AN: Once again, I'd like to thank all my readers for supporting me with this story. Hope you'll enjoy this update and should you have the chance to leave me feed back, reviews are greatly appreciated.
To "meixel" : Thanks for your wonderful contribution to this fandom. Your stories always make me smile :-)
Special thanks to my beta for her encouragement.
ACT III – Part 2
SFPD, Bureau of Inspectors, 850 Bryant Street, San Francisco, 1973
Tanner set the Styrofoam cup of fresh coffee down on Mike's desk, sparing a brief glance at the Lieutenant's wary features.
"Thanks. I think I've found something very interesting," Mike said without taking his eyes away from the assortment of receipts strewn across his desk. "Moreno did the job for every single address that is listed as being burgled over the last couple of weeks. He also did my house. I was on duty that day, so my neighbour, Ernie, stayed at my place while Moreno changed the lock on my front door.
"Sounds like this was more than just a coincidence," Tanner replied thoughtfully.
"Did you pull the book on him? Mike asked, looking up for the first time since Tanner entered his office.
"He's clean. I'd say Simmons already checked that before he hired him."
"Let's go pay Moreno a visit," Mike declared, removing his glasses. He rose from his seat and grabbed his coat and fedora.
Tony Brewer sat rigidly in the driver's seat of his car, parked several houses away from his accomplice Moreno's home. He cursed out loud as he watched the tan sedan pull into the curb and two men eased out of the vehicle. From the way they were dressed right down to how they carried themselves, he could tell they were cops. "You better not talk, Wade, my man," Tony muttered as he pulled back onto the road and drove away with every intention of returning as soon as the cops were long gone.
Residence of Wade Moreno, 1973
Stone rapped his knuckles several times on the front door, then waited as footsteps from within the house became more pronounced. When the door opened, the detectives were met by a man in his early thirties wearing a white undershirt and jeans stood with a scowl set on his stubbled face.
"Yes?" the younger man impatiently greeted.
"Wade Moreno?" Mike addressed, trying to keep the tone of his voice neutral.
"Yeah, what do you want?"
"I'm Lieutenant Stone from Homicide, SFPD and this is Inspector Tanner. We have a few questions we'd like to ask you in regards to a series of breaking and entering in the area. May we come in, please?"
"Errr….I had a late night, fellas. Can we do this later? I mean, I don't think I'll be of much help anyway." Moreno scratched the top of his head and yawned.
"I'm afraid this is a matter of urgency. It won't take long."
"Alright, come in," Moreno stepped back and reluctantly invited the detectives into his home. Just play it cool. They've got nothing on you. Damn, he's the cop who's house we broke into! Recognition suddenly dawned on Moreno as he recalled seeing Mike Stone's photograph at the house he had burgled the previous night.
As Mike and Bill entered the modest home they let their eyes wander, taking in as much detail as possible. They could already feel nervous vibes radiating off the young man. As they entered the living room, Mike and Bill noted that they weren't offered a seat indicating that the individual they were about to question wanted nothing more than to be rid of them.
"So what's this all about, Lieutenant?" Moreno asked off-handedly, hitching his thumbs inside the pockets of his denim pants.
"Can you tell us where you were between the hours of four and six yesterday evening?" Mike questioned.
"I was home. I went out to grab some beer early in the afternoon then I got home and drank the night away," Moreno said with a shrug of the shoulders and a nervous chuckle. He shifted his gaze between the two detectives, not daring to lock eyes on Stone.
"By yourself?" Tanner raised his eyebrows.
"Yeah. Last I checked it's not against the law to drink solo." A smirk played on Moreno's face.
"No, but attempted murder is," Mike said tersely.
"Just what are you getting at, huh?" Moreno shot back, his anger surfacing.
"I'm talking about the shooting of an off-duty detective at a home he was visiting. The house was being burgled at the time and when he walked in on the intruders, he was shot and has been gravely wounded!" Mike's voice raised a notch as he struggled to keep from grabbing the man and shaking him down.
"Well, that's just too bad, Lieutenant. I'm really sorry that happened but like I said, I was home all evening. Now, if there's nothing else…"
"Are you wearing perfume, Mr. Moreno?" Tanner cut in as his nose picked up the faint fragrance lingering in the air. As he took a step closer to the impertinent man, the point of his shoe connected with an object that rolled across the floor and came to rest at Mike's foot.
The Lieutenant bent down and picked up the small cylindrical object from the floor. Turning in between in his fingers then tilting it to inspect the flat end, he noted the word, flame and a numerical code printed on the base. "Is this yours?" Mike held up the object in front of him, removed the cap then twisted the bottom half to reveal a bright crimson lipstick protruding from its case.
Moreno stood dumbstruck, staring at the lipstick held in the Lieutenant's fingers. Rosy.
"Oh that, er, must be my girlfriend's. She probably dropped it when she was here last," Moreno replied uncertainly.
"And when was that?" Mike pressed.
"She came around for breakfast, did she?"
"That's right. Look, I've got nothing more to say here so if you don't mind…"
Mike ignored Moreno and continued, "We'll need to take down your girlfriend's details so we can verify what you've told us."
"I don't see how my girlfriend has anything to do with your case so unless you've got a warrant, I refuse to give you that information!" Moreno snapped, crossing his arms and glaring at Mike.
"Now you listen to me. You've told us nothing but lies. We can continue this at the station or you can start by telling us the truth. It's your call." Mike countered, ignoring Tanner's worried glance in his direction. He knew he was bordering crossing the line as he moved toward Moreno.
"Alright, fine. I was with a girl all afternoon yesterday from around two, right through the night. She left this morning."
"What was her name?"
"I don't remember."
"Maybe your memory will return to you back at the station. Let's try again, what was her name?" Mike grilled.
Moreno hesitated but seeing he was cornered, he decided his best option would be to tell the cops the truth then worry about keeping the woman quiet later. "Rosy. I don't know where she lives. She works at McKinnon's Bar."
Stone eyed the suspect before him and "If you remember anything else, here's my card. In the meantime, I strongly advise you not to make any sudden travel arrangements. Good day, Mr. Moreno," Mike tipped his hat and headed for the front door with Tanner hurrying to keep up. Once the front door slammed shut behind them, Mike took several deep breaths. Moreno's behaviour sent off alarm bells and there was no questioning the man was hiding something. His evasiveness from their presence rattled his nerves and he feared that if he hadn't left the house when he did, he may have needed Tanner to hold him back.
"Are you alright, Mike?" Tanner said uneasily as opened the passenger door of the LTD.
Mike waited until they were both seated in the car before replying, "What I would've given to bring him in there and then!"
"You think he did it?"
"Shoot Steve? I don't know. For someone with a clean slate, shooting someone down with the intent to kill, just doesn't square it. I'm betting he had something to do with the break in, but somebody else pulled that trigger and I'm going to find out who did it." Mike's fervent reply ended the conversation as they drove down toward McKinnon's Bar the next block over.
McKinnon's Bar, 1973
The quiet and listless ambiance of McKinnon's Bar that afternoon provided Mike and Tanner the perfect opportunity to seek out the barman and ask him questions for which they sought answers.
"Rosy? She don't work here but my girl, Darlene, might be able to help you," the proprietor and barman, Bryan McKinnon told the detectives before blowing a shrill whistle directed at the kitchen.
A buxom blonde woman in her late twenties appeared from the kitchen, wearing a short waitressing dress and an apron.
"Hey, honey, you know a Rosy, don't ya?" McKinnon asked.
"Sure, hon. She and I…wait a minute! You're the fuzz aren't ya?" Darlene turned her attention to the SFPD detectives standing by the bar. Chewing her gum noisily, she placed her hands on her ample hips and looked Tanner up and down as if he were fresh meat to be roasted on a spit.
Tanner's uneasiness at being studied by Darlene's hungry eyes, caused him to reach up and loosen his tie. He cleared his throat when out of the corner of his line of vision, he caught Mike rolling his eyes. "Miss?" He croaked, with every attempt to sound professional.
"Andrews. Miss Andrews, love. But you can call me Darlene. Now, what's this about Rosy? She's not in some kind of trouble is she? Because if she is, I can tell ya right now, I want no part of it. I left that life a long time ago. I don't work the streets no more."
"Miss Andrews, we're not looking for Rosy because we think she's trouble. We just want to ask her a few questions. She might be able to provide us with some vital information to help us out on a case we're working on. We're not interested in how she makes a living. Do you know where we can find her?" Mike stepped in, relieving Tanner of having to stumble over his words.
"Sure. She lives in an apartment down on King Street. Here." Darlene retrieved an order slip from her apron and pulled a pen free from her hair which had been secured in a tight bun. She jotted down the address and handed the piece of paper to Tanner with deliberate care. Mike looked on in a semi amused fashion as Tanner took the note from Darlene and extricated his fingers from her clutches with difficulty. "Say what time do you get off?" Darlene whispered huskily.
"He doesn't. I just got off the phone from his wife a little while ago and funnily enough she asked me the same question. Anyhow, thank you for your cooperation, Miss Andrews. Much appreciated," Mike interjection, tipping his hat, before grasping Tanner's sleeve and releasing him from his immobile state. A prickling sensation pinched his heart as he reminisced the many times when he had rescued Steve from similar compromising situations involving the opposite sex. Tanner's reactions were more reserved and it made Mike miss his partner all the more.
Residence of Wade Moreno, 1973
Yanking the front door open, Wade Moreno stepped back as Tony Brewer barged his way in.
"Did you have a nice time talking with the pigs?" Tony grabbed a handful of Wade's undershirt and shoved him backward into the wall.
"Easy, man! I didn't say anything! Look, if I did, don't you think I'd be sitting in a cell right now? They're not even watching the house!" Wade all but pleaded to the larger man who began twisting the material of his undershirt in his fists, drawing him closer to his face.
"Did you get rid of the car?" Tony growled.
"It's in the garage. I didn't get a chance to…the cops were here and…" Wade's excuse was cut short when a fist buried itself in his midsection.
"Get rid of it then make yourself scarce!"
"I ca…can't! The cops….they…they're checking on a girl," Wade gasped, as he struggled to pull air into his lungs.
"What girl?" Tony demanded, pulling Wade upright then slamming him up against the wall.
"Rosy. She's a hooker…spent the night. She's my alibi."
"Will she stick to your story?"
"Yeah, she will. I'll make sure of it."
"You better!" Tony released Wade and stepped back, shaking his head in disgust. "Don't try to call me. You'll get your cut once I sell the goods."
"But how will I know…"
"I guess you'll just have to trust me, won't you? Lay low until things cool down. I'll find you then."
"Lay low? You shot a cop!"
"And that makes you an accomplice, Wade. Get used to it," Tony snapped with a leer then stormed out of the house, leaving Moreno to slide down the wall, and onto the floor.