Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2. # I parked my car in the lot of the Royal Egrets Motel. In the dark, the burnt-out letters left the sign with the same
I parked my car in the lot of the Royal Egrets Motel. In the dark, the burnt-out letters left the sign with the same thing as former patrons, regret.
“So, how do we want to do this?” Lucky asked as he climbed out of the passenger side.
I smiled. “Let’s do ‘Bad Cop, Rich Cop.’”
“Oh come on, last time we did that it cost me forty bucks.”
“Look at this place, you’ll be fine.” I pushed open the door to the office.
The thin man sitting behind the desk wore a faded nametag that read “Toby.” He didn’t look up from his phone. “You want a room?”
“No, we—” Lucky started.
“You got a warrant?”
“Then I don’t know anything.”
I walked up and slammed my fist down on the desk. “Now you listen to me, Tubby, tell us what we want to know or we’re going to have to take a trip downtown.”
He didn’t look up, just pointed to a small plaque that hung off the front of the desk: “No Room, No Warrant, No Info.”
“Ok, that does it.” I walked around the desk and pulled Toby to his feet by his shirt. “You think you’re funny? We’re going to throw you in a hole so dark you’ll forget what light looks like.” I pushed him into Lucky. “You messed with the wrong people, Tubby.”
“H-hey you can’t do this. I’ve got rights!” Toby sputtered.
“Of course you do, Toby.” Lucky helped the flustered man back to his chair. “My partner just gets a little over-zealous sometimes.” He placed a twenty on the desk. “But we really need that information.”
“But, I’m not allowed to talk if you don’t have a warrant.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll keep your name out of the reports.” Lucky put down another twenty.
I gave a sigh of exasperation. “Screw this; just let me beat it out of him.”
“Wait!” Toby glanced from me to the money. “What do you want to know?”
I pulled out a pen and notepad.
Lucky leaned over the desk. “A homeless guy was found dead in a dumpster behind this motel a couple of months ago, what do you know about it?”
“Probably not any more than you. I wasn’t working the night he got found” Toby reached for the money, but Lucky put his hand on it.
“Who was working?”
“I think it was Richmond.”
“Richmond got a last name?” I asked.
“Jones. Richmond Jones.”
I wrote it down.
Lucky took over again. “Was anyone suspicious hanging around the motel in the weeks leading up to the body being found?”
“Everyone who stays here is suspicious. That’s why we have rules about not talking to the cops.”
“Anyone stick out in your mind?”
“Uh, there was one lady, she got a room for a couple of nights right around then. She didn’t look like the ladies who normally book our rooms. Had sort of a ‘holier than thou’ vibe going on.”
I flipped to a new page. “Describe her.”
“She was hot.”
I glared at him.
“Uh, dark hair, light skin, the kind of skinny that comes from working out not starving, and legs for days.”
“I don’t know, twenty-something. Are we done now?”
Lucky glanced at me and I nodded. “For now.” He released the money and Toby snatched it from the desk.
“But don’t go leaving town.” I said as Lucky and I left.
Lucky held in his laughter just long enough for the door to close. “Wow, Boss, I don’t remember you being so butch last time we did this.”
“Shut up. How much did you take?”
He tossed Toby’s wallet aside. “Only a couple of bucks. He just had to hold out for the second twenty.”
It would be a short walk from the motel to the diner, but we drove anyway. I didn’t want to have to come back for my car.
“So, how do you want to handle this one?” Lucky asked as he tucked some crumpled ones into his wallet.
“Alone. Li’s an old friend; he won’t be any trouble.”
“You sure he’ll be working tonight?”
“Yeah, he always works the night shift. Says it’s safer that way.”
Lucky shrugged. “Then what am I supposed to do?”
“Stay in the car and see what you can dig up about Richmond Jones.”
“Come on, can’t I at least go in?”
I smiled at him as I climbed out of the car. “Maybe next time you’ll think twice before you call a lady ‘butch.’”
“At least bring me back a cup of coffee!” He yelled after me.
I gave a non-committal wave and went inside.
The 1950’s –era dining room was empty, but at the sound of the bell above the door a man called from the kitchen, “Take a seat, I’ll be with you in a minute.”
I plopped down at the bar and glanced over the menu to see what crazy new hybrids Li had added since my last visit.
“LaGrange! Girl, it has been too long.” Li was a six-foot tall wall of muscle wrapped in a greasy apron. His stained shirt-sleeves were rolled up past his elbows, revealing a bald eagle tattoo on his right forearm. He came out from behind the counter to engulf me in a hug. “How come I haven’t seen you around the last few months?”
“I try to sleep at night, you know, like a normal person.”
“Like you could ever be a ‘normal person.’”
I held up the menu. “I see you added the ‘Szechuan Pancakes.’”
“A very popular choice.”
“Do you recommend them?”
“Only when Joshua is cooking.”
We laughed again.
“In that case, I think I’ll just have a tea.”
“One tea coming right up.” Li returned to his side of the counter to prepare my tea. “So, LaGrange, I get the feeling you didn’t show up tonight just to talk to an old friend.”
“Not just.” I pulled out my notepad. “I’m looking into the body that turned up in your dumpster six months ago. What can you tell me?”
“That you’re six months too late.” He set the tea on the counter. “His name was Frank. He was a teenage runaway turned middle-aged hobo. And before you ask, the one across the street was Dale, a mean drunk if ever there was one.”
“If you know who they were, why does the police report list them as John Does?”
“I don’t know their full names. Don’t even know if those are their real first names. I tried to explain it to the officer on the scene, but he wasn’t interested.”
“Do you know how long they were missing?”
“It’s hard to say for sure, it’s not like they kept regular schedules, but I don’t remember seeing either of them for a couple of days before they got killed.”
“Speaking of, where’re your usual customers tonight? Shouldn’t there be at least a handful of people here for the ‘Li’s Special’ by now?” Even I didn’t know how Li stayed in business giving away as many free meals as he did.
“Tonight’s the bi-annual ‘Tax-break dinner’ down at the community center. Most of the homeless’ll be there helping the more fortunate feel better about themselves.”
“Well, I bet they aren’t serving Szechuan Pancakes.”
He laughed. “True enough.”
The bell dinged as Lucky rushed into the diner.
“Boss, we’ve got another body.”
To Be Continued…