CK called his boss early Monday morning and told him he would be out of town, pursuing a lead he networked over the weekend. Considering his track record, the boss didn’t object.
A close inspection in the hotel mirror told CK that the San Diego Gas & Electric Company uniform he had stolen off of a backyard clothesline over the weekend was close to his size and wouldn’t merit a second look. He struggled for a few moments with the moral justification for what he was about to do. Noticing a slight slump in the mirror, CK straightened to perfect posture and began to hum Onward Christian Soldiers.
At 12:30 PM Mom received a call from Bob Kerrigan’s wife. She said that Bob went over to the O’Malley’s home to watch the Chargers game yesterday and had been drinking ever since. He took a cab to Casey’s Bar an hour earlier and was in very rough shape. Their son, Dennis, was on duty with SWAT and couldn’t take the time off. Mom agreed to send her husband over to help his ex-partner.
Molly Duffy didn’t meekly state the problem and suggest that Jim lend a hand. She made it very clear that Jim was only to answer the call if he could swear to her that he wouldn’t end up crying in his beer all afternoon on the stool next to Kerrigan. At first it looked like Jim was going to respond by going on the counter attack.
But he held his tongue and replied, “I’ll be fine.”
Ten minutes later Mom heard a knock at the door.
“What can I do for you?” she asked the man in the San Diego Gas & Electric uniform.
“I’m with the Smart Grid Conversion Team. I’m here to check on the compatibility of your electrical system with the new meter you’ll need for the upgrade.”
“I’d rather you do this while my husband is home,” she said.
CK replied, “I can go on to the next house if you want. But this first round of site inspections and upgrades is free. After today it will cost you at least $2,500 to get the very same upgrade. It’s going to be mandatory for all of our customers by this time next year.”
“I didn’t hear anything about this,” Mom said. She went on to tell him about how it was proper procedure to inform customers about such an unexpected visit.
While she talked CK noticed a framed Meritorious Conduct Citation given to Detective James Duffy. His eyes rested on a foot-high, black, metal sculpture of The Maltese Falcon. It looked to be the perfect size and weight to serve his purpose.
CK said, “We sent you an insert with your bill last month explaining the upgrade and the fact that we would be starting the process this month. Didn’t you read it?”
“Everybody throws those inserts away. I’m surprised I didn’t hear about it from any of my friends.”
“Actually, today is our first day in the field. The program planners decided to start with the oldest neighborhoods in town to get a handle on how much work needs to be done. Little Italy was right at the top of the list.”
“You’d really charge me $2,500 to come back later?” she asked.
“Sorry, ma’am. As far as I know, if you pass on the survey, you pass on the freebie. Maybe that will change in the future. But considering how much this upgrade is going to cost SDG&E, I doubt it.”
“All right, come on in,” she said, stepping back from the doorway.
He was pleased to see no one on the street as he closed the door. Mom stepped quickly as she led him through the house and out the back door. CK wanted to collect some information before he would need the black bird.
Mom rounded the corner to a walkway along the side of the house and pointed to the main breaker box.
“Everything’s right there.”
CK didn’t want Mom to go back into the house and make any phone calls. He opened the breaker box and saw what he was looking for.
“Like most folks, you have hand written notes on masking tape next to the switches. I’m going to need you to read them to me in just a minute or two.” He wrote a few numbers on a clipboard form he created over the weekend.
“Those are interesting gloves you’re wearing,” she said.
“It’s the latest in safety equipment for electricians. They’re ultra thin for maximum dexterity and more shock resistant than anything that’s ever been on the market.”
Over the next five minutes he unclipped his form, flipped it over, drew a schematic of the breaker box, and asked Mom to read the tape for each breaker.
When they finished he said, “I have to pull the plate off of two of your receptacles in the house. I need to see where your dryer goes into the wall and maybe look at the one out by that beautiful statue of the Maltese Falcon you have in the living room.”
Upon entering the laundry room CK said, “My wife and I are expecting our first child in April.”
Mom brightened for the first time. “That’s wonderful.”
“We’ve been looking to buy a house for the past couple of months and we’re considering Little Italy. Do you think it would be a good place to raise a family?”
Mom spent the next ten minutes telling him about her children. CK mentioned that he saw the citation in the living room and asked if her son followed in his father’s footsteps. Mom gave him several details.
“Would you like to know when we’re going to be at your son’s house for the upgrade survey? It could save him a lot of money if somebody’s there to let us in.”
“Absolutely,” Mom replied.
CK pulled out his smart phone and asked, “What’s his street address?”
Mom gave him the info and CK tapped keys. “It looks like he’s scheduled for January 15th. If you like, I can put a note in the system while I have it up. What time does he usually get home from work?”
“Around 5:30, if he doesn’t have anything important to do on a case.”
CK finished his note and popped the phone in his pocket. “I requested a time after 5:30. Now let’s take a look at that receptacle in the living room.”
Mom led the way as CK stared at the back of her head. Glancing at the crucifix on the kitchen wall, he decided that she seemed like a good Christian woman. He’d give her a final earthly reward for her faith by striking her just once on the back of the head to make sure the mourners could see her in an open casket. While he unscrewed the receptacle plate in the living room, he stared at a graduation picture of Jason and imagined how his expression would change when he looked in that casket.
CK’s only regret was that he couldn’t leave any message letting Jason know that it was his consorting with the devil’s minions that caused his mother’s death. The purpose of today’s sacrifice was to distract and punish Jason. A connection to the Concert Killer might bring unwanted heat from the task force, since the victim would be the wife of a decorated police detective. He’d find a way to let Jason know at a later date, after he’d ascended the 13 steps of the pyramid to the Eye of Providence and shut down the concert industry. Too bad Mrs. Duffy couldn’t count as one of his steps.
An Irish crystal cross hung on the wall just beyond the statue of the Maltese Falcon.
CK said, “All done with the inspection. Before I go, I have to tell you how much I like that crystal cross on your wall.”
“It was a wedding present from Jim’s parents,” she said, stepping to within two feet of the cross.
CK stood shoulder to shoulder with her. The Falcon sat on a table six inches from his right hand.
He said, “I love the shade of green in the main vertical crystal.”
“I have no idea how they do it, if that’s what you were going to ask me.” Molly leaned slightly forward to have a closer look.
CK said, “It’s really a shame about the crack that runs all the way up the middle. I was going to ask you how that happened.”
Her eyebrows shot up. “What crack! This is news to me!”
Molly took a step forward. Her nose was less than an inch from the crystal. CK wrapped his fingers around the Falcon, letting his little finger encircle the bird’s neck. Putting his weight on his right leg, he quietly sidestepped behind her.
“I don’t see it,” she said.
“Try tilting your head just a little,” he said and brought the base of the statue up behind his ear.
Suddenly, there were several footsteps on the porch. CK heard a man slur, “Let go of me.”
Molly quickly turned her head to the left and CK moved back to where he was standing, returning the Falcon to its original position. The door flung open and rebounded off of the doorstop. Dad had his arm around Kerrigan’s waist and Fallon put his hand on the side of Kerrigan’s head so he wouldn’t bang it on the door frame.
“Get yer fuckin’ hand offa my head. Yer treatin’ me like a perp,” Kerrigan scowled.
“What’s going on?” asked Molly, stepping back from the cross.
Jim replied, “You should know. You sent me on this rescue mission.”
Molly forcefully said, “You’re not letting any bull-in-a-china-closet loose in my house.”
Turning to Fallon, Jim said, “You and Gilhooley, take him through the side gate out to the backyard. I’ll be along in a couple of minutes.” Looking at CK he asked, “Who’s this guy?”
Kerrigan yelled, “I’m not doin’ no fuckin’ intervention! Get yer hands offa me!”
Jim shut the door and Molly replied, “SDG&E is going to connect us to the Smart Grid. He’s doing the pre-site inspection.”
Jim asked, “How much longer is it going to take?”
CK said, “I just finished. Let me grab my ohm meter and I’m on my way.”
I spent most of the morning debriefing Jeannine and Cory, then entered notes into the case file. I expected to have lunch with Shamansky to trade info on the suspects we tracked over the weekend. But after four phone calls to San Diego Metro, a detective told me that Shamansky would be out of town until tomorrow.
In mid-afternoon my mother called to fill me in on the scandalous Kerrigan intervention that would soon be the talk of the neighborhood. After I calmed her down she told me about her visit from SDG&E and when to expect an inspection at my house.
“I don’t remember hearing anything about that,” I said.
“Supposedly it was on one of those inserts they put in with the bill.”
“Nobody reads those.”
“That’s what I told him. By the way, I hope you don’t get the guy who came here.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“He told me he saw a crack in our crystal cross. I must have looked at it for a half hour after he left and I don’t see even the slightest hint of a crack.”
“Maybe he saw a cobweb get reflected in it.”
“Cobweb! What kind of dive do you think I’m running over here?”
“I don’t know, Mom. Rumor has it that you’ve got a drunk rolling around in your backyard as we speak.”
“Goodbye,” she said, and hung up.
The Concert Killer
Barnes and Noble – Paper Copy: