MJ 5: The Quick Casebymadam_noe©
This is a quick little case meant to be read between "The Nightlife Case" and "Case of the Curse" in the Marly Jackson series.
I came back to Chicago from L.A. a broken woman. I'd left, Marly Jackson, P.I., a woman out to right past wrongs and make a decent buck, and returned home a murder suspect with more skeletons in my closet and big time favors owed to the one man I had to resist.
Michael Finnegan had saved my life, but it didn't make up for the countless times he'd put it in danger. I loved him, hated him, wanted him, and he was nothing but bad medicine.
The other thorn in my side was Arthur Bowers. The two men had some things in common; they'd been crooked cops, my partners in the CPD, and they both had a habit of fucking me over. Finn loved me, and was licking his wounds out in L.A. where he'd relocated his company. The last I'd seen Bowers he'd been laying prone on the floor in a pool of blood, not moving. I was free of him at least.
I woke on my couch not having pulled it out and stretched my neck, as I'd done the last two weeks. My answering machine was blinking but I ignored it in favor of doing the necessary, showering, and putting on coffee.
Only when I had my cuppa joe and a cigarette lit did I listen to it. With my career in shambles I was expecting a reporter but the voice I got instead chilled my bowels.
"Miss Jackson it's Petrov. Call me."
I cradled my head and swore. Three years earlier Finn had still been a fence transitioning into pornographer, and he'd been helping steal a very rare, very expensive violin that Petrov owned. It had been a case that expanded my moral and sexual boundaries, and the double-cross I'd had to pull on Finn to keep us both alive had weirdly only brought us closer.
Petrov was more than the star violinist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; he ranked high in the Russian Mob.
I knew better than to keep him waiting so I picked up the phone and dialed the number he'd left.
"Miss Jackson," he said in his light accent.
"Let's dispense with formalities."
"All right, Viktor."
"You owe me a favor and I have a small one. I have a family matter I want solved out-of-house and kept quiet."
"I'm glad you thought of me." I tried to sound sincere.
"I didn't until a piece of information that concerns you crossed my desk. That is your fee; the information, and Marly, it's worth it."
"When and where should I meet you?"
"Come to my house in one hour," he coolly demanded and hung up.
I held the receiver in my hand and stared at it, other hand dangling my long-ash-bearing cigarette over a cheap stolen ashtray.
The only question was how did I dress: with the .357 or a couple of .45s?
Petrov lived near the South Loop, not far from my district back on the force. Metaphorically he lived miles and miles away. His house was old, fieldstone, it predated the Great Fire and had more bathrooms than city hall.
The last time I'd been there I'd threatened to kill his son. It was all a complicated story I liked to think of as "The Violin Case" and I tried not to recall too often.
Normally a maid answered but this time it was Petrov. He was a short, slim, his face harsh angles. His blonde hair was a bit longer, slicked back.
I'd come once in disguise and once as myself, probably in the same ill-fitting suit. My hair was standard long and disheveled, the only change was I preferred to wear contact lenses these days.
He wore a black turtle neck and slacks, and his watch gleamed in the sunlight, titanium and with an expensive label.
"Come in quickly."
I stepped in and he looked me up and down from the tips of my dusty Doc Martens to my wind-ruffled hair. "You armed?"
"Got a three-fifty-seven in a side holster."
"Good." He shut the door and turned, walking deeper into the house. "If I remember you're a fast draw."
I followed him into the hall. "So what's this info?"
He paused with his hand on the knob of a closed door of the living room. "We'll discuss that later."
I followed him in and there were two men in chairs, bounds and gagged. I noticed that first, the expensive antique furniture and the real Rembrandt second, and his son third.
His son had grown. Taller than dad now he no longer looked like a little skater punk; he was a full fledged foot soldier in a suit, his long blonde hair pulled into a ponytail, only part of his intricate neck tattoo visible. The difference between 16 and 19 was remarkable.
He had a lump on one arm that suggested a bandage under the suit and he was fidgeting. My guess was a recent wound.
"You remember my son Alexi. Alexi, you remember Miss Jackson."
"I do." His voice was deeper and he said it in quite a disturbing manner, like he was envisioning me tied to a chair. For torture or funsies it was hard to say, those hard eyes were well-trained.
"Alexi, tell Miss Jackson what happened. Have a seat, Marly, I will pour drinks."
I sat on a stiff couch as the elder Petrov crossed to the bar and pulled out a decanter filled with clear liquid. My guess was vodka.
"I was running an errand for my father. Running some money to his mistress when I was jumped. My attacker had a knife, cut my arm, and took the money."
"How much?" I interrupted.
"One million," Viktor said and passed me a glass, sitting next to me with his.
Alexi nodded. "These two men were the only ones who knew about it, and one of them did it. Their alibis are women, nothing else."
I knocked back my vodka, and damn, I should have sipped, it was that good. "I don't do torture."
Alexi smiled again, that smile that seemed to invade barriers but not make intent clear. With another ten years under his belt he'd make a hell of a man, but now his youth was...disconcerting. "That's not what I remember. I seem you remember you're quite good...at torture."
Viktor turned to me and pointedly sipped his drink. "That's not why you were brought here. I have two hours to get that money to my mistress. I won't say why, but to get that much more will take longer. One of these men has it and I cannot risk beating the truth out of them. Whatever one can say about you, Marly, you are very smart."
"One hour to get to the bottom of it?" I glanced at them. Slim, I'd guess about 5'9" each, medium brown hair, matching dark suits and neck tattoos. Fellow soldiers.
"I cannot lose both so I must make sure one is alive, and I do not kill the betrayer."
"Searched their places?"
"I did, when I got out of the doctor," Alexi said.
"Neither of them has money troubles and both handle greater sums for me, so this was personal. They know the consequences if my mistress does not get this money today. Whoever took it means to cause a great deal of trouble."
I stood up and peeled off my coat. Three pairs of eyes went to my gun, Alexi's went to my tits. Well, answered that. It had been a while since I'd been around a young man, I'd forgotten they had sex drives that put mine to shame and I had a couple of years to my peak.
"Put them in separate rooms. Guard one while I speak to the other alone. Give me half an hour and I'll get your answers. May I smoke in here?"
The elder Petrov stood and nodded. "I must go and soothe my woman's worries. Alexi, help me move Romanoff to your office then watch him like a hawk. Marly, we'll leave you with Patrinko."
The two blonde men picked up Romanoff's chair easily and carried him back out the room. I shut the door behind them and pulled out my cigarettes. I lit one and crossed to Patrinko, yanking his gag loose. He gave me a stony evaluation.
"First question...why does this mistress need this money?"
"Why should I say anything?"
"You want a shot at waking up tomorrow, you talk. I'm smart, but maybe you're smarter. Convince me it was Romanoff and not you."
"She's about to be deported. It's the bribe the official wanted. Without it she leaves tonight for Moscow."
I nodded and took a pull, looking for an ashtray and childishly settling for a Ming vase. "Makes sense. Why would anyone want his mistress gone?"
He shrugged, or tried to, but was pretty well tied to the chair. "She's a bitch. No one likes her, but she makes the boss happy."
"And what do you do for the boss?"
"I'm an enforcer. I don't work for the family, just for him. Same as Romanoff. Both of us were born here, advancing is not possible, but this is the highest position we could get."
"And what do you think about Alexi?"
Patrinko made a disgusted noise. "Pampered little lothario. I worry about what will happen when Viktor leaves the family to him."
"Don't like him much, do you?"
"I don't trust him."
"And what if you thought it was best for Viktor to not have some bitch distracting him, as well as a horny son?"
"It's my job to see that what Viktor wants, Viktor gets."
I stubbed the cigarette out. "You seem like a nice guy. I kind of like you. Tell you what, I know Viktor's a scary guy, you know it, let's make a deal. Tell me where the money is and I'll convince Petrov Romanoff took it."
I smiled and pulled his gag up. He tried to fight me but I jammed it in, tsking. "Wrong answer, not what I wanted to hear. See you soon, Patrinko."
I left him in the windowless room and realized I didn't know where the other study was. "Alexi?" I called.
Three doors down the hall closer to the front opened and Alexi stepped out. His suit jacket was off too, tie loose, sleeves rolled up and collar opening boasting an impressive physique. He also dressed to the right and was rapidly growing happier to see me.
"Romanoff in a room with no windows?"
"He's secured perfectly."
"Then step aside, I'm working here."
He blocked my path. "My father is only going to tell you one piece of information, but there's more. It's very important to you, Marly."
"That's Ms. Jackson to you."
He smiled and I had to admit he was quite striking.
"You know, in my entire life you're the only woman who has not feared me, tried to seduce me. In fact, you're the only woman who has ever held a gun on me." He purred the last.
"I'm sure I won't be the last."
"I owe you, Marly. Be a good girl, let's have a quick bout of fun, and then I'll tell you what my father won't. It could save your life."
He had a nice voice, was damn attractive, but I was a mess and not n my right mind. I wanted more vodka and to get the hell out.
I tried to sidestep him but he caught me and before I could react he was kissing me. It helped we were dead even at 5'10" but he had forty pounds on me, all muscle.
I struggled but he just fisted the base of my hair and yanked my head back. His mouth, surprisingly pleasant for all the force, broke from my lips and slid down my throat.
"Damn it," I had time to get out before he bit me. Shamefully desire flooded me. I missed Finn in my bed and this was one of his favorite tricks. Passion began to fog my brain and I let out a small moan.
Without preemption he pulled slightly back and his hand left my hair to roughly grab a breast. Through my shirt and bra I felt the warmth of his hand as he fondled one, then the other, and then his hand crudely slipped to cup between my legs.
"You're awfully sure of yourself," I moaned.
He bit me again. "Shut up."
He whirled me and I landed against the wall, my palms smacking into it. My head was swimming, I knew this was wrong in every way but that only turned me on more.
He jerked my hands back pushing my face into the wall and I felt him secure them with his tie, knotting it right.
My pants and panties were yanked down and he moved. The next thing I felt was the swipe of his tongue over my pussy. He parted the swollen lips and flicked at my clit until my legs shuddered and then pulled back. He stood and out the corner of my eye I saw a condom packet fall to the floor and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was incredibly aroused by this, being almost forced, in the open, and my head had not been in the right place to think safety.
Then he was slamming in and I had to bite back a scream. Jesus fucking Christ he was huge!
Unlike my other lovers on the large side he didn't pause to let me adjust, began thrusting, hitting my cervix and the pain was blinding at first.
Through it all I felt myself creaming, even as I gasped for air. He held my hips and pumped away, making me cry out against the dark red wallpaper. The mirror near us on the wall began to thump in time and at last one hand slipped around my hip to cup my pussy.
He kept fucking me, squeezing my lips together and finally Alexi pinched them, making my clit catch with every thrust.
I built up rapidly then but his orgasm still came a split second before mine. In the midst of my own sweet pulsing he slammed into me, blending pleasure and pain.
When it was over jerked out of me, bent over, and turned my face for a bruising kiss. He pulled the ties loose and stood, already dressing, leaving the used condom on as he zipped up.
I slapped him, hard.
He took it with a cocky grin. I snorted and pulled my pants up. "That information?"
"What, no pillow talk?"
"I don't converse with human dildos."
"Low blow. Good thing I already porked you. You're a gusher, Marly, and you scream when you cum." He stepped close just as I zipped my own pants. "I like that in a woman."
"You know what I like best in a man?"
He raised a brow.
"Knowing when to fuck, and when to fuck off. You got one right."
He stepped back and laughed. "My father cannot know we did this, and that's the only reason I won't tell you his piece of information. I can tell you this: Alejandro Javier is dead. His killer will come for you, Marly."
"I killed the only enemy that man and I had in common."
He raised an imperious brow and turned, walking into the room with Patrinko. I looked in the mirror and did my best to fix my hair, thankful I eschewed makeup, even if it showed the hangovers.
I went into Romanoff's and tried to ignore his gagged smirk. I lit another cigarette and asked him the same questions, getting similar answers until the end.
"Alexi? He has a way with the ladies, I'm sure you know, but Patrinko is just jealous. He's a smart boy, trustworthy."
"So you don't think he took the money and set you two up?"
Romanoff shook his head. "Not his style. If Alexi wanted that bitch gone, he would have just shot her."
"Not a fan of the mistress?"
"No one is."
"All right then, let me ask you this. I like you, you seem honest. I think Patrinko is lying. If you save me some time, tell me he told you where the money is, I'll make sure it's his head Viktor's bullet goes through."
"If I knew, I'd tell you."
I re-gagged him and stepped into the hall just as Viktor came in the front door. "That was fast," I said by way of greeting.
"Fifty minutes, I'm five late. Luckily Katarina is so close."
"It's Romanoff. I'd stake my life on it. I don't know where the money is, but you can probably torture it out of him."
Viktor cocked his head like a dog. "What makes you sure?"
"Alexi is strong, got those killer's eyes. If I wanted to kill him, I wouldn't use a knife, I'd shoot him in the back. Coming at him with a knife is something you do to make it look convincing, but you don't want to hurt him. Romanoff likes him, Patrinko doesn't, they both don't like your Mistress."
"I knew this already, it says nothing. I brought you in for more...depth."
"If it had been Patrinko he would have killed Alexi. Romanoff couldn't and didn't try. Spend ten minutes with him working your magic and he'll give up the money."
"Alexi!" Viktor barked. His son stepped out looking neat and pressed again. Viktor ordered him to "interrogate" Romanoff for the cash and he disappeared into the second study.
I turned back. "My information?"
"You know that we are at war with the Javier cartel, yes? Alejandro, their head, was killed three days ago. They came to me politely and I assured them I had nothing to do with it. I sent over a good man to help, and they found that before his death Javier had visited a hospital."
"After some inquiries your name came up. Javier's last major...happening was with you and a man named Bowers."
"Bowers is dead and Javier and I were square."
"Are you sure?"
I winced as Romanoff cried out in pain. "Yeah, I'm sure. I had nothing to do with his death, if that's what you mean." Though if I was suspected of killing Alejandro Javier my alibi would be weak; drinking myself to death at the Jackrabbit in across town was weak at best.
"That's not what I meant. My man determined the patient in the hospital was Arthur Bowers."
My world spun. "What?"
"It seems he is alive. Now, I must get a move on, good day, Marly. I trust you can see yourself out."
He brushed past me and disappeared into the room where sounds of flesh pummeling flesh rang out, syncopated with bloody gurgles and stammering about "that place Charlie liked."
My head was still swimming and I thought to Alexi's words.
Arthur Bowers was alive and coming for me.