A Dance With Death
The dancing room was filled with all sorts of people; mostly the crème de la crème of New York, but also a few commoners.
As Vulkie eyed through the room, she spotted the person she had been looking forward to meet; Big Lucy. She wore a feather boa, a pink dress and a large hat with a peacock feather on top of it. Vulkie smiled to herself; Big Lucy always had a thing for being extravagant, but tonight, she dressed up for a special occassion.
Grabbing the piece of paper out of her jacket, she read the invitation: "You are hereby cordially invited to attend a party of Big Lucy's Cabaret. We'll be expecting you on the 21st of April, 1929...". As per usual, the location had been a secret. But after encountering Larry the Toe and paying him more than the usual amount, he had told Vulkie where to go for the party.
A waiter passed by with a tray of champagne . The waiter stopped in front of her, lowered his tray and asked her if she would like some champagne. Grabbing a glass, she carefully sipped it.
"Dom Perignon," she muttered to herself and started to observe the room again. People were dancing and it didn't take long before Vulkie was also asked for a dance by a gentleman she had never seen before.
Dancing around the room, she was overwhelmed by the amount of people that could fit in this place. As the song carefully came to a stop, the gentleman thanked her and left again. Her eyes still spinning from all the twirling around, she took a second to regain her posture.
Just then, a man showed up in front of her. "May I have this dance of you, dear Miss Nouson?" the man politely asked, extending his hand.
As Vulkie observed the man, she recognized him. It was Lou "The Fixer" Maceo, a loyal associate of La Cosa Nostra.
Fearing what might happen if she refused to dance with him, she grabbed his hand and once again, Vulkie was dancing to a slow dance song.
"I've got a case for you, Miss Nouson, if you're interested," Maceo whispered in her ear...
"Curare," he said, simply. "Vulkie, I believe the murderer is a member of the Eastern Triads. I know they have some connections in South America and have been messing about with curare for a while. It takes a skilled user to hit the right target shooting a blowpipe through a crowded dancefloor. It backs up my hunch: your bruise shows an impression of a ring, it's not easy to make out but the design looked similar to one I've seen once before, on a member of the Triads I had an altercation with some time ago."
So the Triads have some beef with La Cosa Nostra. Enough to come over and poop a party at Big Lucy's: it was serious.
Vulkie was itching to try and catch the assassin - but whoever it was had long gone. More clues were needed to track them down, and the Professor persuaded Vulkie to get down from the rooftop.
As they reached the ground, someone rounded the corner into the alleyway: someone waving a piece of paper at Vulkie and the Professor, and saying "Hey! This was on him!"
As the Professor and Vulkie approached the man, Vulkie could see it was Larry the Toe. He was still waving the piece of paper he had found, while barely containing his excitement to help out the detectives.
"What is it now, Larry? I already paid you good money for Big Lucy's location and all it got me so far is a lot of trouble," Vulkie said, with a slight annoyance in her voice. Her head was still throbbing from the punch she had received to her left temple.
"Well, Detectives, I found this piece of paper that your mysterious fella dropped. He thought that no one would find it. Once I entered the alleyway, I could see it lying near the garbage bin over there," Larry said, while pointing towards the bin.
"Alright Larry, how much is it gonna cost us?" Vulkie queried, already pulling out her wallet. Looking into it, she could see that she was getting short of money again. Sighing, she handed over a 100 dollars.
Larry smiled and handed over the paper. "Well, Detectives, pleasure doing business with ya, but I got to go now. I'll see you when you need to know where Big Lucy is at next time," Larry said and he left again.
"Curious..." the Professor said, while looking at the piece of paper. As Vulkie took a look, she could see it was all sorts of gibberish.
"What's that supposed to mean?" she asked, while looking puzzled at the piece of paper.
"My dear Vulkie, this bit of information seems to be encoded. And only when we find the right decipher code, we might be able to reveal the note's contents," the Professor replied, while smiling; he always had a knack for figuring out the most complicated things in mere seconds.
"Well then, how do we find the decipher code?" Vulkie asked, hoping that the Professor would know a possible solution to this problem...
The note read:
The game fixer has counted suspects, at last we're ready.
Come here so we terminate the uncertainty. Quickly go and do no wrong, not regretting, but get the ball caught.
We say lose third inning this time round if pitcher gets heat from him, else make sure afterwards to return heat leftfield.
The Professor stared at it for some time, then smiled again.
"Aha! This is a simple code. But I think there's something more," he added, intriguingly.
"You've cracked it already? What does it mean, something to do with baseball?" asked an impressed Vulkie.
"A friend of mine taught me this code, basic really, but tough enough to fool a casual glance. Read only every third word and the message is clear."
The Professor handed the paper to Vulkie so she could see for herself what he meant. She read out the words one by one.
"Fixer suspects we're here. Terminate quickly. Do not get caught. Lose this if heat else afterwards heat"
"I think," said the Professor, "the last part means there is a further message."
Suddenly rummaging through his pockets the Professor brought out a blue matchbook.
"I was at a dinner at the Astor Hotel a while ago," said the Professor. "Celebrating Charles Lindbergh's flight. They gave everyone one of these, I almost forgot I still had it"
Striking a match he held it under the notepaper. Slowly the heat revealed some more text written in invisible ink:
"Shipment due in two weeks. Concagua"
As the Professor read the note's secret message, Vulkie's mind began to process the information.
"Concagua... could they be referencing to Aconcagua, a mountain that was found in South America? It would make sense, since the Professor had said that the Eastern Triads recently established connections over there. The main question is, did the shipment come from there? Or is Concagua a codeword?" Vulkie pondered, while looking at the note.
"Something the matter?" the Professor queried, hoping that Vulkie cracked the riddle.
"Concagua... it's either a codeword, or they mean Aconcagua, which is," Vulkie began, before being interrupted by the Professor who said, "a mountain in South America. Yes, I know, what of it?"
"It verifies our suspicions. It means that the Eastern Triads have indeed made connections in South America and got their poison from there. The main question is, however, what the shipment is and when exactly it arrives," Vulkie responded, rubbing the back of her head. As she did so, she winced; she could already feel a bump beginning to form.
"Well, the note says due in two weeks," the Professor began, before interrupted by Vulkie, who said: "Yes, due in two weeks; however, that note could've been written two weeks ago or just an hour ago. We'll need to think of a way to find out when and where the shipment's arriving. Any thoughts?"
The Professor pondered for a few seconds, before raising his finger and exclaiming: "I got the answer!"
"What is it then? Come on!" Vulkie impatiently asked, making the Professor raise an eyebrow.
"Just bear with me. What is the most common way shipments arrive?" the Professor asked, looking towards Vulkie for an answer.
"Errr... via a ship?" Vulkie responded.
"Exactly. And who has access to a ledger when a ship arrives?' the Professor queried.
"The harbor master! Brilliant!" she exclaimed. They finally had a new lead. All they had to do now, was to make their way towards the docks and check the ledger...
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