Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Crowded Streets, Part 23

Tuesday, April 12, 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. 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. In the last episode, Rocky is met at the crime scene by Lieutenant Sam MacAnulty, who seems to know a lot about the case already:

Lieutenant MacAnulty suggested we go for a drive, just me and him. Just a friendly drive, he said, in a voice that would melt butter, all nice and cozy as if I had a choice in the matter. I figured it would be a long ride in the back of a black-and-white with MacAnulty peering over his shoulder at me the whole time, and when we hit the street I waited for him to pick out the prowl car of his choice. To my surprise, he turned and settled in front of my Buick, waited at the passenger's side door for me.

I unlocked that side and opened the door for him. “Any place you'd care to go?” I asked, as he folded himself into the seat.

“How's about George Wilson's election headquarters?” he grinned. “I'm kidding, son. Hop in.”

MacAnulty was trying to make me sweat and he was doing a swell job of it. Either he was the best cop on the force or he was the best guesser on the West Coast. Maybe both. He had seen it all by the look on his face, and there's only one of two ways that can affect a man: it makes him steady or it makes him weary. MacAnulty was a rock. Nothing was going to move him one way or the other and Lord help you if he rolls up on you.

I pulled out into traffic and told him what he wanted to hear, the details I had left out at the pier a couple days ago when Franklin had driven his car into the ocean. Franklin had bribed me to stay away from my investigation of the unusual number of phone poles and booths in town and how the companies who had the contracts with the city to place them were connected with Congressman Howard Dixon. Franklin worked for Dixon, and had been put under hypnosis by George Inglehoff. Martha Wilson and Clarissa King were similar, possibly unwilling, victims. And now this woman they found in Inglehoff's apartment. All points led back to the same man, I told him. MacAnulty watched me closely and nodded.

“Fisher Baskin,” he said. “His real name is Fisher Baskin. Two years ago he was one of the top acts on the stage, traveled the country, until he got in trouble in Houston. A woman came forward and said Baskin made advances to her. And then another came up in Chicago. Two in Pittsburgh. Seventeen in all, spread out over seven states. Baskin disappeared without a trace. That was, until we got the call.”

“The call?”

“Three hours ago. An anonymous tip that Baskin was in Los Diablos, that he was with a woman, and that he had killed her. No word on his alias. When the operator asked the man on the line where the woman was, he hung up. Swell, huh? We knew there was a body out there somewhere in the city but no way of knowing where.”

I laughed politely. “Anonymous tip. That explains why you stepped in the door and knew everything. You came to that crime scene expecting a set-up, didn't you?”

“It was on my mind,” said MacAnulty. He was too much of an old pro to get his ego bruised and he laughed heartily. “You're good, Stone, you know that? You'll do all right.”

“So if Baskin was set up, who did it?”

MacAnulty settled in his seat and watched the road. “Jealous husband, likeliest.”

“That puts a lot of candidates on the list,” I replied.

“Not as many as you might think,” he said with a knowing grin. “Most men would take care of Baskin and be done with it. But to kill a woman just to make sure Baskin ends up in prison for murder, that's something else. Your man on the street wouldn't do something like that. It would take a professional, or someone in a high enough position to hire a professional.”

“He messed with the wrong man's woman. Plausible.”

He smiled warmly, glad to hear someone thinking along his lines. “Gilbert King has an office in West Hills. Why don't we see what he's up to?”

What will they discover at the office of philanthropist Gilbert King? Find out in the next episode of The Adventures of Rocky Stone! 

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