Robert Thornhill
Lady Justice and the Landlords' Nightmare


Lady Justice and the Landlords' Nightmare

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       Walt has his hands full battling animal abusers and a loan shark threatening to lop off a client’s pinky.

    But the real test comes when a landlord asks Walt to help him sue the City of Kansas City

which has passed the Tenant Bill of Rights which makes people with

evictions and criminal records a protected class.

    Due to this new ordinance, a rent-dodger with a history of evictions has moved into a client’s building.

    As the case progresses, Walt soon realizes that this new ordinance and the people it protects are a landlord’s worst nightmare!




    “Any prospects?” Kevin asked.

    Kevin McBride is my partner in Walt Williams Investigations. He was inquiring as to the possibility that I had somehow stumbled upon a new client requesting our services.

    “Not a one,” I replied. “Are you upset?”

    “Not really,” he said, grinning.

    Since both of us are in our mid-seventies and financially secure, the absence of work is not exactly an earth-shaking event.

    My wife, Maggie, on the other hand, is still actively employed as a real estate agent at City Wide Realty. I was also an agent for thirty years until ten years ago when I traded my brief case for a badge in the Kansas City Police Department.

    That lasted until I took a bullet in the kiester. After five years on the force, I retired and at the urging of Kevin, founded the firm, Walt Williams Investigations.

    Some days, like today, I feel a pang of guilt. Maggie was off to work right after breakfast and here I sit, shooting the breeze with her brother and my partner, Kevin.

    I was about to suggest we head to Mel’s Diner for pie and coffee when the phone rang.

    “Walt Williams Investigations. How may I help you?”

    “Mr. Williams, my name is Pamela Fishburne. I’m with KC Pet Project Campus. Your name was given to me by Captain Short. I was hoping you could help us.”

    Captain Short was my commanding officer during my five years on the force. Since I retired, he has sent several clients my way.

    “Certainly,” I replied. “It just so happens that my partner is with me right now. Can you come by our office?”

    I gave her the address and she said she’d be there in twenty minutes.

    “There you go,” I said, hanging up the phone. “Ask and ye shall receive. A new client will be here in twenty minutes.”

    Since our office, which we share with Maggie, is in the third bedroom of our apartment, the twenty minutes was just the right amount of time to tidy up the place.

     “Ms. Fishburne, I’m Walt and this is my partner, Kevin. Please have a seat. How may we help you?”

    “Please call me Pam,” she replied, pulling some photos from her purse. “I think these will explain our problem better than anything I could say.”

    The first photo was of a dog lying in a pool of blood.

     “This poor creature was shot.”

    She handed me a second picture.

     “This one’s head was crushed with that rock.”

    The third photo was of a cat.

     “This poor thing was poisoned. I could go on but I think you get the picture.”

    The cat made me think of Clarence the Cat, a feline that had come into my life a year or so ago and helped us solve a series of grisly murders.

    “This is horrible! Who’s committing these atrocities?”

    “That’s the problem. We don’t know. All we know is that these three animals and several others have been found in the same neighborhood. It’s most likely the work of some sadistic neighbor.”

    “This sounds like a police matter,” Kevin said. “Surely there are laws against this type of cruelty.”

    “Oh, there are,” Pam replied. “There are state and local laws. In Kansas City, an animal cruelty conviction can result in a $500 fine and up to six months in jail. In November, the president signed a law that makes animal cruelty a federal felony offense with heavy fines and up to seven years in prison. Animal control has written over 2,800 citations so far this year.”

    “Like I said,” Kevin repeated, “this sounds like a police matter.”

    “In a perfect world, it would be,” Pam replied, “but unfortunately, our world is far from perfect. No doubt you follow the news. Kansas City is on track for a record number of homicides this year. More than fifty percent of them are still unsolved. As much as the police department would like to help us, they have to allocate their resources and manpower to the most pressing issues. Unfortunately, dead people must come before dead animals. That’s why Captain Short referred you to me.”

    “So,” I said, “you want to hire us to track down the creep that’s butchering these poor animals.”

    “Well, you’re half right,” she replied with a sheepish look on her face.

    As soon as I saw the look, I knew what was coming.

    “The problem is,” she continued, “Pet Project in a non-profit organization. We’re able to do what we do because of our many volunteers and the generosity of the Kansas City community. In fact, next year we’ll be moving from our cramped quarters on Raytown Road to a brand-new facility in Swope Park across from the Lakeside Nature Center. We have been able to expand our services because the community has donated over five million dollars in cash and almost five million more in pro bono services. I know this is asking a lot, but ---.”

    “But you were hoping we’d donate our services to this worthy cause.”

    She nodded. “Captain Short said you have a big heart.”

    I looked at Kevin. His first reaction was a weary eye roll. Then he looked at the photos again and nodded. He likes to put on a tough exterior, but inside he’s an old softie.

    “We’d be glad to help,” I said.

    “Oh, thank you so much! Every time I see an animal mistreated, it breaks my heart. I hope you can catch this depraved person and he gets what he deserves.”

    Before she departed, Pam gave us the location where the carcasses were found.

    “Well, there you go,” I said. “You wanted a new case and now we have one.”

    “Yeah, but I was hoping for one with a paycheck at the end.”

     We were parked on Garfield in the Ivanhoe neighborhood of Midtown Kansas City, armed with trail mix and a thermos of coffee.

    “You know,” Kevin said, taking a sip from his steaming cup, “we could sit here for days waiting for some creep to whack his next dog.”

    “If you have a better idea,” I replied, munching a mouthful of seeds and nuts, “I’m all ears.”

    “How about a door-to-door canvass?”

    “Excuse me ma’am. Did you happen to see a guy bludgeon a dog to death with a big rock? Like that?”

    “It does sound pretty lame when you say it like that. Besides, now that I think about it, I doubt anyone would want to get involved even if they did see something. It’s probably not healthy to get crossways with a guy who offs furry little creatures.”

    I pointed down the street. “Maybe we just got lucky.”

    A few houses away, a grey cat burst onto lawn followed by a guy in hot pursuit. The guy made a grab but the cat was too quick. He leaped into the air and hit the ground running. The man didn’t have a chance. The cat darted under a hedge and made a bee line for a porch two houses from his pursuer. He slipped through some lattice work and disappeared under the porch.

    The man looked up and down the street but the cat was already out of sight. Uttering a string of profanities, the man turned and strode back into his house.

    “Think that’s our guy?” Kevin asked.

    “Could be,” I replied, “or it might just be some poor schmuck whose cat just ran away.”

    “So what now?” Kevin asked.

    “Let’s see if we can catch the little critter. If he’s fat and well fed, that’s one thing. If he looks abused, we might have something.”

    I grabbed a flashlight and my bag of trail mix and we headed to the porch. I got on my hands and knees and inspected the lattice work where the cat had disappeared. Fortunately, it wasn’t nailed on. I slid it aside, flipped on my flashlight, and peered under the porch. The poor cat was huddled in the far back corner, obviously scared to death.

    “Go get him,’ Kevin said. “I’ll hold the light.”

    “How about you go get him,” I replied, indignantly, “and I’ll hold the light.”

    “It only makes sense for you to go,” Kevin said. “You’re much smaller than me. I doubt I could even wiggle under there.”

    “I’d bet my Social Security check that there’s spiders under there, and you know how I feel about spiders. Maybe we can lure him out.”

    I tossed a handful of trail mix in his direction. “Here, kitty, kitty.”

    It was immediately obvious that the cat wasn’t interested in my offering.

    I had just slid out from under the porch when I heard, “What in tarnation are you fellas doin’ under my porch?”

    We looked up and an elderly woman in hair curlers was pointing a huge shotgun in our direction.

     “Holy crap!” Kevin muttered.

    “Uhhh, I can explain,” I stammered.

    “Well, it better be good,” she replied, waving the barrel of her gun.

    “We --- uhh --- saw a cat run under your porch and we’re trying to get it out.”

    “Your cat?” she asked, her eyes narrowing.

    I had to think fast. “Not exactly. The poor thing was being chased by this big dog,” I lied. “My friend here, chased the dog away. We were just making sure the cat was okay. I’ve been trying to lure him out.”

    She looked at the bag of trail mix in my hand. “With that?”

    I nodded.

    “What a damn fool. Cats don’t eat seeds and nuts.”

    “That’s all we had with us.”

    She thought for a minute. I breathed a sigh of relief when she lowered her gun.

    “Stay here. I’ll be right back.”

    “Thank God!” Kevin muttered. “There was no way I could explain to my wife how I got blown to hell by an old woman trying to rescue a cat.”

    A few minutes later, the woman returned. “Here,” she said, handing me a bag with a smiling kitty on the label. “Salmon flavored treats. That will get the poor thing out of there.”

    I wiggled back under the porch and tossed a few of the nuggets. “Here, kitty, kitty.”

    At first, he just stared, but then he must have gotten a whiff of the salmon. He inched toward it, sniffed, and gobbled it down. I tossed another one a little closer to me. It was working! I tossed another one and I could hear him purring. I took that as a good sign. After working him closer and closer, I finally held one of the treats in my palm. Cautiously, he sniffed my hand, then took the treat. I backed out and the cat followed. After offering another one, he allowed me to pick him up. I stroked his coat gently as he gobbled another treat.

    “Well, I’ll be damned,” Kevin said with wonderment.

    Then we both noticed something strange. All four of the cat’s paws were painted blue. The woman with the shotgun saw them too.

    “What kind of sicko dips their cat in blue paint?”

    “Good question,” I replied, “and why would they do it?”

    “Sounds like a question for Pam at the Pet Project Campus,” Kevin said.

    “They’re good people,” the woman said. “I got my cat there.”

    “Then that settles it,” I said, handing the salmon treats back to the woman. “Let’s take this little guy to see Pam.”

    The woman held up her hand. “No, you keep the treats. It’s a long drive to the Campus.”

    I thanked her, picked up the purring cat who was nuzzling the bag of treats, and we headed to the Pet Project Campus.

     At the campus reception desk, we were met by an elderly gentleman who’s name tag read, “Clark Kent, Volunteer.”

    “May I help you,” he inquired.

    I was hoping he wouldn’t, but Kevin couldn’t resist. “I thought you were a mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper.”

    Clark grinned. “Not the first time I’ve heard that one. You’re showing your age you know.”

    “Sorry about that,” I interjected. “We’re here to see Pam Fishburne.”

    “No need to apologize,” he replied. “A philosopher once said, ‘Live your life with color. Use the whole box of crayons.’ Your friend here was just coloring outside the lines a bit. Another wise sage said, ‘We teach children to color inside the lines then expect adults to think outside the box.’ Something tells me your friend has no trouble thinking outside the box.”

    We both just stood there with our mouths hanging open. “Uhhh --- Ms. Fishburne. Is she in?”

    “She is indeed. Who may I say is asking for her?”

    I handed him my business card. “Walt Williams and Kevin McBride.”

    He gave it a cursory look. “Jay Danzie said, ‘Your smile is your logo. Your personality is your business card. How you leave others feeling after having an experience with you is your trademark.’ I’ll let Pam know you are here.”

    “Well, that was weird,” Kevin said as we watched Clark amble down the hall.

    “You started it,” I replied. “Mild-mannered reporter.”

    A moment later, Pam appeared, Clark following in her footsteps. “Walt. Kevin. Have you found something?” Then she noticed the cat in my arms. “Oh my goodness! Please come to my office.” Then she turned to Clark. “Did you call Mrs. Wilkins and tell her that Sparky is ready to be picked up?”

    I saw the befuddled look on his face. “To tell the truth, I’ve learned two very important lessons in my life. I can’t recall the first one, but the second is that I need to start writing things down. I’ll get right on it.”

    After we were seated, Kevin remarked, “Clark is --- very interesting.”

    “Clark is definitely different,” she replied, “but he has a heart of gold and is one of our most valuable volunteers. Now about the cat. Where did you find it?”

    I recounted our story about rescuing the poor creature from under the porch. “We weren’t sure whether the cat was being abused or just scooted away from its owner. Then we noticed the painted paws and figured we’d better bring him in.”

     “You did the right thing,” she replied, her brow furrowing. “Unfortunately, you may have uncovered something far worse than simple abuse. Let me show you.”

    She opened a file cabinet and pulled out some photos. They were of kittens painted different colors.

     “Good grief!” Kevin muttered. “Why would someone do this?”

    “Unfortunately,” she replied, “these poor things were being dangled as bait in a dog-fighting ring. They are colored in various hues so spectators can easily place bets on the order in which these innocent animals will die. I have no doubt you saved this poor guy from a terrible mauling.”

    I had heard of cock fights and dogs being pitted against one another, but I’d never heard of an atrocity as unimaginable as this one. Needless to say, we were both shocked.

    Kevin was the first to speak. “So somewhere out there, a group of assholes are getting together, putting painted kittens in a ring with a vicious dog, and betting on which kitten will die first.”

    She nodded. “It’s the most horrific kind of animal abuse I can think of.”

    Kevin turned to me. “You up for this?”

    “I can’t think of a better way to spend our time.”

    Pam looked at us gravely. “If you’re going to do this, be careful. These men are dangerous.”

    “Thank you. We’ll keep you informed of our progress.”

    As we were leaving, Clark, who had obviously been eavesdropping on our conversation with Pam, said, “Having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness. Go get those bastards!”