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

Murder's Accomplice

A 6-Chapter Shamus Shocker!

by Darryl Crawford
About the author


Episode 5: Close on Bobby

*         *         *
NIGHT HAD FALLEN BY THE TIME I got back to the studio.  The guard at the shack knew me and raised the gate for my car.  Lights on tall steel poles blazed on many empty parking spaces.  Among the two dozen or so cars remaining I spotted my client’s Rolls in a reserved slot.  I parked next to it.  In the buildings ahead I saw lights on in a few windows.

I found Bobby seated at the desk in his office with a nearly empty bottle of whiskey alongside a bucket of melting ice.  In the ashtray a pile of butts made a small mountain.  The telephone was close to his left hand.  He looked up from his Scotch on the rocks with a hopeful look on his face but the expression on mine chased his look away.  Neither one of us spoke.  I went over to the window overlooking the back lot and thrust it open.  The tired palms didn’t look so tired in the coolness of the evening.  The gladiators had all gone home for the day.  In the valley beyond the orange trees cast spectral shadows.

The night air smelled good in the stale office.  I selected a shot glass from the sideboard and helped myself to his whiskey.

Silence hung between us like a zeppelin.

I tossed my shot back neat, trudged back to the open window.  As I stared out into the night, I asked Bobby without looking at him, “Are you getting drunk?” 

“Chasing away my problems.”

“It’s past quitting time.”

“What have I got to go home to?” he snorted, feeling sorry for himself.  He said as an afterthought: “Hey, Felix, I’m sorry I beat feet on you this afternoon.”

“I can forgive that.”  There were other things I couldn’t.

“Have you talked with Alena?”

“No.  Have you?”

“She ain’t takin’ my calls.”

“I found out why.  At least I think I did.”

That got his attention.  “Don’t keep me in suspense.  Tell me.”

I kept looking out the window.  A prop man with a dolly opened a set of double doors in the big building and went inside.  “Do you know an actor named Walter Hobbs?”

“Name doesn’t sound familiar, should I know him?”

“Maybe not by name.”  I looked over my shoulder at him.

His face got dark.  “Was that the stiff in the house?”

“Right.  The house you followed Alena to this afternoon.”

“So what if I did?”

“Bobby, you hired me to handle this.  Why didn’t you let me handle it like we agreed and you keep out of the picture?”

He fiddled with a cigarette, lighting it before he answered.        

“I’m eaten up with jealousy, I can’t help it.  After you left the lot today, I drove by her house.  Before I got there, I saw her Caddie on Mulholland.  I stuck to her like the peel on a banana.”

I turned back and looked out the window some more.  “A Rolls Royce is a real inconspicuous car, great for tailing.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Why’d you hire me anyway, Bobby?”

“You’re the only private detective I know; it seemed like a good plan at the time.  I thought maybe you could help.” Bobby sounded anxious. “Was Alena really seeing that guy?  The dead guy?”   

Pushing away from the window I settled into the same chair I’d occupied that morning.  “You know she was, but you have nothing to be jealous of now.”

“Why, because the punk’s dead?”

I nodded.  “Apparently the late Mr. Hobbs was quite a Romeo.”

He snorted again, “Not anymore.”

“True.  The man’s dead.  I guess one of his girlfriends caught him cheating with another one of his girlfriends.  Did you know Alena’s friend Robin was in love with Hobbs?  She was at his house a lot.  She would even take her cat with her when she stayed for days at a time.  Alena met Hobbs through Robin.  Then Alena and Hobbs started to see each other behind Robin’s back.”

“Behind mine too!” interjected Bobby.

“You know how Robin is, she thinks she’s God’s gift to men.  If any boyfriend of hers had something going on on the side and she found out about it, she’s capable of killing him in a jealous rage.”

“Are you saying Robin killed the guy?”

“She has a terrible temper.”

“What can you say, Felix?  She’s a redhead.”

“Her medication has severe side effects.  Depression, anger, mood swings.  You know about her medicine.”  It wasn’t a question.

Bobby said, “I know about the pills.  Do you think that’s what made her flip her lid?”

“That, and her king-sized ego.  The thought of being thrown over for another girl, especially a movie star like Alena, would eat away at her.  Not to mention the fact Alena’s successful in pictures; Robin’s only had two or three bit parts.  Robin was as jealous about Hobbs two-timing her as you were about Alena.”

Although the Scotch had loosened Bobby’s tongue, he offered no comment.  He clinked the cubes around in his glass, poured another drink.  The skin of his face sagged like a drunk’s.

I continued: “There’s a defense attorney in Santa Monica who I convinced Robin to hire.  I just got back from his office; he’s going to surrender her tomorrow to an assistant D.A. I owe a favor to.  At her trial this lawyer can get a lot of mileage out of her prescription medicine with expert witnesses.”

He drank his drink in one gulp, wiped his mouth with back of his hand, “You’re a helluva guy, Felix.”

“So I guess the case is over now.  It turned out pretty good for you, all things considered.”

“What do you mean by that?”

 “Well for one, the guy who was hauling Alena’s ashes is now out of the picture.  Permanently.  And Alena lost a lover she can never get back.  Maybe she’ll look you up again and things will be happy ever after.  Just like in the movies.”

Even though my last statement had been sarcastic, the thought seemed to cheer him; a smile brightened his dark face.  “I never thought about it like that.”

“Didn’t you?”

The smile went away. “Didn’t I what?”

“You knew about Hobbs all along, knew who he was, where he lived.  You were lurking in his backyard whether you tailed Alena over there or not.  I saw Alena drive up, you weren’t around.  The way I remember it you came in through the back door.  You’d been manipulating Robin and wanted to see how certain events played out.”

“Felix, you’re blowing smoke.  What do you mean 'manipulate'?”

“You put her up to it.  You set things in motion; you knew about the unpredictable nature of the medicine she took.  You’re the one who told Robin that Alena was playing house with her boyfriend.  You’re the friend who lent her the gun that killed Walter Hobbs.”

I took the gun in question from my coat pocket and plunked it down next to the Scotch bottle.  Bobby looked blankly at it, then down at his feet for a long time.  I wondered what he found so fascinating down there.

He finally looked up. “That pistol doesn’t belong to me.”

“I think the cops will say otherwise.”

“You’re going to rat on me to the cops?  I hired you, I’m your boss!”

“I believe the correct term is 'accessory to murder'.”

The door flew open behind me and two bruisers marched in.  I was halfway out of my seat when I heard Bobby say, “Escort this chump off the lot and don’t be gentle about it.”

That’s when the fisticuffs began....

*         *         *

Back to Episode 4 : Angle on Robin
On to Episode 6 : Fade to Black

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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.)