I awoke feeling cold and wet, but the sofa behind my back and the smell in the air told me I was at least indoors – that much brandy could only mean I was back in Rudy’s office.
“You often start your mornings with a swim in the lake Boss?”
“I told you I quit this job – and mornings.”
“Guess that’s why you were better at sinking than swimming, that and the drink you had in you.”
“Well my landlady won’t let me practice in the bath no more.”
Rudy’ laughed, the first time I’d heard anyone lighten up since I’d got back in this town.
“Well while you were out practicing for the Olympics someone ended up putting a bullet in the dames’ husband, Richard.”
I froze, it was far too early in the morning to be dealing with a revelation like that and the nights booze came flooding back.
“Yeah you! Listen the DE’s all over you at the moment, he knows about your history with the dame and he knows that you were at La Salle Verte last night. Way that he sees it you’ve got the hots for both of this Richard guys dames and put him out of the picture in order to get yourself a little ménage-à-trios.”
“And what do you think?”
“I think you have trouble enough with one woman, let alone two. Look, you can hide out here a while till you’ve got your head sorted but then you’ve got to go – I’ve got the DE upstairs playing the slots but he’s only going to take the free comp for so long before he begins to get suspicious.”
“Where’s my stuff?”
“Over there in the corner drying, listen – clean yourself up, get your head straight and keep the blinds closed – you’ve got about an hour before I bring the DE down here at which point you’d better be gone.”
“Don’t mention it.”
The warm water helped with both the face and the stomach as I tried to get myself together. Richard dead and me the chief suspect was a little heavier than how I’d hoped to start my first full day in this town.
How the dame would react to it all was the unknown, would she fly off the hook looking for revenge; after all she was as good at breaking into places as I’d been in my day and far more practiced.
Did she really love her husband? I wasn’t sure, something told me that both she and Madame Absinthe were good at lying and I just needed to figure out which of them was telling the truth.
Who were the two gorillas working for as well? One of them certainly looked like the guy out front at La Salle Verte but I couldn’t be sure. I slipped on my jacket and checked its content; wallet, keys to my apartment in town and the photo Madame Absinthe had given me of her and Richard. They looked happy together and the day had been nice, taken out by the lake by the look of the water behind them. I stuffed it back in my pocket and made my way to the door. I needed to get home, get some shut eye and get some gear – and I was hoping that the DE thought I was brighter than to try going home. I caught a cab from the office and hoped that things would start to go my way.
Home in Vegas used to be a pad at the top of the world, but when the government stopped paying my bills I had to downscale. Now it was a shitty little apartment where you paid by the day and had to do your washing off the premises. The DE had two goons out front but they were so busy talking to some cheap broad out front they didn’t notice me slip in. The landlord was out which made it easier as well, the last thing I needed now was him arguing about unpaid bills.
When I got to my apartment it was difficult to tell whether it had been tossed for evidence or I’d just left in a hurry – I couldn’t remember why I was in Lapland in the first place so I had no way of remembering how I’d left things at home. What I could remember was where I’d left the tool I needed and the cold iron in my fist made me feel that if I had any more encounters with gorillas I’d at least have the upper hand next time.
The morning papers were full of news about Richard’s death but very few facts. The funeral was planned for later that afternoon – I guessed the DE had decided what the cause of death was and didn’t need the body to wait around. That was fine by me, it gave me some time to get some shut-eye beforehand; I slipped the iron beneath the pillow and closed my eyes to get some rest.
My mind went back ten years – I’d first met her when we were both breaking into the same place as part of our jobs, some poor kid had lost a tooth on Christmas Eve and that meant she had to work overtime. From the way she held those lock picks in the dim light of the hall I could tell it had been love at first sight.
It wasn’t without its problems, we had to keep it secret as she wasn’t as high up the tree as me and we knew the Chief would freak if he found out about us – probably see it as some kind of security breach – but as the weeks went on we didn’t care and that’s when we started to have problems.
She had work in Paris and we decided to make a night of it, when some tinsel got left under some poor kids pillow questions began to get asked. I cooled things off – never the right move with a dame like her – till it all blew over. She took it personally and showed up on my doorstep. Try explaining that to your wife.
We tried to make it work but my divorce kept getting in the way. When I couldn’t give her the time she needed she left; that must have been when she met Richard. The way I’d heard it, it had taken less than a month to propose – a whirlwind romance – and she’d accepted. That was the last time I’d spoken to her before I’d walked into Rudy’s office.
The sweat on my brow when I awoke meant two things; I was back in Vegas and I’d been dreaming of her. Maybe that’s why I’d been in Lapland, to get away from the oppressive heat of this desert. I still had time to shower and change before the funeral so I looked around for a decent suit. When I couldn’t find one I just settled for a suit.
I only had one thing left to pack before I went and I had to make sure that no one would see it and squeal. It had been a few months and a couple of pounds since I’d last had to strap up like this and I just had to hope that the iron at my side wasn’t too obvious. Looking outside it appeared that the DE’s goons had gone – probably gone to see if I’d be stupid enough to turn up at the funeral, only problem was that they were right.