What Penny Saw (Part IV)
A four-part mystery.
by P. May Wilson
March 16, 2003
Bridge’s phone rang, breaking into his reverie. “Bridge here.”
“Detective Bridge, this is Dr. Akmed. I have a request to make of you. Penny MacLean would like you to come see her. I must tell you, however, that she has not spoken in four days. I’m not sure what can be accomplished but it is significant that she is reaching out in this way and I hope that you can oblige.”
“Sure.” Bridge’s voice was unenthusiastic. “We can be there in about twenty minutes.”
“That would be fine.”
Bridge and Rayburn were confronted by Mrs. Castle as soon as they came through the door. “I must tell you, Detective, I do not approve of this visit. Penny is in a fragile state and we don’t need her being frightened and more withdrawn. However, Dr. Akmed thinks it’s a good idea and ultimately it’s his decision. I will accompany you and monitor whatever interaction there is between you and Penny. At the least sign of trouble you will have to leave."
“Fine.” Bridge glared at Rayburn, who was hiding a smile behind her hand.
When they came in, Penny was sitting at the table with the art pad in front of her. They sat in the other three chairs, Bridge on Penny’s right, Rayburn on the left and Mrs. Castle across the table.
“Now, Penny,” said Mrs. Castle. “I know you asked to see Detective Bridge but I don’t want you to get upset.. If you want to terminate the interview at any time, you just take my hand. Okay?” Penny nodded.
“So, Penny, here we are,” said Bridge. “Did you want to tell us something?”
Penny nodded and took a picture out of the pad and slid it over to Bridge. The other two leaned forward to see it. There were two men in the picture but instead of faces there were just blank ovals. The first man had a large, odd shape on his chest which took Bridge a second to identify. “Is that a badge?” He asked. Penny nodded. The other man was pointing a gun at the first. He had a five-pointed star enclosed in two concentric circles on his chest. While Bridge was looking at the picture, Penny leaned over and drew a large red circle on the first man’s midsection. Bridge turned the picture around so the women could see it better. He looked at Penny, who met his gaze.
“It’s a picture of Santos getting shot, isn’t it?” Penny nodded.
“Why don’t the men have faces?”
Penny pointed to her ears, then covered her eyes with her hands.
“So you heard what happened, but you didn’t see it.”
Penny nodded. She took another picture out of the art pad and set it in front of Bridge. The man with the star was pointing his gun at three people, a gray-haired man and woman, and a teenage boy. Again Penny drew red circles in the midsections.
“The shooter threatened to kill your family.” Penny nodded. Rayburn had turned the picture around.
“Penny, what does the star mean?” she asked. Penny took the first picture and put it in front of Rayburn. She pointed at the policeman’s badge and then at the star. She did it again. Rayburn puzzled on this a moment.
“You mean, it’s another kind of badge?” Penny nodded. Rayburn continued, ”You mean it was a cop who shot Santos?”
Penny nodded vigorously. Bridge and Rayburn exchanged glances. Mrs. Castle was looking hard at Penny. She still seemed okay. This was obviously something she had thought out carefully. She was looking more animated than she had been and eager to “tell” the police what she knew.
“Is there anything else you can tell us…I mean, show us, about the killer?” asked Bridge. Penny pulled out a third piece of paper and put it in the middle of the table. All three of the others bent over it. There were twelve little pictures arranged in a circle. There were two fish, a ram, a pair of scales, two identical faces, a man with a bow and arrow, a woman carrying a jug on her shoulder, another woman, a crab, a goat, a lion, a bull, and a scorpion.
“The Zodiac,” murmured Rayburn. They all looked at Penny. Before anyone could say anything Penny drew a red circle around the lion.
“Leo! His name is Leo!” exclaimed Mrs. Castle. The other three looked at her in astonishment and she did something she hadn’t done in years. Mrs. Castle blushed.
“You’ve been very helpful, Penny. Thank-you.” said Bridge.
Penny retrieved the picture of her family from under the Zodiac and put it in front of Bridge. She pointed at the three figures with the big red stains. She looked at Bridge with questioning eyes.
“We’ll take care of your family, Penny. I promise.”
Penny raised her eyebrows, wanting more of an answer. Bridge looked thoughtful. “Penny, is there someplace out of town that they could go and stay for a few days? I don’t think it will take too long to apprehend this guy. Leo.” Penny nodded and put her hand to her face, the thumb at her ear and the little finger extended to her mouth.
“Yes. I’ll call them right away.” Bridge started to get up, then sat down again.
“Penny, there’s something you need to know. Santos didn’t die because you walked away from him. He was probably dead before you even got to the phone. Don’t think that it’s your fault that he died. You did what you could. Okay?” Penny looked down at the table and nodded and then started to weep.
Mrs. Castle opened her mouth but Bridge cut her off. “Yes, Mrs. Castle, we’re leaving now.”
The two detectives got up from the table and left.
Mrs. Castle took Penny’s hand. “Are you sad, Penny?”
Penny sniffed and shook her head. “
“Did you feel guilty about the policeman dying?” Mrs. Castle pressed. Penny sighed and nodded.
“Now you know the truth and you’re relieved. Don’t you want to say something, Penny?” Penny looked at Mrs. Castle and opened her mouth.
“I have a brother in Omaha. I’m sure he and his wife would be glad to take us in,” said Dr. MacLean thoughtfully. True to his word, Bridge had called the MacLeans as soon as he got back to the station.
Dr. MacLean continued, “I’ll have to have my assistant teach my classes. And Doris will have to cancel her bridge club. It’s her turn to host. But the main thing is that Roger will have to miss school. Not that he’ll mind of course. How long do you think it will be?”
“Probably just a few days. Penny was able to give us enough information that we should be able to make an arrest very soon.”
“Was Penny talking?” asked MacLean excitedly. “Can we see her?”
“No. She still couldn’t talk but she was able to draw pictures that helped a lot in identifying the killer. And I don’t think you should go see her. We don’t know how much the killer already knows about Penny’s family and we don’t want to risk him finding out anything.”
“I see.” Dr. MacLean was clearly disappointed.
“Don’t tell anyone where you’re going. That’s very important. Just tell people that you have to go out of town because of a family emergency. Give me your brother’s phone number. I won’t disclose it to anyone but my partner. We’ll call you when it’s safe for you to come home.”
Lila Jackson was gazing thoughtfully at the picture of Leo shooting Santos. “Leo,” she said thoughtfully. “Leo is a big fish indeed. He’s in the inner circle of the operation. She said he was a cop? What, a fed?”
“I suppose. You didn’t know of any other investigation? You aren’t working with another agency?” asked Bridge.
Jackson shook her head. “And it is a serious violation of protocol for them not to inform us. I’ll have to make some calls.”
“Hold that thought,” said Bridge. Do you know where we can find Leo?”
Jackson looked at Bridge curiously. “He operates out of Pete’s. Why?”
“The place with the gambling operation in the back?”
Jackson nodded. Bridge continued, “Here’s my idea. We bust Pete’s for gambling, haul everyone in. We interview Leo on tape, don’t let on about the drugs. Then we play the tape for Penny and see if she recognizes the voice. Do a voice line-up. That way we’ve got more evidence than just some pictures drawn by a nut. Something the D.A will go for.”
“And you don’t want me to find out who Leo works for?” said Jackson.
“Right now the only thing that matters is that Leo killed one of our guys. There’ll be plenty of time to find out who he’s working for after we’ve arrested him for murder.”
Late Wednesday morning in the bar at Pete’s it was quiet. The bartender was reading the paper and a couple old guys sat on barstools, well on their way to a drunken stupor. The silence was shattered as the door banged open and half a dozen men in blue windbreakers with POLICE written on the front and back burst in, guns out. The bartender made a sudden movement toward the corner of the bar but froze when one of the policemen shouted, “Hands up!” One of the old men peed his pants and put his hands in the air. The cop who shouted stayed to watch the three and the rest rushed to the back of the building, down a short hallway past two bathrooms doors. They burst into a door with a hand-lettered sign on it that said “Store room. No Admittance.” There were three guys sitting at a table with a pile of money in the middle and three more shooting craps at a rickety old table. An old man was sitting at a card table counting money.
“Police! No one move!”
While the raid was taking place in the “store room” three other men came silently out of another door and went quietly out the back door of the building. As the winter sunlight blinded them, rough hands shoved them against the wall. “You guys ain’t going anywhere. Except downtown.”
“I’m telling you, I wasn’t gambling. Hell, I didn’t even know about the gambling. I was in Pete’s office, doing business with him. Your own guys can tell you I wasn’t gambling.” The man who identified himself as Leo Stanley looked from Rayburn to Bridge. He was a beefy man with gray hair and a face that had seen better days. Probably in his early fifties, Bridge figured.
“What ‘our guys’ told us was that you were sneaking out the back door, Leo. It makes me wonder just what kind of business you were doing with Pete.”
Leo sighed. “I’m a supplier. Snacks—chips, nuts, that kind of stuff. Ask anybody.”
“I didn’t know the snack business was so dangerous, Leo. Why were you packing?” Leo had on a shoulder holster with a gun when he was picked up. It was a .33. Apparently Leo was smart enough to get rid of the gun he killed Santos with.
Leo shrugged. “You never know who you’re going to meet in a dark alley,” he said, “Sometimes I carry a lot of cash. I have a right to protect myself.”
“Not if you don’t have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Do you by any chance have such a permit?” Bridge’s tone was sarcastic.
“No, I don’t have such a permit.” Leo matched his sarcastic tone to Bridge’s.
“We’ll have to cite you for that. And we’re going to check out your story. Cool your heels.” Bridge and Rayburn left the room.
An hour later, Rayburn returned. “All right, Mr. Stanley, you check out. You’re free to go.” Leo got up without a word and lumbered out.. He did in fact have a legitimate business, Stanley’s Snacks, which was used for money laundering. This was not news to Bridge and Rayburn—Lila Jackson had told them about it—but they let Leo stew while they had his gun dusted for fingerprints.
“His name is Carl Hedstrom. He’s FBI. That’s all we can get from the fingerprint files.” Bridge was saying. He and Rayburn were in Brinkmann’s office along with A.D.A. Friedman.
“I’m calling Bill Tilman.” Brinkmann scowled and reached for the phone. Tilman was the FBI’s regional superintendent. His office was in the state capitol.
Bridge held up his hand and Brinkmann paused, with his own hand on the phone. He growled, “Yes, Bridge? What is it?”
“If we call the FBI they’ll give Hedstrom the heads up and we can’t nail him. I have another idea.” Bridge pulled out his tape recorder, set it on the desk and pushed Play.
“I’m telling you, I wasn’t gambling. Hell, I didn’t know about the gambling. I was in Pete’s office doing business with him.” said the voice coming out of the tape recorder. It was the voice of Detective Kreitman, one of five on the tape saying the same thing. The third one was Leo’s, the others were all cops with voices in the same range as Leo’s.
“A voice lineup? You think that flaky dame is going to come through?” Brinkmann wasn’t one to hide his skepticism.
“It’s worth a try, Commander. Penny didn’t see the guy. She only heard him so this is the only way we can get a positive ID.” said Rayburn.
Brinkmann shrugged and looked at Assistant D.A. Friedman. “Will that be enough for you?”
Friedman nodded. “Of course, it would be better if the MacLean woman could relate the conversation the two men had. But at the moment that seems to be out of the question. But the voice ID is enough to arrest him.”
Brinkmann looked at Bridge and Rayburn. “All right. Go for it.”
But first they had to get past Mrs. Castle.
“Absolutely not,” she said in response to Bridge’s request.
Bridge sighed. “Look Mrs. Castle, this is very, very important. You know that Penny is more than willing to cooperate with us, you saw it for yourself. Let her decide whether she wants to listen to the tape. Let us at least come and ask her.”
There was a pause. Then Mrs. Castle said grudgingly. “Very well. She does seem eager to help. And her mood has actually improved somewhat since talking to you. Come ahead. But I want to be there.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Penny was watching Divorce Court when they came into the acute pod. The husband was explaining to the judge that his wife wouldn’t have sex with him unless he took a shower first, even if he'd already taken one earlier in the day. Penny glanced up as the three of them came in, and turned off the TV. Bridge explained what they wanted to do and Penny nodded her assent.
They all sat around the table like they had before, and Bridge put the tape recorder in the center and pushed Play. Penny listened intently to the first two voices, shaking her head. When it came to Leo’s, she listened to the first sentence and sat bolt upright.
“That’s him!” cried Penny. “Oh my God, that’s Leo!” Everyone looked surprised at this outburst, including Penny herself. They all looked at each other. Penny was trembling. She hugged herself.
“Penny? Do you want the detectives to leave now?” asked Mrs. Castle. Penny shook her head, then remembered her voice.
“No. I want to tell them what happened.” She looked from Bridge to Rayburn. “Do you guys mind if I have a cigarette?”
The two detectives smiled and shook their heads in unison. Ruth brought out Penny’s pack of Winstons.
Bridge took a blank tape out of his suit pocket as Penny lit her cigarette and drew the smoke in deeply. “Can I have a soda, Mrs. Castle?”
Mrs. Castle was still not quite over her astonishment. “Of course. Ruth! Could you get Penny a soda?”
Bridge was putting the new tape into the machine. “I’m going to record your statement, Penny. If that’s all right.”
Penny sucked on her cigarette again. “Sure…You’ve already figured out a lot of what happened so I guess the main thing is what led up to the shooting. I had just gotten to the section of the parking garage where we had parked earlier in the day, when I heard footsteps. I realized that it was probably pretty dumb of me to be there by myself but there was nothing I could do about that. So I hid in the shadow of one of the pillars. The footsteps stopped about twenty feet away. Then there were more footsteps and as they approached I heard a voice say, ’Hello, Leo.’
“’Hello, Rikky. Or should I say “Santos”?’ said the other guy. There was a pause and then Ricky said, ’Okay, Leo. You got me pegged. So we’re on the same side, me a city cop, you a fed. We’re both narks. We both have jobs to do.’
“Then Leo said, ’Look, Munez, you’re on my turf. You’re in my way. Back off.’ He sounded angry.
“‘What? You’re afraid you won’t get credit for a collar? There’s plenty to go around.’ said Santos
“‘You just don’t get it, Munez. This is MY case. I’ve been working my ass off here for three years. You have no idea what I’m dealing with. You bust in now, you’ll ruin everything.’ He just kept sounding madder and madder.
“Santos was trying to calm Leo down. He said, ’Look man, we can work together. I mean the important thing is getting the bad guys, right?’
“’This is my case! Back off!’ Leo was yelling. Then Santos said, ’You’re nuts, man.’ And then there was a shot. I think I gasped or something because there was a long pause. I was afraid Leo was going to shoot me, too. Then I heard his footsteps going down the ramp. You know the rest.” Penny took a swallow of her soda. She had sounded calm while she related the conversation but, Mrs. Castle noted, her hands were shaking as she lit another cigarette. Mrs. Castle stood up.
“All right, detectives. I think you have what you came for. Penny needs to rest now.” The look she gave them left no room for discussion. Bridge turned off the tape recorder and stood up, as did Rayburn.
“Thank you, Penny. You’ve been a big help.” said Bridge. He paused at the door and turned. “And your family are in a safe place. No one except Rayburn and I know where they are. Leo can’t touch them.” And with that the detectives went out.
Bridge and Rayburn expected a fight from Carl Hedstrom. He had already killed one cop, why not more? So they had uniformed back-up when they arrived at the Stanley’s Snacks warehouse. They found the back door open and entered silently. It was dark in the warehouse, the only light was what filtered through the filthy windows. There was very little stock in the warehouse and no one to be seen. Bridge looked around, his eyes getting accustomed to the gloom. Rayburn nudged him and nodded off to the left. A thin strip of light outlined a door in what looked to be a small room partitioned off in the corner of the warehouse. Bridge motioned for the four uniformed cops to follow and he and Rayburn approached the door.
The door opened outward, so one of the cops took hold of the knob and the rest of them positioned themselves back far enough to let the door swing open. All had their guns drawn, pointing at the door.
Bridge nodded to the cop holding the knob and he pulled the door open as fast as he could. As he opened the door, Bridge yelled, “Police!”
Hedstrom stood up behind the desk that took up most of the space of the small room. Before he could make a move, Bridge and Rayburn were in the room, guns pointing at Hedstrom. He just looked at the cops with resignation on his face. Bridge said quietly, “Put your hands on your head.”
Hedstrom obeyed and Rayburn, holstering her gun, approached him slowly. Bridge and the other cops were still pointing their guns at him. To resist at this point would be suicide. Rayburn cuffed Hedstrom and patted him down, pulling a gun out of a shoulder holster under his sport coat.
“Carl Hedstrom, you are under arrest for the murder of Santos Munez.” Bridge’s voice was hard. As he and Rayburn escorted Hedstrom to their car, Bridge gave Hedstrom his rights.
“I want you to listen to something, Special Agent,” Bridge’s voice was mocking as he said Hedstrom’s title. Hedstrom had not said a word since his arrest, not even to ask for a lawyer. Now he was sitting in Interrogation Room 2, his hands folded on the table. His head bowed. After two hours Bridge and Rayburn had given up interrogating him. Now Bridge took out his tape recorder, set it on the table, and pressed Play. Penny’s voice came through the recorder, ”Sure…You’ve already figured out a lot of what happened so I guess the main thing is what led up to the shooting.”
Hedstrom went pale as Penny went on with her statement. Halfway through he put his head in his hands and said in a defeated voice, “Okay, you’ve proven your point. Shut the damn thing off.”
Bridge obliged and there was a pause. Then Hedstrom continued, “You gotta understand. For three years I’ve had to eat, sleep and breathe this case. I’ve been deep undercover. I’ve become Leo Stanley. Munez was going to ruin it. I was this close,” Hedstrom held up his right hand, thumb and forefinger less than an inch apart.
“I didn’t go there intending to kill Munez. I just…I just lost it.” Hedstrom looked from Bridge to Rayburn, then back at the table. He continued, “All I could think about was the case. It happened so fast. It was like a reflex or something. I feel terrible about it.”
Hedstrom put his face back in his hands. The detectives couldn’t get him to say any more.
Three days later the MacLeans were back home. Penny, on the advice of Dr. Akmed was staying with them for a few days before going back to her apartment. Bridge and Rayburn pulled up to the small yellow house just in time for the lunch they had been invited to. Penny greeted them at the door. “I’m glad you could come. I’m hoping you can tell us how everything turned out.”
A few minutes later they were seated at the table along with Dr. and Mrs. MacLean and Roger. Mrs. MacLean had prepared a roast beef dinner and between bites the two detectives filled the MacLeans in on what had been going on since Hedstrom’s arrest.
“Chief Lewis went around and around with the FBI,” explained Bridge, “Eventually talking to the director himself. At first they were trying to get us to turn Hedstrom over to them to deal with. The Chief told them that was a no go. Finally it was agreed that we would not reveal the fact that he was an FBI agent. The FBI is hoping to somehow salvage their investigation. They’re debriefing Hedstrom on what he knows and I guess they think they can still find out where the drugs are coming from and get to the heart of the operation. So as far as anyone outside of a few of us knows, it was a dope dealer known as Leo Stanley who killed Santos Munez. Hedstrom is pleading guilty to second-degree murder so the press won’t have a big trial to sink their teeth into. Anyway, we wanted to tell you how things turned out. We’d appreciate it if you kept it to yourselves.”
The MacLeans nodded solemnly and Mrs. MacLean brought out the chocolate cake for dessert.
An hour later, Bridge and Rayburn were on their way back to the city. Rayburn yawned hugely and said, ”I’m going to take me a long nap when I get home. How are you going to spend the rest of your day off?”
“Lily wants me to help her refinish an old table that she bought at an auction. One of those things where she thinks she’s got some kind of priceless antique for fifteen bucks. Maybe I’ll be overcome by the fumes and get a nap in myself.”
Rayburn looked out the window thoughtfully and said slowly, “You know, I kind of hoped that Hedlund would have pulled out his gun. I wanted to shoot him in the gut like he did Santos. I still think he deserved it even though he says he lost his head. A cop killing another cop. It’s just not right.”
Bridge replied, “No, it isn’t.”
They rode the rest of the way back to the city in silence.
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