AN: Hi everyone. Finally back to try and working on this story. For readers from before the hiatus, the previous chapters have been fixed if you want to reacquaint yourselves with this story.
All mistakes are mine.
Thank you for reading!
Garrett Babcock was looking sharp in a tux that made me weak in the knees as he looked at me with a smile. "Miss Swan, you are a bone fide vision in that dress! A real black out girl."
I swallowed hard and regained my senses, angling my body to hide poor Embry's body.
"Garrett. Hi-de-Ho, you louse. Whatcha doing at fancy shindig like this? Shouldn't you be ferreting out the underbelly of society? Making note of their misdeeds for the good citizens to read over their morning bacon and eggs? Sending innocent men up the river?" I quipped. My belly was doing flip and flops. I knew I would keep flapping my lips, so I wouldn't fall for his charms.
Garrett had a way of making me into a dizzy dame of the highest order. His dark eyes and hair made feel like a eager beaver to get into his good graces. I couldn't and shouldn't trust him. I needed to ignore the smile he flashed me. Garrett was the one who wrote the story that sent my dad to the penitentiary and though he promised me his sources were true, I couldn't trust anyone in this corrupt town.
"It seems Miss Swan, you have a problem underfoot. I seemed this poor rube got offed." Garrett looked down at the body with his discriminating eye looking for clues. I felt myself being surrounded by my suitors. It was suffocating. "What have you gotten yourself into, pretty lady?"
Emmett hovered over me glaring at Garrett. He knew the pain that I was in after my father's arrest and how it wrecked me afterwards. I was never a dame that was over enthusiastic, but when I had my father in my life, I did find some joy in the everyday. The new version of Isabella Swan threw herself into ferreting out the truth and in swallowing down bottles of booze. This wasn't a life, but a runaway train barreling towards certain destruction.
That's when I felt Cullen's hand wrapped around mine. I looked up into his eyes and while Garrett made me giddy like a school girl, Edward Cullen made me feel like an amorous woman. There was far too many masculine distractions in this room to deal with when there was a stiff taking up space.
I pulled away and moved closer to a nervous Alice. "Gentleman, and I say this term loosely, I think. . ."
Cullen moved to shake Garrett's hand. "You must be in infamous Garrett Babcock! I've read some of your work. Not bad, but your sources are weak and I think you're getting some of your information from an old five and dime novel. I'm Edward Cullen, previously of The Chicago Tribune. You must have heard of me."
"Nope." Garrett glanced at the body and then at me. He was searching my face. "Never heard of ya, chump."
"That's a shame. I'm a legend," Cullen bragged. What a jerk, an attractive one, but a jerk never less. "Officer McCarty, can I take my gal and get a move on? She's looking a little faint."
"Bella?" Garrett looked surprised. He knew a stiff wouldn't get my dander up. "Doesn't sound like the same doll I know."
The same doll he would kiss breathless in the alley way after breaking a story. The same doll whose father he sent to the big house. A pretty face, doesn't make a person worthy.
"You don't know me, Garrett. You never did. Cullen, I need some air. Just let me ask Officer McCarty a question." I squeezed Cullen's arm and went over to Emmett.
"Ducky?" He whispered. "Find anything?"
"Pieces of long hair was wrapped in his fingers. Em, I can't give it to you." I searched his face.
"I know." He angled our bodies towards the wall and stuck a billfold into my purse, saying urgently, "Bella, hide this somewhere safe. I can't let the rest of the force know that any of this exists. We need to get in touch with the Feds."
I glanced behind me to see Cullen and Garrett puffing up like peacocks behind us. Daffy men. "Where did you get this?"
"It was in that corner behind the potted fern, Ducky." Emmett squeezed my hand. "It might be nothing or it could be the key to something huge. You need to get Waylon or even that dandy Cullen to look into this with you. It will be safer."
"Emmett, I can handle this!" I wasn't some ditzy dame needing a big strong man to hold my hand.
"I know you're a spitfire, but this smells like the dead fish on the South Side docks. All I'm saying is have some back-up for my own peace of mind."
"Isabella, my darling doll, we need to leave and let the officer to his job," Cullen cooed.
I was going to kick him again. It was destiny.
"On my way!" I turned and flashed him a fake smile. It made my gums hurt. I turned back to Emmett. "If I let Cullen help and end killing him, you have to get me off. It will be all your fault."
He just chuckled. "See you to tomorrow, kid."
I grabbed Cullen's arm and nodded at Garrett. "Have a pleasant night."
"Bells..." Garrett started to say as I kept my eyes forward and went up the stairs.
We were followed by Alice and Jasper. She whispered to me, "I think something's awfully shady about the way that poor rube was found tonight. I have a feeling there is something hidden, but..."
"I like the way you think, Brandon! You are one swell Girl Friday!" I looked at her excitedly. "We need to get into the place he lays his head each night and try do a search before the coppers show up."
"This is so exciting!" Alice exclaimed, as we reached the grandly decorated foyer of gilded golds and damask. It was a opulent to a fault.
I put my hand over her mouth. "Quiet, Alice!"
"Sorry!" She mumbled, covering my hand with both of hers. I glanced around to observe the bigwigs and coppers start filling in around us. The women in their shimmery duds were the pictures of fake disturbed shock, as they tried to sneak peeks at the crime scene.
Jasper looked at her with a frown. "No you don't, darling girl."
"You either, doll face." Edward pulled me away from covering Alice's mouth. "It's not safe for a dame to be sneaking around in the dark. There are nefarious ne'er do wells out there."
I saw my stepmother approach so I turned Edward so my back would be towards her. "Be charming towards me, Cullen."
"Isabella, dear?" Sue asked, tapping my shoulder. I turned and was surprised at what I saw up close. She had aged twenty years and her face was drawn into lines of sadness that were barely covered by the face paint that was caked on to her once youthful visage. "Please, could you tell me about Seth!"
"What could you possibly want to know about him, Sue?" I asked with disdain. I would not feel bad for that dame. She left my father high and dry to take off with that rotten Billy Black.
"Seth. Is he okay, sweetheart?" She grabbed my hands, as tears filled her eyes. Sue leaned in close and whispered, "Trust me that I'm trying to keep the two of you safe!"
I had no trust left. It was stripped from my soul with a dull knife and left to rot in the alleyways of the busy city streets. However, there was something about her eyes.
"I got a letter from him a week ago. Seth is still safe, but none to fond of the rations. He's in desperate need of a home cooked meal it seems."
She pulled me into a hug, her tears were making my neck damp. "Thank you! Would you tell him I love him?"
"Yes," I whispered, as she let go.
Taking a handkerchief from her clutch, Sue dabbed her eyes before rushing back to Billy.
There was fear in her eyes and I was curious about her mentioning that she was protecting us. Some more digging was in order and maybe we would find answers to this as well in Embry's apartment.
First, we need to be rid of these dapper dunces. I sniffed and dabbed my eyes with the sleeve of Cullen's jacket. If he wanted a wilting flower of a dame, he was getting one. "I'm feeling overwrought by seeing my stepmother again. I miss dear Seth, so very much that when she brought him up it made me feel positively bereft."
I blew my nose into his sleeve and made some weeping sounds like a silent movie starlet. Alice made an odd face at me. She knew my act was just that, and wasn't impressed with my thespian skills.
Cullen patted my back and moved my face up to look at his, I managed to squeeze out a few tears. He asked, "Beautiful, who's Seth?"
"My brother. He's in France protecting our nation of apple pie, George Washington and Bing Crosby!" I tried to appear patriotic, as Alice pulled me away.
"Bella needs her rest. Tonight has been full of emotional land mines for my sweet friend. We will take your leave, Romeos and get this girl to bed," Alice stated with her arm around me.
"What about your previous plans of detective work, ladies?" Jasper whispered skeptically. "What about uncovering the truth about the poor stiff downstairs?"
Alice smiled in her lovely way at him. "We shall let dear Emmett take up that cause. He is more than capable of the challenge. Poor Bella is so overwrought it breaks my heart!"
I leaned my head into Alice's shoulder and caterwauled like a damn female. Al whispered in my ear, "Stop overacting, Lana Turner!"
Cullen took my arm and Jasper escorted Alice to the door. "It our duty as gentlemen to escort you home, ladies."
They escorted us home, but we didn't stay. We had picked the lock and now sat on the floor of Embry's apartment, digging through cardboard boxes that had be hidden under his bed. We were trying to ferret out the truth with our flashlights.
The room had a fine layer of dust over the rickety furniture. It kept making Alice sneeze. The floor was littered with bottles of empty hooch, some of which that were smashed into pieces. The bed spread was covered in dark stains that made me turn up my nose in disgust. I was no little homemaker, but this whole room was a pigsty and had the most unfortunate odor.
"This place smells like the docks, Bella! Like dead fish!" Alice exclaimed. I snickered remembering Emmett's comment earlier. We needed to figure this out, before we ended up swimming with the fishes. She pulled out a bag that was on one of the boxes and peered inside. Letting out a tiny scream, she tossed it at me. "It is a dead fish!"
Inside the bag was a rotting corpse of a trout, a knife stuck into its skull.
I tossed it in the corner. "Keep digging, Al! We need to get out of here before the coppers show up."
"Or before the smell kills us and we end up pushing up daisies!" Alice wrinkled her nose. The smell was clinging to the walls. How could the poor sap live in these conditions? "It makes me want to up chuck!"
I ignored her and kept going through the boxes. Piles of old newspaper clippings that were yellow with age and music notes scribbled on dance hall napkins. "All I have some clues that the dearly departed liked to dabble in tickling the ivories and connecting with his inner Cole Porter."
We continued to work under the dim light of our flashlights, as I stifled a yawn. My fingers were feeling gritty from the newsprint and remnants of food particles on the napkins. There was nothing to help us as far as I could see. It was no doubt a crime of passion. Embry was a dandy who did some poor blonde Sheba wrong and she offed him. It was so frustrating that . . .
"Gee whiz, Bella! I have no idea what I'm looking at, but it seems important!" She handed me a stack of paperwork.
It was piles of invoices from the Denali & Sons warehouses marked up in red pen. The Denali's, who in fact had no sons but daughters, were the Black's closest competition. They played friendly in public, even with the facade of Jacob's relationship with Tanya, but were ruthless embroiled in attempts to ruin the other.
The disappearance of the foreman who ran Eleazar Denali's warehouse and the loss of the weapons that were supposed to be sent to the front lines was what my father now stood convicted of. A Mr. Jason Jenks was a wizened, older man who kept the same schedule for over thirty years without deviation. He would never just leave his comfortable life. That made the general consensus that his abrupt leave of absence was foul play and the goods found in my father's home made him the prime suspect.
"I can't believe what a find!" I whispered loudly.
Alice gasped. "Photos!"
I grabbed them out of her hands. The first of the grainy, black and white images stood the elderly man with his hands up in the sir. A large man dressed in a long trench coat was holding him at gunpoint. I flipped through them and found evidence of a murder most foul. It wasn't anything I hadn't seen before. Our office was covered with photographs of graphic murder crime scenes that would make the common man shudder. Those were the photographs that usually wound up on the first page. It was until the final few images that made me gasp and see red.
"What is it?" Alice questioned excitedly, as she took them from my hands. Then she cried out, "Great Caesar's Ghost! It's your Pop!"
It was indeed. My dear father was lying on the ground knocked out senseless, as the poor old Jenks was getting whacked. No wonder it was easy to pin it all on dear old dad. They had him targeted at the very beginning.
"I bet he was trying to stop this murderous deed and the perps decided to frame him for their treachery. I wonder if the knock on his head made dad forget about the incident or if they clocked him before the deed was done." I squinted at the murderer holding the pistol over the poor stiff. "I can't get a good view of the dastardly villain's features, Al."
"I bet this was why Embry was whacked! He must be the photographer of this wicked deed!" She stood up quickly and threw on her coat, taking the invoices and sticking them in the large pockets. "Let's get them back home and look under a better light. You can use that giant magnifying glass, Sherlock Holmes."
I rolled my eyes at her. "You are a regular member of the vaudeville circuit, Brandon."
I put on Seth's trench coat and stuck the pictures inside the hidden pocket. It used to hold baseball cards of Babe Ruth's big mug and now held the key to Pop's freedom.
Without a word, we snuck down the stairs and out into the humid, summer night. The air was thick with deceit and treachery, as we headed down a dark alley. Alice grasped my hand tightly and I could feel it tremble. I kept my head up high and kept moving. Dad taught me young that fear was never an option.
"It's a little late to be out, ladies?" A voice as smooth as a saxophone asked behind us.
We both jumped and let out yelps. We turned to find Cullen and his brother grinning at us.
"Alice, this isn't the proper place for a lady to be seen. Why don't you let us escort home again, doll faces." Jasper winked at her.
"We are perfectly fine," I scoffed as I continued to walk with Alice.
That's when the sirens sounded nearby. Their loud wailing filled my ears. Cullen took my hand and pointed to Jasper who had Alice in his clutches. "Go the opposite way and get the car! We'll meet you in ten on the corner of Harris Avenue."
Cullen pulled me away and started badgering me. "Isabella, is there no way you can fathom keeping yourself safe?"
"No," I admitted truthfully. He stopped and turned me towards him. "I'm just dandy, Cullen."
I felt the heat of his hands on my upper arms making me feel a slight sway. "Nothing in that poor man's home is more important than your safety."
"Going there will save my father, so it was worth it!" I whispered harshly.
His face went to the apples of my cheeks. Cullen rubbed them slowly. "Oh gorgeous, you are so brave."
My breath hitched, as I made out his features in the dark. I felt so safe, as my heart beat in a maddening fashion. That's when the sound of boots and a flashlight shone into the night.
Cullen pushed me against the wall, as his lips pushed against mine.
Your 1940's slang and important term dictionary terms
Babe Ruth - Baseball player for the New York Yankees
Bing Crosby - Actor and singer
Black out girl – A cute girl
Cole Porter - Music Composer
Coppers - police
Daffy - Silly
Dunces - idiots
Lana Turner - Actress
Pushing up daisies - Dead
Sheba - A woman with sex appeal (from the move Queen of Sheba) or (e.g. Clara Bow)
Swimming with the fishes - Dead
Up the river - Going to jail