The Velveteen Murderess
Part One – If Looks Could Kill, We’d all be Dead.
I’m a dick; a Shamus, a detective, a sleuth, a gumshoe.
Yeah, you could call me that if you ever saw me. But you won’t. I’m in the shadows; I’m like gravity except I work in space. Trust me; many a man has tried to find me and failed.
Maybe that ad in the yellow pages isn’t working.
All I know is that it takes a smart cookie to track me down. That’s why Scarlett Des Moines caught my attention.
She knocked on my door around 3:15PM on a Friday. I reached for my magnum but eased my grip as the door to my office slowly swung open. Standing there was the most beautiful bird I ever saw; coke bottle figure with her brown hair done up like Petula Clark.
I tell ya she was a looker; a real Sweet-Marie; a regular hat spinner.
“You Ace Heart?” she asked in a voice that was sweet and gritty, like a silk pillowcase full of sand.
“Yeah,” I said. “How’d you find me?”
“The door,” she shrugged and gestured behind her. “Your name is on the door. It says private detective.” It caught me off guard; this woman wasn’t some bimbo, no Whistling Susan; this one had a head on her shoulders. I leaned back in my chair and gestured to the one in front of my desk. She took a seat and lit up a long cigarette.
“It’s my husband,” she began. “He was murdered and I don’t think the police have any interest in finding his murderer.” She began to weep and I offered her a tissue. “You see, he was a lawyer and he worked for Tony Barboney.”
I felt my heart skip a beat. She was talking about ‘terrible Tony’, the scrutinizer, the reptilian-Sicilian. This dame might have been a regular Steam-whistle Sally but I wasn’t gonna get caught up in mob business for some pretty face.
“Sorry sweet thing,” I said “but I know trouble when I see it. I don’t mess with Tony or any of his boys anymore.”
I looked over to the empty desk at the other side of the office; ‘Jack Spade’ it read: the name of my dead partner, the name of my dead friend.
“Look mister,” she spoke and I couldn’t help but stare at her boobs “you’re the only one I can ask and I can offer you something else.” She smirked and opened her purse. There must have been 20 large in there, 20 big-ones, greenbacks, moola, top-cheddar I tell ya. My eyes lit up and I started feeling a lot braver. I needed the money bad; Jack was the much better detective and I hadn’t solved a case since he died. I waited a second so I wouldn’t look as desperate for the cash as I actually was.
“All right,” I said as I reached into the purse and started grabbing the hooker coupons. “I’ll take the case.”
Part Two – A Drink with Trouble.
The Slippery Widget was a bar. You know the type, sticky floors and dirty glasses; it was a dive, a hole, a midnight Mayberry. It was the kind of place you could find a Cyclops prostitute or a mole-skin wig; the kind of place you could find a guy like Clip Teeter.
Teeter was a deadbeat, a tramp, a real booze bag if you know what I mean. He owed me a couple favours after I buried that body for him and he was the kind of cat who knew all the dirty business. If anyone knew where I could find Barboney, it was him.
“Teeter,” I said and he froze in his chair.
“Is that you Heart? I figured Barboney would have taken out the trash by now.” He didn’t even bother to turn around as he said it, just casually looked over his shoulder at me and arrogantly swigged his beer. I spun him around and punched him in his beach-ball belly. The cheap draught he was drinking sprayed in a mist over my right shoulder.
“What do you know Clip?” I punched him again. “Tell me what you know!” He fell on the ground in a heap.
“The Des Moines widow,” he gasped. “Everyone knows she hired you to track down Tony.”
“How do they know so fast? Who told you?” I questioned.
“Facebook,” he squeaked. “She put it on her Facebook”
I gave him another good kick in the ribs and walked out of the bar. The Widow had really done it now; everyone knew I was back on the beat. I would have to be a bit more careful, a little more discreet. I looked at the tie-dyed poncho I was wearing: it would have to go.
I disposed of the poncho but could not part with my shoes that light up when I walked. They might be conspicuous but good Lord are they stylish. Although in retrospect, I think it was the shoes that gave up my identity to Tony’s henchman. All of a sudden, as I was skipping home, admiring my sneakers, I felt a sharp blow to the back of my head before I blacked out and hit the pavement. When I awoke I was tied to a chair in an empty warehouse.
Part Three – Rendezvous With Some Knuckles.
I’ve been punched in the face plenty of times before.
It kind of goes with the territory when you been in as many fights as me. You fight a lot when you run with gangs, but I don’t like to talk about it. If I was gonna talk about it (and I won’t) I would tell you that I used to run with tons of gangs (crazy gangs and lots of them) but that’s all in the past.
‘What gangs?’ you might ask but I’d just change the subject. I wouldn’t tell you about the Hell’s Angels or the Latin Kings, the Greasers, Warriors, Crips or Triads. No, I’m done with gangs, be it One-Man or Apple Dumpling. The point I’m trying to make is that I’ve been in a few rumbles and been socked a few times but nobody ever hit me like the guy that was working me over now.
I was tied up in what felt like some kind of warehouse. Maybe it was a storehouse or depot, all I know is that it was definitely an industrial facility and I was getting punched. There were two men, one was small and smoked a corn cob pipe. the other was tall and fat. The small one watched as the big one went to town on my stomach.
“Yeah,” said the little one. “just like that, see, make him remember you. Nobody messes with Tony B., see, or we chop him up and throw him in the sea, see.” He puffed on his pipe and I recognized the smell instantly: a combination of ylang-ylang and opium.
“I see you like to smoke ‘el capa-capa’” I rasped from between the punches. The small man looked up. “That’s what you are smoking there isn’t it? ‘the angry badger’, ‘southern solstice’, ‘the tainted lady.’” He smirked as he took a long drag of his pipe.
“Oh I see, we got ourselves a regular Sherlock Holmes, see, a real Hardy Boy, see, a modern day Dick Tracy, see.” The big man began to strike me again; his punches felt like bowling balls.
Suddenly I heard sirens, and the small man looked panicked.
“That’s enough, see, we gotta fly this coop.” The big man hit me again and the two disappeared into the shadows of the warehouse. I could taste blood in my mouth and then I burped and I could taste that pie I ate earlier. The lemon meringue was calming and still zesty.
I sat there alone, still tied to the chair like a helpless frosh victim. I heard footsteps and looked up to see a man in a trench coat and hat followed by two uniformed police officers. As they approached I recognized the man in the suit: the legendary douche bag and my arch-nemesis, Detective Rollie O’Reilly. He soon recognized me and smirked. His perfect lips showed off his flawlessly white and plaque-free teeth.
“Ace Heart, if it isn’t Chowder City’s finest Private Dick” said Rollie and the officers laughed. “Find any clues when you were tied to this chair getting the enthusiasm beaten out of you?” He unbound my hands and feet and I struggled to stand. As soon as I had my footing, he slapped a pair of handcuffs on me.
“What’s this about? What’s the gag? You pulling my potatoes?” I exclaimed.
“You’re coming downtown Heart. You’re trespassing and we don’t like your type snooping around our machine silos.” They dragged me out and I began to wonder if I would ever get to bang the Des Moines Widow.
Part Four- Brunch Inside the Clink
Chowder City lockup is an ugly place. It’s the kind of place where men become wolves and wolves become werewolves. It smells like urine and reality. I sat there for what seemed like days but proved to be only 20 minutes before the guard slid open the heavy bars and led me to a dark room. He sat me down in front of a wooden table and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him and stealing what little light had been cast into the room from the hallway. In the darkness again I lost track of time. My mind began to sprint and then it slowed to a gallop, soon I was trotting and eventually I tuckered out and started walking.
When I woke up, I was face to face with my nemesis: Rollie O’Reilly. He sat across from me and leaned back in his chair. His feet rested on the wooden table and he struck a match on his black leather shoe as he lit a large, mostly ornamental pipe. He absently puffed away, seemingly satisfied with himself, suddenly it seemed like he remembered I was there, set down his chair, and blew the smoke into my already beaten face.
“You look beautiful when you sleep,” he said as he continued to puff. He leaned back in his chair again. “I had to stop myself from tenderly kissing the back of your neck.” He smiled menacingly and his usually pearly white teeth looked long and brittle. The faint glow from his pipe made them look yellow, like a rat. “What were you doing in the warehouse?”
“Getting my face tenderized O’Reilly,” I answered.
“But why?” he asked. “By who? When we got there you were all alone.” I squirmed in my seat; he wanted answers and I was gonna have to think of something.
“I was on this stake-out, a little job for this lady. She figures her husband is, you know, ‘blowin’ the midnight trombone’ with some little tartlet. So I follow them and snap a few photos from a tree near a window. The husband must have seen me because before I know it, him and a few of his friends got me tied up and in the trunk of a car. When it stopped, we were at the warehouse. They beat me for a while before your sirens scared them off. I really owe you a thank-you, you saved my life.” This made O’Reilly smile and as he chuckled he shook his head slightly.
“You’re pulling my leg, Heart, stewing my prunes, brining my pickles. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were trying to make me into some kind of Dizzy Dean.” He suddenly sat upright in his chair and flung the heavy clay pipe at me. With my hands cuffed behind my back, the pipe ricocheted off my face with such force that it opened a gash across my brow.
“Nobody makes me a Dizzy Dean! I own this town, see, and if you or any of your criminal friends comes snooping around our area, we will show you we mean business.” He leapt across the table and began to beat me. Again and again he rained down blows like an angry kangaroo. Eventually he was standing above me; he pulled out his retractable baton and extended it with a sickening click. As he raised his arm with the eyes of a madman, the baton poised to batter me, the door swung open. It was another cop and he looked terrified by O’Reilly.
“Someone posted bail for this guy,” said the cop timidly before retreating.
“You must have an angel, Heart,” said Rollie. “We didn’t even book you yet.” He pointed to a heavy book that he had planned on beating me with.
I left the jailhouse and placed a smoke in my mouth. As I stood in front of the building, I fumbled in my pockets for a match. A woman stepped out of the shadows, and held a lighter to my smoke.
“Rough night?” she asked and when I looked up I saw the Des Moines Widow in a black and white dress. “How about a cup of coffee and some pie?”
Part Five – Buffet of Unanswered Questions
Scarlett Des Moines lived in the nicest apartment I had ever seen. It was the kind of place that Jesus would have lived in if he were an advertising executive. The elevator opened into her foyer which was adorned with fine oil paintings in gold frames and a collection of Lava-Lamps. She led me through the drawing room, across the breakfast nook, into the rumpus room, out through the solarium and into the den where she offered me my choice of the chesterfield and the chaise lounge as a seat. I opted for the futon and rested my feet on the coffee table as she poured us both a drink.
“I just can’t believe what those policemen did to you!” she exclaimed. “There seems to be no law at all anymore.” She handed me my drink: scotch and red wine, extra bitters – just the way I like it.
“It wasn’t the coppers who did most of this, it was Barboney’s boys,” I said and she got stiff for a second. “Yeah, if the coppers hadn’t shown up, I would have been taking an underground siesta right now.”
She nervously lit a cigarette and as my concussion began to wear off, I started thinking more about the case and less about her mountainous breasts.
“Nothing seems to add up,” I said. “Why didn’t the Barboney boys kill me when they had the chance? And how did the fuzz know where to find me?” She shifted back and forth in her seat. “And how did you know to come bail me out?”
She looked genuinely confused as she moved across the room and sat next to me. She gently ran her fingers around my bruised face.
I didn’t bail you out, Sweetheart,” she cooed. “I think it’s been a long day and you are confused.” She slid closer and our knees touched.
“Then why were you at the jailhouse? Did you know I was inside?” before I could finish she had pulled down the top of her dress, exposing her naked boobies. She stood up, took my hand and led me up the stairs, through the library, across the dressing room and into the master bedroom.
There, my friends, we made a little night music but a gentleman never tells. We did sex to each other. I had humped a few times before but this dame wasn’t gonna charge me. In fact, I wondered if I could still consider myself on the clock and send her a bill.
I don’t need to brag, but we did it three times in ten minutes.
After the sex I felt thirsty and excused myself to grab a glass of water. As she lay on the bed staring dejectedly at the wall with a look of complete self-loathing I knew it was the best she had ever had. I walked down into the kitchen. I poured a glass and admired her antechamber. The room was covered with pictures of her and her deceased husband.
He was a handsome man, tall and fit, if you like that kind of thing. There were pictures of him with Presidents and diplomats, accepting awards and there were many photos from what seemed to be a school for the deaf he had started in Africa.
“Try hard,” I muttered to myself and was prepared to return to the bedroom for round four when something caught my eye. It was a picture of the widow’s husband with two men, one small and one large. I had seen these men before and when I realized where, it was too late. They were the men who had beaten me up, Barboney’s boys, Scarlett knew that I knew.
I heard a gun cock.
I turned around to see her holding my magnum.
“Now we do it the hard way,” she said as she pointed to the door. I wished that I had gotten dressed.
Part Six- Knock, Knock – Who’s There? – Murder.
The Des Moines Widow had allowed me to get dressed at gun point but she insisted on watching me. I tried to be quick and somewhat cool but there is no attractive way to adjust sock garters when you are naked. She led me down the stairs where the two men who had beat me earlier stood waiting. She was giving me right back to Barboney’s boys.
I opened my mouth to spout off some of the clever lines I had thought of during my descent down the stairs but before I could say a word the big goon clubbed me and I fell into blackness.
I awoke in the warehouse that I had been in earlier, tied to the chair that I had been tied to earlier. It was like déjà-vu but much more real and much worse.
“Deja-poo,” I said to myself and my hilarious pun made me chuckle and lifted my spirits. To this day I believe that brilliant joke saved my life. The joke made me begin to think of all the good things in this world. I saw the bottles of booze and ten cent peeps, the opiates I hadn’t tried and the glory holes I had yet to find. I wanted to live damn it! I was gonna do whatever it took to get out of there alive.
I kept my cool when the goons walked in. I had decided it was best to play it smooth at first.
“Have a nice nap?” The little goon asked but before I could answer they stuffed a sock in my mouth and wrapped tape around my head.
“You’re gonna play it cool, see, keep that big mouth of yours shut.”
I tried to speak but all that came out was a muffled moan.
“You’re lucky we don’t blindfold you so that you can’t see, see,” he said and the big one gave me a half hearted slap to the side of the head and put his fingers to his lips telling me to ‘shhh’. I looked around for The Widow but she was nowhere in sight. I assumed she had a weak stomach and didn’t want to know how the sausage was made.
Across the distance of the warehouse I saw a door open. Even in the dimly lit warehouse from a hundred yards away, I knew who it was.
Tony Barboney and three of his men stepped into light and slowly made their way towards me. Tony was your classic Italian gangster; 6’7 tall, rail thin with fiery red hair and beard, a pasty white complexion with sharp, pointed features and an eyebrow ring. His presence instilled fear so that even the men who had beaten me with such bravado earlier shrunk back as he approached.
“Top of the morning to ye,” said Tony in his thick Italian brogue. “What a fine little Molly we have here. Ye followed the rainbow and yet ye found no pot o’ gold. Only pain and death for soon you’ll meet ye maker.”
He had a black and gold cane that was embossed with four-leaf clovers and he swung it violently, breaking my right arm as I sat defenceless.
“I suppose ye two would like your recompense for finding this man for me,” said Tony.
The two goons said nothing for a second before the little one spoke up.
“Yeah, we want a finder’s fee, see,” he said but something seemed strange, like he hadn’t expected any reward and this caught him off guard.
One of the goons who had arrived with Barboney tossed a briefcase over to the little goon. He opened it up and I saw the money inside: there must have been 100 large in there!
Barboney placed the end of his cane on my face and pushed my head back and forth, inspecting the bruises on my face.
“Ye did quite a number on him boyos, ye ever think of joining an outfit? We can always use strong lads like yourselves who are willing to beat a man properly.” While Barboney admired their handiwork, something clicked in my mind.
The two men who had beaten me didn’t work for Barboney, they worked for Des Moines.
“Let’s get this gag off and find out what our little gumshoe knows,” said Tony and I saw the two Des Moines goons tense up.
Tony reached in to unbind my gag and there were three quick gunshots from behind him. His goons fell to the floor dead and Scarlett Des Moines moved stealthily from the shadows and placed my magnum on the back of Tony Barboney’s head. She pulled the hammer back and it clicked into place, he raised his hands in the air.
“On your knees Barboney!” she exclaimed and he did what he was told.
“Well played Scarlett,” he said. “I knew I smelled ‘Coco Giovanni #12’ when I walked in.” She held her wrist to his nose and he inhaled deeply.
“It’s the last thing you’ll ever smell,” she said and with that she pulled the trigger. Tony slumped to the ground and she shot him twice more in the back. She spit on him and looked over at me with tears in her eyes.
“You did great” she said.
Part Seven- If Questions Were Oil, We’d All Be Rockefellers.
The Des Moines Widow stood over Tony Barboney with my gun pointed at his lifeless body. She was waiting for him to move but he wouldn’t; he was dead and she finally lowered the gun. I was pretty pissed that she was using my gun without washing her hands but I figured it was best not to quarrel with the woman who just murdered the most infamous gangster in Chowder City history, a man who was meaner than Charlie “Golden Knuckles” Campenelli, tougher than Lou “The Reaper” Rosco and a better chess player than Bobby Fischer. She killed a man hundreds of men before tried to kill and failed. She had killed a legend.
“Untie him boys,” she said and her goons loosened my shackles. “You did great,” she continued. “I’m sorry we had to keep you in the dark so long, we should have been done this mess sooner. Whoever posted your bail really screwed the plan royally.”
“I thought you posted my bail,” I said and she looked confused.
“Why would I do that? When the cheese picked you up from here in the first place, we decided to change the plan. I waited outside the jailhouse for Barboney; I knew he would come for you. When you got sprung, we had to set up this whole bamboozle a second time.”
I didn’t like what I was hearing because it was confusing and I knew I would have to think more about it later and that would get in the way of the drinking I had planned.
None of it made sense.
The Widow dug in Barboney’s pocket and pulled out a money clip with a few thousand clams (the official currency of Chowder City) stuffed in it. She tossed it over to me.
“That ought to cover your fee and expenses, you can keep whatever is left,” she said and she signalled to her goons and began to leave. I felt pretty good as I counted my cash but then got depressed when I noticed one of the goons hand the briefcase to The Widow. I pulled one of my loose teeth out and cradled my broken arm.
“I think you’re the real gangster Scarlett,” I called. “I get beat like a lonely teenager’s penis and you make a hundred large. Now that is racket!”
She turned and smiled as she walked away.
Then I was on the street, walking and wondering. Who had called the cops when it looked like Scarlett’s boys would finish me off? Who bailed me out? Why was that lady so fat? Is that a rain cloud? Why didn’t my mother hug me when I was a child?
So many thoughts, I really wasn’t used to it, it felt like there were bees in my brain. I walked slowly up the stairs to my office; I was so distracted with my annoying brain that I didn’t notice the light coming from within.
I swung the door open to see a ghost. It was Jack Spade, in the flesh. He lit a smoke and put his heels up on his old desk.
“Nice to see you Ace,” he said as he poured a drink and slid it across the desk. “I’ve got a hell of a story.”
The End… For Now…
Stay tuned when Jack and Ace return in:
The double-dead debutant
Murder at the supermarket
Death by singing
Don’t wake mom- she’s dead.
Three strikes your dead