79 Stop Signs

“Focus. That’s what we need,” said Martinelli. Martin parked in a cul-de-sac, to listen. “For starters, who let Mangold in? One of the swimmers? Where did he change clothes?”

“We processed the scene. No evidence. No warrants to search units.”

“And the only tip we got was from Mrs. James, about there not being a towel. Could use a rub-down myself, right about now.” Martinelli rotated his shoulder. “Weekend warrior.”

“Intrepid Martinelli, of ‘The Yard’?”

“More like hubby Martinelli, of her yard.”

“Ha. Anyway, you’d already noticed that – about the missing towel. Either nobody wants to give or there’s nothing else to say.”

A city marked vehicle pulled up at the corner. It’s four, annoying, attention getting lights repeatedly blinked, two up, two down. At least it wasn’t also backing and bleeping into their quiet exchange. The versa-lift expanded slowly, the cherry picker extending in bumps and starts, raising the worker vested in fluorescent lime up to the dizzying height of the stop sign. He was engaged in swapping out this apparently perfectly good one – it said ‘STOP’ – clearly visible from the required distance down the street.

“How do you think they wore out the old one?” Martin drily observed. “What happens to used stop signs?”Chapter 79 Stop Signs

From inside their unmarked car with the windows shut, a pantomime show unfolded. A passing rider, swathed in camouflage topped with a blaze orange skully, dropped his bike on the merge, hat in hand, raving and shaking his fist at the startled worker.

“Wanna play?” Martin was intrigued by eccentricity, Martinelli weary of it.

“Nah. This is why the gods invented local cops.”

In scene two of the drama, it seemed to occur to the workman that this crazy wanted a turn in his jerky, up and down conveyance; a carnival ride without the tin-can tune. His demands ignored by the steadily paced workman, the rider stoked the feud by grabbing the old sign, now laying on the grass, and making off with it on his bike.

“Well, Martin, there’s your answer. Used signs become the property of the lunatic fringe.”

“Wish our case was this definitive, minus the fringe.”

“Without the likelihood of a successful prosecution, we’re usually done. No case, even with suspicious circumstances. No further police interest, except to conclude the investigation. At a dead end, like this place.”

At the sound of an incoming call, they both shifted to attention. “Breaker, breaker, break over,” muttered Martin. He listened, then reported. “Call just came in on our POPS hotline from Guy Karon. Says that somebody’s tried to kill his daughter and would we please come right away.”

“To kill? She’s – what did he say – sixteen? Any details?”

“Tampering at the POPS. Bike brakes cut. That’s us ‘back to the scene of the crime.”’

When they arrived, Guy, agitated, was waiting for them. He explained that his sister had gone from Pluto’s straight to the hospital where his daughter was receiving treatment. At his request, Lee’s friend had stayed at the accident scene with the bicycle, awaiting an officer to take a report. The bike was still on the grass, had not been moved.

“They’ll take prints off the bike?” he asked.

“Go back to the beginning,” requested Martinelli. Guy’s brief tale told, Martinelli said, “This time we will want to speak to Lee, when she’s ready. And to her girlfriend. In the meantime, I’ll question Gervase and then go take a look in the garage.” Gervase, summoned, came in and sat down, morose.

“This tampering must have happened while I was here, you see.” He was shaken, less composed than in previous interviews. “I’ve been in the lobby area and I’d have seen any non-resident coming in from the street.”

“And you saw nobody?”

“That’s what I told Guy but now I remember I did let R.M. in earlier.”

A common area, dedicated bike storage room is the policy in other condo buildings.

A common area, dedicated bike storage room is the policy in some condo buildings.

“How did you overlook him?”

“He’s often here, as a realtor. He doesn’t seem like an outsider anymore.”

“Is he still in the building?”

“He’s in the garage, I think.”

“We’re heading that way, now.”

Martin, Martinelli, Guy, and Gervase  all went down the steps to the garage as Gervase detailed the POPS policy on bicycle storage.

“Lee said that the elevator was taking too long so to meet Gwen on time, she took the stairs down,” Guy explained.

“I wouldn’t have seen her leaving then,” Gervase mentioned. “And I didn’t see the girls meeting out front.”

“They took off right away, Lee said,” Guy said. “Long way to go, up to Bayshore.” R.M. walked forward to meet them.

“Martinelli, and my associate Martin,” said Martinelli. “Why are you in the building this afternoon?”

“I’ve just listed a condo unit with the Cabot brothers. Doing due diligence. Today is the first day of showings and I came to set up a lock box outside the lobby entrance. After that, I went up to the condo to make sure that the keys going in the lock box work, to place data sheets and other material, and to double check on readiness for showings. I came down to the garage to see that the parking spaces are clearly numbered and the storage area cleared.”

“What time did you arrive?”

“Awhile ago now. I couldn’t get the first lock box to work so I had to swap it for another one. Then the keys didn’t work so I had to wait for Sebastian Cabot to show up with a correct set. We got to chatting before he had to go. I returned some calls. Cell phone reception can be iffy in some buildings and this is one of them.”

“Did you see Mr. Karon’s daughter at anytime?”

“No. From the time I got up in the elevator and back down here, I’ve seen Sebastian, and Gervase. Not even Mrs. James, this time,” R. M. chuckled, as if at some private joke, and Gervase laughed, too.

“Nothing coming or going in the garage, either?” Martin inquired, irked by the inside joke.

“The garage door hasn’t opened. I notice cars.”

“Or anybody moving around?”

“Can’t say that for certain.”

“Can you identify the Karon’s parking spaces?”

“Um, in that general area,” he pointed, correctly, “as I recall from my sales trailer days here.”

“Can you remember if you saw anyone in that area?”

“I saw nothing over that way. It’s close to where I was checking myself.”

Martin, with Karon, went to inspect the Karon’s parking spaces. Martinelli, Gervase, and R.M. took the steps back up to the lobby. Mrs. James was now in her customary chair. Looking up, she was startled to see them all together. “What’s happened?”

“I’ll tell her,” offered Gervase.

“Tell me too, please,” requested R.M., co-operative but still unclear about the need for the questions in the garage.