The last thing I remember was a sharp, excruciating pain in the back of my head that shot downward all the way to my feet, rattling my toes.
Then the lights went out!
When I came to, I found myself lying face down in a thick puddle of gunk and grunge that smelled like the city sewer in mid-July after a week long heat wave.
I had been snooping around in an alley-way downtown, a little before sunset. It was dark now, except for a dim light coming through a smudged window that looked like it had not been cleaned since the newspaper head-lines read, “NESS FINALLY NABS CAPONE.”
Slowly I remembered where I was and why I was there and how I ended up taking a nap in a place that even the brown-bag drunks avoid like the plague.
There was a two by four, a yard long, laying beside me. It was smeared with blood, mixed with a wad of brown hair. Given the pain and the gash in my scull I figured my assailant used it to whack me over the head.
I managed, using all my will and determination to get myself upright. It took what ever was left over to stay that way, with a little help from a dumpster I found within arm’s reach.
I felt like Ringo Star and Ginger Baker were having a battle of the drum solos on the inside of my skull. My gut was rolling over like a runaway Ferris wheel and my legs wobbled like jelly fresh out of the fridge.
I felt like a puppet with two broken strings and a drunk puppeteer fiddling with the rest of them. I would rather have had a number ten hangover.
But you know, despite all that, I found something good in it. I knew I had finally rattled the right cage and made some one real nervous. A creep named Fingers O’Bally.
Fingers. What can I tell you. He’s a pick-pocket, some times pimp, loan shark, skull cracker, car\truck jacker and a few other nasty things, who learned every-thing he knows from his uncle, Burt...who owns the restaurant next to the alley-way in which I took my sudden little nap.
I figured I was getting close to solving the case I was working on and who put One Eyed Pete’s lights out permanently.
But dang if I haven’t jumped way ahead, way to quick....so I’ll back track here and start from the beginning and get the whole story out.
It all started a few days back when One Eyed Pete’s old lady came to my office doing the boo-hoo thing and turning a box of hankies into a soggy heap on the corner of my desk.
I couldn’t help staring at her, wondering what any man would see in a woman with teeth the colour of roof tar.....what teeth she had....she sagged in more places than I knew existed on the female body. Even One Eyed Pete whose face looked like it had seen the grill of a Mac truck up close and personal, doing ninety in a fifty zone.
Here name was Penelopy Cushby. She had been a fixture downtown for a couple of decades. She lived somewhere but no one knew where and she always had money but no one....except for Pete, knew where it came from and he never said anything to anybody about it.
She sat in the client chair drooling out her story between sob attacks and bouts of schnozzola purging. It was a long tale with a lot in it that had nothing to do with anything except wasting time and breath....so I will give you my version of it that will contain all the pertinent essentials.
It seems One Eyed Pete needed some money...a lot of it....Two Gs...and he needed it fast,...to pay off a loan to a local gang Boss.
He asked Penelopy for the cash but she turned him down flat so Pete had no choice but to turn to someone else, loan shark, none other than Finger’s O’Bally.
Fingers had fronted Pete sizable loans before and Pete had always paid them up in full and on time, including the hefty interest. Unfortunately Fingers was a little short of cash just then....but two grand would net him five hundred in interest so he told Pete to “Hang on for a bit,”........ until he got back.
Fingers went to his source...which happened to be his uncle Burt who owned the restaurant next to the alleyway I told you about, to borrow two thousand dollars.....promising to pay it back in a couple of days. Burt gave it to him...interest free, I guess because of the close family ties.
Then Fingers high-tailed it back to Pete and handed over the money...all of which was in twenty dollar bills. Pete promised to pay up later that day...including interest.
Then Pete went straight to the dogs...the dog races that is...on a sure bet....complete with an inside tip. Without a second’s hesitation he put the whole two Gs on a long shot in the last race. Well...lucky sod...sure as rain in spring it paid off...Pete walked away with ten grand in his pocket.
The first thing One Eyed Pete did was to go pay off his first creditor...the gang Boss. Fifteen hundred plus five more in interest. That saved him a few broken bones as a bonus to the late charges.
Then as promised Pete went to find his friend, Fingers and settle up with him.
That’s when things went real bad for One Eyed Pete.
Just before he found Fingers Pete was jumped by a gang of street thugs. They beat the crap out of him, snatched the cash he had left from his winnings and left him lying, twitching and half conscious in a street gutter. Pete got a busted nose and two cracked ribs out of the thrashing.
A little later, after talking to Pete, Fingers had no choice but to go back to his uncle with Pete’s story, but when he got to the restaurant he found Burt in his office counting out a fist full of cash.
Fingers got suspicious. He watched his uncle counting bills for a minute and put what he thought was two and two together.
Finally he asked.....guardedly. “Did you get that money from One Eyed Pete?”
Burt glanced up. “Ya. He came a while ago and paid up a loan.”
“Crap. Pete borrowed two grand from me earlier today.” Fingers grunted angrily.
Burt gave his nephew a side-glance. His eyes glared like a pair of molten rubies. He was realizing something was starting to smell real bad besides the alley-way next to his restaurant. Then he asked in a quiet, deadly voice....”What’s the pay back to you?”
“”Pete has always been good for the money. I cut him a deal. $2500.00.” Fingers answered nervously. Then he added quickly....”But this time he’s come up with a sob story. He was all beat up and I figured he was telling it straight, but now I ain’t so sure. He said he ain’t got the cash for me so I don’t got it for you is what it comes down to and I’m beginning to think the little ferret has duped me....and you.”
“Ya it does boy...and I’m glad you came to me straight up but I don’t like being duped so I suggest you go find One Eyed Pete and put things right.” Burt hissed coldly.
Well....that was that.....any one knows how much these thugs and creeps hate to be parted from their cash, especially like that. So Fingers was in a lot of trouble. Even though it was Pete that twisted the rules Fingers would pay the price. He was looking at a couple of busted legs if he didn’t settle up with his Uncle......fast....... family or not.
“After that, things got worse.” Penelopy went on with her story after a nasty schnozz purging that nearly made me sick.
It seems like Pete managed to patch himself up enough to go hunt down the gang that beat the crap out of him and reefed his cash. Penelopy told me that Pete told her that it took a while to track them down but he found them and with the help of a .45 automatic gat he convinced them to return the money and he took a bit of revenge out on them.
Once he had his money back Pete set off to catch up with Fingers, but he never made it. No one saw him again until the next day when a flat-foot patrolling over in the west end spotted an arm sticking out from under the lid of a dumpster. He went to have a look and recognized One Eyed Pete on sight.....and called it in.
I couldn’t figure out why Penelopy was in my office boo-hooing when it seemed she already had all the answers.........................
All but one...........
She told me that when Pete was snuffed he had something that belonged to her. It was, as she put it, “A cheap, ten karat gold locket with a broken clasp.”
It wasn’t worth a lot cash wise, but to Penelopy it had sentimental value, big time and she wanted it back.
Pete was supposed to take it to a jeweller and get it fixed for me.” She explained between sobs and boisterous schnozz purging.
Penelopy suddenly produced five C-notes from a fold in her ratty coat and gave them to me. “I want you to find my locket Mr. Rouge.” she gave a final tearful plea.
Well...I was in my usual state of financial arrears so I accepted the case ...and the cash and went treasure hunting.
The first thing I did was check all the jewellery shops, though I figured it would end up being a waste of time.....and it was....
When Pete’s corpse was searched there was no locket found on him. I got that bit of info from my friend, Detective Sergeant Gil Langstaff. He works the mad Big City streets heading up the Homicide squad out of Central Division.......down-town. The case landed in his lap and he wasn’t happy about it..
“One Eyed Pete probably deserved what he got, but murder is murder no matter who the victim is.” Gil Grumped...
Next I caught up with the street gang that jumped Pete, figuring they might have taken revenge out on his revenge. It took some strong arm psychology to get them to talk but finally they spit it out.
In the end I was convinced it wasn’t them who sent Pete to meet his maker and bury him in a dumpster...though they cheered who ever did. They didn’t have the locket either, however I did stumble on to something...real lucky like.
One of the gang had a diamond brooch on him that I’d been locking for , for six months. I would finally get the reward offered for its return....Go figure eh...can’t figure out lady luck...and it ain’t no good trying.
Finally I went to who I figured was the most likely suspect to have the locket. Fingers O’Bally. Who else could it be.
I headed for the restaurant but on my way I stopped off at my office and picked up my .38 snub-nose revolver.....just in case I got into a situation....
Sure as guns Fingers was at the restaurant. He and his uncle were in the office counting a wad of cash. A lot more than a side-street greasy spoon would take in, in a day.
I ignored the cash and gave Fingers an easy way out. I figured Sergeant Langstaff would catch up to him on the murder rap sooner or later and didn’t want to be stepping on his toes. I guess I have to say I was covering my butt too since me alone with only a six shot .38 snub-nose revolver against a couple of thugs with 45s, who ain’t afraid to use them, I would get the worst of it in a shoot out.
I gave Fingers the spew about Penelopy and her locket and that all she wanted was to get it back. Naturally Fingers claimed he didn’t know, “Nothin about nothin”, which I expected, but it wasn’t a confession I was looking for anyway. It was that little side-glance people do when they are lying through their teeth and Fingers’ eyes were darting all over the room. That told me every thing I needed to know.
I left the restaurant via the back door into the stinking alley-way.
This brings me back, almost, to the beginning of this tale, in the alley-way trying to rubber-leg it, one gruelling step at a time, to the street. I was holding a hanky against the gash in my scalp. The hanky was drenched in a few seconds so I reached into my pocket for something else to mop up the blood. Instead of a hanky I pulled out Penelopy’s, (now fixed), heart shaped golden locket and a greasy scrap of paper with a note scratched on it.
“Everyone loves old Penelopy. Make sure she gets her locket back Gumshoe.”
The note was not signed.............of course.
I made my way back to my place and cleaned up, sterilizing the gash in my head and putting some salve on the cut that stopped bleeding quick as a wink. Then I knocked back three fingers of whiskey to take the edge off the pain. Then I went looking for my client.....on foot.
I found Penelopy at the bus stop, sitting on a bench boo-hooing worse than ever and building a mountain of soggy hankies beside her, but she dried up quick when I reached in my pocket and produced her locket.
She plucked it out of my hand like it was the Hope Diamond, then gave me a big hug and waddled off humming the tune for, You Are My Sunshine.
Well there you have it . The Job was done, Penelopy had her locket back.
I returned to my office to find Gil Langstaff waiting for me.
“Get the Locket Rouge?” He asked like a cop.
“Ya Pal.” I answered wearily but I knew that wasn’t why he was there. He wanted information. Info he knew I had.
I told him the whole story just like I wrote it down here...more or less...
We were both sure Fingers........ or his Uncle had snuffed out One Eyed Pete, but knowing ain’t proof enough to make a solid collar. Gil would have to scrape up some hard evidence....
I don’t do murders though it seems that a lot of times I get caught up in the middle of them when I’m on a case.
Well. In the end, all that matters is, Penelopy Cushby got her locket back and I got five hundred for my efforts out of it and, if you remember, I got the reward for finding the diamond brooch. For once, at least for a while I got caught up on my bills.
Oh yah I forgot to mention. No one has seen Penelopy Cushby since she got her locket back...Curious....