ADVENTURE THE 13TH: BLACK MONDAY
for the first time reader:
For those unfamiliar with the posting structure of a blog: postings appear in the order they are made by their author, not necessarily in the order that would most benefit an ongoing series such as the one you are about to read.
Since the purpose of this blog is to be an ongoing thriller, simply removing the previous chapter to alleviate confusion is not an option – since no one coming to the series after the first chapter had been removed would be able to follow the story line.
Therefore, if you scroll down or visit the archives in future months, you will be able to read this continuing drama in the manner and order it was intended to be read.
For this reason and purpose each subsequent adventure in the ‘Eddie Mars’ serial will be marked by a number. If you follow these numbers marked at the top of each chapter in their numeric order - eg ‘Adventure the 1st’ - you will be able to follow this continuing saga.
For those savvy to the blog world – this disclaimer may seem redundant, and for that no apology is made. This disclaimer is meant to better acquaint new readers in how the entries in this blog will be posted and how best to follow the series from this point on. And now…
Adventure the 13th …Black Monday
It was ten-thirty by the time I managed to squeeze myself into that dark miserable Monday. It rained. Typical New York winter; the stain of humanity trampling all that pristine cleanliness underfoot – Miss Liberty didn’t have this feeding frenzy in mind when she asked for her downtrodden and poor, cluttering up the scenery like a bunch of cattle lined for the meat packer’s plant. I hate the holidays, but more, that sort of unequivocal drawn out craziness from otherwise sane people – ‘shoppers, rushing home with their treasures.’
I made up some asinine lie to Mico that rang about as genuine as Macy’s telling everyone they’d be closed on Boxing Day. Maybe she believed me – in fact, mulling it over in my head now – I suppose she did.
“Be home in time for lunch?” she asked.
“Better make it dinner,” I explain.
“I’ll have a surprise for you then,” she said with a wink.
I’m on dangerous ground. The girl’s falling in love. If I don’t play my heart right, I might develop a couple reasons to stay.
. . .
By eleven I was having my social introductions arranged at the one-ten. Walking through those old oak doors with so much paint and varnish slapped across them to keep the elements at bay, I suddenly became aware of how little the place had changed. Even the light fixtures were the same – forties pastiche with more than a hint of yellowing around the edges. Malory’s ‘buddy’ – Lieutenant Flannery was about what I expected; fifty-ish, heavy set, hard-boiled and chomping on a wade of Nicorette to relieve his starved nerves and the strain of a nagging trophy wife who wanted him home every night by six.
He had a fist like an oven mitt, soft and padded and not much of a grip besides – too much of a desk jockey I suppose.
“Mal’ tells me you’re an okay guy,” he says.
“Yeah,” I reply, “He tells me that too. Maybe someday I’ll get to believe it.”
I’m directed to a chair that looks like it ought to be wired for a good juicing at the big house. It’s only one odd piece in a not-so-private office littered with oddities. I instinctively focus on the careworn stuffed bass barely clinging to its dingy wooden mount.
“Caught that off the coast of Catalina,” Flannery says with pride, his already formidable girth expanding like a helium balloon at Coney Island “You fish?”
“Only professionally,” I explain, “Right now I’m interesting in casting my fly for a couple of Jane Does.”
Flannery slumps the wealth of his lard into a meager recliner behind his rickety wooden desk. I watch as he leans in and yanks - then slams - each snug desk drawer in rapid succession, certain that with every tug and pull he’s going to wind up with splinters up his nose. He’s on a mission alright – and finally gets what he’s looking for: a sheet of dailies for the unclaimed – a sort of coming attractions on all the cold case paperwork to follow.
“How’d you like our fair city?” he asks.
“Fairly,” I suggest, “I grew up here, if that’ll help you any.”
“It’s a sewer, all right then,” he agrees with a chuckle.
But he’s wrong. Just as wrong as he can be. There’s nothing the matter with the city, per say. It’s the people that stink – living out their lives like rats between its walls and dirtying the place up. The low and the mighty on Park Avenue, who think insulin’s a wonder drug for weight loss, and, that the rest of us should be grateful they’re around to spend like there’s no tomorrow on things they’d classify as basic necessities, only you or I would consider luxury items bordering on the absurd. It’s the dirty little scruff from the wrong side of the tracks who graduates from breaking and entering to date rape and plugging the pawn broker for a crisp fifty in his register. It’s the embittered old hag who came from the old country some forty years ago with a suitcase full ‘a wide-eyed optimism and a dream, but who’s still stirring her pot of mush inside the backroom of some greasy spoon. The working gals who find their clientele from all walks and sometimes wind up with a toe tag in trade for their ‘recreational efforts.’ The greedy twenty-something trader, whose first thought after any global tragedy is… ‘I wonder how much gold’ll jump?’ See, scum isn’t class specific. It oozes from any open door. Only some of them have bad locks.
While Flan’s digging through his persons of interest, I give his office my once over. The place hasn’t had a good cleaning since McKinley was President. Given half the interest and enough time I could probably find Jimmy Hoffa and Kennedy’s brain stashed in the property room. How Flan’ finds anything in this mess is a wonder. It certainly took me back.
“Now I know why I left,” I mutter, almost without realizing it, though I can tell by the look on Flan’s mug that I’ve stepped into my first puddle of the morning.
“Did you find greener pastures abroad?” he sardonically asks.
“Not so much greener…” I say, making a gesture by rubbing my finger tips together, “…as greener.”
Flan’ smiles. I’ve got his number.
It wasn’t hard to get. Any Plaza ‘0’ exchange could see the guy was living hand to mouth without the luxury of being ambidextrous.
“Well, Mr. Mars,” he says, “Who am I looking for?”
“A retired sideshow freak, Ezmirelda…the last name’s a bit sketchy. Late fifties. There should already be a file on her. She gave her Joe Average a homemade castration you guys wrote up as accidental a couple a’ hundred years ago.”
“What a little princess,” Flan’ agrees, “Next.”
“This one should be a cakewalk,” I tell him, “Cynthia McGlaghin, nee Hemmingway. I’m surprised I didn’t see anything in the papers. I was under the impression the Manhattan elite got preferential attention when one of their own went missing.”
“How many lunches they have with the governor.”
But I don’t get the answer I’m looking for.
“Nothing here,” Flannery admits, getting up with more release than I would have given him credit for.
The beaten leather on the seat begins to re-inflate, grateful to have him up and running.
“Come on,” he says, getting all excited, “We’ll do the cold and lovelies.”
. . .
The New York City morgue is every bit worth its reputation as the last refuge of the socially inconsequential; a great steel and concrete fridge that keeps more oddities than any circus. Flan’ and I go in the back way, a luxury neither of us seems to appreciate.
We’re shown into the deep freeze and given a list for the slots keeping secrets of the female persuasion. The first two don’t mean a thing – some poor bitch bulging from the eye sockets and silicon rack who got it in the back with a thirty-eight, and a middle-aged frump probably pushed out a’ third story window – maybe fourth. But drawer 872 brings back a lot of memories. It’s Ez, looking gray and pasty.
“That’s one of them,” I tell Flan’. He marks her down on his notepad before looking over the records book.
“Says here she drowned.”
I try to hide my shock but can’t.
“Well?…” Flan’ replies, his curiosity aroused, “Didn’t she?”
I can’t very well tell him I found her at a necktie party inside 716 Templer.
“Oh, wait a minute…” Flan’ adds, rechecking the sheets, “Says here she came in with a friend.”
And I can guess who.
Inside drawer 850 we rediscover Cynthia McGlaghin. She’s been doctored up to look like a suicide – but why? It’s all very neat and tidy; accidental death, even with the contusions on her forehead, back and abdomen.
“You know these two long?” Flan’ asks.
Flannery gives me the once over. He’s not clever enough to throw a couple of hubcaps on the wheels spinning inside his head.
“Don’t tell me how you come by number two,” he suggests, “I still got an eye for beauty – even if she’s the color of cement.”
“Well…” I start, “The other one was the mother of an old friend. She hadn’t heard from her so I got tagged for a search.”
“What’s the daughter’s name?”
I explain only what I have to.
“And where is Ms. Menendez now,” Flan’ prods.
“As far as I know, in back of the rails where I come from,” I tell him, even though I’m fairly certain that much is wishful thinking on my part, “Look…I’d like to tell her about this if you don’t mind.”
“I suppose that’s alright,” Flan’ replies.
I like him. In spite of his authority and somewhat sick fascination with stiffies, he’s okay – just the sort I’d expect Malory to chum over a few cold ones at the local watering hole.
“You’re wrong about number two though,” I lie again “Never met the lady in question. But I’m seeing her sister this afternoon. I suppose I’ll have to tell her about this.”
“I would,” Flan’ replies.
Yeah, I think to myself, only you’re not the one who put her on the slab.
“Funny,” I say before we leave.
“What’s funny about it?”
“Nothing new there,” Flan’ suggests, “We have the Hudson. People frequently go down to the docks, some for a little cruise, some to make a hole in it.”
The poet laurite of the badge and pistol set…what’a guy.
. . .
In truth there wasn’t anything to keep me from going back to Mico’s that afternoon. But I needed to regroup.
I was steering us both in the wrong direction. If only I had taken care of things sooner, I might not be trying so hard to assess my own responsibilities toward her now. And they were responsibilities. I cared what happened to that kid.
Either way, she was going to take it on the chin. I suppose I could get rid of her old man…after all, he had it coming. But then I’d really be a killer. Right now, I was playing the fool’s part of the accidental assassin. Hemmingway? That was just plain cold-blooded.
. . .
It’s alright, I say to myself as I return to Mico’s and take the elevator upstairs. I’ll tell her the truth – it’s a novelty, but it just might work. Even if it doesn’t, I’m no worse off than now. I check myself before going in – tie straight, shirt cuffs buttoned. Hell, I’m already thinking about how I’ll look to her in the morning. No time like the present – unless it was the past.
When the door opens I’m all set to give it the Boy Scout treatment. Only Mico’s standing there in the middle of that barren black lacquer oasis, done up like she’s ready to paint the town red. But she’s nervous, her hands clenched in front – not knowing what to say or do as I study every direction but sideways. That’s my problem.
I’m not four feet past the front door when I get that old black magic plied to the back of my skull. It’s a wonder there’s anything left to knock out – but there is and I twist and puncture like a plastic bag clenched between a prankster’s fists.
...prepare to be astonished!
Eddie Mars will return in his next adventure...
BAND PRACTICE on July 3, 2006
@Nick Zegarac 2006 (all rights reserved).