This is the serialization of my first mystery novel, Null_Pointer. It will be released on this blog every work day until it is complete. You may purchase the novel at Amazon, Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords or order it from any brick and mortar bookstore near you. Thank you for reading it and I hope you enjoy this free look at the book.
You can find all the chapters of this book by searching for the Null_Pointer Novel tag.
As he walked up the front walk he was approached by Officer Samantha Nelson; a stout policewoman with a solid stance and a pleasant, round face.
“What do we have Sam?”
“Henry Levine, a white, elderly male, maybe in his seventies, shot in the head, execution style. No signs of a struggle and nothing out of place, as least as far as we can tell.”
They walked into the open garage and Plait immediately noticed the clutter. It was hard to miss. There were shelves of technical books all the way to the ceiling along the far wall of the garage. The two remaining walls were filled with drawers and cabinets that were overstuffed with electronics and parted out radios. It was the kind of junky garage that kids loved to explore and wives were ashamed of.
Lying on the dirty concrete floor was the victim. He was facing down, a small entry wound at the back of his balding head. There was enough gray matter and other fleshy parts on the floor to make looking at the exit wound unnecessary.
Plait looked around at the desks built into the wall of the garage. There were Ham radios stacked on wooden shelves and lots of paper logbooks. Everything looked like it was well used and well loved by its owner. Various test instruments surrounded a workbench that had the guts of a radio spread out like a large filleted fish.
“He must have been a radio hobbyist or something,” Nelson said, looking around the garage in amusement.
“They call them Hams, I believe. Who reported the body?” Plait asked.
“Lady next door, she was out in her back yard when she heard a shot and a car pulling away.”
Plait looked up at Officer Nelson.
“She didn’t get an ID on the car, sir. She came back inside and called 911.”
“Is there anyone else in the house? Relatives, spouse?”
“No sir, apparently he was a bachelor. The neighbor lady is waiting if you’d like to question her?”
Plait nodded. Whoever the man upset, he was pretty hard core, there was powder burns on the dead man’s head, indicating the killer was standing right beside him.
“This is Detective Plait, Mrs. Zigler. He’s investigating the murder,” Officer Nelson explained.
Mrs. Zigler was in her eighties and wore a polyester flower print dress and a knit sweater. She was sitting in her front parlor where she spent a good deal of her time, watching the traffic pass. She was a little hard of hearing and Officer Nelson spoke loud enough so she could hear her.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Zigler, I understand you heard a gun shot this afternoon?”
The woman slowly nodded. She was visibly upset by the day’s events and kept shaking her head.
“Yes, I was out in the back yard with Muffin. She was doing her business and I was putting sunflower seeds in my bird feeder.”
Plait took a knee before the woman and wrote notes in his wire bound notepad.
“Do you remember what time it was?”
“Why yes, I do. I always put Muffin out at three in the afternoon. Today was no different.”
Plait looked up at Nelson who was smiling. Sometimes luck was on their side, other times it was not. He jotted down the time.
“Did you hear any voices coming from Mr. Levine’s home while you and Muffin were outside?”
She furled her brow and looked at him astonished.
“No, I can’t say that I did. Got hearing aides you know.”
Plait smiled at the woman who honestly thought he was a little slow.
“Mrs. Zigler, did Mr. Levine have many visitors in the last week, as far as you know?”
She glanced out the window and watched a car pass by. “He doesn’t get many visitors at all these days. Margaret died oh, about two years ago now. He mostly just stays in his garage and fiddles with those old radios of his.”
Plait looked around her dining room. The furniture was from the nineteen sixties and so was the decor. Muffin was sitting on a cushion seat nearby, a small white poodle. An ambulance pulled in next-door and the dog’s ears perked up and she moved over to look out the low main windows. The dog stood tall enough to see clearly over the windowsill.
“Does Muffin notice when she sees Mr. Levine’s car come home?”
“Oh yes, we keep a pretty good eye on the neighborhood, Muffin and I,” she said, petting the poodle on the head.
Detective Plait stood up and thanked the old woman for her time. They only told her that her neighbor had been shot, they did not explain how for fear of upsetting her further. Perhaps a detailed study of Mr. Levine’s personal records would turn up something.
Back inside the old man’s house, Plait went over items on the desk in the den. It was where Henry paid his bills. There was an old PC that looked like it was purchased over a decade ago. He picked up some of the papers on the desk and skimmed through them, bills mostly. He was looking for some kind of documentation that would indicate any sort of criminal activity.
He nudged the mouse of the computer by accident and it snapped the monitor to life. On the screen was a web browser opened to Craig’s List, a popular on-line classified site where you could buy and sell things to people directly. He looked closer at the item on the screen. It was registered to Henry Levine and it was some kind of electronic device. Plait got out his glasses and put them on so he could read the tiny print on the screen.
It was a cell-phone jamming device of some kind. Henry was disappointed with the device and was looking to unload it at a fair price. There were no takers for the item, not even a comment; the site was pretty bare bones. Damn, that would have been too easy. Then he thought about email, Craig’s List customers primarily emailed each other about sales. He opened Outlook Express and scanned the latest emails for cell phone jammers. Nothing.
There was another Ham radio on the desk, a hand held model that was still on. He picked it up and thought about it for a second, maybe the killer was a Ham and they met on the air. Plait wrote down the frequency number displayed on the face of the little Yaesu handy talkie. He knew a Ham back at the precinct that may be able to tell him what the number meant.