O’Shay talked to Sampson while the butler went inside. They had decided they would check out the floral shops around town. After all, how many Spanish men come into those places to buy green gardening string? The last place they went was the hospital to visit James Neely Senior. It was time to find out the real deal.
O’Shay pushed the door open to Mr. Neely's room. Immediately his nostrils took in the aroma of strong-smelling alcohol. He hated hospitals; he wanted this over quick. The television blared away with Mr. Neely sound asleep, his head to one side, and the remote control in his right hand. The two detectives walked to his bedside quietly. A cast cradled his right leg.
"Should we wake him?" Sampson asked.
"We need to. He needs to tell us about his ex-gardener." O’Shay tapped Mr. Neely's good shoulder. "Mr. Neely?" He bent down. It took a minute or two to wake him. His eyes slowly opened and he stared at the detectives with confusion.
"What do you want?" he said, obviously in no mood to talk to anyone.
"Sir, we're sorry to bother you, but we have a lead in your son's murder. We need to ask you some questions about last night's burglary."
"I already told the police everything I know. Please, leave me alone. Can't a person have any privacy? I'm in a hospital for crying out loud."
"We know and we're sorry again for bothering you. We think we have a suspect for James's murder." Mr. Neely sat up straight, wincing as he cradled his injured shoulder.
"Oh. Well then speak up." O’Shay couldn't stand haughty old men that thought the world revolved around them and their money.
"Sampson and I found a piece—well, several pieces of green string in front of your son's apartment door. We took it to forensics where they identified it as string that gardeners would use to tie plants around, in a stake. We traced it back to your home, in your own garden and found the same string tied around some vegetables. The butler, Mr. William’s, told us about the gardener you had a few months ago. Your son fired him when he found out that he was stealing from you." He stopped to let it sink in. Mr. Neely nodded, motioning him to continue. Sampson stepped in.
"Mr. Neely, we believe that your son was murdered not only because he fired the gardener, but because he knew something and was going to inform the police. The gardener used the string to bolt your son's door from the inside. He had to have shot him, opened the door, tied the string around the knobby part of the bolt and then shut the door. The string would have then slid across, bolting the door locked from the inside." Mr. Neely shook his head.
"Why didn't anyone come when they heard the shot"? O’Shay looked at Sampson.
"There was a teenager, but she was scared—as anyone would be—hearing a gun go off right next door. The apartment complex is small. There were only two other occupants and they weren't there. I‘m sure this gardener...what is his name?" O’Shay felt stupid calling him "The Gardener” constantly.
"Manuel Felipe. He was a foreigner, I think from Jamaica or somewhere like that," Mr. Neely said.
"Thank you. Manuel, I‘m sure, made certain that no one was there at the time of the murder. The teenager, fourteen-year- old Jessica was asleep when she heard the shot. She has declined to discuss anything with us." O’Shay watched as Mr. Neely's eyes went to Sampson and then back to him.
"Well, what do we do now?"
"We need you to tell us what Manuel looked like, any distinct features he has." Sampson pulled out a small notebook from his back pocket.
"Let me see...He has black hair, his skin is dark, obviously. He's not that tall, maybe 5'10. I think his eyes are brown." O’Shay knew a hundred guys that looked like that.
"Mr. Neely, can you be a little more specific? Did he have any scars, tattoos, anything that would make him stand out?" Mr. Neely shook his head. They needed more to go on. "Do you know where he went to get his supplies, a shop around town maybe?" Mr. Neely looked as if he were contemplated his questions.
I’m not sure...actually he had a delivery person, a boy— looked like a teenager—bring all the supplies to my home. I think it was A&P Nursery, something like that." O’Shay thought he knew the place.
"How often did he make deliveries?"
"Oh, probably twice a week, sometimes it was three times a week or more."
An alarm went off in O’Shay' head. "Why would he make that many deliveries in a week? What did he deliver to the home?" O’Shay was filled with questions. Something didn't feel right. His gut instinct screamed that there were more than just floral deliveries going on.
"I don't know why. I didn't deal with him, James did. He was the one who oversaw all that stuff." Pieces were starting to fall into place. O’Shay knew now that James was murdered because of something much bigger that went on. O’Shay looked at Sampson. They were thinking the same thing: talk to the delivery boy.
They thanked Mr. Neely for the information, told him they would keep him informed and left the hospital.
O’Shay pulled up in front of A&P Nursery. There were a few cars, but the delivery truck caught O’Shay attention. A kid, about seventeen, eighteen sat in the driver's seat; his sandy brown hair reached his shoulders. Hard rock music filled the air, as O’Shay noticed his head bobbing up and down to the music. He looked to be writing something, as they approached the truck. O’Shay tapped on the window. The kid rolled it down. O’Shay flashed his badge and the kid got out.
"Hi. My name is Detective Rick O’Shay and this is my partner, Matt Sampson." Sampson nodded his acquaintance. "We understand you make deliveries for A&P Nursery."
"Yeah..." He looked confused.
"We need to ask you a few questions. We understand you made deliveries to a James Neely Senior at 145th Cooper road in Scottsdale. You made the deliveries to someone named Manuel Felipe. He was the gardener for Mr. Neely." O’Shay stopped, waiting for recognition to surface. He stood there, thinking and then snapped his fingers.
"Oh...I think I remember now. Yeah, he had me deliver up to three times a week, to different places to. He always had large orders: trees, flowers, seed, and supplies that sort of thing. I don't know why, I just thought he had other jobs." O’Shay’s heart started racing. This was sounding more and more like a sting operation.
"Did he seem cautious about anything? Did you notice other people helping him with the orders?"
"Yeah, I think there were at least two or three men there helping bring plants and stuff in." The kid put his hands in his pocket. He seemed uncomfortable.
"One more question. We need those addresses, if you have them." Now the teenager looked confused. O’Shay read his mind. "Let's just say there might be something big going down, something that needs to be kept quiet. We would appreciate it if you kept this conversation between us, if you know what I mean. I would hate for you to get involved in something illegal and even deadly." The kid's face went pale and he stared at the cement.
"Yes sir." O’Shay thanked the teenager after he jotted down the addresses. There were several. O’Shay stared down at his watch. It was five-fifteen. He and Sampson had a long night ahead of them.
"So, do you think we will find this Manuel Felipe around here?" Sampson asked while they circled the street. They had already been to five. This was the last place. The first addresses were either in a back alley of some sort—which O’Shay thought was just a transfer place from one vehicle to the next—or empty warehouses. O’Shay guessed they were in use once upon a time, but were deserted now.
"I hope so. The chief has back up set to take him or more likely them down. There are only three houses along here." The address was located in a cul-de-sac; perfect, if you didn't want to stir up trouble. One of the houses occupied a blue metallic Monte Carlo and silver Beretta. A fifteen-foot speedboat sat at the side of the house.
"Let's stop here and watch the houses for a bit. Hopefully this Manuel Felipe either lives here or someone that does business with him." O’Shay turned the car off. It was past eight p.m. He hoped tonight they would do something. Time seemed to tick by slowly. After an hour, O’Shay yawned, looked at his watch and sighed.
"We might be here for a long time."
"I think you’re right." Sampson said.
"So, tell me about yourself. Are you married?" O’Shay didn't know what else to say and he realized he didn't know a whole lot about Sampson. For a while, he was caught up in his own life and misery. It wasn't fair to Sampson, he knew that, but it didn't seem like he could get buddy-buddy with another partner and then watch them get either injured or killed.
"I'm married, seven years." That caught O’Shay off guard. His eyebrows creased. He had to be older than twenty-two and as if Sampson could read his mind he said, "I'm twenty-seven, got married when I was twenty and had three kids. Mandy, who just turned six is in the school play, "Cinderella," in the spring. Marcie likes kindergarten, tells me it's a cinch." Sampson chuckled. O’Shay laughed a little too. "Karen, my wife, enjoys being home with three-year old Maddie." O’Shay smiled. It seemed Sampson had a nice life, nice family and nice job. O’Shay felt a little twinge of envy. There were times when he wished Sharon wouldn't have left that the relationship would have been stronger but they were both stubborn and selfish, and it only seemed like they cared about their own life; that could kill a marriage quicker, not too mention a child's relationship more than anything.
"Well, it sounds like your life is pretty good, eh?" Sampson nodded and then sat up, pointing to the house.
"A light just went on." Sampson said. A few minutes later, a man came out of the house. He peered down the street, glancing at his watch.
"Here's our man. He must be waiting for someone, maybe a shipment." The two eyed him carefully. Shortly after, headlights flashed behind him. "Get down." They both crouched down, waiting for the car to pass. As soon as it was clear, they got up slowly, watching. A large van had stopped in front of the house. Two men got out.
O’Shay rolled down the window. He thought they maybe could hear the conversation.
"Was anyone following you?" the dark-haired man asked. One man had dark brown hair; the other, black hair but taller than Mr. Neely described. The two detectives crouched down again. The man looked their direction.
"No. Listen, I got everything you need." All three went around to the back of the van. The driver opened it. There were small shrub trees, flowerpots and an assortment of packages, including large bags of plant fertilizer.
"Open the fertilizer bag." He pointed to the huge bag at the front. One of the men took out a knife and slashed a small opening in the top. The dark-haired man, who O’Shay thought to be Manuel, grabbed a handful of white.
"Man..." O’Shay whispered. The thing was filled with cocaine. O’Shay rolled up the window and picked up his cell phone.
"Chief, this is O’Shay. We hit the jackpot here on 10th street and Birch in North Phoenix. It looks like a major sting operation, bags of cocaine." He listened and then clicked the phone off. "He's sending back-up, but we have to be careful how we approach this." O’Shay couldn't rouse any suspicion, so he told the chief to have the officers turn off their headlights when they got to the street. O’Shay would dispatch them when the time was right. O’Shay and Sampson sat, watching all three men drag bag after bag into the house. O’Shay peered at his watch—it seemed—for the tenth time that night. The officers would arrive shortly.
"Ok, we need to wait until they’re in the house and then close in on them. Hopefully they’ll never know what hit em." O’Shay dispatched the chief and told him they were ready. O’Shay and Sampson got out as soon as they took the last bag in. A few minutes later, five police officers came down the street. They parked their cars in front of the house, surrounding the area. The swat team arrived shortly after. Several went around to the back and both sides of the house.
The swat team raised their guns and waited. The chief yelled loudly into the megaphone.
"We have the house surrounded. Come out with your hands up." There was Silence. No movement from the house, windows, nothing.
O’Shay sensed something was wrong. Without warning, a shot rang out from the side of the house.