Jody went horseback riding with Valerie not once but twice in the first week. She seemed to have found a new interest for which I was grateful as she did have too much time on her hands. She and Valerie were getting along like a house on fire and they began to spend more time with each other. Good I thought, she has found a new friend that I hope will help her with her boredom. Little did I know just how much help Valerie was going to be.
By now, we were bricking the outside of the Alisford House which would take us all of three weeks. I had hired on another helper and two more bricklayers to help with this project. Whenever I could find the time, I jumped into the line to help lay brick. I was a very good and fast bricklayer and could put down twice as many brick as any of the others. I had a real knack for it. The others would build the corners and raise the line and turn me loose and I would earn my pay. Bricklaying on a straight wall was fun. The house was two-story so the three helpers were hard pressed to keep us in material and raise the scaffolding as needed. I stopped by the Coffee Shop and asked if anyone wanted to earn a few bucks for a couple of weeks. A couple of the younger guys volunteered so I told them where to go and who to report to the next day.
There was still no news of Mike and the other guy whose name was Antonio Suarez and the Police were now treating it as a missing person with a chance of violence involved. I had left off making any inquiries as I was up against a wall and had fresh run out of ideas. As the house bricking was moving along at a fast gallop, I pulled myself from that job and turned back to organizing the next project which was going to be the garage for Louisa Johnston. We had come to an agreement on the price and of exactly what she needed done. I had planned to subcontract out the slab and gave my Concrete buddy Frank Alton a call. We met at Louisa Johnston’s house and went over the specs. It was going to be a straight forward slab with beams around the perimeter and through the middle with a brick shelf. The only additional stipulation was a water faucet to come up inside the garage. Frank and I had discussed this project a month ago and as soon as I had the contracts signed, I had signed up Franks company to do the slab. He had everything ready to go so I gave him the green light for the project. I figured he would take a week to ten days to have it finished.
My next port of call was back to the Jones Building, Warehouse Project that we had been using for fill in and wet weather. I had a deal worked out with the owners who were in no particular hurry to get it finished as long as it was totally completed by the end of November. It was not being used for anything yet and had been standing empty for several years when the clothing manufacturing left the Valley for China. It needed a lot of work to bring it up to standard. I also had been thinking about Suarez and his relationship with Mike. If Suarez was the go between Mike and drugs, then he also probably had something to do with Mike’s disappearance. I wondered where someone could keep drugs where others wouldn’t find them or maybe hide a body in a hurry. I thought of the Jones Building and decided that I would take a look to at least satisfy my own curiosity.
I pulled up outside of the building. It was a gaunt looking structure with a metal roof and had obviously seen better days. it was probably about 100,000 square feet of workable space. The owner was going to turn it into a factory to produce solar panels. All we were doing was the absolute necessities to keep the place waterproof and lockable but it did entail bricking up several openings and cutting a couple of new overhead doors and a general do over without spending any money. It was impossible to work out a set price so I had the work under an hourly work arrangement where I would get reimbursed plus profit for doing the work. The owner did not plan on setting up until the following March so we had a lot of time to get things done.
I decided to walk the entire place to check on my list and make sure I had covered everything so that when I brought the crew here, they would have clear and concise instruction on just what needed to be done. I tried the elevators and both of them were working so the power was still on. I started at the top floor going into every room and making very detailed notes as I went along. I moved down to the second floor and worked my way back to where I had started the third floor taking notes all the way. I opened closets, tapped on walls for concealed openings, looked over ceilings and went over every square inch of the building with no success.
The ground floor I knew would be the most difficult as it was broken up with loading docks and storage areas. It even had some old metal vats that had been used for dyeing the material when it was a cloth factory. As a part of the project, the owners had me include getting rid of them and sell them for scrap. I walked along each vat which measured 6 feet by 6 feet and about 4 feet tall with a heavy metal lid to each one. There were about twenty of them in two lines and they should all have been empty except for trash. I stooped down to look underneath of them to see how they were anchored and spotted what appeared to be someone’s jacket back under the second row. There was something familiar about that coat that made me walk back between the vats to retrieve it.
It was Mike’s jacket that he usually wore when he was out with his buddies. I stood there with it in my hands and the familiar smell of decaying flesh reached me. Once you have smelled it, you can never mistake that smell again. When things die and start to decay, they stink. I opened up the vats one by one and was about halfway through and found Mike’s body. Even though I was looking for a body, it still made me jump when I found it. Closer inspection revealed both hands tied behind his back and shot gang style in the back of the head.
Leaving everything as I found it pretty much except for moving the jacket, I backed out of there and found a pay phone and called Detective Alsup and the local Police and went to sit down by the building entrance to wait for their arrival. I could hear their sirens as they approached and wondered to myself why they had them blaring out. The body was very dead and wasn’t going anywhere and I told them who I was and where I would be on the phone. I guess they were like little kids wanting to use their toys whenever they had the opportunity.
Detective Alsup was the first on the scene and sat with me as we waited for the others to arrive. he asked me a few questions as we sat there I think really just to fill in the time and to put me at ease for which I was very grateful. It is one thing to see a body that has been prepared for viewing as to find not one that had been executed in a most violent way. And in this small town that usually gets nothing more newsworthy than a drunken driver or a small burglary.
The other Police cars pulled up and out stepped three local cops who I knew well. I stood up and led the way back to what is now the crime scene and pointed out what I had found. I went over my exact movements so that they would know if any of the evidence where I had been was useable or whether my feet had trampled it. I pointed out where I found the jacket and then went and stood to one side as they did their work. They were very thorough and in no time flat had a Homicide Squad on site to do the investigations.