Detective Blackhorse called the precinct and asked for the sheriff. The receptionist put him on hold and returned a moment later, with instructions for him to call Officer Schneider with his questions and requests. Blackhorse asked to speak with Schneider and the receptionist put him on hold. Blackhorse cursed under his breath. After what felt like an eternity, Schneider picked up the phone.
“Schneider, this is Blackhorse. I need an officer to bring a cadaver dog to my location.”
“A cadaver dog? A cadaver dog? Wait, lemme get this straight…you actually believe we got cadaver dogs,” Schneider laughed derisively.
Blackhorse bristled, listening repeating the request to someone in the background who sounded equally amused. “What the hell is so funny,” he blurted.
“You are…th…th…thinking we got cadaver dogs. Wh…Where do you think you are New York City? You been watching too many of them cop shows on TV,” Schneider laughed uproariously.
Wordlessly, Blackhorse disconnected the call. He would just have to brazen it out. If those assholes didn’t want to help him, then he would find another way to secure a search warrant. That would shut Schneider up. Blackshear strode back into the Heavenly Hash Smokehouse. Smokey looked up and blew out a sigh of irritation.
“Back already officer…I’m sorry…detective?”
“New evidence has come to light and I need to speak with you about it.”
“Well, go on. I’m sure I don’t know anything but go ahead and ask me. Spit it out, you’re harshing my buzz man.”
“If you insist on doing this in front of your customers, then perhaps I should make sure they all have medical marijuana cards and then move on to checking for outstanding warrants.”
Blackshear gave a satisfied nod, as the Heavenly Hash Smoke Shop emptied of customers. He suppressed a smile, watching them scurry out like rats escaping a sinking ship. Moments later, only Smokey and a store clerk with his back turned stocking shelves remained. Blackshear gave Smokey an inquiring look and nodded his head toward the clerk, eyebrows raised. Smokey hastily shook his head.
“This is Chet. He’s my right-hand man. Anything you have to say to me can be said in his presence.”
“I would advise against it, but that’s your call. Tell me why your car smells like decomp.”
“Decomp? I don’t know what you’re talking about. My car is parked right by the dumpster. The restaurant two doors down probably dumped a bunch of spoiled food. That’s probably what you’re smelling,” murmured Smokey glancing nervously at Chet.
“Don’t play dumb with me. The smell of rotting human flesh has a very distinct odor. Your car reeks of it. You had the bodies of those men in your car, didn’t you? My only question is did you kill them, or did you just dump the bodies in the woods on someone else’s orders?”
With his back to Blackshear, Chet looked over at Smokey. Silent communication passed between them. Smokey recoiled from what must have been a veiled threat. His curiosity piqued; Blackshear took a closer look at Chet. The young man appeared to be a clean-cut college student with his horn-rimmed glasses, short haircut and oxford shirt. There was no resemblance between the two of them. So, Blackshear assumed they were not related. What was going on? Chet appeared to be harmless, yet Smokey seemed to be afraid of him. Blackshear was about to pose another question, when Smokey raised a restraining hand. Attempting to affect nonchalance, he turned to Chet.
“Hey…uh, Chet would you mind grabbing the pack of cigarettes off of the desk in my office?”
Chet paused in the act of placing a glass jar of marijuana buds on an upper shelf behind the counter and shot Smokey another look, with his back turned to Blackshear. Smokey mouthed the word “please” and Chet stalked off through a doorway into the back office. Blackshear looked back at Smokey, in time to see the man frantically motioning for him to move closer.
“Look man, I don’t really want to talk about this in front of Chet,” whispered Smokey.
“Then tell him to go home early. He works for you, doesn’t he?”
“Not really, we work for the same person. Look man, I’m willing to talk to you…just not in front of him. Anything I tell you, he’ll run back and tell her. She can’t know I told you anything or I’m a dead man.”
“Who is this she you keep talking about?”
Before Smokey could answer, Chet returned with the pack of cigarettes and shook one out for him. Blackshear hesitated, tempted to ask the question again. One look at Smokey’s beseeching eyes silenced him. He was afraid to talk in front of Chet. Blackshear figured it would be a waste of time to try and force the issue. By respecting Smokey’s wishes, he might be able to interview him at a later date and actually get useful inside information.
Blackshear watched in silence as Smokey accepted the cigarette and fished a lighter out of his pocket. Chet moved resumed his task, turning away from them to finish stocking the shelves. Blackshear tried to think up a way to get Smokey to incriminate himself without making him disclose any sensitive information in front of Chet. He needed to get him to volunteer enough to justify a search warrant for his car.
Smokey lit the cigarette, inhaled deeply, coughed and continued to inhale. The coughing grew in intensity, until it was racking his rangy body. Blackshear shook his head, trying and failing to understand why smokers say smoking cigarettes calms their nerves. Smokey gasped, visibly struggling to breathe. The dry hacking cough steadily worsened. He suddenly clutched his chest and fell forward, cracking his chin on the glass counter in front of him as he dropped to the floor. Chet turned and stood gazing down at Smokey.
Alarmed, Blackshear rushed behind the counter, pushing past Chet. Smokey’s lips were turning blue. Blackshear attempted to render aid. Loosening Smokey’s collar did nothing to ease his breathing, which had become slow and shallow. Chet began backing away slowly. Blackshear checked Smokey for a pulse. It took a few moments for him to feel the weak thready beat of Smokey’s heart. Blackshear was confused. Why was the man coughing so hard?
“Are you choking,” asked Blackshear.
Deprived of oxygen, Smokey was unresponsive. Blackshear looked up at Chet and told him to call 911. Smokey abruptly stopped breathing. Busy starting CPR, Blackshear did not notice right away that Chet had not moved. Instead, he stood over them watching intently. Exasperated, Blackshear glowered at him.
“What the hell is wrong with you? I said, call an ambulance! Hurry up, I need your help here!”
Focused on performing CPR, Blackshear did not look up at Chet again. He heard footsteps and the bell over the door rang, announcing Chet’s abrupt departure.