Things don't always go as you would want them to go. I looked at the dead body of 26 year old Carol Fisher. She had been mutilated by someone. Stabbed a total of seven times and then shot once in the head. The local police knew who the killer was. The problem was finding him. They had a name. They had proof. They had physical evidence that linked him to the crime and witness evidence. It was enough evidence to put him a way for life.
I was worned that he is a master of disguises. He can disapper with the blink-of-an-eye.
Detective Thomas McDonald looked at me when I was finished examining the body. "I heard about your reputation around here."
"What about it?" I asked
"If you can catch our killer, Charles Craig, I can promise a handsome reward." he replied.
I thought about it. Money. I needed money real bad. I was behind on rent for both my apartment and my office. Money is good.
"Fine. I'll take it," I said and I left back for my office. I reviewed the background and case file of Mr. Craig. This wasn't going to be easy, that was for sure. I decided to make a phone call to a few friends of mine to see if they would be interested in making some decent money in helping to find a killer who could blend in to even the smaller crowds.
It was dark and there was nothing I could do for the night. I'd have to start in the morning. So I went home for the night to get some sleep. The next morning, went to my office to make a call to a few friends to see if they'd be interested in making a few dollars in helping to find this killer.
It was an usual monday morning,well,for now.
I was making my breakfast,some scrambled eggs and bacon,with some fresh orange juice and toast. While the toast was getting "heated",I got the newspaper and saw that a young woman was "brutally" murdered. Also,M.Lacrimosa was on the case,that's what the newspaper said.
"M.Lacrimosa. Where do I know that name from?" I thought and then I remembered. "The 80 day chase around the world,of course!" (see Chase around the world in 80 days!) I said aloud and a passing by man looked around to see who yelled that.
"Sorry" I murmered and apologized to the passing by man. As I ate my breakfast,the phone suddenly rang.
I thought it was Joseph,asking for my help,but it turned out to be my old friend M.Lacrimosa.
"Vulkie here" I said bluntly and Lacrimosa replied with "It's Marc here. You may know that I'll need your help with the case I'm on. It's all in the newspapers. How quick can you come here?" Marc asked.
"Within the hour,I'll be at your office" I said and disconnected the call. "Hmm,this isn't going to be an easy case" I murmered and I was positive about that. The guy we were after was practically a 'magician' of disguises. He could blend in the crowd and not be noticed.
****One hour later****
As I entered the office of Marc,I was greeted by a man standing at a desk. "I'm here to see Marc Lacrimosa. He's expecting me" I said to the man and he nodded and led me towards Marc.
As I entered his "office" room,Marc was relaxing on his chair,looking out of the window.
"Guess who it is. It's your old friend" I said and I turned a bottle of Marc's favorite whiskey out of my coat. "Thanks" he replied and he "directed" me to a seat.
"I'm expecting some friends of mine,to help me. They should be here anytime" Marc said and just then,a knock on the door came and a familiar person came in...
Molly Maltese took another sip of her drink and after jotting a final note in her tiny, meticulous handwriting, closed her latest case file with a snap. She attached a little slip to the front, detailing the price of services rendered.
"That should take care of rent for another month at least." She said to no one in particular. Her eyes suddenly fell on the latest edition of the city newspaper, and as was her habit, she pulled it closer, intending to comb the articles desperately for any mention of Jack Billings or his latest activities. She skimmed the front page, something about the murder of a young woman, but skipped the article.
"Excuse me, miss, can I look at that article there?"
She started, and then looked over at a man who was standing quite near to her. The only detail that stuck out from his otherwise nondescript appearance was his rather extravagant moustache; she simply couldn't take her eyes away from it.
She peeled off the front page and handed it to him, watching with mild disinterest as he perused the article about the murder. His head twitched and the movement revealed what had been causing the vague sense of wrongness in the back of her mind. Smiling slightly, she spoke.
"Excuse me sir, but your false moustache is slightly crooked Would you like me to fix it for you?" She asked, the usual cynical humor she approached the world with bleeding into her voice, but her eyes were bright and playful.
The man started, and hurriedly slammed the page onto the counter. "Er, no...that won't be necessary." He said, then exited the bar at almost a run. She raised an eyebrow and reached to take a closer look at the article. Three names popped out at her, the victim Carol Fisher, the man-at-large Charles Craig and M. Lacrimosa..."
"No, it couldn't be." She told herself authoritatively. "He was probably some John messing around on his wife." But she wondered if she shouldn't pay M.Lacrimosa a visit, just to be on the safe side...
Pulling out a cigarette, Molly lit up and walked along at a brisk pace towards the building she knew M. Lacrimosa's office was housed in. She was a sort of take-charge person, so she figured even if this information meant nothing, which she suspected it didn't mean anything, one could never have too many leads. Plus, private eyes have to help out other private eyes. It was a dog-eat-dog world.
Although she never interrupted her pace, her eyes swept over the darkened alley mouths on the way to the office building. She didn't need any moustached murderers coming to wreak vengeance on her.
She paused outside the building and quickly dusted off her shoes, straightened her coat and carelessly fluffed her wavy red locks. Taking a deep breath, she marched through the small lobby and up the stairs to his office, where she was abruptly confronted by a man blocking her way. She ran full on into him and seemed to bounce away. The man was a monolith!
"Oh dear, terribly sorry about that." She said matter-of-factly as she dusted off his shirt with a few swipes. "I assume you are the...secretary...or something. Anyway, I have a message for Lacrimosa!"
She winked and fluttered her long eyelashes. "Don't worry, you can trust me, dearie, I'm a detective as well though I don't look it and it's like I always say, us detectives have got to stick together in these trying times and--oh dear. I'm nattering away again. Now listen. Just now, I was in the bar down the street and a man wearing a very shabbily applied false moustache DEMANDED to see the paper I was reading. He was very interested in the article about the crime, and so I though it might be the killer and Lacrimosa should know. Nothing may come of it but you can never be too careful. That will be all, here's my card if you need anything further."
After delivering this monologue, she paused for air and then smiled winningly. "Have a nice day now." With that, she turned smartly and left the office.
It was the journalist who made the front page talking about the Louson case. I looked down at paper and then looked up at him. He was young-mabye......19 or 20 years of age.
"How can I help you?" I asked.
"I just want to say congratulations in person about catching Mr. and Mrs. Louson." he replied.
"Don't congratulate me. I only helped" I said, "You need to congratulate Ms. Vulkie here. She was the real brain behind the case."
He turned to Vulkie and said "congratulations." He left shortly afterwards.
There was another knock at my door. "It's open." I said. My secretary entered holding a note. She gave it to me. After reading the note, I looked up at Vulkie.
"So, Vulkie, its just going to be us working on this case. The local police have hired me to look for Mr. Charles Craig. He's 35 years old and he is a master of disguises. I've taken the liberty into calling them and telling them that I have help. They are going to pay anyone who helps the same amount I'm getting in which, I must say, is a very large sum," I said. "Are you interested?" I asked.
Nellie McKinzey was not pleased. She stalked down the street, hands shoved deep into the pockets of her signature Mackintosh, snood firmly on her head, muttering to herself. "I was the one who had found out about the Fisher case! I was the one who had found out the police had handed it over to M. Lacrimosa! I was the one- well, suffice to say I was the one! Saying a woman can't handle a murder case! Giving it to that prick!"
The slim girl in her early twenties abruptly halted in front of a nondescript brick building with a sign reading"Private Eye" hung out front. She pasted a smile on her face, patted her snood, and cinched the waist of her brightly colored coat, before she opened the door and started up the steps.
Before Nellie could open the door on her own and man of average height and weight, wearing a long over coat and a old fedora reached up and grabbed the handle.
" Allow me miss" said Charlie Cain with a smile. Not amused at all in the frame of mind Nellie was in she let out a harumph and stormed up the steps.
Charlie got in step behind her not knowing she was going to the exact same office he was.
They reached the office door of M. Lacrimosa almost at the same time. They both reached for the door knob at the same time.
Charlie let out a laugh and apologized. Nellie opened the door they both walked in. The main entrance was empty just a desk sitting all lonely like .
Both detectives looked at each other Charlie shrugged his shoulders Nellie let out a sigh.
A door opened and out came Vulkie and M. Lacrimosa smiling.
" Hi ya kid" Charlie said looking at his old friend Vulkie.
" Charlie oh my its so good to see you. How have you been? Whose your friend?" Vulkie asked almost in one breath
Charlie looked at the woman ( Nellie) and then back at Vulkie and replied
" I havent the faintest idea who she is, but as for the rest Im doing pretty good."
Vulkie introduced Charlie and Marc both men shook hands then all three turned their attention to the woman in the makintosh.....
Molly halted on the stairwell, leaning against the wall and letting her curtain of red hair shield her face as she watched the two fairly race up the stairs and into M. Lacrimosa's. The door shut with a bang.
"Heavens to Betsy." She said matter-of-factly, then stripped off her gloves and marched back through the door, past the secretary and into the office of M. Lacrimosa. She was confronted by not only the esteemed detective himself, but by two women, one the one she had spied on the stairwell and the man who she also recognized from the encounter below. Her eyes swept over all of them for a moment before she flashed a blinding smile.
"My goodness, you're ALL detectives, aren't you?" she murmured. Then with a sly fox grin that was gone a mere instant after it shone across her face she meticulously picked a strand of fire-colored straight hair from her sleeve. "Well, if there's a party of detectives to be had, how could I have possibly missed the invite?"
She sized up the subtle body language in the room and saw that the two men and the woman she had never seen before all had their bodies angled to the woman in the makintosh, looks of surprise never having left their faces. Viewing the room as a sort of chessboard, she stepped up next to the woman and smiled congenially at the three.
"I like your snood." she said with a wink, and then interlaced her fingers and looked at M. Lacrimosa with a serious expression.
"Tell me, did your secretary-he-man give you my message? About the man at the Tricky Mister?" she prompted.
"Oh dear. I've forgotten to introduce myself I see." she thought, then batted her eyelashes playfully. "My name is Molly Maltese, I'm a small-time private eye here in New York. You may have heard of me but I doubt it."
She shrugged noncommitally, and made a split second decision.
"Look here, M. Lacrimosa. I'd like to help you on this case if I am able. You see I think this man Charles Craig may have some connection to...someone I've been looking for. Not to mention," she snapped and raised her eyebrows, "I have some friends left in verrry high places."
(baha, sorry, forgot to tack that on)
"Why thank you, Detective Maltese. I am rather fond of it, myself," the reporter replied. Then, addressing the room at large, she went on, "Good day to you all. I am a reporter with The New York Post, and I want to apologize to you, Detective Lacrimosa, about the article. I know it will make the case more difficult for you. I was the one who found the story, and I had not been going to name names, but an... overeager copy boy grabbed it and printed it up," Nellie was keeping a visible hold on her temper.
"You are that reporter friend of Heimlich VonVictor, aren't you?" Lacrimosa leaned in to peer at Nellie's face.
"Yes, we met briefly at the Tricky Mister, quite awhile ago," Nellie confirmed. "He made sure I knew the rules about publishing ongoing investigations. Which is why I am here. I am offering any help that I may be to make amends for any of the hardships the Post's indiscrations may have caused for you. I can do research, question people, and do stakeouts, if need be."
Vulkie had been eying Nellie suspiciously. "What is in it for you?" she finally inquired of Nellie.
"The story when it is done, of course," Nellie tipped her head slightly to the left.
"The Post sent you?" an amazed Charlie inquired.
Nellie blushed ever so faintly. "Not exactly."
"That sounds like a 'No!' to me!" piped up Molly.
Molly clapped her hands and hopped a little, her red lipstick sparkling in the light.
"My my, how very exciting!" she said vibrantly. Leaning in close to Nellie, she made shifty eyes in a very exaggerated way. "What's the deal? In danger of losing your job? Will you get in very much trouble if the Post catches you doing research of a Definitely-Not-Quite-Legitimate persuasion?"
Nellie shoved Molly away lightly and spent the next few minutes trying to rub away the tiny smudges Molly's dark eye makeup had left. Slighly abashed, Molly abruptly twined her hands together and assumed a business-like air.
"And what about the rest of you? What're you bringing to the table?" she asked, looking around the lose circle and purposely making eye contact with everyone in the room.
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