Tiger Charlie found himself being hauled in for the murder of his best hooker. He was out of place, six-two with blond hair and blue eyes, but then the recession had hit everyone hard. Still, hitting it big as a pimp had kept him from rising back to the top of his original profession. When Michael had first come to the Crescent City, Charlie had been one of the city’s top lawyers.
A Cocaine problem, along with a corruption sting had taken him down. He had earned the nickname Tiger Charlie in court. One judge had been quoted as saying “Charlie Le Barron was like a stalking tiger, always ready to pounce and attack his opponents.” And so, the nickname was given to him, and he worked it for all he was worth.
The corruption sting was just the beginning of his troubles. At the height of his career, he had been deputy prosecutor. His future had been limitless. Then, the sting hit and he fell.
He had been video taped taking bribes from high profile criminals. Money. Drugs. Sex. Whatever they had to give.
He lost his position and his license. Then his wife and kids left. From there, he slid into cocaine and heroin use. Doing lines and injections became his daily routine. Anything to take away his pain. And his guilt.
Michael knew that Charlie had killed anyone who got in his way while he built his little brothel. He called it his gentleman’s club, operated out of his slowly decaying mansion. High class, high dollar call girls. Lovers for hire.
It was no secret that most of the city’s high profile men were clients. Charlie’s connections were state-wide. Just went to prove how deep the corruption actually ran. But then, Louisiana and her cities were best known for outright decadence. Corruption of her officials was no new thing. It had been present even in her beginnings.
And now, Charlie had driven the last nail into the coffin containing his freedom. His prints were on the murder weapon. The bullet matched his gun. And there had been blood in the backseat of his Caddy. Apparently, he had beat her to death there. Panicking, he took her body to the alley and shot her to make it look as if she had been beaten and shot by a john. But his knuckles bore the bruises from the scuffle.
Michael smiled grimly as he stared at Charlie. “It was your gun, Chuck. She was your hooker. And your hands bear the scuffs and bruises from the beating. Wanna come clean? Was it the Coke that made you jealous? Or did she refuse to give you every cent?”
Charlie cracked. He knew he was going down for the last time. “It was the junk, Man. I swear it was the junk. It makes me mean. Nasty mean. Shoulda never started on it. Mainline is deadly fun, but screws with you. Twists you into knots. Angry knots.”
“Why, Chuck?” Mike was still trying to make sense of the pimp’s ramblings. “Why her?”
“Mandy was holdin’ out,” the pimp was still mumbling, “on everything. When I wanted her, she had other things. Other clients. An’ I was her boss. I come first. My wants. My desires. My needs. they come first.”
“No, Chuck,” Michael replied, “you do not come first. Mandy had a child. The child came first. Now the child has no mother. And she was paid to have clients. Not to fuck you.”
“But she was the best I had,” Charlie was in full meltdown, “She knew what I liked. How I liked it. And when I was in the mood for the freaky.”
“You’re a sick man, Chuck,” he found himself saying, “You kill the only woman who knew you and now you fall apart. You are truly sick.”
“Yes,” the pimp mumbled, the coke now wearing off and his resolve gone, “I killed her. But I know something you don’t.”
“And what might that be, Chuck?” Michael looked at him skeptically.
“I know who the man was in the alley,” the pimp began, “the one who was killed, along with the woman, by your officer. I know who he was. But not her. She was a mystery. Always changing her name. Playing nasty little games. A real psychopath waiting to be released.”
“The woman or the man?” Michael was now listening.
“The woman,” Charlie was saying, “She was a work of art. Really. But I–”
“Who was the man, Chuck?” the detective was starting to take notes.
“she only knew him as Mark,” the pimp continued, “But his name was Matthew Di Matteo. He was Mafia. She was his moll. I was his contact. Her real name died with Matt. She was posing as his fiancee, but he was really married.”
Di Matteo. The name made Michael shiver. One of the most notorious Mafia families in the States. Dangerous. Deadly. Ruthless.
Good thing Nelson was dead. Otherwise, the Di Matteo family would be down on New Orleans like a plague of locusts. Maybe they still would be, once this was all finished.
“The woman didn’t die, Charlie,” Michael allowed, “But I need you to tell me why they were here and what our dead officer had to do with their being here.”
“Your dead cop was no cop,” Charlie replied, dazed, almost in shock, “He wasn’t even who he claimed to be. Celeste, that was Matt’s moll’s name, knew the man. Had the dirt on him. Was blackmailing him. Wanted him to pay for her silence.”
“And how did she know who he was?” Michael was still writing everything down.
“Detective,” Charlie’s blank eyes turned to him, “he messed up once or twice before and left a victim alive. He wasn’t as careful as he thought. Celeste was one of those victims. She was out to get payback. And Matt, being the guy he was, was willing to help her.”
“Really.” Mike’s question came out as more of a statement.
“Yes,” the beleaguered pimp replied, “And I was there to make it all seamless.”
Suddenly, it was all making sense. Celeste, now calling herself Misty, had been Nelson’s victim twice before. Those attacks had turned her cold and calculating. Now, this last one may have just pushed her over the edge, into insanity.
God, he hoped the Di Matteo family would stay away until he had this case finished. Last thing New Orleans needed was to have that particular family tearing it apart looking for a murderer who was already dead. he looked over at Danforth.
“Book ‘im,” he stated, “then send him on back. Then get Marcel and Reilly. We have a problem.”
Danforth nodded and took the pimp, who was now going into shock, into custody. “I’ll see that he is placed in rehab until his hearing. Don’t think he will try much running.”
Michael nodded, then looked down at his notes. Finally. They knew who the murdered man was. But they were no closer to who their Jane Doe was. The more answers he found, the more questions he had. Who was Celeste Donner?