Resident managers of a mini storage investigate complaints of a foul smell. They open the door to a unit and discover the gruesome remains of a dismembered tenant stuffed into a motorcycle’s saddlebags and trunk. A diamond found on the ground close to the victim’s unit seems to be connected to a former shady tenant two doors down. Will the perpetrators be found in time to prevent more murders?
She couldn’t believe they were actually here, yet the apartment was so familiar it felt as though they’d never actually left. So tired she could barely turn down the covers, she prepared to slide between the cool sheets and sleep, maybe for the next three days or so. Then she heard the noise from the front of the apartment. ‘Was that a gunshot?’ she said to one of the cats who, of course, didn’t answer but simply stared at her with big green eyes. Then she realized Lane was still outside! She tried to find some shoes to slip into to go out and check on him but by that time the front door opened and Lane stepped inside. ‘Was that a gunshot?’ she asked.
‘Yes,’ he answered. I saw the muzzle flash.’
‘Oh, Lord,’ she said. ‘Welcome back to Vegas”
Even though I used to be tattooed, wear my hair in a long braid with a bandana tied over the top of my head, and sport leathers, I was actually a nice guy. I never had a beef with anyone and most everybody liked me’at least those who weren’t put off simply because I was different and actually took the time to know me. I was well respected in my community and worked every day in a great motorcycle shop as an artist to personalize bikes for owners who were wowed when they saw my work. Never thought I’d end up hacked to pieces, stuffed into my favorite motorcycle’s saddlebags and left to rot in a storage unit in the Las Vegas heat simply because I drank a little too much and made a minor mistake, but then you know the old saying that 13 is an unlucky number…
Inch by agonizing inch the door rose. A hard shove finally rolled it to the top.
‘Whew. What’s that smell?’
‘Dunno. Maybe it’s just musty because no one’s been in here for a while.’
Dust and bits of fallen insulation lay thick on the contents of the storage unit, as well as the minimal amount of floor not covered by boxes, bags and other belongings. The long lines of units were not well insulated against the hot desert sun; however, the odor emanating from the open door seemed more pungent than mere aged, baked filth.
‘I don’t think so,’ I said. ‘It stinks too bad to be just burnt dust. Thank God it’s cooler out and not in the triple digits like summer.’ I performed a slow visual search and sniff of the place and discovered the area where the stench was most concentrated. ‘I believe the smell’s coming from the motorcycle.’
‘The motorcycle?’ said Lane in a quizzical tone. ‘It’s not dried up oil or something, is it?’
‘Nope,’ I answered after a short investigation. ‘It’s definitely not oil. Although some sort of crud has leaked from the saddlebags and the trunk.’
‘Well, let’s take a look around; see if we can find the keys.’
We separated. My husband went left; I went right. A thorough scan of my half of the unit yielded a small wooden box all but hidden by heaps of squashed cardboard cartons. I grabbed it from its niche on the floor next to one wall and opened to find what I anticipated was the desired object.
‘Hey’I dangled a key ring from the end of a finger’here’s a set of keys.’
He sidestepped through piles of belongings and grabbed the ring.
‘Let’s see if they work.’ He tried keys until’with a click’one of them opened the trunk of the dust-covered cycle. As though it protested revelation of the trunk’s contents, the lid defied his efforts to raise it. He persisted…then slammed it shut again, gagged.
‘What is it? What’s wrong?’ Then the smell hit me. I gagged. ‘Jesus, is something dead in there?’
He turned, gray-faced. ‘Yes,’ he managed to say in a near whisper.
It was my turn to feel the blood drain from my face. ‘Then that crud is…? You’re kidding, right?’
‘I wish I was. Let’s go call the cops.’
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