A Message from Mr Smith and Mr WessbyCromagnonman©
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."