My two fingers pecked out a staccato beat on my battered Remington as I put the final touches to the report I’d written on the case I’d just finalised. It was just a small matter of blackmail involving a young woman and a member of the clergy. For a consideration she agreed to destroy the negatives and to not reveal the sordid details of the affair to his wife and his church. She was happy that she would get her money eventually, although if I was her I wouldn’t hold my breath.
The door to my small corner of the storeroom in back of Laura Lee’s bar opened and I felt familiar arms on my shoulders and the soft pressure of her breasts on my back and a hand placed a drink on the desk beside my typewriter. “Lou’s out the front wanting to have a word.” She leaned down and kissed me. She could have sent him straight down or buzzed me but it was more fun this way.
“Send him back Babe before you run out of booze.” I stood and pulled her to me. She looked great and I told her so and got another kiss as a reward.
“Hiya Gerry, howzit going?” Lou Callaway was my best friend who just happened to be a cop.
“Just peachy Lou. What can I do for you?”
“I think that you should go and see Dolores, she’s not doing so good.” Dolores was my soon to be ex-wife, the one who left me for my ex-partner in the Pretty Goode Detective Agency and who now visits him from time to time in the visitors room at the State Pen.
“What’s her problem?”
“She’s taking the mess that she’s in pretty hard, she’s sorry for leaving you for Tony and is thinking of dumping him. I think she might hold out some hope of getting back with you.”
“Do you really think that me telling her that there’s no hope in hell of that happening is going to improve things?”
“Shit I don’t know, what do I know about women?” Lou is married to this broad who is spreading herself around but doesn’t want a divorce because he’s there when she gets dumped and he has a regular pay packet. He can’t be bothered getting a divorce because he does get some occasionally, very occasionally.
“I’ll think about it, in the meantime can I interest you in lunch? The lunch rush is over and there should be some left-overs.” Lou didn’t look as if he was starving but said yes anyway. I pushed the button on my intercom whatsis. “Babe, can you rustle up something for Lou he’s started chewing the blotting paper?”
“Sure Honey, what would he like?”
I looked at Lou. “Pastrami and Swiss on rye, and coffee, strong black coffee and lots of it, he’s having coffee withdrawals.”
“Coming right up and the usual for you lover?” I told her yes and she clicked off at her end.
“So how are things with you? Solved any big crimes lately?”
“You know how it is, I do all the hard work and the Captain takes all the credit, if it wasn’t for the fact that I don’t know what I could do I’d leave.”
“You could always quit and join me in this business.”
“You don’t have enough work for two, you’ve barely enough for one.”
“Why the sudden interest in Dolores?”
“After Tony got sent up the river she didn’t know what to do so I talked to her. She feels guilty about what she did to you and asked me to see how she stands with you, I think maybe she would like to get back with you. I told her about you and Laura Lee, so she knows that you mightn’t be willing to have her back, but talk to her, let her see how things are.”
“She can forget it, I’m happier here with Laura Lee than I ever was with her and it’s not because I can get all the free booze I can drink either, in fact I’m hardly touching the stuff these days.”
“It won’t hurt to have a talk to her.”
“Yeah.” I wasn’t so sure about that. I guess that I should fill you in on what’s happened. My name is Gerry Pretty and I was the Pretty part of the Pretty Goode Detective Agency (Discretion guaranteed) and the other half was Tony Goode, only it turned out he was no good. He walked out on me taking our client records and our secretary who just happened to be Dolores Pretty, my wife.
I met Laura Lee Jones when she hired me to find her husband, Andy Jones, who had disappeared days after she had thrown him out because he was screwing around, and because he owed several bookies a lot of money, at least that’s what we were meant to think. With the so-called help of Laura Lee’s daughter, the lovely Lucy, I managed to find that his disappearance was a scam designed to take the pressure off him with the bookies. It wasn’t as it seemed because, rather than owing the bookies lots of money they owed him. Lucy had been using her mathematic skills to devise a betting system that proved to be far too successful for the bookies and they were out to get Andy because he was the member of the team laying the bets.
During my investigation Lucy used her charms to try and steer me away from the truth, this had involved them in an elaborate frame that included a conveniently dead hobo who had been beaten to death, my ex-partner and Nigel, Bennie the Bookie’s huge bodyguard. Benny is doing time for ordering the assault on Tony by Nigel who is doing time as an accessory after the fact of murder of Andy Jones, the missing husband of Laura Lee and father of Lucy. Andy is now living in England with Lucy who isn’t his daughter after all, but that’s a whole new story. Laura Lee and Lucy both benefitted handsomely from Andy’s insurance payout, and who was I to rain on their parade by going to the police and revealing the truth of the scam?
I walked to the door with Lou. “Tell her I’ll talk with her but not to get her hopes up.”
“Sure, I’ll get her to make a time to see you.” He stuck his hat on his head and left. What was I to do? I didn’t want to talk to her but she wasn’t about to stop pressuring Lou until I did.
“What did Lou want? I assume he didn’t call in to pass them time of day.”
“He wants me to have a talk with Dolores, she’s feeling down about things.”
“I think that you should. Don’t worry I’m not going to get jealous about you seeing your wife.” She grabbed my hand and led me upstairs to our bedroom and gave me an hour of reasons why she didn’t need to get jealous, and I had to admit that her reasoning was very sound.
A couple of hours later I was helping out behind the bar in preparation for the evening rush when the phone rang, Paula our barmaid answered it and held the receiver out for me. “It’s someone called Lou for you.”
“Hi Lou, what’s up?”
“Can you call by the station in about an hour, I’ve arranged for Dolores to be here and I figured you’d want neutral territory.”
“You don’t waste time do you? Sure I’ll be there.” I buzzed upstairs. “Lou’s just called, he wants me to meet with Dolores in an hour down at the station, can you come down we’re a little busy.” The usual crowd were filing in, tonight was the night that the band played and they had built up a large and loyal following that meant that we would be busier than usual.
“Sure thing, I’ll see you when you get back.” She kissed me over the intercom just to make sure that I got back.
There was a deafening silence as I walked through the squad room to Lou’s office, gone was the derision of times past, now it was replaced by a new found respect since I solved Andy Jones’ disappearance when the police had given up on it. I could see Lou and Dolores deep in conversation as I approached, they looked very pally. “Hi Lou, hi what’s your name, good to see you.” Lou threw me a look that could kill.
“Hello Gerry, how are you doing?”
“Just fine, couldn’t be better, and yourself.” I felt like adding ‘much that I care.’ But seeing the look on Lou’s face I decided against it.
“Lou tells me that you’re seeing someone.”
“Yeah, I am.”
“I hear that she’s very nice.”
“Yeah, she is.”
“I’m happy for you.”
“Thank you.” Hell, I couldn’t not acknowledge her.
“I want to ask a favour.” She grabbed my hand and looked deep into my eyes. I’d seen that look before, many years before when we first started going together, she used it whenever she wanted something, sometimes it was a good something like me to make love to her, sometimes it was money.
“Oh yeah, now what would that be?” I have to admit that I might be just a little curious.
“Tony’s cell mate claims that he was framed for a crime that he didn’t commit.”
“I hear that ninety-nine percent of inmates have been wrongly incarcerated.”
“Just listen to her Gerry.” I got the impression that Lou was taking her side.
“All right I’ll listen but don’t get your hopes up too soon, I mightn’t like what I hear.”
“Tony’s cellmate was telling him about the police fitting him up for a crime he didn’t commit.”
“The cops wouldn’t do that would they Lou?” Lou shot me a new filthy look, he was building up quite a repertoire of them.
“He says that he has proof of his innocence but he can’t get it because he’s in jail. Tony told him he’d ask me to ask you if you could get it for him. Would you?”
“I can’t think of any good reason why I sh. . .” I was nearly going to say ‘should’ until I saw another filthy look on Lou’s face. “. . ouldn’t, I’ve little free time on my hands. I will charge my usual fee, half payable in advance and the rest when I complete the task. Tony knows what I charge so he can pass the good news on. You can let me know what he decides. I presume that Tony will want a fee for referring him to me.”
“I know Tony and I hurt you bad and I’m sorry for that and I’m begging you to forgive us. Please darling, you can’t go on hating me forever, I know that you’re not that kind of guy.”
“I don’t hate you but I’ve a new woman in my life who I know won’t throw me over for some smooth talking schmuck. I don’t even blame you for it, after all I fell for his line when we formed our partnership. It was only later that I realised that he knew nothing about being a private dick.” She looked at me but it wasn’t with the look that I was expecting, it wasn’t the sadness of knowing that I wouldn’t take her back, it was almost as if she was relieved and then I saw the smile on Lou’s ugly mug. “Lou, could I have a quick word with you, in private?”
“Sure Gerry, what do you want to know?” We walked out into the squad room leaving Dolores in Lou’s office.
“You and Dolores, there’s more to this than you’re letting on, isn’t there?”
“What do you mean?” His expression told me that he knew that I’d worked it out and was scared that I would be angry with him.
“Don’t worry buddy, I wish you well, both of you. She could do worse than you and you sure as hell need a decent woman in your life, you might even get around to divorcing the current bitch.”
“Yeah, I’ve been giving that some thought. You’re not upset about me and Dolores?”
“No, I’ve got Laura Lee and I don’t want anyone else, which reminds me, I left her holding the fort, I’d better get back.” I waved good-bye to Dolores as I left and my quick glance back as I reached the door confirmed the truth, they were locked in a passionate embrace. It looked like Tony would continue to be the loser.
I slipped behind the bar and gave Laura Lee a huge kiss before filling drink orders. The band was in full swing and the crowd sat there rapt in the cool sounds that filled the room. This was a new band, not the blues band that played here the first time that I came, but one of the new ‘cool’ jazz combos consisting of guitar, double bass, sax, drums and bongos, the singer was a girl, I think, her short hair shoved into a black beret and her slender body hidden beneath a black coat and pants. Her voice was low and sultry and she could have been a torch singer except for the scat riffs that she slipped into the songs. The smoke haze hung low and I could pick out the smell of weed amongst the aromas of cigars and Turkish tobaccos. They were the usual crowds that came these days, the guys all wore duffle coats and sported little beards and berets while the girls wore lots of beads over plain black and heavy makeup and when each song finished they snapped their fingers instead of clapping. The snippets of conversation that I heard were along the lines of; ‘Like wow man these are some cool dudes and the grooves man they’re so far out.’ And ‘I know man like it purely swings man.’ It was almost like a foreign language to me in the beginning, but I soon came to realise that most of them didn’t know what they were talking about, just mouthing what they were expected to say.
The crowd eventually dispersed and we cleaned up. Laura Lee and I sat behind the bar relaxing after a hard night. “How did it go with Dolores?”
“Fine, it seems as if Tony’s cell-mate is innocent and wants me to prove it.”
“Do you think he is?”
“They’re all innocent if you are to believe them, but I’ll go and talk to him. Maybe he is telling the truth, who knows.”
“And how was Dolores?”
“She’s okay. I think that she and Lou are getting more than friendly. I wish them luck, he needs a break when it comes to women and she’d have to be better than he’s got now.”
“So she’s no longer my enemy?” She came and sat on my lap and it wasn’t long before she could feel my cock preparing for action. “Let’s get more comfortable.” She led me to our bed.
I recognised David Monroe as he was led into the visitors’ room. He looked a little thinner than his mug shots but the face was the same. The file told me that he had embezzled a lot of money from his employer but I wanted to hear his side of the story, the side that the jury chose not to believe. He sat on the other side of the screen and looked at me. “Thank you for seeing me, I don’t know whether you can help me but I’ll try anything to get justice and see that bastard behind bars just like he saw me.”
“I don’t know whether I can help you or not, it depends on you convincing me that there is a chance of success. Why don’t you tell me your side of the story from the beginning?”
“I’d been working at the First City Bank for seven years and had been appointed head teller. I had a comfortable home, a good job with prospects and had recently become engaged to marry Moira Freeling, the manager’s secretary. I had my whole life ahead of me so why would I jeopardize that by stealing money from the bank. It wasn’t as if I needed it, my father left me enough money to buy my home so I didn’t have a mortgage hanging over my head.”
“Who found out that there was money missing?”
“Harley Grainger, he’s the manager. He didn’t say anything to me at the time but he did call in the bank’s auditors who found the discrepancies and traced it to me, and that’s where the story gets a little hazy, the accounts that the money had been taken from weren’t accounts that I dealt with. When the police were called in he told them that he had suspected me for some time but didn’t have the evidence until then and that Moira had admitted to him that she had seen me with the files in question.”
“Are you still engaged to her?”
“I don’t know. She disappeared within days of me being arrested and I’ve heard nothing from her in all this time. She didn’t give evidence against me because the police couldn’t find her, but that didn’t matter because there was enough to convict me.”
“Do you think something might have happened to her?”
“What do you mean?” He looked worried now, more worried than when he first came in.
“I mean if there was someone who wanted to make sure that she didn’t change her mind about giving evidence against you he could always make her disappear.”
“You mean, kill her?”
“That’s the usual way, yes.” I wasn’t mincing my words.
“I don’t even want to think that.”
“So you still love her despite what she’s done?”
“Okay, I don’t want to get your hopes up but I’ll nose around and see what I can find out.” As I stood to leave a guard came in to lead him back to the cells, there was the slightest glimmer of hope in his eyes, for some reason I liked the guy, I just hoped that I could do something for him.
I called in to see Lou and see if I could read the case files. “Do you think there’s a chance we got it wrong?”
“Who was in charge of the investigation?”
“Steve Hendricks, why?”
“Then there’s every chance that justice was not done, he’s in the pocket of the mob and their friends. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Joe the Goose is involved, he seemed to be flush with funds about the time the money went missing.” Joe the Goose was the name that Giuseppe Guissini was called behind his back, it didn’t do to call him that to his face, that is if you wanted to keep your face intact. He blew into town two years ago and set about taking over the nightclub scene. His first club featured dancing girls who were encouraged to provide extra services to favoured clients. It became very popular because it was very discreet and this discretion meant that clients from the mayor down enjoyed what was on offer. The police turned a blind eye to any flouting of the liquor and gaming laws. It was rumoured that there was even a casino in the back room but it was never raided. Steve Hendricks was on the payroll.
I sat at Lou’s desk and admired the job done on Monroe, incriminating evidence just seemed to appear as if by magic and anything that would suggest another person’s involvement was glossed over. Even Moira’s involvement was sketchy at best and if I didn’t know better I would have to say that a competent defence lawyer would have shot holes in any evidence that she would have given. I began to hold grave fears for her life, that is if she wasn’t already dead. I wrote down her address and left Lou to the case he was working on.
Moira lived in a small apartment building but she wasn’t there, someone else answered the door, someone who looked as if she worked for Joe the Goose. She was a blond of the bottle variety, her pencilled eyebrows arched high on her forehead, her lips were bright red and pouty and her body was trying to push its way out of the filmy housecoat that she was almost wearing. “Can I help you?”
“I’m looking for Moira Freeling, does she live here?”
“She used to but not anymore, she moved out about a week before I moved in.”
“Do you happen to know where she moved to?” It was worth a try, maybe she was dumb enough to tell me.
“No, but she must have left suddenly because she didn’t redirect her mail.”
“Do you still have it?” I can live in hope.
“Sure, I didn’t know what to do with it so I kept it in case she came for it, do you want to see it?”
“If that’s okay, yes.” She stepped aside and let me into her world. There were frills and flounces everywhere, pictures of her in a chorus line of scantily clad girls with lots of feathers and not much else on apart from a sequinned G-string and tassels on their nipples. They all had long legs, large breasts and fixed smiles. “So you’re a dancer?”
“How did,” she saw me looking at the pictures, “oh you noticed.” She pointed to a picture on a poster for the club. “That’s me, like the jewellery store.” The name under the picture said ‘Tiffany.’
“It must be hard work keeping in line, what with all those high kicks.”
“Some girls have what it takes and some don’t, I guess I’m one of those that does, Joe told me that if I kept it up I could headline the show one day.” She was rummaging in a cupboard. “Here they are.” She handed me a large box full of letters, there must have been hundreds in there. I pulled one out and opened it, it was a letter from her mother pleading with her for a reply. Mum sounded worried and when I looked at the date I wasn’t surprised, it was a good three months after Moira had disappeared. This didn’t look good.
“Do you mind if I keep this?”
“Why should I mind? It’s not mine.” She was standing beside me trying to read the letter, her ample bosom pressed hard against my arm, it felt soft and her perfume filled my nose with an invitation to dance. I folded the letter and put it back in the envelop, stuffing it into my pocket I declined the invitation and headed for the door. If a bare foot on carpet could be heard I would have heard the stamp of disappointment, but I did hear her voice. “Damn! I must be losing my touch.”
“Sorry doll, any other time and any other place I might have been interested.”
“So you’ve got a wife, or is it a girlfriend?”
“Both.” I smiled at her. “See you around.” Another time and another place I would have been interested for beneath the make-up and the impossibly blond hair was a very attractive girl, not the type that usually does what she does.
Moira’s parents lived in a small town not far out of big town so I flagged a hack and gave him the address. “This is going to cost you buddy.”
“Forget the cost, just drive.” The money that I saved by not having a car would more than cover the cost of the ride.
I caught him looking at me in the rear view mirror. “You look like a shamus to me, are you on a case?”
“You could say that.”
“If you are and needed me on a regular basis I could cut you a deal.”
“What sort of deal are we talking about?”
“The way I figure it, if I take you to this address I’d probably have to drive back empty so if you’re not going to be long the return is free, same for any future trips.”
“Sounds good to me, how do I get in touch if I need you?”
He pointed to his hack tag on the visor, it told me that his name was Eddy O’Halloran so I wrote it down in my note book. “I’ll write my number down for you when we get to where we’re going, or you could reach me through the dispatcher.”
By the way that he handled his cab I suspected that he had been taught to drive by experts. “You used to be a cop, didn’t you?”
“Good guess pal. I was a highway patrolman until a wayward truck knocked me to hell and gone. It took years to recover and when I went back to work they wouldn’t let me back on patrol, and I hated the desk job they gave me so I left.”
We turned into a leafy street and Eddie cruised looking for the right house. He stopped the car and I handed him my note book and waited for him to write his number and hand it back before I got out. “I shouldn’t be long.”
A woman I took to be Moira’s mother had the door open before I reached it. “Mrs Freeling? I’m Gerry Pretty and I’m investigating a case that involves your daughter Moira, I would like to have a word with you if that’s okay.”
“Do you have any identification?” I took my PI card out of my wallet and showed her. “I can’t be too careful.” She stepped aside and motioned me in.
“What do you mean you can’t be too careful?”
“About a year and a half ago I kept on getting phone calls from men who claimed to be the police asking to speak to Moira, but I knew that they weren’t the police at all, and every time I left the house I was followed, I guess they thought that I could lead them to her, but I couldn’t because I don’t know where she is, she just vanished off the face of the earth. I’m scared Mr Pretty, scared that something’s happened to my Moira, it has hasn’t it, something very bad?”
“I don’t know but I’m trying to find out. I don’t believe that she’s dead but I do believe that there are men who would like to see her dead and I am going to do my best to stop that happening. What I need from you is the most recent photograph of her that you have, you’ll get it back when I’ve finished with it, I promise.”
“I have one taken not long before she disappeared, it was taken when she got engaged to David, he’s such a nice young man and I can’t believe that he did what they said that he did.”
“I don’t think that he did either and that’s something else I have to do, get him out of jail.”
“I wish you well Mr Pretty, I’m sure if anyone can find my Moira and get her David out of jail you can.” She grasped my hand in hers and her pleading look tugged at my heart, I hope that I’m not getting her hopes too high. Eddie had the door open for me before I got to the cab.
It was a quiet drive back to town, Eddie could see that I needed to think so he shut up until we got close. “Where to Mr P?”
“Please, call me Gerry, I don’t like the sound of ‘Mr P’. About half way down Fifth Street there’s an alley, you can drop me there, my office is in back of the bar at the end.”
“Sure thing.” Minutes later I got out of his cab, I peeled off some notes and handed them to him. He didn’t count them before shoving them into his pocket. “Call me when you need me again.”
“You can count on that, thanks for the service.” I closed the door and walked down the alley, deep in thought.
I heard a movement behind me and something hard was jabbed into my ribs. “Just stop right there, hands above your head. I have a message here from Mr Smith and Mr Wesson.” He chuckled at his attempt at humour while I was patted down. “Now turn around, slowly.”
“Hi Steve, a bit out of your regular beat aren’t you?”
“Don’t get smart if you know what’s good for you Shamus. Why are you poking around in other people’s business?”
“I have a client who is interested in one of your cases, is that going to be a problem?”
“Only if you don’t leave it be, it could become unhealthy if you don’t.” He was trying to sound tough, he almost had it but not quite.
“Ooh I’m so scared of you that I think that I’ll run inside and tell Mummy on you, she’ll come out and give you such a beating.” I put on my best swish accent. He took a swing at me with the hand holding his roscoe but I ducked under it easily and came up with a ripping right into his solar plexus. I left him rolling around gasping for air and getting grime all over his trench coat.
Laura Lee came out from behind the bar where she was stacking glasses for the night trade. We met and her arms circled my neck and her lips found mine. When she eventually let me breathe again I held her head in my hands and gave her a kiss of my own. “I think that I’ll have to go out more often just so that I can get kissed like this.”
“Give me a hand to stack these glasses and I’ll show you that you’re better off not going out at all.” I liked the sound of this and the feel of it as well.
A couple of pleasant hours later the joint was half full with the usual crowd that aren’t into cool jazz, enough to keep us busy, when Lou walked in with Dolores on his arm. I looked at Laura Lee and she smiled at me telling me that she was okay with meeting my ex. I introduced Dolores to Laura Lee and we chatted for a while, both women seemed okay with the situation. Lou caught my eye, “Can I have a word.” We walked to the end of the bar. “That was a pretty dumb move you made smacking Steve around earlier, he’ll make life tough for you, you know that.”
“He made the first dumb move sticking a rod in my back. You could tell him that if he wants to talk he should ask politely. He took a swing at me and I ducked and gave him a gentle tap in the breadbasket. What was I supposed to do?”
“I don’t blame you, he thinks that because he has tough friends that he’s tough. He’s a pussy and one of these days he’s going to step over the line once too often. Just watch yourself, okay?”
I looked at Laura Lee and Dolores comparing notes on me and decided that it was time to break this up before I got into trouble. “Okay ladies break it up, enough with talking about me behind my back.”
“Who said that we were talking about you?” Laura Lee asked, “For all that you know we could have been talking about fashion.”
“But you weren’t were you?”
“No, but it was all good things we were talking about. Dolores was telling me that she’s going to dump Tony and that she’s hooking up with Lou, so I take it that we’ll be seeing more of her.”
“Only if you’re okay with that.”
“I’ve got my man and I’m not letting anyone steal him from me, especially not his wife.”
Lou and Dolores sat in a booth and in between serving customers either Laura Lee or I kept them company. It was obvious that they were relieved that Laura Lee didn’t scratch Dolores’ eyes out and I made it clear that I was happy for them both.
“How’s the investigation going?” Lou asked.
“I’ve spoken to the girl living in Moira’s old apartment, but she doesn’t seem to know anything of her whereabouts and her mother is desperate to find her. Mum doesn’t think that her future son-in-law is guilty and I’m inclined to believe her. I’m going to have a chat with the bank’s auditor to see if the evidence is concrete, and I think that I’ll have a chat to Harley Grainger the bank manager.”
“Keep me informed, this could be my chance to get enough dirt on Steve to put him where he belongs.”
“You’re enjoying the prospect aren’t you?”
“It shows does it?”
“You were never good at hiding your feelings were you?” I saw him reach for Dolores’ hand under the table.
Lou and Dolores gave us a hand to clear up after the last customers left. They wouldn’t accept payment so we all sat around and had a couple of drinks before they left. I got the impression that Lou would not be occupying his own bed tonight.
Samuel T. Willoughby was an accountant, more importantly he was the accountant who carried out the audit of the bank’s books that put David Monroe away. But the conclusions that he reached during his examination of the books was that while there were discrepancies in several accounts there had been no evidence to implicate David specifically. His evidence during the trial concentrated on the fact of the discrepancies only, he was never asked to lay the blame on any particular person.
My next port of call was the bank. I stood in a queue for several minutes before I reached a teller’s cage. The guy behind the grill was a weasely little man with a pointy nose and close together eyes that hid behind thick lensed steel rimmed glasses. “How may I help you sir?” He sniffed. I almost expected him to rub his hands together like a Dickensian usurer.
“I would like to see Mr Harley Grainger.”
“Excuse me while I see if he’s in.” What he meant was that he’d see if Grainger could bother talking to me.
“I can see that he’s in.” Grainger’s door was ajar and I could see a hand raise an expensive looking Havana to his lips. “Just tell him that I would like to talk to him regarding David Monroe.”
“You mean the David Monroe that used to work here?”
“The very same, now scurry off and tell your boss I want to see him.” He scurried and returned to usher me into the inner sanctum.
Grainger came around the desk to meet me. “Good morning sir, I don’t usually agree to see anyone without an appointment, how can I help you?” He was making it obvious that he was doing me a favour just seeing me but that I wasn’t to push my luck.
“I’m investigating the trial of your former Chief Teller David Monroe and I have many concerns about the evidence presented and the conduct of the trial. I need for you to clarify several points.”
“I’ll do my best to help but it was a long time ago. I have to confess that I was as surprised as anyone when the auditor implicated him.”
“That’s one of the areas I hope to cover, you see I’ve read the auditor’s report and it doesn’t single out David as the culprit at all.”
“But I understood that it did, at least that’s what the police told me.”
“I would take too much of what Steve Hendricks told you, he was working under orders from Joe the Goose.”
“You mean the mobster Joe the Goose?” That he wasn’t the star of the local drama group was their loss.
“You’ve obviously heard of him. From my reading of the trial transcript it would appear that several parties with a vested interest made sure that evidence that would implicate Monroe just appeared as if by magic. My aim is to find those responsible and see that justice is done and that my client is released from jail, and (I placed considerable emphasis on ‘and’) handsomely compensated for his wrongful imprisonment. Believe me when I say that I mean all of those responsible.”
“I see, you can be sure that I’ll help where I can.”
“You can start by telling me where Moira Freeling is.”
“I’m sorry I can’t.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
“I can’t because I don’t know.”
“But surely she contacted you with an address to send the money that was owing to her?”
“No, I’ve still got that locked in my safe.”
I stood up to leave. “Thank you for your time and the information. If I think of anything else that I need to know I won’t hesitate to ask.” I poked out my hand for him to shake and wished I hadn’t as soon as it grabbed mine, it was like grabbing an eel, cold and slimy.
I felt two pairs of eyes follow me from the bank, the weasel and the eel. They had different reasons, the weasel because I punctured his perception of his importance and the eel because he was now more scared than he was when Monroe was fitted for embezzlement. I wouldn’t like to be in his shoes when he tried to explain to Gus the Goose that the matter had reared its ugly head all over again.
I was pleased with my mornings work as I walked towards my home/office/alternative employment venue. I certainly wasn’t anticipating the speed with which orders were given and carried out until I heard a car accelerating behind me. I almost jumped clear, it winged me as it sped by and my knee hurt like hell. I tried to stand but my leg collapsed under me so I sat there waiting for someone to come to my aid. In a matter of minutes an ambulance arrived and I was loaded onto a stretcher and shoved in the back. While I was complaining about them not putting a splint on my leg and bracing myself for when the ambulance should turn off into the hospital entrance I realised that there was no lurch. “Where are you taking me?”
By way of an answer I felt a needle jabbed into my arm. When I woke I couldn’t move, I was seated on a hard chair with my legs trussed to chair legs and my arms behind my back and tied to the chair. I was looking into the squinty eyes of Joe the Goose. “Ah you are awake at last Mr Pretty.”
“What do you want?”
“We want you to mind your own business.”
“And if I choose not to?”
“A demonstration if you please Mr Hendricks.” I waited for the inevitable clip behind the ear but it didn’t happen, at least not to me. The sound of the slap was followed by a sob of pain, the sob of a woman in pain. “Bring her forward.” Laura Lee didn’t look so good, her face was bruised and swollen, her beautiful eyes all puffed up.
“Don’t do it Gerry, don’t give in to them.” Steve slapped her again, he was enjoying it. I made a mental note that I would see that he hurt worse than Laura Lee.
“Listen to her Mr Pretty. I’ll leave you for a moment or two while I discuss the situation with my colleagues, our friend will be just outside the door to see that you don’t try to escape.” They left and Laura Lee threw herself at me.
“Oh darling what have they done to you?”
“I had an argument with a car and my leg’s busted up, but I’ll recover, I’m more concerned with you, what have they done?”
“That cop Steve likes to beat defenceless women, especially when he’s got someone to hold them. Just give me five minutes alone with him and I’ll show him what pain really feels like.”
“Hold that thought, I might just hold him for you, and then we’ll change places, I owe him one. But first, when they let you go I want you to do a couple of things. First go to Lou and tell him what has happened and then I want the both of you to go to Moira Freeling’s apartment and talk to the girl living there now, she goes under the name of Tiffany. You go in first and tell her that you know the truth and that David will be free soon, and if she’s prepared to give evidence you can make sure that nothing will happen to her. When she agrees get Lou and he can get all the information that she has. It should be enough to free him. One more thing, in my note book you’ll see a phone number for Eddie O’Halloran, he’s a cabbie, tell him that you’re my girl and use him to go to Moira’s. If you’re followed he’ll spot the tail and he knows how to lose it, just do as he says. Have you got all of that?”
“Yes. Don’t do anything brave or silly, I don’t want to lose you.”
“I won’t, I want to feel the warm welcome when I get home.” She kissed me as hard as her puffy lips would allow.
“Now isn’t that sweet, the lovebirds are kissing, let’s hope that it won’t be for the last time.” Joe the Goose had returned. “The good news is the lovely lady will be returned to her home, but she is warned that any attempt to involve the police will result in you, Mr Pretty, suffering very severe pain before you meet your untimely death. Is this understood?”
“Yes.” Laura Lee answered in a soft voice.
“Darling, would you tell Dolores that I’m safe and well for the time being.” She caught on quick.
“Sure lover, I’m sure she’ll be pleased to hear that.”
“Dolores, who is this Dolores person?” Joe asked.
“She’s his wife.” Laura Lee answered.
“I don’t understand you people, he has a wife and you two are lovers, what ever happened to the sanctity of marriage?”
“That’s strange coming from someone who makes his fortune from cheating husbands.” I told him.
“That’s my business it has nothing to do with you.” He went to the door. “Steve, will you escort this lady home?”
“If you so much as lay a hand on her I’ll beat you to within an inch of your life.”
“Aren’t you the tough guy?”
“I don’t have time to stand here listening to you two playing at being the tough guys, just get her out of here.” Steve reached for Laura Lee who brushed his hand away and walked out of the room. “She is a very lovely lady, it would be a pity if she was to meet with an accident.”
“If she meets with an accident you will meet with an on purpose and it won’t be pleasant.” He just looked at me for a minute and left the room.
When you are on your own in a room, trussed to a chair with your leg hurting like hell time seems to drag by very slowly indeed. I had no way of knowing how long I sat there counting the throbs coming from my wounded knee, I got up to three thousand two hundred and seventy-four when I heard the noise of running feet and men yelling, I also heard the noise of gunshots and screams of pain, something big was happening and I was beginning to fear for my life. The door succumbed to some heavy treatment and Lou came in followed by Laura Lee, her kisses felt better than any I’d had before. She was muttering something between sobs, I couldn’t understand a word of it but I didn’t care, she was here and I was safe in her arms.
Lou took a knife from his pocket and cut the rope around my legs and arms. I tried to stand up but it was no use, I sagged to the floor. “Stay there, we’ll have an ambulance here in a few minutes to take you to hospital, both of you. How did you know about Moira?”
“I have to admit that she’s been very clever, who would think to look for a missing bank clerk in a joint like this? It came to me when I looked at her photo that her mother gave me, she was dressed in very formal clothes, high neckline and loose fitting skirt, it was as if she was trying to hide her figure. One look at her mother told me that underneath was a very shapely woman, that’s if she was anything like her mother. The peroxided hair was as far as she could get from her natural colour and contact lenses changed the colour of her blue eyes. I figured that she worked there so that she could get any evidence that would help her man.”
“She did at that. It appears as if Grainger bankrolled Joe in setting up his enterprises, for a percentage of the profits of course, that is after the loan was paid off. The problem was that the loan was under the counter, he took the money from accounts that were rarely used and he would have gotten away with it except that Joe got greedy and decide that he didn’t need to repay the balance of the loan, after all what could Grainger do about it?”
“He must have been desperate?”
“Yeah, that’s when he hatched the plot to blame David for the shortfall, he would kill two birds with the one stone, cover the losses and get rid of David, he had the hots for Moira and wanted a free go at getting her for himself, except that she didn’t want a bar of him.”
“Why did she give the police the evidence that led them to David?”
“She didn’t, that was Steve’s idea, he came up with the evidence and told everyone that it was her that gave it to him.”
“So David was right when he told me that she wouldn’t have done anything like that.”
Our discussion was cut short by the arrival of the ambulance. This time my leg was placed in a splint and it felt a lot better. Laura Lee travelled to hospital in the back holding my hand like she would never let it go. My leg was set in plaster and I was moved to a ward with my leg suspended by a pulley and rope device. Laura Lee sat beside me, her face covered in dressings. “You are going to have to take it easy for a while, when you get home you’re going to bed and staying there until I think that it’s safe for you to get up, and I think that you should give up this private detective business, I don’t want to go through this again.”
“But I’ll get so bored, you won’t be able to stand me.”
“I can find ways of keeping you amused, you can just lay there and I’ll climb on board and do all the work.” She had her hand on my cock and was caressing him into life.
Just then the curtains were pulled back. “Looks as if we got here just in time, maybe I should have done more of that myself.” Dolores said.
“You can always practise on me.” Lou took her hand and placed it on his cock.
There was a third person in the group, the bottle blond hair was still there but the makeup was gone along with the painted eyebrows and she was wearing conservative clothes. “Tell me Mr Pretty, how did you know that I was Moira, no-one else worked it out?”
“It wasn’t until I saw your mother, I saw what you would look like in twenty years or so, and I realised that in the photo of you that she gave me you were hiding you true looks. Then I figured that you had a reason for doing that, and it was to help your fiancé by gathering as much evidence as you could against the man that you knew to be behind this, your boss Harley Grainger. You were reluctant to go to the police because you saw that they, or at least some of them were crooked.”
“Very clever smart guy, look what it got you, a busted knee?” Lou had a smile on his face so I knew that he was trying to lighten the mood. “With the help of Moira here we’ve got Grainger locked up along with Joe the Goose and we should have David Monroe out on bail pending a retrial, if the DA deems it necessary, in about an hour.”
I was out of hospital in two days and returned home to find that Laura Lee had moved our bed to the back corner of the storeroom where my office used to be. The bar was open but she made the time to check on me every half hour or so. I wasn’t expecting anyone when Lou and Dolores walked in. “Hey Buddy, I’m letting you be the first to congratulate us.”
“Okay, I congratulate you, but for what?”
“Dolores and I are going to tie the knot just as soon as I can get rid of the current Mrs Lou Callaway. “I’m flying to Reno next week.”
“Again, congratulations. I knew that you two were, you know, but I didn’t think it had gotten to that stage so soon, just goes to show that I don’t know everything.”
Just then the door opened again to admit Moira and David. “I don’t know how to thank you for what you’ve done for me, for us.”
“You can start by thanking Moira, she’s the one who put it all together, I just rocked the boat a little and made a few waves in the process.”
“By the way,” Lou said, “you may be pleased to know that your friend Steve Hendricks met with an unfortunate accident, he ran out of a building slap bang into the side of a cab, he’s not dead but he wishes that he was.”
“I don’t suppose that the cab driver would happen to be Eddie O’Halloran who just happens to be an ex-cop?”
“I think I did a pretty good job, my timing was just right, and Lou’s shove from behind helped.” Eddie had crammed himself into the room. “By the way you owe me,” He had a smile on his face, “absolutely nothing, I enjoyed myself so much that I should give you guys money.” This brought smiles all round.
“All right you lot, there’s food out there, just tell Paula what you want to drink, the celebration’s on the house, now clear off, my man’s due for his therapeutic massage. I’ll be out in about half an hour.” Laura lee shoved them out of the room.
“How come you never last that long?” I heard Dolores ask Lou as they left.
“It’s because I haven’t had any for years and I’m still catching up on what I’ve missed out on all of this time.”