Sunday, September 7, 2014

Dark and Stormy Night

(Image from "The Big Combo" 1955)


Dark and Stormy Night 

by William Seward

Grimaldi knew when the phone rings at three in the morning it doesn't mean good news. Being on call means you can't turn the pesky thing off. He answered with a gruff "Grimaldi!" The dispatcher told him the address, he slapped some water on his face, dressed  himself again and was out the door. Great, the crappy weather fit his mood.
The address was a duplex. He didn't know the uniform in the driveway. He flashed his badge, grunted "Grimaldi" and was told the way to the scene where he finally saw a familiar face.
Detective Bob Patrick handed Grimaldi a cup of Starbucks best, strictly black, no frou-frou, just the thing to make him verbal again. He got out something that sounded like "thanks" and grabbed a quick swallow of the brew before being shown into the apartment.
Bob introduced him to the victim. "Case MacTavish. Bass player for the house band at the Hot Spot down the street. A few priors, nothing major. His girlfriend found him when she got in from her shift. She works at the Pik n Pay all night grocery, also in the neighborhood. She's Marge Griswold. She said he had a gig tonight, hasn't seen him since this morning. Nobody heard anything. Unit next door is vacant now."
"A lot!" The tech looked up. Another face he knew, Ned Olson. "We'll know when we autopsy for sure, but looks like a dozen times at least."
Grimaldi looked at the bloody knife Bob showed him a in a tagged evidence bag. "Murder weapon?"
"Could be. Hard to say right now. Victim was holding it in his hand."
"Think he got a few licks in?"
The tech looked around, "lot of blood. Could be. We'll run it, see if it's all his."
Bob motioned to the bedroom. "The lady is in there. Ready to get her story?"
Grimaldi took a mental inventory. It seemed like his brain cells and his mouth were firing on as many cylinders as they usually did, good or bad.
"Okay. First, though, think it's her?"
"I'm not sure. I'll let you decide for yourself."

It had been at least an hour since Marge was told to wait in the bedroom with a policewoman. There was a knock on the door, both women sat up a bit. A man entered. Marge had never met him but she knew his face from pictures in the newspaper. Having him in her bedroom didn't increase her desire to know him. The policewoman stayed. Grimaldi sat. Even sitting he was a couple of inches taller than Marge.
"Ms. Griswold, I'm Detective Grimaldi. I'm sorry for your loss."
"Thank you. Case had his faults, but no one deserves this!"
"How long have you known each other?"
"We met at the Hot Spot just after I got back. About a year ago."
"Got back?"
"Afghanistan. Two tours."
"Then you've probably seen some bad stuff too."
"Pretty bad. Worse when it's one you know, like Case."
Bob called Grimaldi to the  next room. He showed him his notebook. "The victim was playing sets at the Hot Spot till midnight. Said he was going home. Ms. Griswold was working checkout at the grocery till two a.m. Called in the 911 at 2:15. Just about enough time to walk home. Tech says best guess now on time of death was around one. Gives her an alibi."
"Maybe. Remember, it's a murder case, everybody lies."
"You're a cynical bastard."
Grimaldi grunted, went back into the bedroom.
"Ms. Griswold. Was MacTavish fighting with anyone recently? Anybody threaten him? Was he worried about anything?"
"Nothing I knew of. I mean, he worked in a bar in a bad part of town. Not a lady's club. But I never saw any trouble."
"Detective Patrick has the rest of your statement. We'll go over it again tomorrow at the station. Do you have anywhere to go tonight?"
"A friend from work. I'll call her."
"It will be a couple of days before you can get back in here. I'll want you to come into the station tomorrow and sign your statement. Officer Maddox here will help you pack."
A voice came from the front room. "Detective, you need to see this!" Grimaldi and both women went to the door.
A long-haired black and white cat strolled in the door carrying a trophy between his teeth. Obviously pleased with himself, he passed the assembled officers and techs and made a chattering noise as he approached Marge. He neatly dropped the prize at her feet, licked himself, and sailed to the top of the nearby refrigerator where he sat like a sphinx.
At Marge's feet was a large, hairy knuckled finger bearing a bulky gold ring.
Grimaldi looked at Marge. "Your cat?"
"Case's, sort of. I think he came with the duplex. We've been calling him Moki."
Grimaldi picked up the finger with a reversed bag and looked at it before zipping it inside. "MacTavish wasn't missing any digits, I guess this answers the question about whether he fought back. Recognize anything?"
Marge was looking thoughtful. She hesitated. "No."
Grimaldi noticed. "I'm not sure I believe you."
"No, it's nothing."
He let it pass for the present. The two detectives finally left. Only part of Marge's attention was on the rest of it; packing her things with Rose's assistance, the trip to Patsy's apartment.
That ring! She knew it!

 Chapter 2
Mort Gomez was in pain. His left pinky was gone and it hurt like nothing he'd ever felt. And his ring! The ring he had taken off the body of his own uncle Carlo after he'd knifed him to death. A family heirloom, that's what it was!
But the pain! The boss had taken him to a veterinarian he used sometimes. The man owed too much to talk to anyone. He'd given Mort some kind of painkillers, for horses, probably, but they didn't work on HIM! The bandaged hand throbbed, forget that he kept bumping it into things when he moved. It was agony!
Who'd a thought that damn bass player, MacTavish had the spunk to grab the knife and put up a fight?
Mort looked out the window. Night was falling in the miserable weather, but it made little difference. The rain hadn't stopped in three days. The damp made his hand hurt even worse, if that was possible.
He heard a car door slam, he stepped behind the front door as it opened. Joey Marbles stepped into the room. The boss bumped the door back abruptly, it bumped Mort's hand. He screamed and fell back into a chair blubbering.
The boss looked at Mort, shaking his head. "I can't believe it. My best enforcer, Mort Gomez. Killer extreme. Crying in a flop house on the ass end of town!"
Mort just shook his head, still moaning.
"C'mon, man up. I have to ask you something."
Mort tried to sit up straight. The boss was the boss.
"The cops are everywhere asking questions. Mostly that detective Grimaldi, I think we've got a handle on him, though. There's someone else, though."
"Do you know this woman?" Joey handed over his cell phone. There was a picture on the screen. "She's asking all around about you."
"No, I don't.... wait. She works at the grocery. The one where I buy my cigarettes. She checked me out a few times."
"Well, she's looking for you now and they say is she's MacTavish's squeeze."
Mort stifled another groan. "What can she know? And what is she planning to do about it?"
"You tell me. Mort. She's your buddy!"
"She's got nothing on me."
"Maybe we need to make sure. We'll do it together."
"I don't know."
"C'mon, you can do it, if you can stop crying long enough."

Mort ate another half bottle of aspirin and got into the car. Joey drove them back to the neighborhood near the grocery. They parked in an alley. It wasn't long, but it seemed forever to the suffering Mort. Finally he recognized Marge passing the alley and he called out to her, stifling a groan.
The two men stood with guns behind their back as she approached, rain cap on her head and hands in her raincoat pockets. Joey thought the woman seemed too relaxed for a dark alley. Finally she was close enough to see their faces in the gloom. To Mort she said, "show me your hands."
Mort raised the bandage. Marge nodded when she saw the white bandage. The men made their move. Three shots rang out, echoing along the walls of the pitch black alley. Joey went down immediately, Mort stumbled forward, grasping at Marge.
When Grimaldi arrived at the scene, he found two victims, one gripping the end of a torn belt in his bandaged hand. A belt only a woman would wear, perhaps on her raincoat.
Three blocks away, Marge tossed her torn coat into a dumpster and entered a thrift shop.
The little red coat in the window was just the thing. The rain is stopping. Tomorrow promised to be a better day.

An exercise from writing class to incorporate furnished random sentences into a short story.

Printed: 07-Sep-2014, 14:30
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