Gumshoe Felix Driscoll
returns to P&D in...



Murder's Accomplice


A 6-Chapter Shamus Shocker!

by Darryl Crawford
About the author

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Episode 2: Cut to the Chase


*         *         *
I FEIGNED DISBELIEF FOR A FORMER SCHOOLMATE: “That can’t be true.”  I felt a bit guilty after saying it and decided to shut up.

“I think so, man.  It’s the celebrity thing.  She’s surrounded all the time with handsome movie stars, actors, rich guys.”

“You’re rich,” I pointed out.

He blew a raspberry and shrugged: “So what?  I ain’t the only one.  She doesn’t know who her real friends are anymore.  She can’t talk to me, we always fight.  Lately she can’t even act, she’s too preoccupied.”

”You want me to talk to her?”

“I want you to check things out.”

“Talk to her as a friend?” I asked, “Or are you wanting me to investigate her?”

“Investigate?  Yeah, absolutely, I just couldn’t come out and say it.”  Bobby blinked and shook his head.  He heaved himself out of the swivel chair behind the desk, his slacks rasping as he paced.  Whiskers bristled darkly on his unshaven face.  Memories roiled like storm clouds behind his eyes.      

I sat down in the chair in front of his desk and did a bit of remembering on my own.  “Is she still friends with Robin?”

He nodded.  “That’s not going to cause a problem, is it?”

I hoped I sounded convincing. “No.  I’ll give her a call, I still have her number.  What about Alena’s other friends?”

“Like I said, amigo, she don’t know who her friends are these days.  But the ones she has sure don’t talk to me.”

Which translated to they probably wouldn’t talk with me either.

Bobby said, “I moved into my brother’s place.  Just for a while.”

I weighed my words before saying anything.  “Are you sure you want me to nose around?  You might not like what I find out.”

“I gotta know, Felix.  Alena’s cheated on me before.”

That I knew too well.  If Bobby knew, he never said anything to me about it.  Melissa -- or Alena as I’d come to think of her -- and I bumped into each other at a party in L.A. right after she got her contract with Silver Cinema.  Business commitments had Bobby, then Alena’s manager, out of town.  She drank too much and I was a familiar face.  We left the party together.  That night I hadn’t behaved like much of a friend of Bobby’s.  He and I never had been really close, but we saw each other once or twice a year, usually when I did some work for Silver Cinema.  Each time I wondered if that would be the time he’d bust me in the mouth for it.

I was afraid to ask, “Did she tell you who with?”    

He turned his back to me and studied something outside the window.  Crumpling up an empty cigarette pack he rummaged through a drawer, produced a fresh pack.  He lit up again, jammed his lighter back in his pocket.  “Lots of guys.  It doesn’t matter who, I’m over it.”

Sure he was.  “Last chance, do you really want me digging for dirt?  You know what they say about the truth hurts sometimes?”  He already looked hurt.

“I said I wanna know.  Find out for me, Felix.  Investigate her.”

“I’ll sound her out for you for nothing.  A favor to a friend.  If I go to work I’m a hundred bucks a day.”

He took two crisp fifties out of an alligator wallet, handed them to me.  “That’ll get you started.  Okay?”

“No contract for this little caper, Bobby?”

“Nah!  This is personal, not company business.”

I stood up and said nothing.   

He broke the silence: “So . . . you going to see her?”

“That seems like the best way to go about it since we know each other.  She may just blurt out what’s wrong to me.  She still live on Mulholland?”

“Yeah.  Call whenever you find anything out, I don’t care what it is.  Or what time it is.  Okay?”

I told him I would.

“You gonna do this today?”

I patted him on the shoulder.  “Sure.  Right now.”

I put his money in my billfold and breezed.
      
*         *         *

I walked around the building to the parking lot where I’d left my car.  Who first, Alena or Robin?  Mulholland was closer and Alena the actual subject in question.  Why involve Robin unnecessarily?  As an ex-school chum, I should be welcome at Alena’s mansion in the hills.  Feelings do exist between us but not romantic ones.  Our one night together had never evolved beyond that.

Robin was another story; maybe I wanted a reason to see her.

The movie and my conference with Bobby lasted through lunch and my stomach was growling.  It so happened one of my favorite Italian restaurants was near Robin’s bungalow.  That was out of the way.  It would be easier to just call her, eat somewhere else.  It made no sense but I decided to go see her first.

I never did stop to eat.

Never gave Veronica, my girlfriend, a thought.   

I drove east into Glendale where Robin lived.  Abruptly her unmistakable red flivver turned out of her suburb and zipped down the street ahead of me.  If she saw my car, I doubted she’d remember it.  Just the sight of her caused my heart to pound.  I cursed myself and lit a cigarette, threw it out of the car after two drags.

Keeping some distance between us I followed her.  We wound up in a modest neighborhood in Pasadena.  I sped up to get closer behind her but still kept about a block between us.  When I saw her brake lights I rolled over to the curb.

She pulled into the driveway of a house where an enormous avocado tree dominated the front yard.  The tree plunged the front of the house into murky darkness in the early afternoon.  Robin crossed its shadow to the front porch with a big purse tucked under her arm.  She knocked on the door and a man appeared in the doorway.  My heart pounded even harder still.  I glimpsed Robin hugging him before they disappeared out of sight into the house.

My heart sank.  I reached for my cigarettes and sat there and smoked.  I turned on the radio.  I lit new cigarettes from the old ones.  I turned off the radio.      

After fidgeting a moment, I slid out of my car and strolled down the sidewalk
toward the house.  I cleaned my sunglasses on my tie as I walked, squinting into the sunlight.  Before I took ten steps I froze.

Robin strode purposefully through the front door carrying both her big purse and a cat.  She fired up the flivver and quit the scene.  When she backed out I saw she would be heading in my direction.  She would see me if I didn’t act fast.  I went up to the door of the first house I came to and pretended to knock.  As her red Ford drove by I had my back to the street.  I looked after her, she paid no attention to me.

What a waste, I’d lost her!  By the time I made it back to my wheels half a block away she would be on the Pasadena freeway.

I wondered whether to make the drive to Alena’s place or try to find Robin.  With a cat in hand she’d likely return home rather than take it shopping or with her to get her nails done.  A year ago, before Veronica, when I’d dated Robin she owned an orange tabby.  The cat she had carried was gray.  Maybe she’d acquired another cat.  Maybe she was only cat-sitting the gray one.  Who knew?

I switched the radio back on to mull things over.  My mouth was dry from all the cigarettes so I didn’t light another.  Should I knock on the door of the house with the avocado tree?  Good afternoon, sir, I’m selling subscriptions to The Times; do you take the paper?  I sat there undecided when another car turned into the driveway of the house.  A big white Cad.  A woman emerged from it, a knit cap pulled down over her hair did a good job of obscuring her features, the kind of hat called a cloche.  The woman teetered on high heels through the yard and up three steps to the porch.

Unlike Robin, the girl in the cloche walked in like she owned the place, without knocking.  Having learned my lesson, I stayed put and watched the house.  Less than a minute later I saw the knit cap moving in the shadows of the avocado tree.  Her head ducked out of sight and she was in her car before I could see her face.  What the hell was going on?  Was no one home or were they dealing dope out of the place?  In the space of fifteen minutes two women had been in and out of that house, one with a cat.

The Cad bumped out of the driveway.  It raced my way and hurtled by my car parked at the curb.  Behind the tinted windshield the lady with the knit cap was crying.

Even disguised in big sunglasses and the cloche I recognized her.

It was Alena...

*         *         *

Back to Episode 1 : Private Screening
On to Episode 3 : Cue the Corpse


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Murder's Accomplice is copyright by Darryl Crawford. It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews. (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)