|RAT TALE by Carl ‘Papa’ Palmer|
“Why do you have the picture of those headless mannequins over the mantle, Detective McDaniel?”
“Actually, this picture is the reason I was promoted to department chief, Bernadette. Got time for a story?”
The late Gordon Jefferson was found on the ground outside the exclusive Ridgeway Sports Bar. Lieutenant Ashley Matthews, Henry County Police Department, gave her report at the scene, the body at our feet:
“The victim is a 26 year old white male, single, software sales clerk, formerly employed at the new McApple Computer Outlet in the Aiken Summit Mall. Cause of death: multiple blows to the head with a small, blunt, square shaped instrument and impact to the asphalt here, obviously the result of falling or being thrown from the balcony directly above us. Robbery was not a motive. He had seven hundred dollars in his possession, a nice watch along with this fancy cell phone, apparently damaged from the fall.”
It was a NOKIA 8918 digital camera phone with a horizontal crack erasing the top portion of the screen, virtually decapitating the six identically dressed men in the picture apparently standing on the second floor balcony at the back entrance of the sports bar. Looking up toward the balcony, I could tell the picture was taken from the location where the body now lay. The men wore matching yellow blazers over brown trousers. The blazers bearing a familiar, yet unidentifiable, out-of-focused emblem embossed upon the left breast pocket. Even without his head, I recognized the gold and diamond initial ring sparkling on the finger of Ron Alexis Temple, RAT, and lead bully of the Rat Pack.
Ron’s computer store, Mouse Pad, had outlasted all the competition for varied and obscure reasons, reasons enough to get our attention here at the station. One store, The WWW Place, out on Mitchell Road, reported being sabotaged by that notorious gang of sales clerks from Ron’s computer store across town when all their monitors displayed the Mouse Pad logo and the machines would not reboot. The Rat Pack taunted the manager and strutted out the door as the workers and staff cowered in the aisles, knowing they had no real proof of a crime.
Byte Me, located up in Martinsville, had all their sales clerks quit the same day. The storeowner stated each clerk, including two women, had obviously been roughed up. He described their faces being riddled with ugly scabs, scars and bruises, each in the shape of a small square. They all had the same story, Ron and his Rat Pack, but were afraid and refused to make a police report or press charges.
Mitch, our crime scene photographer, snapped some close-ups of the dead man’s wounds and was able to transmit the headless photo from the phone’s damaged display to his laptop computer. One look at the now undamaged picture and we had our proof.
I gathered the former owners and employees of the victimized computer stores to review the photos. The enlarged pictures of the wounds matched the scars the brutalized sales clerks still carried and the impression taken of the infamous RAT ring. The unanimous identification of the once headless men, now sporting heads and the now focused Mouse Pad design on their matching yellow blazers would change their snazzy office uniforms to a jail house suit of black and white stripes.
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