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Friday, January 24, 2014

"D Is For Doxy" Chapter 3

Here is another example of my writing that I've been sharing here - I've been uploading one chapter at a time.  I need to do so more regularly so that my followers can finish the entire book.  Here then is Chapter 3 of "D Is For Doxy," featuring my hard-boiled private eye Steve Randall:


     Saturday, I hadn’t planned on finding out much, and I was right – to a point.  Although I was sitting in my car near Baker’s office again at lunchtime, I saw something, but it didn’t involve him.  While I was looking for him to come out, a couple police cars drove up and parked across the street.  The officers exited their cars and all went inside a building that looked closed for the weekend.  I could tell they weren’t paying a social visit.
     My attention was now drawn to them, nevertheless, I kept glancing back to Baker’s building.  After the cops had been inside for about ten minutes, a coroner’s car and an ambulance drove up.  The coroner went inside and the two men from the ambulance unloaded a stretcher and followed him in.  Something was happening right under my nose.
    Not being the only one, who by now was getting interested in the proceedings going on inside, I got out of my car and wandered over to join with the small crowd that had gathered.  At least now, I wouldn’t stand out if Mr. Baker came out and spotted me.  A small buzz hovered among those gathered, and it was then that one of the cops came out to keep the crowd under control.  They weren’t unruly or anything, just curious.  I, on the other hand, had a professional curiosity.  I tried to listen to what was being said.
    Some of the people nearer the cop began asking him questions.  At first, he tried to ignore them.  After a while, the cop, being only human, starting looking around and letting slip some answers.
     “What happened in there?”  One elderly lady inquired.
     “The janitor reported somebody dead inside.”
     The cop was a younger, blonde-haired fellow, who, perhaps hadn’t been a policeman for very long.  He looked stiff in his sharply-pressed uniform.
     “Who was it they found in there?”  This came from a young woman standing at his left.
     “They think it was the owner of the building.”
     “When was the body found?”
    “The janitor got here about ten this morning and was cleaning the offices when he came upon one with the deceased.”
    “Ooh, that’s awful.”
    “It must have been a terrible shock.”
     “I can’t really say, ma’am,” was the young cop’s reply.
     “How long had he been there dead?”
     “We don’t know, but the coroner says at least overnight.”
    Bells went off in my head.  I had been here last night watching for Baker.  What if it had happened then?  Maybe I’d better ask to see the officer in charge.
     I managed to get the cop to one side and told him my story.
    “Look, officer, did the guy really get killed last night?”
     “I couldn’t say for sure.”
    “Hey, I’m not one of those thrill seekers over there.  I’m a private investigator.”
     “Oh, yeah?”
    “Yeah.  What you don’t know is that I was here, last night, staking out that building over there,” and I pointed across the street.  He turned and looked at me full face for a few seconds and then decided to escort me in.
    “Come with me.”  I did.
    We went in to one of the back rooms and found the other cops, the coroner and the ambulance attendants.  One of the policemen was taking photographs of the body while every one else looked on.  I was taken directly to the officer in charge.  He was standing to one side.
     “Lieutenant, this guy may have something for us.”
    He looked me up and down slowly and said, “Is that right?”
     “Well,” I answered, “I don’t know for sure, but I was staked out front watching the place across the street
from about five until just after ten-thirty last night.”
    His demeanor brightened immediately.
    “I see.  And did you see anyone come into this building?”
    “I’ve been trying to think.  See, I was mostly keeping an eye open for my man to come out across the street.”
    “What for?”
    “His wife hired me to.”
    And in that one word, I knew what he was thinking.
    “I was trying to remember.  The streets were pretty busy last night, it being Friday, and there was a lot of traffic.  I’m pretty sure it all went on by without stopping here.”
     “So, you don’t really remember anything?”
     “Well, let me think.”
     He turned toward the coroner and started barking out a few instructions.
     “Can you give me an approximation as to the time of death?”
    “Well, roughly speaking, yes.  I can only say somewhere between seven and eleven last night.  But, most likely in that time frame.”
     The Lieutenant turned to me and asked, “You were there then, weren’t you?”
     He turned back to his men.  “Okay.  How did he get here?  Did he have any keys on him?”
    “Yes, right here.”
    One of the officers reached in a plastic bag and pulled out a set of keys.  He held them out in front of him.
     “Good, now go out and see if they fit any of the cars out there.  If they do, come back in let me know.”
    I thought I’d save them the trouble of checking mine, so I spoke up.
     “Mine’s the ’54 Buick sedan, by the mailbox.”
     “That’s all right,” said the Lieutenant, “check ‘em all.”
     The man finished taking pictures, so the ambulance attendants went to work.  By the time they had the body
strapped onto the stretcher, the guy who had went outside to check the keys came back in.
     “Found it, Lieutenant.”
     “Where was it?”
     “Parked a few spaces back of his Buick.”  He motioned in my direction.
     “Okay, get some pictures of it and check it inside and out for prints or anything else.  We may get lucky and the killer rode up with him.  But, I doubt it.  Right now it looks like he probably came in while somebody was robbing the place.”
     The guy with the camera equipment stepped out through us and left the room.  As soon as he was gone, we all heard a woman’s voice from outside, and it was getting nearer.
     “Young man, move aside.  I have a perfect right to be here.”
     Suddenly, she burst inside the office with the young cop looking perplexed.
    “I tried to keep her out, but....”  The Lieutenant cut him off.
    “What are you doing here, ma’am?  We’re conducting an investigation here.”
    “I know, and it’s my husband’s building.”
     And it was then that she saw the corpse, which had by now been covered up with a sheet.
    “Is that.... is that....?”
    She walked over to the stretcher and one of the attendants lifted the edge of the sheet to reveal the head.  The woman took one look at it and immediately broke into sobs.
    “Oh, George, George.  Why did this have to happen to you?”
     By this time, she was fully in the light and I realized who she was.  I had been asked, a few years back, to give a talk at some lady’s society meeting in the library.  She had been on the committee that had asked me to speak about my line of work and, as I remembered it, she had been fairly fascinated by it.  If she saw me, she’d probably recognize me from it.
     She was crying uncontrollably on the shoulder of the ambulance worker.  The Lieutenant let her cry for a bit and then spoke gently to her.
     “Miss.... Ma’am?  Am I to understand that this is your husband?”
     “What’s your name, Ma’am?”
     “Lawry, Eydie Lawry.”
     “When was the last time you saw your husband?”
     “Last night about.... well, it was after the ‘Life of Riley’, a television program we both watch.”
     “And what time would that be?”
     “It went off at.... nine.”
     “And for what reason did he give for leaving?”
     “He said he wanted to check on something here at the store.”
     “Did he often do this?”
     “Lately, yes.  He had gotten the notice that someone might be breaking in sometime or another, so occasionally, he watched the place.”
     “What do you mean, ‘watched the place?’”
     “He’d come down here for hours at a time some nights and wait here with the lights down.  Hoping to catch the thief.”
     “I see.  Did you ever come with him?”
     “No.  He said it might not be safe for me, so I never came along.”
     “Well, it looks like he might have been right about the break-in.  He must have come in on them in the act and gotten killed for it.”
     Mrs. Lawry took his statement too hard and started to cry again.  This time, she used the Lieutenant’s shoulder.  He tapped her on the arm and asked her something else.
     “Ma’am, I know this is pretty rough on you, but until we get anything further, could I have one of my men drive you home?  You’ll probably feel better there.”
     She lifted her head up in my direction.
     “Maybe you’re right.  Why, Mr. Randall, what are you doing here?  Have they called you in on the case?”
     The Lieutenant looked at me, wondering what my connection with the woman was.
     “Not exactly, Mrs. Lawry, I was working nearby on something else last night, when....” I paused, “Say, was
his car a white over blue Caddy?”
     The Lieutenant looked from me to the officer who had found the car the keys had belonged to.
     “What about it, Jensen.  Was it?”
     “Yes, sir.  A pretty new one, too.”
     Mrs. Lawry spoke up.
     “That’s our car, officer.  George just got it last November.”
     “What about the car, Randall, did you see it pull up last night?”
     “I remember it now.  It was after nine, about a quarter of an hour after I heard the 9:02 pull in at the terminal.  I was getting fidgety from having sat in my car for so long and I happened to glance up in my rearview mirror.  I noticed a car pull up without it’s headlights on.  A man, about his description,” I motioned to the deceased, “got out and entered this building.”
     “Was anyone with him?”
     “That I can answer easily.  I didn’t see anyone in his car, at least, if they were, they were below the dash.  But, nobody got out with him and I didn’t see anyone waiting for him outside the building.  As far as I can remember, he went in alone.”
     “Parker, go back and find the back exit of this place.  See if it’s been jimmied.”
     “Right, Lieutenant.”
     “Randall, you said you were out there how long?”
     “Until just after ten-thirty.”
     “Did you hear any gunshots?  That’s how he was killed.”
     “No, but I had my windows up against the chill.  I might not have heard shots through my windows and a closed up building.”
     “True.  Did you notice anything else?”
     “No, the man I was watching came out at ten-thirty, and I left.”
     “That’s too bad.  If you’d been here a little longer, you might have had a chance to see the killer come out.
As it was.... I guess that’s all.”
     “If you don’t mind, Lieutenant, maybe I could get Mr. Randall to drive me home.”
     I had the same stunned look as the Lieutenant.
     “Me, ma’am?”  I asked.
     “Yes.  If you don’t mind?”
     “Well, I guess you’re finished with both of us, aren’t you, Lieutenant?”
     “For now, but we may have to talk to both of you again, so be available.”
     “All right.”  I turned to Mrs. Lawry.  “My car’s out front.”
     I took her arm and led her outside to the onlooking crowd.  They quieted down as we walked by and I put her in the passenger side of my car.  I closed the door, walked around and got in myself.  I had to ask her where she lived because I didn’t know.  If I had known at one time, I didn’t remember.
     “Where to, Mrs. Lawry?”
     “Keep going straight.  I’ll show you.”
     We rode in silence for a few blocks and then she turned to me and started speaking.  I was expecting it.
     “You’re probably wondering why I asked you to do this.”
     “I remembered you right away when I saw you, and I thought I could, perhaps, hire you to find my husband’s killer.”
     “The police are doing everything they can and I’m sure they have the means and the manpower to get it done faster than I could.  And save you a lot of money, besides.”
     “I don’t care.  I think you could do things in a different way and get faster results.  I must know who killed George.”
     I mulled over the proposition in my head as we rode along in silence.
     “I suppose I could look into it a little.  Nose around here and there.  But, if I turned up anything, I’d have to give it to the police.”
     “Fair enough.  Then, you’ll work for me?”
     “I’ll look into it.  I can’t promise you anything, though.”
     “Somehow, I don’t know about that.  I think you could get results.”
     I didn’t know whether to take that as a compliment or not, so I said nothing.  After a few turns, we came to her house.  It took up half the block.  She told me to pull up in front and stop, so I did.
     “Now, if you need anything from me, don’t hesitate to ask.  Do you need anything, Mr. Randall?”
     “I normally receive seventy-five bucks a day.”
     “Oh, well, I’ll drop a check in the mail right away.  I’ll make it for five hundred.  Will that be enough to start out with?”
     “More than enough.”
     “Good.  You’ll probably get it on Tuesday.  Is there anything else?”
     “Did your husband go out often to check on his building?”
     She gave me a curious look.  “What are you implying?”
     “I’m not implying anything.  I just wondered.”
     She took a few seconds before she answered.  When she did, I could tell she was unsure of herself.
     “Well, lately, he’d started going over there on and off more frequently.  It was just recently that I started wondering about it.”
     “But, you didn’t know for sure?”
     “No, not for sure,” came her whispered reply.
     “I see.  So, that’s why you want me to look into it?”
     “You can be a little more discreet than the police.”
     “Yes.  But, again, if I find out anything conclusive, I’ll still have to take it to them.”
     “Yes, I understand that.  You will come to me first, won’t you?  Since I’m paying you?”
     “Yes, I’ll do that for you.”
     “I don’t know how to thank you.”
     “Don’t worry, you don’t have to.  It’s part of the service.”
     I remember saying the same thing just the other day.  She opened the door and started to say something, but
evidently changed her mind.  For, she shut the door and walked off into her house.  I waited until she had closed
the door, then moved off into the traffic.
     It was pretty odd for me to have gotten two cases in two days that were so different, and yet, so much alike.

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