Colton Banyon Mysteries (1-3 Box set)


 Published 10/05/15

Chapter One


Present Day


Colton Banyon rubbed the day-old growth on his rugged, but still handsome, face as he peered out the bedroom window. It was located on the second story of his home in the far Northwest suburbs of Chicago. He now lived in a small two-story townhouse condominium in the equally small village of Streamwood, Illinois. He had lived in better places, but life had brought him there. It was just before dusk on a sweltering day in early August. Where will life lead me now? He reflected on his past precarious life. Life was a cycle to him, too. It had ups and downs. His had been on a downslide for a few years now.

He noticed a large white van enter his street and park at the end of the small cul-de-sac near his residence.

It was too hot to go out and he didn’t want to sit at his desk anymore, having already spent the entire day calling people — “networking,” as it was called in business. He had checked all his websites, executive recruiters, and friends. There had not been one single job for which to apply for in the entire metro Chicago area. Money was now in short supply and like most fifty-something-year-olds, recreation was sometimes just thinking. He had been doing a lot of that recently. How have I gotten into this mess?

He was contemplating whether to sell the house to pay some bills or possibly going the all-American route and declaring bankruptcy. He’d received several ads from bankruptcy lawyers on the Internet. It depressed him that even they knew he was having financial difficulty. I’ll never get used to being poor again, but if I have to, I could start all over again? These are just material things in this house. I have lost possessions before. After all, two divorces can wipe a man clean.

As he continued to ponder his future as he examined the van. He noticed there were not any trade advertisements on it. It had no specific markings of any kind on it.

The sound of the van’s doors opening brought Banyon out of his reverie. Four men, with shaved heads and dressed in head-to-toe black outfits, exited the van. They appeared to be carrying small black boxes. The men headed across the street and toward his condo. They were only about fifty yards away.

Since it was just before dusk, Banyon strained to see out the window. He had a feeling that something was not right.

Banyon trusted his senses and they were screaming now. These men were not repairmen or servicemen, they were something else. He wondered if they were about to rob him. There had been several robberies in the area recently. Banyon watched as the men seemed to huddle and then turn toward his condo. Their movements were swift, showed planning and almost gave the impression of a military strike. As he stayed in the shadows, he observed silent hand signals. Two of the men broke away to circle around the house.

Banyon quickly ran to the back window of the second floor and arrived in time to see one of the men pulling the grate off the basement window well. This doesn’t look good, he thought.

Basement windows were the easiest and quickest way to enter the townhouse as neighbors would hear nothing and see nothing. The window was below ground level and was hidden from view in the window well. Banyon peered directly down into the window well. What he was able to see was terrifying. A man with a large swastika tattooed on his thick neck was pulling a ski mask over his head.

Banyon bolted from the window. With two men in the front and two in the back, there was no way out. The open plan of his house allowed anyone to see up into the second floor as soon as they entered the door. They would find him in a matter of seconds. He had to get away now. He didn’t even have time to grab his cell phone. It was on a charger in his downstairs office. The only way out was through the attic. He hoped it might take them some time to find the door leading up there. The access was located in the back of the second-floor laundry room. He was there in five seconds.

As he closed the door leading to the laundry, he heard the basement door open and footsteps roam to the front of the house. They would be checking all the closets, bathrooms, and under the bed in his downstairs suite before they went looking upstairs, he hoped.

Stealthily, Banyon climbed the stairs to the attic and emerged into a large open area. As he pushed open the attic window, it occurred to him that the window was at least fifteen feet above the short, steeply pitched lower roof. He would have to drop down right in front of the large picture window which he had been looking out of only moments ago. Dropping down was not an option for him. Ever since he had fallen off a roof as a child, and had hurt his knee, Banyon had nursed a fear of heights. The thought of jumping down on a pitched roof was terrifying.

His very survival depended on pushing back his fear. He realized that if he could stand on the window ledge, he might be able to climb to the top of the roof. Sweat stung his eyes. The prospect of climbing onto the roof deepened his terror. At well over fifty years old, he was not used to much physical exertion. Yet he had no other choice. He had to go, now.

Teetering precariously on the edge of the window, he groped for something to grasp. Even though he was six feet tall, he could barely reach over the roof’s edge. Finding nothing to use as an anchor, he realized he would have to hang from the roofs edge and slide, hand over hand, down the roof angle until he came to the much lower end. After about three feet, his hands were bloody. But he pushed back the pain and continued, thankful for losing thirty pounds a year ago. He was now a modest 190 pounds and could handle the strain on his muscles. Finally, he reached the end of the upper roof where he encountered a gutter and a two-foot drop to the lower roof. Here goes nothing, he thought. Letting go of the edge, he hoped to land on his feet. He hit the roof on all fours. To his surprise, he stuck.

He bolted up the roof and raced for the cinderblock wall which divided his house from the neighboring house. He vaulted over it easily. He then followed the roofline to the end of the townhouse. The unit at the end was but one story high. Sliding over the edge, he grabbed the satellite dish antenna attached to the wall and dropped to the soft garden. He ran for his life.

When he was a child, his family had lived in the woods. Banyon didn’t own a bike back then, so whenever he wanted to get anywhere fast, he ran. He ran many miles back in those days. Running had become second nature to him.

That was then, however. Now thirty years of smoking had taken its toll. Banyon knew he could not run for long, so he raced for the small stand of trees across the street and a block away. Once inside the woods, he stopped to catch his breath. Crouching behind a thick bush allowed him to observe the back of his townhouse without being seen. It was still light enough to see from his position and the streetlights had come on as he was running across the road. Temporarily secure, he tried to compose himself. He had to critically analyze his suddenly dangerous situation. What the hell is going on?

Who were these guys, and why were they robbing him? Was this really a robbery, or was it something else? Suddenly he noticed movement in the late dusk light. He slowly moved deeper into the trees.

He saw a lone figure standing on the roof of the townhouse, scanning the area. The figure then left abruptly. Banyon was frozen in position. If they are robbing my house, why is one of them on my roof? Colton Banyon had been accused of being paranoid more than once in his life, but he was really paranoid now. He could think of no one who could be considered an enemy. True, he owed some money, but not to loan sharks. His sardonic New York wit had, on occasion, pissed off a few people — but not on a criminal level. He was virtually an unknown in the small village of Streamwood. What should I do?

He could run to a neighbor, but this could put the neighbor at risk. He considered trying to get to a business or a public phone to call the local police, but it was about half a mile to the nearest business, a gas station. Too easy to stake out. Sometimes the best strategy was to do nothing.

The complex where Banyon lived was built around a circle with only one entrance and exit point. Banyon lived near the back of the complex, off of one of the many cul-de-sacs that branched off the main road. After a ten-minute wait, headlights appeared up the street. The van rounded the corner and drove right by the bushes where Banyon was hiding. The van was a Ford Aerostar. He could see Illinois license plates, starting with the letters GPG, but the numbers were too hard to see. This should give the police something to go on in tracking the men.

He wondered if any of the men had been left behind in the house while the others went to stake out the gas station, but decided no, that would leave the lone man vulnerable to getting caught. Banyon decided the most logical thing to do was to return home and call the police. While the men had seemed professional, they might have left some loose ends. Banyon rationalized they were after his valuables and no one would be in his house. He wondered what they had taken.

Cautiously Banyon crossed the road. He was careful to stay within the growing shadows. In a few minutes, he reached the basement window well and noticed the window and grate had been replaced. He ran around to the front door and found it locked. Why would burglars lock the door after leaving? And why would they take the time to replace the window well and grate? What is going on here? Turning his attention to the garage door, Banyon punched in the code on the keypad and the door obediently went up.

His Lincoln town car loomed large in the space. Nothing seemed to have been touched. If anyone were in the house, they would now know Banyon was in the garage. Banyon knew the garage door leading into his house was locked, but he also knew he always left his keys in the ignition of his car when it was in the garage. He went to the driver side and reached in the open window to grab his keys. As he pulled them out of the window, he dropped them.

When he crouched down to retrieve the keys, he noticed a small wire which was attached to the underside of his car. Although he’d never before seen a real tracking device, he’d read about them many times. The small black box with a wire antenna was secured to the rear of the undercarriage of his car. He suddenly recalled the men had carried small black boxes as they left the van.

Many stores offered products for protection, recording, and detection of movement. You could even buy some of those items at the local Radio Shack. But tracking devices? Banyon wasn’t quite sure where they were sold. Certainly ordinary thugs had no need to put tracking devices on the cars of their victims.

He now knew he could enter his house and there would be no one there. Although he was suspicious by nature, his paranoid meter was hitting maximum. Banyon, the businessman, dealt in high-level strategies and this was clearly one. The hair on his neck bristled as he silently opened the door. Were there listening devices in the house? What else could be in the small boxes the men had carried? Banyon understood that if they had bugged his house, the men would know when he was home, and could pick him up, kill him, or do to him whatever they had in mind. He had to hurry since the opening of the garage door might have set off some of the bugs.

After searching the house he discovered that nothing was out of place. He decided he had to leave quickly and needed his wallet, watch, and cell phone. After collecting them he went to wash the dirt and grime of his exertions off his face. The image that stared back at him from the bathroom mirror looked haggard. His green eyes had turned brown. It was a sure sign his emotions were raging out of control. He was frightened.

He ran to his office and hurriedly programmed the house phone to forward all calls to his cell. He wondered if he should attempt to find the bugs but decided to leave that to the police. He had to get out of the house immediately.

Back in the garage Banyon looked under his car for more bugs. He failed to locate any more. His organized mind was now in overdrive. Next on his agenda would be to find a place to stay. But first he needed to report the break-in to the police. He didn’t want to hang around his house, as the men might come back. The police station was only a mile away. But it was a place that he didn’t want to go. He had a history with the Streamwood police department. Once a criminal, always a criminal.

But if he took his car, the men would know he was on the move. He wondered if he could detach the tracking device and leave it in the garage. But if the men came back while he was at the police station, they would find it and the evidence would be gone. Suddenly, the solution seemed very obvious to him. He would take the bug off his car, and place it on the car of a neighbor. It was nighttime. No one would be going out, and the police could retrieve the device quickly. His neighbor’s car was just outside his garage. Carefully he removed the magnetized bug from his car, and carried it to his neighbor’s. Surely the people who monitored the bug would not notice a ten-foot change in location. He attached it to the bottom of the neighbor’s car. Satisfied with his handiwork, he jumped into his car, fired up the Lincoln and headed for the police station. He took a back road to avoid the gas station – just in case.

He tried to focus. Okay, what did he know for sure? The men were after something. If this was an ordinary robbery, why attach a tracker to his car? Why him — was it something he knew or owned or something he had access to?  It made no sense. His life was just business and his extended family. Almost everything he owned was new.  The last divorce four years ago left him with his clothes and a few artifacts from his departed parents. Everything else in his house had been bought within the last two years. He did have his father’s war medals and coin collection. Were they after his mother’s spoon collection? Maybe his old books were the draw. He did have his Russian grandmother’s atlas from the 1900s written in Cyrillic. He should have checked to see if anything was missing, but he was scared and in a hurry. He could check later. Suddenly a speed bump alerted Banyon that he was in the parking lot of the Streamwood Police Station.

Chapter Two

Many modern police stations do not have a receptionist to greet people anymore. Instead, regular duty officers with guns man the front desk. The Streamwood police station was smaller than most and had their regular officers rotate the watch. The village of Streamwood had less than five thousand people so everyone pitched in to cover. Besides, there weren’t many people who came through the door. As Banyon approached the desk he remembered that he had been there about a year ago. It was on September 3rd, to be exact.

That had been another horrible experience in his life. He had tried to bury the memory. But he recalled it like it was yesterday. It had all happened because Colton Banyon had decided to buy a home in the tiny suburb.

It started on the first day of August a year ago when Banyon and one of his employees had just finished opening accounts at the Streamwood bank. They intended to transfer his business accounts from a downtown bank after his planned move to Streamwood in the middle of August. He got into his car, started it, put on his turn signal, swiveled his head, and was about to pull out into traffic when it happened. Bang, something hit his car.

“Look out,” his employee cried after the fact. She looked out the passenger side window in disbelief.

“What the —” was all he could muster.

“Some kid on a bike ran into your car,” she said in a panicked voice. “He is on the ground near your front bumper Colt.”

Banyon was out of the car and around to the front in a flash. A preteen boy was just standing up and dusting himself off.

“Are you all right?” Banyon asked with concern.

“Yeah.” The boy was checking his bike for signs of damage.

“Where’d you come from? I didn’t see you.”

“The alley, over there,” he pointed to the small alley which was often found between houses in the Chicago area. The alleyways caused many accidents in Chicago because people pulled out of them without looking.

“You’ve got to be more careful,” Banyon scolded the boy. Banyon watched him pick up his bike. Other than the seat being turned, there was no damage to the bicycle. A slight scuff mark was located on the right front fender of his car.

“No need to give me attitude,” the boy remarked and glared at Banyon.

“What’s your name? Do you want us to call your mother? Are you all right?” The boy did not answer. Instead, he grabbed his bike and started to leave.

“It don’t matter none,” the juvenile replied as he got on his bike. Just then they both heard someone else. He and Banyon swiveled their heads as a noise came from the alley.

Suddenly two more boys arrived on their bikes skidding to a stop inches from Banyon. They looked angry and upset.

“Leave my little brother alone, asshole,” a big blotted one yelled. “You run him down. We gonna sue.”

Banyon ignored the verbal abuse and tried to give the boy his business card. Finally the boy took it and put it in his pocket before taking off on his bike.

“Have your mother call me,” Banyon yelled after the boy.

The other two boys two kept up the abuse, which started to piss off Banyon. “We gonna get you, sucka,” yelled the antagonist.

“Let’s get out of here,” his employee pleaded as Banyon got back into the car. He intended to report the accident to the police, but he decided to call his insurance man first. The last thing he needed was his insurance rates going up.

Banyon was a New Yorker and had spent many years becoming street-smart in the greatest city in the world. He had witnessed unbelievable things. He had firsthand knowledge of man’s incredible ability to be vicious, vengeful, and take advantage of someone else’s plight. He remembered having seen a taxi clip a pedestrian on Broadway and, all of a sudden, there were four people lying on the road, all claiming to have been run over. Some people tried to profit from anything, especially someone’s misfortune. He also knew the boys saw that he drove a black Lincoln. He was sure they had written down his license plate. To the boys, such an expensive car meant money.

As soon as he returned to his office he called his insurance agent to report that a nameless child on a bike had hit his car. The kid said he was uninjured and had left the scene quickly. The insurance man said they got these cases all the time and not to worry. He told Banyon to go to the local police department and fill out an accident report.