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The front seat of my car is dusty from disuse but she starts on the first try. Good to know that something I own is reliable. I notice that the streets still look fresh from last night's rain as I cross town.
I slow down to a crawl when I reach the outskirts of the city where developers have swallowed the land to bring us all affordable tract houses. The houses all look exactly alike, except the shutters are different colors. I pass the house on my first drive-by but catch it once I've turned around. The place looks normal enough.
I pull up to the curb and study the area for signs of life. The grass is a little too tall and the flowers are just beginning to wilt. The newspaper rests on the edge of the tiny patio. That's a good sign that no one is home at this time of day. I glance around briefly to see if anyone is looking my way before I stroll over and open the mailbox. Hopefully anyone watching will think I have every right to be here.
The mailbox is empty. Of course, it couldn't be easy. I step to the patio and ring the bell while trying to look between the slats in the blinds on the window by the door. No answer. I slowly count to thirty then try again, leaning on the bell for a full ten seconds. Satisfied that I won't be interrupted, I whip out my trusty set of lockpicks and work on the single deadbolt. The lock opens as easy as if I had said 'Open Sesame'...I cut that thought short as the burglar alarm screeches loudly.
I curse as I quickly make for the car, hoping that I haven't drawn too much attention. God that was close! I should have checked for some sign of a system. But who the heck installs an expensive alarm on a house that costs less than $16,000 simoleons? I have more questions now than I did before that little adventure and my mouth is dry. Time for a stop at Roy's.
Roy's is a dive bar about a block away from my office. I've spent so much time in there lately that Roy's started joking that he's going to charge me rent. The place is more than half empty so I have my choice in seating. I pick a booth in the corner and Roy nods as I enter the bar, calling out "the usual?"
"Not this time Roy, I'm working." I say as I slide into the booth. His eyebrows go up but he doesn't comment. That's one of the reasons I like Roy, he minds his own business. Darla, the one and only waitress, wanders over as soon as I sit down. She wears too much makeup, talks too fast and a couple of years ago one of the rowdy cowboy types called her Darlin' Darla and the nickname stuck.
"You're not drinking?" she asks. "I never thought I'd see the day."
"Got a case," I explain as I pull the picture from my wallet. I hand it to Darla and ask, "Have you ever seen this woman?" Darla looks at the photo then places it face down on the table.
"She's been on the news," she says, pointing towards the big screen TV over the bar. "That hunky looking news anchor, Skip Trace, said they found her body yesterday afternoon down by Wilson's Cove."
"Her body? She's dead?" I must look as stunned as I feel because Darla pats me on the shoulder and says, "I guess that's what it means when they find a body. I thought you'd know all about that, being a detective. They said it looked like she'd been dead for a couple of days..." Darla's still talking but I've tuned her out.
I pick up the picture and look at this beautiful stranger while the word 'dead' circles in my brain. I should be feeling relieved. I don't have to try and find her anymore - she's been found, case closed.
But this doesn't feel right. There's too much left unexplained, such as who broke into my office last night, and why ask me to find her if she's already dead? Surely her husband would have been notified long before he had time to sneak into my office. Two men in cheap suits step through the door and Roy calls out, "Help you, Officers?" Roy can spot a cop the way a cop can spot a doughnut.
They ignore him and come straight to my booth. I know them both. You meet a lot of police officers in my line of work. Jake Crowley, tall and skinny, and Sam King, older and not so skinny. Darla recognizes them too and makes herself scarce. The arrival of the police makes alarm bells clang in my head louder than the burglar alarm I set off this morning. Sam watches the rest of the patrons for signs of trouble while Jake stares hard at me and says, "You want to tell us what you were up to this morning?"
I can stall for time, hoping they don't already know about my little breaking and entering mishap, which is unlikely since they are here, or I can tell them the whole story...
Bridgeport Blues - Chapter Two
Sep 23, 2011 by Degera
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