I thought I had put that file away. I swore I had boxed all old cases and put them ready to be taken down to the archives. But no, there it was on my desk again. The thick wad of papers the "closed for lack of evidence." stamp at an off angle across the front sheet, just clipping the picture of the 13 year old girl. She wouldn't look like that now of course, if she was alive. It was 10 years old. She would be in her twenties. I sigh and pick up the file again.
As I did the fastening came undone and the pages went every where billowing in the lazy circle of air coming from the old fan. Everything was old here in filing, save for the state of the art computer in the corner. I think that was lip service to the police commissioner's modernisation scheme. It crashes more than it works.
Most of the officers prefer the traditional system of asking Marvis, that's me of course. I bend down and start to pick up the papers, but they seem to avoid my hands. My lips narrow and I mutter "Ok cut it out, will you. You have my attention." The papers stop moving now and I see a ghostly shadow in the corner wearing a 1940's wide brimmed hat tipped over it's eyes.
August 21st, 2003, 04:58 PM
My name is Inspector Carson Wells. I'm a cop and I'm dead but I try not to hold it against the world too much. Becoming a cop was really my own choice after all and everyone dies eventually, though perhaps not from quick blow to the head and a long drop off a bridge on a dark rainy night in 1942.
Unfortunately there were still cases I needed to solve and being dead like I am that posed quite a problem for me... until Marvis came along.
I flipped my lucky coin in the air and watched her as she collected the loose pages of the file up off the floor. She had a nice figure, but wore clothes that almost did the job of hiding it. Her coal black hair was done up in a tight bun that bobbed up and down in time with the string of lady-like curses she muttered under her breath as she picked up the papers. Her dark brown eyes glared at me over the tops of her eyeglasses and I decided a few of those curses might not be so lady-like after all.
When she was through I caught my coin and pointed a finger at her as I winked cheerfully. "This one will be an easy case for us, Angel!"
She walked over to her desk with her lips pressed tightly together and slapped the file down on the blotter. I put my coin away and took out a cigarette. It looked like this would be one of those times when she protested.
"Inspector Wells, considering the number of times I was shot at during the last case I really don't think I want to get involved in another one." Marvis crossed her arms in front of her and seemed to mentally brace herself. She knew I would not let her off that easily.
"Not that old excuse again. Sweetheart, how many times do I have to tell you - getting shot at is nothing. You get used to it." I said with the cigarette hanging from one corner of my mouth as I searched for my lighter. I gave up trying to find it, took the cigarette out of my mouth, and waved it toward Marvis. "It's getting shot that will cancel Christmas for you, love."
"I really don't think, Inspector..."
"And besides, doll, you love it. Don't try to deny it. You are too good at it not to love it." I slipped the cigarette behind one ear and grinned at her. She was a smart girl, but a little flattery couldn't hurt.
Especially since it was true.
August 22nd, 2003, 02:22 AM
"Smart Girl" I mutter. Slightly insane would be closer to the truth. I am talking to a ghost, who is sitting on the end of my desk, looking as if he has just walked off the set of a '40's film Noir.
The first time I actually saw him, I put it down to too much pizza and an overdose of the hard boiled detective movie special the night before.
Right from the fedora on his head, to the shiny shoes on his feet he looked the part of Sam Spade. The well tailored suit, never buttoned. the tie coming adrift at the collar. Even his dark hair cut short. He was a "Detective" and a pain in my rear.
Why me? Of all the clerks that have gone through this office in 40 years, why me? I shuffle paper. I am good at that. But since I got caught up with a ghost I find myself clinging to roof tops. Hanging on to car hoods for grim death and dodging bullets. Fine for him to say it's ok, he is already dead. Just wish he had moved a bit further on, like the next Precinct.
I tighten my arms across my chest, look at the file and again at my visitor. He smiles and runs a finger round the brim of his hat.
"Very well. " I say. "But the case is... well the child is most certainly dead and.."
"No, not dead live and kicking angel, very much so. What we have to do is find her and find out what set her running."
"What?" I bluster. "Anything will send a child of that age running"
"Well, doll, maybe it had something to do with Daddie's business friends."
August 22nd, 2003, 09:51 AM
“The police investigated them all thoroughly, Inspector Wells.” Marvis glanced down at the file and rifled through it until she found the page she sought. “It says here only one of them was truly suspect. The girl’s uncle, Nathaniel Sinclair…it says he was a pedophile…killed himself during the investigation.”
“They were looking to close the case, doll, not solve it. Finding a bunch of dirty pictures in a stiff’s file cabinet doesn’t necessarily make him a pedophile.” I pointed at the page in her hand with my cigarette. Somehow it would now be the page I was thinking of; I wasn’t sure how I did it, but it was a classy trick. Marvis sighed tolerantly and studied the new page. “This is the report of the crime scene where they found Sinclair’s body. The investigator said he drove himself off that cliff, but I say it doesn’t add up toots. Sinclair was a very short man, yet the driver’s seat was pushed nearly all the way back. It hardly seems likely the seat would have moved backward when the car crashed nose first into the ground. Then there is the strange wound on his arm, the unidentified substance in his bloodstream…”
“The report says he had a drug addiction. There was not enough of the substance in his bloodstream to determine to which drug.”
“It seems too convenient that he was a suicidal, drug addict pedophile. I don’t buy it sweetheart. I say he was a patsy, set up to take the fall and draw attention away from the real guilty party here.” I put the cigarette in my mouth and began searching my pockets for my lighter.
“Is this another one of your famous hunches then Inspector Wells?”
“C’mon toots, you aren’t still angry about that time in the museum, are you? How's a flatfoot like me supposed to know mummies are so flammable?” I opened the top desk drawer. It used to be my desk at one time, but someone seemed to have gotten rid of my spare lighter. “It all worked out didn’t it? The museum dropped the charges and the pharaoh decided not to curse you for all eternity. He’s a good Joe once you get to know him.”
Marvis gave me a look with her baby browns that was about as cool as glacial ice. I put the cigarette back in my cigarette case and tipped my hat at a properly jaunty angle. She laughed as she usually did when I did that.
“Okay then, hun, put on your coat and let’s you and me go talk to Sinclair’s widow. She’s probably some nice old biddy who will serve you tea and cakes.” I helped her put on her coat and then took mine off the coat rack next to her desk. She carefully placed the case file in her leather briefcase. "This one will be a breeze, doll. Trust me."
August 22nd, 2003, 01:03 PM
Mummies, he had to mention the mummies. Everytime I went past roadworks now I heaved. It was the smell. Tar. Just like the mummies when they had burned. Tar! My hair smelt for days after.
We got to the car and he, as normal went to the driver's side. "You can't." He smiled and opened the door, without the keys, setting off the alarm again. "Don't just..... oh don't touch anything." I push past him and jam the key in the ignition silencing the peep, peep.
"Look," He said as he settled himself by my side. "It's a car Angel... no need too.."
"It's my fifth within twelve months."
"Well," He tipped his hat over his eyes then didn't say anymore. I pulled out and drove to the address and stopped.
"I am not going in there Inspector Wells." I said, glaring at the sign of the establishment then at him.
"Angel, it is just her place of business."
"I know what sort of business. They rent rooms here by the hour not the day!" As I spoke I again glared at the run down, half working sign for the motel, which stood 500 yards off the road. The line of rooms need a good coat of paint, new curtains and the vehicles lined up outside showed in was lunch time.
He flipped his coin and gave me a sideways glance with those grey eyes of his and said. "Will be right behind you kid."
I gave a large sigh drove the car into the motel and got out, pulling the belt of my coat as tight as I could
August 24th, 2003, 01:59 AM
We walked in to what could charitably be termed the lobby of the little No-tell motel. An open doorway to one side of the lobby led to a bar trapped in a perpetual midnight by poor lighting and heavy drapes over the windows. I supposed the drapes were the original blackout curtains from the Second War. There was a woman sitting behind the counter who by the look of her may have been installed at the same time as the drapes. She stubbed out a cigarette in dirty ash tray on the counter top and gave Marvis the once over. The look on her face spoke volumes about the sincerity of her greeting.
“Can I help you miss?”
“Yes.” Marvis fidgeted slightly under the woman’s scrutiny. “Are you Mrs. Sinclair?”
“Are you here for a job, hun, or are you looking to arrange a discreet rendevous with one my boys?”
So much for tea and cake.
“No! That isn’t...”
“If you’re looking for an evening with one of the girls it will cost you extra.”
“Now that might be worth seeing...” I grinned at Marvis as she shot me a dirty look.
“I am with the police and I wish to speak with Mrs. Sinclair concerning a few of the details of her husband’s murder.” Marvis casually flashed her police identification card like I had taught her. Your average Joe didn’t see the difference between a police officer and police employee. The effect on the woman behind the counter was profound.
“All these years...after all these...I kept telling them he was not a bad man, that he had no reason to...” Mrs. Sinclair looked up at Marvis with teary eyes and a pale face. “You are the first person who has believed Nathaniel didn’t kill himself. You do believe that, don’t you?”
“There are few points the old report does not seem to be clear on. I would like to ask you some questions concerning your husband’s death and the disappearance of your niece.” Marvis gave the older woman the friendly smile of hers that always seemed to convince people to open up to her. “If you have the time of course.”
She had the time. She brought us back to her rooms in back of the bar. She seated us in a room that seemed to have been overrun by an army of small porcelain ducks and lace doilies. Then she excused herself and went off to the kitchen to brew Marvis some tea. The microwave in her kitchen had barely started humming when an attractive woman in her mid-twenties walked in to join us. The woman glanced in to the kitchen and then took a seat.
“I hope you don’t mind if I stay while you speak with Mrs. Sinclair.” The woman was a knock-out blonde with the sort of voice that made boys want to be men and old men want to be boys. As she crossed a pair of shapely legs I decided it was a good thing I was dead or I might have been distracted. Well...more distracted. Something wasn’t right about her though. I took out my lucky coin and began flipping it. The woman seemed to look at both us as she continued speaking. “She may not be a sweet little old lady, but I still like her.”
“You’re more than welcome to st-” Marvis stopped mid-word as the blonde leaned forward and snatched my lucky coin out of the air.
“Must you keep doing that?” The blonde asked with a smug grin.
August 24th, 2003, 08:26 AM
My mouth dropped open as the blonde's fingers closed round the coin.
This was all I needed two of them, one who was trying hard to do a Sharon Stone impression. What was it with Blondes? Their legs never seemed to end.
"Eyes front" I snap.
"I am on the case Angel" The inspector answered as he took his coin back from the blonde and put in his pocket.
"So I can see." I huff.
"See what dearie?" Mrs. Sinclair asks as she returns with the tea.
"I can see, that you were concerned by the closing of the case, with regards to your husband." I say and sit on the edge of a chair, my fingers round the cup of tea.
"Nice catch" The Blonde comments.
"Marvis has the goods." Inspector Wells replies and reaches for his coin then thinks better of it.
"You know?" The Blonde enquires grinning.
"No he doesn't" I mutter under my breath as I take a sip of tea."Now Mrs Sinclair, your husband?"
"They framed him, those pictures, not his cup of... well I mean he wouldn't"
"Oh sometimes people" I began.
"You don't understand he was... I mean.... Ours was a business arrangement. We were good friends, very good friends, but he, well.. His name was Charlie, he died not long after, it cut his heart out what they did to my husband, his friend"
"Ohhhhhhh." The Inspector remarked.
"Bingo!" The blonde chuckled.
"He tried to find my neice, the girl trusted him you see. Thought she would come to him. In fact that night he had a phone call and said that she was safe and he intended to keep her so. Then they found him....him.... I blame the parents."
"Don't we all" The Bloinde remarked and uncrossed her legs.
"Let Mavis work huh Doll, " The inspector commented and poked at one of the flow flying ducks on the wall, it fell off shattering in a hundred peices.
"Oh I am so sorry." I say.
"Not your fault dearie, but as I was saying parents, father he has links to... " Mrs Sinclair looked round. "The mob."
"Oh you mean... " I say...
"Oh no, both him and his wife run entertainment schemes for them, everything from gentleman's nights on the town to family picnics by the lake."
August 25th, 2003, 02:29 PM
“I used to be the favorite of a few of those gentlemen’s fathers. One of them became a little too attached to me.” The blonde sighed and took a cigarette out of an expensive looking silver case and lit it with an equally expensive looking lighter. “His friends decided it would be better for his family if they buried me in the basement. This place was a real dive back then too.”
“Oh my…” Marvis made a valiant effort to not glance down at the floor. By the look on her face I imagined she was envisioning herself being fitted for a set of concrete bedsheets.
“I quite agree. I never let myself or my girls get involved with that sort – politicians are bad enough. Nathaniel always followed his brother in everything though.” This time it was Mrs. Sinclair who sighed. It was a bitter sigh, pregnant with regret. “Even marriage.”
“What role did your husband play in his brother’s business? The file was not very clear on that.” Marvis regained her grip on her nerves and slipped back into the role of the cool gumshoe.
“He arranged for suitable transportation. He would pick up cars from the rental companies and then return them. Sometimes Nathaniel would serve as the driver and drove the Mob men and their families or companions around personally. He liked to take Alex – Alexandra, our niece – for rides in the fancier cars. She liked to pretend she was a famous actress or a princess. If you ask me,” which we had not I thought as the old woman set her chipped teacup down among the ducks, “Nathaniel took one of those mob men someplace and he saw something he shouldn’t have, so they killed him for it.”
“A pretty story, but it doesn’t explain why Alexandra Sinclair felt she had to run away or why Nathaniel felt he needed to keep her safe.” I slid a cigarette out of my case and put it in my mouth. I searched my pockets for my lighter and told Marvis, “Sweetheart, ask her if her husband ever took their niece with him while he was driving the mob boys around. Maybe they both saw something they shouldn’t have.”
Marvis nodded her head slightly in agreement. She was a smart cookie and probably had been thinking the same thing. “Mrs. Sinclair, did your husband ever take Alex with him on an evening when he was serving as the driver?”
“Pardon me, doll, can I get a light?” I asked quietly as Marvis spoke to Mrs. Sinclair. She gave me a dirty look out of the corner of her eye. Some dames were impossible to figure out at times.
“My name is Greta, toughguy, and it would be my pleasure to light you up anytime.” On the other hand, some dames were pretty easy to figure out. I had the feeling if we had been alone Greta would have been all over me like a cheap suit on a hot day. Marvis, meanwhile, was trying not to choke on her tea. Greta frowned in a pretty way, she must have practiced in front of a mirror when she was alive, as she looked through a purse that hadn’t been there a moment ago. “Sorry, toughguy, even when I was alive I could never find anything in this purse sometimes.”
“Figures.” I slid the cigarette behind one ear and turned my attention back to Marvis and Mrs. Sinclair. Marvis had stopped choking.
“I don’t believe he did, but he seldom talked about work at home. He seemed to think it would protect me if anything happened to him.” Sinclair paused to sip some of her tea while staring at an old picture of her and Nathaniel standing in front of the motel. It looked like it had been a dive at that stage in its existence as well. “Protect me. The fool. The morning after they killed him they threw me out of our house. He had his insurance through one of their companies and they said it defaulted since he killed himself. I had nothing but this run down motel he bought in some crazy business deal. A few of them offered me money…if I did…things…for them. I was still pretty back then. When I stopped being pretty I found girls who were and I make sure they don’t have to do things for those men.”
"She lied to us Angel." I nudged Marvis in the side with my elbow. "She said never had anything to do with the mob."
August 27th, 2003, 08:55 AM
I shot him a glare and took my leave of Mrs Sinclair. I walked across to my car and noticed it must now be past 2.00pm most of the cars by the rooms had vanished.
“Doll, you sure we have not forgotten something?” The inspector gestures towards the motel with his cigarette
“ If Greta wants to come or needs to find us, she will.”
“Wasn’t meaning the dame, kid I was….” He replied as he slid into the seat next to me
“I know what you meant, Mrs Sinclair’s links to the mob, we need to do some digging there, but I don’t want to frighten her off. She has given us good information. We need to check the car rentals of Alex’s parents company. It will all be ligit, they would try and keep a “good” front up.”
“With you there doll.” He tips his hat and glances in my mirror and smiles. I look too.
“Don’t worry not coming along for the ride, just thought I would tell you if you need me whistle” Greta grinned.
“Whistle, any of Frank’s songs.” With that she was gone.
“Whistle…. “I huff and slam the car into gear. “Lets go and see Arthur about doing some digging into some records.
“The guy with the gold rimmed glasses and no hope.”
“What do you mean, no hope?”
“With you doll.” Came the answer.
“Oh of all the……” I swear under my breath as Wells watches the world go by as we travel back up town.
I turned into a narrow back street behind the records office where Arthur worked. He, like me was a damn fine clerk, find anything knew his system back to front. If any could get me all the details that could be got on Alex’s parents’ business Arthur could get it. One problem though, this time the price would be more than a smile and thank you. I would have to go to lunch with him. Not that Arthur was bad looking or not clever, just... Guess he was not my type.
“You coming in or not?” I ask to my companion as he stood there flicking his coin.
“fraid not, you handle Arthur.” He had that look about him, which I knew from old meant trouble. I sighed and entered the building.
"Typical" I mutter under a breath, "Least there wasn't an "Angel "Doll" or "Kid" in that sentence, what next Tootise Roll? Ohhhhhhh Hello Arthur." I smile as he looks up at me.
August 27th, 2003, 03:28 PM
“Have a nice lunch, Angel?” It was three hours later. I figured Big A would have done his research as quickly as he could in order to impress Marvis and spend more time at lunch with her. The dumb lug refused to take the hints Marvis all but screamed his way. She was too nice a lady to hit him between the eyes with it. Sometimes I wondered if he was taking advantage of her sweet personality.
“Oh, shut up, you big ape. You probably spent the entire time whistling with that little floozy…”
See what I mean? Sweet like cotton candy, my Marvis.
You know, darling, I have some connections…” I put my hand on her shoulder and she shrugged it off as she started the car. “Just say the word and I’ll give the nod to Fast Eddie. After a few nights dreaming of Fast Eddie, old Arthur will swear off women, take a vow of silence, and join a monastery.”
“Fast Eddie?” Marvis checked her rearview mirror nervously, perhaps expecting a boogie man in the back.
“That’s what I call him. He likes it better than what his brothers called him when he was alive.” I took out a cigarette as Marvis put the car in gear. “To save you the trouble of deciding whether or not you really want to know, his brothers called him Eddie the Axe, Eddie the Ogre, and Eddie Skullcrusher…okay, they probably said Edmund instead of Eddie. He is a big ugly fella who used a big ugly axe in battle. Died in some Viking raid.”
“How do you even meet these people?” Marvis gunned the engine and shot into traffic. “He isn’t my type Inspector, but that doesn’t mean I want some medieval monster terrorizing him in his sleep!”
“Terrorizing? Hold on a minute doll. You have the wrong idea about Eddie.” I shook my cigarette at her disapprovingly. “Fast Eddie was a soldier who became a monk, see? He liked books and would make copies of old books to preserve them and drew nice pictures in the margins, see? When the Vikings came to raid his monastery, he would go out and do whatever he could to save the villages, the other monks, and his books. He was a big ugly guy and he was really good with an axe. More than once he was the one who scared off the Viking raiders. One time there were just too many of them and poor Eddie bought the farm with his own axe. What I meant was Eddie could probably convince old Arthur to join a monastery, if you wanted me to have a word with Eddie.”
“Fine. I apologize for my harsh judgment of your friend Fast Eddie.” Marvis changed lanes and pressed down on the accelerator so hard she nearly red-lined the tach.
“Easy there, sweetheart.” I said as we shot through traffic. “Being dead isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”
Marvis eased off the gas and gave me a dirty look. “I suppose you spent the entire time whistling with Miss I’ll Light You Up Anytime?”
“You’re beautiful when your jealous, but I went to go see Fast Eddie.” I motioned with my unlit cigarette and tried the car’s cigarette lighter. “Now he’s got connections, lemme tell ya. He can find things out about a stiff almost as fast as you asked the question.”
“And who did you ask questions about?”
“I asked him about Greta – no! Don’t get all angry on me doll.” I pulled the cigarette lighter out and saw it was stone cold. “Hmmm…your cigarette lighter doesn’t work. It just struck me as oddly coincidental that she ended up buried in the basement of a motel owned by a mob flunkie. It turns out her real name is Constance Harper, but she liked to go by Greta Harper because she thinks it sounds more intriguing. Kept the habit after she died.”
“Constance Harper?” Marvis was not quite over her lunch yet. “What did Brother Fast Eddie have to say about Easy Connie?”
“I’m really sorry I left you alone for lunch, Marvis. Really I am. I had a hunch though and it played out.” I ran my fingers around the brim of my hat and gave Marvis my best Gary Cooper grin. She rolled her eyes and motioned for me to cough up what I had learned. “Miss Harper may have worked on her back, but she did it for her country.”
“During the Cold War she was a double agent, she sold false information to the bad guys and got them to share their little secrets during pillow talk. She was extremely exclusive merchandise too. She wouldn’t have been in the sack with those mob boys unless someone connected them to the bad guys. I have a hunch she found out something they thought she shouldn’t have known so they put her on ice.”
“You have that look on your face. There is something more isn’t there?”
“You’re sharp as a tack, cookie. Try this on for size. There is Mrs. Sinclair at the same motel with a special cast of girls who cater to the whims of high-ranking politicians.” I sat back and tipped my hat forward. “How do you like them apples sweetheart?”
“A very interesting theory Inspector. It would certainly explain some of what I learned from Arthur today.” Marvis stared thoughtfully ahead through traffic.
“I can’t wait to hear it. One thing to keep in mind though,” I motioned toward the rearview mirror. “That blue car back there is following us.”