Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2018

Archive for the category “Detective”

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Conclusion

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Conclusion

A Safe Place 

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“Show me. If you didn’t kill her, who did?”

He pulled out one of the photos and held it up facing me.

“He did,” he said, pointing to the dark haired man who was younger than either of us and in a lot better shape.

“Him,” I said? “What makes you think it was him? Just because he was…” He interrupted me before I could finish my sentence.

“He told me he did it.”

Off in the distance we both heard sirens. He looked at me, an anger beginning to build in his eyes.

“Did you tip off the cops that I was here?”

“No, I didn’t. I didn’t tell anybody, but you better talk fast. They’re getting closer. He told you that he’d killed your wife? When” Why?”

“I told you. While I was in jail.”

I nodded, not knowing what else to do to get him to keep talking.

“After you showed me these pictures in your office. Again, I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, yeah – go on.” The sirens were getting louder. “I think your neighbors are nosier than you thought.”

“Well, after I left your office, I went down to the bar down the block. A guy accidentally bumped into me and I hit him, hard. The barkeep called the cops and I spent the next 72 hours in lockup.”

“But what about him,” I said, pointing to the naked guy in the picture? “Talk faster.”

“Him? He was one of the cops who pulled me off of the guy in the bar. He knew who I was and the next day, with me in restraints, he told me that he’d killed her a few hours after they’d hauled me in. He said that he went to see her, told her about the pictures and me being arrested. They argued, she pulled a knife on him, and it went to hell from there.

“He said that it was fun, what he did to her. Then he beat me up while I was tied to a chair.”

He teared up.

“I was released when this filthy animal did my bail. He wanted me out. If I was out when she was discovered they’d come looking for me first thing. You know that. It’s always the jealous husband. He needed me out on the streets. I was his alibi.”

The sirens had stopped and I could hear them coming up the stairs like a herd of elephants. I looked at Cumberland. He was rocking back and forth on his toes, not knowing what to do next.

Four cops came through the open door, guns drawn. I recognized one of them, even though he had his clothes on. He was smiling.

“Nobody move. You – drop the pistol if you want to live.”

I did, so I did.

“How did you know he was here,” I asked? 

“We didn’t, but we knew you were. Cumberland, you are under arrest for the murder of your wife.”

“I didn’t do it.” He was getting really agitated. I hoped he wouldn’t snap.

While the smiling cop started to read Cumberland his rights, one of the other cops took out his cuffs and moved toward the much smaller man, still in his apron.

“Stay away from me. That one,” he said, pointing at the now outright grinning cop by the door. “He’s the one who killed her, not me.” He moved around to the other side of the table. “No, stay away from me.” Cumberland looked at me for help. I was no good.

It was like watching at a cat play with a cornered, terrified, mouse. Looking at the two of them I finally believed Cumberland’s story.

“Stay away from me,” he said. Crazy and desperate, Cumberland grabbed the still hot dish of lasagna and threw it at the cop.

When the steaming mess hit the cop square in the face, he screamed in pain, and the no longer smiling cop, who I now finally believed was the killer, opened fire, hitting Cumberland square in the chest.

The shooting inquiry report read “Justified.”

———

I hate jobs like this. Snooping into bedroom windows; taking grainy photographs that are going to make somebody cry and somebody else walk out the door. Only this time two somebodies got carried out.

The End

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Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Six

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Six

A Safe Place

He started moving toward me. I lifted my revolver and aimed it between his eyes.

“Stop right there, Cumberland. Don’t get any closer or I will shoot you dead.”

He stopped. “Can I just set this down? It’s getting heavy and it is hot. These are cheap oven mitts. I’ll put it down on the table and I’ll back up. OK?”

It seemed like a reasonable thing to ask. “OK, but no funny business. I’m a good shot.” That was a lie too. I’d be lucky to hit him at all even though he was only five feet away. I hoped that my shaking knees weren’t obvious.

He did like he said. He put the lasagna down on a straw trivet, then went back to where he started. He closed the oven door and threw his mitts on the range top. I didn’t like his additions to our agreement. I told him so. He shrugged and I pressed him some more.

 “Tell me, Cumberland. Why did you come back here? I’d think you’d want to get as far away as possible.”

“Where would I go? And if I started running I’d never be able to stop. I came back here because I needed a safe place to stay. The Police were done with it and most of the neighbors aren’t real nosy. After you chased me away from the Mission – I came home.

“And I’m sorry about your office. I just went nuts. But I didn’t kill her. I couldn’t have killed her – even though…. I can prove I didn’t kill her.  I have an alibi.”

“What kind of alibi?”

“I was already in jail.”

“What are you talking about – in jail? What kind of line are you trying to hand me?”

“I’m trying to hand you the killer – if you’re interested. Are you interested – or are you just going to shoot me and close the case?

My knees stopped shaking and my heart started pounding.

“I’m not going to shoot unless you force me to.” I hoped not, anyway.

“Assuming, for a second, that I believe you – you know who killed your wife?”

“I didn’t at first, when you showed me those pictures, but I do now. The pictures – they’re in my desk there. Can I get them?”

“I’ll get them,” I said. “Where?”

“Top right drawer. You don’t trust me? You think I have a gun in there”

I just stared at him. I was beginning to have doubts. What was done to that woman and the man standing in front of me didn’t match up so well anymore.

I opened the desk drawer. There was the Manila folder I’d given him, but no gun. He didn’t move until I tossed the folder onto the table.

“Show me. If you didn’t kill her, who did?”

He pulled out one of the photos and held it up facing me.

“He did,” he said, pointing to the dark haired man who was younger than either of us and in a lot better shape.

“Him,” I said? “What makes you think it was him? Just because he was…” He interrupted me before I could finish my sentence.

“He told me he did it.”

Off in the distance we both heard sirens. He looked at me, an anger beginning to build in his eyes.

 

To be Continued – Next week, the Conclusion

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Five

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Five

 

A Safe Place

lasagna On my way through the lobby I peeked into their mailbox – nothing – and a chill ran down my spine. By now that box should have been stuffed with junk mail if nothing else.

The yellow “Crime Scene” tape was still stretched across their door. I could taste my lunch again.

I was hoping that I was wrong, but when I grabbed the knob and it turned, I knew that I wasn’t. I took my weapon out of my pocket. My palm was sweating, along with everything else.

Considering what Cumberland had already done, I was scared about what I’d be up against when I opened the door. I’m no superhero. I’m just a guy with limited corporate world job skills trying to keep myself fed.

I turned the doorknob as slowly as I could, hoping it wouldn’t squeak. When I pushed the door open a crack I could see that a light was on somewhere in the apartment. I could smell something too – something familiar – Lasagna? It smelled like one of those frozen lasagna dinners I buy myself. And garlic bread. I could hear someone singing.

When I stepped inside the front room I could tell that the smells and the singing were coming from the kitchen near the rear of the apartment. I headed that way moving from area rug to area rug to cover my footsteps. The dining room table was set for one. A bottle of Chianti was open next to a single wine glass.

I stepped into the kitchen doorway. The floor creaked and Cumberland turned around. He was holding the lasagna with both hands. He had on two red oven mitts and an apron asking me to kiss the chef. I passed.

 I thought he would look surprised, at least, or maybe throw the steaming lasagna at me – but he didn’t. He didn’t move. He smiled. That I didn’t see coming.

“I heard you come in. I’ve been expecting you, sooner or later. Would you like some lasagna? There’s plenty.”

I’m standing in this guy’s kitchen with my gun aimed at his guts and he asked me to join him for supper.

“I’m not hungry.” That was a lie. “I have to take you in. You know that.”

“Yeah, I know. But, like I said before, I didn’t do it. How could I kill her? I loved her. Can you believe that?”

“Even after I showed you those pictures of her and…?”

“I know. That really hurt me. I guess I knew it already that she was playing around, but your pictures – that hurt.”

He had tears in his eyes. He wiped them away with the oven mitt.

“And I’m sorry about your office. I just went nuts. But I didn’t kill her. I couldn’t have killed her – even though…. I can prove I didn’t kill her.  I have an alibi.”

“What kind of alibi?”

“I was already in jail.”

“What are you talking about – in jail?”

He smiled again and started moving toward me. I lifted my revolver and aimed it between his eyes.

“Stop right there, Cumberland. Don’t get any closer or I will shoot you dead.”

He stopped. “Can I just set this down? It’s getting heavy and it is hot. These are cheap oven mitts. I’ll put it down on the table and I’ll back up. OK?”

It seemed like a reasonable thing to ask. “OK, but no funny business. I’m a good shot.” That was lie too. I’d be lucky to hit him at all even though he was only five feet away. I hoped that my shaking knees weren’t obvious.

He did like he said. He put the lasagna down on a straw trivet, then went back to where he started. He closed the oven door and threw his mitts on the range top. I didn’t like his additions to our agreement. I told him so.

When he crossed his arms and leaned against the stove I asked him, “You were already in jail? What kind of line are you trying to hand me?”

“I’m trying to hand you the killer – if you’re interested. Are you interested or are you just going to shoot me and close the case?

My knees stopped shaking and my heart started pounding.

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Four

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Four

A SAFE PLACE

“…I didn’t do it. I didn’t kill her.”giphy-9

If I’ve heard some guy say that once, I’ve heard it a hundred times. What else is he going to say? “I did it. I’m guilty.” Not in this state.

Cumberland was a small guy, but when his temper gets let loose, like it did in my office, he could play Linebacker for the Rams. He could easily have done to his wife what I saw when I got a look at her on the floor of their apartment.

Now all I wanted to do was nab him. If I could take him in alive, so much the better, then the people would at least get a trial for all of their tax money. I’m not getting paid for this chase, but the cops are getting a lot of overtime on their paychecks. I want him because he used me to give his lawyer a possible defense.

There’s no doubt that he is as insane as they come, but in my book he’s guilty too.

 “…I didn’t do it. I didn’t kill her.”

It always amazes me how someone like Cumberland can hide so that me and the whole police force can’t find him. This isn’t that big of a city and everybody in town has seen his face a thousand times by now. Is he hanging out at the Society for the Blind, or what? Where is he sleeping now that I’ve queered the Mission for him? Is he cooking rabbits in the Park? I need some sleep. I’m going home and get some rest. I’ll take something out of the freezer and…No. That can’t be.

I didn’t have time to call my hired goon to back me up. I was going to go solo on this. If it didn’t pan out, I’d look like a fool all by myself, but if it did – I slipped two extra speed loaders into my coat pocket.

I hadn’t been down there since that first day when they found her body. The forensics people had been in and left with bags of stuff. So did the coroner.

 On my way through the lobby I peeked into their mailbox – nothing – and a chill ran down my spine. By now that box should have been stuffed with junk mail if nothing else.

The yellow “Crime Scene” tape was still stretched across their door. I could taste my lunch again.

 

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Three

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Three

 

A Safe Place – Continued

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I was going to bring him in. I know that he says that he didn’t do it – that he didn’t kill her – they all do, but after that business in my office, I found it hard to believe.

I outweigh him by a good sixty pounds, but he tossed my desk around like it was made of cardboard and the look in his eyes made me think of King Kong swatting at those airplanes on the top of the Empire State Building.

I went into the Mission through the loading dock. I sent my guy in the front door. If he spotted Cumberland he was to start whistling so I could come in from behind. It’s not much of a plan, but when there’s just two of you, you go with it and hope you get lucky.

A couple of men in the dock area told me to go around to the front door, but once I flashed my badge (which I bought at Woolworth’s for seventy-nine cents, including plastic handcuffs and magnifying glass) they backed off. Most of these guys in the Mission have been rousted by goons with even cheaper looking badges than mine, so they didn’t push it.

I snaked my way through the ground floor and headed up the back stairs to the dining room. That’s where I figured we’d find him. Even a scrawny King Kong has to eat. When I opened the door from the kitchen I heard my guy whistling loud and clear. I might not have chosen, “Happy Days Are Here Again,” but it didn’t matter. What mattered was that he was whistling for all he was worth. Cumberland was in the room – but where? There were at least a hundred and fifty guys in there. The stock market must have dived.

With that many men waiting in line, and all of them dressed pretty much the same – Skid Row Chic – it wasn’t going to be easy. And Cumberland didn’t stand more than five foot-seven. He could hide behind somebody’s wide lapels.

I started moving up one side of the room and The Whistler did the same. It was like walking through a field of corn, looking down each row. I was still hoping to spot him first and then try to get him down and cuffed before he had time to go ape on us. In that room there would be no telling how many people might be on his side.

About halfway down, nearer the back by the main door, I saw some movement – like a fight was about to break out. That doesn’t happen here, especially at meal time. Nobody wanted to get tossed out before they got fed.

As I moved closer I saw him. He had seen me first and was making a break for the staircase to the main floor and the street. He was moving fast and had a head start. I was on the wrong side of the room.

I yelled at my hired hand to go after him as I pushed my way through the food lines.

“Cumberland! Stop! We’ve got you surrounded!” It couldn’t hurt to try.

He didn’t stop and neither did we. As he reached the door to the street he turned. Everybody froze. I was partway down the stairs.

“I told you before, I didn’t do it. I didn’t kill her. I loved her.”

“I don’t believe you, Cumberland. The police don’t believe you. Nobody believes you.”

I reached for my pistol, but thought better of it. There were too many people still coming into the Mission to make a clean shot and, anyway, I wanted him alive. But it wasn’t going to happen that night. He was gone – again.

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Two

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part Two

 

A Safe Place – Continued

typewriter gifContinued from last Saturday –

I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend the night crawling under every bridge abutment and behind every dumpster in town. I don’t care how much I want Cumberland’s scrawny neck. He’ll have to surface again and I’ll be waiting. But I’m going to need some help.

***

“I assume you’re up on this creep. I mean – you’d have to be dead not to be – unless you’re like me and you only buy a paper to look at the sports page and the crossword puzzle.”

“I guess I’m as familiar as the next guy about him. He offed his wife, right?”

“Yeah. He came to me because he thought his wife was running around on him. She was, and I don’t blame her. Her husband, Cumberland, that sick piece of trash, treated her like a slave – worse – he treated her like a slave’s three-legged dog. I didn’t like him from the start, but he paid in cash and I was behind on just about every bill I had.

“Uh – huh.”

“When I showed him the pictures – her and some guy comparing moles – he went berserk right here in the office. It was all I could do to keep him from killing me just because I was handy. I wish I’d thrown him and his cash… I wish I’d become a priest too, like my mother wanted, but Donna Jean Shansky was better looking than my mother, so….  

“What do you need me for?

“Tonight we’ll go back to the mission – you and me. If he’s back for another “hot and a cot” we’ll double team him. Handcuffs, ankle irons, Anti-aircraft guns, everything and a couple of hits to the kidneys if need be – just so he won’t feel like fighting back. I’ll take my .38 along, just in case. You bring the ’jack and nail his head if he starts to make a serious fuss. OK? Ready? Let’s stop for a burger on the way. I’ll drive.”

I usually work alone. That way I don’t have to split my attention – watching my target and watching the hired help who might be getting paid more by the target than by me. I’ve had it happen.

The guy who was with me for this take-down was someone I’d used before. He knew the streets and how to use a variety of tools that I’m not supposed to supply. I can’t go so far as to say that I did or did not trust him, but he could probably say the same thing about me. Hey, it’s almost a living.

After dark the neighborhood around the Beacon Light Mission looked even more depressing. Most of the streetlights had been broken by the small-time drug dealers who felt more secure in the shadows. Add a wispy fog that distorted what light there was coming from inside the Mission and the half hidden figures moving in and out of the light – well, it made it sure that there was no way to identify anyone before they went inside. We were going to have to go into the Mission to grab Cumberland. I hated that.

Outside I could slip in line behind him, one quick whack in the head and off we’d go, but inside, in the brighter lights – he might spot me first and then it would be a game of hide-and-seek. And I don’t seek as well as I hide. That’s the biggest reason I decided to get someone to go with me. Bad knees, a bum shoulder, and too many late night slap-outs have made me lose a step or two, or three, or… Point made?

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place” – Part One

Fiction Saturday Encore – “A Safe Place”

 

 I hate jobs like this. Snooping into bedroom windows; taking grainy photographs that are going to make somebody cry and somebody else walk out the door. Only this time somebody got carried out.

Six months ago – it seems like six years – his life was quiet and predictable. He had a job that was less than perfect and he was in a relationship that he described the same way – less than perfect. He hired me to look into it for him because, as he said, “Whenever I’d think about the imperfections everything would tense up.” At least that’s how he said it to me – “Tense up.”

I’ve had to deal with some of the toughest, meanest, and downright sadistic people you would ever hope to not meet, but this little guy topped them all. Or maybe I should say “bottomed” them all. I didn’t think I could be surprised any more after ten years in this racket, but when I saw what he did to… I don’t want to talk about it or I won’t sleep tonight. Just imagine the worst thing one human being could do to another – then double it and you might come close. If you don’t vomit first.

And now I had to find him – to hunt him down. I don’t want to, but I feel obligated. After all, it was me who took the pictures that lit his fuse. Sure, the police were looking for him too, but they tended to work as well as anything you might buy from a TV infomercial at four in the morning. I figured it was me or nothing.

I’ve had all my contacts, snitches, and keyhole peekers sniffing at the wind for a month trying to get any clue as to where I might find him – Patrick Cumberland is his name. Tonight I got a call. Someone thinks they saw him, maybe. My snitch says that his snitch says that he’s showed up at the Beacon Light Mission hoping for a meal. I needed to get down there – now.

Why is it that every Mission for the down and out and the misfits of the world – why is it that they all look like something that should have been torn down fifty years ago? The people looking for help there are feeling bad enough; they don’t need to go into a building that looks as ragtag as they do.

As I pulled up to the Beacon Light Mission – there is always parking in front – there were about a half dozen men lounging on the steps, waiting for the bible service to end so they could go in for a meal and a warm cot for the night. It was already getting into the mid-40s and Fall officially starts tomorrow.

I didn’t need to ask directions about where to find the head honcho. I knew my way around the building. It seems that half of my jobs call for me to scrape the bottom of this particular barrel. It’s a terrible place to hide. It’s a terrible place to go if you want to be inconspicuous. It’s just a terrible place. I’ve slept there.

“Yes, he was here, but not with the name Cumberland.”

Reverend Billy looked down the page full of names. He got so much Federal and State money for each person he fed and sheltered so he kept meticulous records. Meticulous and I’m sure just as legitimate as his “Reverend” certificate that hung on the wall behind him.

“Here he is. Todd – Sweeney Todd. I remember him because of that. You know – the musical and all that?”

“Uh –huh. Is he here tonight – now?”

“No. This says he was here two nights ago and again last night, but that means he won’t be here tonight. Two nights in a row, then they have to leave for a couple days. Otherwise we’d turn into a hotel and that would mean a whole new set of regulations and such.”

“And no cash from D.C.”

“No.” He paused and looked at me like he had just bitten into something stale. “Why are you looking for him? He didn’t seem very dangerous. He looked more like a lost bunny.”

“One very sick and twisted bunny. Any idea where he might go on a night like tonight when he can’t flop here?”

“Please don’t say ‘flop.’ We are not a flophouse. We are trying to save both their souls and their bodies, and, as to where he might be tonight – if he has some money – one of the real flophouses down by the waterfront. Without any money – your guess is as good as mine. Would you care to make a small donation?”

“My taxes aren’t due until next April.

“Cynic.”

I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend the night crawling under every bridge abutment and behind every dumpster in town. I don’t care how much I want Cumberland’s scrawny neck. He’ll have to surface again and I’ll be waiting. But I’m going to need some help.

                             * * * 

“I assume you’re up on this creep. I mean – you’d have to be dead not to be – unless you’re like me and you only buy a paper to look at the sports page and the crossword puzzle.

“He came to me because he thought his wife was running around on him. She was, and I don’t blame her. Her husband, the piece of trash I’m looking for now, treated her like a slave – worse – he treated her like a slave’s three-legged dog. I didn’t like him from the start, but he paid in cash and I was behind on just about every bill I had.

“When I showed him the pictures – her and some guy comparing moles – he went berserk right here in the office. It was all I could do to keep him from killing me just because I was handy. I wish I’d… Oh, I wish I’d become a priest like my mother wanted, but Donna Jean Shansky was better looking than my mother, so….  

“Tonight we’ll go back to the mission – you and me. If he’s back for another “hot and a cot” we’ll double team him. Handcuffs, ankle irons and a couple of hits to the kidneys – just so he won’t feel like fighting back. I’ll take my .38 along, just in case. Ready? Let’s stop for a burger on the way. I’ll drive.”

– to be continued –

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Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Conclusion

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles – Finale.

 

If you want to see somebody who is anybody at Wilma’s All-Nite Café (Just a knife’s throw from the Embarcadero.) you’ll have to wait until the Moon is high and the Moral Threshold is low.

It was close to 3 AM when I brought Hank O’Hare into Wilma’s. I didn’t need to help him find the door this time. Ever since he got his new eyeglasses from the Optometrist Hank had been like a kid in a Candy Shop. In fact, he told me that he had stopped into a Candy Shop just to enjoy the view. He could see the shapes and colors clearly for the first time since he’d lost his real specs and started buying replacements at the Dollar Store.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part Five

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles – Continued – Part Five

 

 I hate listening to people bickering, especially if I’m not one of the bickerers or the bickeree. With Lech Ontario and Daisy Cutter, his moll, bickering was as pointless as a truckload of watermelons. Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer.

“Shut up – both of you. Can’t you wait and do this bickering stuff when you’re at home so I don’t have to listen?” That seemed to work. They both looked at me.

“Awww, shut your pie hole, Henway,” sneered Daisy.

“You dummy,” snapped back Ontario “With Henway it would be ‘shut your German Chocolate Cake hole.’”

“Would not, you Great Ape. The phrase is…”

I reached out and slapped them both just like Moe used to hit Curly and Larry.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part  Four 

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles – Continued – Part Four

 

Sitting in that booth I was face to face with Lech Ontario – one of the Greats – if you listened to him and I was going to have to to find out why my old friend and tutor, Hank O’Hare, was looking for him.

“Tell me, Ontario, why is Hank so anxious to find you? Did you stiff him on a debt, did you cheat him at cards, or did you try to steal his woman?”

When I said that the dockside doxie sitting next to him spoke up.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part Three

Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Continued

 

Late at night, when the Innocents in The City were asleep in their beds, the Not-So-Innocents were busy about their monkey business. The darkened streets were a hunting ground where the unwary became prey for the waiting shadows. Places of safety were few and far between, but a light shining through the fog promised refuge and maybe a Hot Roast Beef Sandwich, au jus – “just the way you like it.”

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Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part Two 

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles – Continued…

 

Wilma Van der Sluice served the best German Chocolate Cake this side of the cafeteria at the Mortuary College. When she set down her last slice in front of me both my eyes and mouth began to water.

“New perfume, Wilma?”

  “Yeah, you like it? It’s called ‘Evening in Newark.’” She waved her two too massive braids my way. My glasses began to fog up.

“Nice.” It was all I could say.

“Well, enjoy your cake while your ‘Little Gum Drop’ here takes care of those customers in the booth by the Wurlitzer. I’ll be right back to help you lick the plate.” I knew she meant that. It bothered some customers, but Love is Love.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday Encore – The Henway Chronicles – Part One

Fiction Saturday Encore

The Henway Chronicles

 

The fog was rolling in like a slinky coming down an escalator. I didn’t think it would ever stop. I was just a knife’s throw from the Embarcadero on my way to Wilma’s All-Nite Café for a cup of coffee and maybe a piece of cake.

My name is Henway, I’m a dick, head of the best P.I. outfit in town,

“Henway and ____.”

I’ve been thinking about getting a partner.

I’ve been in this racket for more years than I can count. I’m not much at math. I’m more of a people person and tonight I was hoping to meet up with some people.

When I came through the door at the café I could see the owner, Wilma Van der Sluice, behind W2the counter. Wilma ran her café like a maximum security diner. She made the rules and if you didn’t like it the service could really stink.

When she saw me come in she trotted my way, her two too massive braids bouncing up and down by her ears. She smiled and then suddenly disappeared from view. She bounced back into sight almost immediately, still smiling, but with an “It’s Better With Butter” wax paper square stuck to her forehead. Wilma was tough and she was used to these late night slip-ups.

“Hi, Lover Boy. What can I get you?”

“Hi, back at ya, Sugar Lump. I think I’ll check in with my friend there at the counter first.”

Sitting on one of the red vinyl stools was my mentor, the mug that got me into this business, Henry “Hank” O’ Hair. I dropped down onto the stool next to him.

“Hi, Hank, what’s shakin’?”

“Just my gun hand. Oh, it’s you. Hi, Kid.” He always called me “Kid.” He called everybody “Kid.” His memory isn’t what it used to be. It used to be bad, now it was worse.W4

Hank was wearing his trench coat and his aging Fedora, the one with the bullet hole in the brim, but that’s another, much longer, story. He was sitting there, staring at an empty cup. I gave a short whistle and Wilma came running our way, being more careful this time.

“What’ll it be you two hunks of handsome?”

“I’ll have a cuppa, Gorgeous,” I told her.W6

“Me too,” echoed Hank.

“Yeah, a coffee for me and another for my old friend.” Wilma jotted it all  down on her pad, smiled that smile that lit up many a late night like a welcoming sign reading, “Vacancy,” and headed back to her station by the cake dish.

Hank looked a bit down like something or someone had him by the short hairs – and he didn’t have many left.

“You look down, Hank, like something or someone has you by –“

“Yeah, yeah, I know the rest of it, Kid. What’s bothering me? I’ll tell you. I’ve got a case and it’s got me. I’ve been looking for a guy and it’s like he’s dropped off the face of the earth and I’ve come up dry. He’s on the lam and I feel  like I’m the goat here. I’ve looked high and low, near and far, and even sooner or later – nothing, nada, ne, yaga, yimba, a ole, nyet, nahin, and squat.”

“No luck, huh?” He shot me look that said things – I’m not sure what though.

W6

W6Wilma came back over to us and set down four cups of coffee. She smiled and winked at me. It was either a wink or a return of an old problem she had with a tic.

“Talk to me, Henway,” she said, leaning over the counter, her nose just inches from the brim of my imported Fedora. “Tell me something that will give me chills.” I knew where this was heading. I played along.

“Sure, Lambs Lettuce, Do you have any German Chocolate Cake left?”

“One slice and it’s all for you, Puppy Eyes, if you say the magic word.”

“Houdini!,” shouted out Hank. “The guy must be a Houdini to have me not find him.”

Wilma sighed. “Close enough. I’ll get the cake,” and off she went, her braids bouncing like her  head was on a tiny trampoline.

I didn’t like seeing Hank down in the dumps. I had to do something.

“What’s this Houdini’s name,? I asked Hank. He took a long and loud slurp of coffee, then spoke. “This ghost goes by the name of Lech Ontario. I’ve looked everywhere and Nem, nei, nahin, ne, ….”

I finished my first cup while he finished his sentence and then I told him that…”I gotta go see a man about a horse. I’ll be right back.”

W7The Euphemisms, both Guys and Dolls, were at the far end of the café. As I headed that way I passed by the aging Wurlitzer juke box. There were no songs on there newer than the theme from “The Love Boat.” 

It was a slow night at Wilma’s. There was just Hank and me and one booth near the back that had two people – A blonde whose face could start any clock, and a guy who looked like his face could stop your clock – permanently.

Just past the juke box was one of the few payphones left in the city. On a hunch, I started leafing through the pages of the phone book that was bolted to the phone. It was then that I recalled that Hank had taught me everything I know – well, not everything. I learned how to finger paint years before I ever met him, but you get the idea.

There it was – on page 437, halfway down the page –

“Ontario, Lech – 1313 Blueview Terrace 552-3918”

After I finished washing my hands like the sign on the Guys Room door insisted I went back to my spot next to Hank.

“Hank, have you checked the phone book for this Ontario guy?”

“Huh?”

“The phone book – did you look there?”

Without an intelligible word, Hank got up and slowly walked back toward the payphone. When he headed back my way he muttered, “Thanks, Kid,” and kept on walking. He vanished into the fog like a black cat in a coal mine.

to be continued 1

W5

Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 38 Continued

Fiction Saturday

“Dominic, killing us won’t solve anything,” said Laura. “What’s done is done. I’m sorry, but I didn’t know that Graciella was the law. I ran away from you because I wasn’t going to take you beating up on me anymore. If I’d wanted you dead all I had to do was ask my father and you’d have disappeared.”

“Yeah, well, I’m sorry about hitting you, Beverly. You know something, Bette? Beverly here has a mean one-two punch. She knocked out a tooth of mine once. See, back here.” Dominic opened his mouth and pointed to a gap in his teeth with the barrel of his gun.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter38

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 38

 

A fresh batch of tourists were getting off the train and heading for the border. A few walked toward the McDonalds, but saw the yellow crime scene tape and turned back to join the flow to the crossing gate.

Laura flipped off the light switch and closed the Cambio door behind her. They looked up and down the street. Nobody was paying them any attention. Laura took Davis’s arm as they casually crossed the plaza. She idly swung the plastic shopping bag holding $180,000 worth of forged documents and the file folder from Molina’s office. They looked just like a couple of tourists heading home after a day of shopping in Tijuana. They made a beeline for the nearest open door on the waiting red train.

They started to step up into the car when a uniformed San Diego police sergeant started coming down and blocked their way. Laura and the officer made eye contact. After what felt like an hour, the officer stepped back up into the car.

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 37

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Thirty-Seven

 

       Lizard Boy smiled as Laura and Davis walked over to the metal storage shed.

“Things are better at the border. They’re opening up again,” he said to them in his usual staccato style.

A small, stocky man with strong Mayan facial features, held open the door to the shed and motioned them all inside. His face exhibited several prison tattoos. He was bare-chested and wearing a leather vest. His coppery skin showed a number of scars. He had a large knife sheathed on his belt and over his shoulder was slung an AK-47, the Third World’s weapon of choice. In his left hand, he held a fresh caramel Frappuccino.

“I’m glad you liked my coffees,” he said. “Just like I used to make at Starbucks. Good, huh? Well, bien viaje, amigos.”

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Fiction Saturday – “And Pull The Hole… Chapter 36 Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 36 Continued

pull-tijuanaOutside, the sun was beginning to go down and an offshore breeze was finally cutting through the hot and hectic city. The shopping-mad tourists were heading home and the drinking-mad tourists were arriving. The mood in Tijuana was changing, like it did everyday at this time, from commercial cordiality to alcoholic depravity. The zebra-painted donkeys that pulled small carts along the avenidas so tourists could have some unusual pictures to take home to Iowa, were being replaced by other donkeys for another kind of entertainment that Tijuana was famous for.  

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Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole… Chapter 31 Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter 31 – Continued

pull-border-mcd“That’s two Egg McMuffins’ with cheese and two coffees, and thank you for visiting McDonald’s, Buenos dias.”

“And buon giorno to you.”

Laura picked up the tray and turned around to look for Davis.  He had found them a table by the wall.  The restaurant was already half filled and would soon be packed, just as Vivian had predicted.

“Here we go,” she said.  “Oh, could we switch seats?  I want to be able to look out of the window.”

“Sure, no problem,” said Davis.  They traded places.  Davis could see the side door that opened onto the small parking lot and Laura could scan the entire plaza.

As she poured a pink envelope of sweetener into her coffee, Laura’s eyes picked out the good guys and the wise guys.

“Vivian was right.  This plaza is overloaded with cops and I see three guys that might be Dominic’s boys and two more over on that bench back by the train.  He must have called in reinforcements.  I don’t recognize them.  Damn!”

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Fiction Saturday – And Pull The Hole… Continued Chapter 30

Fiction Saturday

 

Chapter Thirty

 

pull-motel“Kids, I’m sorry.  I’m really sorry.”

Vivian was near tears.  Davis was numb.  Laura was torn between comforting Vivian, trying to keep Davis from going into shock, and keeping watch on her own boiling pot of anger and fear.

“Vivian, I don’t blame you,” she said.  “It was just bad luck.  We’re all safe.”

But she did blame Vivian in a way.  She blamed herself as well, for accepting Vivian’s dangerous invitation in the first place.  She thought that, maybe, they weren’t all that safe, not any longer.

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Fiction Saturday Chapter 28- “And Pull The Hole In After You” – Continued

Fiction Saturday

Chapter Twenty-Eight

 

atlantaLaura gathered up the dishes as Davis toweled himself dry in the bathroom.  She had showered first, standing under the steaming water for fifteen minutes, crying there so Davis wouldn’t see her fear manifested yet again.

“Davis, while you’re getting dressed I’m going to take the dishes back to Vivian.”

“Okay,” he called from the bathroom, “and thank her for me too.”

Vivian saw her coming across the parking lot and hit the door buzzer to let Laura into the small office.

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