I woke to Teddy's wet nose on mine.
I shuffled outside with the dog and winced at the glaring sunlight.
Of course he had to get up at five in the morning.
Teddy finished and I shuffled back inside with him.
There was a note on the kitchen table.
You passed out last night, so I took you home,
hope you don't mind. Nice dog by the way.
I gave a small smile, then corrected myself and yanked the fridge door open.
Orange juice, beer, left over stew, more beer, eggs, ham, cheese, butter, but no milk.
I wrote a quick note on the back of the one Connor left.
See? I told myself. If I use it as a utilitarian object it doesn't mean anything.
I fried some eggs and unfolded my newspaper.
Eight Dead In Largest Mass Murder City Has Ever Seen
The giant photo that graced the front page was grisly, even in black and white.
Eight Russian pricks with shiny bits of metal in their blown out eye sockets.
To pay the boatman.
I read the rest of the article and turned to the crossword as the phone rang.
"Ello' ?" I answered, a piece of toast hanging out of my mouth.
"O'Byron, we've got a problem."
"Good morning to you too Butcher, so nice of you to call, I'm doing fine by the way, thank you for asking."
The toast was still clamped in my jaw, so it came out a bit muffled.
"Quit shittin' around, O'Byron."
"Fine, what's it now?"
"Everything mob related has been pulling its sorry ass off the street, I mean, I don' blame 'em after what just happened but we're gonna run out of leads real quick if we don't get moving."
"Whoa, what just happened?" I asked, brow furrowing.
"Don't you own a television?"
"No, rots your brains."
Butcher exhaled angrily. "Three guys got shot on Lakeview. Broad daylight and everything."
I checked the clock in the kitchen, 6:42 am.
"I know, looks like Smecker's mob theory just got blown to pieces."
"On the eight dead Russians, all had mob ties thicker than- well, they were pretty high up, so Smecker figured- hey, speaking of which, you got any theories?" Butcher asked, the excitement clear in his voice.
"Hmm, and here I was thinking that I was working the case of Liam Murphy and not the case of the Dead Russian Assholes."
"I was just asking, Jeesh, I'm going to give Jack Moran another visit before he crawls into a sewer, you alright enough to come with?" Butcher asked.
"Nope, sorry, can't. I'm running down a different" And much more promising. "angle." I said, picking up the manila envelope that held the key from the crime scene.
"Angle? What angle?"
"You might want to get a better geek squad." I advised.
"O'Byron." Butcher warned.
"Alright, alright, ruin my fun. I found a key under the dumpster."
"You sure its his?"
"Yup, it was the only thing missing from his possessions."
"I'm going to kill Larry." Butcher muttered.
"Now, now, you're still just the newbie, the old hands wouldn't take too kindly to a dead techie."
"Alright, when you're done, call me, and be careful, we don't want a repeat performance of your close combat skills." Butcher instructed.
"Aye aye, Captain." I gave a mock salute with my half-eaten toast.
Butcher hung up.
I set the receiver down.
"Well Teddy, time to see a locksmith."
I found one in the yellow pages fairly close by.
I checked the address again and knocked on the door.
The glass had been blocked with cardboard.
Well, that's reassuring.
There was no answer.
I rapped on the glass again before stuffing my hands in my jacket pockets and knocking the sole of my boot against the edge of a brick.
"The door's fucking open!" A voice called from inside.
I pushed the door open and was greeted by a wall of dark.
I let my eyes adjust for a few seconds.
Music was filtering from a back room.
Set me free, why don't cha, baby
Get out my life, why don't cha, baby
'Cause you don't really love me
I meandered my way back, avoiding large piles of papers, books, and the occasional milk crate. Metal parts were strewn about, and the workbench was covered in iron filings and cast off wax. I flipped the key through my fingers absentmindedly.
You just keep me hangin' on
You don't really need me
But you keep me hangin' on
You don't really need me
But you keep me hangin' on.
I got to another door and shoved it open with my foot.
A hazy cloud of smoke drifted out, illuminated by a single beam of sunlight from a high up window. A man was seated behind a wooden table, his feet kicked up, arms folded.
"Can' I 'elp you?" He asked in a thick Cockney accent.
It matched his punk-ass clothes and neon mohawk. The diamond in his nose glittered in the dim light. This guy listens to the Supremes? Well, that was unexpected. Hard to tell in this light, but he was about the color of the belly of a fish. Didn't see sunlight much. His arms were free from scars, tattoos as well. Two fake teeth, but no Boxer's fractures. He got beat up a lot. Judging from the wear on the enamel, it was a while ago. So a lover not a fighter. Slight jaundice, but that could be from a plethora of explanations. Most likely, from the sucker sticking out of his mouth, kidney damage. Diabetic. Threat posed: limited.
I tossed the key on the table.
"You're a locksmith, right?"
"I'll be whatever you want love." He said with a loose grin.
"Can you find the lock that it goes to?"
"Well, not the specific lock, no, you'll have to do the ah," He eyed me up and down. "leg work on your own. I can find the building easy enough."
"Great, I'll be back in an hour."
"Whoa, wait jus' a second love," He folded his legs off the table, the front legs of his chair hitting the ground with a dull thud. "I can't jus' find it in an hour. D'you think I'm Sherlock Holmes or some shit?"
"No, I think you're lazy. Come on, chap, get a little excited! You're helping me find a murderer!"
"Murderer!? Love, are you barking?"
"I prefer determined, but to each his own. See, I got shot finding this key, so you'll excuse me if I'm in a bit of a rush."
"Name?" He asked, with faked derision.
His eyes told a completely different story. He looked impressed, and vaguely frightened.
"Alfred Wooster." He said, offering a hand.
"Like Jeeves and Wooster?" I asked, taking it.
"Ha. Ha. You're a real crack up love." He deadpanned.
Wooster produced a large and heavy book from somewhere behind him and began to page through it.
"Feel free to sit down." He said as an afterthought, waving a hand towards a rickety stool in the corner. I sat down and scuffed my feet on a rung.
"Why the Supremes?" I asked, pulling the note out of my pocket, folding it and unfolding it.
Something to do with my hands.
"Why not love? They sing like angels." Wooster answered, his face practically embedded in the book's spine, spinning the key around on the table with his left index finger.
"An' this murderin' business? What's up with that?" He asked after a few seconds of silence.
"Friend of mine."
"A friend o' yours killed somebody?" He asked, perplexed.
"No, he's the one who's dead." I gave a wry smile.
"Oh, sorry for your loss love. Was he killed in the vigilante shit storm?"
"Before it, the police are convinced its only mob business, but something, something makes me think it was personal."
"An' what would that be?"
"There's no reason for the mob to kill him."
"It's the mob, love, d'they need a reason?" He asked with a laugh.
"In this case, yes. He was one of them. So the Irish didn't do it, the Russians don't have the manpower, and the Italians, well, fuck the Italians."
In my mind, however, I was beginning to doubt myself. I had no proof that this wasn't mob shit, for fuck's sake, I had been shot by some Irish knuckler, Uncle Charlie, for just showing up at the scene.
"That, that is some heavy shit love."
"Tell me about it." I said with a snort.
"Alright, 'ere it is, now all I 'ave to do is get the listings for local tenements-" Wooster muttered to himself, spinning in his chair, searching the stacks of papers around him.
"Have you thought about a computer?" I asked.
Wooster sniffed. "Don't trust machines, can't see where them brains are."
He flipped through a few more piles of paper before giving an exaggerated "Eureka!" He uncapped a pen and circled a few numbers. "There y'are, love, I'd try the circled ones first, they've all recently asked for new keys to old locks that match the make and model of your key." He handed the paper and the key over with a grin. "Anything else I can d'for you love?"
"Nope, this is it for now, thanks Wooster."
I looked over the list.
Not too bad then.
By the third tenant house, I was cursing those words.
"Thanks for your time anyways." I smiled to the super, taking the key back.
I let out a string of expletives when I got to my car, kicking the front left tire in frustration.
"Fuck! Ass! Shit! Fucking fuck!" Each word was emphasized by a dull thunk of shoe hitting rubber.
I ran my good hand over my face and yanked the Skylark's driver's side door open.
The sun was going down by the time I reached the fourth stop.
Please, dear baby Jesus Lord, let this be the one.
"Hi." I waved to the super behind a plexiglass wall.
"Hi." He grunted back.
"I'm wondering if you could help me, see I found this key outside your building and I'd like to return it."
Walrus-stache gave another grunt and began to rifle through a file of paper.
How charmingly loquacious.
"Numbers 23, 117, and 346 have reported missing keys."
"And could I get any names?"
Walrus-stache shrugged and turned his back to me.
He didn't even know his tenants' names.
23, 117 and 346.
I rapped on 23, before taking a step back and rubbing my temples.
Should've left this to Butcher.
"What is it?" An old granny asked, holding the door open.
She was alone, that much was obvious. There was the sound of the nightly news on in the background, but the smell of food cooking was lacking. She was making dinner for one.
The microwave pinged in the kitchen.
"Sorry, wrong apartment." I smiled and left.
I felt bad, she never had any visitors, even though she had three grown children. Their faces had stared down at me from the left wall of the entry way.
117 was occupied by a young black woman and her three small children.
She was making red beans and rice.
Not from around here, then, but still holding onto home. Wonder what brought her north. Her husband was in prison. His photo graced the entryway, even though no men's outerwear was on the coatrack. His picture was behind a photo of a smiling grandma and a group of smiling women. If he was dead, it would've been in front.
We exchanged pleasantries and I moved on.
346 was on the top floor of the building.
I leaned against the opposing wall and knocked lazily.
80's rock blared.
I knocked harder.
Still no reply.
"DELIVERY!" I yelled at the top of my lungs.
The music cut off and then there was the sound of a dead bolt being drawn back, and two more locks coming undone.
This was the one.
I waited for the sound of the doorknob to turn and kicked the green painted plywood in.
Butcher told me to be careful, so-
I grabbed the guy's wrist and twisted it behind his back.
I was being careful.
He yelped in pain as I gave his arm a twist, and kicked the door closed.
He was barely a few inches taller than me, his shoulders thin and slumped under a ratty gray t-shirt.
He was just a kid.
I let go of his arm and shoved him forward.
"Don't kill me! Please! I had no idea he fucked her! Please-"
The kid whipped around, shocked at the sound of my voice.
"I, uh-" The kid gulped visibly.
"Sit." I directed him, pointing to an armchair that was oozing its stuffing.
He followed obediently.
There was a beat up couch, a cardboard box for a table, an old TV, and an ancient gaming system attached to it.
"Alright kid, what's your name?" I asked, taking a seat on the couch.
"Marty, uh Martin Watts." His eyes darted around the room, like a caged animal.
"Marty, you were friends with Liam Murphy, right?"
"Yeah." McFly's face fell. "He lives-lived here."
Well, at least he knew Liam was dead.
"Just then," I pointed to the door. "You were going on about someone fucking someone. What was that about?"
"Liam, uh, well, uh, he-screwing-Elaine." He said it all in one breath, as if the faster he said it, the less offensive it would be.
"Alright, we'll talk that through later-"
Once you calm down, ferret eyes.
"Marty, what can you tell me about what Liam did for a living?"
"He was an errand boy, like me, for you know, the Irish mob, and stuff."
"Jesus, what is it with you children and the mob? Work for a grocer, I told him. Work on the docks, I told him, but did he fucking listen? No, instead-"
"Wait, you knew Liam?!" McFly interrupted.
"No, Marty, I just kicked down your door for shits and giggles."
"No! I know you!" Marty bounced in his seat, pointing at my face.
Jesus, the kid needed a Xanax. Or several.
"He had a picture of you an' him on his dresser! You're Sara, his older sister, right?"
"You could say that."
"Which is funny, cuz you're like ten times more attractive than he was-" Marty rambled on.
"I need you to focus. Did anything happen on one of Liam's jobs?"
"No, no, Liam was moving up the ranks. That's what's so weird about-" His voice fell off.
"About him being dead?" I offered.
"Yeah, Dolan even said Liam had a future in the big time, was looking into making him a knuckler or even letting him run some of his own operations down at the docks."
My spine stiffened.
Liam was becoming-
No. Stop. Stop that right now.
"And you, Marty?" I asked, clearing my throat.
"I, oh, well, I'm only good at picking the odd lock or two." Marty said sheepishly.
"One last thing, McFly, and I'll be off."
"McFly?" Marty asked, confused.
"Don't worry about it kid, this Elaine, does she have a last name?"
"Oh, yeah, Buchanan, Elaine Buchanan."
I struggled to keep my face impassive as I stood and started for the door.
"It, it was nice to meet you!" Marty called.
I gave a noncommittal grunt and rounded the stairs.