Without further ado, here is chapter 5 of my unpublished book, "D Is For Doxy." Well, maybe a little ado is in order. It is number 3 in order of 8 total novels I've written with my hard-boiled detective Steve Randall. I grew up reading Mickey Spillane, Richard S. Prather and others of that ilk, so it was only natural that my first novel would be of the hardboiled detective fiction genre. All 8 of the books in this series are, as of yet, unpublished, so if that gives any of you publishers out there any ideas.... go to it! Now, here is chapter 5. Enjoy it, but please remember the first four chapters are previous posts here on my blog, so you might want to get those first if you haven't already done so.
Stuck as I was on the Lawrence case, I didn’t want to work on my other case right now. I wanted to think. Had anybody said anything meaningful? On reflection, I didn’t think so. But, somewhere there had to be an answer. Somehow, I was certain of it.
When the answer came, it was from the source I had least expected.
I was sitting behind my desk on Tuesday morning, when my ‘phone rang. Without thinking about it too much, I picked it up and put it to my ear. My mind was still somewhere lost in the case.
“Yes?” I said.
“Randall?” This is Lieutenant McGee. We met the other day.”
“Yes, I remember. Do you have some more questions for me?”
“Well, yes and no.”
“What do you mean, ‘yes and no’?”
“We’ve got some new information to add.”
“You’ve got a suspect?”
“No, we’ve got a new murder.”
“And you think it ties up with Lawrence?”
“That’s not all we think. But, you better come on in. I’ll tell you then.”
“Okay. Where are you located?”
“103rd precinct. Corner of 25th and Lexington.”
“I’ll be right in.”
The voice on the other paused. “This is an official request.”
“I’ll be right there, I said.”
Twenty minutes later, I was sitting in Lieutenant McGee’s office along with another cop. The Lieutenant was telling me what he had alluded to over the telephone.
“This morning, we got a call from a securities commission building over on Wall Street. They called to report a body.”
“And you think it’s connected to George Lawrence’s murder?”
“We didn’t think so at first, but when we got to comparing notes, we noticed some similarities. But, that’s not all. Did you hear about a guy we found murdered last Thursday? A Leslie Martine, big jewelry store owner on Fifth Avenue.”
“No, what about it? Is it tied in, too?”
“He was found shot to death by a .38 caliber gun in his office. The same as Lawrence and also the same as the man we found today. Arthur Maxwell. All shot to death in their offices.”
“It certainly looks like more than a coincidence.”
“It does to us, too.”
“But, why did you call me in here? I told you everything I knew.”
The Lieutenant looked briefly at the other cop then back to me.
“Our info tells us you’ve been hired by Mrs. Lawrence.”
“Well, what if I have? It’s not a crime to try and work for a living yet, is it?”
“No, and we’re not saying it is. We have no problem with it, in this case.”
“So what is it you’re not saying?” I asked suspiciously.
“In fact, we encourage you to look into it.”
“That’s a switch.”
“We’ve long known that P.I.’s like you, but not necessarily you, mind you, have ways of getting to the heart of the matter that are, shall we say, not strictly legitimate. You can operate at a certain level not permitted to
someone, say, at my level of bureaucracy. Do you get my meaning?”
“If I find out anything you don’t, you want me to come to you with it?”
“I had intended on that already. Sometimes we don’t get along; P.I.’s like me, but not necessarily me, and the cops. But, when it comes down to it, whenever someone is guilty, the wheels of justice work swiftly. So, if I can be of some assistance, I hope you’ll remember it someday and cut me some slack.”
“Good. Then we understand each other. Now, I’m not asking you to knowingly commit a felony to get a break in this case. Whatever methods you may use just keep them to yourself. I don’t wanna know about them.”
“If we’re going to work together, at least, unofficially, I’ll need some information on the first and this newest crime. And I’d also like to see what you’ve got on Lawrence’s death so far.”
“Fair enough. We’ve got some sheets prepared. Studer, the file.”
The other cop in the room handed me a manila folder he had been hiding somewhere. I took it from his hand and it was fairly stuffed. Lifting the cover, I riffled the pages and saw that it held a lot of information. It even had crime scene photographs. Probably from all three crimes. I must remember this day. To come into possession of this many facts and be handed them by a cop, no less. I decided to get out of there fast before good fortunes chose to smile on someone else. The Lieutenant spoke to me as I stood.
“You’ll call me personally if you get anything?”
“Yes. I want this killer brought in as much as you.”
“To be shot in cold blood, in your own office. That’s not a very good way to die.”
Before I turned and left, I said:
“Last I checked, there’s not a lot of good ways.”
I clutched the files tightly and left.
I drove back to my office and was seated behind my desk before I took a better look at the files. It had the names and addresses of everyone connected to all three murders and even their official statements to the police. It also had the statement of the janitor in Lawrence’s building – the only person I hadn’t spoken to in my efforts. I looked his words over, but didn’t think I needed to hunt him up personally from what I read. He had basically just come upon the body and called the police. I did notice that the police hadn’t checked up on Susan Prescott’s story yet. I’d have to clue them in on her. I still don’t think they’d get anything more, though.
Now, back to the first murder. The chauffeur stated that his boss, the deceased Leslie Martine, had just left his club, when he asked to be taken back to his place of business. The chauffeur, evidently named Pontford, first or last name unknown, took him there and watched him enter the building alone. After an interminable amount of time, the chauffeur got worried and wondered what was taking him so long. So, he entered into the darkened building only to find Martine shot to death. He immediately notified the police. Previously in the evening, Martine had been playing cards with four other men. Martine had evidently won a great sum of money, but it was found on his body, so robbery had not been a motive for his death. All four men had pretty tight alibis, too. So, it washed them out of the picture. The dead man was fifty-four years old, married and had two grown children, not at home. Motive – as of yet, unknown. What about the newest murder? I pulled the papers relevant to it and started scanning them for pertinent facts. The deceased man’s name was Arthur Maxwell, fifty-two, married and no children. That was something. All three of the dead men had been married and in their fifties. I read on. One of the persons questioned, a worker in the same building as Max, had come in to work early, the same as he always did, to open his office. When going by Maxwell’s office, just down the hall before his own, he noticed the door slightly ajar. He states it was never like this before, so he got curious and looked in. He saw Maxwell, lying on the floor face down, surrounded by a massive pool of dried blood. He didn’t get any closer to see if he was actually dead, but pulled the door back to with his handkerchief and alertly called the police. When they got there, the guy was pretty shaken up. Evidently, he had a pretty weak constitution and was not used to the sight of so much blood. The wife, when asked why she hadn’t wondered where her husband had been all night, was rather noncommittal. Said something about business keeping him away a lot. Hmm. I wonder if she suspected him of anything like Mrs. Lawrence had intimated to me. There’s a point I’d have to look into. The man had no partners or associates, so the list of names connected with him was a lot shorter. The man from down the hall, Maxwell’s wife, and his secretary. Lawrence had had a secretary. I wonder if Martine did, too? I went back to the folder for the first case’s notes. Yes, there it was.
Another interesting point. I wonder if it was significant? Reading further into all the cases, nothing else
jumped to my attention. I did, however, make a list of all people I wanted to see myself. It included both wives, Mrs. Martine and Mrs. Maxwell, Martine’s chauffeur, his four poker buddies, and the secretaries. I looked at my watch. It said two-twenty-three. I had forgotten to eat lunch. Well, I could rectify that and look up some of the people on the list before it got too late.
I got a quick sandwich at a nearby diner and decided to see Mrs. Maxwell first. She had a quiet home on Park Avenue, most likely due to her late husband’s business acumen. I wonder what she’d do now that he was dead?
I found a place to park near her address and the sign said no parking from 11 to 2. But, since it was after 3, I didn’t worry about it. I located the front entrance by navigating through a wrought iron gate and pushed the button. From somewhere inside, a deep-noted gong sounded. The doorbell was working well.
The huge door was opened by a woman of about fifty years of age. She was dressed in black, so I couldn’t tell if she was a maid or Mrs. Maxwell. I took a guess.
“Mrs. Maxwell?” I asked.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to ask a little of your time.”
“Are you buying or selling?”
“Neither. I simply wanted to ask you a few questions.”
“Then, who are you? Are you a policeman?”
“I’m a private investigator, ma’am. My name’s Steve Randall.”
“I’ve already told the police everything I know. I don’t have to talk to you, though.”
“I know that, ma’am, but have the police told you that your husband’s death might be linked to two other recent murders?”
“Yes, they have.”
“Then maybe you can understand why I’m here. Both of those other men had wives, too, and I’ve come on behalf of one of them.”
“My Arthur’s death related to those other men? How, exactly?”
“Well, the police aren’t really sure quite yet, but they’re exhausting every possibility along those lines.”
“What does that mean, ‘exhausting every possibility?’ Evidently, you think they’re connected, or you wouldn’t be here. Right?”
“I’m not sure.... if I could just ask you a few questions, I might know a little more.”
“Well, I don’t guess it really matters one way or the other. You might as well come in.”
I followed her through a large foyer and off to the left into a richly furnished sitting room. Here was old money at it’s finest. The walls were panelled in a dark and freshly polished wood; the ceiling was twice the normal height as usual homes had and it had ornamental sculptures molded in it along it’s outside edges near the walls. There was a massive stone fireplace, above which hung a portrait of an old guy with a long beard, surrounded by a highlighted ornate gold frame. There was a gleaming, probably bronze, statue of a nude, skinny woman, probably an ancient Greek portrayal of womanly beauty and charm; over in the corner, and near the fireplace, sat a solid-looking table with gold on all it’s edges. There were chairs and couches all over the room and Mrs. Maxwell directed us to one near the fireplace. Logs were crackling cozily inside it and the room did have a certain kind of welcoming feel to it. We sat down and she turned to face me.
“What I really wanted to know about was something perhaps you didn’t think to tell the police.”
“No, I told them everything.” She looked at me like she was affronted that I should suggest such a thing.
“Really? Didn’t you wonder why your husband never came home last night?”
“I don’t think that’s any concern of yours.”
“That’s just it. What he was doing may be of vital concern to the case.”
“But, don’t you understand,” her voice dropped to below a whisper, “I don’t know why he didn’t come home last night.”
I paused a moment. Finally, I said, “I see. Do you have any suspicions?”
“No, none. Nothing. We were very happy together. He’d never done anything like you’re suggesting.”
“You’re sure of it?”
“I ought to know my own husband, shouldn’t I?”
“I guess so. Did he leave any clue or tell you where he was going? Anything. Anything at all. Even if you
don’t think it’s important.”
“Well, he never came home from work last night, but he did call me. It was about six o’clock, well after he normally arrived here. I had no reason to get alarmed over his not showing up, yet. When he called me, he said he had to go over some paperwork and he had his secretary there to type out some things that he needed the next day. He told me he shouldn’t be too late, most likely not past eleven, so I didn’t think much about it. I didn’t wait up on him, but I did wake up around midnight and look at the clock. He still hadn’t arrived home yet, and I just thought that maybe it was taking him longer than he had expected. It wasn’t until the next morning, when the police arrived, that I knew what had happened to him.”
“Did he always have a secretary around?”
“Yes. Since he was the only one there, a secretary’s help was invaluable to him. He used her to get some of the more time-consuming things done so he could concentrate on the real business at hand.”
“Do you know where he got the secretary from? Was it an advertisement in the newspaper, word of mouth, or did he go through an agency?”
“I don’t really know. But, those records are likely to be at his office.”
“How could I get to see those records?”
I could take you there, but I wouldn’t be of any help locating them. Perhaps you’d better get in touch with his secretary.”
I remembered her name from the police files.
“Is her name Lynn Stalmaster?”
“Yes, that’s it.”
“Okay. I’ll get in touch with her. Do I need a key to get in, or has she got one?”
“I’m pretty sure Arthur gave her one. In case she had to come in on a Saturday.”
“Is there anything else you can think of?”
“No, I’ve really tried hard, but there’s nothing. Nothing at all.”
“Okay, thanks for answering my questions at a time I know must be painful for you.”
“I’ll show myself out.”
She nodded and I stood and left her alone. Nothing else I could say would mean anything, so I just left her there to grieve in silence.
If I hurried, I could get in touch with the secretary and still get in the office this afternoon to nose around a little.