Sydney Wolfe sat chewing his lip. Martha came over and poured him some more coffee. He looked at his notes and thought. Finally he left some money on the table and got up to leave. He had a brown wool overcoat hanging by the door and a hat, the kind men wore when his father was young. It had belonged to his grandfather and was about as old and worn as the overcoat it didn’t match. He put both on and turned his collar up against the cold as he waited for a taxi to take him to a bar full of criminals down on the waterfront, next to the stockyard. He rubbed his face with one hand and spit onto the sidewalk, then bummed a cigarette from one of the punk kids who hung around outside the diner and put it away in his pocket as the cab pulled up.
‘The Can’ was a dive where the liquor was cheap and the clientele disagreeable. You went there mostly for drugs and information, nobody bothered you unless you asked them to, and the pool tables were free. As he walked in, the bartender greeted him with a small nod and poured him a shot of bourbon. The Can didn’t serve anything but hard liquor and cheap beer, their bourbon was alright though.
“Heya Syd, been a while. How’s tricks?”
“Good enough. Digs around?”
“Yeah, in the back. Don’t starts any trouble though, if you’re gonna shoot him you take it outside. Alright?”
“Yeah sure. You know of a girl named Shields?”
“Nah. Who’s she?”
“No one. Thanks”
Leaving money on the counter he took his drink over to a shut door in a far corner, knocked a few times then went inside.
The back room was dimly lit and full of smoke. Three tables were set up around the room where people sat drinking and playing cards. Some of the men in the room looked up as Sydney entered, some didn’t. Looking around, the detective found his man and headed over to the far table where he dropped some money and sat down. He played two hands before Digs spoke to him.
“So what is it you want this time Wolfe? You still saying as I owe you something? Cuz I don’t owe you shit!”
Digs Murphy was a tall well built black man who ran drugs back and forth across the border; he had a cousin in Maine and liked to sleep with the girls who worked the Yarmouth Ferry. Mostly he was a middle man. He did a solid business without any ambition to better, and so he never got left outside when it rained. Back when Detective Sergeant Sydney Wolfe didn’t drink Bourbon and still had a badge, Digs was just a young kid using his pretty voice to keep him out of prison. These days cops and crooks alike would tell you ‘Digs don’t sing; not any more’, but that didn’t mean he didn’t still have the goods.
Word on the street was: the last time Digs had seen Wolfe he’d put two bullets in him; and that maybe the washed out detective was interested in a little pay back. Word had also gone around that maybe Digs owed Wolfe two large for a favour he’d done him a few years back. Either way, word on the street was wrong. What had really happened was that Wolfe had caught some lead while covering for Digs and had won $100 dollars off of him later that night in a disputed card game. Reality being rarely so glamorous as rumour.
Wolfe began to smoke; hardly looking at his cards, but bidding like he had. He took the next hand before he replied.
“Yeah well, maybe you do, and maybe you don’t. I’ll tell you what though, answer me a question, and maybe buy me a drink, and we’ll call it even.”
The black man considered this while he lost the hand.
“Well, I don’t know that I like playin cards with you gumshoe. But yeah, okay. Sammy! Get this guy another drink, we’re gonna go over to the corner and smoke.”
While Sammy went to get drinks the two men left their cards and went into a corner where the men in the room moved aside to let them be. Sammy came in with their drinks and left them to it. Wolfe smoked the black man’s cigarettes like they were his own, putting the butts in his pocket, and Digs didn’t mind.
“So whaddya want?” The young man asked, leaning against the wall and looking handsome.
“I need some information for a case. What do you know about a girl named Sally Shields? Been running around up-town with a Councilman, probably into drugs. . . Councilman Daniels, but you didn’t hear the name from me.”
“Yeah, maybe I’ve seen her. Not always around here, but up town like you say. She’s into coke and maybe something more. Wrong name though, she’s Sally Turner, daughter of Tiny Turner, you remember, that gun runner from out in Glace Bay. Word is she’s in Ginger’s gang and that they’ve got some big business coming into harbour from overseas, next week maybe, couldn’t say. I don’t know about any Councilman, but it might still be her. She’s cleaned up real nice and pretty to see ever since she got out of goal last spring. That’s about all I know, which is why I’m tellin you any of it. Now how about you skip off!”
Sydney Wolfe nodded and took a few more cigarettes to keep in his pocket. He finished his drink, put on his hat, and left the bar.
The cab dropped the detective off at a small but well lit bachelor on North St. A red cat met him at the door. He picked it up and it purred, getting hairs on his corduroy. Sydney sat down at a small table, poured himself a glass of scotch and spread his notes out before him; those he had taken in the diner, as well as those he had just finished writing on the cab ride home from The Can. He smoked the cigarettes he’d taken from Digs as he looked at the pieces of paper that lay on the table. After a while he left them as they were, to talk amongst themselves maybe sort themselves out a bit. He took his drink over to the couch that doubled as his bed and put a record on repeat, hoping to sleep for maybe an hour or two.
He woke more than two hours later to banging at his door, and opened it on a small shifty criminal named Simon that he knew from around—the man used to be a rat back before the force and Sydney’s drinking had had their little disagreement. Wolfe didn’t like the man, never had.
“Whaddya say Syd? Long time.” The dirty little man had shifty eyes and a nervous tick that never went away.
“Sure. What do you want Simon?” Wolfe kept his body in the doorway so that the man couldn’t see or get into the apartment.
“Say, you gotta drink for an ol’pal?”
“Awe common man, whaddya gotta be that way for? We go back don’t we?”
“Sure. What do you want Simon?”
“Oh alright, suit yourself, I don’t care. Stuck up, washed out, dick. . . Digs sent me to give you this.” The man hesitated and then handed him a folded up piece of dirty paper with writing on it. “Digs said as you’ld at least give me a drink for my trouble.” He whined.
“Yeah well, thanks for the message. Digs was wrong, but I’ll give you something more if you don’t hit it.” Wolfe took the piece of paper and glowered with some menace at the irritating man.
“Awe common now Syd. Geez. You’re gonna be sorry one of these days that you treat people so raw.”
“What, you threatening me Simon?”
“No! common Syd, nah I’m just sayin as, you catch more flies with honey an all that. Alright, alright, I’m goin. Geezus!” The man shuffled away quickly and grumbling; his ticks jumping all over the place.
Sydney went back over to his table and the puzzle of notes that he’d left there, to read the message from Digs. It was written tidy and clear, it said:
Turner bird and Ginger came in a little after you left. Had a row, real scene. She’s not too pleased with the way things are going (however that is). He shut her up real nice. She left, he stuck around. Cards and not much chatter. I didn’t mention as you’ld been around.
You owe me two now. Don’t forget it.
It was getting on 430-5p and Sydney figured it was about time he headed up town to the Councilman’s offices. Putting on his overcoat and hat he went out and grabbed a cab. It was grey and raining, it often was.
Stay tuned for next weeks post of part 3!