Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Crowded Streets, Part 20

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The story so far: Detective Rocky Stone has been hired by Wanda Marcellus, aide of Congressional candidate George Wilson, for the purposes of discovering financial improprieties by the incumbent, Congressman Howard Dixon. While investigating the unusual amounts of telephone poles and booths on the streets of town, Rocky discovers connections between a spiritualist guide named Inglehoff, Candidate Geroge Wilson and his wife Martha, and Clarissa King, the wife of prominent businessman and philanthropist Gilbert King. In the last episode, Rocky, along with Clarissa King, tracks Inglehoff to a small apartment on 30th Street, where Rocky finds the body of a woman lying on the floor:
A half a minute passed before the connection went through. The body on the floor was close by and I could see the rip in her robe clearly from that angle. A slight pinkish discoloration in the same direction as the tear, made by a fingernail no doubt, but no visible bruises or wounds on the body, no pool of blood on the floor. I brought the telephone with me while I waited, cradled it under my chin, and shoved her over with my handkerchief to see if the other side of her body would reveal what killed her. When I did that I heard a shriek that probably should have raised the dead, but didn't. I looked up at the doorway and saw Clarissa King standing there. In the commotion I had forgotten she was with me.

“Homicide, Sergeant Hardacre.”

I held up a hand to let Clarissa know I was talking to someone. She stared helplessly at the poor girl on the floor and covered her mouth so no new screams would come out of it.

“Sergeant, this is Rocky Stone. I'm a private detective licensed to Los Diablos working on behalf of the Wilson campaign.”

Clarissa King stepped outside to catch her breath. The smell of decay was strong and I would have laid odds that a lady of her stature had never smelled anything like it before.

“Stone,” he said, with some recognition. “You were on the scene when Carl Franklin took a tumble off the pier, weren't you?”

I said: “Yeah. I just found a woman dead in an apartment in San Cristobal. Not sure of the number, not even sure if it has a number, but it's behind the Canyon Bank branch on the corner of Cristobal Boulevard and 30th.”

“Another body,” he commented. “Not your week, is it?”

“I've had better.” I scanned the face on the floor. Young, far too young to go, undeniably pretty, and somewhat familiar, the kind of face you see on a calendar or on the third chorus-girl from the left. Her left cheek was marked from lying on the carpet for so long, but apart from that I couldn't see any damage to her that might have caused her death. I told Sergeant Hardcare as much and he mumbled something about having the coroner see to it. Then he said they would be out straight away and hung up.

The corner of her robe dangled open, revealing a bit more of her leg than I was comfortable with. I pushed it back quickly with the tip of my shoe and thought about what she might have been wearing when she came in. She must have left a purse somewhere.

It wasn't sitting around anywhere obvious. The apartment had one closet, on the other side of the bed. I covered my hand with my handkerchief and opened the door, only to find that the closet was empty, save for two wooden clothes hangers, one of which was still hanging and the other down below, propped up against the wall where it met the floor.

Inglehoff had cleared out.

I went to the bathroom and turned off the shower. It was clean in there, cleaner than the rest of the apartment. The floor in there was white tile, and if there was so much as a hair on the floor I would've seen it. I switched on the light and I could see the impression of a foot, or part of one. The dead girl must have left it, but I could only see part of the right foot from the third toe to the heel. The rest was missing, swiped away in a perfect line.

Someone did some cleaning in there. After she was dead.

Her dress hung neatly on a hook behind the door with her underclothing and stockings wedged behind the door. The dress had a pocket near the waist and I shoved my hand inside to see if she kept anything in it. I caught my finger against the edge of it, and when I pulled it out I could see it was a plain business card, G. Inglehoff, Spiritual Advisor, and a telephone number which was no doubt disconnected already. On the back, the important part: a note scribbled hastily in a childish hand, a set of words that would make Inglehoff look guilty for the girl's murder even if they put his own family in the jury box.

“I must see you. Come alone. 2380 30th. G. I.”

Did Inglehoff murder the girl? And if so, why? Can Rocky put enough clues together to figure out what happened? Find out in the next episode of The Adventures of Rocky Stone!

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