if you’re not satisfied I can run across the hall and fetch another language expert.”
“No, that’ll be fine. What does it say?”
“It says that Dr. Sanda Vladimirescu once headed the Institute of Behavioral Psychology in Bucharest. She was then given directorship of Citizen’s Hospital #62 where she worked until fleeing to the West. Now here we have Exhibit #B,” he hands him a page long document detailing her known history.
“As you can see, she had a rather pristine record. Well respected, towed the party line, destine for bigger, better things. She had even been the recipient of numerous awards as you can see outline below. Then out of the blue the police issue a warrant for her arrest. Exhibit #C,” he holds out yet a third document.
“This is a copy of the arrest warrant. Apparently an investigation by the State Police into the dealings of the Bratva led right to her door. Of course, by the time the news hit the street, she had already gone underground, only to re-emerge in West Germany two months later.
“Bratva, that’s the name of their crime syndicate, right?”
“Yes, it literally means secret brotherhood. It’s an organization that has been around for a long time with tentacles that stretch world-wide.”
“So? This doesn’t mean she’s broken any laws nor does it make her a criminal. They could have fabricated the charge to get rid of her for all we know. I’m sure the immigration folks will want to have a look at this, but not a criminal court. That’s the way it works with American jurisprudence, it’s either put up or shut up.”
“Yes, I am aware of that,” he conceded, “but that wasn’t what you asked me to find. You asked me to demystify the foundation that unites this group. You spoke of ‘privileges’ and ‘hierarchy’ and the prevailing ‘secrecy,’ and that’s the case I am prepared to present to you.”
“Okay, I’m listening.”
“Whether or not there is merit to the charge has no bearing here. It simply shows they wanted to jail a woman who was not only a card carrying party loyalist, but without a mark on her record. The only question we need to ask is why would such a woman suddenly fall into disfavor? For whatever reason, it does show the extent they went through to rid themselves of her.”
“Now, given what we know about her thus far, I took the liberty to track down a copy of an obscure Vlachian text I once read which I thought might have some bearing on this case. I just got it this morning. Here,” he responded hurriedly as if he couldn’t open the book fast enough. “I’d like you to listen to this passage. It’s a preface to a 14th century manuscript written by cleric known only as Mathias:”
Thy river of blood, all Ottomen shall fear. Oh Dark Prince, rise with the night Thy blood Ring shall feast, on thy enemy’s plight. Summon thy strength, wield thy great power The Red Harvest awaits, thine to devour.
Thy river of blood, all Ottomen shall fear.
Oh Dark Prince, rise with the night
Thy blood Ring shall feast, on thy enemy’s plight.
Summon thy strength, wield thy great power
The Red Harvest awaits, thine to devour.
“You lost me Doc. Blood, feast, Dark Prince, rise with the night. This is beginning to sound like a Saturday matinee horror show, but this doesn’t tell me who’s behind the black mask.”
“You do read the Marquee before you pay your 10 cent admission, right Mr. Murphy?”
“Sure, but I’m the type of guy who needs to see it for himself. If the guy behind the mask isn’t revealing himself, I need to sift through the clues until the irrefutable evidence reveals itself.”
“Exactly, and that’s what this case is all about!” he emphatically stated his case. “It’s about finding a way to get those who know what’s going on to cough up the secret they are hiding.”
“How are you planning to do that? Sing’um this silly ode to a vampire?”
“It’s a stanza and it may be silly to you, but to some it’s a blood oath of allegiance to defend themselves against the hordes who would do them harm. In this case that would be the enemies of the Vlachian’s. Their leader is described as someone of great power and strength and who bears the ring.”
“Please note that Dr. Vladimirescu is Vlachian and has also been described as a person of great power and strength. The ring she wears also bears up to the description of the Blood Ring.”
“I think I also need mention that similar oaths of allegiance are used by crime organizations such as the Bratva as well. Now putting two and two together, does that ring in the stanza have any meaning to you, Mr. Murphy?”
“I don’t know, should it?” Jack squinted, uncertain as to how to reply.
“Think, sir,” he implored, asking him to follow the logic of the problem. “Think of the photograph of Dr. Vladimirescu and the ring on her finger.”
“Yeah, so, she had on a large ring on the wrong hand and on the wrong finger that didn’t quite fit the Gestapo-like image she was projecting. How’s that a blood ring?”
“Ah, so glad you asked, sir.” He finally turned a smile then pulls out a large blow up of the ring taken from the photograph. “Do you see the figure carved into the surface of the stone?”
“Yes,” he peered in close with one eye squint. “It would appear to be a crude image of a man standing with shield and spear, perhaps, I’d guess, a quarter inch in diameter.”
“That’s 6.30 millimeters to be exact. Is it small? You bet! Is it crude, primitive? Without a doubt! Is the enlarged image a bit fuzzy? Absolutely, but it’s also unmistakable. It’s the link between that ring, the stanza and Dr. Vladimirescu. We now know what they know, and it is for us to use that knowledge to get them to hand over the information you’re looking for.”
“So you’re saying all this isn’t about vampires at all. You’re saying this is just an old belief that the Bratva use to gain blood allegiance from those caught up with the myth?”
“Exactly! Although I can assure you, those who follow are quite convinced it is all very real. To them, Sanda Vladimirescu might well be seen as the one to whom the ring was intended. The very one who will lead and protect them.”
“You know, I saw an image like that just a few days ago.” He followed as if rediscovering an old fact. “It was on a tapestry in this young fellow’s apartment. I had a hunch he might have something to do with Sonya Pavel’s death, so I had him followed.”
“A man bearing a shield and spear like this one?” he asked, obviously intrigued by the possibility of a connection.
“Sure, he even wore a similar ring. He was standing in a cathedral. It was very old and beautifully done. All hand woven and definitely not made in the good old U.S. of A.”
“You said he has some connection to this case?”
“Well . . . yeah, kind of. Like I said, the only link appeared to be his car. The still unidentified suspect in the death of Sonya Pavel had used his car to vacate the premises. He has a solid alibi, but now . . .”
“What’s that, detective?” Carl cut in.
“It does seem a bit odd to find something like that in a boy’s apartment. He’s 19 no less, and there’s something else odd about him too. This kid lives in a tough neighborhood. You know, the kind of place where you don’t dare walk out at night. Yet this kid comes and goes unmolested, the house where he lives completely immune. We’re not talking Jake La Motta here, doc. We’re talking a skinny white kid as wimpy as they come. Whatever it is the kid has working for him, it’s gotta be some serious mojo.”
“I’d like to see it.”
“I’d need a warrant. Plus you see it’s like this, Doc. Presenting to a judge the link to a criminal’s past, plus eye witness testimony or material evidence are all things the law can sink its teeth into. However, to ask me to present to a judge some hoodoo from a medieval kook who saw folks running around with fangs sucking up blood is a bit out of my jurisdiction. Especially since the Defense is going to be pointing out to the judge that most of those folks consumed Peyote as often as you fill-up that pipe.”
“That would’ve probably been hashish, Mr. Murphy. Nonetheless, it’s not important that a judge or you or I believe it. It’s that others do. After all, what is myth if not the thread that runs though every culture, every society? More often than not, it’s the very thing that binds us. In fact, I’m sure if you examine your own heart you’ll find a myth or two that you structure your belief system around as well.”
“Still, if you are not convinced this theory has merit, all you need to do is test it.” He shrugged.
“Yeah, I’m supposed to walk up to Yuri and say, “open wide fella so I can inspect your Canine teeth?”
“You’re going back to Waterston?” Carl asked seemingly out of the blue.
“Take me with you.”
“No can do, professor.” He pointed his index finger like the barrel of appointed gun. “I can’t have you interfering with police work. Besides, I might be dangerous and the department can’t be held responsible for the liability.”
“The University will sign a release, and as for interfering, if I am right, you’ll not solve this without me.”
“You sound quite sure of yourself, Doc. No offense or nothing, because I can really respect that in a guy. Especially one who has put in the extra muscle into this case you have, but I still can’t take you with me.”
Although . . .,” Jack eased his stance. “I see no reason why you can’t follow me in your own car. I guess you’ve earned that much. Just remember, if you’ve something to say pass it by me first. Got it?”
“Sure, I’ll stay out of your way.”
“Yeah, well, don’t go forgetting that. Now I’ve got one for you. This red harvest thing you read about.”
“I’ve heard the term before, in reference to the annual cherry harvest. Now I’m not sure whether they grow cherries in Romania or not, but somehow I don’t think that’s what that guy Mathias was talking about. What do you suppose it means?”
“Don’t know, but then that’s what we’re going to find out, isn’t it?”
Scene XIII: Cecilia
“Hurry along now sweetie,” Francine harped at her harried protégé struggling to keep up. Her pace was neither rushed nor hasty nor out of character for a woman wearing the same style dress and shoes. In fact, she looked as if on a leisurely stroll down the street, her glide smooooth and effortless. No, that wasn’t Cecil’s problem. His problem was the tightness of that skirt that imprisoned his knees and the height of his heels that conspired to impose a speed limit on his waddling, tiptoed, minced step.
He looked none the less for wear however. That sleek, hip hugging black beauty he wore had neither crease nor crinkle when they finally reached their destination. The glittering silver spangles sewn in even sparkled beneath the street lights as Francine knocked upon the door to the surveillance van. “Yoo-hoo, anybody home? It’s Francine with a pretty little package to deliver all wrapped up with a pretty little bow.”
Arn opened the door. “ShaZzzam!” he chortled. “Special de-liv-er-eee!” he bubbled with glee. “Looking good there little buddy, err, or is that Bud-dette?”
“That’s Cecilia, Mr. Fife. Please, the poor dear is already in such a state we needn’t ruffle her feathers anymore than necessary.”
“Darn if that riggin’ don’t look near bullet proof,” Arn followed with a toothy, conspiratorial grin. “It doesn’t look like he’s going to be slipping out of that anytime soon.”
“Honey, I used everything but a blow torch. He sealed in and vacuum packed. A nuclear explosion would do nothing but enhance that radiating glow.” Arn couldn’t stop chuckling as he helped Cecil step into the van then gave his thanks to a rather smug and thoroughly satisfied Francine Frangella.
For Cecil it took two hits from the flask of Irish whiskey to settle him down. Arn needed four, just to ease the pain in his gut from the laughter, or so he told Cecil.
“Well little buddy, looks like you’ve caught yourself a break.” He finally found his focus. The whiskey had a way of doing that for him.
“Jack was here and we’ve got us some new marching orders,” he followed as he flung the folder containing the photos onto Cecil’s lap. “That’s the girl in Michael’s apartment. Her name is Tatiana Darcos. Her address is 6230 Clement and she works at the Pink Flamingo.”
“Holy cow, then this must be the girl who drove Michael’s car.” Cecil sounded off elated while Arn found himself staring as if mesmerized, still unable to wrap his mind around the thought that it was actually Cecil behind those deep dark sensuous eyes and those breathtaking, blood red lips.
“Damn, you look hot, bro!”
“Cut it, Arn!” Cecil bitterly lashed out. “Jack thinks this is the girl?”
“Yup, he said the same deal applies. He wants you to on her tail 24/7 starting now.”
“Is she still in the apartment?”
“Don’t know, haven’t seen her recently. I got those pictures when she went to pick up some clothes from the cleaners. She came back, but I’ve not seen her since. My guess is she must have slipped out while I was using the facilities.”
“Yeah right! Facilities! Damn, Arn,” he added not bothering to hide his agitation. “Well, at least now I can call Francine tomorrow to undo all this. In the meantime, we’ve got the girl’s address so let’s go find a spot and follow her from there.”
Clement Street was only two blocks away, but it was a very long street. Running parallel to Sanger, it ran on for miles. From blocks numbered in the hundreds to the blocks numbered in the thousands, but it stopped before it reached the six thousands. “He must have gotten it wrong,” Arn muttered, scratched his head while fiddling with the map. Moving it up, down, forward and back as if to make the missing block suddenly appear.
“Try right side up, Arn.” Cecil, err, Cecilia shook her head. Then seemingly out of the blue, “Hey, Arn, the Flamingo’s on Claymore Street, right?”
“Do you remember the address?”
“No, why do you ask?”
“She works at the Flamingo. Claymore, Clement, you think he got them mixed up?”
“Come be, though it ain’t like Jack to make a mistake like that.”
“Huh! Well, let’s head back to Michael’s, wait it out and I’ll call Jack in the morning.”
“Better yet,” Arn intervened, “We know where she works. It’s 9 o’clock. She’s probably at work. We could follow her back home from there. It ought to work perfectly. Besides, you’re already dressed for it. No use letting all that pretty lipstick go to waste,” he chuckled.”
“Stuff it, Arn,” Cecil spat out, though he had to concede it was a well thought out tact. All he needed to do was grit his teeth, bear the indignity and the agony of those heels just one more time. Which he did, all the way to the Pink Flamingo reciting the mantra, “I can do this, I can do this” like an athlete psyching up before the big race.
“You got a hundred, Arn?” he asked, looking into his little black clutch.
“The doorman, so I can get in. That’s what for, butt head.”
“Huh, I don’t think so, sugar. Just flash him that pretty smile and I can guarantee he’ll be wanting to pay you. Plus you’ll be getting all the free drinks you can handle. Heck, if you’re lucky, it might even get’cha a one way ticket to Las Vegas honeymoon suite.”
A wise man that Arn. He had that doorman pegged from half a block away. The guy who had bullied him when they had last met, now nearly tripped over himself pushing that door open to escort him in. Which Cecil did quite hurriedly, thanks to a pinch on his ass that rocketed those heels into a high stepping gallop with an amazingly high pitched, “Ooooh!”
He was right about the free drinks too. They were flung at him from all directions by men marketing the charm. The routine was “duck, weave and evade” for more than an hour. Yet throughout he kept a look out for Tatiana, who like Michael before, was nowhere to be seen.
“Another casualty of the room beyond the pink light,” he assumed with a sigh as he decided to give up the search. That is, if he could only get rid of the ripe, middle aged gentlemen who was hanging on to him. With one arm wrapped around his waist while breathing into his ear, the Piranha from Plainview simply refused to let him go.
Of course it didn’t help that he simply could not say no. For as stunning as he looked, or how artfully he managed his role, he dare not open his mouth for fear of giving himself away. Fact is, just one peep in his masculine tenor would’ve blown his cover and probably earned him a punch in the nose. That left only his hands and the universal shaking of his pretty head to say “no.” That meant it took some doing to wrangle himself free. Which he eventually did, then rushed out with a quick paced, waddling, tiptoeing mince that would have done Francine Frangella proud.
“So why the hissy-fit,” Are laughed, “He didn’t cop a feel, did he?” he cajoled as he again handed Cecil the flask to help settle him down. “So, did you see her?”
“Heck no! There wasn’t a decent looking babe in the room. There isn’t anything in there except lechers, leaches, octopi and piranha. Like I told you, all the action is in the back room. Or wherever, cause it sure isn’t happening in there.”
“Then I guess we’d better head back to Michael’s and wait it out. In the morning we can call Jack and see where we go from here.”
“Yeah, whatever! Just get me away from here. I need to freshen up.”
“Freshen up?’ Arn laughed. “I think that dress is starting to wear on you, little buddy.”
Scene XIV: A Deal Goes Down
By 8 A.M. the next morning Jack was on his way to the Essex county Police Department. In his review mirror he saw Carl Rutherford’s blue Oldsmobile following close behind. He had called the night before to ask for assistance. Not only because Waterston, New Jersey, was not his jurisdiction, but if anything did go down he’d need all the muscle he could get. He was put in touch with Detective Monday and was on his way to meet up with him in his office.
Abe Monday had a bushy gray moustache and was balding on top. He seemed a bit sedate and overfed for a guy still chasing down bad guys. He was a big fellow though, with a big face and a scowl built right in. Then when he opened up with his coarse Bedford-Stuyvesant accent, well, that sealed the deal as far as Jack was concerned. They were going to get along just find.
An ex-NYPD detective from Manhattan, Abe had managed his escape from the street wars 5 years prior and was now the Chief Detective for the more tranquil Essex County Police Department. His story seemed perfectly scripted from Jack’s point of view, even if he was the last guy on earth who’d ever own up to it. Although, he had to admit there were mornings. More so recently it seemed, when he’d wake up and wonder if that country home with a cherry orchard round back might be right for him as well.
He and Jack were kindred spirits, and after Jack had presented his case, they set out with Carl Rutherford in tow like two old warships armed and ready and still in the hunt for the enemy no matter how rough the sea. Their plan of attack was to concentrate their fire on the most vulnerable target. In this case that happened to be Arina Stansila. The frightened housekeeper, who felt rather slighted by Vlady and for some reason, rather incensed with her fellow compatriots.
She seemed rather pissed at Jack as well for having come back, and again, she wasn’t about to let him in. Nor was she happy when Abe flashed his badge in her face when she again tried to slam the door in his face.
“Arina, I’d like your cooperation. If you’re willing, the law is more likely to listen to anything in way of defense you might have to offer.” Jack’s tone was steadfast.
“Defense? I’ve done nothing wrong.”
“I’ve every reason to believe you know what has happened to Michelle Pavel and that you are now endeavoring to conceal that fact. Furthermore, you knew Dr. Vladimirescu was not a licensed therapist when Michelle was her patient. Failing to report that makes you an accomplice, a punishable offense. After that, you can count on the INS putting you on the first flight back to Romania. So I need to ask you again, where is Michelle?”
“I told you, I do not know.”
“Well, that is yet to be determined, Arina, and I will find out. Where is Dr. Vladimirescu now?”
“She’s in Germany with Mihaela Ceausescu. She went on business.”
“When will she return?”
“I do not know. Nobody knows, but it must be soon. Yuri and Egore already prepare for the harvest.”
“You were the housekeeper, right?”
“That gave you a unique insight into what went on in that house, didn’t it Arina? I’ve heard some from Egore and Yori, now I need hear it from you.”
“No, I do not know all that they know. I’m just a housekeeper.” Jack could see the fear written on her face, but not of him. It was obvious that whatever hung over her head held greater sway than did the mere threat of jail, and he wondered whether he had chosen the right tact.
“Then you have chosen not to cooperate, Arina?” He prodded, hoping to get her to see the seriousness of what she faced.
“If that is your decision, then I must warn this may not play out well for you.” He fired yet another bullet hoping to pierce through her silence. Instead she just stood there for an indeterminately long length, head down, her tears cascading down to the floor.
He was just about to fire off yet another round when Carl Hutchinson stepped in. It was obvious he had no intention of honoring the promise he had made to Jack.
“The Blood ring!” he blurted out, even though Jack had told him to say nothing without discussing it with him first. Jack was pissed and was just about to pull him back by the ear when Arina looked up with a gaze as searing as molten steel.
The intensity of her response and that look in her eye was all the evidence Jack needed. She not only knew about the ring, but the ring was the one thing she feared more than jail.
“I know about it, Arina! When Vlady is caught, and she will be caught, Detective Monday is going to put that ring into a box. That box is going to be locked in a larger box and packed into a crate. Then that crate is going to be stored in a secure locker at some unknown location 5 floors below ground alongside millions of other articles of evidence under armed guard. Even worse, the ring will be lost to you and all the generations to follow.”
“Throughout all those centuries you and your brethren have endured immense suffering to protect that ring. Now all that you fought to protect lies solely in your hands. Either you let Detective Monday seal the ring away in that box, or you tell Detective Murphy what he wants to know. If you do, I’ll claim the ring as a treasure of Romanian antiquity, and if and when it can be safely returned to your fatherland, it will be. The choice is yours.”
“Vlady will protect it,” Arina replied, looking down, avoiding their eyes. Obviously she didn’t look like a woman overwhelmed with conviction. Rather, she looked afflicted, as if filled with disappointment and regret.
“No she won’t and you know it. I heard you speak. You have no faith in her. In fact, I don’t think you trust Dr. Vladimiresu anymore than I do. The way I see it, you have no loyalty to her, only the ring. Now you need honor that ring and your countrymen, Arina.”
Arina grew upright again, her eyes glowing with a fierce determination, knowing what must be done. “No, I’ve done nothing wrong. If I tell you all, you give the ring to me and I’ll return to Germany and place it in safe keeping. For that I help you find Vlady and Michelle and rid you of what plagues you.”
“If you are innocent as you say, it’s a deal,” Jack pushed forward to take her hand. “The ring need not even go into States evidence if I have all the evidence I need to convict her. Give me what I need and I promise you the ring.”
“Come, I will show you.” she said pointing to the door, drawing her house keys from her pocket. “I have the key.”
Acknowledgement: I need thank Amber Talamasca for her contributions and Amelia French, for her support and guidance. I’d love to thank my editor as well, but I’m afraid my dear friend cs. is a bit too modest to accept the accolades so richly deserved.
©2009 by josie ©. All Rights Reserved. These documents (including, without limitation, all articles, text, images, logos, and compilation design) may be printed for personal use only. No portion of these documents may be stored electronically, distributed electronically, or otherwise made available without expressed written consent of the copyright holder.
To Be Continued in Part Two
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