Authors: Robert Thornhill
After lunch, Spivak headed east and wound his way to Raytown, a suburb between Kansas City and Lee’s Summit.
He got on 50 Highway and pulled into the parking lot of a seedy motel on the outskirts of town.
I had my camera ready and snapped a series of shots as he made his way to room #6 and knocked. A tall blonde in a black teddy opened the door and waved Spivak inside.
Before closing the door, she took a quick look around the parking lot, giving me the opportunity to get a great shot. The woman was a real knock out and had the look of one of those Eastern European women who advertise for American husbands on the Internet.
Apparently, the Russians were providing more than financial support for their candidate.
An hour later, the door opened and Spivak paused for just a moment to get one last good-bye kiss.
Click. Click. I had him.
I dialed Kevin’s number as I headed back to Kansas City.
Spivak’s next stop was at a grade school. Two little girls I recognized from the photo Kevin showed me, hopped into his car giving their daddy big hugs.
In less than an hour, I had seen two sides of John Spivak, dedicated father and cheating husband.
Kevin met me on the street a block away from Spivak’s house.
His face broke into a big smile as he thumbed through the shots on the camera.
“Good work. I’ll take it from here. I’ll get back with you tomorrow and we’ll settle up. Go home and get some rest.”
Before I could question him further, he was out of the car.
The next morning, I was shocked to see another headline in the
Kansas City Star
Candidate Withdraws Days Before The Election!
In a surprising turn of events, John Spivak, who was challenging incumbent Francisco Franco for the City Council seat in the Northeast District, has announced he is withdrawing from the race.
He said he had no idea when he decided to run, how much time it would take from his family, and that his family was his first priority.
The latest polls had shown Spivak with a significant lead over his opponent.
Somehow, fate had intervened and I was able to accomplish something that had eluded the Kansas City Police Department.
Grudgingly, I wondered if I should give this new Lady Justice a second look.
The next day, Kevin showed up just as he had promised.
“Guess you saw the article in the
,” he said, tossing an envelope on the table.
“I did. That was quick. Someone wasted no time getting to Mr. Spivak. By the way, you never told me who the ‘someone’ was that hired you.”
“I guess I can tell you now. It was the City Attorney.”
I opened the envelope and counted out a thousand dollars.
“Holy Crap! A grand? How much did you get?”
“Same as you. You got the goods, but I got the job.”
“Just how did you get the job? I’m curious. I didn’t even know the city hired private investigators.”
“Word gets around. They heard about my involvement with that organ trader thing and the King Tut murders. And yes, there are times when your Lady Justice has to think outside of the box. There are just some things a P.I. can do that a cop can’t. Whatever it takes to put the bad guys away.”
“I had lunch at Houston’s while I was keeping an eye on our guy, and I was going to ask about an expense account, but I think I can cover it out of this,” I remarked, thumbing through the hundred dollar bills.
“You know, there is a way for your tab at the restaurant to be a legitimate tax deduction.”
“Start your own P.I. firm. Become a self-employed entrepreneur. You know how it works. It’s the same as when you were a real estate agent. You took a client to lunch, it was a deduction. Same here.”
“Whoa! Slow down! I never said anything about becoming a P.I.”
“You never said it, but you’ve done it --- twice now, and were paid quite handsomely I might add.”
“If it’s so great, how come you haven’t done it? Why aren’t you a licensed P.I.?”
“Let’s just say there were some issues in Phoenix that might make the licensing people skeptical and leave it at that. But you! You would be perfect. As a retired cop, you don’t even have to go through the training. All you have to do is apply for the license and pay your fee.”
“Maggie would have a conniption fit. She just convinced me to give up my job as a cop because it was too dangerous, and now you’re trying to talk me into being a private investigator. How is that so different?”
“You tell me. What have you done so far? You’ve sat on your butt in your car and snapped a few pictures. How dangerous was that? Besides, it’s not like you’ve decided how you want to spend your golden years --- unless you see yourself frying little sausages at the super market.”
“You’ve been following me?”
“Well sure. I had to be certain that you were sufficiently bored to accept my first offer.”
“You’ve been planning this all along, haven’t you?”
“Hey, we were a hell of a team on that organ trader caper and we’d be a hell of a team as a pair of gumshoes.”
“All I’m asking is that you think about it,” he said, heading to the door. “Think about it, talk to Maggie and I’ll be in touch.”
Kevin had only been gone a few minutes when there was another knock on the door.
It was Willie.
“Hey Mr. Walt. Got anything goin’ dis mornin’?”
He probably knew I didn’t, but was polite enough to ask.
“Not really. What do you have in mind?”
“Got a call from Miss Mary. She needs some light bulbs changed an’ ole man Feeney has stopped up the toilet in #4 again. Jus’ wondered if you could drive me over.”
It had been a while since I’d set foot in my Three Trails Hotel. “Sure, let’s go.”
I try not to go there very often, mostly because I’m ashamed of the place. It’s a flop house with twenty sleeping rooms that share four hall baths. Things get dicey when one of the crappers is on the fritz.
I had an offer to sell the place not long ago. The new buyer wanted to remodel it and turn it into market rate apartments. I was ready to pull the trigger when Mary reminded me that Mr. Feeney along with the rest of my rag-tag tenants would be homeless. I figured as long as she was there to keep a lid on things, we’d just keep on truckin’.
When we pulled up in front of the hotel, Mr. Feeney was on his knees beside the big clay flower pot which held her precious geraniums and Mary was standing over him with her bat.
I was actually startled to see Feeney on his knees. A while back, Mary had caught him taking a leak in her flower pot when the four shared bathrooms were occupied. She threatened to cut off his dick if she caught him again. I hoped this wasn’t Mr. Feeney rummaging around for his severed penis.
“Hey, Mr. Walt!” Mary bellowed, giving us a wave.
“What’s going on?” I asked apprehensively as we climbed the porch stairs.
“Nothing much. I told Feeney that it was a real pain in the ass every time he stopped up the toilet, and if he did it again he’d have to work it off, so that’s what he’s doing --- weeding my geraniums.”
I looked at Feeney. He just shrugged his shoulders. He was obviously resigned to his fate.
I was about to inquire about our current occupancy rate when I heard the screech of tires and saw a car approaching the hotel at an alarming rate of speed.
Willie and I saw the glint of the gun barrel at the same time.
I tackled Mr. Feeney and Willie pushed Mary to the porch floor just as a hail of bullets riddled the front of the hotel.
Splinters of wood, tile, clay and dirt rained down on top of us.
In a matter of seconds it was over and the car sped away.
As soon as I caught my breath, I looked for my friends.
“Is anyone hurt?”
Willie’s tackle had taken an unfortunate turn, and somehow Mary’s two hundred pounds had landed squarely on Willie’s one hundred and fifty pound frame.
Mary scrambled to her feet, brushing the debris from her hair, but Willie was flat on his back gasping for air.
“I’m --- I’m okay,” Mary announced after feeling all her body parts.
“Jes’ give me a minute,” Willie wheezed, “an’ I’ll be fine.”
I looked at Mr. Feeney who was plucking one of Mary’s geraniums from his hair.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, but I think I wet myself.”
Mary staggered over and looked at the remains of her flower pot. It had exploded under the hail of bullets and probably saved Feeney and me from being drilled.
“Well, damn!” she muttered. “Now I’m really pissed!”
Not as much as Feeney
, I thought.
I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and called the precinct. In fifteen minutes, the street was filled with cop cars.
The captain, hearing the broadcast about the Three Trails Hotel, came out in person.
“Walt, was anyone injured?”
“No, we’re fine. This was undoubtedly the work of the same gang that shot Vince and blew up the squad car at his funeral. I was hoping that when I retired and was out of the picture they’d forget I was the one involved in the Tweedy shootings, but I guess not. Do you have any leads on these guys?”
“Nothing yet. Other than these attacks, they’re keeping a low profile. They’re stealing and then abandoning the vehicles they’re using in their hits. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we find this last car abandoned a few miles from here.”
“We’re all in danger until these guys are caught. Me, Maggie, Dad, Willie, all of us. They could hit any one of us anytime and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.”
“We’re all looking over our shoulders. Keep your eyes open and tell your people to stay off the streets as much as possible.”
When the CSI guys finished their work, I gave Mary a hug and reminded her to stay inside unless she absolutely had to go out.
We were on the way back to our building when Willie said, “Mr. Walt. You got any liniment back at your place?”
“Liniment? What kind of liniment?”
“Somethin’ to rub on my arm. Mary fell on it. It’s pretty sore, but it ain’t broke or nothin’.”
“Why didn’t you say something back at the hotel? We could have called the EMT guys and had them take a look.”
“Didn’ want to say nothin’ cause you know how Mary gets her panties in a wad if anyone talks about how heavy she is. I figured we’d had enough trouble without gettin’ Mary riled up again.”
“Well that’s admirable, but you should have said something. We’ll stop by Wally Bunker’s pharmacy and see what he recommends.”
“Go home and put some ice on it,” Wally said, after examining Willie’s swollen arm. “Then rub this analgesic balm into it. Then repeat with the ice in about four hours. A couple of days and you’ll be good as new.”
“Thanks, Wally. We really appreciate your help.”
“Glad to be of service, Walt. By the way, how’s retirement? I’ve been meaning to call you.”
“Really? About what?”
“Well, I’ve got a problem and I thought you might be able to help.”
“What kind of problem?”
“The shoplifting kind. This woman keeps coming into the store and I know she’s ripping me off, but I just can’t catch her. If I stop her and accuse her and she hasn’t stolen anything, then I’ve got a law suit on my hands.”
“What about surveillance?” I asked, pointing to the cameras.
“Oh, I’ve got her on tape, but not when she’s stealing. She’s real good, a pro for sure.”
“Have you called the police?”
“Come on, Walt. What can the cops do? Unless I catch her red-handed with the goods, they’re not going to spend any time on this thing.”
“But you think now I’m retired, I might have the time to spend.”
“I was hoping.”
I thought for a moment. “Let’s take a look at this gal.”
He led me to his office and queued up his surveillance footage.
“There! The woman in the baggy coat.”
“Definitely room for hidden pockets in that thing.”
I watched as she roamed the store, not buying, but not stealing either --- as far as we could see.
“Tell you what,” I said. “You have my cell phone number. The next time she comes in, give me a call. I have an idea.”
“Thanks, Walt. I really appreciate it.”
Two days later, the phone rang. It was Wally.
“Walt, she’s here. Can you come?”
Not surprisingly, I had just been sitting on my duff wondering what I was going to do for the rest of the day.
“I’ll be right there.”
I parked a half block from the pharmacy entrance and watched until I saw the woman come out and head for her car. She was carrying a purse, but no packages.
I watched her through a pair of binoculars I had thrown in the car.
She just sat for a few minutes, watching to see if anyone had followed her out of the store. Seeing no one, she reached into her coat and pulled out a series of items that looked like cosmetics.