Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing

Ellen Denton - Wolf in Wolf's Clothing

Illustration: Innshark

fiction by Ellen Denton

It was a beautiful spring day when I finally left the dreary confinement of Folsom State Prison after doing a dime there for robbing a deli and hitting the elderly shop owner over the head with a billy club. I had a long to-do list, starting with 1) Walk as a free man in the great urban outdoors 2) Pizza 3) Get laid, but after that, numbers 4 to 250 would have to wait. I had a promise to fulfill, because I owed Bobby Duncan big time.

I’m not the goody-goody sort that cares about keeping my word, but he was my cellmate and saved my life three times over.

Bobby swore he wasn’t guilty of the murder of his girlfriend, Rita George. He was serving a life sentence for it, and the repayment he wanted for saving my life was for me to find out who killed her.

Prior to my getting stoned and doing the deli robbery for chicken-feed cash and a six pack of beer, I was a halfway decent cop. And prior to my getting busted back down to “halfway decent cop,” I was a pretty damned good detective.

Don’t get me wrong—I was actually a sack of crotch-wash as a human being. I skimmed money and drugs from wherever I could, took bribes, kicked criminals in the balls just for fun, and forced sex on prostitutes I’d busted. You name it; I did it. That aside, I had a knack for solving cases. It was a true gift and the only reason I was put up with on the force for so long.

My brother John had left $500 for me at the prison exit desk so it would be there when I was ready to walk out the door. It wasn’t because he felt warm and fuzzy toward me; he just didn’t want me showing up at his house asking for room and board or hanging around his family.    

I combed my hair back in the cheap motel room I’d rented and finished buttoning my shirt. I used some of the money John left me to get a cheap pair of slacks and some shirts. I couldn’t ever work for the police department again, but with my case-solving record, any private detective agency would kiss my shoes to have me. I had an interview that afternoon with one.

Working as a sleuth would not only pay the bills, but it would make it easier to do the “Bobby Duncan” favor. I still had plenty of people on the force who owed me one, who would slip me information, especially if they knew I was doing private detective work. I needed to see everything they had on the Rita George murder case.

I could tell from her file and the trial transcript, Bobby Duncan had a crap defense attorney. Neighbors had heard Bobby and Rita screaming at each other a couple of hours before she was found dead, so on the strength of that, and some flimsy circumstantial evidence, he was convicted. His public defender mainly sat with his thumb up his ass throughout the three-day trial.

There were other suspects that didn’t even get looked into or got a lick and a promise of an interview and sent on their merry way. There was Rita’s ex-boyfriend, Joey Mateo, who once threatened to kill her. He claimed he was at his mother’s place at the time of the murder, and she confirmed her only son’s alibi. There was an ex-con one floor down in Rita’s apartment building with a record of violence as long as an unraveled roll of toilet paper. No one even interviewed him. There were a few other “possibles.”

I did eeny meeny miny moe on the names and The Award Goes To: THE EX-BOYFRIEND. I decided it would be him.

After a visit to Bobby in the pen to get more information, and with what I already knew from the files, I had a plan in place.

I found this Joey and talked him up in the bar he hung out in, shot a little pool, and finally got to share some beers with him over a poker game at his place a few weeks later.

That’s all I needed—invites to his house, hearing how he talked, and samples of his handwriting. I got the latter by rifling through drawers when he was in the John.

A few weeks later, I told him I’d arranged for a couple of bimbos to meet up with us at his place, so when I arrived there ahead of time with a bottle of scotch, he was already stinking from cheap aftershave and had grease in his hair.

I used a heater with a jerry-rigged silencer to shoot him in the head, placed a crucifix in his hand, wiped down everything I’d ever touched in his apartment, and dropped the suicide note onto the table with his confession to Rita’s murder.

The note was the only hard part of it. I’d spent almost four hours earlier getting the handwriting to look just right.

Between that and some fancy footwork I did with planting evidence in the trunk of Joey’s car, it took two more years for the legal system to absolve Bobby Duncan and spit him back out of prison, but he DID get out; that’s the important thing.

Who cares if Joey Mateo didn’t actually kill Rita George? He COULD have been the one. For all I know Bobby Duncan did kill her himself. Is there anyone in prison who ever says they’re guilty of anything?

Sure I could have found out who did it for real, but I mainly just wanted to get square with Duncan fast. I had numbers 4 to 250 on my to-do list, though I’ve since cycled back quite a few times on the list to number 2—pizza—and that number 3 one.

Ellen is a freelance writer living in the Rocky Mountains with her husband and three demonic cats who wreak havoc and hell (the cats, not the husband). Her writing has been published in over 100 magazines and anthologies. She has had an exciting life working as a circus clown, a Navy seal, and an exotic dancer in the crew lounge of the Starship Enterprise. She was also the first person to scale Mount Everest to its summit. (Writer’s note: The 100-plus publication credits are true, but some or all of the other stuff may be fictional.)

This article originally appeared in the April 19, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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