Fiction Saturday – Untitled Story – Part Four
Fiction Saturday – Untitled Story – Part Four
I knocked a second time. The dog barked again and the same male voice yelled again, followed by the pregnant silence of something fairly heavy being thrown across the room. The dog yelped and went silent.
“Hi, Mister. What the hell you want?” I looked down. The kid couldn’t have been more than four, maybe five. I couldn’t tell you which was filthier, his face or his shirt. When he opened the door a brick of god-awful smells hit me in the face. I took a breath through my mouth.
“Hello, what’s your name little boy?”
“None a you business, you perv. What the hell you want?” This kid was bound to grow up and be a maitre d’ in New York City.
“I’d like to talk with your daddy.”
“Me too, but he died.”
“How about your mommy? Can I talk to her?”
“OK.” He turned, facing into the house. I could see at least a dozen flea bites on his legs. “Momma! Some perv here want to talk to you! The kid had impressive lung power for a little guy.
“What? If you’re here about a bill you’re outta luck. So, what the hell you want?” The tree that dropped a small flea bitten apple.
“I’m not here about a bill. Is Stefan Tumulski here? I’d like to talk with him.”
“You a cop? If you are I never heard of him.”
“Not a cop.” I handed her my card. She looked at it and handed it back.
“I didn’t think you were. They dress better. Stefan? That was my father. He’s dead at least a year now. What’s this about?”
“My condolences on your…”
“Yeah. Tragic. So, one last time before I get the dog – What the hell you want?”
This family had all the tenderness of .50 caliber machine gun.
“I wanted to see if you know anything about a Ginger Tumulski.”
“My older sister. What did she do now? Finally kill that snooty husband of hers? I hope.”
Such a loving family. I couldn’t decide whether I was choked up or just gagging.
“Do you know how she and her husband met?”
“I dunno. He probably parked his car under her streetlight.”
“Sounds like you don’t care for him.”
“He looked at us like we was dirt when all Gita was was us with a fresh coat of paint.”
“That’s her real name – Gita. It means pearl. She gets called Ginger because of her hair. Me? I’m Sally. Around here that means, ‘get me another beer.’” She shot a look over her shoulder at the unseen male voice.
“When was the last time you saw him?”
“About five seconds before you knocked on the door.”
“No. I mean your sister’s husband.”
“Oh, him. At the wedding, I guess. Gita had to raise a stink so we could go. Like we was dirt, I tell ya. He had no trouble inviting his family. They’s poor too, but he never gives them anything – not even his own son. He drives a semi for some food company.”
“He has a grown son?”
“Ricky’s his name. His Old Man wouldn’t even give him a job.”
“Does Ginger, er – Gita ever talk about her husband?
“Not lately. Don’t see her much either. Look, are we almost done here? I gotta get to work.”
“I’m on the line down at the Cannery. I run the labeling machine on the sardines.”
That put a name on the stench for me. “No. I think that’s about it. Thank you very….”
She closed the door on me. Mercifully. I took a sniff of my sleeve and I knew that my suit was going to need a visit to the dry cleaner and maybe the crematorium. Me too. Some smells just don’t wash out.
Even though my visit to Pulaski Street was depressing, I did glean some things of value. Ginger Cream’s background was even rougher than I imagined. Her younger sister wasn’t exactly the President of the Ginger Cream Fan Club, and, somewhere along the line, Ginger managed to scavenge a sense of style and an eye for expensive jewelry. You don’t get that on the sardine line at the Cannery. And “Ricky” – that was something new.
I headed back up the hill from the riverfront. I wanted some lunch – anything but sardines.
Sam’s Grill first, for some lunch, and then I went looking for a new suit. Ginger Cream was right. I wanted to be Sherlock Holmes, but I looked more like a threadbare Sam Spade. I found a new suit that made me look more or less respectable. I had enough left over to get a new hat too – a fedora.
I never understood how Sherlock Holmes could look at somebody and rattle off fifteen things about them before they ever said a word. Me? I meet someone new and five seconds later I’ve forgotten their name. I tried reading those Sherlock Holmes stories in school, but I gave up and watched the movies instead. Holmes still made no sense to me. There was no way on God’s green earth that he could put all those little pieces together and nab the killer in ninety minutes. Not in ninety years even. I’d walk out of the movie theater feeling more like Dr. Watson – just along for the ride.
With this job I have a client who lies to me and a missing husband who may, or may not, be alive, and a boatload of money at stake. Very little of it coming my way.
Sherlock Holmes would have solved this before my bottle was empty and Ginger Cream had teeter-tottered out of my office. Maybe I should have been a priest like my mother wanted.
Next stop: the Headquarters of Adam Cream’s empire. Before I could ever hope to find him I needed to know who he was. Ginger told me who she thought he was and her sister filled in a few blank spots. Now I wanted to know what he thought of himself.