Chapter 3: The Curious Predicament of the Lady of the Night Time

Roused from the Slumber
A Charlie Hyde Adventure

 

by R.D. Kenney

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Chapter 3: The Curious Predicament of the Lady of the Night Time

It was all around good news. Not only had my call-girl been found in record time, but it was dubious, little Madigan who had made the find. When he found my suspect, two little figures must have appeared, one each epaulet: an angel and a devil.  The little devil told him to call into the office, follow protocol, report his findings, and then initiate an interview, and even possibly carry out an arrest on this woman. The little angel must have reminded him that Charlie Hyde had given explicit instructions that no one was to talk with this witness before he had a chance to. Luckily the angel won the day. And it was a good reminder to me as well – it’s never healthy to have a stagnant opinion of people, even little shits like Maddigan. Yes, besides the murder itself, things were going just the way they should.

Maddigan had tracked the hooker to some hojo-lounge called Donkey Joe’s about ten miles out the north side of town, but I had to stop at the station first to get this little voodoo piece into evidence before anyone realized that it was gone.

I parked next door at the library so that my car wouldn’t be seen in the lot and crossed the well-kept lawn over to the station. Standing outside the glass doors, I waved my hand to Bert at the front desk, who looked around and gave me the thumbs up.

There is a meeting room that looks out onto the lobby and the captain was in there, so Bert motioned that I should step lively and get to cover as quick as I could. Standing beside his desk, a fake decorative tree between the chief and me, I said, “Howdy Bert. I gotta make this quick. Could I borrow the keys to the evidence locker?”

“Sure thing, haus.” Bert said, opening the drawer. “What are you picking up?”

“Just dropping off today, a little something I borrowed from the crime scene this morning.”

“Well” Bert said, “I think you’ll have a little time. The chief just went into a meeting, but hurry up. We’ve all been given a warning about associating with you.” The old soldier rubbed a hand wearily across his brow, “Things sure were easier when Hannigan was running things. There wasn’t all this sneaking around. It’s an unhealthy way to run a police station. Why did he have to retire?”

“The man is seventy-eight years old and half blind, Bert. Still, he could still run the show better than humpty-dumpty in there. Have you heard from the general lately?”

“Sure have. Went fishing with him the other weekend. You should come along next time.”

“Love to. Alright, I’m gonna get this down to evidence and be out of here before anyone’s the wiser. Don’t want to get you in trouble. If the chief starts heading to cut me off, fire a warning shot or pull the fire alarm or something.”

A few officers spotted and waved at me as I hurried down the hall, but I made it clear that I had no time for a chin-wag. The old evidence room had the same old smell and a rush of nostalgia took hold of me. Funny, no matter how many different chemicals and specimens and weapons came and went from this room, it still held on to same old smell. And it was a unique smell, like a person’s. I’ve been to many evidence rooms in my time, and I’d know this one blindfolded.

Anyway, I didn’t want the voodoo piece to be found where it should be, just in case someone had already been looking for it, so I put it the sleeve of the blue jumpsuit, and locking the door behind me, headed back up.

I wasn’t concerned about being seen now, and stood in plain view in the lobby. Tossing him the keys, I said, “Well, Bert, you let me know the next time you’re out fishing with Hannigan, and I’ll bring the beers. Say, who is the chief in a meeting with anyways?”

He made the memory failure sound and looked at a sign in pad in front of him. “Looks to be a May and Dakota Ghiradelli. They were called over to the hospital to identify the body. When they found out that it wasn’t the one they’ve been looking for, they weren’t too happy about it and came straight over here.”

“Hot damn!” I said, buttoning my top button and tightening my tie. “Sorry, pard, I’m gonna have to go ahead and invite myself into that meeting.”

Bert just shrugged, “Ah well. Go on ahead.”

I could see him sitting there, but he didn’t look up to see me. He was too busy clumsily trying to explain something to the two people who sat at the large meeting table with their backs turned to me.

Foster “the clown” Tompkins – whoever elected him to chief of police had a lot to answer for. I’ve been told that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Well, Tompkins is the exception that proves the rule, I guess, because he looked like the buffoon that he was.

I was closer now and could hear one of the two Ghiradellis making angry remarks at the captain. Suddenly Tompkins looked up and just as his eyes started to widen, I opened the door.

“Sorry I’m late. Detective Hyde.” I said, turning my back quickly to the chief to shake the Ghiradellis’ hands. “Let me assure you that we are doing everything we can to locate Tony, and just to put your mind at ease, I assure you that chief Tompkins here will have very little to do with the actual investigation.”

Sever times before, I had tried to contact the next of kin in the Ghiradelli case and failed. This was my chance to ask a few questions, and I was counting on the chief’s reluctance to make his department seem like a circus in order to get a few important questions in. “First, I need to ask if Tony was involved with any occult activity. You know, any heavy-metal, devil worship sort of stuff.”

It was the girl, May, who spoke first. “Who knows what that idiot was in to. He did have a big tattoo of a skull on his back, I guess.” Then the fella chimed in, “Yeah, it was sweet too. It had flames all around it and a rebel flag hanging out of its mouth.”

I didn’t want to let on that I’d read all this in the police report in front of the chief, so I just nodded and continued. “Yeah, but did he have any friends or gang members that might be useful to contact? Anyone who might help us figure this whole mess out?”

I remember that in the notes they had deferred this question, and it would save a lot of legwork of I could get a name. But, true to form, Tompkins chose this moment to develop a few vertebrae and interrupt the interrogation.

“Mr. Hyde isn’t actually involved in this case.”

The two family members stared me with dumb, hesitant faces. “What chief Tompkins means is…” but he cut me off.

“What I mean is that Mr. Hyde here is not officially connected with this case, and so he should not be in this meeting.”

The two Ghiradellis were now beyond confused (great job, Tompkins) and one of them asked me, “Well, then…who are you?”

“Like I said, mam, I’m Detective Hyde, and I’m just here to help find poor Tony.”

“He’s a private detective, what we call an OPI – officious private investigator.” Thompkins added and was going to say something else but was Dakota Ghiradelli, who seemed to be at least trying to put some of the pieces together, chimed in “Wait a minute, so, who hired you then?”

“Yes, Mr. Hyde,” Thompkins said, and I could feel his breath on the side of my face, “I was wondering that as well. Who has engaged your services as a private detective?” Tompkins had moved over to stand beside me, but I did not look over at him.

May Ghiradelli still looked confused enough, so I took her hand. “I assure you, miss, that I am going to do everything in my power to find your…Tony.” I wanted to insert an endearing term to remind her of the family bond, but I couldn’t remember how these folks were connected. Their trailer-park life styles had taken a toll so that the age of either was impossible to determine – the missing person could be a brother or a son or even a father.

“Mr. Hyde, I think you should leave now,” the police chief said opening the door. Even his little mustache had turned rotten-cherry red by this point. Luckily, his un-policemanlike sense of decorum and dignity prevented him from handling the situation well.

Dakota looked as though his entire conception of reality had been challenged, and he wanted to grasp at a few more straws, saying “Wait, wait, wait, but who’s paying you.”

“Don’t you worry, son,” I said, putting my hat back on, “I only work on commission.”

Tompkins, I think, would have followed me out for a few words, but the confusing situation he created became too much for May and she started screaming at him the instant my calming presence was absent from the room.

“What kind of game are you playing here! You call us down to look at a dead body we don’t even know and then…” and on and on. The sordid, complex world of crime is just too much for some people. You who can blame her? Dealing with the incompetence of that man, it’s a wonder she didn’t lose her rag long before now.

“Say Bert,” I said while walking towards the door, “when those two jokers leave, tell them that there might be some sort of consolation check coming to them in the mail for their time that was wasted today. And have them write down their address. They put down a fake one in their statement.”

“Will do, boss.” Bert said, making a note to himself.

It would have been fun to stick around and hear Thompkins try to regain control of the Ghiradellis, but I’m not the sort of man to keep a lady waiting.

***

Like an idiot, Madigan was sitting in his squad car outside of Donkey Joe’s. I walked up to the window from behind, and he jumped when I knocked on the window. “Do you know how fast you were going?” I said, but he didn’t look happy.

Devil his due, the man had been waiting out in a parking lot on my instructions for the past two and a half hours, so I decided not to chide him. “Great job, Leroy. You’re sure she’s still in there?”

“I think I would have noticed if she left.” He said with no improvement in his demeanor. “She’s hard to miss.”

“Damn, you’re quick, a little too quick, I’d say. In, fact, I’ve never heard of someone finding a perp so fast. What’s your secret?”

“Just good police work. Not being a policeman, you wouldn’t know.” He didn’t like the look I gave him, so continued. “They already had a number and a name right after you left. I went to her place, and her kid gave me the number she was supposed to call in an emergency.”

“Her kid?” I said.

“Yeah, cute little girl. Sad though, she was all alone. And someone should have a talk with her about letting strangers in the house. But anyway, I called the number and the barman at this dump picked up.”

“How do you know she’s in there?”

“Took a picture of her off the fridge, and sure enough she just happened to be standing out having a smoke when I pulled in.” He handed me the picture. “She’s been out at least fifty more times since then, got blue hair now, but it’s her.”

Whistling while I looked at the picture, I said, “Quite a looker, ain’t she? Now, how’s a sweet little girl like this mixed up in a creepy murder?”

Madigan scoffed, “Don’t look so sweet to me. Ain’t nothing sweet about leaving your kid all alone to go out and pull tricks.”

“Judge not, Leroy. Judge not. Anyway, what’s her name.”

“Well, her real name is Chasey Danes, who knows what she calls herself in there.”

“Miss Chasey Danes” I repeated slowly, “got a ring to it, that it does. Alright give me your badge.”

Madigan balked in amazement. “I can’t give you my badge.”

There was no plea in my voice, I simply went on as though the conclusion to the conversation was inevitable. “Hand over the badge, Leroy. I might need it.”

“You’re not getting my badge.” He persisted.

Leaning down to the window, I said, “Look, Leroy, you don’t like it here, do ya? The boys all talk shit about you behind your back. No one has any respect for ya. You try to play teacher’s pet with the chief, but you know in your heart that it’ll never get you nowhere. Listen, you’ve done a great job today, and you’re gonna end this day by bringing in a suspect in record time. And I’m gonna end the day out at the Wild Hog Saloon telling the boys how you did me a solid, and how they shouldn’t be so hard on you, and that they should give you another chance. But in order for us to get to that pleasant future, you need to lend me that badge. I promise I’ll only use it if I have to, and if, for some reason, things go the wrong way in there, I’ll say that I stole it – you know I will.”

He did not hesitate for very long. “You hang tight. I shouldn’t be too long.”

Putting the badge in my pocket, I walked up to the doors of Donkey Joe’s public house to meet the lovely Chasey Danes.

***

Donkey Joe’s was a dump.

There was actually a pretty healthy crowd, everything from ties to overalls. But I spied her right away. She was at the far end of the bar by the jukebox dancing by herself. The old clunker was playing AC/DC, but she clearly had a Ryan Adams playing in her head. She was like a little lava lamp in a dark room, hard to take your eyes off. The blue wig she had on was disheveled, which made it hard to see the face, but the way she swayed her hips gave her away as the classiest dame in this joint.

“Howdy, mam. I think the next round’s on me.” I said, getting ready to read her face once the blue hair was cleared away.

“Well don’t you sound like a proper gentleman, cowboy” she said, putting a little tug on the last syllable to set the hook.

When her face emerged from those tacky strands of neon blue, I felt like the fisherman who expected a sunny and pulled up a gator.

What I was confronted with was pure slice of summer day, smiling like the world was just a lazy river made for me float down. She had those rare lemon-smiling eyes that can make a king leave his country and that seem to make God smile, his work to see.

This was the most dangerous type of hooker. Heading out on your nightly rounds, you might think the most dangerous types are the ones that look like they are going to slit your throat as soon as you fall asleep, but they ain’t. Naw, they’re just the ones that look like what all the other ones are thinking. Those ones are just the Bull Sharks – still dangerous, but admirable for their sincerity. The Tigers are the ones that look unattainable. They disrupt the hierarchy of the situation and make you feel like you’re working for them. The real Great Whites of the night are the ones like this, the ones that make you think of better times, when you and the world weren’t so bad. It’s disingenuity at its finest. Makes you think for a second that it’s not all a game.

“It’s been a long day, darling. Why don’t you tell me your drink and go find us a table.”

“Sure thing, daddy.” She must have mistaken me for one of those pervert types interested in role playing. “Mine’s a long-island.”

She turned and sashayed off, swaying her hips to a rhythm that defied the jukebox. I got her drink and an old fashioned (made with grenadine and some sort of orange juice substitute), then found her in the dark corner table that she picked out.

“You’re hair makes you easy to find.” I said, putting the drink in front of her, “Natural or dyed.”

She just winked and took a sip from the straw. Smacking her lips after, she asked for my name. Her passing up of an easy dirty joke made me like her all the more.

“My name is Hyde, darlin’, Charlie Hyde. What’s yours?”

“Lillie” She said. Pretty name to pick.

“Really?” I said. “Someone told me it was Chasey.”

She choked on her drink, which made me like her even more.

“Sorry, darling, but I’ve got some bad news for ya. No, don’t get up. It would be the worst decision you made this week, and you’ve made some bad ones.”

“You a cop?”

“No, mam”

“Did Big Joe send you?”

“Big Joe? Oh, you mean Donkey Joe? He your pimp?”

“Yeah, but he hates being called Donkey.”

“Funny thing to name his bar, then.” I took a look around at the sorry excuse for a saloon and felt I had a pretty good idea what this Joe fella was like. She started to explain how Donkey Joe and his nickname had a falling out, but I cut her off  “Now listen, Miss Danes, I ain’t affiliated with the police or this Donkey fella.’ I’m a private investigator who doesn’t want you to get railroaded if you had nothing to do with what happened the other night. Okay? Now, you shoot straight with me and I’m gonna look after you.”

She nodded, all pretext of her professional demeanor dropped, or seemingly so. You never know with Great Whites.

“Now, let’s go over your story first. Tell me what happened.”

“Well,” she said after another sip of courage and an innocent bite of the lip, “you see, things hadn’t been great for a while, but I thought it was getting better. He’d always been a kind of quiet, tough guy, but I thought once we settled down a bit, he’d open up, you know. He was even starting to consider the idea of marriage. But then, about four months ago, Frankie just up and left, no note or nothing. All he left was the…”

“Wait, wait. Not your life story. I want to know about the body you found.”

“Oh, that story. Right. Well, some fella took me out there, is all. And then he ran off when we saw the body.”

“Right. And what did this fella look like.”

She looked up and to the left while she was thinking. Not a good sign. “I guess he was just a normal looking guy. Oh yea, he had a motorcycle helmet on, so I couldn’t see his face. Didn’t have any distinguishing features or anything. Just wearing a grey t-shirt and jeans. I wasn’t really paying attention. I suppose the shock of it all has made my memory a bit fuzzy.”

“Did he pick you up from here?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“And you let him drive you out to an abandoned warehouse?”

“Well, it’s a dangerous job, you know. And…”

“Nah, nah, nah,” I said leaning back in my chair, “That ain’t gonna fly. Listen, if that’s how you wanna play this game, all I can say is ‘best of luck to ya.’ The bull you just told me is the story of an accomplice, and not a particularly good one.”

She teared up. “What do you want me to say?”

“First of all, I don’t care how green you are; I don’t believe you just followed some creep into an abandoned building in the middle of the night. You sound like you’re protecting someone, and that’s how the police are going to read it too. And if you did have something to do with this, I’m going to walk out of here and let the law take you. But if you didn’t, if you’re as innocent as you look, then I can help you. But lie to me again, and you’re on your own.”

“Alright, alright. I am protecting someone.”

Damn it. This was bad. In the back of my head I was hoping that it wouldn’t play out like this, even though it was the most predictable way. Ah, well.

“Who is he?” I said, taking out my little notebook.

“It’s a she. It’s my daughter.”

“Your daughter!” this time I almost choked on my drink, and not just because of its vile taste. “You bring your daughter to old buildings at night?”

“No, silly, we were there earlier that day. You see, daddy used to work there. Brings back a lot of memories for me, so me and Fionna went out there for a picnic. I was bringing her up to see daddies old office when I saw the guy laying there. Luckily, she was behind me on the stairs and didn’t see anything.”

“Why didn’t you just say that.”

“I didn’t want my daughter to be called in. Mr. Hyde, I don’t want them to take my daughter away.”

Whew, alright. We could work with this.

“Ms. Danes, you are one lucky lady. OK, here’s what you’re going to do – we’re gonna have a little chat and then you’re going to get up and walk out of here with me. There’s a cop in the parking lot that’s going to take you in for questioning. At the station, you don’t make up anything, got me. Tell them exactly what happened. It’s OK that your story is a bit strange. What they are looking for is changes in your story or things that don’t add up. Tell them your daddy’s name, and they are going to check to see if he was an employee. Tell them your daughter was there too…”

She started to protest, but I kept on.

“Don’t say that you were afraid that they were going to take her away, only that you were embarrassed for taking her to such a dangerous place. Oh yeah, here.” I slid my little notebook across the table to her, “Write down your address.”

She wrote down the address without asking why – which made me like her even more.

I looked at what she’d written down and then put the notepad in my pocket.

That was about all I could think of to prep her, any more and she might start making mistakes.

“Whew,” I said, after taking another sip. “little sister, you had me worried there for a minute. I thought you were covering for someone.”

“That would have made it easier to find out who did it, I suppose.” She said, shrugging.

The observation caught me off guard. “Yeah, I suppose it would have. You know, for someone who talks to strangers, you’re pretty savvy.”

“Sometimes you just know who you can trust, you know.” She said with a little wink that could lash the sense out of any man.

It made me laugh. “If you think you can trust anyone, you are in the wrong line of work, Ms. Danes.” I said, standing up. “I feel like I’m teaching you bad habits.”

She stood up and held out her arm in an arrow pointing at me, waiting to link with mine. “I’m ready to roll the dice if you are, Mr. Hyde.”

We walked out of Donkey Jones arm-in-arm, and Madigan waited until I got close enough to see him to roll his eyes.

“Officer Madigan, I remand into your custody Miss Chasey Danes. Her babysitter gets off at seven, so make sure she’s home by then.”

“She ain’t got a babysitter,” said Madigan indignantly.

“Sure she does,” I nodded at Chasey and locked eyes with her, “his name is Brennan, right?”

She nodded and Madigan protested. “I was there earlier. She ain’t got a babysitter.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t go around spouting lies like that, Leroy. When she says that Brennan is at her house and they go there and find Brennan, whose gonna say he’s been there all day, they’re going to think you’re a fool.” I smiled and turned again to Chasey, “And you said the little angel’s name is Fionna, didn’t you?”

“That’s right.” She said, nodding, “and, and I think Brennan should be there with her.”

“Well, there you go. Probably not even worth mentioning.” After telling Chasey to mind her head and putting her in the back of the squad, I motioned to Madigan that I wanted to say something to him in private.

We walked away from the car. I needed to make him feel like he was part of the team, so I decided to talk some aspects of the case out with him.

When we were a little distance from the car, I adopted a tone as though I was taking him into my confidence. “She didn’t do it and she doesn’t know who did.”

“You don’t know that,” he barked back.

“Well, find out what you can. But if she didn’t we’ve got a problem. See, this whole thing makes sense if someone brought her out there to find the body. Otherwise, it could have been there for months. And what’s the point of doing a murder like that unless it’s meant to be found?”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Madigan was trying hard to sound like a real detective. “Murderers usually don’t want the body found. Why would you want the body found?”

“I haven’t figured that out yet, Madigan. But I’m sure whoever did this wanted us to find him. Ask the boys at the station if there was any funny reports or anything. Will you do that for me?”

He grunted and walked away, leaving me alone. I picked up my phone and dialed a number.

“Mrs. McTae? How are you Maggie? Listen I need one of the boys to do me a favor. No, no, I need one of the kids. Is Brennan there? He isn’t. Damn. OK, well I need one of the other ones watch after a little girl for a few hours, like babysitting.” Taking out my notepad, I read the address Chasey had written down, “I need him to go to apartment 210, 238 Charwood Lane. Got that? Well, grab something to write this down. Yeah, apartment 210, 238 Charwood Lane. That’s right. There’s thirty bucks in it for him. And tell him that if the cops show up, his name is Brennan, got that? You’re a star.”

 

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