Thursday, November 26, 2009

L.E.O. -- Chapter Seven

When they got back to the office, Johnny sent Eric to search records on any of their victims, then headed to Nathaniel's office. When he walked in, Nathaniel was on the phone.

"Yes, sir. We'll have a report ready sometime in the next few days. Thank you, sir."

Nathaniel hung up the phone and rolled his eyes.

"Mayor. He's freaking out about the case you're working. He's worried about the press."

"I can imagine. 'Hate Crime in Omaha' wouldn't be a very flattering national headline. Might kill tourism," Johnny said.

"Indeed. So what've you got for me?"

"Not much yet. whoever did this cleaned up after himself. Six shot and not one shell casing."

"Not good. The higher-ups are hoping on a quick, quiet resolution on this one."

"We'll know more once we get the evidence processed, hopefully. Apart from that, we're running history on each of our victims, talking to friends, family. . . should find something there," Johnny said.

"And the other thing? Jason Black?"

Johnny nodded -- he'd almost forgotten with the events of that morning.

"He's a nonissue, boss. At least for the moment. The CIA is tracking him -- they've got eyes on him running mercenary ops in Colombia. He's watchlisted, though. Soon as he pops up on US soil, I'll get a call."

"Do I want to know where you got this information."

"No. No, sir, you do not."

Nathaniel considered for a moment and then slowly nodded.

"All right. He's on the back burner for now. The murders are priority one. I'd like to see your preliminary report on the crime scene before lunch."

"I'm on it, boss."

"Good man. This one stays zipped, Johnny. Until we know what happened, discuss it with no one. Not even here in the office. You, me, Eric, Rawlins. That's as far as it goes for now."

"Copy that."

"Now, get to work. Pull Rawlins off patrol if you need extra legwork, and copy me on any communications with OPD."

Johnny nodded and headed back to his desk. His initial report wasn't tough -- there simply wasn't much information to put in it yet. He was just finishing up when his BlackBerry rang -- Ellie's cell number showed up in the call display.

"Detective Jarvis," Johnny said.

"We're going to be working together, Deputy. Call me Ellie."

"Fair enough. What's up?"

"You get anything in County records?"

"Nope. All of 'em came up clean through our computers."

"Not through ours. Came across an incident report from two years back. Looks like these folks used to live in midtown. One of the male victims -- Adam Hassan -- was listed on a felony assault report in '09."

"That was the younger guy, right? The 24-year-old? He hit someone?"

"That's the guy, and no, someone jumped him."

"That's something."

"Wait. It gets better. Apparently Hassan took the guy down and sat on him until OPD got there. Guy's doing 5 to 10 in State Prison."

"If he's still locked down, he can't be our guy."

"Nope. But his friends might. His name's James Carson. He's a member of White Liberty."

Johnny took a breath and blew it out slowly.

"You up for a field trip?" he asked.

"Just waiting on you to ask," Ellie said.

* * *

"So what do you know about White Liberty?" Ellie asked. She rolled down her window a crack and pulled out a cigarette. "You mind?"

"Knock yourself out."

The two of them were in an unmarked Sheriff's Department Impala, speeding along I-80 towards Lincoln.

"Thanks. Terrible habit, I know. Now, White Liberty?"

"White Supremacist group. Organized, well-funded. Laughable, in my opinion."

"Yeah, ideologists with a shitty ideology. They claim that their 'younger members' -- skinheads -- don't act violently, but that's not true. They're little better than a street gang. We've had a guy from our gang unit working to keep them from spilling into the streets."

"We've had low-level dealings with them -- vandalism, auto theft. Isolated stuff, but we put together a file on them about a year back."

"Yeah, we've got a file on them, too. This guy -- Carson -- not a model citizen. He's 22, but he's been in and out of jail since 17."

"We even have an arrest on file for him -- just a trespass. Did 30 days in County lockup, 'bout three years ago."

Ellie blew out smoke.

"I guess we should decide who does the talking," she said. "I don't know how to say this without sounding like a bitch, but. . ."

"You want me to stand off to the side and look scary."

"Yeah, that makes me sound like a bitch, all right."

Johnny laughed.

"Don't worry about it. Not the first time I've played pit bull in an interview. Been doing it off and on for more than a decade now."

"Oh, come on. You're not that old."

"Been a cop since I was 19."

"That's longer than me. Maybe you should do the talking," Ellie said.

"Nah. Your original plan's better. This guy's gonna play hardass. You get me asking the questions, it's force meets force. He'll shut up. He'll want to prove he's more hardcore than I am. You ask him, he'll try to hit on you in front of me. . . but he might give you something."

"You're pretty smart, Deputy. You know that?"

"That's what my mom always told me," Johnny said, grinning and lighting a cigarette.

"All right. Here we are. You ready to play big and scary?" Ellie asked as Johnny pulled into the Nebraska State Penitentiary parking lot.

"Sure thing. Let's go see what this jackass has to say."

The two of them walked in the Law Enforcement entrance and signed in. After they left their guns with a bored-looking Corrections officer at the front desk, they were led down a hall to a small interview room.

Ellie took a seat at the table, and Johnny leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. Less than a minute later, the door opened. Two burly male Corrections officers led Carson into the room, shackled and leg-cuffed. Johnny was surprised at the sheer size of the man. Carson was well over six and a half feet tall, and his prison uniform bulged with sinew. He'd let his hair grow, but still kept it short.

Johnny flashed on the image of Adam Hassan's body -- the guy had been at least six inches shorter and a hundred pounds lighter than Carson. Hassan must have been one hell of a scrapper to take this big guy down.

"James Carson?" Ellie asked as the big man sat opposite her.

"Yes, ma'am."

"We're here to talk to you about Adam Hassan."

Carson nodded slowly.

"Yes, ma'am. How is he? Haven't seen him lately."

"You saw him after your trial?"

"Yes, ma'am. About a year ago, I wrote him to apologize. He's visited a couple of times since."

Ellie turned around, and Johnny saw (and shared) her confusion.

"So you and Adam Hassan became. . . friendly?"

"Oh, yes, ma'am. Adam's a great guy."

"What's your current association with White Liberty?" Johnny asked, unfolding his arms.

"I, uh, don't associate. Not anymore, that is."

"You'll forgive us if we're skeptical on that count, Mr. Carson. You've been a White Liberty member for some time. Six years, at least."

"Eight. Was running with 'em in high school. That's over now," Carson sighed and ran his hands through his hair. "You have any idea what it's like in here? Not many White Supremacists around. I learned real quick that shit wasn't going to fly here. Not if I wanted to live, anyway."

Johnny looked into Carson's eyes and believed him. There was no telling the shit he'd been through.

"Adam Hassan," Ellie said again. "Do you know anyone who might have something against him?"

"Why? Did something happen to Adam?"

"Afraid so. He's dead."

Carson blinked a couple of times and swallowed hard.

"How?" he finally choked.

"He was murdered. Three days ago. Along with his family, including his neice and nephew. So, I'm going to ask you again -- who would've wanted to hurt him?"

Carson stood up suddenly, pacing as far from his chair as his leg irons would let him, then pacing back.

"Sit down. Now," Johnny said. He didn't say it gently. Carson looked at him for a moment, sizing him up. After a few seconds, he did as he was told.

"Motherfuckers. They'd better pray I don't make it outta here alive," Carson mumbled.

"Who'd better hope that?" Ellie asked.

"White Liberty. It's gotta be them. Those fuckwits blamed Adam for turning me against them. Taking away a 'hero' from their laughable fucking cause."

"You got a name for us?" Johnny asked.

"Stahl. Travis Stahl. Anything the Skins do, he's in charge of it. He runs the gang in Omaha."

"Know where we can find him?"

"My information's years old. They were in a bunch of houses around 60th and Blondo, that neighborhood. Don't know if they're still there."

"All right, Mr. Carson. I think that's all we need from you," Ellie said, rising from her chair.

Johnny gestured to the Corrections officers outside, who came to collect their prisoner. As Carson stood up, he turned to Ellie and Johnny.

"Detective, officer -- sorry, I didn't get your names."

"I'm Jarvis, he's Teal."

"Detective Jarvis. Promise me something, yeah?"

Ellie nodded.

"You find out Stahl had anything to do with Adam and his family. . . you make sure he gets sent in here with me."

* * *

"You got a jacket on this Travis Stahl?" Johnny asked, unlocking the unmarked's doors.

"I'm sure we do. I'll have Frank run him."

"What about your gang unit guy? The one who's in with the Skins?"

"On vacation as of last week. Out of contact until Christmas."

"Any files on where we can find them?"

"Frank can look into it," Ellie said, looking at her watch. "It's almost five. I'm starving. You get out to Lincoln much?"

"Eric lives out this way. I make it down here every couple of weeks."

"Yia Yia's. Ever been?"

"Yeah, once."

"It'll take Frank a little while to run down our info. Wanna grab some pizza while we wait?"

"Hell yeah. I skipped lunch."

"Great. I'm buying."

"No argument here, Detective. You're making the big money," Johnny smirked.

Ellie smiled and opened her phone.

Ellie talked to Frank as Johnny drove. By the time they'd made it downtown and ordered, her phone was ringing.

"Shit," Ellie said. "Jacket on Stahl's years old. And our guy's files are a mess, but he always met with Stahl at a bar in Dundee. We've got nothing on 'em."

Ellie closed her phone and tossed it on the table.

"Now we're gonna have to track 'em down one by one. Could take weeks," she sighed.

"Maybe not," Johnny said, pulling out his BlackBerry. "Let me call my guy."

"Worth a shot, I guess."

Eric answered his cell immediately.

"What's up, Farm Boy?"

"Hey, Eric. Ever hear of White Liberty?"

"Ugh. Hate those fucking guys. Serious anger-control problems. We used to deal guns to their South Florida branch back in Tampa."

"Think you can find out where they hang locally?"

"Probably. White Liberty's pretty tech-forward. They use the Web to coordinate their meetings. Gimme half an hour, yeah?"

"Yeah. Call me when --"

"When I find something. I will. That hot detective sitting across from you?"

"That's affirmative."

"Lucky bastard. I'll call you."

"Thanks, pal.

Johnny hung up and set his BlackBerry on the table.

"Think he can find anything?" Ellie asked, sipping her water.

"If anyone can, it's Eric. He's good."

"I hope so. I wouldn't hate a break in this case."

Johnny's BlackBerry rang seconds later. Eric's cell number was on the display.

"Got 'em," he said when Johnny answered the phone.

"That was fast," Johnny said.

"I know. Their site must've been designed by an idiot. It was easier to hack than Facebook. They're meeting tonight, South O, 10 p.m."

"Good work. Meet us at my house at 8. You're along on the ride."

"Got it, Farm Boy."

Johnny hung up his phone and smiled at Ellie.

"We're in business."

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