A manila folder sailed over the bonsai tree and landed in the center of Sergeant Joseph LaFiamma’s very neat, very
clean desk. He looked across the two desks backed up against each other and scowled at his partner.
“Anything you want to add to that?” Levon asked. Joe glanced at the bonsai, checking for any possible damage done
by the file in flight, then opened the folder and scanned the document inside.
“Nope,” he said as he tossed the file in his “Out” box.
Sergeant Levon Lundy leaned back in his chair and watched Joe straighten everything on his desk for the third time.
had just finished adjusting the distance between his phone and the corner of the desk when he realized Lieutenant
was watching him.
Lieutenant Joanne Beaumont seemed more relaxed than normal. The cream colored sweater she was wearing looked
comfortable and Levon noticed she was wearing jeans, something he had not seen her do since their days in the academy.
“You look very nice this morning, Lieutenant,” Joe said.
“Thank you, Joe.” She smiled slightly as she surveyed her detectives’ unusually neat desks and handed a new folder to
“What’s this?” he asked as he leafed through the papers inside.
“Your next assignment.” Levon closed the folder then casually looked up at Joanne.
“Did Brad get back from his business trip okay?”
“Yes, he did, Levon. Thank you for asking but don’t change the subject.”
“But this is a burglary at a warehouse.”
“Two warehouses,” she corrected.
“Lieutenant?” Joe questioned.
“One of which belongs to the Chief’s son-in-law,” she explained with a mischievous smile then returned to her office. As
she sat down at her desk, she watched her two favorite detectives.
Levon finished reading the file and appeared to be giving Joe a quick version of its contents. Joe threw his hands up in
mock surrender and they both got up and left.
Joanne knew the Chief didn’t just want answers; he wanted this case gone. He had already grown tired of hearing his
wife remind him that it was the least he could do for their only daughter. Joanne returned to her work confident the case was
in good hands.
As he maneuvered his truck through the city traffic, Levon glanced at his partner. Joe seemed to be starring straight
ahead but not really seeing anything. It had been a rather calm week for the Houston Police Department’s Major Crime Unit,
which had left Joe with plenty of time to worry about his aunt’s recent surgery.
“How’s your aunt?” Levon asked.
“She’s…fine, I guess.”
“Did you talk to her?”
“No, Uncle Mikey said she was resting.”
“And you don’t believe him?”
“No. I believe him,” Joe insisted. “It’s just that…I sometimes wonder if they’d tell me if it was really serious.”
“Because they’re afraid you’d go back to Chicago?” Joe looked over at Levon and answered with a slight shrug then
went back to starring out the front window.
Although Joe now claimed Houston as his home, Levon knew his partner would move back to Chicago in a heartbeat if
circumstances changed. Joe and his Chicago partner had run afoul of a group of well-placed members of the Chicago ‘mob’;
shots were fired and when the smoke cleared, two of the criminals and Joe’s partner were dead. For his protection, the
Chicago Police department took advantage of some sort of reciprocal agreement and shuffled Joe off to Houston. He was
safe in Texas but returning to Chicago would be a death sentence.
Levon was glad to see the sign for “Sterling Storage” because he had no idea how to relieve his partner’s concern.
“Mr. Warren, we’re going to need a list of your customers and what sort of things are being stored here,” Levon
“The officers who were here the other day already told me that,” the nervous young man explained as he handed Levon
a sheet of paper. “I can’t tell you what each unit contains because I don’t have that information.”
“You don’t ask what is being stored?” Joe asked.
“As long as it’s not hazardous, I don’t care.”
“Do you know how many spaces were broken in to?”
“It looks like only three. I’ve marked them on the list.”
“If any of your other customers find something missing, please let us know,” Levon asked. “Do you have any kind of
“Just a service that drives by the building at night.”
“AA Security?” Joe asked, reading off the paper in Levon’s hand. The man nodded.
“Thank you, Mr. Warren. We’ll be in touch,” Levon told him, as he turned to leave.
“I guess my father-in-law doesn’t think too much of me, does he?”
“We don’t know anything about that, Mr. Warren,” Levon assured him. “We’re just investigating a burglary.”
“Do you suppose there’s ever been a father-in-law who thinks his son-in-law is good enough for his daughter?” Joe
asked as they left the building and headed for Levon’s truck.
“None that I could ever think of,” Levon answered with a laugh.
AA Security was in a small building in a drab industrial park. The sign above the door boasted “Reasonable Rates -
24 Hour Service.”
A small bell clanged as Joe pushed the door open for him and Levon to enter causing the man behind a cluttered desk
look up and smile as the door shut behind them.
“What can I do for you fellows?” he asked.
“I’m Sgt. LaFiamma. This is my partner Sgt. Lundy. We need to ask you a few questions about a couple of burglaries.”
The man’s smile quickly changed to a frown as he leaned back in his chair and sighed.
“Are Sterling Storage and Jones Warehouse and Storage your customers?” Joe asked.
“We’ll need to talk to your drivers,” Levon said.
“Only one for that part of town. Andrew Burnett.” He pulled a file from one of his desk drawers and handed it to Joe.
“Is he here?”
“Doesn’t come in till ten tonight. But his address and phone number are in the file.”
The young woman who opened the door studied the badges Joe and Levon held up for her to see. A warm breeze
swept past the detectives and stirred the wisps of light brown hair that had come loose from her ponytail.
“Ma’am?” Levon prompted and she looked up at the detectives through tired eyes. “Can we speak to Mr. Burnett?”
She stepped back into the room leaving the door open for them to enter.
“Andy,” she called as she left the room. “It’s for you.”
While they waited, Joe and Levon looked around the small room. The furniture was plain and, except for a couple toys
on the floor, the room was neat. A small bookcase against a wall held mainly knickknacks and framed pictures, the largest
being a wedding picture sitting on the top shelf. Levon stepped closer to the bookcase and looked at the wedding
the frame alongside the picture. He wondered what had happened during their short time together to change the
happy bride in the picture to the sad, young woman who opened the door.
The man who entered the room looked almost the same as the groom in the picture, except now he was wearing jeans
and a wrinkled, white t-shirt.
“What’s this all about?” he asked.
“Mr. Burnett,” Joe asked, “Last night when you made your rounds did you see anyone hanging around the
warehouses? Or anything unusual or out of the ordinary?”
“No, everything was fine. Looked the same as always.”
“There were two burglaries last night at warehouses in your area. You’re sure you didn’t see anything at all?”
“If I had seen anything it would have been in the report I have to fill out before I come home.”
“Have you talked to anyone about your job or the places you patrol?”
“No. My job isn’t that interesting.”
“Mr. Burnett, two warehouses you’re responsible for were broken into,” Levon insisted. “I’d appreciate it, if you’d think
on it and try to remember. There must have been something different last night.”
“I’ll do my best, Detective Lundy,” Burnett answered as he looked at the card Levon handed him.
“We’ll be talking to you, Mr. Burnett,” Joe promised as he and Levon left.
When Levon pulled his truck up in front of Chicken’s it was past the regular lunchtime so the rustic restaurant with a sign
in the window promising “the best barbecue in Texas” was almost empty.
“Well, hello there, Detective Lundy and LaFiamma,” Chicken said as he poured coffee.
“Sorry we haven’t been around lately, Chicken. We spent this week doing all the paperwork we didn’t have enough time
to do last week,” Levon explained.
“Well, things just might pick up a little.”
“What’re talkin’ about, Chicken?” Joe snapped.
“A guy by the name of Benny Garrison was released a couple months ago and now it seems he’s been bragging about
some new enterprise he’s got going.”
“What kind of enterprise, Chicken?” Levon asked.
“No details. Just something big.”
“That’s not much of a tip, Chicken,” Joe added.
“Maybe so. But I thought you’d like the chance to stop something before it gets out of hand. “
“Thanks, Chicken,” Levon said.
“You boys want the usual?”
“That’ll do,” Levon mumbled as Joe nodded in agreement.
“Lundy, you have any idea who this Benny Garrison is?” Joe asked after Chicken left.
“Nah, doesn’t ring a bell. I’ll give Joe Bill a call. Maybe he can dig up something before we get back.”
“Ah, good,” Joe Bill said as Joe and Levon returned to their desks. “I was just about to leave and I didn’t want to write
all this down.”
“Leave?” Joe asked. “Where are you going?”
“My nephew has the lead in Streetcar Named Desire.”
“Isn’t that a little …heavy for high school?” Levon asked.
“He’s eighteen. He’s a senior.”
Joe chuckled as Levon shook his head in disbelief.
“What was it you didn’t want to write down, Joe Bill?”
“Oh, yeah. That Garrison guy just got out a month ago. He was in because he grabbed some lady’s purse and
her down as she came out of a drug store. He’s been arrested a couple times before, mostly petty stuff. He and a
the name of Brett Langley were suspects in a string of break-ins but we couldn’t get enough evidence to make an
the break-ins stopped when Garrison was arrested for the purse snatching. Haven’t found an address for Garrison,
an address for Langley in the file.” Joe Bill dropped a folder on Levon’s desk and started to leave.
“Hey, Joe Bill,” Joe asked, “have your nephew sign a program for me. Who knows, he may be the next Marlon Brando.”
“Are you sure they’re doing Streetcar?” Levon asked.
“Well, my brother says every time Jason passes a staircase he stops and says, ‘Stella!’”
As Joe Bill left, Levon sat down and began to look through the folder on his desk but Joe looked around the office
dropping down into his chair with a disgusted groan.
“Lundy, where is everyone?”
“What?” Rather than repeat his question, Joe opened his arms, palms up, broadly pointing out the empty office. Levon
frowned and glanced around the room.
“It’s nice and quiet. What’s wrong with that?”
“It’s too quiet. Makes me nervous.” Levon closed the folder and leaned back in his chair, still frowning.
“You worry too much, LaFiamma.”
“Great! You guys are back,” Carol said as she rushed out of Joanne’s office and over to her desk. She grabbed some
papers and then dropped them on top of the folder on Levon’s desk.
“I’ve talked to most of the customers at Sterling Storage and Jones Warehouse. I’ve written down the names of who I
talked to and what they said. The short version is it looks like mainly small items were taken. TV’s, VCR’s, kitchen
clock radios. You know, small stuff.”
“Easy to grab,” Joe continued.
“Easy to sell,” Levon finished.
“I’m sorry, you’ll have to take care of the rest yourself. I’ve got a plane to catch.”
“Carol, wait,” Levon asked. “A plane? What’s going on?”
“My sister’s getting married.”
“You have a sister?” Joe asked.
“Well, we haven’t really spoken to each other in a long time. We argued a couple years ago but, well, she asked me to
come. Maybe it’s time to forget the past, you know? Besides, she’s family.”
“Say no more,” Levon said. “Have a good time.”
“Nothing more important than family,” Joe agreed.
“Thanks,” she said as she gave both Levon and Joe a big hug before she rushed away.
“Let me see that folder, Lundy,” Joe asked. Levon handed him the folder then began to look through the papers from
“Joe, Levon,” the Lieutenant called from her office. They stopped what they were doing and went into her office.
“What have you got so far on the burglaries? Chief’s anxious,” she explained.
“I think it’s gotta be an inside job,” Levon said. “My money is on Burnett but we’ve still gotta prove it.”
“Nah, Burnett’s too easy. We got a tip on these two petty crooks, Garrison and Langley, and I really think it could be
them,” Joe said, “but like Lundy said, we still have to prove it.”
“Okay. Well, just keep me updated because the Chief calls every hour.”
“Oh, Levon,” the Lieutenant asked as they turned to leave. “Your father called.”
“Yeah. He didn’t leave a number or a message though. He just said he’d call you later.”
“That’s what he said.”
Joe watched Levon’s mood change as they returned to their desks. Levon sat down and just stared at the papers on
“It’s not your birthday,” Joe pointed out, causing Levon to scowl back at him.
“That’s what bothers me.”
“Do’ya think something’s wrong?”
“I don’t know. Probably just the booze, you know? I’m not gonna stay awake waiting for him to call.”
“Yeah,” Joe answered almost to himself as he picked up the folder in front of him.
Brett Langley shifted uneasily as he wiped his hands on his dirty overalls and his eyes moved from side to side as he
tried to avoid eye contact with the detectives.
“Mr. Langley," Joe asked, “have you seen Benny Garrison lately?”
“Nah, not since before he tried to grab that little old lady’s purse.”
“I thought you two were pretty tight.”
“The way I hear it,” Levon said, “you and Garrison had a pretty good case of sticky fingers.”
“I was stupid. He was just someone I met when I first got here. I only walk the straight and narrow now.”
“Straight and narrow?” Joe asked.
“Yes, sir. I’ve seen the light. I’ve found the Lord.”
Levon looked over at Joe then turned and left.
“Langley,” Joe said, “if you hear from Garrison, give us a call.”
“I told you trying to talk to those two was a waste of time, LaFiamma,” Levon reiterated as the two detectives burst
through the double doors into the Major Crimes Unit.
“Lundy, we’re police officers. We’re supposed to check every lead,” Joe insisted as they stopped at their desks.
“Besides haven’t talked to Garrison yet.”
Levon gave Joe his “let’s not have this conversation” stare while Joe just shook his head and sat down.
“We need to concentrate on Bennett,” Levon said.
“We need to find Garrison,” Joe countered.
“Waste a’ time.” .
“It’s our job.”
Levon watched Joe pick up a pencil and begin to write on a pad in front of him. Sometimes Levon thought his
bull-headed Italian partner was going to be the death of him; at other times, he knew it. Still watching Joe, he took off his hat
and set it on the corner of his desk then sat down.
Joe may have felt Levon’s stare, but he didn’t react. Sometimes Levon’s Texas stubbornness made him
crazy…actually…most of the time. From the corner of his eye he watched as Levon grabbed a manila folder, opened it and
pretended to read something inside.
Levon leafed through the papers in the folder without really seeing the words on the pages. He occasionally glanced at
his phone as if it would warn him it was about to ring. He only heard from his father once a year and he wondered why his
father was calling him now. He sighed and tried to concentrate on the case file in front of him.
Joe heard Levon sigh but didn’t need to look at him to understand what was on his mind. Since he’d moved to Houston,
Joe had gradually reduced the calls to his Uncle. Uncle Mikey had always been there when he was growing up in Chicago,
but calling a relative with connections to organized crime had proven to be a problem here in Houston. Joe missed the
with his uncle and worried about being left out of what was happening with his family.
“LaFiamma,” Levon demanded, “didn’t Langley say he and Garrison weren’t that close?”
“Both he and Garrison are from the same place.”
“They’re both from a town about the size of my backyard and they don’t meet ‘til they both happen to end up in
“So, Langley and Garrison are starting to look good to you?”
“I didn’t say that. I just don’t like it when I’m lied to.”
“We need to find Garrison.”
“We need to push Burnett.”
Joe stepped inside his apartment and switched on a light as he dropped his mail on a table. The light chased the
darkness into the corners of the room but still left long shadows in the quiet apartment. He turned on the stereo and listened
for a moment before heading to the refrigerator where he rummaged around for a moment, finally deciding on a small bottle of
juice. As he sat down on the sofa he began to open the bottle but the telephone on the table next to him caught his attention
and he forgot about the juice. After a moment, he set the bottle down and dialed the phone.
“Aunt Theresa!” His face lit up when his aunt answered and he settled back into the sofa. “Uncle Mikey told me you
were fine, but I just wanted to hear for myself.”
Joe had been at his desk for twenty minutes before Levon arrived. He pushed the double doors open and went straight
to his desk without making eye contact with anyone. Joe watched him sit down at his desk and pick up the messages sitting
next to his phone.
“Your dad called,” Joe said after a moment of awkward silence.
“Yeah,” Levon answered curtly, keeping his eyes on the slips of paper in his hands. Joe considered letting the
conversation end there, but changed his mind.
“Is he okay?”
“Says he is.”
Joe was not sure how to continue as he watched Levon drop the messages back on his desk then lean back in his chair
with a weary sigh.
“Says he has new job,” Levon continued. “He’s gonna move to Colorado.”
“Do you think there’s more to it than just a new job?”
“I don’t know,” Levon answered as he shook his head. “A few seconds on the phone doesn’t tell you a lot.”
As Joe and Levon stared at each other in silence, Lieutenant Beaumont came out of her office, walked over and leaned
against Levon’s desk.
“Well, guys, find out anything?” she asked.
“It was a waste of time, Lieutenant,” Levon responded without looking at her.
“I don’t think so, Lieutenant,” Joe insisted, “there has to be a connection. Maybe we just didn’t ask the right questions.”
“LaFiamma ………” Levon began.
The Lieutenant interrupted Levon’s potential outburst. “Well, maybe, this’ll help,” she said as she handed a slip of paper
to Levon. “Garrison’s parole officer came up with an address.”
Joe looked over at Levon with a cocky smirk. “Burnett or Garrison?” he asked.
“First Burnett, then Garrison,” Levon said.
As they stood up to leave, Joe Bill came into the office.
“Hey, Joe Bill,” Levon said. “How was your nephew?”
“Pretty damn good, actually. Here’s your program, Joe,” he said as he handed the leaflet to Joe.
“Next Brando?” Joe asked.
“Well, he’s definitely got a way with the ladies.”
“Tell us about it later,” Joe said as left the program on his desk then followed Levon through the door.
“Mrs. Burnett,” Joe asked when she answered the door. “Is your husband in?”
“He went out. He should be back in a few minutes.”
“Maybe you can help us.”
“All right,” she said, stepping aside to let them enter.
“Mrs. Burnet, have you had any money problems lately?” Joe asked as she closed the door.
“No, not really,” she answered as she watched Levon look around the room.
“Has your husband made any large purchases?”
“I don’t really understand what you’re getting at, Detective.” She didn’t look at Joe as she answered but kept her eyes
on Levon. He had walked over to the bookcase and was looking at the pictures. A baby cried and she shifted her attention in
the direction of the back of the house.
“Mrs. Burnett,” Joe began, but was interrupted by Levon.
“Mrs. Burnett,” Levon said as he moved towards the door. “I think we’ve taken up enough of your time.” Joe followed
his lead and moved towards the door.
“Thank you, Ma’am,” he said as he and Levon stepped outside.
“What’s goin’ on, Lundy?” Joe asked after they were in the truck.
“That wedding picture I told you about, the one with the invitation?”
“The church they were married at is in the same town that Langley and Garrison came from.”
“And Mrs. Burnett is the former Miss Langley.”
“Suppose Mr. Burnett is visiting Mr. Garrison?”
“That’d be my guess.”
“That’s it,” Joe confirmed as they passed a small white house.
Levon eased over to the curb and stopped. They watched the house for a moment before getting out of the Jimmy.
“Wait,” Levon said as Joe started to open the door. “There’s someone coming out.”
Three men came out of the house and got into an old, dirty pick-up.
“That’s our guys,” Joe said.
“You want to stop ‘em?”
“No, let’s see where they’re goin’.” Levon waited for the pick-up to move a ways down the street, then made a U-turn to
They drove for about ten minutes, eventually coming to an old, abandoned house. The pick-up pulled in front of the
house and stopped. Levon and Joe watched from a distance as the men got out of the truck and walked over to the
dilapidated garage. Andrews opened the front doors revealing different size boxes stacked from floor to ceiling. Joe and
Levon got out of the Jimmy and walked up to the garage.
“Looks like you boys have been at this a long time,” Levon said. The three men turned around, startled by Levon’s
voice. Burnett and Langley recognized the detectives and took off in an instant. Levon expected their attempt to escape and,
with a strategically placed foot near one man followed by a well-aimed fist at the second, effectively stopped their progress.
Meanwhile, Garrison slowly reached behind the door.
“Don’t even think about it,” Joe cautioned. The man turned to see Joe’s gun already aimed at him. He dropped the rifle
he had picked up and slowly raised his hands.
“This was too easy, Lundy.”
“Yeah, well, everyone gets lucky once in a while, LaFiamma.”
“There you go, Lieutenant,” Levon said as he dropped the file on her desk. “A complete inventory of everything they
had. We can probably link these guys to a couple old cases.”
“Good work, Levon,” she said.
“Lieutenant,” Joe said as he walked up to the door to her office. “These guys are so eager to make a deal they’re telling
everything thing they know about everyone they know. I think they stopped Langley at 1968.” Levon chuckled softly and the
“I think I’ve got something here you two can really sink your teeth into” she said ad she handed a folder to Levon.
stepped out of the office and opened the folder as he and Joe headed back to their desks. Before they could sit down,
breezed through the double doors. Both Joe and Levon smiled as she came up and said hello.
“Well, aren’t you a site for sore eyes,” Levon said.
“How was the wedding?” Joe asked.
“Great,” Carol gushed.
“Guess that means everything worked out with your sister?” Levon asked.
“You know, neither one of us could even remember what we argued about.”
“Nice to have you back,” Joe said.
“Thanks, guys. Missed you, too.”
Levon finished off his beer as Joe sank the last ball into a corner pocket.
“So, how many times have I beat you now?” Joe asked as he set the cue down on the table.
“I am,” Chicken answered as he took the empty bottle out of Levon’s hand. “And it’s time for you two to go home. I
other family to take care of, you know.”
“Night, Chicken,” Joe and Levon answered together.
“So, do you think your uncle is telling you everything?” Levon asked as they stepped outside into the cool, night air.
Joe turned to Levon and shrugged.
“Do you think your father is hiding something?” he asked in return.
Levon answered with the same shrug as they stood for a moment and stared at each other in silence.
“See ya in the morning,” Levon said as he turned to walk away.
“Yeah,” Joe agreed as he walked away in the opposite direction.