A Great Night For a Killing by missfae

A Great Night For A Killing, part 3 - missfae

Part 2 found here.

Two hours didn’t leave a lot of time, so I decided to divide the interviews. At Simon’s demand for my presence, Jim drove us into the office in his baby, a blue and white monstrosity masquerading as a 1969 Ford Ranger. Before you laugh, try driving a 1964 green Volvo. I swear the car is in the shop more than on the road. My mechanic assures me my car is worth more to me dead than alive. Plebian. Where is his sense of history?

Back to the matter at hand.

Jim, against my better judgment, took the car and interviewed Cello. Clearly, the man would open up to Jim, but I didn’t want my guy anywhere near the columnist. Jim took in my expression and put a hand on his hip. He then took the other one, fluffed his hair and struck a pose. He spoke in a laughable southern accent.

“I’m sure I can fend off the advances of such a lout. If I can’t…” He batted golden-brown lashes. “There is a big strong man who is able to defend my honor.” He switched away.

What could I say? I went to talk to Beckett and then Lash-Sears.

I pictured myself at Beckett’s club and whispered, “Go to.” I know, I know not the fancy words Potter uses but why do people assume spells must be spoken in Latin? Trailing after one of the staff, I walked into the darkened interior. I arrived at Beckett’s office. After barreling past his secretary, I barged into to his sanctum sanctorum without knocking. Who says I can’t be a tough guy? He glanced up rubbing his forehead.

“Sandburg, I’m particular about who comes into my club.”

I leaned my hip against the edge of his desk. “Hmm. Must be hard for you to run this establishment without being able to enter.”

He leaned back and regarded me with a frown on his face. “I think I’ll throw you out.” He pressed a button on his intercom. “Herman will you please come in here and take out the trash.”

A grunt made me face Herman. He’s a real pig. Actually… a warthog… at least his head. Herman was known as a “Blended” or a humanized beast. Hey don’t blame me; I didn’t make up the term. I took in the rounded tusks, the snot and the bovine face topping a portly body that caused the seams on his cheap-looking gray suit to work overtime.

I’m sure my icy glare cowered them both. “You wanna get rough, eh?”

Herman raised a meaty fist not a hoof- more human blend than animal. “You ain’t getting rough with no one.”

“Herman…”

“Yeah?”

“Freeze.” He froze. His fist made a dandy hat hook. “I guess I’ll leave it to the police to deduce your whereabouts when Sears was murdered.” I made as if to leave.

“Wait.” A command. I smiled at Brackett; he picked up a silver token. “Sears is dead?”

“Murdered.”

“Murdered, eh?” He manipulated the coin with a manual dexterity that would put most magicians to shame. “I was with someone.”

“This someone’s name?”

The token rotated faster. “David Lash-Sears.”

The plot thickens. “What time were the two of you together?”

Brackett’s eyes shifted left. “From midnight until about 4 am.”

I nodded. “Were you ever alone?”

His eyes shifted right. “When I went to get the morning paper.”

“Time?”

“Around 2am when the early edition comes out.”

“Do you mind if he and I talk?”

“Knock yourself out.”

“Thanks.”

“Sandburg.” Brackett’s voice brought me up short as I headed for the door. He gestured towards his bodyguard. “What about my man?”

Cocking my head to the side I said, “He makes a good coat rack.” Brackett scowled. “Don’t worry. It’ll wear off in about 10 minutes. I used a simple spell for simple minds.”

The noon sun beat down on the city as I made my way to the fortress calling itself the late Fred Sears’ apartment complex.

Mr. Lash-Sears opened the door on my knock. I took in his artfully concealed shiner. “Mr. Lash-Sears.”

A trembling hand touched the flesh under the eye. “Yes…”

“My name is Blair Sandburg. May I come in?”

“This is about…”

“Your husband.”

“What’s happened?”

“Why do you think anything happened?”

“It-it’s just… he’s usually home at this time.”

“May I come in?” I muscled my way into the apartment and had a seat in the breakfast nook. Lash-Sears stared after me fumbling with his cuffs. Finally, he closed the door.

“I remember you from the Pelican last night.” He moved to the couch. “You and the big guy broke up the fight.”

“Yep.” The silence stretched on. Lash-Sears touched his eye again.

“You’re acquainted with my husband?”

“He’s using my office.”

“Is he coming home?”

“Depends… you see, he died there last night.”

The blue eyes grew about three sizes and filled with tears. “H-how?”

“Broken neck.” The handkerchief I handed to him appeared with a flick of my wrist. “Where were you around 1 am?” Amazing how quickly the river dried up.

“None of your business.”

“No problem.” I stood. “The police will find out.”

“Wait.” I waited. “I was with someone.” I sat back down. “Fred brought me home and told me to stay put.”

“Before or after he left you his gift?”

The man winced. “It was after.”

“Go on.”

His eyes shifted left. “As soon as he was gone, I headed straight to Brackett’s and stayed there until… well until much later.”

I frowned? “What if your husband had come searching for you? Brackett’s would be the logical place.”

He shrugged. “I’m familiar with the signs. Fred was heading for an all-night bender. By the time he got home, he wouldn’t remember his own name let alone if I’d been out or not.”

“Did he ever leave you alone?”

“Fred?”

“Brackett.”

“Oh… N-no.”

“Not even to get the paper?”

Left shift. “We went out together.”

“To get the paper.”

A nod.

“He said he went out alone.”

David reached towards the side table and picked up a cigarette and lighter.

“Oh.”

“But the two of you did go out together.”

“Yes.”

“Before or after he got the paper?”

His hand shook; I took the lighter. “After he got the paper.”

I lit his cigarette. “Of course.” I handed him the lighter. “One more question. Your late husband indicated that you two had a disagreement…

He blinked. “Disagreement?”

“Yes. The day before he was murdered Mr. Sears came to my office. He mentioned a fight between the two of you and he left. Nevertheless, he was sure you’d call Brackett.” I leaned forward. “Did you call him?”

David ran a hand across quivering lips. “W-why would I call him?” I didn’t reply; his eyes shifted. “Do you actually think I’d call him over a minor tiff?”

“So, you did argue.”

He touched the blackened eye. “No.”

“I see.” I got to my feet. “I must have been mistaken. “Thank you for your help, Mr. Sears.”

“Lash-Sears-”

“Sorry. My mistake.”

When I left, he was grinding his cigarette into the ashtray.

I shut the door. “Interesting.”

The fist greeting me caused stars to dance before my eyes. Some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. A wheezing grunt assaulted my ears as a foot connected with my midsection.

“This is your only warning. Stay away from Mr. Sears. Now, to make sure you get the point.”

“Lash-Sears….” I mumbled. The world exploded….

***

“Sandburg.” Someone patted my cheek. “Sandburg.” The patting got harder. “BLAIR!”

My eyes cracked open; I slammed them shut. “What truck ran over me?” Lame, Sandburg.

A muffled curse. “The knock on his head loosened his few remaining screws.”

“Funny…” I wanted the jackhammer in my skull to cease. “Usually when my face rams a fist …” I tried to sit up but firm hands held me down. “...the other guy winds up on the floor.”

Rafe’s voice. “He must be okay if he can joke.”

I kneaded my forehead. “Here’s a new line. Where am I?”

“You’re lying on the floor in front of Mr. Sears’ apartment.” I peeled open an eye and beheld David Lash-Sears; he handed Simon a bundled towel and did a finger wiggle towards me. “He said he heard a noise and opened the door to find you on the floor.”

My head stopped swimming long enough for me to sit up.

Simon continued, “What happened?” He handed me the towel. Inside was ice, so I held it to the back of my head.

“I stepped into the hallway and got hit by a freight train.”

Simon gestured to Ralf who pulled out his recorder. “Did said freight train have a name?”

I started to shake my head but stopped as the waves rolled. “He came up behind, but he sounded like a goon Brackett keeps on a leash.”

“Herman.” We turned at the whispered response; Lash Sears reddened. “Lee’s so jealous.”

“Anyway.” Simon ran a hand over his short hair. “Sears called me and I called-“ I groaned. “Please… tell me you didn’t-”

“Sandburggggg….”

The acoustics in the hallway would have done the best concert hall proud. Too bad it turned the rolling in my head into a tidal wave.

“Jim…please…”For once he shut up; although, a trip to fix his ground down teeth would be in order. After a moment, I accepted his hand and stood on trembling legs. I heard Jim sniff.

“Pig…”

“That pig is Herman, Sears’ lapdog or warthog as the case may be.” I batted my eyes at Jim. “Lee’s so jealous.”

Jim snorted. “You don’t say.”

Simon rolled his eyes. “Sandburg, your 2 hours are up and I’m gonna haul ‘em all in- including Herman Sharp.”

“The pig has a last name. I wondered…”

Simon grunted and nodded to Rafe who walked over to David Lash-Sears.

“Simon, if you wanted to hire some muscle, where would you go?”

Jim answered. “Blair, did Herman’s knock on your head rattle your brain? As if to make his point, I swayed; he reached out a steadying hand. You’re better informed about those places better than Simon.”

“Mr. Lash-Sears.” He turned doe eyes on me. “What was the fight about at the Pelican?” He gave the universal, “I’m not sure gesture.” “Jim?”

“It started when Mr. Cello said, and I quote, ‘Ask him about North Africa.’”

“Did you know your husband was in North Africa?”

“Sure. He was a captain in the Army.”

“Interesting.” I looked at Simon. “Can you get Sharp’s address?”

He pulled a mini Padd out his pocket. “Way ahead of you.” He read the display.

“I’m going with you.”

Jim pinned me with his eyes. “So am I.”

I winced as Simon spoke to Rafe. “Take some men and round up Cello and Brackett.”

“And take Mr. Lash-Sears,” I added.

“What… you don’t think I had anything to do with this, do you?”

I rolled my neck. “I knew Cello from before and he used to run around with a dancer-” My stare burned into his eyes. “David Lashley.”

He blanched. “We used to be an item, but we broke up when I started dating Fred.”

“Well…you can take up where you left off.”

We left with him staring after us, the Bambi eyes in full force.

***

On the drive to Sharp’s apartment, I questioned Jim about his interview with Cello.

Jim shrugged. “He was most accommodating.”

I crossed my arms and stuck out my lip. “Yeah, the better to get into your pants, my dear.”

Jim grinned and went on with his narrative. “I arrived at 11:00…

***

“Well, well, well if it isn’t the lovely James Ellison.” He stood up and offered me a chair. “To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?”

I decided to be blunt. “Sears.”

He walked back around his desk and slumped down in his chair.

“What did the bastard do now? Punch out an old lady?”

“He stopped by my partner’s office.”

He picked up a copy he was working on. I read the title. “Superman-Is the man of steel going soft in the bedroom?”

He grinned. “You don’t wanna know. But if you did, Batman might be able to…”

I shuddered.

He selected a red pen and made a mark on the copy. “So what did the mook do?”

“He died.” The pen stilled. “Or more precisely, he was murdered.”

Cello resumed marking. “Good.” He noted my blank expression. “What? Did you want me to pretend to be sorry?” He rose and walked over to a cabinet. When he flicked his finger, a door opened. He pulled out a coffee pot. “Coffee?”

I shook my head. “No thanks.”

He sat and leaned back. As he crossed one leg over his knee, he said, “I wish I could dredge up a few tears for you.”

“I gather there was no love lost between you two.”

“None at all.” He took a sip, grimaced and twirled his finger. A spoon appeared and sugar was added to the coffee. After three dips, it disappeared.

“Your column doesn’t mention you being a mage, Mr. Cello.”

“Jimmy. “ He sipped and gave a sigh. “I learned a few things.” He took another sip and put the cup down. He leaned forward. “Let’s not beat around the bush; even though I loved to beat any bushes with you, you’re curious as to whether of not I was involved in his death.”

I leaned in close; his breath was a puff on my lips. “To the point… I like that in a man.” I licked my lips and watched his pupils dilate. As I leaned back I asked, “Where were you at 1 am?”

He shook himself. “Is- is that the time of death.”

I nodded.

“I was at a party. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to make a couple of calls. However, you’re more than welcome to come down to the copy room -I can show you my…piece.” My eyeballs itched from my effort of not rolling them.

“I’m sure you can.” I rose. “I’ll inform my partner.”

He relaxed back into his chair. “Where is the illustrious Shaman?”

“Interviewing Mr. Lash-Sears-”

Cello’s eyes darkened. “Why? I’m a friend of Davey’s and he’s not the violent type.”

“I’m sure.” I flicked imaginary lint of my shirt. As I headed towards the door I asked, “Mr. Cello, did you know Sears’ had a copy of your column clutched in his hand?”

His eyes shifted. “No. Why?”

I shrugged. “No reason.”

“Perhaps the murderer planted the paper to frame me.”

“Perhaps. I’ll look into it.”

He grinned. “I’ll be waiting with baited breath.”

I looked back at him over my shoulder. “Take care.”

“You do the same. And if you are ever interested in my ‘piece’, I can assure you, I’ve been told that it’s very long.”

“I’m sure.” I got out before the pheromones choked me.

***

I laughed as Jim navigated his truck to a parking spot in front of front of Herman’s dwelling. Simon’s car pulled up behind. I stepped out and Jim from the corner of my eyes.

“You sure you don’t want to go back and study his ‘piece’?

He snorted. “Why would I want to read a sentence when I can examine a paragraph?”

The man is a veritable poet. We waited for Simon and walked to Herman’s door, but as I reached the door and the door knob, Simon said – yeah I went there-

“Sandburg, we can’t go in. I haven’t got a warrant.”

“Come on Simon. The guy’s dirty.”

“Dirty or not, we can’t go in without a warrant.”

Jim sniffed. “I don’t think he’ll object.”

I raised my eyebrow; Jim broke in the door; and Simon scowled. Sharp lay sprawled on the floor. From the way his tongue lolled out, it was obvious that he was dead.

“He’s dead,” Jim announced.

Simon frowned. “If you don’t mind…” He knelt and felt for a pulse. “He’s dead.” I bit my tongue-didn’t want to be accused of being a dick. “Hey.” Simon indicated Herman’s hand.

We both spotted the news copy in the dead man’s hand.

A tingling went down my spine. I spun around.

Jim was on the alert. “What?”

I shivered. “Nothing. Jim let me use the truck.”

He folded his arms across his massive pecs and shot out his lower lip. I wanted to take said lip between my teeth.

“Does this have to do with Lash-Sears’ eye?”

“Oh, you noticed.”

Jim pinched the bridge of his nose. “Was it your doing?”

I frowned and shook my head. “Present from his late husband.”

Simon rubbed his chin. “Gives him a motive…”

“I don’t think he was involved.” I held out my hands for the keys. “Jim-”

“Sandburg, I don’t like-“

“I understand but I can get the case wrapped up with just a few questions.” He opened his mouth to argue. “Trust me on this… I can always teleport.” He grumbled but handed over the keys. I squeezed his hand as I took them. “Now, go help Simon babysit. If I’m not there in an hour, start the orgy without me.” I trotted down the stairs, hopped in his truck and pulled away from the curb.

“What’s he on about?” asked Simon.

Jim shrugged.

***

I walked into chaos.

Simon restrained Cello as the man stated, at the top of his lungs, “I had a column to get out about brutality right under the nose of the Gestapo-like police.” Jim handcuffed Brackett who was alternately screaming curses at Cello and wishing he could raise ‘that son-of-a-bitch Sears’ so he could kill him again for what he did to Davey. Rafe comforted Lash-Sears who was looking back and forth between Cello and Brackett.

I gave a cheerful, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” and walked through the door.

“The bastard hurt Davey-”

“Why didn’t you protect him? Weren’t you the storybook love of his life-”

“You sham journalist-” Brackett lunged at Cello. Cello tried to hide behind Simon.

“Quiet.” Simon’s bellow brought everything to a halt.

I leaned against the doorframe. “Now if all the kiddies are under control, I need to ask few questions.”

Cello puffed up, but Jim’s glare deflated him.

I threw Jim a grateful look. “Thanks.” I turned to Lash-Sears.

“You knew your late husband was in the Army, correct?”

He glanced at Brackett. “Yes. He was a captain. I told you that.”

I nodded. “Did you know he had a general discharge; although, the Army Judge Advocate General went after him for a dishonorable discharge?” His eyes widened. “I didn’t.”

“But you knew. Didn’t you Cello?”

“I did. He was accused of smuggling precious gems while in North Africa, but it could never be proven. I kept the information to myself.”

“How noble of you.” Simon sounded anything but impressed.

I directed my next question to Brackett.

“You said you and Mr. Lash-Sears were together at the time his husband was murdered.”

He looked away. “That’s right.”

“And the only time you were alone was when you went to get the paper.”

“Right again, shamus.”

I gestured towards Lash-Sears. “Then why did you say you went with Brackett to get the paper?”

Brackett’s head snapped towards me. “Davey, don’t say anything.”``````````````

I waved my hand in Lash-Sears’ direction. “No need. You two weren’t together.”

“But-” Lash-Sears’ eyes became bright.

“Judging from the scene I just walked in on, Brackett’s too hotheaded not to clue me in on your eye. If you had been together, his opinion of your late husband would have been loud and clear. The two of you are liars, but being liars doesn’t make either one of you the murderer.”

“Cello didn’t murder him either.” Jim supplied. “He was at that party.”

“Sure he was, but the murderer wasn’t.”

Jim said, “Pig.”

Simon snapped his fingers. “You picked Herman’s scent up in Sandburg’s office…”

I nodded. “…and in the hallway in front of Sears’ apartment.”

Simon sighed. “So, Herman killed Sears. But who killed Herman?”

“The only man who could have known about the article clutched in Sears’ hand.”

Davey turned disbelieving eyes towards the man. “Jimmy!”

“Yes Jimmy.” I nodded in his direction. “He hired Herman to kill Sears’ and then made a call to send him to beat me up at Sears’ apartment.”

Jimmy glared at me. “You can’t prove a thing.”

“The news article clutched in Sears’ hand-”

“So? Your man told me about the copy.”

“Yes, but you were the only one. Were you sloppy or desperate when you put the rest of the copy in Herman’s hand?”

Rafe spoke up. “That still doesn’t prove Cello did it.”

“Sears what time did you go to get the paper?”

“At two, when the early edition hits the stands.”

“Then how was Sears able to acquire a copy of the paper at 1 am.” I tsked. “There’s only one way he could have it. The man who could access the copy before final printing.” I pushed off the door frame. “How am I doing, Cello?”

He sneered at me. “You’re a lousy Shaman and an even worse Private Eye.”

“And you should have paid more attention to your mage lessons.”

“Meaning?”

“But you were always so wrapped up in “Davey this” and “Davey that” that it was impossible to get you to take them seriously.”

I waved a hand in the air; the others watched as the air shimmered.

“All magic has a signature. It’s invisible but can be made visible as it is now. Your signature, albeit weak, was very easy to discern. You would have remembered this had you been a more attentive pupil.” I snapped my fingers and the shimmer disappeared. “You’re still in love with David Lash-Sears and you used Herman in an attempt to throw the blame on Brackett. What did you hope to accomplish; David falling back into your arms?”

“Why you-” Lee broke away from Jim and tackled Cello. As Jim and I walked out, other cops rushed in.

***

Jim and I walked down the street. I bumped his shoulder.

“I think we make a pretty good team.”

He smirked. “You think.”

“Wanna go get some pie?”

He took my hand. “I thought you’d never ask.”

We walked in silence.

“Jim.” He glanced at me sideways; I cleared my throat. “About this forsaking all others thing...”

“Yes?”

“I really love you.”

“I know.”

“I’m thinking that maybe… I might…wanna give it a try.”

He smiled. “Good.”

“Good? Is that all you have to say?”

“Nope. There is one more thing.”

“And what is that?”

“I’m pregnant.”

The End… for now…

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