As an investigator, you end up in all sorts of places with all sorts of people, and after a time you get to know what to expect when you step across the threshold. A bar named Jimmy's, for instance, will have eight to ten regulars seated at the bar on high stools, being poured watered-down drinks from Jimmy himself. A library is always a library. The newspaper office has a bunch of guys in shirt-sleeves and suspenders falling all over each other as they try to file stories before the afternoon edition goes to press. And the office of a construction company is cramped, poorly designed, and somehow smells of sawdust and sweat no matter how far removed from the site it is. At least, that was the picture I had in my head before I stepped into the office of Millways Construction.
I could smell the money. The floors were white and somehow unscuffed, as if the surface refused to accept dirt of any kind. The reception desk was simple, strong and elegant, built from pine. Behind that desk was a blond with marvelous cheekbones who could have won pageants without trying. Her face lit up and blessed us with a smile that fit on the cover of a magazine.
“May I help you?” she asked, and I believed her.
“Rocky Stone and Lieutenant MacAnulty of Homicide to see Gilbert King.”
Her mouth drooped a little but her eyes kept smiling. “I'm afraid he's in San Francisco today. Is there anyone else who could help you?”
MacAnulty looked at me and I looked at him. So far I wasn't convinced King didn't have anything to do with the dead girl we found in Inglehoff's apartment: after all, he wouldn't do it himself and if he hired someone to do it he wouldn't be anywhere near the place. San Francisco looked awfully convenient, although I'm sure he was there on business. And I couldn't help but think, wouldn't it be a laugh if he scheduled a meeting at the very time that girl was being murdered?
“Any idea when he'll be back?” I asked.
“Tomorrow. He only left for the day. Do you mind if I ask what this is about?”
“We don't mind, but you won't get an answer,” MacAnulty replied in a manner so easy it didn't feel like he was cracking wise with her.
A bespectacled man dressed in a devastating suit stepped out of the hallway and met us full on, the palm of his bony right hand pressing against the air between us, as if he could hold us back with a gesture. He registered anger but he wasn't the type to get in a brawl, even though he looked wiry strong enough to do a fair amount of damage. “Is there some sort of problem here?” he bellowed, hoping the tone in his voice would be enough to make us shrink.
“None,” I said. “But we'll be back tomorrow and I plan on bringing a problem with me.”
MacAnulty turned on his heel and I followed him. The man in spectacles shouted after us: “Hey, you can't just walk away like that! I'm the vice-president of this company!”
“Your mother must be proud,” MacAnulty said over his shoulder, sweetly, as we stepped out of the office.
fter I dropped MacAnulty at the police station I grabbed a handful of grease in between two slices of bread at a local joint and headed back to the office. The sun was going down by then and everyone had left the building except for two custodians who were mopping the floors in the foyer. One of them, a ragged man who looked older than he probably was, nodded unsmiling at me while the other tended to his work unfettered by pleasantries.
I climbed the stairs and crashed through the door marked with a '7'. The orange light of sundown poured through the window at the end of the hallway, making it appear that the lights were on in my office. As I got closer, I could see the lights were, in fact, on in my office, and since I knew they weren't that way when I left, I reached for my gun. At that moment the door opened in front of me, and I drew it out like the lawmen do in the old Westerns.
Wanda Marcellus stood there, startled. At first I thought it was because I was standing there with my gun at my side, but as the door fell open I could see three more fearful faces: those of Congressional candidate George Wilson and his wife Martha, and, for a reason I was not able to figure out at first, my dentist, Dr. Allan Wallace. Wanda handed me a card with the name Inglehoff on the front. I flipped it over and saw the same handwriting that was on the card the dead girl had in her dress pocket.
He had written: “Pablo's Pit, 8 p.m. Don't be late. Most urgent. G.I.”
Will Rocky catch up with Ingelhoff at last? Why are all these people in his office? Find out the answers to these questions and many more in the next episode of The Adventures of Rocky Stone!