Two-Fisted Tales

Tales of Mystery and Adventure


One hard boiled mystery, comin' up!  Things look pretty bleak for private eye, Sam Cassell, when his gun turns up beside the corpse du jour!  Can he clear his name before the cops close in...or will he be the final victim of...

The Green Gun Murders
(Part One)

By R.D. Wheadon
About the author



THE DAYLIGHT HIT ME IN THE FACE with the force of a Louisville slugger as I heard the window blinds crash upwards.  Struggling to put my hand between the offending glare and my crusty feeling eyes, I was even less prepared for the bucket of frigid water that hit me.  My breath left me in a rush just as I was starting a good, healthy stream of expletives.  "Good morning, sunshine!" rumbled the all too familiar voice of Detective Harry Grant, as he put down the bucket.

I, Sam Cassell,  private detective, finally cleared the couch I had been sleeping on and managed an indignant, "What the hell did you do that for, Grant?"  Wiping water from my face, I tried to collect my thoughts and at least some of my dignity.  Kind of tough with water streaming down my face and a soggy blanket entangling my feet.

"Howdy, Cassell.  Sit back down.  Couldn't think of a better way to start my day than to see your hung-over mug first thing this morning.  After I heard you had downed a few too many last night at Coaster Bob's, I knew you would be recuperating in this cockroach infested den of iniquity you call an office."

Unfortunately, he continued.  "Besides, I wanted to show you something I found last night, see if you recognize it."  I then saw a brown paper bag next to Grant on my desk.  Grant reached in and pulled out a gun.  It was a .44 automatic, black as pitch except for the grips.  They were inlaid with a deep green jade that glittered and winked like the eyes of a serpent.

"Ever see this beauty before, Sam?" queried Grant.  With his one eyebrow cocked it gave Grant's face an innocent, inquisitive look.  If you ignored the eyes, that is.  I knew all about Harry Grant's interrogative skills.  Behind the questioning face were eyes that were boring into my own, trying to extract the truth right out of me.  I also knew exactly whose gun that was.  Mine.  It had been given to me as a souvenir from a client who had shot her philandering husband three months ago.  The only reason she hadn't been gassed was due to the fact the husband had already been dead, poisoned by his mistress.  The gun was supposed to be in my desk drawer.  But there it was in Detective Grant's hand, and Grant waiting for an answer.  I put on what was meant to be my most innocent face.

"Nice piece of hardware, Harry.  Unusual, and a little flashy for police work.  What's up with it?"

"Oh, nothing much.  Except it was found next to Bert Fagan, the attorney.  Bert was found in his car in the alley behind Coaster Bob's last night.  He had several bullet holes in him, with this on the seat beside him.  Now, back to my question.  Are you acquainted with this gun?"  Grant was nothing if not persistent.

"Harry, I am not familiar with that gun."  I said this with the straightest face possible.  It was even kind of true.  I hadn't opened that desk drawer in weeks.  I wasn’t familiar or could even remember what was in that drawer.

Harry still had his eye thing going.  "I thought I remember you telling me about a gun like this you from Mrs. Crandon.  You know, the one who shot her already dead husband."

I replied, "I know which one you mean, Harry.  That one was entirely different from what you've got there.  It was an automatic with mother-of-pearl grips.  I didn't like how it shot, though, so I sold it last year."

"Who'd you sell it to?" Grant asked.

"I don't know.  I just put an ad in the paper.  Got $50 for the thing."

"That's pretty good, even for you.  I'll ask Mrs. Crandon about it, just to make sure," said Grant.  He said, "What about last night at Coaster Bob's?  The bartender said you had more than your usual of the stuff they pass off as booze down there.  You remember anything unusual through that ethanol haze you had?"

"I remember lots of things.  I remember coming back here and I vaguely remember some foolish stunts I am going to have to apologize for when I go back."

"Sounds like you.  You didn't break any furniture this time, and as long as one of your stunts wasn't to assist Mr. Fagan in leaving the land of the living, you and I will be straight.  I know you and Berg Fagan weren't on good terms.  Especially after he represented your ex-wife in the divorce and she got everything."

I cocked an eyebrow and said, "She didn't get everything, Harry.  I got to keep the overdrawn checking account, the back rent, and the bill for her attorney."

Grant chuckled, without enthusiasm.

"So you did.  But back to business.  I got to tell you, Sam, that my radar is up on this.  Don't leave town.  And make sure your stories match.  If I get any leads pointing your direction my next visit won't be a social call."  With that he picked up his hat and his bucket and made for the door.

"Don't worry, Harry," I called after him.  "Next time I'll bring the bucket!"  But the nonchalant cheer I was trying to put in my voice just wasn't there.  I was in a spot and I knew it would only be a day or two before the always-efficient Harry Grant would be checking my story.  And when he found all the holes in it, he'd be back.  Harry and I go way back, but that wouldn't stop him from taking me downtown.  He's got this overblown sense of duty, or something.

***
I WASN'T BOTHERED BY BERT FAGAN'S DEATH.  He was the type of mouthpiece that a lot of people loved to hate.  Some had very personal reasons for this, like myself.  He was a scummy lawyer who was in it only for the cash.  Justice was a concept as foreign to him as a steady flow of income was to me.  Now the only thing foreign to him was breathing.  One thing I did know.  There was no way, drunk or sober, that I could have killed Bert Fagan.  I hadn't touched that gun in months.  Hadn't even opened that drawer.  And I wasn't carrying a gun last night.

I pulled a clean shirt out of my filing cabinet and did a quick change.  A comb through my wet hair was good enough to put my hat over.  I grabbed my jacket and walked out the door.  This time, though, I did carry a gun.

I went out to where my car was parked.  My mind was racing over who could've lifted that gun from my desk.  The only people who have a key to the place are the landlord and the cleaning lady.  Since the landlord hadn't been by the place for at least five years, I decided to head for the offices of the cleaning service first.  A quiet, mousy woman named Glenda had been tossing my trash for the last few years.  She worked for the Budget Cleaning Co. on 5th Street.

The building sat on the corner of a business district that used to be thriving, but not anymore.  I parked the car in front and went up the stairs to the second floor.

Mr. William B. Tate ran the Budget Cleaning Co.  At least that was the name on the glass of the office door.  A gruff, "Come in," rumbled through the door in response to my knock.  Brown, cracked linoleum covered the floor upon which sat a large desk.  A couple of battered chairs faced the desk.  Behind the desk sat a very fat man in a brown, rumpled suit.  His neck was immense with rolls of flesh slopping over his collar.

"Mr. Tate?" I inquired.

"Yeah, that's me."

"My name's Sam Cassell.  An employee of yours, Glenda, cleans my office over on 2nd."

"Oh, yes.  Mr. Cassell.  Come in.  How can I help you?  I hope there isn't a problem with the service?"  This pug looked like customer service was the last thing on his mind.

"There's no problem, Mr. Tate.  Glenda does a great job.  It's just that I tossed some papers in the trash by mistake last evening.  I know they're probably long gone, but I wanted to see if she had seen them."

"Papers, huh?  They must have been pretty important for you to come all the way down here, Mr. Cassell.  It's not often that a customer comes down here in person."  A look of suspicion flashed in the fat man's eyes.

"Well, Mr. Tate, it's a little embarrassing.  I was hired to locate some missing property for a client.  It is quite a substantial fee, but I misplaced the list of the missing items."

"You a private dick, or something?" asked Tate.

"Exactly," I said.

Tate's lips moved.  "How much is the fee for this property?"

"Oh, quite substantial, I'd say," I flipped back at him.

His eyes narrowed a little and he continued,  "I find that 'substantial' can be quite a subjective term, Mr. Cassell.  I would be interested in the size of your fee due to the fact that by my assisting you in the location of your missing papers, I would be assisting in the earning of your fee.  In essence, I would be due a sizeable percentage of the fee."  He spent all of ten seconds spilling this to me, the words sliding like raw meat out of a grinder.  Obviously, this type of arrangement was not new to Mr. Tate.  Fortunately, since there was no real client, I could play along with the enterprising Mr. Tate.

"What percentage did you have in mind?" I asked.

"What size fee are we discussing?" parried Mr. Tate.

"$500."  It was a sum large enough to be interesting to Mr. Tate but not so much as to be unbelievable.  Mr. Tate took the bait.

"I will charge you $300 for the information you need.  If you collect, I will expect my percentage to be in cash."

I exploded, "If I wanted to get rolled for my dough I'd go hang out in the gutter!  Why, you cheap hood…"  I cut my harangue short in response to Mr. Tate's upraised hand.  His little eyes glittered.

"Please, Mr. Cassell.  We are just doing business.  You say this lost information is vital to you assisting your client.  I am willing to provide you with the information you need to locate what you desire.  My information is not free, however.  We both know neither one of us would be in business long if we gave everything away."

"You're absolutely right, Mr. Tate," I said.  "I am rather anxious to find those documents."  I was more anxious than fat boy would ever know.

He continued, "So, do we have an agreement?"

"Yes, we do," I replied.  He nodded at me and I at him like a couple of thieves.

Tate flipped through his Rolodex cards until he found what he was looking for.

"Miss Glenda Conroy lives at 145 B Street, apartment A at the Adalia Arms," Tate said.

"Thanks.  If I collect what I'm after, I'll be seeing you," I said, heading for the door.

Tate bid me farewell with, "I hope so, Mr. Cassell.  Collection efforts can be so very unpleasant."  Our eyes locked for a moment before I left.  I didn't like what I saw.

***
B STREET USED TO SIT IN THE NICE PART OF TOWN.  Twenty years ago you could have seen kids playing in the yards, couples strolling along the sidewalks, a picture postcard of the American Dream.  With the passage of time the kids grew up and moved away.  Now, the houses and apartment buildings wore a grey, soiled look.  Dirty curtains hang in the windows, radios blare out the game and people walk by bent over by the weight of their lives.

I parked my car out front of the Adalia Arms.  I could hear Sinatra crooning some lover's lament from some radio.  The lobby was dim and quiet and worn.  The carpet was a red and orange flower disaster with a threadbare trail running from the door to the stairs.  No clerk.  Just a hall on the main floor and stairs going up.  The place smelled of dead dreams and forgotten hopes.

Apartment A, luckily, was on the main level just off of the stairs.  I knocked on the door.  Nothing.  I knocked again and listened.  Still nothing.  I pulled out my handkerchief and tried the doorknob.   It was unlocked so I swung the door and then stopped.

Glenda lay there on her back, shot twice in the chest.  The carpet had a bloody brown stain underneath her.  Her eyes stared up at things only the dead can see.  She had on her blue work smock like she had been on her way to work.  Her face showed surprise mixed with the shock from when the two slugs slammed into her.
 
 

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The Green Gun Murders is copyright 11/97, R.D. Wheadon. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)