Chapter 2: The Cat's Meow

Roy pulled the Cadillac into the club's parking lot after being motioned through by a cop. The whole building was blocked off for the crime scene. A crowd had gathered, asking questions and trying to see what was going on. Cole recognized Rusty's old Nash just a few parking spaces down. The two Vice detectives got out of the vehicle and started for the front entrance.

The Cat's Meow was a large one-story building that was mostly an off-white color with blue trim. The front double doors were red and had a fancy canopy over them for the weather. The club's name was stated in gold lettering on the building, but there was also a sign that stuck up from the blue, slanted roof that was shaped in the head of a cat smiling devilishly and winking with the name below in red. The sign was outlined in neon to draw in people at night.

Cole was impressed by the building as they neared the front entrance. "This place is a real eye opener."

"Yeah, it's the cat's meow," Roy joked, trying to pat down his cigarettes.

"Ever been here?"

"Ehh, I had to bust some prostitutes here a couple years ago. Damn broads were too dumb to bail when I gave them a chance, and I had to stay two hours later than usual to do the paperwork."

Cole rolled his eyes. "That must've been horrible for you, Roy."

Roy snorted. "You're such a boy scout, Cole. When's the last time you've felt like not giving a shit about something?"

"When's the last time you've given a shit about something?" Cole retorted.

Roy finally found his cigarettes, sticking one his mouth as he lit it. Cole opened the door and the two detectives entered into the club.

"I love to hear you preach, Cole. It sure makes the day interesting."

Cole bit his tongue, knowing better and letting it go. They slipped from the nicely decorated lobby into the main floor room. There was a large bar in the back, and Cole could see Rusty over there. He shook his head, slightly chuckling as he realized his old partner was not searching for clues, but instead helping himself to a drink. There was a stage for dancers, entertainers, and singers. A large area was set up for people to dance and enjoy themselves, as well as the main area where all the booths and tables were for food and drinks.

"I'm going to follow Galloway's example. I'll catch up," Roy stated, slipping past Cole to head to the bar.

One of the officers directed him into the back, where there were offices, dressing rooms, and costume rooms. The kitchen was on the other side, blocked off with a wall and only a door to slip between them. Cole finally found Malcolm Carruthers and Stefan Bekowsky in one of the dressing rooms. Cole took a quick glance around the dressing room, saw that it looked normal, with a large mirror with a chair in front of it with make-up and hair supplies on the desk. There was a large walk-in closest for all kinds of outfits and shoes, as well as another door that led to the dressing room next door.

The victim was laying face down, with his neck craned to where his face was looking to the left, eyes open and lifeless. He looked to be in his twenties with dark hair and eyes. His clothes suggested he didn't have a whole lot of money. There were several syrettes of morphine out beside his body, and there was a crumbled up piece of paper in his palm. Malcolm was still looking over the body, taking notes, while Stefan was looking at something at the main desk. He looked up into the mirror, saw Cole in the reflection and turned around.

"Well, look who it is. How are ya, Cole?"

Cole walked over to his old Traffic partner and friend and the two men shook hands. "I'm here, can't complain. Strange how we get pulled together again after just finishing the Julia Randall case earlier this week. Still enjoying Homicide?"

Bekowsky shrugged. "It has its ups and downs. Like how my partner has left Mal and me to do most of the work to get himself a drink. Speaking of which, where is your lovely partner?"

"Following Rusty's example," Cole chuckled, making Stefan smile and shake his head.

"Yep, sounds about right."

Cole turned to Malcolm. The coroner seemed to be finishing up his work, and was now standing up from the body. "Well, Mal, how's everything going with you?"

"I'll be better once I have a cup of coffee," Malcolm sighed, finishing up notes. He turned to the detectives. "Okay, this is what I got. The vic's name is a Richard Coon. Twenty-four years old. He's been dead since around 2 A.M. I would say. Apparently, it was the janitor who found him. The dancer who takes this room went home early last night supposedly, and no one else entered here until him…what we know of. Cause of death was the morphine, stuck into his neck by force. But I also found trauma on his back along the spine and ribs. I'm guessing whoever injected the morphine into him stomped on his body out of spite afterward. But I should find out more once I do an autopsy."

"Richard Coon? Why does that name sound familiar?" Stefan asked, going over to the body to get a closer look.

Cole followed him to check the body over himself. By this time, Malcolm looked like he was about ready to leave. Rusty and Roy entered into the dressing room laughing about something.

"Alright, what's the word, bird?" Roy asked, looking to Mal.

Malcolm gave a smile, his lips thinning. "I already talked it through with Phelps and Bekowsky. You can get the word from them. Now, if you'll excuse me, gentlemen."

The coroner left the four detectives alone to do their investigation before the body would be picked up. Cole kneeled down to get a closer look while Stefan gave Rusty a look.

"The least you could do was bring me one," he sighed.

Rusty clapped Stefan on the back, taking a drag off his cigarette. "You got two legs! No one's stopping you, Stefan."

Cole unfolded the crumbled piece of paper in Richard Coon's hand. The handwriting was sloppy, but Cole was able to read it out since it was in bold letters. It read: GUILTY BEFORE GOD.

"Guilty before God," Cole read out loud.

Stefan perked up. "Oh yeah, I remember now. I had this guy arrested a few years ago. He had raped and beat two teenaged girls and stole a car. He must not have been out of San Quentin too long, and somebody already whacked him. Well, no one will miss him I guess."

"You mean somebody killed a lowlife scumbag?" Rusty asked, surprised. "Well, he might not be that bad then. Maybe I'll buy him a drink when we catch up to him."

"Hell, let's give him a trophy," Roy said.

"Well, fellas, let's look around and see what we can find. I don't feel like sitting around here longer than I have to," Rusty stated.

"Here, here," Roy said, dipping his head and walking over to the walk-in closet.

Stefan and Cole glanced at each other, barely shaking their heads in unison. Cole continued to look over the body, while Bekowsky went back over to the desk. Roy went through the closet while Rusty went next door to make sure there weren't anymore clues.

Cole found Richard Coon's wallet, where his ID and address was found as well. He also noticed the crumbled paper with the note was written on the back of a sales receipt for a haberdashery off of Santa Monica called Roland's. There was nothing else on his body of importance.

"Nothing on my end," Rusty grumbled, then proceeded to cough after finishing his cigarette.

"I got the dancer's name who has this room. An Amelia Barter," Stefan answered, looking at a name plaque on the desk. "Guess we'll have to get her information from the club owner when we speak to him."

"Boy, did I hit the jackpot," Roy said, coming out of the walk-in closet holding a woman's stocking that looked to be full of something.

Cole, Stefan, and Rusty walked over to Roy to get a closer look. Upon inspection, Cole realized the stocking was full of small bags of cocaine. Roy pulled one baggy out and inspected it.

"Wow, this is some high quality stuff."

"I hope you wouldn't know by experience," Cole sighed.

Roy chuckled. "I should make you take a shot of this just for saying that. I've been in Vice for a long while, Cole. I know my stuff, it comes with the package."

Rusty turned to Bekowsky. "Was Coon a drug dealer too?"

Stefan thought on it for a moment. "You know, I think he was actually. Don't remember him in dealing with cocaine though."

"Good, then it looks as though the broad bought the cocaine from Coon, they somehow got into an argument and she killed him and hid the cocaine in the closet. Would explain why she left early last night. End of story, time for some coffee and breakfast," Rusty explained.

"Isn't that jumping it a bit too far?" Bekowsky grumbled. "We don't have the necessary evidence to put the blame on Miss Barter."

"How would she have known about the morphine syrettes in his pocket?" Cole inquired. "And would she have done the damage along the back? It seems if this had been an argument gone wrong, she would have just run for it afterward. The note and the battering on his back depict something much more. Hate…maybe even revenge."

Rusty glanced at his pocket watch. "Wow, is that a new record of you explaining your theories, Phelps? I'm impressed."

"There goes coffee and breakfast," Roy snorted. "Alright, boys, I guess we better get along. I'll call Ray Pinker, see if he can get a shoe print or anything off of this sap's back before Malcolm collects the body."

"I guess that means it's time to go question the owner," Bekowsky stated, heading for the exit with Roy.

Rusty and Cole were not far behind them. Roy slipped off to go find a phone. Cole caught his partner long enough to ask him to call R&I for Coon's arrest history and to confirm the addresses for Amelia Barter and the haberdashery.

Cole then caught up with Stefan and Rusty who were now talking to the owner of the Cat's Meow club. If Cole recalled correctly, his name was Robert Sunderland. He was in his mid-forties, handsome and wealthy, dressed in a suit that was easily $200. His dark hair was slicked back, and he had intelligent brown eyes and a mustache.

"Mr. Sunderland, I'm Detective Bekowsky, this is Detective Galloway and Detective Phelps, we have some questions for you regarding the body in the dressing room and one of your performers, an Amelia Barter," Bekowsky started.

Mr. Sunderland dipped his head, looking worried and bothered about the whole situation. "Yes, I'll answer all I know. This is very unfortunate to happen. This will surely hurt the business in more ways than one."

"The broad, Amelia Barter, what was her reason for checking out early last night?" Rusty asked, lighting a cigarette nonchalantly.

"I wasn't here last night, but my acting supervisor, Ben Haler, informed me this morning that Amelia left around 9:30 last night because she wasn't feeling well. It wasn't out of the ordinary. She has some…problems. That is, until the body showed up."

"Where is Mr. Haler now?" Cole asked.

Mr. Sunderland pointed to the other side of the stage in the main part of the club. "He's right over there talking to the janitor, Fred Gahn. The poor old man is still shaken about finding the dead body."

"I'm on it," Stefan stated, and left to go interrogate the two men.

"Mr. Sunderland, do you know the dead man in Miss Barter's dressing room? A Richard Coon?" Cole asked.

The club owner thought for a moment, then shook his head. "I'm sorry, I do not. The name does not ring a bell."

"Do you know that your dancer, Amelia Barter, is a cocaine addict?" Rusty asked bluntly.

Mr. Sunderland faltered, glancing between the two men and thinning his lips. "Yes, as I stated before, she has some problems. The only reason I haven't fired her yet is because she is one of the best. It helps her perform, she says. She says it suppresses her appetite. The poor girl is very conscious about her weight."

"Do you know how much trouble you can get into letting an illegal narcotic be hidden in the closet and openly used by one of your employees?" Rusty snapped.

"I know, I know. But she seems so unstable without it. I care for Miss Barter, I really do."

"Does a haberdashery called Roland's ring a bell, Mr. Sunderland?" Cole asked.

"Well of course it does. Roland Wolfe is my brother-in-law. Besides, his haberdashery is well known throughout Hollywood. Why?"

Cole and Rusty exchanged glances, and then Cole cleared his throat to continue. "We found a crumbled up sale receipt from Roland's in Coon's hand. On the back the note read: Guilty Before God."

Cole unfolded the note and handed it over to Mr. Sunderland. The club owner looked the sales receipt over and then flipped it onto the back to read the scribbled note in bold lettering.

Mr. Sunderland seemed genuinely surprised by the note. "This is very strange. I do not recognize the handwriting. The receipt was for a fedora, a tie, and a wristwatch. The total came out to $41.42. Were any of these accessories on the body?"

Cole shook his head. "They were not."

"Well, my brother-in-law has a pretty good memory, and I know he has a ledger for customers. Maybe he can help you figure out who this receipt belongs to."

"We will definitely look into it. Thank you for your time, Mr. Sunderland. We might be back for more questions, but if you come up with anything that could help us, please call it in," Cole answered, dipping his head.

"You're welcome, gentlemen. I hope I was able to help in your investigation. Good luck. Now, if you'll please excuse me, I have to return to my business."

The club owner slipped away. By this time, Stefan had finished questioning the janitor and the supervisor, and walked over to join Cole and Rusty. He had lit his own cigarette and was puffing on it.

"Well, get anything useful?" he asked.

"Not really," Rusty grumbled. "How about you?"

"The supervisor's story checked out, as did the janitor's. That poor old man was still shaken over finding the dead body."

"You think we should split up? Two of us to Miss Barter's house, and two of us to the haberdashery?" Cole inquired, looking through his notes.

"It might be for the best. We will cover more ground in a shorter amount of time that way," Rusty answered casually, half-shrugging.

"Speaking of which, where is Roy?" Stefan asked, looking around.

"Who knows," Cole sighed. "Let's go hunt him down."

The three detectives started to search the Cat's Meow club for the cocky Vice detective, and ended up finding him just outside of the main entrance smoking a cigarette. Cole was annoyed. Apparently, Roy didn't even bother to come back in and help them question the persons of interest after calling dispatch and R&I for information.

"Why am I not surprised?" Stefan snorted contemptuously.

Roy ignored the younger detective. "I got the broad's address as well as confirmed the haberdashery. Who wants what?"

Cole turned to Bekowsky and Rusty. "Go ahead and go to Miss Barter's address. Roy and I will check out Roland's. We'll catch up to you guys at her apartment."

"We might meet up there at the same time, because I'm stopping for breakfast. I need some coffee," Rusty stated, motioning for Stefan to follow.

Cole and Roy watched the Homicide detectives head for their car to depart. Roy chuckled softly as he and Cole decided to head out as well.

"That Finbarr really knows how to set his priorities straight! He's like the perfect role model sometimes."

Cole rolled his eyes. "Let's just hope we can find something worthwhile at the haberdashery. So far, we are not getting off to a good start in this case."

A/N: Well, it looks as though things are slowly starting to take off lol. Sorry for the wait on this chapter! I meant to make it longer too, all well! Don't worry, the chapters will get longer as the story progresses! Let's just hope that Cole, Bekowsky, Roy, and Rusty can all get along and work together in harmony to catch the killer...pshhhhhh where would the fun be in that? XD Thanks for reading and reviewing everyone! Have a good week! :D