Blood Debt

A Vince Torelli Mystery, Book 3: Blood Debt by John Schembra

A former soldier who becomes a San Francisco police homicide investigator after the war, Vince Torelli is dedicated, intelligent and highly principled–all skills that serve him well given the difficult, almost impossible murder investigations he’s assigned that force him to the razor edge with equally resolute, extremely ruthless masterminds.

 

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San Francisco Homicide Investigator and Vietnam veteran Vince Torelli strives to clean up the violence in San Francisco but, after a suspect in a double murder is killed during an attempted arrest, he finds himself also protecting the police officers of the city he considers family. His efforts put him in the line of fire when he’s targeted. The brother of the suspect victim wants revenge on the officers responsible and he’ll stop at nothing. He kidnaps Vince, a man obsessively loyal to his job as well as those he works alongside, a man as smart and committed to his principles as the criminals he catches almost without fail. Vince knows best, though, a blood debt always demands payment…

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GENRE: Mystery/Suspense     ISBN: 978-1-922233-67-7     ASIN: B081XXKWJR     Word Count: 59, 289

 

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Chapter 1

 

Vince paced back and forth in front of his desk, hoping for the call from the Department Operations Center advising that the tactical team he had requested was ready and heading to the staging area. So far it had been two hours of waiting by the phone, drinking lukewarm, stale coffee. His stomach was in turmoil and the delay was driving him crazy.

A few hours ago he had finally gotten an anonymous tip that led him to where Jimmy Lee was holed up, and after he and his partner, Bobby, had confirmed Jimmy was there a perimeter was established, effectively closing off all exits from the building. Bobby and several patrol officers and detectives were surrounding the apartment building where the suspect was hiding, trying to keep out of sight.

 Over the last ten days Vince and his partner, Bobby Mattox, had been working a particularly frustrating homicide case. It was an especially brutal double murder that occurred at a less than sophisticated bar in the Tenderloin District. During a night of hard drinking the suspect had gotten into a fight with two dock workers after they began making fun of his southern accent, calling him a hillbilly and southern trash among other unsavory things, including references to his lack of intelligence and disparaging remarks about his mother. He had given almost as good as he got in the fight, but ultimately was beaten down by the two dock workers and thrown out of the bar. As he picked himself up from the sidewalk, battered and bleeding, he could hear the laughter at his expense from inside the building.

Seething with anger, he staggered to his pickup truck, removed a three foot section of two inch iron pipe from the bed and walked back to the bar. He opened the door and walked inside, holding the pipe alongside his leg so it was nearly unseen in the dim light. All heads turned to look at him and several of the patrons pointed at him and started laughing again. Spitting a gob of blood onto the floor, he said, “This ain’t over.”

The two men he had fought with were leaning against the bar, nursing their drinks, holding wet bar towels to their bruised faces when they noticed him. They looked at each other, nodded, and one said, “Let’s get it done.” They started walking toward him, saying, “You ain’t had enough yet, okie? We got lots more for ya and this time you won’t be walkin’ away.”

He waited until they were within five feet of him before bringing the pipe up. With a two handed grip, he swung it in a powerful sideways arc at the closest dockworker. The pipe connected to the side of his head with a sharp crack, crushing his skull and knocking the dockworker sideways. Blood spurted from the fracture in his skull as he collapsed, dead before he hit the floor.

The second dockworker stopped in his tracks and stared in shock at his friend lying on the floor, blood pooling around his head. He never saw the pipe coming and moments later he, too, was lying on the floor. He would live for three more hours, dying on the operating table at the hospital.

Jimmy Lee left the bar and walked unhurriedly to his truck. Tossing the bloody pipe to the ground, he casually got in and left the parking lot. Fingerprints lifted from the pipe and the crime scene resulted in an NCIC hit identifying him as Jimmy Lee Jackson, a small time criminal originally from a small town 40 miles outside Memphis, Tennessee.

Jimmy had arrived in San Francisco eight months earlier looking for work. Finding a job with a janitorial service, he rented a small apartment in a seedy neighborhood and settled in. He had few friends by choice, preferring to keep to himself.

It had not taken long for Vince to learn Jimmy Lee’s San Francisco address through the post office and within a few hours surveillance was placed on his apartment while the manager was contacted. He provided Vince with the name of the company Jimmy worked for and a description of his truck, including the license plate. Vince was told that Jimmy Lee had not been seen coming or going since the day before, nor had the manager seen Jimmy’s truck at the apartments.

Within twenty-four hours Vince had run out of leads as to Jimmy’s whereabouts, so he made a call to the family in Tennessee and talked with Jimmy’s brother Aldon. He told him why he was looking for Jimmy and what Jimmy had done, asking if there was any friends or any family in the Bay Area with whom Jimmy might seek shelter and whether anyone in Tennessee had heard from him in the last couple of days. Aldon said Jimmy Lee hadn’t contacted anybody in the family and they had no friends or family living in California. He either couldn’t or wouldn’t provide any other information that might help Vince. He did tell Vince he was getting on the next plane and would be in San Francisco in a few hours. Vince asked him to call when he arrived in the City.

It seemed as if Jimmy Lee Jackson had dropped off the face of the earth. No trace could be found of him in spite of the best efforts to get his picture out to the other detectives, patrol officers and sub-stations. Vince even had flyers with Jimmy’s picture posted around the neighborhood where he had lived in the hope someone would see him and call the department. After having identified the suspect within a few hours, the case had gone stale.

Aldon Jackson had stayed a few days, mostly wandering the Tenderloin talking to locals, trying to find his brother. He flew home, giving up his search when he couldn’t find out where Jimmy Lee had run to ground.

Vince called Bobby again using his portable radio to see if anything had changed since his last call. “Vince, nothing happened on this end in the last seven minutes since your last transmission. What about you? Have you heard from Operations yet?”

“Not yet. Should be anytime. I’ll call you when I know the SWAT team is enroute.”

“OK. We haven’t seen any movement from the apartment in the last two hours. Be assured we’ve got it sealed off. He’s going nowhere, partner.”

“OK. Talk to you soon I hope. Out.”

Vince slammed the radio down on the desk in frustration and resumed his pacing, muttering to himself. Looking at the clock he saw it was now 10:25 p.m. He walked to the coffee station and poured himself another cup, then walked back to his desk and sat down. Sipping the bitter, tepid brew he stared at the phone, willing it to ring.

Ten minutes later the phone did ring. Vince snatched it up before the second ring. “Torelli. Tell me the team’s ready,” he said.

A woman’s voice on the other end said, “Yes, Sir. The SWAT team is on their way to the staging area. ETA is less than 10 minutes.”

“Great,” Vince replied and hung the phone up. He grabbed his body armor, pulling it over his head but not fastening the straps, and his black windbreaker with the yellow “POLICE” stenciled across the front and back and ran out of the office.

Vince drove like a madman, weaving through the thin traffic. He did not turn on his emergency lights or siren to avoid drawing attention to himself and to not warn the suspect he was coming. He pulled up to the staging area the same time as the SWAT team and contacted the SWAT Commander. After handing out photos of Jimmy Lee and providing a short briefing, the team leader laid out the team’s assignments, designating the entry team and the follow-up officers. He assigned Vince to follow the entry team, telling him not to enter until the apartment had been secured. Vince told the team leader he wanted to be with the entry team when they went in to make the arrest himself. After a minute or two of somewhat heated discussion, the team leader agreed with Vince’s demands. Though this was against their protocol, he knew Vince had been a SWAT officer for a few years when he was assigned to patrol, and was familiar with their procedures and techniques, plus he knew this was an unwinnable argument. Vince would be there with or without his permission.

Ten minutes later they were poised at the door to the apartment where Jimmy Lee was confirmed to be hiding. Using their breeching tool, the door was quickly smashed open and the first two team members rushed in, one covering the room to the right and one to the left. The saw the room was empty and quickly moved toward the bedroom door, followed by Vince and two more of the SWAT team. The entry team positioned themselves to either side of the door, waiting while Vince, crouched down to the right side called out, “Jimmy Lee Jackson. This is Inspector Vincent Torelli of the San Francisco Police Department. We have a warrant for your arrest. Come out slowly with your hands up.”

Immediately, three gunshots sounded from inside the bedroom, the bullets ripping through the flimsy door and impacting the far wall. Vince heard running inside the room, then a window breaking. Grabbing his radio, he keyed the transmit button and shouted, “Shots fired, shots fired. Suspect is armed and fired on officers. Heads up at the rear, he may be coming out the bedroom window.”

As the SWAT team prepared to enter the bedroom Vince heard shouting from outside the apartment, then a fusillade of shots. More shouting occurred, then silence. A few seconds later his radio crackled to life. An excited voice shouted into the radio, “Shots fired to the rear of the apartment. Suspect is down. I repeat suspect is down. We have one officer down and need an ambulance. Suspect has been neutralized.”

Vince sat down on the floor. “Ah, shit!” he exclaimed.