AN: Thank you for reading.
"Isabella, stop kicking him!"
"I am nudging him, Brandon, nudging. Kicking is considered a forceful action." I placed my foot near the man's jacket covered arm and gave a small push. "No groaning means he's a stiff. Our first guess has been confirmed."
"You are going to get blood on that beautiful shoe!" Alice exclaimed with a stomp of her tiny foot, with Jasper's arms wrapped around her body. She alternated leaning into him and nuzzling, then trying to push the fake cowboy away.
I think Al was made that I put my shoe back on. Did she really think I was going to touch that stiff with an unclad toe? I think not!
I frowned at her, pointed down to my foot and then at the body. "You can't be serious, Alice! A shoe is more important than a man's life being snuffed?"
"I didn't say that! First topic of importance, of course, is the dead body. May he rest in peace." Alice gave a quick sign of the cross and continued by saying, "Second, is the condition of those shoes. You can't bring the dead back to life, Isabella Swan, but I can still sneak those back into the samples closet at work."
I could have pretended to be affronted by her words, but the tiny dame made sense. A minuscule amount of sense, but it was sensible never the less.
Edward, I mean Cullen, started to kneel next to my foot reaching for the man's hand. I kicked it swiftly. He squealed, "Ouch! What was that for?"
"Cullen, don't touch anything with your hands! You'll be disturbing evidence and adding fingerprints! The foot test is the best way for now. Also, look at the stillness of his body. Somebody bumped this man off and let's try to survey the scene for anything suspicious."
"Sweetheart, I think you've been reading too many five and dime novels," Edward announced in a condescending tone as he stood up and approached me.
"Pardon me, Mr. Cullen." Alice gave hard push away from Jasper and jabbed her pointer finger into Cullen's chest. "Bella knows all about police procedure! Her father is the best police chief a town could ever want to have!"
I could have killed her and just added her body to John Doe's. But, it was sweet of her to defend me. Oh Alice and your lack of filter!
"Your father is a police officer, Bella?" Cullen asked. His tone sounded inquisitive, yet his facial expression announced to have knowledge of the fact.
"He was and it looks to me that you already knew that. And it's Miss Swan, to you. Listen up, children. This is how we proceed. Al, head up and grab the boy wonder photographer. Don't tell him the real reason why. The walls have ears in that ballroom, got it! Just say we need some interior shots of the hotel! That's the ticket! Just bring him down here instead." I glanced over to the Cullen brothers. "You two buffoons try being useful. Look around and tell me if you see anything odd. No touching anything! Wait! Alice, do you have any kerchiefs in your handbag?"
"Sure thing, boss lady! Freshly laundered. I stuck two in there before we left. Don't you have some too?"
I shook my head in the negative, taking Alice's kerchiefs from her. "I needed to blow my nose into them. Seems I am allergic to insufferable bores with way too much money. There are quite a few upstairs."
Jasper started running his fingers through his golden curls in a motion that mimicked his brother's frequent finger combing. "Shouldn't we call the police? This is their job, Miss Swan. With all due respect, your father was the professional, not you."
"Let me explain a few things, Cowboy Curls. You need to do what I say or you can jump on your invisible horse and ride back to whatever imaginary prairie you rode in from. The police in this city are a bunch of crooks that are paid by the organized crime in this town. The D.A. seems to following the straight and narrow, but all the underlings are so dirty that their uniforms should be brown not blue. The only way to crack the case is to gather the evidence ourselves, before it can get conveniently lost or compromised."
"What about that friend of yours? The officer you spoke to upstairs?" Jasper asked, still looking slightly offended.
"You are correct, my favorite Cow Poke! You may come back into the saloon and I'll buy you a sarsaparilla! Emmett will be great help!" I exclaimed.
"He is not helping, doll." Edward scowled. "You just said all the cops in this town are crooked."
"There is always an exception to every rule and Emmett's that exception! Alice?" I asked looking at her.
"On my way," Alice said grinning giving me a salute.
I looked around at the surroundings. It was reasonably lit allowing me to survey the scene without needing my trusty flashlight. A good thing considering that the tiny beaded purse Alice made me carry was far too small to hold the large police edition light. Also, Alice refused to let me bring it.
The carpet that ran down the top of the stairs to bottom was luckily a lighter toned Oriental with pale blues and greens swirling in an intricate pattern that allowed the blood stains to be seen readily. I would never understand why the hotel need fancy carpeting in back hallways, but at this moment I didn't mind that. There was blood staining the stair's runner in little droplets and a large puddle that had soaked into the carpet surrounding the body. In our haste to reach Alice, none of us had noticed the stairs themselves.
"Alice! Watch your step! There is blood on the stairs too. Make sure the boys are informed," I said as she started up the stairs. Alice nodded quickly and carefully maneuvered her feet up the staircase.
Cullen approached and kneeled at the bottom step looking up at me. "Are you thinking the body was dragged down here?"
"Exactly, Cullen! I am surprised your limited intellect picked that up. Look at the positioning of the splatter. There are just little drips on the runner. I have a good feeling he was probably knocked out upstairs with something that might have made a small cut, dragged down here and finished off. That would explain the heavy blood flow being concentrated in one area near the body. I really can't be sure unless we flip the body over and get a close look at the wounds."
I started to bite my lip when Cullen took his fingers and gently pulled my lip away from my teeth. "Let's not do that shall we? It's a bit of distraction."
"What kind of distraction?" I asked with a roll of my eyes.
"It's the kissable kind," Cullen purred at me. The fake cowboy snorted behind us, getting a glare in return from Cullen.
Cullen grasped my hand as I stared at him. He was the distraction, a handsome and very confusing distraction. He guided me towards the body. "John Doe was a guest. Check out his monkey suit."
"He's also Quileute. Check out his at his skin tone. If only we could just get a good look at his face." John Doe's face was planted down on the carpet.
"Your cop boyfriend can take care of that," Cullen sneered, yet he continued grasping my hand.
I let my hand remain buried in his. "He's not my boyfriend."
"Do you want him to be?" Edward, no Cullen, tightened his grip and started rubbing my hand with his thumb.
"No. Yes. No. Maybe! I have no idea!" I pulled my hand away from the dastardly Cullen. Then more snickers from the obnoxious cowboy. I glared at the annoying blond this time. Then I refocused my attention bothersome red head. "Get your mind on track! What kind of reporter are you? Concentrate on the facts of the story, not trying to get this lady back to your place. I can assure you that would be the last place I would ever be. Honestly, Aro's drinking problem is flaring up again to hire the likes of you!"
Cullen and I frowned at each other, staring into each other's eyes, neither of us willing to give an inch. My word, Edward's a pretty man. No. This is bad. Need to find clues. To be perfectly honest, I needed to find clues before he did. Any information Cullen was to discover would be to further his journalistic pursuits. If this was in fact one of Billy's boys, then what happened tonight is bigger than a random act of violence. The various crime families jockeying for position in the city had to bubble over at some point. There are too many seedy characters attempting to be at the top of the bottom dwelling food chain. Charlie's suspicions concerning the fighting of the families running the drug, gambling, laundering and detestable prostitution rings could be coming to a head. This could finally be the chance to release Charlie from the dangers of the big house. It didn't matter how attractive Edward Cullen appears, he still a roadblock from my father's freedom.
I broke eye contact from that befuddling dandy and dropped on my hands and knees in order to get a closer look for hairs or fibers. I really needed a magnifying glass. Once again, curses to Alice's tiny beaded purse. I peeked up at Cullen and said, "Why don't you take a powder and check on the mood upstairs. Bring Roy Rodgers up with you and head on up to the chuck wagon and get him some provisions. He's looking peaked. "
"What have I ever done to you to make you mock me, Miss Swan?" Jasper questioned, still with a hint of a drawl.
"Mister, you seem to be confused about who you are. That makes Alice, who is like a sister to me, confused about the intentions you have towards her. If you hurt her, I will find a new home for that licorice stick. A very uncomfortable new home, if you get my drift." Jasper and Edward's faces were mirror images of shock. I gave a crooked smile up towards them. "Not to mention it's a gas to make fun of you. Alice and I took in The Yellow Rose of Texas at the movies last week. It has given me oodles of inspiration."
Cullen attempted to stifle a grin. "That's telling him, beautiful."
"Will you stop calling me names like 'sweetheart', 'doll' or 'beautiful'? It's bothering me and I find you even more ridiculous when saying such things," I said sulking, while trying to pull a blond hair that laid on John Doe's arm with Alice's kerchief. Eureka! Perhaps I have a clue!
"No, I won't stop regaling you with terms of my regard and no I won't leave you to comb for clues on your own." He dropped to his knees and tried to grab the kerchief out of my hands. "What do we have here, my little doodle bug?"
I slapped his hand away. "Go away! You are giving me the heebie jeebies, Cullen! Back off!"
"Is getting a story that important to you? I have a feeling there's something bigger afoot." Cullen looked over to Jasper who was nodding his head in agreement.
"Listen to me explain this to you one final time! You can take your feelings and stick them with The Lone Ranger's licorice stick where the sun doesn't shine!" I exclaimed when a series of footsteps came barreling down the stairs.
"Hold up, Emmett!" Alice's little voice rang out. "There's evidence on the stairs!"
Emmett's loud baritone boomed, "Evidence? What are you talking about? Well I'll be damned! Who the hell is the stiff? Beg my pardon, ladies! Not that I don't admire the view, but why are you crawling on the floor, Ducky?"
"Don't look at her like that way!" Edward roared at Emmett placing his arm around my waist in an awkward embrace on the floor.
I pushed my body up in order to remove Edward from my body. "Edward Cullen, spread out. I can't breathe here! Emmett, I am looking for clues!"
Emmett came over and pulled me up from the floor, "It looks like a mystery found us, Ducky. We better scavenge any leads before I have to call in Alec or Felix. Once they get their dirty paws in here the trail will get cold fast. Find anything to break the case, Brenda Starr?"
"The body was moved here while he was still alive and I am sure he was dragged unwillingly. You can tell by the faint blood particles on the stairs, but a larger amount surrounding the body. I have determined he was knocked out upstairs and the murderer dragged him down to finish the job."
"The perpetrator could have tracked the blood on the stairs when he went back up," Emmett said, as he took a closer look at the stairs.
"It's possible. Unfortunately, I have to disagree with you, Officer." Edward gave Emmett a smug smirk. "I am sure you are fairly capable in your profession, but those are drops of blood on the stairs and not bloody smears from footprints. Somebody was bleeding at least slightly either in the process of going upstairs or down here."
"I already said that I believed that those wounds were perhaps due to the original attack on the victim! If you were listening to me and not ogling, I think that would have been clear!" I glared at Cullen. Men! I looked closer at the body and back at my motley crew of would be detectives. "Let's say you are both right, gents. Perhaps our victim struggled, then awoke down here and fought with the murderer. In the process of snuffing out our John Doe, the villain was injured himself. The evidence of which is dripped all over the carpeting leading to his getaway. We would have blood from both of the parties involved."
Emmett nodded solemnly, "It would be best if we figured out who the victim is. We need to determine the exact cause of death."
"Those were my thoughts exactly!" Edward chimed in. "We'll have my photographer take some preliminary shots and then more as the investigation proceeds."
"My photographer, Cullen! Kid, come on over and get some shots of the unlucky devil." I motioned to Yorkie who was looking quite green in the corner.
"I think the boy is going to upchuck!" Jasper exclaimed with the grimace.
Alice ran over to Yorkie in a flash, pulling his cap off of his head. "Use this, Eric!"
In a matter of seconds, Yorkie took Alice's advice and heaved into his hat. His slight body convulsed in the waves of nausea. I stomped over and in between Yorkie's gagging, managed to grab the camera. "I'll just do it! I have to do everything here myself anyway! Alice, how about you and the cowboy run upstairs? See if there are any guests that have been bandaged up. It's a stretch, because he or she might have already left the building."
"We'll mosey on up the trail, Miss Bella," Alice agreed and giggled as Jasper frowned at the two of us. He gently took Alice's arm, and I noticed a slight smile play upon her lips as they left.
"You think a doll could bring down a big baboon like this guy, Bella?" Emmett questioned.
"Stranger things have happened," I answered, as I began to take a variety of pictures. I tried to get a variety of angles and close-ups of John Doe's extremities. As I took pictures of his hands, I found more strands of the blond hairs winding themselves around Doe's fingers. They appeared to be longer and darker than the original ones I found earlier. I needed sample of these too without Cullen noticing.
"Emmett, come here for a second. I need you to look at Yorkie's camera for me. It seems not be taking pictures correctly." I looked over at Emmett and jerked my head towards the body.
Emmett was jotting notes into a small journal that he pulled from his uniform, the stubby pencil making charcoal marks onto his broad fingers. "Can't the kid do it? I need to get this all down before anyone gets wise about us down here."
Drats! I looked over to Yorkie, the boy wonder, who was huddled into the corner trying to keep down the various delicacies that he was consuming at the party. It was surprising a man that slight could shovel in so much. I said more pointedly, "Does Yorkie look in the right frame of mind to be close to John here? Why don't you help us so we can move on out?"
That's when I gave him a wink. I am sure it might have looked more like I had gotten dirt in my eye with the odd squint that crossed over my face. Emmett didn't seem to mind, as he face burst into a bright smile with his pearly whites glowing from his tan face. I glanced over to Cullen who watched our exchange with a frown so deep that you could fall in and drown. Cullen answered for Emmett, "I will look at that piece of offending equipment for you, beautiful. I have quite the knowledge of photography and the inner workings of cameras. Officer McCarthy can continue to analyze his chicken scratch."
"I can decipher my writing just fine, Mr. Cullen. Ducky was asking for my assistance," Emmett growled at Cullen.
Cullen pushed himself past Emmett who was standing next to John Doe's head and sauntered over to me. "Big words like 'decipher', Officer? I must say I am pleasantly surprised by that vocabulary of yours. Also, please refrain from referring to Miss Swan as a waterfowl. She is far too pleasant to look at to equate her to a dirty bird. Unless, the beautiful young lady would like to be, in that case I would take her up on the offer."
My mouth flew open as he gave me a grin and plopped down beside me, grabbing Yorkie's camera out of my hands. That was a despicable comment to say to a lady, though I had to inwardly admit that I wasn't much of a lady and in the deepest recesses of my being wouldn't mind being his bird. These conflicting thoughts led me to stammer, "Why. . . I should. . ."
Emmett barreled over and took a hold of Cullen's shoulder. "Do you think that is in any way how you should speak to Bella?
"Are you trying to tell me that Bella can't handle what I'm saying? That lady is one tough cookie! I suggest letting her out of that gilded cage you are trying to protect her in and let her fly!" Cullen began his attention focused solely on Emmett. I quickly grabbed the hair around the Doe's fingers and shoved it down the front of my dress. It wasn't the best idea of the night, but at least Edward wouldn't see the dark blond lock.
"You sir, were the one that tried to get me to stop calling her 'ducky'. I suggest you refrain from telling me to do anything, Mr. Cullen," Emmett bellowed.
"I am not talking down to her like she's a little girl, Officer! I was merely continuing in our flirtatious banter."
I had enough of these two lugheads. "Gentleman, could you please lumber out of your prehistoric caves and talk to me instead of about me. I need to flip this body over and get some pictures of the front of this big galoot, before the rest of the Keystone Kops show up. No offense to you, Emmett. "
I started to struggle to flip over the body. Cullen lifted me up and held me against his warm body, as Emmett began to flip over the man's lifeless torso.
"Listen, Miss Swan. Let us men handle this situation. Why don't you find Alice and allow us to discover the truth of this unfortunate incident," Cullen announced with an infuriatingly condescending tone. He held me tighter moving his hands up and down my arms. I am sure his intention was to calm me. I was also sure I felt the need to stomp on his foot. So I did.
As that dandy started to screech at me, I exclaimed, "Don't you put you sleazy paws on me! I'm ten times the reporter you'll ever be! I have seen the seedier side of this world, while your mommy was cramming a silver spoon down your ignorant mouth. Don't you dare tell me to do! Wait a minute! Emmett, is that Embry McCall?"
I looked down at the glassy and blank eyes of Embry McCall staring up at me. It had been years, since I last seen his sweet face smiling at me on First Beach. He would always be the one that would give the girls the beautiful shells he found lying on the beach, even though the rest of reservation boys would laugh at him. I felt my eyes start to water at the remembrance and wondered how Embry found himself in this predicament.
Before I was able to wipe away an escaping tear, a frantic Alice rushed down the stairs. "Bella! Gar. . . Here!"
"Calm down Allie. Breathe and then talk." I took Alice's hands and tried to understand her garbled words.
Alice started to speak when a voice behind her rang out, "Fancy seeing you here, my dear Miss Swan."
Garrett Babcock! Oh Applesauce!
Your 1940's slang and important term dictionary terms
Applesauce - An expletive; same as horse feathers, as in "Ah applesauce!"
Brenda Starr- 1940's comic about a female reporter
Keystone Kops – Were fictionalized incompetent police officers in silent movies , one of the earliest in 1914.
Paws – Hands
Pops - Father
Roy Rodgers – Actor who portrayed a cowboy in films from the 1930's to the 1970's
Spread out – Move over
Take a powder- To leave
The Yellow Rose of Texas – Roy Rodgers movie from 1944