An Alexander Steele Mystery
By Larry J.
The Case of the Death Dealer
An Alexander Steele Investigation
The cool evening breeze didn’t seem to faze the crowd of music lovers as they tapped their feet and bobbed their heads to the Latin rhythms of music legend Carlos Santana. The open air venue on the west side in Philly’s Fairmount Park was the perfect night out for Alexander Steele and his longtime girlfriend Shakia.
Shakia ignored the occasional pungent scent of marijuana wafting past her nose. Feeling a chill in the air she tugged on her powder blue shawl and snuggled up closer to Steele. An interior designer by profession Shakia, dressed in royal blue pants and a white top could have easily been mistaken for a model. When the concert came to a close Steele, the six foot browned skin ex-detective looked around. As he stroked the corners of his mustache Steele wondered if getting front row seats was worth the hassle of dealing with the crowds after the show.
As the two made their way through the crowd to the parking lot Shakia gently held on to his arm while the couple discussed the concert. Steele made a habit of parking close to the brightly lit parking lot lights in case an old enemy or two should be lurking about. It didn’t take long for him to notice the small white piece of paper tucked neatly under the driver’s windshield of his midnight blue Jag.
He unfolded the paper and read the note.
Steele, meet me on the corner of 57th and Master at 11:00 tonight. It’s a matter of life or death, signed Trench.
Shakia folded her arms and looked toward the stars in the night sky, it was clear that Steele’s usually calm girlfriend was upset by the note. “Oh hell no, what does that low life bastard want now?”
Shakia was known for her kindness, she shared a mutual respect with just about everyone she knew but when it came to Trench respect went out the window and Shakia never held back. “He’s bad news baby. Everything he touches turns to …”
Steele placed his index finger over her lips. When she noticed that more than a few people in the parking lot were watching she dropped her arms to her side and let out a sigh. Early on in their relationship Shakia learned that Steele was a confident man who always made his own decisions. Not only did she respect him for that she admired his confidence.
Steele read the letter again aloud, “A matter of life and death,” he said.
Shakia pranced around in a small circle, you could hear her heels clicking against the parking lot’s asphalt, “Life or death alright,” she muttered, “yeah probably his.”
Steele checked his watch, 10:45. ‘How did he know I was here?’ he wondered. He explained to Shakia that lives may be at stake; and how he didn’t want that to be on his conscience.
It was exactly 11:00 p.m. when Steele rounded the corner and parked his car in front of the corner lot on
A few seconds later a black Escalade
slowly pulled up behind him.
Steele patted Shakia on the hand, “I won’t be long baby.”
Shakia watched silently as he got out of the car. She always joked with her girlfriends about her boyfriends looks. She would say, he’s like Denzel and Billy Dee combined, but was always quick to add Billy Dee when he was in his prime.
Steele stood face to face with the man he had grown up with and had learned to despise. The stocky built man wore a dark blue jogging suite, his hair was cut close. His mustache seemed to grow a little wider when he smiled at Steele.
When Trench reached out to shake hands the small diamond studded earring in his left ear glistened through the darkness. “Alexander Steele in the flesh, man I wasn’t sure if you were gonna show.”
Steele pretended not to see Trench’s outstretched hand, “Okay Trench, what’s up? Why am I here?”
Trench stretched out his arms and looked around. “I got people around here, people who look out for me. Listen Steele, I got wind of something the other day. There’s a shit storm headed this way.” Trench looked around again. “You sure you want to do this out here. I mean you got a reputation to protect and all, I didn’t think you wanted to be seen with me that’s why I left you the note.”
The men sat inside Trench’s Escalade to continue their conversation while Trench explained. “There’s a guy, a big time drug dealer named Fat Daddy.
Him and some chemist got into a thing in
Florida about six months ago something
about manufacturing a large quantity
of pills, probably Ecstasy. Anyway it ended badly and Fat Daddy had the chemist sister offed,” he motioned as if he were using a knife to
cut his throat. Trench nodded,
“That’s right; they found her floating in
one of the back bays in Miami.
According to what I’ve been told this chemist swore he would get revenge for his sister’s murder.
Well it took a while but he’s about to get even.
He’s created this odorless, poison to spray on Fat Daddy’s next cocaine shipment. If it’s true, and if it works, folks from Philly to
Maryland are gonna start dropping dead within 48
hours after using the drug. Not
only will it put the fat man out of
business, the friends and family of those dead junkies will hunt him down and kill him like a rabid dog.”
Steele reached for the door handle, “You don’t need me, you need to go to the cops with this.”
Trench grabbed Steele by the arm but when Steele gave him a nasty look Trench quickly let go.
“Come on Steele, just hear me out. I can’t go to the cops. They’ll ask me where I got my info from and besides you know how I feel about cops.”
Steele took his hand off of the handle and eased back into the seat. “Okay, where did you get this hot news flash from?”
Trench gripped the steering wheel with both hands and stared out of the front window before answering. “I got it from my cousin. Remember I told you I got out of the drug business, well, somebody once said that ‘Nature abhors a vacuum.’ My cousin stepped into that vacuum; if I go to the cops they’ll bring him in, that’s why I need you. What’s your fee?”
Steele looked out of the window then back at Trench, “Man you know I’m retired.”
Trench threw his hands in the air. “Okay, fine, who cares if a couple of hundred junkies die?”
Steele got out of the car and slammed the door. “Oh don’t give me that crap. For years you ruined thousands of people’s lives selling them drugs and all of a sudden you decided to grow a conscience?”
Trench got out of the car and walked around to the sidewalk and faced Steele. “I’m doing it for my cousin, he’s blood. If all of those people die Fat Daddy will be dead, or out of business and when the heat dies down John will take over his turf giving him control of half of the city. I want him out of the drug business not further in.”
Steele held up his hand, “Wait, do you mean Little John? Little John is your cousin?”
Trench nodded and waved his hand, “Yeah but don’t call him that. He’s got a big rep now and a bad temper to go with it and besides he ain’t so little anymore.”
Trench walked around to the back of his SUV, when he opened it Steele saw that it was loaded with all kinds of knock offs. LeBron James, Nikes, Aviator sunglasses, Prada, Sean John clothes, even a couple of pairs of Manolo Blahnik shoes.
Trench fished through the sea of merchandise before pulling out a yellow folder.
“Here,” he handed it to Steele. “I printed this out from the internet.”
Steele held it toward the light and thumbed through the dozen or so pages of stories about missing drug addicts whose deaths were of an undetermined nature.
Trench pointed to one of the papers, “You see that? From the Bronx in
New York to North Philly
it’s always the same, unknown causes. It’s odorless, colorless, and
tasteless. He’s been experimenting on
those dudes and now he’s ready.”
Trench held up both hands as if he were surrendering, “I tell you what, why don’t you sleep on it and give me an answer in the morning?” He reached inside the SUV and picked up two pairs of sunglasses, “Here, for you and your lady, no charge.” Steele reluctantly accepted the glasses and agreed to give Trench an answer tomorrow.
After dropping Shakia off Steele went home and tried to get some sleep but his conscience wouldn’t cooperate. His thoughts drifted back to grade school and how the kids used to joke about how God forgot to give Trench a heart. How do you do business with a guy who robbed a nun at age fourteen?
Two hours later Steele found himself driving through the roughest neighborhood in the city. No one in their right mind would come down here alone in the daytime and most cops wouldn’t risk traveling through this part of town late at night but somehow on this dark and quiet night Alexander Steele seemed to be drawn to it. There was movement in shadows of the blocks and blocks of abandon buildings where it was commonplace to see hundreds of crack vials strewn about the sidewalk. The movement came from the remnants of lives that once had promising futures until somehow it all went wrong, somehow dreams were shattered and goals were forgotten. This was a microcosm of the millions who chose unwisely at life’s fork in the road. These were the forgotten whose primary concern was not what to wear to work tomorrow morning but how to survive another day.
Up until now Steele had never given it much thought. Every now and then a homeless, drug addict would be bold or desperate enough to step out of the shadows and approach his car asking for money. At that moment the cold stark reality had set in, Steele thought to himself that could have been me, or one of my friends. Deep down inside he knew that he could not just sit idly by and let them all perish.
The Inner Sanctum Crew
Alexander Steele arrived at his upscale night club bright and early the next morning. When Club Inner Sanctum opened two years ago Steele enlisted Shakia to help him design the club’s interior. As a professional decorator Shakia combined eclectic elements with Steele’s taste and melded it with elegant nightspots of the fifties and sixties. The club’s décor was made up of various shades of dark reds, blues, medium grays, and a touch of polished steel that gave the club style and originality. He was very proud of what he had accomplished. Steele had created an environment where people of all races, backgrounds, and social status could hang out and be themselves.
His friend and club manager who lives above Club Inner Sanctum always had a pot of fresh brewed coffee waiting for Steele every morning.
“Morning Sugar Bear, did you have any problems here last night?”
Sugar Bear was a large, dark completed, heavyset, man with a friendly smile. He shook his head as he polished one of the glasses behind the bar, “No boss, it was business as usual. How was the concert? Looks like you got home pretty late.”
Steele nodded his head, it was good. If there was anyone who hated Trench more than Steele’s girlfriend it was his three best friends Sugar Bear, Stan, and Roger aka the Philosopher. Steele motioned for Sugar Bear to meet him in the back.
The last booth on the left in the rear of the club is where Steele spent most of his time. During the day he conducts business but during club hours it was all about socializing with friends and customers. Sugar Bear and Steele took their coffee to the booth.
The club manager listened intently to Steele’s story about last night’s encounter with Trench. He politely waited until the story was over before rearing back and proclaiming, “Well I guess there’s going to be a lotta of dead junkies cause I know you aren’t going to help that dude again. He’s been bad news since we were kids and he’s never gonna change.”
Sugar Bear’s response was expected, they all knew that Trench was rotten to the core but this wasn’t about him.
Steele sipped the steaming hot coffee and looked at Sugar Bear. “I’m taking the case.”
Sugar Bear’s eyes widened, “You what! You do know who we are talking about don’t you? Besides aren’t you retired?”
Steele was unfazed by his friend’s emotional outburst. He sat back in the booth and corrected his friend “Sugar Bear; you called them dead junkies, wrong, they are people. Oh Trench will be the one who pays me alright but I ain’t doing it for him. He’s a lying bastard but there is one thing he said that was true. I can’t stand by and let all of those people die.”
Later that morning Steele drove down to North Philly to an area known by the locals as the
Badlands. Steele agreed to
meet Trench in his office hidden behind a restaurant aptly named the Greasy
The weather was bright sunny outside but it was clear from the grease and grime on the front window that the sun’s attempt to brighten the inside was a lost cause.
From the moment Steele walked in the door it was evident that whoever was responsible for cleaning the place had taken the last five years off. The dingy red and white sign in the corner read special, 2 eggs, hash browns, and coffee $1.50.
Knowing that it was a front for Trench’s illegal activities in the back Steele shook his head as he entered.
He murmured, “They should change the sign to leave your taste buds at the door.”
The half dozen zombie-like patrons didn’t bother to look up when he walked in. The decor was early seventies with duck taped stools but the balding; cigarette smoking man in front of the grill was defiantly a product of the fifties.
Never taking the cigarette from his mouth the sweaty cook turned around holding a spatula in one hand and plate of eggs with hash browns in the other. “What can I get you young blood?”
Steele chuckled as he thought, ‘Coffee, hash browns and eggs $1.50. Cigarette ashes, no charge. Does that come with a side of Pepto Bismol? This place would be a health inspector’s dream if one was ever bold enough to come through those doors.
Steele took notice of the bulge near the cook’s waistline under his dirty white apron. ‘That ain’t no fanny pack, he thought, this guy was definitely packing heat.’ The cook was doing double duty as Trench’s first line of defense; too bad he didn’t do windows.’
Steele glanced at the plate of food and waved him off, “No thanks.” He pointed to the dark brown door all the way in the back. The man set the plate on the counter in front of the partially comatose customer.
Hanging directly over head was a swirly strip of fly paper that had done its job all too well.
“You Steele?” he asked.
When Steele nodded the cook reached under the counter and buzzed him in. Steele passed by an assortment of boxes containing counterfeit merchandise from Trench’s suppliers.
They lined the walls of his office in the back of the rundown greasy spoon diner. He counted three body guards plus the hired help.
Trench had changed into blue jeans and a short sleeved olive green shirt; he motioned for one of the men to clear a box of Gucci handbags from the chair so that his guest could sit down. Trench sat behind a large oak desk filled with papers and lit up a cigarette. “Thanks for coming Steele. I know that it was hard…”
Steele waved him off. “Let’s cut the bull crap. I don’t like you and if the truth be told you never really liked me either so there’s no point in us acting like we are best buddies okay? I want one hundred grand, half up front and the rest later. Get rid of your boys here and tell me more about this crazy ass doctor.”
Once Trench’s men left the room he told Steele about Doctor D. and how the once respected doctor picked up the gambling habit that forced him into making the illegal drug Ecstasy to support that habit. “One day he got carless and screwed up the mix, a couple of college students got really sick at a frat party. One of them went into convolutions and died. That’s how he got the name Dr. Death or Dr. D for short.”
Steele nodded, “So when is Fat Daddy’s next shipment due?”
Trench took another drag from his cigarette and blew the smoke high in the air as he shook his head, “I don’t know man. I don’t even know where he keeps it stashed but Dr. D knows. Fat Daddy distributes his drugs out of 7 or 8 hoagie shops around town but his one legitimate business is his steakhouse on Germantown Avenue.”
Steele was a bit miffed; “You mean you want me to stop this Dr. D from poisoning Fat Daddy’s drug shipment but you don’t know when it’s coming or where it’s going?” Steele leaned back in his chair; “Well let’s see should I use my crystal ball or should I break out my Ouija board? How do you know any of this is true?”
Trench waved the cigarette around as he got up from the chair and walked around to the front of the desk. “When I got out the business my crew disbanded. One of my guys ended up working for the good doctor. He called me because he has people in Philly that will most definitely die if this tainted stuff hits the streets.”
When he took a moment to pause Trench noticed a copy of the wall street journal sitting on his desk in plain view. Steele didn’t think much about it until Trench tried to cover it with a magazine before handing Steele a piece of paper.
“Call this guy,” he instructed. “His name is
Panama; he drives a cab at 30th Street
Station. A while back Panama
did time with Fat Daddy and the Dr; that’s where the two met.” Trench chuckled,
“Strange, ain’t it? Prison is supposed to rehabilitate your ass instead it just
makes you a better criminal.”
He opened the safe and handed Steele the $50,000 then reached inside the top drawer and gave Steele a picture of Dr. D. “That’s the best I can do man.”
Twenty minutes later Steele was back on
Broad Street headed to his club. He saw
no point in telling Trench what they both already knew. There was a strong possibility that the
poisonous drugs could already be
on the street. There was no time to
waste. As he reached for his cell phone Steele caught a glimpse of a blue Chrysler in his rear view mirror. It was the same car that was
parked up the street from the
toxic restaurant. He was being tailed and
he had a pretty good idea of who it was.
Steele pulled into a side street, stopped and confronted the two men. “Can I help you gentlemen?”
Both guys were muscular with dark tight fitting shirts; they were taller and heavier than Steele. Judging from the size and thickness of their necks they could have been the poster boys for steroid use. The middle aged men looked like bouncers you would find inside a sleazy strip joint.
The bigger of the two stroked his coarse black beard, “What business do you have with Trench?” he said in a husky voice.
Steele laughed in his face. “You must work for Little John.”
The second man stepped forward and waved his finger at Steele. “Man, you don’t want to say that to his face. The last guy who did needed $8,000 worth of dental work.”
Steele chuckled, “Okay, fine, I get it. Tell Johnny that Trench is a client of mine and if he wants to know what’s going on he needs to talk to his cousin.”
As Steele turned to walk away the man with the beard grabbed him on his shoulder. Steele whirled around and stuck his gun in the man’s gut.
The man froze instantly once he felt the tip of the cold steel barrel plunging into his abs.
Steele was no longer smiling, he stared directly into the thugs eyes and said “Look; I don’t have time for this, talk to Trench.” Then he aimed his weapon in the man’s face for a few seconds just to make sure they both got the point before backing away and getting into his car to drive off.
It was just before the evening rush hour when Steele caught up with
outside the train station on the
outskirts of center city. Dressed in
light tan pants and a light palm tree shirt Panama was a small olive completed man with a mustache and goatee.
“Alexander Steele,” he tipped his straw hat and shook Steele’s hand. “Trench told me that you would be calling. As the cabbies around him picked up passengers exiting from
Street Panama told
Steele about how he met the Fat Man and Dr. Death in prison. “We were all
cellmates,” he recalled. Panama looked to the ground; “I knew that one day there would be bad blood
between them, I could feel it,
even back then. There were four of us,
there was a guy named Eddie in our cell. He became Fat Daddy’s right hand man.
Did Trench tell you that Eddie has gone missing?”
Steele shook his head, “No, when did this happen?”
The cabbie looked at Steele and pointed to his head, “You see Dr. D is muy loco; he was crazy even then. If you ask me I think that he used too much of his own product, if you get my drift. Even in jail he still couldn’t get that damn monkey off his back. The Fat Man’s got issues too, he likes to gamble, a real high roller, he’s also superstitious and that makes him very paranoid my friend. He’s into astrology and all that supernatural shit. Every month he goes to the Borgata down the shore. It’s a real shame; do you know he went to Morehouse College?”
Panama motioned as if he was
washing his hands. “I don’t run with that crowd no more. I got a wife and kid to support.”
Panama’s information was useful, the two talked until he had a fare. Hey Steele, gracias, the man smiled at the two crisp twenty dollar bills Steele had given him and waved to Steele as he was leaving.
Steele now had something to work with but there was the nagging thought that all of his efforts would be for naught if the doctor had already put his deadly plan into motion. Back at Club Inner Sanctum the evening crowd had already begun to trickle in. Members of the club ran the gambit from politicians to construction workers, pro athlete’s, lawyers and others made up the cast of regulars.
Steele has always exuded a quiet confidence coolness that everyone noticed whenever he walks into a room. As he greeted the custumers at the bar with hugs and handshakes as he noticed a few of his friends waiting for him.
Its common knowledge that no one sits at Steele’s back booth unless they were invited however that rule doesn’t apply to his two oldest friends Stan and Roger who was known around Philly as the Philosopher. With an IQ of 165 and a knack for writing inspirational quotes Roger’s personality was more like a prankster than an intellectual. He waved to Steele just in case he hadn’t spotted them. Steele’s somber looking buddies had been concerned about him since earlier in the day when they received his call. He had a feeling about what was coming next.
Case of the Death Dealer Chapter 3
Case of the Death Dealer Chapter Four
Want more Alexander Steele
Case of the Death Dealer
Case of the Deadly Ring
Legacy of Death
Alexander Steele Murder Mystery Trilogy
Author Larry J
Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
The Alexander Steele Murder Mystery series consist of the first three short stories set in Philadelphia. Philly native Lawrence Johnson aka Larry J. takes you into Philly's neighborhoods by way of his fictional,suave,detective Alexander Steele. The semi retired PI is the proud owner of the Mount Airy hot spot known as the Inner Sanctum. Steele has a problem. He just can't seem to put his past life of crime solving behind him. A seemly endless stream of new clients come to his club each with tempting new cases for the ever inquisitive private investigator.
Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
Terror on Telderan, an Ebook by Lawrence Johnson Sr.