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Authors: Victor Methos

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BOOK: Black Widow
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Though he preferred paper files, the convenience of being able to access every police report on every case in his jurisdiction on his phone wasn’t lost on Stanton.

He sat now in a room at the precinct and fast-forwarded the DVD. When he checked his phone to see who had initially informed Alex Waters’ spouse of his death, there was only a note that said a detective named Gary
Akanu had called several times and left messages with no return calls. Then Connor Jones had tried to follow up with her, with no luck either.

The DVD’s picture was clear and perfect. There was no sound, and after watching an hour’s worth of video it created a disoriented sensation. He didn’t like not being able to hear what people were saying. It meant he had to guess.

He put his feet up on the desk and a pen between his lips. The video could be fast-forwarded at four, eight, sixteen, and thirty-two speed. He tried to start at the thirty-two speed but couldn’t see a single thing. At the sixteen speed, he was able to make out faces. Eight, he found, was the fastest he could forward the DVD and still be able to recognize what the people were doing and where.

After two hours, his eyes were blurry and the muscles in his buttocks hurt from sitting. He paused the video and stretched his back.

Jones was out at his desk. He’d been assigned another case, a series of deaths at the shore from sunstroke. Stanton hadn’t see anything there, and apparently Kai hadn’t either. But everyone had their orders. Jones’ job was probably just to make sure they stayed unattended deaths and weren’t put on the homicide board.

Stanton went out to him. “Did you talk to Alex Waters’ wife, by chance?”

“Left about five or six messages, but no return calls.”

Stanton walked to the desk next to Jones and sat down. “It’s easy to avoid someone’s phone calls. Not so easy to avoid a bunch of cops at your house.”

“Don’t know what kinda budget they had in San Diego but we can’t go flyin’ across the country just to talk to one person.”

Stanton spun the chair around. “I can help.”

He took out his cell phone and then dialed one of his contacts. It rang almost four times before a man said, “Hello.”



“This is Jon Stanton, how are

“Jon? Holy shit. Where are you?”

“Honolulu, of all places.”

He chuckled. “Can’t stay away from that damn ocean, huh?”

“It’s where we all came from.” Stanton glanced to Jones, who had confusion written on his face. “I had a quick favor to ask, if that’s okay.”


“I, uh, well, I’m a detective again over here with the HPD.”

shittin’ me. Homicide?”


“You got out. I heard you was makin’ bank with the PI shit. Why would you do that?”

Stanton lightly touched the shield on his waistband and only realized it after he had done it. “Don’t totally know. But lesson for another time, I guess. We got a spouse of a
vic that isn’t returning our calls. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind popping over there and speaking with her really quick.”

“No prob. Where is she, and what do you need?”

“Coral Gables. Her husband, Alex Waters, was found dead out here in a hotel room about a month ago. A little less than three weeks after his death she got remarried.”

“Hm. You
thinkin’ her?”

“She could’ve hired someone. Just need to know where she was and the info for her current husband. If you think she’ll bite, have her
gimme a call. I’m sure we can get the money to fly out if we need to.”

Stanton heard scribbling on paper. He waited a moment,
then gave Bethany Waters’ address and phone number.

“All right,” Clyde said. “It’s not too far from me. I’ll let you know when I know.”

“I really appreciate this, Clyde. You and Kathy should come out to the islands some time.”

“I got
plenty’a beach bums and surfing right here, brother. Let’s you and me take a fishing trip up to Alaska and get outta the sun for a while.”

He grinned. “Name the time.”

Stanton hung up and placed his phone down. Jones was staring at him.

“How’d you happen to know a cop where we needed?”

“I used to teach seminars to law enforcement from around the country. I got to know a lot of people that way. What’d you find on the credit card statements?”

Diddly shit. She buys a lot of lingerie and clothes, man, but that’s it. Nothin’ out here.”

Stanton spun the cha
ir again as he lost himself in thought a moment. “What about Hugh Neal’s wife? Did you talk to her?”

“Yeah, she’s airtight. She volunteered at some book fair the day he was killed. At least thirty people saw her there and I talked to two of ’
em. Didn’t have enough time to fly down here from New York after the book fair.”

Stanton shook his head. “There’s a link between Neal and Waters. That’s what we need to find. It might be simple, like they drank at the same bar when they were here, or it might be complex. Like they were having an affair with the same woman and they flew out here to meet her. What did Neal’s wife say was the reason he was here?”

“Business convention. U-Tech. I checked it out, it’s legit.”

“Do we have any idea why Waters was out here?”

Jones shook his head. “None. Flew in the day he was killed and had a flight scheduled to leave the day after. One night.”

Stanton rose. “I’m going to watch the rest of the video. There’s only about an hour
left. I think we might need to re-interview the cleaning staff that found Waters. Neal was found almost the same way, if I remember.”

“Yeah, next day he didn’t check out, and the cleaning staff went in to see if he’d left.”

“Same thing, then. We’ll have to interview at both hotels. Thanks for helping on this.”

“No worries, man.” He hesitated. “I read about you online.”

“Well, don’t believe everything you read.”

“There was some blogs and things that said you was psychic. They had quotes from cops you’d worked with and they said that that was the only explanation for some of the cases you’ve closed.”

Stanton leaned against the desk. His clearance rate for homicide and sex crimes cases was abnormally high; he never denied that. But the psychic rumors had sprouted from desperate parents.

Hardly anything was more painful to a parent than a missing child. Any glimmer of hope brought them a comfort no one could understand unless they’d been through what they went through.

One woman started it all. The mother of a missing four-year-old, interviewed for a local news station in San Diego after Stanton found her son when he was in the sex crimes unit. They had no leads and no suspects, and he found the boy a day after being assigned the case. The rumors of paranormal ability took off from there.

“Connor, if we find the person that killed these two men, some people outside of the investigation will think it’s because of psychic abilities. Once that rumor catches on, you can never break free. They attribute any success I have to it. But I don’t do anything different than any other investigator.”

“That ain’t true, man. That video, I didn’t get that. I interviewed people and checked the hotel for video. Didn’t even think to ask about video in the hotel’s bar.”

“Next time you will.” Stanton grinned. “Keep running the financial records of both men
and their wives. Let’s look for patterns. What I’d specifically like to see is some recurring charge with a vague identifier. Some company that doesn’t want anyone to know who they are.”


“Charges to escort companies always show up as ambiguous on credit card statements. It’s in case the wives of the johns get ahold of them.”

Stanton walked back into the viewing room and watched the rest of the video. Nothing. Disappointed, he pulled the DVD out, put it back into its slip, and placed it in the file. He rose and walked out of the office.

“I’ll be back,” he said to Jones on his way out.









Stanton didn’t leave his car for a long while. He sat in front of the Seasons Hotel and watched the valet. They were young boys, perhaps no more than nineteen, and as soon as the customers would turn around they would rally the cars. Smoke pluming out from the tires as they peeled out. One man in a BMW seemed to berate them for something. As soon as the man was inside the hotel, one of the valets walked the circumference of the car. Stanton saw something in his hand as he scraped the paint off.

The Seasons was not as high-brow as the Dale Koa. The name clearly was designed to create confusion between the Seasons and the Four Seasons. Though the exterior appeared nice, management had apparently no control over the staff, which was the mark of a truly luxurious hotel.

He found street parking about half a block up and walked. The day was turning out to be a hot one, and he went back to his jeep and put his jacket in the backseat.

At the intersection, a homeless man was begging for change. Stanton looked to his shoes. You could always tell the scammers from the truly homeless from their shoes. The trend now among the scammers was to have a homeless uniform. The scammers would live a normal life with a comfortable income. They would then dress in ragged clothing for the few hours they worked every day on the streets. But most of the time they wouldn’t change shoes, thinking no one would notice.

The man was twenty, maybe twenty-five, with expensive tattoos over his body. His front teeth were missing but he was clean-shaven and his shoes were bright white Nikes.

Stanton walked into the Seasons a few moments later. The doorman nodded to him. The interior stunk of stale air and cigarette smoke. Bad art was up on the walls and a fountain was in the center of the atrium. But the water appeared dirty, since the base of the fountain hadn’t been cleaned in a long time.

“Can I help you?” a woman behind the counter said.

Stanton showed her his shield. He could smell the faint odor of marijuana on her. “I need room 612.”

“That room… is available, it looks like. How many nights?”

Stanton stared at her a moment. “I’m a detective with the HPD. I need access to that room for a few minutes.”

“I understand that, but we’re
gonna have to charge you, just like everyone else, sir. The lowest rate we have for that room is fifty-nine dollars for a half day.”

Stanton thought a moment. He looked at her nametag. “Marla, I saw your valets vandalize a patron’s BMW outside. They ran a key or a piece of glass around it. I’m now investigating that crime and have probable cause to search here. The valet that did it came in here, so I need to look around and find what he used to cause the damage. While I’m
back there looking around, I’m going to be smelling. I have a really good nose, Marla. If someone were hiding pot in their purse or maybe in a locker, I bet I’d smell it.”

She folded her arms and stepped to the side. “Search all you want. I
ain’t got nothin’ to hide.”

Stanton had struck out. She looked worried, but not panicked. The pot wasn’t back there.

He grinned.

“I can smell it on you. You were actually dumb enough to carry it on you, weren’t you?”

The woman’s eyes narrowed to slits. “You can’t—”

“Marla, please put your hands behind your back. You have the right to rem—”

“Wait, hold on. Hold on, alright. You can go up there.” She swiped a card through a slit on the computer. “Here, just fucking take it.”

Stanton tapped the keycard against the counter. “Thank you for being so cooperative.”

There were four elevators and Stanton chose the closest one. He glanced back to Marla before getting on; she was on the phone. No doubt warning anyone else that might have had drugs in the hotel to get rid of them.

Stanton got off on the sixth floor and realized only then that Alex Waters had been kill
ed on the sixth floor, too. He could write it off as a coincidence, but coincidences were rare. He made a mental note that the sixth floor had some sort of significance.

He walked to 612. The hallway was empty and no noise was coming from any of the rooms. Sliding his keycard through the scanner, it beeped and the door clicked open.

The room was small. A single large bed took up most of the space and there were two framed photos up on the wall. One was of the beach, and another was a surfer coming down on a huge wave.

Stanton walked to the bed and looked down at it.

You think I’m here for you. You came with me willingly and I can’t help but smile at you. You think I care about you. But the change in your face is priceless. When you see what I really am….

I strap you down to the bed and undress you. But GHB can last all night. I have to have a way to wake you. There’s no way I’m going to let you sleep through this. So I use… smelling salts. It wakes you. You’re disoriented but you’re awake. You can feel now. And that’s when I start….

Stanton sat down in a chair that was pushed up against the wall. He watched two figures, one strapped to the bed and the other above him. He could see them like he saw shadows: not really there, but existing anyway.

The first injury was the wire around the leg.

You thought this was for pleasure and when you felt my hands on you, you became aroused. You groaned until you felt the wire around your thigh. Then the pressure. It cut through your skin and you yelped with pleasure. Then it began sawing through your muscle. You tell me to stop and I laugh at you, I want you to know you’re not in control. But I won’t give you the satisfaction of a response. I don’t want you to think you’re dealing with a human being.

I start stripping away your skin using a razor. I slit along your chest and pull it off. But not too much… you could die from shock.
Just enough for you to really feel it. And I watch… and I laugh and I—


Stanton jolted. He realized his eyes had been closed. He hadn’t heard the two men come in.

“Yes,” he stammered out.

“We’re hotel security. We just wanted to verify that you were with HPD. Will you come with us, please?”

Stanton rose. The bed was clean, the floor was clean, and the bathroom was clean. Not a trace of death was left here.
Except a feeling. Places where people were violently murdered always had a feeling to them that was undeniable. Cold and musty. Like a dark basement.

He followed the two men down the elevator and then to a back office. A woman was there in a business suit and glasses.

“You’re the detective?” she said. “I haven’t seen you before.”

“I’m new. What can I do for you?”

She motioned to the two men and they slipped out and shut the door behind them. “I own this hotel. It’s been in my family since my grandfather. And I’ll tell you something, it’s never been as bad as it has right now. People don’t want to stay places where people have been killed.”

“It’ll fade. A new crop of tourists will come next year and they won’t know anything about the murder.”

She placed the pen she was holding down on the desk and leaned back. “The police tore that room apart for two nights. What do you want with it?”

Stanton sat down without being offered a seat. “I just wanted to see it.”


Stanton didn’t have to answer any of her questions. He could have called for a few uniforms to swarm the place while he searched anywhere in the hotel he wanted. There was no privacy at the scene of a murder and only a few things, like personal bags of the employees, might have required a warrant to search.

“I know the front desk is selling pot to your patrons.”

Her face twisted in anger, but it was just a flash. It faded away and she was calm again, but the damage had been done. Stanton knew he had her.

“If you have any proof, feel free to use it.”

“I don’t care about the pot. What I might care about are your financial records. I’m willing to bet there’s been more than one mistake of customers getting overcharged or getting charged twice. If I brought in the police department’s forensic accountant, or maybe even the FBI, I’m sure they would turn up a few mistakes. What do you think?”

Her lip curled in a snarl as fast as the anger had twisted her face, and then disappeared just as quickly. “What do you want?”

“Maybe I just want to shut you down.”

“Bullshit. If you wanted that you woulda brought a buncha cops with you. Everybody wants something, so just tell me what it is.”

Stanton leaned forward. “I want the person that tortured and killed Hugh Neal.”

Her face was stony for a moment and then she burst out laughing. “Really? That’s what you want? Do you know how many murders happen everyday? What the hell do you care?”

“Let’s just assume I do. What information do you have for me that you haven’t given to the police?”

She folded her arms. “What makes you think I have any?”

“Because you wouldn’t have sent up two security guards to get me out of that room. You don’t want me finding something. What is it?” She was silent. “It couldn’t possibly be worse than credit card fraud.”

She bit her lip. “I tell you, and you don’t send anyone to look at the books?”

“I’ll consider it. But if you don’t tell me, my next call is to my fraud detail and then the FBI.”

She nodded. “He was with an escort that night.”

Stanton’s heart dropped. “What escort?”

“I don’t know. We let an agency use our rooms and we get a cut. He was with one of them.”

“And you didn’t want to lose their business so you didn’t say anything.”

Her face contorted again. But this time it was with a mixture of fear and confusion. “Don’t judge me. Times are tough. We would have been outta business years ago if we didn’t make ends meet this way. Some fat bankers in New York make billions ripping us little guys off and then the government gives them dump trucks full of money, and I’m just supposed to go outta business without a fight? That ain’t fair.”

“There’s other ways. You don’t have to sell your soul to make a living.”

“I’m not selling anything except rooms. And pot and prostitution are gonna be legal in every state in twenty years. You just watch and see. You can’t ban what people want, not permanently.”

Stanton actually agreed with her but he wasn’t about to share his political beliefs. “I want the name of the escort agency.”

She sighed. “If they knew it was me that gave it to you, they’ll never use us again.”

“I’ll try and keep your name out of it.”

She hesitated a moment and then reached into a drawer. She slid the card across the desk.


“We had a deal,” she said, nervousness in her voice now. “You won’t tell any more cops or the FBI.”

“Refund all the money.”


“Refund all the money to the customers. I’m going to put a note in my calendar to check back in sixty days. When I come, I’m coming with a warrant. I’ll look through the books myself and if you’ve refunded all the money, the investigation will end there. You have my word.” Stanton slipped the card into his shirt pocket. “Steal one dollar from one person, and we’ll look through everything. Including your personal accounts, which I’m sure you’ve been busy filling with embezzled, tax-free money. The IRS would like a peek at those too, I bet.”

“Do you know—?”

“I don’t care. Refund the money. Pot, I don’t care about. I’m sure you can more than make up
for the stealing that way.”

Stanton rose and walked out. She mumbled something under her breath, but when he looked back she was staring cold-faced at him.

As he left the hotel, none of the employees would make eye contact. 

BOOK: Black Widow
13.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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