The following piece was presented at the Jersey City Writers’ monthly genre event – Noir: A Celebration of Detective Fiction. Please enjoy.
It started out as an ordinary, promising to-be-easy night for the two detectives. But Harold and his partner, Dillard knew better. In their line of work there were no easy nights.
They didn’t have to wait long before the squad car radio barked out, “Homicide discovered at 2910 Soledad Boulevard, Apartment 3E.”
Shortly after, Harold and Dillard, walked into 3E and asking Dr. Odalin, the Medical Examiner, “So what we’ve got here?”
“Look for yourself. A real beauty,” he said.
Harold looked down and was blown away by a gorgeous brunette lying dead on the floor. Her firm breasts punched through the cheap see-through nightgown, she was wearing.
Harold silently reflected, ‘Couldn’t have been more then 24, though she looked 35. About 5 ‘7″, 130 lbs. All stuffed into a body built for a bathing suit.”
“Anything on her yet?” He asked.
“Not yet, the boys are inventorying the place but instinct says– high priced hooker.”
“What makes you say that doc?”
“Twenty two years with the morgue”
Harold accepted that; he knew Dr. Odalin. And he was rarely wrong.
“In here detectives.” called out a voice.
They walked into the bedroom. What struck Harold were the cut-rate lamps with red lampshades, the scent of cheap perfume and fancy bars of soap; the kind that were wrapped in floral paper. The fake roses framed the pink-canopied bed, finishing the misguided attempts at decor.
“Look at this Harold.”
“Ooh whoa… I guess Doc was right.”
“Yea, you got to see this, costumes, whips and dildos. This was a party house,” the investigator said.
“And that.” He said, pointing to a nightstand where a picture of a girl with a ponytail, maybe 14 or so was dressed in overalls.
“What a fucking shame — a kid from some small, dead end town.” Harold mused. “Yea,” exhaled Dillard. “Came to the city to become a star’. Thought she’d ‘hook’ for a while, get discovered by some fat, ugly, rich Hollywood producer who promised her the big time. He gets the best piece of ass he ever had; she gets a bullet in her forehead.”
“Nothing unusual,” Dr. Odalin said. “Just a murdered woman with a bullet in her head, nothing moved — everything looks normal… And before you ask, it looks like she’s been dead for four hours.”
“Who found her?”
“Anonymous call. Something’s going down here.”
It wasn’t long before Harold was leaning against the cold window of the number 16 bus. The icy window felt great on his aching head, otherwise he felt like shit.
Opening the door, the quiet hit him. The apartment was dark, empty. Plopping down onto the sofa, hoping Gino, his partner of 3 years would stumble into the room to say ‘Hi’. But that didn’t happen. The white envelope taped to the TV screen told it all.
He grabbed the bottle of the world’s cheapest scotch and dumped a hearty shot into a glass and slugged it down. It tasted like turpentine, smelled like lighter fluid and burned all the way down. “Good stuff,” he murmured.
He awoke in the early morning to the scream of the telephone, “Hey, Harold, the doc wants to see us,” a wide-awake voice called to him from inside the phone.
“When?” He yawned. “As soon as you get in.” “I’ll be there.”
Harold hated the morgue. It always gave him the creeps. It had the stench of vomit.
And to see the Doc you had to pass the ‘freezers’ where the DOAs were stored.
Dr. Odalin was waiting for them. “Welcome,” he said mockingly clapping his hands.” Nice hours you guys keep.”
“Yea,” said Harold, “It comes with the job.” Both detectives went silent, waiting.
“Ok, here’s what we have- three bullet wounds…”
“Three?” Harold asked.
“Yea, I found two more when we got her on the table. Here’s the kicker. All three wounds were cleaned and dressed. And no bullets!”
“You mean someone shot her three times, dug the bullets out, then cleaned the wounds…?”
“Yes…” the Doc answered.
“But here’s something you’ll want — a business card.” He handed it to Harold. “Where did you find the card?” Dillard asked.
“Well,” said the Doc, “In a warm, secret place…”
“You mean…? Dillard asks.
“Yes, I mean her secret place and from the looks of it was hardly a secret.”
There were a lot of barroom jokes that could have been told… but looking at the remaining innocence of the victim, no one dared.
“Look, Dillard I’ll check this Langone guy out, you start checking files on weird murders. There’s got to be something, somewhere.”
“Will do. Call me if you need me.”
“Yea. I’ll take a cab. You take the car.”
Harold jumped right into a cab, told the driver to let him off on the corner of Oak and Pine. He would walk the last two blocks.
The address was in a shabby part of town, where mayor after mayor promised to ‘bring’ it back alive, but none succeeded. Most wound up burying it even deeper.
The door to the front was closed, so he walked around to the rear of the building. He saw an open door and went in. It was a butcher shop all right. The smell of ‘sawdust and meat scraps’ told him so.
“Can I help you?” said a male voice, wearing a bloody meat stained apron. “Yea, if you can explain how your business card got on the body of a dead hooker,” Harold said flashing his badge.
“How would I know? There’s a bunch of them right on the counter now! Anyone could’ve taken one.”
“Do you have any customers on Soledad Boulevard?” “I don’t know. I’d have to check.”
“Check? Com’ on man you’d know her. She’s gorgeous, great body- a hooker…”
“Oh yea. Now I seem to remember. She is my customer. She loves veal steaks and it’s no surprise she’s dead.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I knew it — a young kid — hanging out with the wrong crowd. These streets are mean.”
“Thanks for the poetry. How about some names?”
“Names? What you think I’m looking for? A comfortable casket? I don’t know nothin’. I only know what I hear. And I don’t hear names.”
Harold reached for his business card and handed it to Langone. “Just in case your hearing improves.”
Back at the station, Harold told the captain he had nothing. The Langone guy was a nickel ‘n’ dimer pretending to be a player.”
“So,” the Captain said, “All we have is the dead woman.”
“For now, Captain. I’m going home to catch some z’s. Tomorrow’s another day.”
Two things Harold hated — alarms and late night phone calls. But again, his phone tore into his sleep. He picked up the phone and began listening.
“Yea…What’s up? What?”
“What you mean? You sure? It’s him. Ok, ok gotcha…Yea, what’s the address? I’m on my way.”
Harold hurried through the darkened streets to the flashing lights. “Over here Harold,” it was Dillard. Harold walked over to the stained blanket, covering what he knew was his only lead.
Dillard pulled the blanket down. It was Langone, wearing the same kind of apron bloody not from chop meat but from three shots.
“Maybe someone found out he had recovered his hearing,” Harold mused. “OK tell me.”
“Three hits. One in the forehead, two in the back. Bullets missing, wounds cleaned, dressed and this: Dillard hanged Harold a pink address book.
“Lot of big names in it and plenty of pages ripped out and our little Miss Dead Girl? Her real name is Marion Lintz. This is far from over!”
Harold turned, nodded ‘yea’. But he couldn’t forget that 23-year-old kid’s face with dreams written all over it, now she’s dead with a small bullet hole in her head. Not unlike Harold- who had a small hole too, not in the head but the heart.