Strangiato sat behind his desk and prepared to write. “Go ahead.”
Frank ran through everything: Jurgens’ appearance at his apartment, what he knew of the Lassiter girl’s death, Bettie kicking him out and all he knew about Hansen. He told of the fight in the subway.
“Can you check into Jurgens for me? And Hansen? Also, I’d like to get what I can from the girl. There’s the floating eye, too.”
“That’s taken care of. The girl will be waiting for you when we stop, but she may not be much help,” Strangiato said. “You know how the newly dead are.” The dark-eyed man stood up, holding his notes. “As for your former partner, I will call you with what I can find out.”
Frank finished his drink, stood, and barely felt the train’s movement as it began to slow. “Thanks, Strangiato. I owe you another one.”
He smiled at Frank, a thing that was at once uncomfortable, reassuring and out of place. “Be safe and take care. I have few enough that I call friend.”
Frank blinked, stunned. “I will. Talk to you soon.” They shook hands. Frank walked to the door that he’d come in and touched the handle. “Thanks again.” He didn’t look back, didn’t know if Strangiato was still in the room or not as he went through the door.
The sun was down and the street was empty, as it always was when he debarked Strangiato’s locomotive. The anachronism of a steam locomotive parked in the street of a city was too much for the casual observer and Frank never asked for any more explanation than that. As much as they might be professional colleagues, there was a lot he didn’t know about his friend. Now wasn’t the time for those questions, though, there were others that needed answering first. He looked up at street signs to get his bearings.
“Okay,” he said to himself. “Now where ---?”
There was a woman across the street who was looking around as if waiting for a ride. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail and she wore a grey two-piece suit with a black Coach bag. Her sensuality shone through the plain clothes and Frank shook his head before calling out.
“Katherine Lassiter?” Frank walked slowly towards her, keeping his hands out of his pockets. She cocked her head sideways and frowned slightly. “I’m Frank Townshend,” he said. “Can I talk to you?”
She stepped back from the curb and frowned, seemingly startled. “I can’t stay long. Daddy’s expecting me home soon.”
“I understand,” Frank said. He stood in front of her in the street, his hands at his sides. No quick moves, no sudden shifts and she might talk to him long enough for him to find out something useful. “We’ve never met. Are you waiting for a taxi, then?”
“Yes.” She looked up the street.
“Mind telling me where you’ve been?”
“I saw my girlfriend,” Katie said. She looked at him and blinked, then blinked again. “I remember now. He hates you, you know.”
Frank put his hands in his pockets, set his feet slightly apart. “Why do you think that?”
“He told me. Over and over, actually.” She stepped forward and looked up the street. “There’s my cab, you better move or he’ll run you down.”
Frank was concentrating so hard on her he didn’t see the headlights or hear the SUV’s engine gunning at him until it was almost too late. He turned and jumped to his right into the street. Too old, too slow, his foot caught the driver’s side fender and spun him over. Frank lay sidewise in the street as the car sped away and turned right at the next corner. Catching his breath, he looked at the curb: the ghost of Katie Lassiter was gone.
“Shit,” he said and tried to stand up. “Agh!” He sat in the street and rubbed his left leg, trying to massage the pain out of it. Finally he crawled back to the curb and rolled up his pants leg to see the damage. No broken bones, but one hell of a bruise developing from knee to ankle. “Shit!”
Frank limped into the Slip Ribbon an hour later and asked for a bottle of bourbon and the owner.
“Yeah, I talked to some cops from Out There a while ago, but I didn’t tell ‘em anything.” The owner, a fat man with squinty eyes and receding black hair, stood behind his bar where Frank sat sipping a bourbon. “I figure: fuck ‘em if they wanna leave us on our own, they can fuck off. You know?”
“Mm,” Frank said. “No argument from me, Tony. Still, I was a cop once and I don’t like seeing anyone, especially women get killed.”
Tony relaxed. “Hell, Frank,” he said. “I seen you in here from time to time, checking out the competition. You never headhunted any of my staff, though, and I appreciate that. You’re one of us.”
Frank half-raised a hand and smiled. The personnel and clientele of the Slip Ribbon weren’t the kind that Bettie would hire nor want in her place anyway.
“Katie Lassiter was in often enough I’d call her a regular. She liked a couple of the girls, picked up the occasional tourist, drank a little and tipped a lot.” Tony poured from the bottle Frank had bought. “We all liked her. She was a happy person.”
“Who was she with the night she was killed? Anyone you remember?”
“That was a busy night, Frank,” Tony said. “I saw her come in, but Fallon was the one who sat with her.”
“She around?” Frank sipped again.
“Haven’t seen her since that night. She’s not answering her phone, either.”
“Huh,” Frank said. “That usual? Her just disappearing like that?”
Tony put both hands on the bar, looked at the floor. “Sometimes.”
“Was she one of the girls that Katie Lassiter liked? Were they close?”
“They had sex. Sometimes she’d pick a guy for Katie and watch them together if that was what Katie wanted.” Tony stood up straight again, smoothed his sweat-stained shirt over his round belly. “They liked Asian guys for that.”
“Yeah?” Frank sat back on his barstool. “Anyone meet that criteria that night?”
Tony looked hard at Frank. He breathed regularly, but heavily, through his nostrils over his hard set mouth. “No,” he said. “I didn’t see any Asians in here that night.”
“What about the cameras? You got any vid here I could look at?”
“Cops took it.”
Frank dropped a large bill on the bar. “For the drink,” he said. “Thanks for the conversation, too, Tony. Hope Fallon turns up.”
“Yeah,” Tony said scooping the bill off the bar and pocketing it in one smooth motion. “Me, too. You see her, tell her to call, willya?
Frank saluted Tony and limped out of the bar.
Frank closed his phone as Hansen sat down across from him in the diner, disheveled and pissy. “What’ve you got?” She reached over and took a bite of Frank’s half-finished cantaloupe and prosciutto wrap. He poured wine into the second glass on the table and slid it in front of her.
“Take it if you’re hungry,” Frank said. “Do you want to clear this case?”
Hansen pulled the plate in front of her and sipped the wine. “Got something, then?” Frank turned to the waitress behind the counter and said, “Stella, can we get another Amano, a carafe of water and ---“ he looked back at Hansen. “And a ham sandwich.”
“Sure thing,” the waitress said. “Comin’ up, Frank.”
Hansen was looking at him, asking questions with her eyes. She sloshed back the rest of the wine. Intent, she was glaring over the top of the glass at him.
“I did my homework, too,” Frank said. “I know a little bit about you, Marly Jane Hansen: born in Kansas thirty-one years ago, both parents incarcerated in the Kansas City Well since ten years ago, you made detective last year and are fast-tracking upward. You’re as ambitious as Jurgens is.”
She laughed and smiled through closed lips. “You’re good, Frank. Nobody knows about my parents.”
“You really are I.A.B., too,” Frank said nodding. “I thought maybe you were working for him.”
Stella came back with the wine, the food and the water. She smiled warmly at Frank and nodded at Hansen. “Can I get you anything else?”
“Thanks, Stella, no.” The waitress toddled off back to her station and picked up her Didgireader, swiped at its screen and ignored them again. Frank studied Hansen.
“Is he a rival of yours? Or an ex lover?”
“Usually I do the interrogations.”
“Did you have an affair with Jurgens?”
“It was just sex,” Hansen said. “I didn’t expect any favors out of it.”
“Was it ‘just sex’ for him?”
“He wanted a return match, but he wasn’t my cup of tea.” Hansen nodded shortly, and looked back at Frank. “You think Katie Lassiter ---?”
“I think she picked him up one night at the Slip Ribbon so her girlfriend Fallon could watch,” Frank said. “He’s an obsessive type, our Captain Jurgens. Always enjoyed a pretty girl here and there when it was convenient.
“Anyone know about the two of you?”
Hansen searched the tabletop. “I don’t gossip.”
“He couldn’t be sure, though. Who in your circle would he be afraid of?” Frank was turning his fork over and over as he talked.
“Commissioner Briscoe is my uncle,” Hansen said.
“No favors, though. I’ve earned what I’ve gotten.”
“Except Jurgens thinks you’re sleeping your way to the top and that he was a step on the ladder.” Frank put the fork down and folded his hands. “It’s starting to make some sense. He killed Katie Lassiter.”
Deeper the Well concludes in Part IV
©2009 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
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