The Case. Part 5.

The next installment of ‘The Case of the Missing Councilman’ by Amanda Hester.

-9-

 

After eating a shoddy breakfast and leaving a voicemail for Sam Daniels, Sydney headed back to the office.  He called Sally to come over and let him in.  She looked tired and grumpy, and was clearly displeased at having been called in on her day off.  But she didn’t put up a fight when he asked for a list of the Councilman’s appointments.  She found him what he wanted, handed him the keys to lock up, and left.  Her mouth and eyes pouted at him angry and abused and once again he couldn’t help smiling as he watched her walk away.

The rest of the morning, and most of the day, was spent making phone calls and chasing down appointments.  Most of it was a bust, but after bribing a buddy of his who worked at the shipyard he was able to find the container number for a shipment of steel the Councilman had signed through customs that was coming in on Thursday.  It was Saturday, and he and his buddy were in the ship yard alone.

“They open the containers when they come in?” Sydney asked as they walked back to the parking lot.

“Not always.  Yours won’t be, been cleared through customs already, got a rush on it.  Guess they need it for some construction job that’s on a deadline or something out in Fall River. I don’t know. . . Why?” His buddy eyed him strangely.

“No reason. . . Don’t go lookin into it though, okay?”

“Yeah, sure Syd.  I’ll give you a call if there’s anything . . . you know, strange.  Give my best to your sister hey?”

“Thanks. . . and yeah I’ll tell her ‘hi’.”  His buddy smiled like an idiot and got into his car. He drove away.  Sydney smoked looking out at the containers and the harbour behind them.  He hadn’t spoken to his sister in years; he didn’t plan on doing so any time soon.  She lived with her family in Winnipeg and thought he was a drunk.  He thought she was a stuck up whore. He grimaced, put his cigarette out, and drove up-town.  Chris’s car kept stalling because of the cold.  Sydney exhaled heavily, hating the world.

By the time he met with Samantha Daniels that evening he had gone through most of the $500, minus his fee, and he told her so.

“I figured as much,” she demurred, and handed him another envelope.  It was heavier than the first had been. Sydney didn’t comment, he put it away and flipped open his note pad.

“So there were a couple appointments Daniels didn’t make on Tuesday, from what I can tell he didn’t go into the office that day, and it is definite that no one has seen him since.”

“What about that Shields girl?” She asked in a biting tone.

“Nope.  Not from what I can find.  It’s sure she doesn’t know where he is now.”  He watched her reaction.  “Jealous?” He asked.

“Don’t be absurd!” She tossed her hair.  “So what now, do you think I should go to the police?” Her eyes flickered and she sipped at her martini.

“Nah, I’d wait out the weekend.  I’m guessing he was involved in a smuggling operation with one of the tougher gangs in the Province.  Probably one of them killed him, but I don’t know why yet.  I’d say hang tight.  Monday’ll be soon enough to go to the cops. . . Did you know anything about it?”  He looked at her face, it had no expression.

“You mean the smuggling?”

“Yeah, or the gang.”

There was a moment of pause between them as they sat looking at each other.  Samantha Daniels finished her martini.

“I had no idea.  I suspected something, but I had no idea it was that.  I figured he had just gotten carried away with that tramp from his office.  It wouldn’t have been the first time. But no, I didn’t know he’d . . . fallen so far.  It is surprising to say the least.”

She didn’t seem surprised, but then Sydney figured, maybe she wouldn’t.

“You know why he might do something like that? Were you having money troubles?” He asked casually.  He knew the answer; he’d already seen the files at the office. But he wanted to see what she would say.

We weren’t, but perhaps he was.  We have separate finances.  If he was having trouble it is probable he wouldn’t tell me about it.  Inferiority complex!  He has always been . . . sensitive to the differences in our level of competence.”  Her voice was cool, truthful.  She ordered another drink.

“Why didn’t you get a divorce?” Sydney knew the answer.

“How vulgar! Please!  We discussed it a few months ago, I would of course have been happy to oblige him in such foolishness.  However I pointed out to him what an ugly spectacle that would make of both our lives.  He understood and the topic was dropped.  Besides, he depends on me entirely.  It was merely drama.  I am afraid that my husband is in truth a fairly stupid man.”  She drank her second martini in one. “But, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to find him detective Wolfe, or that I don’t care enough to make sure that he is safe and well.”

Leaving money on the table she got up to go.

“Let me know what you discover.  I shall wait to go to the police until you have advised me.  Good evening.”  She did not look backward as she left.  Sydney finished his drink and watched her go.

 

-10-

 

Sydney went home to eat dinner and drink.  Around 1030 he went out again to a posh bar up-town to drink some more.  He found Tyler Grey sitting in a corner with some people and sat down nearby to ignore him.  He drank fast with his head down and wished that he could smoke.  After twenty minutes Tyler came over, he looked excited.

“Heya Wolfe, let me buy you a drink.” He put his arm around the detective like they were old friends.

“Yeah sure.  How you figure we’re so chummy all of a sudden?” He hoped he didn’t look smug.  They got their drinks and Grey slipped onto the stool beside him.

“I hear Daniels is missing.” Grey looked at him expectantly, like a kid at a toy store.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, I found out last night after talkin to you.  Got back to the party and everyone was talking about it.  Common Syd, you wouldn’t hold out on your old friend.” He grinned.  His face made Sydney want to punch it.

“I guess he might be.  Why’d the mill say he was?” He ordered another drink, on Grey. They both had one.

“Well, actually I’ve been doing some detecting of my own since then, spoke with Jenny Brooks over drinks at the after party.  She knew all about it.  You know her?”  The kid was smug and Sydney wanted to hit him even more.  Instead he shrugged.

Jenny Brooks was the city’s society gossip and busy body.  Sydney didn’t know her personally, but he knew of her.  He figured she probably did know all about everything, although she seemed to have sense enough not to tell all that she knew.

“What did she say it was?” He asked, pretending not to be interested.

“Coke and extortion is what she figures.  Although, I can’t believe he would be embezzling anything, he worked with city contracts so he had access to the funds, but he didn’t have the brains for it, and he never asked me for any help.”

“Not that you would have condoned it if he had, right? Cuz’ you’re all on the up an up, right?”  Grey just laughed.  He was enjoying himself.  His friends called over to him from the corner.

“That’s right Wolfey, strictly legit. Well anyway, what do you think is going on? What were all those questions about the other night, you think maybe he was embezzling after all? . . . Yeah! Just a minute.” He called back to the corner.

“Yeah maybe, or maybe he just went on a vacation to get away from it all.”

Grey eyed him suspiciously but was tight enough not to care too much.  He shrugged, then smiled, and winked, and gave him the old punch on the arm; Sydney ground his teeth.  The kid stumbled back to his table to make up a story full of intrigue. Sydney finished his drink, got up, and left.

He had returned Chris’s car after his meet with Mrs Daniels so he hailed a cab to take him to The Can.  It was a little after midnight and he knew Ginger would be there playing cards.  He had the cab drop him a block away so that he could approach on foot; he needed the air and exercise to clear his head.

Halfway there he heard two gunshots and the wheels of a car screech. A moment later an old grey sedan flew past him with two men in it.  One was the young thug from the night before.

Sally Turner was slumped against the side of the bar.  A cigarette still burned between the fingers of her hand.  Her face was relaxed and stared into a patch of snow that had withstood the rain.  She had on a red dress and heels, and her lips were a different shade then they had been that morning. They no longer pouted.  They would never again pout, or sneer, or smile.  Sydney looked at her and his look was hard and cold.  There were two holes in the fabric of her dress, and a dark stain had begun to paint the ground.  A few people had come outside; they stood at a distance and looked at the detective.  He sighed heavily and walked past her into the bar.

“Someone should call the cops.” He said, stepping past the bus-boy who gawked in the doorway.

The cops came and took her away.  He knew the two guys who went around asking questions from back in the day.  They didn’t get any helpful answers; this wasn’t the crowd for that.  It made them aggressive, and that made their ‘witnesses’ even less cooperative.

Sydney sat at the bar drinking.  He decided to punch them if they asked him anything, which would get him arrested and probably beat up.  It would be worth it.  He drank some more.

Either the cops didn’t think anything he had to say would be worth hearing, or else they didn’t want to deal with the paper-work.  They ignored him, finished asking questions and finally left.  Feeling belligerent and reckless Sydney ordered another drink and went into the back room to speak with Ginger, no body tried to stop him.

 

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