My younger sister, Katy had dated a guy named Steve Walton when she was in
college. I remembered him as a skinny beer-drinking kid. So you can imagine my
surprise when I found out Steve was Lieutenant Steve Walton in charge Detroit
Police Homicide Squads Three and Four, now a buttoned-up, experienced
professional. I called him, reintroduced myself and asked if I could spend some
time with homicide and observe how murders were investigated and solved. After
getting clearance from the top brass I was in business.
I was assigned to the afternoon shift: four till midnight. I would arrive and
talk to detectives for a while and then read old case files. I would study the
often grisly crime scene photos, the lifeless body of a man or woman, shot and
laying in a pool of blood. I would read the investigator's report. I would look
at photos of the body taken by the medical examiner, close up detail of the
entrance and exit wounds. I would study the ballistics information, lab tests
done on shell casings and bullet fragments to determine what kind of weapon
fired the fatal shot or shots. It was a fascinating glimpse into the grim
reality of murder.
One night Detective Ray Felts, standing in the doorway of a homicide conference
room said, "Pete, get your coat, we've got one."
On the way to the crime scene Felts, who is white and Coleman, who is black,
told me what they knew. A man had been shot and was presumed dead in a van on
the east side.
We arrived at the crime scene on a residential street at nine-thirty-two p.m.
There were police cruisers, lights flashing, parked in front of and behind a
silver Chevy van that had to be fifteen years old. A rag tag collection of
residents from this depressed neighborhood of burned out, abandoned houses,
stood some distance away, watching like it was TV.
I got out of the Chevrolet sedan and stood behind Coleman and Felts, surveying
"What we got here?" Coleman said to a white Detroit Police officer who looked
"Dead man in the van registered to a Tiffaney Jones. We ain't touched anything
Coleman said, "But you're sure the dude's gone?"
"Look at him, detective," the officer said, "you'll know that too."
"Where's the dude found him, called it in?" Coleman said. The officer pointed at
two black men, one dressed as a security guard or an exterminator in a blue
outfit with red epaulettes, standing on the sidewalk under a street lamp. "I'm
gonna go talk to them."
Felts slipped on a pair of rubber gloves and I followed him, ducking under the
crime scene tape on the passenger side of the van. Felts took a small flashlight
out of his sport coat pocket and shined it on the grass, sweeping the beam right
to left and back. He stopped and held the light on something, turned to me and
said, "Casings. Looks like something big, a nine maybe or a forty. He crouched,
laid the flashlight on the grass and tagged the shells with yellow Post It
Now Felts got up and opened the front passenger door. The inside lights went on
and I saw the driver, a big man with a scraggly goatee, wearing a brown wool
cap. And a grey leather jacket zipped up that had two bullet holes in the chest
leaking blood. His head was slumped forward, chin on his chest still strapped in
his seatbelt, bleeding from additional gunshots wounds in his neck and head.
Ray Felts tagged two more shell casings that were on the passenger seat with
Post Its. "Shooter knew him."
"How do you know that?" I said.
"If he didn't, he wouldn't have let him open the door, get this close." Felts
paused, rubbed his crooked nose with an index finger. "Didn't fire a shot."
Nodding at the chrome-plate semiautomatic the driver was still holding in his
I heard someone behind me, looked and saw Detective Coleman. I moved out of the
way. Coleman stuck his bald head in the van and was now shoulder-to-shoulder
"Dude over here passed the van on the way to the Bottoms Up gentlemen's
club about seven, saw the van, engine running, lights on, looked like somebody
in the driver's seat. He came out two hours later, van's still there in the same
place, now he's thinking something's wrong, goes and gets the security guard at
the club. Security guard looks in the van recognizes the driver, regular at the
club. Know who this motherfucker is? Dude's Geron Powell."
Felts glanced at him and shrugged.
"Man the Lieu mentioned this morning. Street name's Geronimo."
I said, "Why is he called Geronimo?"
"â€˜Cause he's one crazy motherfucker," Coleman said. "Drug dealer and prime
suspect in the murder of that young dumb-ass white kid from the suburbs, trying
to get into the trade. Know who I'm talking about?"
Felts rubbed his goatee and said, "You mean the one they found stripped, ziptied
and shot in the trunk of his Mercedes?"
Coleman grinned. "Fucking with me, huh? You're probably looking at the murder
weapon right there he said, glancing at Geron Powell's .45. So that one's
solved. Now who you think did Geronimo?"
"Maybe we'll find out." Ray Felts reached and took a cell phone out of a
compartment in the dash, pressed redial and I could hear the phone ring and a
woman's voice say, "hello."
"Who's this?" Felts said.
"Know where Geron's at?"
"Tole me he went to meet Sweet Tooth."
"Sweet Tooth, huh? What's his name again?"
"Maurice something or other."
"Where were they gonna meet?"
"That titty bar on Harper."
I could see the neon sign that said Bottoms Up fifty yards away.
Tiff said, "Hey, who is this? Who my talking to?"
Felts disconnected and said, "Know somebody called Sweet Tooth?"
Coleman shook his head.
Ray Felts said, "What's this look like to you?"
"Knowing Geronimo's line of work, I'd say a dope deal gone sideways. I'd also
say Geronimo lost his cheeba."
"What I was thinking," Felts said. "Shooter and Geron definitely knew each other."
"They were friends," Coleman said, "why'd he have a pistol in his hand?"
"I think he always had a pistol in his hand." Felts said. "Thought he was a
Coleman opened the glove box that was empty.
I followed the detectives to the back of the van. Felts opened the rear doors,
and shined his flashlight over the folded down seats, lighting up crevices and
saw a white plastic bag filled with something. He reached in grabbed it, cut the
zip-tie with a pocket knife and opened the bag. I got a whiff of high-grade
Coleman said, "How'd Sweet Tooth miss this?"
"Under the circumstances I'd say he was in a hurry?"
Ray Felts investigator's report said: The victim, Geron Powell, was shot four
times with a high caliber semiautomatic handgun, and conveyed to the medical
examiner's office. The time of death was unknown. The manner of death, in his
estimation, was ruled to be a homicide. The van was towed to the police lot, and
I went home to the suburbs.
The next afternoon I reported to headquarters at 3:55 p.m. I went to Ray Felts
desk and stood there till he got off the phone, anxious to know what happened
after I left.
"Sweet Tooth's real name is Maurice McNeal. He just got out of I-Max after five
years for aggravated assault, decided to look up his old buddy Geronimo, get
back in the trade."
Two days later Maurice McNeal was found shot to death in a room at the Viking
Motel on 2720 Grand River Avenue. After talking to the assistant manager and a
couple from Toledo, staying in the room next to Maurice's, Felts and Coleman
were now looking for a muscular black man with dreads who drove a red Cadillac
CTS with twenty-inch rims.
Is a Detroit serial killer from the past connected to similar deaths now in
Peter Leonard is a
second-generation thriller writer and son of the renowned Elmore Leonard. Author
Carl Hiaasen said about Peter's work, "Clearly, great storytelling runs in the
Leonard family's DNA." EYES CLOSED TIGHT
(The Story Plant; March 2014) is one of Peter's most satisfying works to
date—relentless, surprising and deeply satisfying. Previous novels include
Quiver, Trust Me, Voices of the Dead and All He Saw Was the Girl.
All O'Clair wanted was a quiet life far from the frozen streets of Detroit. A
former homicide investigator, he was spending his retirement as a motel owner in
sunny Pompano Beach, Florida. He had it all, including his knockout girlfriend,
Virginia, who can fix anything.
One morning, while he's cleaning up after the previous night's partiers, he sees
a lovely young woman who appears to be stretched out asleep on a lounge chair.
When he goes to awaken her he realizes she's taken her last nap. The discovery
triggers a rollercoaster chain of events that launches EYES CLOSED TIGHT.
When a second girl is murdered, O'Clair realizes someone is sending him a
message. The murder pattern is eerily reminiscent of a case he investigated
years earlier. Convinced the murders are related, O'Clair returns to his former
stomping grounds at Detroit Police Homicide to review the murder file and try to
figure out what he might have missed.
Then Virginia is kidnapped and the case becomes personal. Highly personal.
23 comments posted.
Since I grew up in Detroit, and still live in Michigan, this is not only a book I'd love to get my hands on, but one I'd pass on to my Husband, as well as a few other people!! What a great story line, and I'm glad that you've taken on the same genre as your Father!! This sounds like a real hang-on-to-your-hat type of book, and I'm ready to go on that ride!! Congratulations!!
(Peggy Roberson 11:16am March 10, 2014)
Intriguing! I love a good mystery and I think this will be added to my TBR pile.
(Ruth Ayres 4:51pm March 10, 2014)
Sounds like a good read. It's nice to see him following in Dad's notable writing footsteps.
(G S Moch 8:20pm March 10, 2014)
I love a good mystery book. I love to see if I could figure out who done it, how, what is the motive, and where (if that is the question).
(Kai Wong 11:06pm March 10, 2014)
Detroit and a murder mystery---sounds like a good read for a northern Michigan boy.
(Richard Burr 11:45pm March 10, 2014)