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Miner's Kill

Miner's Kill

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Miner's Kill

342 pagine
5 ore
Aug 24, 2020


Jack LeClere is a cop dodging bullets in what could best be described as friendly fire. He took out the serial killer who murdered his parents, and half of New Rhodes paid the price. Not to mention the rioting that gripped the city over the Julia Mae Jefferson murder, his last big case. So in the spirit of the aftermath, his superiors have called into question every sliver of his conduct. Jack is wealthy; he doesn’t need to be a detective, and the top brass are implying that maybe if he followed procedure like his livelihood depended on it, he wouldn’t want to be a cop.

Leonard Beloit is a pillar of the community and a very wealthy man also, which does him no good when Jack gets called to the Grand Royal Theater to find him on the floor, his chest pierced with a gem pickaxe. Jack’s search for the person who killed Beloit starts with the search for the person who was Beloit. As he speaks with Beloit’s wife and daughter and digs even further, Jack finds a lustful, vagrant degenerate that would be unrecognizable in the society pages. Gangs, petty crimes, and not-so-petty crimes seem to be Beloit’s off-hours pastime.

None of this would call for Beloit’s death, but Jack will keep digging, and soon realize he is peeling into the rot of the onion of New Rhodes high society, of which he is a reluctant member. The deeper he gets investigating what his peers are doing in the shadows, the more they investigate him, asking, in their own way, whether he’ll stop playing cop and do something with the vast inheritance he rarely uses, and claims to never want.

Beloit’s exploits take a very dangerous turn in the form of a conspiracy to transport toxic chemicals through the Adirondacks; it may be that the smoking gun is wrapped up in a smokestack.

The case to find, and hold accountable, Beloit’s killer will pit him against not only the killer, but a version of himself that it seems everyone around him sees, that perhaps he can’t remain blind to anymore.

Aug 24, 2020

Informazioni sull'autore

Liam Sweeny is an author from upstate New York. He began writing fiction six years ago, as a result of volunteering in Post-Katrina Louisiana in 2005. He has written three novels, one novella and one collection of short works. His crime/noir fiction has appeared on various sites such as "Powderburn Flash", "Flash Fiction Offensive", "Shotgun Honey", "Spinetingler Magazine", "A Twist of Noir" and others.

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Miner's Kill - Liam Sweeny


A Jack LeClere Thriller

Liam Sweeny

Copyright © 2020 by Liam Sweeny

All rights reserved. No part of the book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

Down & Out Books

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The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Cover design by Liam Sweeny

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

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Miner’s Kill


About the Author

Books by the Author

Preview from Never the Crime by Colin Conway and Frank Zafiro

Preview from Deemer’s Inlet by Stephen Burdick

Preview from Crime and Justice by Martin Bodenham

Dedicated to the memory of Robert Hugh Sweeny


Why I write

Chapter One

Jack sat, a clear plastic cup of tepid water guarding him from a row of faceless eyes, the worst eyes—of men he knew.

Schlesser licked his sparse lips. Sweat pooled in the wrinkles of his balding forehead. He was the mouthpiece. The other men: Chief Detmer was outgoing, soon to be replaced by the hairy slab of beef on his side, Chief of Detectives Kiernan. It was an election year, and a crap move, cutting the chief like that. Jack wasn’t the only detective on the force to think it. He wasn’t the only one on the force to keep that to himself, too.

They were in the same conference room of city hall where Jack was promised a full performance review three months ago. And there he was, the buzz from the Jefferson case reduced to echoes bouncing through the churches and street corners of the North Central District. Jack’s name floated, but he did his best to go low on it and give the department credit. He didn’t see the review as a betrayal. He’d earned it over the past year and a half.

John Bowman killed sixteen people—seventeen, if you include himself. He bombed two buildings, seriously compromising one, and demolishing the other. Schlesser shifted the stack of papers in front of him and cleared his throat. Obviously, I’m telling you nothing you don’t know very well. But we’ve never addressed your involvement in that case.

Schlesser took a sip of his own tepid water. Do you feel responsible for John Bowman, Jack?

Jack wished he could light up. Yes, he said.

And why is that?

Jack unrolled his left sleeve, freeing his wristwatch from its constraint. He could’ve sworn they set up that conference room interrogation hot.

He was after me, Jack said. He killed everyone I dug up and killed Walt because he was close to me. He had a shrine to me in his squat. How am I not responsible for him?

Do you think your involvement in the case escalated him?

I don’t know, Jack said. It’s the coin toss at the beginning of a football game. Once it’s heads, you’ll never know how the game would’ve went if it landed tails.

Riddles won’t help you, Jack.

Do I need help? Should my PBA rep be here?

This is just a review, Jack. No lawyer needed. You’re not in trouble. You know the department has to keep everyone accountable, even you.

I understand.

Jack, you take risks. You let Bowman get personal, and an innocent woman was kidnapped as a result of your actions. You pay for the funeral of a murder victim, show up, and get in a fist fight with a community activist in the middle of the ceremony…on tape. Schlesser wiped his brow. Nobody, and I mean nobody here thinks you’re a bad cop. If someone killed any one of our friends or family, you’d no doubt be the one we’d want on that case. But you can’t keep taking shortcuts. It’s bigger than you. It’s about the morale of the department.

What about the department? Morale’s good right now, all things considered.

Jack, Kiernan spoke up. You’re a smart cop. But so are our other cops, most of them. Do you think that only your brother, and your cohorts in homicide, know you can make a weekend visit to J. William Phillips with a phone call?

What’s that supposed to mean? They know my family connections?

You’re rich, Jack. Around here, you’re Dale Carnegie and Phillips is J.P. Morgan. You don’t act it, but you go around taking shortcuts, and other cops think you just have it like that. It breeds resentment, even if people are smiling at you. Officers, detectives, staff—everyone’s got to know you’re not a hobby cop.

"A fucking hobby cop? Jack gripped the grips of his chair. That what people think?"

Not anyone who knows you, Jack, Chief Detmer said. Not us. But let’s face facts. Every cop on the force can bitch about me, the mayor, even. Not every cop can buy a new mayor and have me replaced. Do you see what I’m getting at here?

Not really. I’m not being an ass about this. Just, what do you all want me to do?

Schlesser slid back to a file folder and pulled out a familiar, hardbound book, and a smaller, more familiar manual. He passed them down the table.

Jack held up the hardbound. "Criminal Procedure Law? He said. He held up the manual. New Rhodes Department Policy? I’ve read both of these, more than once."

Use a highlighter, Schlesser said. Everything you skate on, forms you skip, any policies you’ve broken—or are even thinking of breaking—highlight all of it.

No more passes, Jack, Kiernan said. If you have a problem, go to Harken, and he’s been instructed to get clearance from my replacement, only if it’s absolutely necessary.

Otherwise, he continued, You break rules, you get marks. You get disciplinaries, lose your sergeant rank, maybe even your shield. Every cop on the beat has to fear getting marks. It’s their job, their mortgages, their power bills and groceries. You want to continue being a detective, you have to act like your livelihood depends on it.

Jack sat out in the back lot, smoking a cigarette, He wasn’t due back at the station for another half hour. As far as reviews, he got off light, a slap on the cheek. But there may as well have been pepper spray in that slap. So that’s what people thought—Jack was some rich guy playing cop. He never saw it that way, but there’s always a problem with not seeing something a certain way—you’re blind to the view. He knew when he and Phillips funded Project Hope it would draw attention. Had to. But he never thought his own blue brothers would take it for something other than what it was—a chance to help people.

The phone went off, Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear the Reaper, recently assigned to Captain Harken.

LeClere, he said.

Still a cop?

Yeah, Cap. Dog-and-pony show. You callin’ for gossip?

Nope. Cleaning guy found a body in the Grand Royal, balcony area, he said.

Gotta be fresh, since last night, Jack said. "Took Mary to see Macbeth. Packed house."

Dead now. Burris is en route. ME said he’ll be there in ten to fifteen. Still at city hall?

Yeah, I can get there in a couple minutes. Before Larry.

Jack could hear Harken spit into his wastebasket.

Get to it, then, he said.

Jack tossed his cigarette in the drain and found his Chevelle. He hopped in and squealed out, putting the red light on his dash before he tore down Sixth Avenue, leaving the eviscerated hobby-cop in the rearview.

Two cruisers were parked in front of the Grand Royal, lights on, and one of the newer patrolmen was standing near the open doors. Jack glanced up at the marquee, still listing Macbeth. Light flickered in the tall windows of the upper foyer.

The Grand Royal Theater housed five street-level businesses in its glazed terra-cotta marble and brick frame. Nobody could tell that if they didn’t already know. The theater was iconic, the face of decades of New Rhodes postcards. It towered above its children, contained in two marble columns topped with Art Deco interpretations of gargoyles.

Jack walked up to the patrolman and flashed his shield. The patrolman moved aside to let him through. As he walked the gleaming tiles of the lobby, he thought to double back and ask the patrolman some basics, but kept walking. It was natural for him to talk to the officer securing the scene, but the review had ragged him. Burris could tell him what he needed to know.

He went up the wide stairwell to the main balcony. He knew they were in the balcony foyer, or else a fresco-covered wall would’ve kept him from seeing the light out the window. He turned the corner to find a rivulet of congealed blood coming from a man in a tuxedo with something sticking out of his chest. There were two evidence techs with kits and notepads in their hands meeting minds, but aside from the body and two potted trees stationed in each corner, there was nothing.

Burris was standing by the window, on the phone. Must’ve been on the phone with Larry, who had to be driving up by then. Jack could barely hear him, though he was only twenty feet away. He found it odd, but if you were going to design a good theater, you wouldn’t want noise from a foyer interrupting the noise from the stage and the orchestra pit.

Jack caught the gaze of one of the techs, pointed to the body, pointed to himself. The tech nodded, and Jack walked over, squatting to get a better look. The man must have been in his sixties or seventies, silver mutton chops and wisps of white hair clinging to his scalp. His eyes were shut, looked peaceful, all things considered. Jack couldn’t figure out why, because buried into his pleated cotton wing-collar shirt was a small pickax, the kind gem prospectors used.

Jack looked at the wall, just noticing the crimson streaks in the fresco. He followed the blood, getting up to move around the body. The victim was standing when he was struck. A pool ran along the slight tilt of the foundation, but if he bled any more, something obstructed the full spray. Whoever killed him would’ve gotten bloody.

How did the review go? Burris said over his shoulder.

Eh, Jack said. I’ll live. They didn’t crack me too much, just pissed me off. Probably the point. He walked to the other side of the body and squatted again from a different angle. You’ll have to break the rules when we need to from now on. I’m leashed.

Welcome to being a cop.

Not funny. Not today, anyway. Jack scratched his chin. You on the phone with Larry?

Yeah, he’s caught in an accident on Route 4, Burris said. He said it was starting to clear up. He should be here in a minute. He squatted on the other side of the body. Don’t suppose you know who this is, do you?

Nope. Looks like a society guy. I didn’t see him here last night, but the place was packed. Guy like this would’ve been in a box…or maybe the orchestra pit.

You don’t know the society people? Burris said.

Nope, not other than Phillips. They know me; I don’t know them.

Oh. Burris smoothed the pleats on his pant legs. Wish we could flip the body, go for the wallet. Think Larry will mind?

Nah, but let him get a time of death first. This guy ain’t going anywhere, and if he’s a society guy, we may have another press circus. Not in a hurry for that.

Larry Hershey showed up before Jack and Burris changed their minds about the wallet. He had his assistant bringing up a gurney and a body bag. He didn’t seem to be in a much better mood than Jack, and he got right to work, slapping on a pair of gloves and reaching for a liver probe.

Larry, Jack said. His eyes are closed. If that pick killed him, would they shut, or stay shut?

Not necessarily, he said. It would depend.

I’m thinking, if someone closed them, maybe there’s prints on the lids.

Larry stroked his Ironman chin. He motioned to the techs. Do you guys wanna try to lift prints from the eyelids while I check TOD?

The tech who cleared Jack to approach the body reached into his kit and got the powder, the brush, and a white gelatin material to lift them.

Don’t get your hopes up guys, Larry said as the sucking sound of the liver probe’s penetration hit Jack’s ears. If the victim was killed last night, there might not be prints to lift, even if the killer left them.

Getting into forensics, Larry? the tech said.

No, I read about it in a journal the other day.

Burris strolled out into the balcony. Jack followed. Give them all some time, give himself a little, too.

It was one thing going to the Grand Royal to see a play. You see the beauty of the place, the gold-leaf arches supporting the rise of the gallery seating, the ornate sculpted marble of the boxes that lined both sides, the deep black of the orchestra pit, and the polished oak, trimmed in polished brass of the stage and the ruby plush curtains framed in even more gold-leaf accent work by the proscenium that held a near century of performances. But it was he and Burris, not a word spoken, two sets of eyes darting about in the shadows for something out of place. Jack couldn’t help but think the only things out of place were himself and Burris.

Larry’s shadow cast over them.

I’m estimating time of death as twelve to fourteen hours, he said. Sometime last night between midnight and two in the morning. You can roll him for his wallet now.

Jack and Burris stood in the main office. Their victim was now known as Leonard Beloit, sixty-eight by his driver’s license. He was loaded in gold credit cards, high-end membership cards, business cards from all over the goods and services industries, and had a wife and daughter, judging by pictures. He wasn’t robbed, not even the four hundred and fifty dollars cash in the billfold. They handed the wallet to the techs after putting the driver’s license in a clear evidence bag and went downstairs to the main office. On their way, they talked to the patrolman who’d secured the scene. He did some of his own basic detective work, as much as to say the door hadn’t been forced open in the front.

The custodian who found their victim was an older, stringy man named Bernie Matthews. Martin DelRocco, the owner of the Grand Royal, was sitting behind his desk. DelRocco had just shown up. The custodian, Bernie, had been there since he found Beloit’s body. A steel circular fan was a poor excuse for air conditioning in a theater never designed for it.

Bernie confirmed that the doors were all locked when he got there at nine.

If you got here at nine, why did it take five hours for you to find the body? Jack said.

It’s how I do it, Bernie said. Stage, gallery, foyers, boxes. He looked over to DelRocco. I guess I won’t get around to the boxes today.

It’s alright, Bern, he said. Think we’ll be cancelling tonight, maybe tomorrow. He looked to Jack. Can you tell us when we can have the theater back? I feel bad for the guy, but it isn’t just my job here. I can afford to close for a month. My employees, not so much.

Let’s finish asking questions, and if we get good answers, we can tell you better, okay? Burris said. Now, you’re sure the doors were locked, Mr. Matthews?

Yes sir. It’s my butt if they aren’t and something shows up missing. So I check.

And who has keys to either door, front or back?

I can write down a list, DelRocco said. He grabbed a piece of scrap paper and a pencil. I’ll do it now. You want phone numbers too?

Yeah, Jack said. And why they have a key—their position, duties, just something.

Jack pulled out the bag with Beloit’s driver’s license. The picture was a couple years old, but close enough. He held it up to DelRocco.

Do you know this man? he said.

That’s Mr. Beloit, box C. He’s had that box for twenty years. He’s a patron. Is he the—

Afraid so. You said box C?

DelRocco was staring at the thin air. Maybe they were close. Or maybe he lost a cash cow.

Yeah, box C. Are you sure it’s him? I saw him last night. He was at the play…

I got his license fifteen minutes ago in the foyer, so I’m sure. He was at the play. You know this?

Yeah, I went over to the box and said hello to him and the missus. They were both here. Jesus, Len…

His wife was here too.

Yes, sir.

How did she seem?

Distant, bored. Which is usual for her. Nothing different from normal. She’s not much of a fan of theater. Len once told me she’s a movie buff.

Did he have a key? Burris asked.

No, not him. But I would’ve given him one if he’d asked.

Jack put the driver’s license back in the evidence bag. The gloves he borrowed were hot on his skin, so he took them off and tucked them in his pocket. He turned to Bernie. So you didn’t touch the boxes, right?

No sir. Not yet.

Can you take us to Box C, please?

Bernie sprung up. Must’ve been eager to get back on his feet again. Sure thing.

Do you need me for anything else? DelRocco asked.

If you could stick around until we get back. I want to see if there’s anything in that box. When we get back, we’ll figure out how long we need to preserve the crime scene. Is that okay?

DelRocco nodded. Jack and Burris followed Bernie out into the hallway.

The theater, from the main lobby, had two stairwells, left and right, leading up to the foyer for the balcony. It split off in either direction, wide halls lit with nicely spaced Tiffany chandeliers. The halls led to the boxes. To get there, they had to pass the crime scene, and Jack asked one of the techs to bring a small, portable ALS to spot any cleaned-up blood they might find.

There were five boxes on each side of the balcony, so box C was in the center of the row on the left side. The tech was sweeping the ALS beam, coming up sparse. Beloit probably wasn’t killed here, or even injured. Each box had a red velvet curtain, opened for boxes D and E, but when they got to box C, the curtain was closed. Jack checked down the hall and saw that boxes A and B had their curtains opened, too.

Okay, an odd thing, Burris said.

Yeah. Jack took his gloves out and went to put them on again, but the tech stopped him.

If I have to trace pocket lint to the Sear’s men’s department in Albany, I’ll have to kill you, Jack. He pulled a box of fresh gloves from his backpack.

Jack donned the fresh gloves and pulled the curtain open. Nothing much. No blood, no disarray, just a newspaper on one of the seats.

You’d have barely had to clean this one. Jack said.

I would’ve still. Box people are picky folk, ya know.

Jack picked up the paper. See this, Burris?

Burris glanced over his shoulder. Not yesterday’s. Does that say the twenty-third?

Yeah, two weeks old, thereabouts.

The headline above the fold read Frustrated Citizens Demand a Change in New Rhodes City Government. He handed it to the tech, who fished out an evidence bag big enough to hold it.

Who brings an old paper to the theater? Burris said.

Jack shrugged. Someone who cares about what’s in it.

He looked down into the gallery, found the seats he and Mary had, pretty much dead center. He’d worn his best suit, nowhere near as impeccably dressed as Leonard Beloit, nor with the overview of both audience and performers. Just a man and his wife enjoying a night of good cheer, a welcome respite from his fears of facing a review the next day. Beloit was here, seeing it all, and whether he knew of the tragedy that would befall him or not was a question they couldn’t yet answer.

Chapter Two

They got new rugs on the third floor, navy blue. They felt plush, but really, they just weren’t as beaten to death as the old greys. Jack kicked up the corner as they walked in the door of the homicide squad room. In a year it would be stuck to the linoleum solid.

Captain Harken was leaning on the doorframe to his office, picking at his middle fingernail with his thumbnail. He had a pencil tucked behind his ear, the tip digging in to his greying temple. He looked up and picked at his thick moustache.

Tell me the killer left his signature, he said.

Might have, Jack said. We found a clue in the victim’s box.

Victim have a name?

Yeah, Leonard Beloit. Probably a high player in town. Lots of gold cards. Not a robbery either.

Well, go do your thing. Let me know anything juicy.

Jack and Burris stopped in the break room for coffee and hit their desks.

You look up Beloit, I go through the paper? That sound good? Jack said.

Yeah. Either way. Should we get the board out?

Nah, I got index cards in my drawer, Jack said. Let’s hit the legal pads, then the cards. Then I’ll go get it out.

Jack and Burris had stopped at the New Rhodes Public Library and got a copy of the Sentinel for October twenty-third. He opened it up. He read it when it came out, but it wasn’t a clue to anything, just the companion of a morning shit.

The headline above the fold: Frustrated Citizens Demand a Change in New Rhodes City Government. Jack didn’t pay it much mind when he first read it, because he was in the middle of it. Schlesser might as well have thrown that paper in front of him in the conference room and laid that at his feet too. City government wasn’t the DPW, or the county assessor, or the city clerk. It was the police commissioner, the chief, and everyone on down the line. During the Jefferson case, the one-day riot brought the wrath of the good citizens of New Rhodes on Commissioner Landsen. Well, on Mayor Ericson, who had to rein in the police department. Commissioner Landsen wasn’t popular, more interested in politics than running an effective department. He was gone now, and Chief Detmer, who did care about the department, was being appointed commissioner. And so everyone under him moved up one spot. Kiernan would be chief and Joe Walters, his assistant, would be the new chief of detectives.

For Jack, and everyone in the department, it was good reviews. Detmer would set good policy; Kiernan was a hard-ass, but solid for chief; and Joe Walters was a pretty fair guy and a thinking man. For the good citizens of New Rhodes, it was a game of the same old faces.

No mentions of Leonard Beloit. Jack scanned through the rest of the paper, writing paraphrased blurbs for every story: a new housing development proposal, three stories on pending legislation, a train derailment up north, a charity gala, a political scandal, five business news articles, and the national headlines.

Jack finished up and rubbed his eye sockets. Got anything, Burris?

He’s retired, Burris said. He was the owner of the Central New York Railroad Company from 1980 till 2010. He sold it for a mint to South Tier Energy. That company filed for bankruptcy this year.

Could’ve been the ban on fracking.

Maybe. I need more time to dig if I’m going to figure out what their deal was.

"There was a train derailment

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