A Job in the Museum 5

30. july 2013 at 19:01 | Thalia Contostavlos
Disclaimer: I don't own any recognizable characters
Warnings: none

......After a hearty lunch, I met up with Saul two blocks away from 53rd Street and the first thing I said was: "So tell me, who's X?" even though I knew he would never tell me a thing.
......He grinned at me and offered me a cigarette. "Wouldn't you want to know?"
......I declined the foul smelling thing with a simple hand gesture. "I would. Wouldn't you want to tell me?"
......"I wouldn't," he confirmed and lit his cigarette, "so what's the plan?"
......I shrugged my shoulders, annoyed, he knew perfectly well what we were about to do because I called him and informed him of Wolfe's instructions not even an hour ago. I refused to play his little game of questions and answers. I admit it might have had something to do with me being still a bit bitter about not being told the identity of the mysterious X. Saul understood my message loud and clear though, and headed for the motel.
......Five minutes and several seconds later found us standing in front of an old building that had a dangly sign with the words "Astoria Motel" written on it. It goes without saying that the name didn't suit the dodgy motel at all. Astoria gave the impression of a posh facility, which this little rat hole was not.
......"Are you sure a person who had just stolen several thousand dollars worth necklace would live here?" I asked Saul, joining his questions and answers game after all.
......He grinned. "If they're clever."
......I shrugged and headed for the door. The interior was as bad as the exterior. There was one wooden desk serving as a reception in the middle of the entrance hall, a grey carpet on the floor, its original color not decipherable and a balding man with a cigarette hanging from his lips and two-days-old newspaper in hand sitting in a corner. He looked up lazily when we entered and drawled out in a heavy Brooklyn accent: "Whatcha here fo'?"
......I went to stand over him, so he could have a good look at me, while Saul guarded the entrance, so no one else could. "We'd like to have a list of your guests, please."
......The man scowled, the skin in between his eyebrows wrinkling and the corners of his lips turning downward. "Wha? I didn't hear ya."
......I caught up quickly. "I have a few pictures of Washington in my pocket."
......He smiled an almost toothless grin. "I hear ya naw. Wha' did ya say ya wanted?"
......"A list of all your guests. Names would be sufficient."
......The wrinkle between his eyebrows appeared yet again. "Seffi- wha' are ya talkin' bout?"
......I sighed and looked at Saul who chuckled at me. "Just remember the Washingtons, alright? I said, names would be enough."
......He nodded, stood up and went over to the reception desk only to sit down again behind it. After three minutes of rummaging in the drawers, he came up with a leather-bound book that could've belonged to the Founding Fathers from the way it looked. He opened it somewhere in the middle and gave it to me. "Here, hav' a look."
......The page he showed me was full of names, each name in a different handwriting. I could tell right away that at least half of those names were made up and that it was surely a lost case, trying to figure out which of the names belonged to our necklace thief. I ran over them quickly just to be sure and when I didn't find anything that would ring the bell, I closed the book again, getting a whiff of a stifling smell.
......"Thank you, would you mind if we had a look around?"
......He raised his eyebrows and outstretched his hand. I sighed and fished out three dollar bills, I held them out in front of his face. "These three are yours," I said and fished out another four, "and those four say you'll let us have a look around and not tell a soul, understood?"
......He nodded numbly and grabbed all seven dollars I held in my hand. "Thanks, man. I neva saw a thing."
......I nodded at Saul. "Good."
......We decided to search the motel one floor at a time, going from one door to the other, both of us having a different approach to the situation at hand. Saul was pretending to want to buy some jewelry from the poor guests, hoping to catch our thief off guard. The presumption was that Saul would be able to tell by the guest's reaction, whether he did steal some jewels in the last few weeks or not. It was a good idea in its conception but met a few problems in its execution. The people Saul asked were always very confused at first, since no one has probably ever knocked on their door and asked to buy anything from them. Once they understood what he was asking, however, they actually wanted to sell him some of their precious family jewels. It always took my friend a very long time and lots of wit to explain why he had to decline their possessions in the end.
......My approach was to knock on the door and wait for them to open, then pull out my license and quickly flash it in front of them, then saying in my best policeman impression: "You are under arrest." The idea was that our guy would be the only one to try to run. However, it wasn't without a flaw either. There was a high possibility that there was more than just one crooked character in a motel like that, and I was running the risk of scaring the wrong person. Thankfully, that's not what happened in the end.
......I'd just explained an old lady from room number 79 that telling her she was arrested was just my idea of a joke and after she called me several names an old lady like her shouldn't even know, I went over to the next room to knock on the door with the number 78 on it. I waited for a whole minute before I finally heard quiet scraping noises and the door cracked open a slit. I flashed my license quickly and pronounced my prepared sentence: "You are under arrest."
......Now, every time a door opened, I stuck my foot right in, so that it didn't close. Only once I was satisfied the motel guest was more or less innocent did I take the foot away. It was because of this precaution that I was prepared for what happened next. The person who had opened the door, and therefore heard my exclamation, quickly tried to shut it back in my face but didn't succeed. I shouted Saul's name and pushed my way in the room number 78.
......Meanwhile, the thug was trying my patience by attempting to climb through one of the small room's windows. I grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, pulled him forcefully to the floor, patted him down and by the time Saul came in, I had him with his hand tied behind his back.
......"What do you want?" yelled the crook as I shoved him in a chair. I didn't bother to answer and instead stood in front of him to get a good look at his face. He wasn't much to look at, his cheekbones jutting out, his eyes just a slits, his lips dry and his hair messy. The only thing that might have been considered attractive under any other circumstances was his nose.
......Saul came to stand right next to me with our man's wallet in his hand. "Robert Gravey, thirty-two," he read aloud from his driving license.
......I recognized the name right away and was relieved, when I realized we did indeed have the right guy. "Well, well, well, Mr. Unemployed from our list of suspects. Who would've thought?"
......Mr. Unemployed got very vocal: "Hey, I have no idea what you want but I advise you to piss off! You don't want to screw with me."
......I snickered at him. "I have an advice for you, tell us where did you hide the necklace and I'll make it quick for you."
......He shook his head. "I know nothing about no necklace. Let me go."
......I decided not to comment on his grammar. "Why would we want to do that?"
......He gave me a pitiful response: "Cause you're ugly and my nose itches."
......"Don't worry, my friend here will scratch it for you, won't you Saul?"
......Saul nodded with a grin and went to stand right behind our suspect, I was sure Mr. Gravey could actually feel his body heat, which couldn't have been a pleasant sensation. I continued my interrogation nonetheless: "Now, will you tell me where that necklace is or do I have to find it myself?"
......He didn't even bother to acknowledge me, so I lost my patience.
......"Alright, I always liked a bit of a challenge." I looked up at Saul and raised my left eyebrow. "Saul, scratch that nose of his for him, would you?"
......As Saul shuffled his feet to tower over our suspect to help him take care of his unpleasant itch, I turned around to search the motel room. I didn't think it will take me too long to determine whether or not the necklace was here. There was only a creaky bed, one armchair, one little table, the chair Gravey was currently sitting on and a wooden dresser after all. It wouldn't take me longer than an hour to go through that and I could probably even drink a cup of coffee somewhere in the middle of it.
......I was opening one of the drawers in the dresser, when I heard the first slap land. I ignored it and the yelp of pain that came afterwards, and begun to search through a hopefully clean pile of underwear.
......Twenty minutes, thirty-eight slaps and fifteen exclamations of "piss off" later, I found a flat leather case in a light blue pillow adorning the bed. I let out a triumphant "Aha!"
......Saul looked up. "Got it already?"
......I opened the case, pulled out a torn paper bag and in it, peacefully resting, I found a diamond necklace of the late Mrs. Lincoln. "Yes, I do."
......"Well, that was easy. Almost too easy."
......I shrugged. "He had no reason to think we were onto him and so didn't feel the need to find a better hiding place, right Mr. Unemployed?"
......Gravey scrunched up his face and I was surprised when he didn't spit on the floor in the disgust he was showing. I stayed a few paces away from him anyway and winked at Saul.
......"We still have to find the gun he'd used to do in that guard."
......Saul nodded. "If he has any brains, it's at the bottom of the East River."
......I saw Gravey wince at that and smiled. "It's not, is it? You actually haven't gotten rid of it yet, have you?"
......Gravey did spit then and I was glad I kept my distance. "Where is it?"
......He let out a gravelly laugh. "Like I'm gonna tell you anything. As far as I know I neva had a gun in my hand before."
......I shook my head as I observed his reddened cheeks. "You didn't scratch hard enough, Saul."
......My friend laughed and took our hostage by his bound hands. "Come on buddy, you're going to spent a few hours in the nicest house you've ever seen before settling in the Sing Sing for the rest of your life."
......I didn't expect Gravey to start struggling again after Saul's words and obviously neither did Saul, for he was shoved into a wall and kicked in a shin before he could say "a correctional facility". Once we overcame our shock, we didn't have any problems getting hold of Gravey again, despite his continuous struggles, but we were certainly a little bit more cautious of each and every one of his movements.
......I flagged a cab once outside the motel and shoved our guy inside, then turned around to face Saul. "If I'm correct, you're not going to ride with us, are you?"
......Saul shook his head. "God knows how you figured that out but you're right. I still have one more errand to do."
......I nodded and slid in next to Gravey. I decided not to feel offended just because I wasn't included into Wolfe's little magic trick, mainly because I had a plan on how to find out the accomplice's name before anyone bothered to tell me. All I had to do was get to our brownstone before Saul and then have a peek at the person he brings with him, because I was sure the errand he mentioned was to wrap X up and bring him to Wolfe's office.
......I was secretly smiling at the idea, when I realized Gravey was stifling a laugh next to me. I admit I was confused.
......"What the hell are you laughing at?" I asked. I knew he couldn't have read my mind but I had a nagging feeling he knew, what I was thinking about and he laughed at the absurdity of it.
......"Nothing," he gasped and laughed out hard. I stared at him, thinking he must have lost his marbles. He was on his way to a certain arrest and yet he was laughing. He practically brayed in his amusement and just when I raised my hand to head-slap it out of him, the penny dropped. He was all cheerful because he knew we had no direct evidence to convict him of the guard's murder. I could tell he did it from his reaction, when I asked him about the gun, but there was no guarantee he wasn't going to put the blame on his accomplice once confronted. He wasn't so happy while we were still in his motel room though, which suggested there was still something there that we didn't uncover.
......I smiled at him sweetly and nodded at the cabdriver. "Could you wait for us for a few more minutes? I forgot something."
......The cabbie nodded, looking bored, and Gravey's laugh died in his throat as suddenly as it appeared. "What now, man?" he asked me when I was dragging him back upstairs.
......"We're going to get the gun you stocked somewhere up there."
......Mr. Unemployed started struggling again but I was prepared for it this time. I tied him back to the chair that still stood in the middle of the room and started my search anew. I avoided the places I've already rummaged through and decided to inspect the room more thoroughly, looking for loose floorboards or a hole in a wall, all the while keeping an eye on our suspect. Half an hour later, I still couldn't find anything. I searched every little piece of furniture in the room and if the gun wasn't somewhere on Gravey, it wasn't there at all. I refused to think I made the wrong conclusion and stared at him. After a while, I smiled, there was still one place I didn't search.
......"Get up, buddy."
......He looked at me and I saw as well as heard him swallow. I knew I was right then. I grabbed him by his shoulders, pulled him to his legs and with my other hand turned around the chair he was sitting on all this time. There on the bottom of it, right under the seat, was taped a nine millimeter revolver. I pulled out a handkerchief, wrapped the gun in it and stuffed it into my pocket.
......"We're ready now, Mr. Unemployed. Mr. Wolfe is waiting for us."
......On our way to West 35th Street, I was experiencing very conflicting emotions. I was elated that I've found the murder weapon and was sure I deserved a "satisfactory" from Wolfe, but I was also a bit disappointed because there was no chance now that I would make it to the brownstone before Saul. I decided not to let it put a damper on my mood though and was chatting happily with Gravey despite his evident lack of participation in our conversation.
......Once we arrived and I locked Gravey in our front room, I entered the office to see Saul already sitting comfortably in our red leather chair finishing some kind of casserole.
......"Where's X?" I asked him right away.
......He pouted at me. "In the dining room along with the others. I didn't know you'd get lost on your way here, so I brought everybody at once in case you decided to spy on me."
......I grinned at him. I should've known better than to presume he'd let me get away with my little plan. "I didn't get lost, in fact, I found something." I enjoyed his expectant expression for a few seconds and then pulled out the gun out of my pocket.
......Saul gaped. "Where the hell did you get that?"
......"Try and guess."
......He thought about it for a while and then shook his head disbelievingly. "It was the chair, wasn't it? He was sitting on it the whole time, bastard."
......He smirked. "I bow to your greatness."
......I laughed. "Yeah, thanks. Wolfe's upstairs?" I didn't wait for an answer, since it was half past seven and if Wolfe wasn't in the dining room with X and he very obviously wasn't in the office, there was only one other place he could've been at this hour, his own bedroom.
......As soon as he saw me enter his sanctuary, he asked: "What did you find out?"
......I shrugged. "Nothing, I just came to say hi."
......He frowned. "Archie, I have a murderer under the roof and Inspector Cramer on the way here, this is no time for your jokes."
......I decided not to respond to that, even though I came up with at least three ways to do so, and instead pull out the gun. When Wolfe's eyes registered, what I was holding in my hand, his lips curled in a subtle smile. "Satisfactory, Archie. Very satisfactory."
......I had a hard time suppressing the beaming grin that threatened to split my face into two. I always got a pleasant feeling in my stomach every time I deserved a "satisfactory" from my employer but I would never want him to find out. He might just stop saying it.
......After I reported exactly what happened, Wolfe told me to expect him at eight exactly and sent me to help Saul prepare the office for our visitors. I left the red leather chair where it was, arranged the three yellow chairs that to stand in the correct angle towards my desk and made Saul bring two other chairs from the kitchen.
......"There's one missing," said Saul as he observed the room.
......I frowned. "Cramer in the red chair, Mr. Everson, Mr. Winston and Miss Strauss in the yellow ones, Jimmy Cooper and our very own Mr. Unemployed in the kitchen chairs and you on the couch. I don't see a problem."
......"What about Stebbins?"
......I shrugged. "He never sits down, he always stands over there next to the globe." I didn't even finish my sentence when the doorbell rang. I went to open the door only to reveal Inspector Cramer and Sergeant Purley Stebbins himself.
......"Well, speak of the devil, do you want a kitchen chair, Purley?"
......He looked at me like I've grown another head. "Good evening to you too, Goodwin."
......I rolled my eyes, took Cramer's coat and hat, left Purley to take care of himself and showed them into the office. Cramer went straight for his favorite chair, which was now deserted, and sat down. "Where's everybody?"
......They're in the dining room, devouring Fritz's casseroles. Would you like to have some? We still have around eight minutes before Wolfe comes down."
......He shook his head and pulled out a cigar. "I wouldn't refuse a glass of beer though."
......I looked at Saul meaningfully and when he turned to go to the kitchen to get Cramer's beer I sat down behind my desk, waiting for our mantel clock to chime eight.

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