This story contains sexually explicit scenes.
It was 10:48 PM. The chances of Detective Jansen still being at work were slim to none. Those odds didn’t keep Moe from driving straight to Station House Number One after leaving Boch’s den of perversion. The street lamps on Central Parkway lit up the front of the Romanesque police house like it was opening night at the Albee Theater. The forty-eight-starred red, white and blue flapping on its pole in front gave Moe a momentary stab of patriotism. He told himself he wasn’t here just because Boch was a threat to him, but because Boch was a threat to America. Bad guys had to be stopped no matter what the cost. It was the American way.
Moe tucked his Brownie and Roscoe under the car seat and locked the Buick up tight. The short walk to the entrance left him cold, inside and out. He tried to shake the feeling from deep in his bones. He hated going to the police. Half of them were as crooked as the criminals they prosecuted. But this caper had already gotten out of hand. People were dropping like flies around him. So far, the dead didn’t include a good guy, but who knew when Boch would cross that line? The man had to be stopped. A last glance up at the flag was enough to push Moe through the front door.
It was a slow night in the precinct. A couple of second-hand Sues were parked on a scratched up bench, waiting for processing. The two prostitutes shared similarities, beyond just the paint and rags, that reminded Moe of a before and after picture. They could pass for a mother-daughter act. ‘Look out sister, that could be you in fifteen years,’ Moe wanted to tell the younger one. Keeping them company was a bozo vying for the cackle factory. The gee kept banging his head against the side of the bench and mixing his words like he was making a salad instead of a sentence.
Moe walked over to the only desk with a working boy in blue behind it. A portrait of somebody’s mother was the desk’s main attraction. “Any chance Detective Jansen’s still around?” Moe asked.
The copper replied, but his eyes and nose stayed pinned to his copy of Outdoor Life. “Who wants to know?”
“The name’s Gafferson. Moe Gafferson.”
John Law lifted his eyes and shot a glimpse at Moe. Apparently, he saw nothing to take him away from fly-fishing, and he went back to reading. As an afterthought, he added, “Yeah, he’s here. Up the stairs and to the right.”
Moe knew the layout: flatfoots shared the first floor while the suits camped out on the second. The stairwell separating the two floors circled upwards in an ornate scroll like it should be hosting debutantes instead of criminals and fat detectives. The handrail sported large gaps in the varnish, rubbed off from years of use. And the paint job on the walls peeled more than a dried up sunburn. Also upstairs was the goldfish room where Moe spent most of his last trip to Station Number One. It was a left turn. Moe went right.
Jansen had put in enough years to have a door with just his name on it, but for some reason his name shared the glass with three others: Jansen, McPherson, Braxton, and Havrum. At least the old cop had top billing. A quick rap on the opaque glass and Moe opened the door. Jansen’s desk was the only one occupied.
“Got a second?” asked Moe.
Detective Jansen looked like he’d been dancing with an electric fan. His shirt was open at the collar and missing a tie. Half a shirttail was tucked in; the other half flapped over his beltline. Buttons strained against his gut with the bottom two missing in action. The only thing keeping his hair in place was pomade – there was enough of it to grease a Cadillac.
Jansen tossed his newspaper and pen onto his cluttered desk. He was halfway through the daily crossword. “I heard some dogs clipping across the hall floor,” the old cop said. “I never expected them to belong to you, Gafferson. Come to confess, have you?”
“And make your job easy? Not a chance.” Moe glanced around the room. “Don’t you have a home?”
Jansen’s chair was on wheels – he used them to swing out and face Moe directly. “My private life ain’t your business, Gafferson.” He peered up at the only thing on the wall that wasn’t dirt – a white-faced clock with big black numbers. “But speaking of a private life, shouldn’t you be at home boffing a nurse?”
Something about the lonely, envious look in Jansen’s eyes let Moe forgive the crass remark about Mona. “I came to talk about Karl Boch.”
Jansen swiveled his chair back toward his desk, his belly keeping him from getting too close. “You got a political beef, take it to the polls,” he grumbled. He picked up the newspaper and pen. Tapping the pen against his mouth, he left dots of ink on his lower lip.
“This is more than just me not liking slimy Isolationists,” Moe said.
“The man’s a jerk, but it ain’t my department.” Jansen screwed up his brow. “What’s a five letter word for seraglio?”
He shook his head. “Nah, starts with an ‘s.'”
“By goddamned, you’re right. I’ve been trying to figure that out for twenty minutes.” Jansen smirked. “Figures you’d know about women slaves.”
“Listen, Jansen. I’m not here to play word games. I’m trying to report a crime. Does murder and diamond smuggling figure anywhere in your department? Or should I try the rookie down behind the desk?”
Detective Jansen leaned back in a familiar pose: arms folded across his chest and resting on his gut. “All right, you got my attention, Gafferson. Make it worth my time.”
Moe crooked his head toward an empty chair on the opposite side of Jansen’s desk. “I feel like sitting.”
Jansen scratched at the day’s growth of beard on his chin and yawned like he was too tired to consider Moe’s request. Finally, he said, “Be my guest.”
Moe settled into the chair and gathered his thoughts. Jansen was a no-nonsense sort of man, and Moe respected the cop’s hard-boiled attitude even if it bordered on pig-headed. Straight up seemed the best way to blow the works. “Peter Schmidt and Rolf Metzger were involved in a diamond smuggling scheme. Boch was the butter and egg man.”
Jansen’s stony face didn’t react. “If you’re trying to fry my wig, you’ll need a little more fuel,” he said, absently rubbing his balding head. “You got any proof?”
“Schmidt’s sister. She knows the setup.”
Jansen perked up. “A sister you say? Funny she never showed up at Routsong’s for Schmidt’s cold meat party.”
Moe shrugged. He had no idea why Danja would miss her brother’s funeral. She seemed devoted to him. The most likely reason was she was unable to, thanks to Boch.
“In fact,” continued Jansen, “the funeral parlor said he had no next of kin.”
“She has a different name, but she’s his sister.”
“So some dame walks up to you, claims to be Schmidt’s sister, and fingers Councilman Boch. Pardon me if I don’t buy this fish tale. It seems cooked up to give you an out.”
“This bird didn’t fly up to me. I stumbled across her at a card game hosted by Boch. She was his ace-in-the-hole whenever his chips were low.”
Jansen reached in his desk, pulled out a five cent White Owl cigar, and removed the plastic wrap like he was peeling a banana. “Whores are a dime-a-dozen in a city as big as Cincy.” He bit off the end of the cigar, spit it in a waste basket, and then lit the torn tip, puffing like a blow fish and sending a whorl of the wanna-be Havana smell toward Moe. “So Boch takes advantage, it ain’t no skin off my back.”
“Only this chit wasn’t a whore until she met Boch, and she didn’t come to America wishing to get poked in the ass in front of Boch’s cronies while her body was fighting for her life and the life of her unborn baby.”
Even a hard-nosed cop like Jansen had to take a second swallow at what Moe described. But another puff on the cigar and he was sleuthing again. “Where’d this card game take place?”
“The where isn’t important. The who are big shots from the Councilman on down.” He shifted in his chair. Moe’s two-bit, hole-in-the-wall office was more comfortable than Jansen’s cheap sitting space. Seats as hard as cement were just one reason to be a private dick instead of a nine-to-fiver.
Jansen shrugged. “It’s not a story I’d share with the kids at elementary, but so what? Was the dame chained? Did she have a gun to her head? Why didn’t she leave?”
“I didn’t figure you for a psychologist, Jansen, but I held out hope you’d appreciate human nature.” Jansen’s eyebrows knitted together, not like he was thinking, but like he was starting to stew. Moe ignored it. “Her brother is dead, she’s alone in a foreign country, and Boch is her only friend. She’s a kitten in a dog’s den.”
“I’ll have to meet this sister. She got a name?”
“I can arrange a meeting, but she needs some recovery time.” said Moe.
“I know my way to the hospital.”
“She’s not at the sickhouse.”
“I thought you said she was bad off.”
Jansen had set the cigar in the ashtray and forgotten it. Smoke swirled its way to the ceiling like tobacco incense. “I’m not going to ask where she’s at.”
“I wasn’t going to tell you,” said Moe.
“I have a good guess.”
“Forget it, Jansen. Save your guesswork for the crosswords.”
Jansen shuffled papers on his desk from side-to-side like he was suddenly the maid, and then met Moe’s eye, man to man. “I don’t like your type, Gafferson. A pretty boy who thinks he’s tough while he’s snooping through windows and snapping pictures of unsuspecting parties. But ...” Jansen scratched at his chin again and sighed. “As much as I hate to admit it, something tells me you’re on the level.”
“Careful, Jansen, you’ll make me shiver.”
“Shit!” The old cop nearly smiled, then remembered his cigar. He put the stogie to his mouth, took a long draw and puffed out a smoke ring worthy of a three-ring circus. “I like fancy pants politicians even less than I like pretty boy PIs. And Karl Boch is one of the worst. Unfortunately, the man’s got some good buddies in this department. There won’t be any taking him down without solid evidence.”
Moe thought about his brownie – full of glossies waiting to be developed – tucked away in his Buick. The pictures of Boch’s naked festivities weren’t evidence of murder, but they might go a long way in ruining some department friendships.
“I’ve got something cooking that might make like Moses and part the waters for us.”
“Hold up there, Gafferson. Let’s get something straight. You and I are not working together. I’m willing to listen to the dame and see what she has to say, but don’t think that takes you off the suspect list for Metzger’s murder. You’re still teetering at the top.”
Suddenly, the door swung open and a giant of a man filled the space. The newcomer was as wide as he was tall, with shoulders that had to hunker to fit through the door frame. His crew cut bordered on military style. His face was the kind of face that carried a permanent scowl. And the magnum hanging off his shoulder kept a body from asking any questions.
“Braxton. I thought you left for the day,” said Detective Jansen.
Moe recognized the man’s name from the glass on the door.
Braxton slid a glance at Moe and somehow managed to deepen his scowl before turning to Jansen. “I got a call at home.” The giant cocked his head toward Moe but still kept his back turned. “Who’s your date?”
Jansen reached into his desk drawer and nabbed another cigar. “Here.” He tossed it over to Braxton, whose hand was big enough to catch the whole box. “Smoke on this, it’ll calm you down. Who called you at home?”
It was hard to say if Jansen deliberately avoided giving Braxton Moe’s name, and if so, why? But Moe knew to keep quiet.
Braxton was sidetracked enough to ignore Moe and answer his office mate. “Councilman B. Goddamn fucker thinks he can call and I’ll jump. I was just about to slip into the sweetest piece of ass a man could ever want. Instead, I have to leave the girl hot and wet and panting for my prick.” He yanked off the plastic covering on the cigar, tossed it on one of the other metal desks, and then bit the end. Instead of heaving the bit in the trash, Braxton gnawed on it like it was salt water taffy. And then he swallowed it.
“Hey Janney, didn’t you have some two-bit private dick in here recently? Went by the name of Gafferson?”
Jansen didn’t bat an eyelash. “He’s our prime suspect for the Metzger murder.” The old cop was smooth. Smoother than Moe had given him credit for.
“B. wants to know everything about him.”
“Why is that?”
“I don’t know. The man doesn’t answer questions. He only asks them.”
“Odd he called you at home instead of calling here at the office. What did you tell him?” asked Jansen.
“I told him what I knew. Murphy had hauled Gafferson and a hot, redheaded nurse named Mona Dale into the precinct. We didn’t have enough evidence to hold the nurse or Gafferson, but we were still sure Gafferson iced Metzger.”
“Funny that the councilman would care about a low-life like Metzger or a two-bit dick like Gafferson.”
“Yeah, ain’t it just?”
“So why’d you make the trip in?”
“The fucker wanted addresses.”
The word left Moe’s mouth before his brain was fully in gear. “Tonight?”
Braxton swung back around to squint at Moe. His lips curled into a scowl. “Who’d you say you were?”
Jansen interrupted. “So get him Gafferson’s address and go back to your hot tail.”
Braxton glared at Moe, studying him as if he were a kid with a magnifying glass looking at a bug. “Already did. His and the dame’s. I just came up here to leave a note I’d be in late tomorrow.”
Fear grabbed at Moe’s gut and clawed its way through his entire body. Boch had Mona’s address. The thought spun around in his head and picked up speed until it forced his feet to go.
“Fuck!” Moe hopped up from his seat and rushed from the room. He took the steps two at a time and ignored Jansen yelling after him. On the first floor of the station house, he slowed down to a fast walk to avoid suspicion, but once he was out the door, he ran like he hadn’t run since high school football.
Boch had Mona’s address.
Moe turned up Montgomery Pike and concentrated on the cross streets to avoid thinking what a bastard like Boch would do with a gem like Mona.
Nassau. Windsor. McMillan.
He couldn’t remember ever falling as hard for a dame as he had Mona. She was fire and cream and lady all rolled into one. Moe had been with many a gal – all shapes and sizes – but none of them turned his crank like Mona did. If a guy didn’t get turned on looking at Mona, then he didn’t have any switches.
Kemper. Donahue. Beecher.
There was a chance Moe could get to Mona’s house before anyone else. He knew the route, the neighborhood, the house. If Boch sent his henchmen, Al and Gus, they might bumble it, or better yet, not know Cincinnati at all. But there was also a chance they had a head start. Braxton didn’t say how long ago he’d given Boch the addresses. Moe slammed his foot on the accelerator and didn’t let up, even around the sharp S curve.
Beresford. Billings. Pulser.
His hands were sweaty. His grip on the steering wheel was slippery, but he was on Mona’s street before he eased up on the gas. It was dark. Moe had wanted the portico lamp on her porch to be on. It was off.
He pulled over in front of her small, yellow house and jerked the car in park. He wiped his hands on his pants and reached for the roscoe under his seat. When he opened the car door it squeaked like a cat in heat, but the rest of the night was quiet. Too quiet.
At the front door, he didn’t wait to knock, he didn’t have to. The door was open, just a fraction, but enough to know someone hadn’t closed it all the way. Moe shoved through it, thinking to surprise anyone who might be on the other side. There was no one to surprise.
The house was in shambles. The forest green divan where Moe had slept was overturned. The chair that had held his cleaned and pressed clothes was broken in half. The kitchen table where Moe had shared a morning of flapjacks and coffee with Mona was splintered. And the bed where Danja had been recovering was stripped bare of everything. Everything except a blood stain soaked deep into the mattress.
Boch had Danja.
Rough Cut originally appeared in Ruthie’s Club http://www.ruthiesclub.com/
Copyright © 2004 by Desdmona.