THE EXCITING JOURNEY OF Writing
a Fictional Book
"IT'S A LUXURY BEING A WRITER,
BECAUSE ALL YOU EVER THINK ABOUT IS LIFE."
BECAUSE ALL YOU EVER THINK ABOUT IS LIFE."
Detective's Barton and his partner of two years, Dale Young, pulled up to the burning building. By the time they parked their unmarked car, clouds of thick black smoke had transformed to white vapors lifting lazily into the night sky. Near one of the fire trucks the fire captain and two firefighters surrounded a distraught man wearing khaki shorts and a t-shirt.
Extending his hand the chief greeted the two approaching men.
“We called you and one of our investigators, he's already inside. There's a body inside, female. This man says she's his girlfriend.”
“Dale you talk to the boyfriend and I'll go inside.”
Glen retrieved a white hazmat suit and breathing apparatus for protection against any contamination and entered the partially smoke filled apartment. He stood examining the area. The living room's off white colored walls were now blackened and charred from smoke and fire damage. What was once a flat screen television hanging on the wall was nothing more than a heap of melted plastic on the floor. The little amount of furniture and accessories that dressed up the room were burned and in ruin. This was all part of his crime scene.
Calvin Sharp, the arson investigator, arriving twenty minutes earlier stood in the doorway of another room snapping pictures. Glen tapped Calvin on the shoulder and flashed his badge.
“I've been waiting for you,” said Calvin. He shot a few more pictures then turned to Glen. In a muffled voice the investigator said, “Careful where you step.”
Glen nodded slightly irritated he was being treated as if this were his first crime scene. They peered into another destroyed room. “This is where it started,” said Calvin. The investigator cast his flashlight's beam on the blackened walls. “The fire moved quickly through this room.”
Glen, caught off guard, stiffened when Calvin cast his light beam over the corpse. The detective had seen numerous grotesque bodies before, but nothing this horrifying. Lying in the middle of the room was a female body, burned beyond recognition. The hungry flames had reduced portions of her to nothing but ash.
“What's that,” asked Glen, looking at a small pile of debris on top of the body.
“Aerosol cans and those small bottles, I'll bet nail polish remover, very flammable.”
“That started it?”
“No, see that melted glob by her, that's plastic. Whatever was in there is probably the accelerant. Whoever did this is an amateur. They didn't hide that someone wanted her dead. Look at the line around the neck.”
The two men bent down to inspect the victim's neck area. “Looks like her throat was cut,” said Glen.
“That'd be my guess,” said Calvin glancing around the room, “they cut her then set the place on fire.”
“Sorry, just a figure of speech,' said Calvin.
Minutes later Glen stepped out through the charred front door and approached Dale and the boyfriend.
“Let's move him away from here, talk near the car, this is not going to be pretty when the Coroner comes out.”
Not long after, two men in white suits from the coroner's office carried a stretcher with the blanket-covered body.
“Ohhh nooo.” The boyfriend turned away burying his face in his hands.
“I'm sorry, can you tell me who she is.”
“She's my, was my girlfriend. I can't believe this, shit oh no,” he said. The detective's watched as the man paced back and forth, his arms wrapped around his upper body in an attempt to remove the shock induced chill.
“We're sorry for your loss. Sir, please, sir, I know this is a very difficult time for you, but please just a moment. Who is she?” said Dale.
The boyfriend responded in a tone bordering on indignation as if everyone knew her. “It's Toni, Toni Wilcox. She's an actress and a model.”
Glen removed his hazmat suit and stepped over to the fire captain. “What can you tell me?”
“When we rolled up the building was on fire. Flames were spilling out from the ground floor where they lived. We got it out quickly and found the woman's body in the bedroom. It started there.”
“Yeah, that's what your investigator said.”
“First man entering said the body was on fire.”
“It's a scene I'll never forget,” said Glen scanning the area.
“We never do,” said the captain.
“What about the boyfriend?”
“He comes running up the street screaming. We tackled him to the ground.”
“He tried to rush inside. He was screaming out her name.”
“Dale what do―”
Glen stopped to see the mounting commotion building in the crowd of onlookers.
A slender blonde haired woman with thick black rimmed glasses led the way pushing forward through the maze of several people. In a voice of a high school principal breaking up a fight she said, “Come on, we need the cameras rolling, let's go guys.” It was Susie Pinkerton, a television reporter from Channel 9. “Excuse me excuse me, would you please, sir?” she said advancing.
Dale blocked the reporter. “Please, a little privacy. He's just lost his girlfriend. Have a heart.”
“And miss this story detective you've got to be kidding.”
“Susie give us a break will you,” said Glen.
“Hi Detective... Barton, that's it Barton. It looks like a story for 11 o'clock.”
“You let us do our job and I promise I'll give you the scoop, but back off.”
“We'll step back right over here, but I'm going to hold you to it.”
“Okay lets backup here with the camera. Susie swung around and stuck her microphone into the face of a startled young boy. “Did you witness anything?”
Shaking his head in disgust Dale turned back to his partner. “Boyfriend's name is Peter Sklar, says he chased the man who did this.”
“I'm sorry Mr. Sklar to put you through this, but we have to ask these questions. You say you chased someone?”
“Tha- that's right,” replied Peter, his teeth chattering. A paramedic wrapped finally a blanket over his shoulders and helped the boyfriend over to the rear of the ambulance.
“Do you think you can take us through what happened, Peter?”
“Toni and I li-live, I mean lived together. I-I walked over to Trader Joe's to pick up some foo- food items and a bottle of wine. It was a celebration.”
“N-no, Toni just landed a role in a new movie. She was go-going to start work next week along with a modeling gig for a cosmetic line. I walked down to Trader Joe's while she was setting the table and checking her email. Stuff like that.”
“I ca-came home.”
“How long were you gone?”
“Twenty-twenty five minutes. I put the key in the door, opened it part way, and someone inside slammed it in my face and locked it. My key popped out of the lock and by the time I picked it up, and unlocked the door, some guy's running out the back. I threw the groceries down and yelled for Toni and― and ―”
Glen sympathetically placed his hand on Peter's shoulder. “We're really sorry to put you through this.”
“Did she answer,” continued Dale.
“I don't remember, I- I don't think so.”
“Did you recognize the intruder?”
“No, but he looked Hispanic.”
“That's helpful, then what?”
“I chased him out the back door and over the back fence. We ran around the block and up the street to the next block, and down an alley.”
“What happened next?” asked Glen.
“I chased him. He turned and ran up a staircase of a small building. I lost him there.”
“Were you and Miss Wilcox arguing about anything,” asked Dale.
“Wh- what, what are you talking about? Why would we argue?”
“Nothing Mr. Sklar, I'm sorry, but it's our job to piece things together. You're gone, a fire starts, the fire department calls us and says they discovered a body. You come running up and you can see that we have to look at every angle.”
Bothered by the inference. “I'm not an angle, Detective. Someone killed my girlfriend, but it wasn't me.”
“We understand, but it would be helpful if you come to the station and talk some more,” said Dale.
“Bullshit, I'm not going anywhere with you. I didn't do this. I don't know where you're going with this but it's bullshit.”
“Calm down Peter,” said Glen.
Standing up, the blanket fell off Peter's shoulders. “Don't tell me to calm down or what to do.” He stepped forward pushing against Glen's chest and Dale grabbed the boyfriend's arm twisting it behind his back.
“Ricky, you getting this on camera?” asked Susie.
“Clear as can be.”
“Damn it, where is my cameraman,” asked Dirk Sullivan the reporter from Channel 11.
“Don't worry Dirk, after I call my stuff in I'll share some notes with you,” she said with a devilish grin.
“Susie, I was here first.”
“I'll make sure to mention that on television on my 11 o'clock.”
Glen gripped Peter's arm. “Stop moving Mr. Sklar or will have to arrest you.”
“Come with us,” said Dale.
He jerked his arm away. “I'm not coming with you.”
Glen and Dale reached Peter at the same time handcuffing him while he screamed his innocence. Susie and her camera operator got all the juicy footage while Dirk Sullivan stood helplessly by. Vans from other channels pulled up to the scene and crews scrambled out of their rolling vehicles as the detectives placed their suspect in the unmarked car.
With Peter handcuffed in the back seat Glen gave instructions to two uniformed officers about securing the crime scene as the forensics team arrived.
Minutes after they drove away Glen instructed his partner. “Pull over on this side street.”
“What are we doing?”
“Pull over here.”
“Just do it,” said Glen.
Dale turned and stopped on a poorly lit street as Glen got out.
“What are you doing Glen?”
Opening the back door Glen replied, “Just let me do this. Mr. Sklar, would you please get out of the car?”
“I've got this trust me.”
Peter glared at the detective who was reaching into his pocket while motioning his prisoner to exit the vehicle.
“What are you going to do to me?”
“Turn around, you say you're innocent. You say you didn't start the fire or kill your girlfriend.”
“Peter, I believe you.”
“Then why arrest me?”
“Yeah on two counts, look at her picture, she's gorgeous, and look who her father is. Do you guys know him?” asked Dale.
The Captain's expression hardened.”I know him.” He turned and walked away.
“What did I say?”
“Three years ago, just before you came on board there was a crime committed by a State Senator and a call girl?”
“Wilcox defended the Senator. He got him off on some sloppy police work. Chief almost lost his job over that case. He hates Wilcox because this lawyer made the force and the Chief look bad,” said Glen.
“Oh shit's right, I almost got assigned to that case, but ducked a bullet. And you're right about the other thing.”
“The daughter is, I mean, was beautiful.”
The two detectives walked back into the interrogation room where Peter was sitting, staring blankly into his untouched cup of coffee.
“How much longer do I need to be here?”
“Peter, until we get to the bottom of this, all night. Is that's all right with you?” said Dale.
“Tell us about your girlfriend, Ms. Wilcox. How and where did you meet her?” asked Glen.
Massaging his temple with his index and middle finger Peter closed eyes. “About a year and a half ago I met her at Largo West, it's a club.”
“The club downtown?”
“Yeah that's it. I was a guest there with some friends and Toni was sitting with a group next to us. I asked her to dance, and we hit it off.”
“What does that mean, you hit it off?” said Glen.
“Just what it sounds like detective. Pretty much, we danced all night and around three we Ubered to my place. She spent the night and two weeks later she moved in.”
In a cold tone to match his mounting impatience Dale said, “Open your eyes Peter and look at me. Do you know your neighbor Ray Filbert?”
Peter's body tensed. “You mean the old guy next door, what about him?”
Reading from an opened thin folder labeled Sklar, Dale said, “He says lately you and Toni have been arguing with the windows open.” Scanning down the single sheet of paper. “I also have a police report about a fight you got into with someone two weeks ago. What was that about?”
Peter sat forward. “This guy said something to Toni, and we got in a fight.”
Dale sensed he had his suspect on the ropes and continued probing. “Report says you broke his nose and your neighbor says he heard you yelling at her. He overheard her saying she was moving out. Is that what happened Peter? She was talking to another guy who she hit it off with. Way I see it you got jealous and took things into your own hands. I think you're guilty.”
Peter slammed his hand down on the table knocking the coffee over, “You're fucking crazy.”
Dale achieved the reaction he was aiming for. “Really Peter, I don't think so and you're going to clean this shit up.”
Glen, standing over in the corner, felt his cell phone vibrating in his pocket. He answered. “Detective Barton.”
“Hey Glen it's Russell. We found one of those small MP3 players, I think they're called a Shuffle. It was on the staircase and it looks like we can get some prints off it.”
“What color is it?”
“Hold on Russ. Peter when you were chasing this guy was he carrying anything?”
Peter squeezed his eyes shut. “Let me think. Yeah, he was.” In an “aha” moment his eyes shot open and wagging his finger to help his memory Peter said, “Some small plastic square, it looked like one of those MP3 Shuffles.” His eyes coldly locked in a staring match with Detective Young.
“What color was it?” asked Glen.
Still staring at Dale, the vein in Peter's right temple pulsing said, “I don't know maybe dark blue, it wasn't black.”
“Thanks Russ, how long before we get some prints.”
“Give me a couple of days, I'll call you.”
Glen stood up and said, “Partner, let's go outside I want to talk to you.”
As Dale followed Glen out into the hallway he turned and said to Peter, “Have this shit cleaned up before I get back.”
“Who was that?”
“I'm cutting Peter loose.”
“No fucking way. He's guilty. You saw him in there, I say we charge him and throw it over to the DA.”
“No, he didn't do it. That was Russ on the phone and they found an MP3 player like Peter described.”
“It could have been his, he could have dropped it.”
“I don't think so. No one is going to chase another person and hold on to this little thing, he'd put it in his pocket. My gut's telling me he's not the one.”
“Glen, you're wrong he did it. You're going to see. She was leaving him, he gets jealous, and kills her. This guy sets the place on fire, leaves out the back door, and waits around the corner for the fire trucks. He's planned this for a while. You cut him he runs, I'll bet you twenty he's gone before the end of tomorrow.”
“Hell no, I'm not betting twenty, I'll bet you fifty!”
“Fifty bucks he's not a rabbit? You're on, we'll be chasing this one.”
Glen placed his cell phone down on the desk in the living room and picked up his detective's badge, number 3511. He held it in his hand, staring, somewhat in disbelief, his thumb massaging the gleaming emblem. Recently promoted after scoring one of the highest marks on the detective's test, tonight, like so many nights, he sat alone in his house celebrating with his favorite French beer.
His eyes slow danced around the room stopping at each indentation and scratch on the walls. There it was the four inch gouge. Of all the marks this one was special. He remembered it as if it happened an hour ago. The gash caused by Glen and the boy's rough housing while Sandra was out shopping.
“What do we do dad?” asked Jimmy, “mom's going to be home soon.”
“I know, let me think. I got it.” Glen moved a potted plant away from the window.
“There, that'll cover it. Mom will object―”
“What's object mean?” asked Matty their younger boy.
“Hmmm, complain,” said Glen.
“Mom's in the driveway,” said Jimmy looking out the window.
Glen sat the boys on the sofa and squeezed in between them. “Okay guys, just act cool like nothing happened and let me do the talking.”
Sandra opened the front door and before both feet were inside the house she noticed the plant.
“Why did you move the plant it needs to be by the window? It doesn't look good there, let's move it back.”
“Honey, we wanted to surprise you and change things around. We like it, don't we boys?”
“Daddy said you'd complain,” said Matty.
“Oh he did did he, what else did daddy say?”
“That he would do all the talking and we should act cool.”
“And I was going to make our favorite cookies, but I guess I won't.”
“Dad scratched the wall, and he didn't want you to find out,” said Jimmy.
“I could arrest you for blackmailing your children.”
Sandra moved the plant and examined the damaged wall. She glared at her husband. “Could I get away with murder?”
“I'll take the fall, the boys actually did it but I didn't want you to yell at them. We don't want mommy to yell do we boys?” The expression of innocence on her two small boy's faces made her laugh.
The corners of Glen's mouth crept upwards as he reminisced about the indentation. Next month would be three years since it happened. For Glen it remained a memento of a family that once was. He glanced at the only picture, in its rosewood frame, sitting on his desk of Sandra and the two boys at Big Bear Lake. He wished they were here to celebrate this achievement, but they weren't.
One morning before Glen went to work Sandra announced she no longer chose to compete with his job and took the boys and left. He wondered, even to this day, if that was Sandra's real reason. He loved her and the boys, but he was afraid Sandra was right. She couldn't compete, he loved his work.
The only consolation prize they remained good friends. Sandra's new husband was a decent person and a great surrogate father to his sons.
Behind Glen, on the muted TV screen, a reporter from a local station interviewed Sergeant Kipner, Glen's field sergeant. They were discussing the cold case murder of Susie Watson, a young girl who went missing five years earlier.
One night, while off duty, Glen was sitting at Toni's Lounge, his favorite bar watching a football game on the overhead television. He overheard two men discussing the crime two bar stools over.
“Charlie, the guy's a mechanic with a shop over in the Valley. We shake him down for a grand and promise to keep our mouths shut.”
“We go back next month and grab another grand, that's what.”
“Hey, I'm sorry, but could you two take whatever you're talking about somewhere else, I'm trying to watch the game.”
“We'll sit where we want.”
“Yeah, but see I got money riding on this game and I need to concentrate. I can't afford to drop another $500, wife will kill me.”
“That's your problem not ours,” said the skinny man with a crooked mustache.
“I know, I'm sorry, but I'll make you a deal. Let me buy you two guys a drink and you let me finish the game in peace. If I lose, drinks on me until closing time. What do you say?” said Glen.
“And if you win?”
“I can afford to buy you two more rounds, so you come out winners either way, deal?”
After half an hour and only thirty seconds left in the game, Glen and his two new friends, Charlie and Mike, were sitting together cheering for different reasons.
“Damn it, I thought tonight would be different. I don't know why I thought that team was any good.”
Charlie looked over at the bartender. “Hey Danny, set us up and keep them coming. Let's see, oh look it's only 10:30 and Danny doesn't close until one. Sure hope you've got enough money Glen.”
“I'll put it on the card, they won't grab that for another couple of weeks. Either one of you knows how to make quick money. I could sure use some.”
“Go ahead Charlie tell Glen what you were telling me.”
Disgusted with his friend's remark Charlie said, “Shut up, Mike.”
“Tell me what?”
“Nothing, Mike's just got a big mouth.”
“Hey Danny, give Charlie and Mike another, in fact, make Charlie's a double. I know how you feel Charlie, sometimes we talk about things we don't know anything about and get embarrassed.”
“What are you saying?”
“Nothing, drink up,” said Glen. Still holding a glass full of whiskey he said, “I knew a guy once who talked shit, and that's just what it was, shit.”
“Mine ain't shit, it's real.”
“Okay, if you say so,” said Glen polishing off his drink winced as the brown liquid burned his throat.
“Tell him Charlie, what's he going to do, nothing. Charlie knows a guy who killed a girl and got away with it.”
Charlie slapped his friend's shoulder.”Shut the fuck up Mike.”
“Sure you know someone, bullshit, and my father knows who shot Kennedy.”
“Hey man, it's not bullshit.”
“Charlie if you knew someone he wouldn't talk about it unless you helped him. I'll tell you if it's bullshit. Hey Danny another round.”
“I didn't do it, this guy I know did it and I, I mean, we're going to shake him down.”
“For how much?”
“Charlie says we can get a grand from the guy.”
“Shut up Mike.”
“You shut up, I'm going to the bathroom.”
“I hope you die in there with your big mouth.” Charlie turned to Glen. “Fuck he's got a big mouth.”
“If this story were true, you'd be shaking him down for more than a grand.”
“You cut me in and we'll split a minimum of ten grand. That's thirty-three hundred for each of us and trust me, I'll get it cause I can use the money.
The TV flashed a picture of Fred Jackson, an auto mechanic with a shop in Woodland Hills, being taken away in handcuffs and placed in a black and white. Jackson abducted Susie Watson late one night five years earlier when she was coming home from a friend's house. The first time he met her was when her father dropped off the family car for repairs. Several nights later, he drove out to the desert, raped and killed her, and buried the young girl's body.
If not for Glen, the case would have remained unsolved. For his testimony against Jackson, Charlie was found guilty of extortion and received one year suspended sentence with two years probation.
With the badge in one hand and a beer in the other Glen contemplated tomorrow. A kid starting a new school. Tomorrow he'd report to the Hollywood Division as Detective Glen Barton.