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Authors: Kathleen Ernst

Old World Murder (2010) (25 page)

BOOK: Old World Murder (2010)
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“I need—” The young man coughed, his chest heaving. “I need to ask Chloe a favor.”

That hubris almost cracked Roelke’s self-control. Then the dispatcher’s voice crackled from the radio on his belt. “George 220.”

When Roelke had learned to fly, his instructor had once summarized a pilot’s priorities during difficult situations: aviate, navigate, communicate. It still made sense. Roelke ignored the radio.

“Joel.” Chloe’s voice was shaky. “What is it you want?”

Joel?
Roelke flipped through his mental stack of index cards: Stanley, Byron, Ralph. Who the hell was Joel?

Joel’s breath came in little heaves. “I want you to understand that Nika had nothing to do with this.”

“Um … OK.” She sounded half frightened, half bewildered.

“George 220,” dispatch called again. Roelke eyed Joel, trying to decide if he could make a move.

“No radio!” Joel barked. Then, “It was Emil.”

Who the hell was Emil? Roelke took another step.

“Emil? He—he died young,” Chloe said.

“No, he didn’t. But he married a black woman and changed his last name to Austin.”

“You mean … Austin?” she stammered. “
Austin?

“George 220!”

“Don’t touch the damn radio!” Joel snapped at Roelke.

Roelke didn’t. It occurred to him that if he didn’t respond, dispatch would sound the tones. And that alarm might be the only distraction he could get.

Joel stared at Roelke, still speaking to Chloe. “I wrote that old bitch a letter. She—Berget Lundquist—wrote me back. It was
hateful
.”

“Hateful …?” Chloe faltered. “So you decided to steal the ale bowl?”

“Officer McKenna!”
dispatch blared.

“Rupert said—” Joel ended the statement with a dry hacking wheeze. “Never mind.”

Rupert
? Who the
fuck
was Rupert? Roelke slid one foot a little closer to Joel, shifted his weight.

The radio crackled its final warning: “All county units stand by for the alert tones.”

Roelke held his breath, tensing for the spring.

“Chloe—
please
don’t fire Nika because of me. She doesn’t deserve—”

The radio on Roelke’s belt let loose with an ear-piercing scream. Roelke launched. Something whirling and metallic stabbed his shoulder as he grabbed Joel’s wrist with his left hand, and clenched the revolver wheel with his right. Roelke jammed Joel’s hand back, getting the barrel pointed away from him and Chloe. The thrust broke Joel’s grasp. His trigger finger too, most likely. Then Roelke brought his right knee up hard into Joel’s crotch.

Joel fell to his knees with a howl of pain. But Chloe was diving
at
them.

“Lie on your belly, you piece of shit!” Roelke bellowed at Joel, as he emptied the chamber of Joel’s gun. He tossed the gun out of reach and whipped his own from its holster. “Face down! Stretch your arms out from your sides!”

Joel uncurled slowly, cringing and whimpering. Roelke kicked the sheep shears away. Chloe scooped the ale bowl up from the ground.

“Chloe,” Roelke growled, “go get in your car. Lock all the doors.” She scurried away with the bowl hugged to her chest.

Keeping his gun trained on Joel, Roelke pulled his handcuffs free. Joel wasn’t moving but Roelke knelt on his back, instead of the ground, while he jerked Joel’s wrists into the cuffs. He yanked the younger man to his feet and dragged him, stumbling, around the log house to the squad car.

With Joel locked into the back seat, Roelke pulled the radio from his belt. “George 220, 10-78.” After providing directions, he stood panting. Trying to come down. Jesus.

Two minutes later, wailing sirens announced backup. A county car roared up the site road and skidded into the farm driveway behind his squad. Deputy Marge Bandacek emerged. “McKenna!” she barked. “What you got?”

“That asshole was holding a woman at gunpoint when I arrived,” Roelke said. “I’m taking him in.”

Marge frowned. “It’s my jurisdiction.”

“I have charges on him in the village,” Roelke lied. “I’ve got a municipal warrant. His gun’s back beyond the house, though. I tossed it. You could look for it.” Marge obeyed without argument.

Roelke found Chloe sitting in her car, clutching the wooden bowl. When he knocked on the window she jumped, then unlocked the doors. He slid into the passenger seat.

“Is Joel all right?” She shuddered violently. “God! I was afraid the shears would go straight into his skull—”

“He’ll live to go to prison. You hit me instead.”

“I
did?

“Let me see where he shot you,” he demanded, staring again at the blood staining her pants. “EMT’s on the way.”

Chloe winced when he tried to look at her wound, still oozing blood. “Joel didn’t shoot me.”

“Then who did?”

“A damn hog bit me!”

“What?”

“Don’t worry.” Chloe’s laugh was tinged with hysteria. “It’s not the first time I’ve been bit in the ass by an Ossabaw.”

Roelke didn’t speak to
Joel Carlisle during the drive to Waukesha. He didn’t speak while they waited in the ER at Waukesha Memorial, or while a nurse cleaned the fire retardant residue from his eyes, skin, and hair, or while a doctor splinted Carlisle’s broken finger, or while he got his own shoulder wound cleaned and stitched. He didn’t speak while they drove to the county jail behind the courthouse. He handed the young man over to the deputies and completed the necessary paperwork while processing took place.

By that time Roelke was, he thought, in control. “You got an interview room open?” he asked the deputy on duty. “We’ve had a lot of trouble with this kid in Eagle. I want to ask some questions.” He was more cognizant of the lie, now. He would not be able to tell the chief it had come from pure adrenalin.

He didn’t care.

Joel Carlisle was soon waiting in Room 2. Roelke went to the door and stared down at the young man. He looked like some mewling college boy. Carlisle now wore an orange jumpsuit and paper booties. His glasses were clean, his damp hair slicked to one side. A purplish-green bruise was blooming where Roelke had banged his forehead on the roof of the squad car before shoving him into the backseat. He sat slumped, eyes down.

Roelke slammed the door behind him. Carlisle jumped.

“All right,” Roelke said. “You and I are going to have a little talk.

____

Roelke walked into the Eagle PD at 7:45 the next morning, three hours early for his shift. “You got a few minutes?” he asked Chief Naborski.

“What’s up?”

Roelke handed the chief the report he’d labored over into the wee hours. “Things got a little crazy after you left yesterday.”

Naborski let Roelke sweat, reading the lengthy report through twice, then staring out the window for a small eternity. Finally he got up. “Marie,” he barked. “Hold my calls.” Then he slammed the door and returned to his seat.

This was not going to be any fun.

“Officer McKenna,” Chief Naborski said. “Were you off duty when you drove onto Old World Wisconsin property yesterday? Was it your dinner break?”

Roelke had too much respect for Chief Naborski to lie. “No sir. I was on duty.”

“Were you called there to provide mutual aid?”

“No. I drove there on my own accord.”

“Did you deliberately disobey my instruction to leave the Old World problem alone?”

“Yes.”

The chief regarded him. “Officer McKenna, you have screwed up six ways from Sunday.”

“I know.” So much for getting that one full-time position. He’d just handed it to Skeet on a golden platter.

The chief tipped his chair back on two legs, his expression grim. “Why don’t you tell me about all the mistakes you made yesterday.”

Roelke spent an uncomfortable five minutes on the highlights: ignoring the chief’s order, leaving his own patrol to drive onto state property, not letting dispatch know where he was, lying to Marge Bandacek in order to override her authority, lying to the Waukesha deputies so he could question Carlisle himself. He didn’t mention the epithets he’d hurled at Carlisle, or the bruises Carlisle was sporting. Most cops wouldn’t care. Chief Naborski would.

When he finished, the room was silent. Roelke couldn’t even hear Marie’s typewriter. She was probably listening at the door.

Finally Chief Naborski let his front chair legs thump back to the floor. “Officer McKenna, you know it is my policy to discourage personal relationships with Eagle residents.”

“Ms. Ellefson doesn’t actually
live
in—”

“That is irrelevant in this situation,” the chief snapped.

Roelke told himself to keep his mouth shut.

Chief Naborski glared at him. “I’m going to write a letter of discipline that will go into your file. If you ever get a second letter, you’ll be suspended without pay. A third letter will result in termination.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Right now, you are going to go out to the squad room and write up a matter of record. Shut my door behind you. When you’re done, bring it in here.”

Roelke didn’t allow his shoulders to slump until he was seated at the typewriter in the next room. This was just round one of the trouble he was facing. But disappointing Chief Naborski was the worst of it.

“You OK?” Marie asked quietly. “You want a cup of coffee?”

Marie had never offered to get Roelke coffee before. He sighed. “Thanks. That would be good.”

The big mug she brought him was drained by the time he got his admission down on paper: he’d disobeyed, he’d done things wrong, he regretted his mistakes. It would also go into his permanent file.
You’re screwing your career out there,
Rick had said. Rick had no idea.

The chief read the admission through, then put it aside. “I just got off the phone with the DA. I explained that you have some kind of a personal relationship with this curator woman. I don’t know exactly what it is—”

I don’t either, Roelke thought.

“—and I don’t care,” Naborski was saying. “But the DA is extremely uncomfortable with the idea of you seeing her socially until the trial is over.”

Which could take a very long time.

Chief Naborski planted his forearms on his desk and leaned forward. “I am
ordering
you to stay away from this woman until after the trial. Am I making myself clear?”

“Yes, sir.” Roelke realized that his right knee was bouncing like a pile driver. He forced himself back to stillness.

“It will come out that you lied to the deputies. I can’t protect you from the consequences of that.”

“I understand.”

“There’s just one more thing.” The older man rubbed his chin with thumb and forefinger. “The good news is that you got the SOB.”

Roelke exhaled slowly. “Concealed carry and reckless endangerment at least. Probably more.”

“Carlisle never aimed?” the chief asked.

Roelke hesitated. He’d always known that he
could
shoot to kill if necessary. When a bad guy points a gun at a cop, the cop shoots. But yesterday, when he’d seen Chloe’s pants stained with blood … he’d felt those pulsing moments of anger so fierce that he had
wanted
to shoot. He had willed Carlisle to raise that dangling revolver, so he could—

“Officer McKenna?” Chief Naborski was frowning again.

“Not at me. He aimed at Ms. Ellefson before I got there.”

The chief picked up a paperclip and toyed with it. “So. You handled a volatile situation without loss of life. That part was well done.”

Roelke didn’t quite feel safe saying thank you, so he settled for a small nod.

“I will expect your presence at the next Village Board meeting.” Naborski tipped his chair back on two legs again. “Next Thursday, 7:30 P.M. You will receive your citation then.”

Before Roelke could do more than blink, Chief Naborski’s phone rang. “Marie,” he yelled irritably.

The clerk opened the door and stuck her head into the room. “I know, I know. But I think you want to take it.”

The chief picked up the phone, made a few noncommittal noises, said “Thanks for the call,” and hung up. Then he looked at Roelke. “Carlisle’s bail was set at fifty grand, but evidently daddy has deep pockets. Your boy’s out on bond.”

____

When Roelke emerged from the chief’s office, he sat down and reached for the phone. The county was crawling all over the Carlisle case, now. But he wasn’t ready to hand everything over in a gift-wrapped box. Not yet.

The DA had told Chief Naborski which Waukesha county detective was now assigned to the case—someone fairly new, which was good. Roelke got him on the phone and introduced himself. “I’m calling about Rupert Engel. I know the ball’s in your court, but if you’d like some help on this end, I’d be glad to question the guy myself.” He tried to sound off-hand. The politics of this kind of thing could be delicate.

“Well …” Detective Shuler considered. “It might save me some time.”

“I’ve been watching this kid,” Roelke said. Not
quite
another lie, since he had realized while interrogating Carlisle that he
had
seen Engel—entering Stanley Colontuono’s house. “I think I can get him to roll. If that wouldn’t mess up your plans, of course.”

“No, that’d be good,” the detective said. “Thanks.”

____

Roelke worked late that day. He spent much of that night trying not to think about Chloe as he’d last seen her, waiting for her father in the ER lobby. He had no idea when he’d see her again. If, even.

On Saturday morning, his phone rang before his alarm went off. “Roelke?”

“Skeet? What’s up?” For one wild moment Roelke wondered if Skeet had already been promoted to full time.

“I just took a call from county.” Skeet hesitated. “And I figured you’d want to hear this.”

BOOK: Old World Murder (2010)
7.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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