Read from the first issue HERE
I wake face-down on a white sheet. Glad I made it to bed at all, and that’s all I care about this time of the morning.
I’m too old to fall asleep on the sofa or the floor and wake up without an ache somewhere.
No avoiding the ache in my head, though. Hangover. You’d think after this many years I’d have learned how to avoid it.
I catch sight of the clock and decide it’s time to get up. Time I was in my office.
Morning showers make me human. Or as close to it as I’ll ever get.
Soap. Washcloth. I like to get clean, wash off the veneer of yesterday, the smell of old scotch. Shampoo through my hair. My father – may he rest in peace – always looked after his hair. Guess I picked it up from him.
My mother liked his hair. Poor Ma. She took his death hard.
I step under the spray of the shower and let the water run down through my hair, down my back. It blocks up my ears and fills my head with a rushing, thundering sound. Standing here like this, totally alone, water beating down on my head… a moment of respite. Shut off from the world.
Never lasts. No point in wishing it could.
Shorts, trousers, vest. I finger my suspenders hanging from the doorknob. Still damp. I’ll have to dig out my other pair.
Later. Coffee first.
Coffee is everything a man could want, outside of a good woman. Hot, bitter and it’s a damn good counter to a hangover. Need one to wake myself up even if I haven’t been drinking the night before. Not that that happens much.
I grab a couple slices of bread and drop them into the toaster. Breakfast, for a change. A man needs some sustenance when he has a murder to solve.
I should work out what I’m doing today. Where I’m going, who I’m talking to. I walk over to the files, still spread out haphazardly on my coffee table. Hmm. The race track would be a good place to start. I’ll head over there mid-afternoon.
I set down my coffee cup and clear up folders. Back into the briefcase.
I spread some butter across my two slices of toast and bite into one. So. The racetrack. That leaves me with a few hours to kill this morning.
Hold on… the edge of a folder’s poking out from under the sofa. I bend down and pull out a new manila folder and a few scraps of paper slip out onto the floor.
There’s a word scribbled across the front in red ink. “Trouble”.
Fuck, that’s right. Sometime before I hauled my sorry ass off to bed I made – well, started – a file on the brunette from the bar last night. I sit back on the sofa and reach down for the scraps of paper. I’d scribbled notes on the back of a couple of receipts and an old envelope. That’s a drunk’s logic for you.
I’ll have to write it out properly when I get to my office.
Hmm. Nothing I wrote was of any real importance, but I know I wrote it for a reason so I’ll keep it in there. Just thoughts, scribbled thoughts as they went through my head.
“Devilish.” “Beautiful.” “Known to gangsters.” “Intelligent and savvy.”
I put the notes back in the folder and slip it into the briefcase. Who is she? What’s her name, and where did she come from? How the fuck did I spend so many years in this city without running into this broad?
She might be the biggest lead I have right now. I can’t shake the feeling that she’s involved somehow. If I get more information on her, maybe I’ll be able to break her. Make her admit she was involved, or at least give up the real killer.
I’ll head back to Gerry’s before I go to the racecourse. Maybe he’ll give me some information about her, even if he won’t give up the men who associated with Trollieti.
* * *
Gerry sighs when he sees me walk through his door. I can tell he’s had enough of my type recently. I’m sure I’m not the only investigator giving him hell.
“Hey there, Gerry. What’s the good word?”
“The good word is “goodbye” right now, friend.” He sighs again. Gerry seems like a good fella… he’s not the sort to be aggressive. The case must be wearing on him. I give him a nod of understanding.
“You can call me Marley, Gerry. My card.” I hold one out but he doesn’t take it.
“Don’t. If someone finds it there’s a target on your back, and no mistake.”
Good point. I slip onto a barstool and drop my hat onto the bar.
“What can I get you, investigator?” he asks. Attempting to reclaim some of the joviality he had last night.
“Just more information. Too early in the day for me.”
He gives me a look like he’s seen too many like me before to believe it.
“What do you know about the brunette who was in here last night?” I ask him. “Pretty thing. Popular with the clientèle. Red dress, figure to kill for.”
He hesitates. “Lot of women in the world like that…”
“Not like this one, Gerry, and you know the one I’m talking about. C’mon. All I need is a name. I’ll find out the rest myself.”
He gives me a long look, steady, thoughtful. “What’s in your head, Mr. Marley? You thinking she’s tied up in that Trollieti’s death?”
“I don’t know what I think, yet. I just know I have to find out more about her. She’s tied up in something, but I don’t know what.” I rake back my hair and narrow my eyes. There’s a tone in his voice. Is he protecting her? “You worried about that woman?”
He shakes his head. “No sense in worrying about her. But if you’re thinking of dragging her off to the police station, I’m not planning on helping you do it.” He gives me a sudden smirk. “If nothing else she brings in a crowd of customers.”
“Heh.” Yeah. I bet she would, too. Young men would follow her in here in droves. “Just a name, Gerry. All I want is a name. C’mon, I bet you give it out to any number of young lads who ask it. Pretend I’m a love-bitten kid drooling over my shoes, and do me a favour.”
Gerry puts down his cloth and leans across the bar. “’f I do you a favour, you’ll owe me one back, right, investigator?”
I shrug, give him a nod. “True. I’ll owe you one.”
“Huh. Alright then.” He straightens up and turns to check the bottles lined up along the back of the bar. “Her name’s Elizabeth Fairfax.”
So. Trouble has a name, and it’s Elizabeth. Personally I think I prefer ‘Trouble’.
“Fairfax, huh? Old money?”
He shrugs. “Could be. She certainly has enough now.” He turns around and gives me a look out of the corner of his eye. Nervous, edgy. “That’s all you’ll get from me. You want more information, Mr. Marley, you’ll ask someone else.” He presses his lips together for half a second, then says “There are young men enough who will go on about her for an hour if you get them started. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding someone like that.”
I thank Gerry and leave him to his work. He’s got a point, though men who will let their hearts rule their mouths won’t necessarily have the perspective I’m looking for.
I don’t need someone to spend an hour telling me about her fantastic breasts. I’ve seen her breasts. They ain’t worth an hour’s monologue.
I scuff the sole of my shoe against the sidewalk. It’s noon, or just after. I could pay Victoria Trollieti a call, ask her whether she’s received any autopsy results yet. Would be nice to kill some time here in Manhattan, rather than out by the racecourse.
I pull out my wallet and slip her card from inside the leather. That is to say, her husband’s card. His address is embossed in black ink. Probably not the wisest thing for someone connected to the mob to have on his business card but perhaps Trollieti felt he had nothing to fear.
I’ll pay her a call. It’s always nice to spend some time with the fairer sex. Maybe a pretty blonde will keep a brunette out of my mind.