“What?” Hansen sat straight up, held her glass out crazily and stared at Frank. “How do you get that?”
“Maybe it was an accident,” Frank said, “but he killed her. He thinks I wouldn’t figure that out.” Frank brought her up to speed on his conversation with Tony and mentioned that Bettie was entertaining an ‘ambassador from the east’ earlier.
“Have you considered that he thinks you will figure it out? That you’ll come after him? Makes it easier to frame you for it.”
“Does anyone but your immediate superior know you’re in the Well?” Frank leaned forward across the table, waiting for the answer.
“No,” she said.
“You can bet he’s got an alibi for every trip he’s made in here,” Frank said. “He wants me dead, you ruined. You want him out of the way and my respect. I want you all to fuck right off and get out of my hair so I can repair my relationship. I think that covers everything.”
“I’m confused where Katie Lassiter fits into the mix,” Hansen said.
“She picked him up in the Slip Ribbon, once,” Frank said. “He wanted another round or more, and she didn’t. She’s a child of privilege, after all. It might’ve been an accident when he confronted her, but he killed her.”
“What about the Asian? Didn’t she like Asians?”
“Tony’d been talking to cops before I got there, remember?”
Frank stood, pulled out his wallet and dropped a bill on the table. “We have to go now.” Frank walked toward the door. Hansen grabbed the rest of her sandwich and followed.
They were stopped at the front door of Red Bettie’s by the door gorilla. “She okay,” the silverback signed, pointing at Hansen. “You not.” He showed a fang to emphasize the point.
“It’s okay,” he said and put up his hands. “Can you get her to Bettie? The ambassador’s in danger.”
The gorilla, educated on Maui, knew that Frank didn’t lie. He frowned. “Stay,” he signed to Frank and took Hansen inside.
He looked up for the first time in a long time. “Stars,” Frank said. The sky was clear.
Once one was sent to the Well, one stayed there for the rest of one’s life. It was a prison with razor wires and fifty-foot walls, gates and indolent guards but it was home, too; a community where everyone was accepted as long as certain rules were followed. Pedophiles in the Well didn’t last long. “Why wouldn’t I want to get out of here?” He spoke to Orion, the Hunter. “Why wouldn’t I take her with me? Why wouldn’t she understand that?”
His phone rang. Shaken, he pulled it from the pocket and opened it up. “Townshend.”
“You spoke with the dead girl?”
“Yes, thanks for dropping me off. She was helpful.”
“You trust Hansen?”
“Yeah, she’s good police,” Frank said.
“Then you have learned all I had to tell you.”
“Except where Jurgens is.”
“The Miller building. Seventh floor,” Strangiato said. “Do you have a voice recorder?”
“Yes,” Frank said. “Built in to my phone.”
“Good. You know what to do.”
“A monologue,” Frank said. “I hate that.”
“There are two shooters across the street,” Strangiato said. “Be careful, Francis.”
“Thanks.” He closed his phone and faced the club again. “Yeah.”
Hansen came out of Red Bettie’s with the silverback. She touched the gorilla on the shoulder and signed ‘thank you’ to him. The gorilla attempted a smile, and Frank was reminded of the painful thing that had crossed Strangiato’s face recently. Hansen came over.
“What’d you get?”
“The ambassador’s at the Miller building,” Hansen said without looking at him. They started walking. “You know where it is?”
“Not far. That’s where Jurgens is,” Frank said. “This is more complicated by the minute.” They looked back at the door gorilla who was impassively looking away from them. Frank took Hansen’s arm and they began walking. “I’ll explain on the way.” A floating eye followed slowly behind but was struck down and crushed by the door gorilla who wiped his paws and resumed his post.
“I’m not going in with you.”
They were a block away from the Miller building.
“No,” Hansen said. “I’ll take the shooters next door. They won’t be expecting me.”
“I suppose not,” Frank said. “Be careful nonetheless.”
“Do you have a plan?”
Frank smiled at her. “Of course I do. I’m counting on you to get those shooters for me. Jurgens is the easy bit.”
Hansen shook her head. “Don’t worry about me, old man. I’ve got your back.” She looked both ways then stepped into the street. “See you when it’s done.”
“I hope so,” Frank said to her back.
“That’s far enough, Frank.” Jurgens was pointing a cherry Smith & Wesson .357 at him.
The lobby had been empty and the elevator took Frank straight to the seventh floor and let him out in the little hall that connected the four rooms: VIP suites for anonymous visitors when they were enjoying the ‘immoral’ pleasures of the flesh. Frank was inside the door of the north suite and held his hands out palms up. The ambassador was tied to a chair between the two of them, his mouth taped shut. “It’s your dime,” he said.
“Got a story for me?”
“I’ve got truth,” Frank said. “I imagine you’ve got the story.”
Jurgens smiled and heaved a sigh. “The truth is that you were killed by the ambassador here when you confronted him about the murder of Katie Lassiter.” He pulled the trigger.
Frank spun around as the bullet plowed into his shoulder, across the bone to stop in the doorjamb behind him. On the ground, Frank grabbed his shoulder and growled in pain. “He’s not a very good shot,” Jurgens said walking slowly toward Frank. “He had to get closer. At this range,” Jurgens was three feet away now, “he could hardly miss.”
“Was he the same guy who killed Wilma Sparkit?”
“Yeah, that sounds good,” Jurgens said. “Thanks for helping me out again partner.” Another shot. Debris from the ancient carpet and the floor beneath stung Frank’s cheek. Frank looked out the window and hoped he could count on Hansen, that he hadn’t miscalculated horribly.
“See the ambassador’s nervous,” Jurgens said. He was walking around, waving the gun, waxing poetic. “He never thought he’d be caught. Wilma and Katie didn’t understand. He needed them; they were his.”
“Everyone has needs,” Frank said. “What separates us from the animals is knowing when to control them.”
“Be patient, Mr. Ambassador. You’re next.” Jurgens turned back to Frank. “Are you calling me an animal?”
“If the shoe fits.”
“You’re recording this, aren’t you?” Jurgens laughed. “All right, here it is: I killed Wilma Sparkit. I killed Katherine Lassiter. I intended to frame you for Katie’s murder but you were too smart for me. I don’t think I can live with what I’ve done. Tell Teri I love her won’t you?”
“I hate bad guys who monologue,” Frank said.
“See you around then. Partner.” Jurgens didn’t hear the glass of the window shatter. He didn’t hear the massive, terrible report of his gun as he reflexively squeezed the trigger. He didn’t register the bullet tearing through his throat and spine, didn’t feel the floor’s solidity as he fell dead.
Frank winced as Hansen wrapped the bullet wound in his shoulder. “Don’t be a baby,” she said. “I hope you got all that in your phone.”
“Yeah, I’ll beam it to yours in a minute. Ow.” He tried to move his hurt arm to get his phone. “Hold on a second.”
“Doesn’t matter right now,” she said. “The ambassador will corroborate, I’m sure.” The ambassador was still tied to the chair with his head slumped forward, passed out. “When he wakes up. The boys should be here in ten to take statements and get him out of here. ”
“Was the deal real?”
“Yeah,” Hansen said. “You’ll be able to leave the Well once it’s all over.”
“If I can convince Bettie, that is.” Frank struggled to stand up, made it. “I’m too old for this. I want to find a nice country house and start a garden.”
“She was born and raised here, Frank. The country’s pretty scary to us city girls.”
“I’ll have to work that out, I guess,” he said.
“Good luck with that.”
Frank held his shoulder and walked to the broken window, looked back at Jurgens’ body on the floor and calculated the angle of her shot: close to impossible. He turned to face her again and arched an eyebrow.
Hansen grinned and shrugged. “Top of my class in marksmanship. “
Frank looked sidewise at her. “We all have our secrets then, don’t we?”
“Don’t cheat,” he said. “Be good. Be good police.”
“I’ve got your example to follow, Frank,” she said as four blue-uniformed cops burst into the room with two emergency medicos right behind them. “I can’t go wrong with that.”
Thanks for reading Deeper the Well.
©2009 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
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