Story by Michael St. Pierre
Illustration by L.A. Spooner
A warm breeze washed down Douglas Avenue, catching Alan as he exited his car in front of Forrester’s Dinner. It was half-past four in the morning, and he hadn’t slept at all. He stopped and took one last deep drag from his cigarette before pushing through the door. Inside, J.P. was manning the counter, and there were two truck drivers in the far corner near the window. The two men were grubby, unshaven, and only half awake. Alan knew the feeling. Both truckers sat with cleaned plates, sipping half-empty coffee cups that looked like a bit of heaven. Alan’s eyes moved to the counter where he saw a cup sliding into his usual spot.
“How’s the beat treating you this morning, Detective Wesscott?” asked J.P.
Alan took a gulp. “You know I haven’t had a beat in years, wise guy,” Alan noted the slight grin on J.P.’s face but made sure not to crack a smile himself. “So, where’s the old lady? She’s much better company.”
“Barb’s upstairs in bed. She worked the counter all day, and her dogs were barkin’.”
Alan saw a flash of light behind him, and he instinctively looked to see a black-and-white pull up behind his dust-covered ‘41 Ford. Alan turned back to the counter and dropped a dime on the counter, just as J.P. handed him a doughnut in wax paper.
“Be seeing you around, Detective,” called J.P., as he turned to go see about the two truck drivers.
Alan nodded and walked out to the waiting police car. A very anxious young patrolman was leaning on the passenger door, clearly a bit edgy about having to fetch Wesscott. Alan was uncharacteristically kind and decided not to torment the poor kid too much.
“What can I do for ya, pally?” said Alan, through lips pressed around a fresh cigarette.
The officer shot up straight in an awkward attempt at a salute. “Sir, I’m here to take you. I mean, I was sent by the Captain to tell you there was a murder at the Santa Fe bus depot.”
Alan sighed deeply and tossed his cigarette away without lighting it. He was about to slide into the car when he stopped and turned back to the officer. “Hey, kid. We ain’t in the army no more. If you salute me again, I’ll break your fingers. Clear?”
The patrolman nodded quickly, and Alan stepped into his own car, out of sight. Alan smiled. He just couldn’t help himself.
Alan spun his car around and headed west on Douglas. The Santa Fe bus depot was only about a mile away on Broadway, near the Allis Hotel. Once in front of the building, Alan could see two uniformed police officers and what he could only presume were representatives of the bus line. The two police officers saw him coming and ushered the other men away from the body. With the area clear, Alan could see the victim slumped on one of the depot’s benches.
The man was wearing a brown suit with a matching fedora. He was well dressed—all but the small bullet hole in the middle of his forehead. His clothes were creased as if they had been folded, but also showed no sign of wear from the previous day’s activity. He was probably a little over six foot with a stocky build. He wasn’t in terrible shape but was holding onto a few too many pounds around the waist. Alan looked down at the man’s feet. They had a light covering of mud about an inch high on the shoes. He bent down to see the heels, which showed prominent scuffing. As Alan was looking over the body, Officer Dan Radell walked over.
“Hey, Wesscott. I see you met our friend here.”
“Yeah, but he’s not much of a talker. What have you heard?” Alan said without looking up.
“Not much, Lieutenant. The thin guy over there, a maintenance man for the place, found him about an hour ago and phoned it in.” Dan looked down toward the body. “We have no idea who the guy is. The body’s been picked clean.”
“Is that right?” Alan looked toward the two men. “And who’s the tall, classy gent with the maintenance man?”
“Oh, that’s one of the head-honchos for the bus line. Williams, I think.”
“Thanks, Dan. I think I’d like to have a talk with Mr. Williams.” Alan took one last look at the body. He was just standing up when Williams, himself, appeared beside him.
“Now Detective, haven’t we all been here long enough?” He made a sweeping motion with his arms toward the body. “Can’t we get this cleaned up? There’s only a few hours until my employees need to get back to work.”
“Yeah, a real inconvenience for everyone,” Alan responded sarcastically. “Don’t worry, we’re almost done here. I just need to ask you a few questions, if you don’t mind.”
“I most certainly do mind. But get it over quickly, if you have to.”
“Is there any chance you know this fella? It would sure make this a lot easier,” Alan said, faking a smile.
Williams scoffed, “I haven’t the slightest idea who this fellow is, I assure you.”
“When did you arrive here at the scene, Mr. Williams?”
“I’ve already answered all these questions. I arrived after my employee, right over there, phoned me about finding the body.”
Alan could see that he wasn’t going to get much from Williams. “Well, in that case, I don’t think I have much more to ask, but maybe you could give me a number I could reach you at if I have any more questions?”
“I’ve already given my information to that officer over there. And if that’s it, I really must be going.” Williams turned and walked away, not waiting for a response.
Alan turned back towards the body and rubbed the stubble on his cheek before calling Officer Radell: “Hey Dan, can you have one of your guys stay here and keep an eye on the place, while the coroner grabs the body?”
Dan looked a bit confused. “Shouldn’t be a problem. What’s your figuring, though?”
“I just got a feeling that I want to check out, that’s all.” Alan started walking back to his car and yelled back, “Oh, right. And when the coroner finishes with the body, give me a ring.”
Dan smiled a bit, seeing the bags under the detective’s eyes. “You off to get a bit of shut-eye?”
Alan opened his car door. “Yeah, something like that. Just get the information as fast as you can.”
Alan had no intention of going to bed. Instead, he decided to pay a visit to some of the local hotels. From the station, Alan made his way to the Pacific Hotel, where he was informed by the night manager that no one staying there fit the dead man’s description. Undeterred, Alan drove west, stopping at the Occidental and Broadview Hotels, with no luck. His final chance lay with the Lassen Hotel. If he struck out again, he’d have to think of a different angle.
Alan walked through the doors into the lobby. It was empty, except for the expensive furnishings. Alan’s eyes drifted upward to see the elaborately-ornamented ceiling and the intricate woodwork along the second-floor balustrade. It was a fancier place than Alan usually spent his time in, for sure. His shoes clapped the marble floor as he made his way to the reception desk. The clerk gave Alan the once-over.
“What can I do for ya, copper?”
Alan squinted at the young clerk. “Toby, is that you? I thought you were in the cooler for that knock-over job last year.”
“Time off for good behavior, would you believe, Wesscott?” Toby said with a wry smile.
“No, I don’t believe. But I don’t have time for that right now.” Alan flipped out his notebook, “Do you have a guy staying here, about six-foot, black hair, a bit wide in the midsection, who left yesterday wearing a brand-new brown suit and hat?”
Toby rubbed his head. “That’s hard to say, so many folks coming into town these days, ya know?”
Alan slipped a sawbuck on the counter. “How about now?”
Toby slid the bill off the counter into his pocket. “You know what? That sort-a-feller does seem familiar. I think he was in room 220.”
“Thanks, Toby. You’re always such a help.” Alan reached in his pocket and fished out another ten, sliding it over to Toby. “Oh, and one more thing. Could you give me a ring, if anyone happens to stop by looking for him?”
Toby pocketed the bill with a smile. “Anything for you, Wesscott.”
Alan made his way over to the stairs and up to the second floor. It was still early, and no one was in the hallways. He found room 220 and moved to fit the key in the lock. The door was unlocked and creaked inward. That didn’t seem right. Alan stopped and removed his revolver from its holster, edging into the room. The place had been tossed. Someone had clearly been looking for something belonging to the dead man. Alan went to the phone and rang the operator to put him through to the central station. The line clicked over, and Alan told the dispatcher to send over a few officers and to inform the captain that he had found the victim’s hotel room.
After hanging up the phone, Alan set to searching the room, but it had been well emptied of personal effects. He was frustrated. Whoever had flipped the room had even taken time to empty the trash. Alan got down on his hands and knees, grimacing a bit as his knee touched the floor. No matter how long it had been and how well it had healed, the shrapnel in his knee still felt as sharp as a knife. He was half under the bed when Dan Radell walked into the room.
“Fallen down and can’t get up Detective?” he asked with a chuckle.
Alan smacked his head on the edge of the bed. “Thanks for finally showing up, Dan,” Alan said, rubbing his head.
Dan put his hands on his hips. “Someone sure made a mess of the place. How’d you know to come here, anyway?”
It was Alan’s turn to smile. “Well, I wasn’t positive that it would be this hotel, but I knew it would be one of these down this way.” He moved to a crouching position, “When I saw the body this morning, he was wearing a new suit, but it also had creases like it had been folded in a suitcase.”
Dan interrupted, “Yeah, but there’s a couple dozen hotels in either direction from the crime scene.”
“True. But if you looked at his shoes, you could see a coating of light brown silt, like you find on the west side of town after the Arkansas River floods.”
“And the river flooded a week back. That’s clever.” Dan turned in a small circle, taking in the room. “Where do we go next, boss? There’s not much here.”
“I’ll agree with that, but there has to be something.” Alan scanned the room one more time, while Dan went to the window and pulled aside the drapes. As the morning sun filled the room, Alan caught a glint of something in the carpet near the table. He rushed over to the object, lifting it up to his eyes. It was a small, silver button. It seemed familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it.
“Ok Dan, I don’t think there’s much else here. I’m going to head back to the station.”
“Of course, Detective. I’ll give the room a once-over and ask a few questions around the hotel, see if I can’t turn something up.”
Alan clapped Dan on the back and walked out of the room, still twirling the silver button in his hand. He left his car next to the hotel and walked the two blocks to the central police station. Alan liked the building that had once been the old fire department’s downtown branch. Ten or so years ago, the building had been renovated with clean lines and a simple facade in a way that appealed to him. Inside the station, Alan made his way to his desk, where he was hoping to catch his breath and think through the case. Before he could ease himself into his chair, he caught a glimpse of the coroner sitting in the captain’s office. The captain met Alan’s eyes and waved him over.
The captain and the coroner sat at a small table near the door littered with case files. The two could have been brothers; both near fifty, small but stocky men with lightly thinning shocks of snow-white hair.
“So, Al. I was just talking to Tom here about your case,” said the Captain.
“Oh, and not about the poker game last night, Captain?”
Tom laughed. “Oh, he wouldn’t be talking about that, Detective. I took him for a week’s wage last night.”
“Like I said, we were talking about the case. What did you have for him, Tom?”
The coroner grinned at the captain, “All right, Phil. Let’s see here.” He flipped open his file. “Not really much to say about the guy. Mid-thirties died of a .22 to the forehead. Somewhere between 6pm and 12am yesterday.”
Alan filled out the time of death in his notebook. “Not much to go on, Doc.”
“There is one other item, Detective. I found several blond hairs stuck to his shirt, clearly not his own.”
“Blond, huh? Thanks, Doc.” Alan turned to the captain, “Is there anything else you needed, Boss?”
Captain Terry looked Alan up and down. “Why don’t you head home for a shower and some shut-eye. You look beat.”
“Thanks, Captain. I might just do that.”
Alan walked out of the Captain’s office and back toward his desk, where he flopped into his chair with a groan. He threw his feet up on the desk and pulled his brim down over his eyes, just as an officer ran up beside him.
“Sir, you have a call from the Lassen Hotel. A Mr. Toby Fisk. Said he had something to talk to you about.”
“Ok, put it through to me at the desk.”
“Right away, sir,” said the officer before scurrying away.
Alan shook his head and watched the kid, the whole time thinking how much he hated being called “sir”. He turned his attention back to the phone and picked up the receiver. The line clicked over, and he heard Toby.
“Wesscott, that you?”
“Yeah, it’s me. What’s cooking? I’m late for a meeting with the inside of my eyelids.”
Toby’s voice lowered to a whisper. “You told me to call ya if someone came asking for the stiff. Well, someone came asking.”
Alan leaned forward in his chair. “You don’t say. Is it a big guy? Real, slick dresser?”
Toby laughed on the other end of the line. “You’re not even close, Wesscott. It’s a dame. And a real looker, too, just sitting in the lobby all by her lonesome.”
“Ok, Toby, I’ll be right down. Don’t let her out of your sight.” Alan hung up the phone and rushed out of the police station. Within a few minutes, he was at the door, stopping momentarily to straighten his tie and hat. It never hurt to look respectable for a lady. Inside, he caught Toby’s eyes long enough for him to nod over to a woman sitting in a chair facing away from the hotel’s entrance. Alan approached, but she had her head in her purse, the thing crammed full of about every receipt she had ever gotten. Alan coughed. She looked up, hitting him with a pair of green eyes. She was a looker, all right. All dolled up in an expensive blue dress that fit in all the right ways.
She fluttered her eyelashes. “Say, mister, you got a light?”
Alan fumbled in his pocket, finding a book of matches. “Sure do, miss.”
She leaned in close, and he could smell her perfume.
“While I’ve got you here, mind if I ask you a question?” he asked.
She smiled, exhaling smoke, “All depends on what you’re asking, fella.”
“Well, we could start with the name of the man you came to see at the hotel here today.” Alan never broke eye contact with the girl, and he watched her tense noticeably.
“What makes you think I am meeting someone here? Let alone a man?” She edged up in her seat, looking around the lobby. “You know what, mister? I think you better get going before I call for the police or something.”
Alan moved in closer, bringing his hand from his jacket with his badge. “Lucky for you, miss, they’re already here. Now, how about the name of the man? And your own, while we’re at it.”
She sank back in the chair. “My name is Isobel Collins, and the man is, or was, my husband, Matt Collins.”
“Good start. Now, what were you doing meeting him at this hotel? Why not at home?”
Isobel took a deep breath. “He hasn’t lived in town for years. He was my husband, but it was a youthful mistake. I haven’t seen him in a long time.”
“By the way, because you keep saying ‘was’, I assume you know that Matt is dead?”
The color drained from her face. “Matt’s dead? No! How? I had no idea!”
Alan could see that she seemed sincerely surprised. “He was shot last night. He was left in front of a bus depot.” He jotted a few questions in his notebook. “Is there anyone that might be interested in killing your husband, Mrs. Collins?”
Isobel looked distraught, but she did her best to answer. “He ran with a tough crowd, back when I used to know him. But that was a long time ago. He came into town only to sign papers.”
“What kind of papers are we talking, here?”
Isobel fumbled in her purse. “Divorce papers, you see. I’m getting married next month.”
Isobel was sobbing at this point. She didn’t seem like she would be able to say much else. Alan hated to see a lady cry. She had already given him a lot to think about.
“Thanks for all your help, miss. If I could just get a number and place I could reach you, I could let you go for now.”
“Of course, Detective.”
Alan scribbled down Mrs. Collins’ details, keeping an eye on her as she walked out. There sure were worse things to watch. She just reached the door when Alan thought of one last thing. “Mrs. Collins?”
“What was the name of your fiancé?”
“Oh, of course. His name is Carl Williams.” Then she left, breezing through the door.
Alan leaned back in his chair, tapping his finger on his notepad, a habit whenever he was thinking through a problem. After a few minutes, he went over to the desk and asked Toby for a phone. He called the captain telling him the victim’s name and what he had learned from Mrs. Williams. He hung up the phone, slipped Toby a bill and headed off to the bus depot. Carl Williams had a few questions to answer.
Alan walked to his car but decided the fresh air might help him think, so he walked down First Street toward Broadway. Things weren’t adding up right in his mind, and he was distracted. So much so that he ran directly into another guy, who fell backward upon impact. Alan reached to help him up. “Sorry, bud. I wasn’t paying attention. No hard feelings.”
The other man laughed it off. “Don’t worry about it, Mack. I wasn’t watching neither.”
Alan looked again, recognizing the man. “You’re Gary, right? The maintenance man from the Santa Fe Depot? I met you this morning?”
“Right. And you’re Detective…” he said, clearly not remembering Alan’s name. “All the same, Detective. No harm done.” Gary checked his watch. “I gotta get going. I was trying to make the matinee across the street.”
Alan looked up at the marquee of the Orpheum Theater. It was showing a film called The Postman Always Rings Twice, the new Lana Turner film. He turned to say something to Gary, but he was already halfway across the street. Alan regained his focus and turned down Broadway toward the bus depot.
Alan strolled into the building like he owned the joint, walking right past the receptionist and into Williams’ office. He didn’t say anything, just sat in front of the desk facing a bewildered Carl and took out his notepad.
“So, Mr. Williams, how long did you know the dead man? Or should I say, Matt Collins?”
The resistance drained from Carl’s face. “Yes, I knew the man. He was my fiancé’s ex-husband, but I only met him a few days ago.”
“You said ex-husband, so you didn’t know that your wife was still married to Mr. Collins?”
“That’s absurd, Detective. Moreover, that fiend only came to town after hearing about my engagement to Isobel. Some foolhardy attempt to win her back.”
Alan scratched a few words in his notebook. “Did you have any contact with Mr. Collins before his death?”
Williams poked his finger down at the desk. “See here, sir, I did have a word with him two nights ago, but that’s it. I would never kill the man.”
Alan stood to leave. “One last thing, Mr. Williams. Do you own a .22 pistol, by chance?”
Williams scoffed. “I don’t own any firearms, Detective. I find them repugnant.”
“Thanks for your time, Mr. Williams. I’ll be in touch if I need anything else.”
Alan left the depot and walked back to the police station. Inside, he found Dan Radell waiting at his desk, waving a folder at him.
“Ok I’ll bite, Dan. What ya got for me?”
“Oh, not much, Detective, just the rap sheet on Matt Collins.”
“Ok, hand it over, Dan. Let me see what it says here.”
Alan looked through the file. Nothing seemed to jump off the page until he got to a report filed five years ago in Kansas City. It seemed Matt had been part of a gang that had held up a bank and made off with $100,000. Best part of the story was that they had been caught just a few hours after the crime. The authorities couldn’t find any of the loot. Alan looked back up at Dan, “So when did the dead man get out of the cooler?”
“Crazy enough, Boss, he only just got out four days ago.” Dan flipped to the next item in the folder. “Also, I found this, a receipt for a .22 purchased by Williams also three days ago.”
“This is good work, Dan. Did you tell the captain?”
“Sure did. He wants to make a move on Williams in the next hour. You know, to try to catch him before he skips town.”
Alan checked his watch. “Alright, Dan. Tell the captain to wait until five thirty and to meet me over at Williams’ house.”
Dan could see the gears turning behind Alan’s eyes. “Ok. Five thirty, and we’ll meet you at Carl Williams’ house.”
Alan had waited just long enough to hear Dan’s “Ok” before he turned on his heel and rushed out of the police station. He had less than an hour to get the evidence he needed to make sure a murderer would get their due.
Alan had a few stops to make before he rushing to Williams’ house. He swung in and out of the Orpheum Theater, before driving over to the A&G Pawn off Central Avenue. The shop was poorly lit and dingy, and the same could be said for the clerk behind the counter. Alan showed the guy the receipt for the .22 pistol, which he reluctantly confirmed he had sold. Alan hadn’t doubted the authenticity of the receipt but had wondered about an odd stamp in the corner.
“That’s simple, buddy. It just means that the guy called us on the phone and had someone pick it up for him.”
“Do you remember who came and picked it up, by chance?”
“Listen, pal, I got a lot of people come in here every day. I can’t remember what they all look like.”
Alan reached across the counter and grabbed the man by the collar. “Let’s say you give it your best shot.”
” Ok, ok. All I can remember is that it was some dame, maybe a secretary.”
Alan let go of the man and brushed his shoulder. “See? That was easy. Thanks for the help.”
It was already a quarter past five when Alan left the pawn shop and sped to make one more stop. He was in and out of the bus depot in ten minutes, having collected his last piece of the puzzle.
Alan turned off Douglas Ave., into the College Hill neighborhood. The Ford came to a stop in front of a stately stone-hewn home, and Alan started to open his car door. His passenger looked up at the home. “Ok, this is Williams’ house. You ready to go in?”
“Yes, sir. I’m done hidin’,” said his passenger.
“Well, that’s good, but shut your door. The house is still a way up. We’ll finish the rest of the drive. I was just making sure you were ready.”
The Williams’ home was a well-kept, two-story brick colonial nestled just to the east of the park. As he pulled up, Alan could see two police cruisers and the captain’s car. Inside, quite a curious group was waiting: Isobel Collins, four uniformed officers, and the Captain all stood around a very confused, very worried-looking Carl Williams. The captain stood as he caught sight of Alan. “About time you showed up. We have a murderer here, and you got us all sitting around like it’s a dinner party.”
Alan smiled at the captain’s temper. “Sorry, Boss. I had to go and pick up our friend here before I came to disappoint you.” Alan pushed Gary Dalton, the Santa Fe Bus Depot’s maintenance man out in front of him.
“What do you mean, ‘disappoint me’? We have the motive and the murder weapon.”
Dan Radell piped in. “We found the gun in Mr. Williams’ room while we were waiting for you, Detective.”
“I’m sure that Mr. Williams told you he had never seen the gun in his whole life, correct?” asked Alan.
“Of course, he did, Wesscott. That’s what they all say.”
“Very true, Captain. Except this time, he’s telling the truth.”
The captain was getting noticeably frustrated. “Wesscott, if you got something to say, let’s hear it. Otherwise, I’m taking Mr. Williams to jail.”
Alan sat Gary down on the couch. “Well, Captain, like I was about to say, Carl Williams is innocent.”
“Well, then why are we here, Wesscott?” asked a fuming Captain Terry.
“Don’t worry, Captain. You’re in luck. The murderer just so happens to be here with us tonight.”
The eyes of everyone in the room looked toward the maintenance man, who had come in with the detective.
Alan laughed again, “Don’t be silly. Gary’s not the murderer. He’s just a dope crazy for a dame.” Alan turned his attention to Isobel. “No, Gary’s no murderer, but unfortunately you are, Mrs. Collins.”
Isobel for her part kept her composure. “Detective, I’m sure I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She looked toward Gary, “I don’t even know this man.”
“I’d love to believe you, but the evidence just tells a different story.” Alan signaled to one of the police officers, “Would you mind bringing me Mrs. Collins’ purse?”
Isobel made a small protest, but the purse came away in the patrolman’s hands, nonetheless. Alan opened the bag to take out the cigarette case, still brimming with receipts.
“You see, Mrs. Collins, I noticed in the hotel that you liked to hang onto things here in this purse.” After a few moments, he took out a small slip of paper; a movie ticket. Alan fished in his pocket, taking out an identical ticket. “How did you enjoy the movie this afternoon, Mrs. Collins? I hear it’s a real thriller.”
Isobel twisted in her seat, “And what does that prove? Lots of people go to movies, you know.”
“Very true, ma’am, but this identical ticket I have belongs to Gary over here, not me. And the box office attendant seems to remember you two seeing lots of movies together.”
The captain interrupted Alan. “You better have more than Mrs. Collins’ seeing another guy on the side as evidence.”
Alan unfolded another piece of paper from his pocket. “Of course, Captain. But then there’s this receipt for a .22 pistol.”
“Yes, Wesscott. That’s the receipt for the murder weapon that we found here in this house no more than an hour ago.”
“Yes, there is no denying that. However, if you notice on the bottom of the receipt, you’ll see this small stamp.” Alan pointed at the mark, “That little stamp bothered me when I first saw it. I wondered why it was there.”
“So, what? There was a stamp? It was still bought and paid for by Mr. Williams.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Captain. You see, the pawn shop, they put this stamp on all the orders that come in by phone.”
Captain Terry had stood up pointing an impatient finger at Alan. “Ok, so Williams ordered the gun by phone? It doesn’t change a thing.”
“According to the clerk, it was picked up by a secretary, even though it was ordered by Mr. Williams.”
Carl Williams chimed in. “I would never buy a gun, and I would never send Mary to purchase one for me.”
“And you didn’t,” Alan replied. “I went down to your office and talked with your secretary, who had never even heard of A&G Pawn.” Alan looked to Isobel. “It was Gary here who made that call, and it was you, Isobel, that went to go pick up that gun.”
Isobel paused. “But if I’d have known what he’d use it for…” Isobel’s sobs drowned out the final words.
“Very convincing, Mrs. Collins, but there are two things that just don’t work out.”
“And what are those two things, Detective?” Isobel managed to ask between sobs.
“Well you see, miss, the coroner made it very clear that the shooter shot at an upward angle, making him shorter than your husband.”
Dan made the connection. “I see. Both Mr. Williams and the maintenance man are the same height, or taller than the victim.”
“Exactly right, Dan. They’re too tall to have made the shot.” Alan again stared at Isobel, “The second thing, Mrs. Collins, is that the gun was here at this home.”
Isobel shot up from her seat, “Gary could have planted it here as easily as anyone else!”
“That would be true, miss, except I drove him here, and I know he had no idea which house belonged to Mr. Williams.”
Isobel was furious. Hate filled her eyes, and she started to move toward Alan. The captain quickly pointed to two of the patrol officers, who restrained the woman. “Ok, lads. Go ahead and take Mrs. Collins and Gary down to the station.”
The Captain clapped Alan on the back and followed the two criminals out of the home. Alan was left alone with Mr. Williams.
“I don’t know how to thank you, Detective. I owe you my life.”
“You don’t have to thank me, Mr. Williams. It was just lucky for you that I ran into Mr. Dalton, your maintenance man, earlier today.”
“I don’t catch your meaning, Detective.”
“You see, Mr. Collins, I found a small silver button at the hotel. It seemed familiar, but I couldn’t place it until I saw the maintenance uniform on Gary.”
“You figured it all out based on the buttons that are on our uniforms?”
“Of course not, but between what the station dug up, the pawn shop, and a little detective work, I pieced it together.”
“You are quite extraordinary, Detective.”
Alan shook Carl Williams’ hand at the door and walked out to his car. He had been up since the night before and was past due for some rest, but as usual, he found himself driving to Forrester’s Dinner instead. He pulled up to the curb outside the window. Inside, he could see Barbra at the register and J.P. working the counter. A bowl of chili, a slice of pie, and some coffee sounded good. His bed would keep for another hour.
— ♦♦♦ —
“Oh, it’s that serious.” “It is very serious.” “Tomorrow is Halloween, go figure!”
Nicholas squashed the cigarette against the tabletop. “Mockery doesn’t suit you, officer. Tomorrow, the boundary between the worlds thins. The count will try to free the ice giants. If he succeeds, the world will plunge into cold and darkness. I am the only one who can stop him.” “Santa, is that so?” Welcome to our annual pulp Christmas tale…