A Susan Chase Mystery
 
When Dead Is Not Enough
 
Chapter 1

  
     The day things began to go wrong was the day I was scheduled to go through the door with a guy who didn’t believe I should be going through any door unless it was held open by a man. After all my training, and despite my having more nerve than thought good for me, this guy still didn’t want me tagging along. Thankfully, my boss didn’t agree. He said Earl Tackett would have to get used to it. Women were here to stay. I don’t know about other women, but I needed this job and not only for the money. 
     The guy who didn’t want to be paired with me was a twenty-year veteran of the military police. When the army began allowing women into its ranks, Tackett was outta there. He cashed in a twenty-year marker and took a job with the Myrtle Beach police force along the Grand Strand. He also taught self-defense two nights a week at the local Y. Earl Tackett was a pretty good instructor. For a guy.
     In the Sunnydale Motel, at the southern end of the Strand, some bad guys were selling crank, the working man’s drug of choice, and this being the merry month of May, the Chamber wanted the beach cleaned up for the approaching Season. Today’s weather was breezy, but my boss had told me to lose the jacket. He wanted the bad guys to notice I was a woman. Earl Tackett’s jacket, however, concealed several guns, plus a wire, knife, and sap.
     The dealers operated out of a room at the far end of a motel built in the shape of an “L.” The letter's base contained the office near the street. The remainder of the two-story building was filled with rooms and sat off the street behind a swimming pool. To bolster their defenses, the bad guys had a minicam mounted on the dashboard of their van parked in the last slot of the motel’s parking lot. A black-and-white monitor sat on top of the TV inside their room, giving the dealers a pretty decent look down the side of the building.
    Tackett and I were tooling down the Boulevard in my jeep, an old red thing now closer to pink. For the drug bust I wore a yellow cropped top and cutoff jeans with a fanny pack. Inside the fanny pack was a Smith & Wesson Model 36 with a hammer shroud. The shroud kept the pistol from hooking on all the stuff we gals tote around, and the fanny pack was Velcroed together for quick access. It was a little chilly without a jacket, but, hey, when you’re the resident sex object . . . .
     Tackett stopped at a light while I hugged myself for warmth and watched the annual ritual so important to the Grand Strand’s success. In one business after another layers of dust and grease were being removed, water pipes checked for leaks, and windows inspected for cracks from the latest storm. Owners rolled out awnings or swept off sidewalks. Everyone waved. I waved back. I’m sure I appeared to be the same gal they’d always known, this time taking up with a man old enough to be my father. That wasn’t true. Things had changed from the days when I worked as a lifeguard and finder of runaways. 
    “You talk tough, Susan, because you’re so unhappy.”
    “I am, Earl?” For the first time I held a year-round job, and one where the boss didn’t come on to me.
    “You need to get married. It’ll fill in the cracks, especially the ones around your soul.” Earl Tackett was a Promise Keeper, and they can be worse than a reformed drunk.
     “I’m only in my mid-twenties. Can’t I have some fun?”
     “This isn’t women’s work and you know it.”
     “What about vice?”
    “Vice is too degrading for a woman.”
    “So you have to be a guy to be a cop?”
    “Susan, don’t mock me.”
    “That’s not women’s work either?”
     The light changed and the jeep pulled away.
     “I know about your mother walking out on your family, your father lost at sea. You need a family, not some job.”
     Finally, I faced him. “Earl, this isn’t some job. I work for the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division. At any crime scene I outrank you. Isn't that what really chaps you?” 
     “It’s in the Bible, Susan, God first, then man, then woman, and finally the children.”
     “Man as the head of the household. Funny, I don’t remember that in the catechism.”
     He shot me a look. “Don’t be blasphemous. You know you won’t be truly happy until you have a family.”
     “And accept the leadership of some guy.”
     “Not just any guy. One who loves you.”
     "I'll bet you guys really get off on being the leader of the pack.”
     “Actually, it’s a rather awesome responsibility.”

     About the time we arrived at the motel, Mickey DeShields would be climbing of our boss's car in the parking lot of a pancake house behind the target location. There, Mickey, an attractive black man, today dressed as a bum, would become a staggering drunk, first investigating the contents of the dumpster behind the pancake house backed up to the target location, then move on to the dumpster at the Sunnydale.
     This was why the bad guys had chosen the room at the end of the L-shaped motel. If they smelled trouble, all they had to do was throw a few bags into their van and drive across the alley into the parking lot of the pancake house and be on their way. Our boss was parked there to block their escape route.
     As Earl Tackett turned into the parking lot of the Sunnydale, a van approached from the other direction and turned in behind us. The van had been confiscated from a pool cleaning service that had been distributing a multitude of drugs along the Grand Strand. The van stopped at the motel office and the driver got out. Slipping out the rear of the van was another cop. His job? To baby-sit the manager. Around any dealer’s crib you never know who’s on the pad.
     “Oh, this is nice,” I said, glancing at the pool-cleaning van. 
     “They were supposed to be here already.”
     “I’m sure everything will work out just fine.”
     Tackett drove to the far end of the parking lot and pulled into the slot in front of the bad guys’ unit. The curtain was pulled back but only slightly. So we sat there, waiting for our backup hung up at the motel’s office. To tell you the truth, it kinda got on my nerves.
     Turning to Earl, I said, “Slap me.”
     “What?”
     “We’ve got to distract them.”
     “Susan, I can’t hit a woman.”
     I slapped him hard enough to make his teeth rattle.
     A moment later he returned the favor. After bursting into tears, I begged him to give me some money.
     “Push me out of the jeep. I’m going inside.”
     “Susan, that wasn’t the plan.”
      I stumbled from the jeep, then over to the door and knocked. That got Earl moving. Down the sidewalk a maid was catching the late checker-outers. She was a he, also a cop, pushing a cart and looking the part, a scrawny fellow with delicate features. No wonder Earl didn’t think they needed women in vice. This guy had hips narrower than mine. Another cop baby-sat the remaining maids in the storeroom. It was hard to see how anything could go wrong, but that’s when things usually did.
     Earl joined me at the door. “I don’t like the way you're doing this."
    The cop-dressed-like-a-maid glanced at the pool-cleaning cops whose van had parked alongside the fence encircling the pool. Ah, nothing like more than one vehicle, and more than one person, converging on the same location at the same time.
     The pool-cleaning cops were my age, wore jeans, tee shirts, and what looked like headphones for a couple of DiscMans. They got out of the van, arguing over who would climb into the pool. After that they began to discuss the weather. You’d think they were up for an Oscar.
    “It’s warming up,” said one.
    “Wait ‘til July,” said the other. “Then you’ll really see some heat.”
    The rest of what they said was lost in the clatter of equipment hauled out of the van. About now Mickey DeShields should be stumbling across the alley separating the Sunnydale from the pancake house.
     Earl knocked on the door.
     No answer, just some rattling around. They wouldn’t be hiding the stuff, would they?
     No, Susan, but they could be gathering up their Uzis.
The door opened and a pair of blue eyes squinted through the crack. This had to be the big guy we’d been briefed about: blue eyes and a deep tan. Blond bangs fell across his forehead.
     “Yeah--what you want?”
     “I was told you could . . . I could--”
     “We were told to ask for Leon,” cut in Earl.
     “What you want with Leon?” asked the tall man.
     “What the devil you think . . . ?” Earl tried to look inside but Ole Blue Eyes blocked the way. “Maybe this isn’t the right place.”
“But--but it’s got to be.” I trembled. “You’ve got the shit, haven’t you?”
     The big guy gave me another look, then opened the door. When I tried to go inside, Earl stopped me.
     “You stay out here.”
     “Earl, I’ve got to have--”
     “Let the girl in,” said Ole Blue Eyes.
     Like there was any doubt the blonde wouldn’t be allowed inside? I went ahead of Tackett into the darkened room.
     A wall lamp between the double beds had a towel draped over it. Any other light came through the space between the curtains at the window or from the bathroom. A second guy sat at a table in the rear with an open briefcase on the table in front of him. The lid of the briefcase hid one hand; with the other he was smoking a cigarette. From a nearly closed bathroom door, a narrow slice of light cast across his shoulder and the table.
     He gave me the once-over as I approached him. The table had been moved from near the window to the rear, between the last double bed and the washbasin. Ole Blue Eyes stood behind me and beside Earl Tackett, towering over both of us. A pistol was jammed into his belt, but it was his arms that drew my attention. This guy could do major damage without any frigging weapon.
     “What can we do for you, honey?” asked the guy
sitting behind the table.
     “Is this the place?” asked Tackett.
     “What place?”
     The second guy’s legs stretched out in front of him and crossed at the ankles under the table. Brown, curly hair hung to his shoulders, and his beard grew thick. He wore jeans and a short-sleeved shirt open at the chest, a gold chain around his neck, earrings in both ears. Behind the briefcase lay a pistol. I could barely see the weapon, but, hey, when you’re in a room full of testosterone, a gal tends to pick up on such things.
     I stood near the space between the two double beds, their sheets and covers in a mad tangle. Empty boxes of Chinese takeout sat on the nightstand, as did the motel’s telephone. Newspapers had collected between the beds and been stepped on.
     “You guys selling or what?” asked Tackett.
Ole Blue Eyes ran his hand up and down my arm. A tattoo encircled those biceps: decorative barbed-wire. Sorority girls are fascinated by tattoos--when they should be strapping on their running shoes.
      “Why you with him?” the guy at the table asked me. He inclined his head in the direction of Tackett. 
     “I--I needed a fix.”
     “Yeah, right, but that still don’t answer the question. Why’d you bring him along?”
     “She don’t sleep with you guys. She just wants a hit.”
     The long-legged guy regarded Tackett. "You don't do shit, do you?”
     Tackett worked out daily in the department’s gym. Upper body one day, lower body the next. He inclined his head toward the huge guy behind him. “Like your friend--I juice up.” Inferring he used steroids.
     “But you don’t mind your woman doing a little hooking, do you?” asked the guy at the table.
Tackett shrugged.
     “Hey,” I asked, stepping forward and seeing the briefcase was full of money, “you got the stuff or do we gotta go somewhere else?” Thinking that might be something I shouldn’t see, I glanced behind me. It was then I saw Ole Blue Eyes pull his pistol.
     Sticking it in the small of Tackett’s back, he ran the barrel up Earl’s back until the barrel ran into something. The wire.
     “What’s this?” The big guy backed away, leveling his weapon at Tackett.
     Very slowly Tackett turned around, and as he did,
pulled back his jacket, revealing his shoulder harness. “So I carry. I’ve got a permit.”
     “Sure you’re not cops?” asked Leon, pulling his legs in under him.
     “If I was cops, I wouldn’t be here.”
Leon stood up behind the table and pointed his weapon at us. “And that might be why you're here."
     Tackett turned to Leon, hands still open in surrender. “Hey, you want us out of here, we're gone."
     With Leon’s pistol trained on us, Ole Blue Eyes returned to the door and opened it. He saw the maintenance men in the pool area, then stuck his head farther out and looked down the sidewalk where he probably saw the cop-dressed-as-a-maid or her cart.
     Ole Blue Eyes closed the door. "Nobody out there." He glanced at the monitor feeding a signal from the minicam on the dashboard of their van. On the screen a bum was digging through the Sunnydale’s dumpster. 
      Leon was around the table now, running the barrel of his pistol up my tummy until it ran into my cropped top. His weapon was a fourteen-round little monster that could rip you in half with a single burst, if you could keep it steady.
      Tackett stepped toward Leon. “Hey, we didn’t come here for--”
A blow to the back of his head knocked Earl to the floor. Startled, I stepped back. Ole Blue Eyes had split Earl’s scalp open with the butt of his pistol, and because Tackett was bald, you could see the skull until the blood pooled up and began to run down his head.
     “Why--why you’d do that?” I didn’t have to pretend to shudder.
Ole Blue Eyes kicked Tackett in the back, then kicked him again. Tackett never moved.
     "Why are you kicking him?" That should be enough to get the pool-cleaning guys in here, shouldn’t it?
     “Take off your clothes, bitch!” This from Leon.
     “No, no!” I backed away, into the space between the double beds. The pool-cleaning guys could hear all this over the wire, couldn’t they?
     "Honey," Leon said, "get those clothes off. You've 
got work to do.”
     “But--but I didn’t get my hit.”
     “You ain’t gonna get one unless you perform.” He looked me over. “We’re leaving tonight, but if you’re any good we might take you along. Looks like you’re built for screwing. Look at them hips.”
     What a terrible thing to say. Oh well, I’ve always been rather sensitive about the size of my hips.
     Stepping over Tackett, Ole Blue Eyes reached for me.
     Where were the pool guys?
     The huge guy grabbed my cropped top. When he did, I went limp. The motion caused me to almost lose my top as I went down. Still, Ole Blue Eyes had no other choice than to let me slide to the floor.
     “Get up, bitch!”
     “Please--please don’t hurt me.” Where was our frigging backup?
Not a sound from outside. 
     Oh, well, it looked like we were going to have to do this the old-fashioned way: one bad guy at a time.
     On my knees, I slapped the Velcroed side of the fanny pack and my pistol fell into my hand. With my other hand I pulled down my top. When Ole Blue Eyes hauled me to my feet, I put a bullet through his heart.
     And felt the powder burn.
     Damn. I knew I should've worn a bra. Whirling around, I stepped over and stuck my pistol in Leon’s face. “Drop the weapon!”
Leon gaped at me so I knocked the pistol out of his hand. The Glock hit the wall, then clunked to the floor.
     “Up against the wall! Now!”
     Leon didn’t move. Well, how many gals did he know who could take out someone the size of his partner? 
     “Against the wall! Assume the position!”
    Leon blinked, but before he could move, a hand gripped my shoulder and turned me around. It was Ole Blue Eyes back from the dead. What was this guy on? His pump should’ve shut down already.
     Outside someone shouted that they were the police and to open up or they'd knock down the door. Ole Blue Eyes glanced over his shoulder.
     Something hit the door once, then again, knocking it back and out of the way. The pool-cleaning cops tumbled into the room. More than one of them said, “Drop your weapons and release the girl!”
The cops glanced at Tackett lying unconscious at our feet, then double-gripped their pistols and trained them on Ole Blue Eyes, who dropped his weapon, went to his knees, and collapsed across Earl.
     The cop-dressed-as-a-maid finally appeared at the
door. He, too, had his weapon drawn. All three cops stared at me, as well they should. A forearm had been wrapped around my throat.
     Leon pointed his pistol around me. “You drop yours!”
     In his bum’s clothing, Mickey DeShields appeared at the door, pistol drawn. The air was full of sirens and the room smelled of cordite. The cops standing in the doorway glanced at each other, not knowing what to do. About that time I remembered the pistol in my hand.
      Duh.
      I reached around my body, hugged myself tight, and pulled the trigger . . . over and over again.
    The arm came off my neck. Leon fell across the table, knocking off the briefcase. Money flew everywhere, pieces of mirror clattered into the washbasin, and Leon knocked over his chair on the way to the floor.
     I checked on the status of Ole Blue Eyes, then staggered over to one of the beds, sat down, and dropped my weapon. It hit the carpeted floor with a muffled clunk.
     Mickey Dee rushed over. “Susan, are you all right?”
     “Check Earl. The big guy hit him with the butt of his pistol. He might be dead.”
 

Copyright Steve Brown 2000
All Rights Reserved
Order from your local bookstore with 
ISBN 0-9670273-7-3
 

 
 
First Chapters of the Susan Chase Mysteries
 
Color Her Dead
Stripped to Kill
Dead Kids Tell No Tales
When Dead Is Not Enough
Hurricane Party
Sanctuary of Evil
 
Susan Chase Mysteries (Set at Myrtle Beach)
The Charleston Ripper