A Murder in the Kitchen 5

20. june 2014 at 19:59 | Thalia Contostavlos
FIFTH CHAPTER
Disclaimer: I don't own any recognizable characters
Warnings: none

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……The following morning I got a call from Inspector Cramer asking me to come downtown for a round of questioning. He wasn't exactly polite in his request but since we needed to at least seem cooperative I agreed without much fuss. I informed Wolfe of my plans with a short phone call to the plant rooms, put on a light coat and left with Fritz bolting the door behind me.
……Once I arrived at the headquarters, I was a bit surprised to be pointed towards the inspector's office itself and not one of the interrogation rooms, but I wasn't complaining. Cramer had a nice leather settee in the corner of his office that was far more comfortable than any of the wooden torture devices the people in interrogation had the nerve to call chairs and I was sure he would let me sit in it. I went up the stairs and managed to exchange a few kind words with an agreeable looking receptionist before entering Cramer's lair.
……Once I was properly seated, in the aforementioned settee, the questioning started: "Tell me, have you already found out what happened to Mrs. Boots?"
……I raised my eyebrows. "Have you?"
……Cramer put up his forefinger in warning. "Don't take that tone with me, Goodwin. I am determined to be patient with you but your comments would make a Buddha use his slipper as a murder weapon. I politely asked you a simple question and I want a straightforward answer."
……I thought his Buddha remark should be rewarded, so I decided to give him what he asked for: "We haven't made much progress as far as I know."
…… Looking back, I should've stuck to my usual plan of clamming up. Had I known that my big mouth would get me into trouble, I would've never opened it.
……"As far as you know? And what about your genius of a boss, does he know anything?"
……I knew I had already gave myself away but I decided to stubbornly stick to my tune. "How would I know? You said it yourself, he's a genius, who am I to try and guess how his mind works?"
……Cramer smiled at me smugly, standing up from behind his cluttered desk and pointing his thick forefinger straight at me. "You know something, Goodwin. Out with it."
……I sighed theatrically before leaning forward as if I was going to tell him a secret. "Alright, I'll tell you. You have to pinky swear to keep it a secret though."
……Cramer took a shuddering breath and didn't say anything, so I silently counted to ten with him just to amuse myself. He had to do it twice, and even then his voice shook.
……"Goodwin, if this is one of your jokes, I swear to God, I will have your license."
……I frowned and quickly backtracked, I hadn't realized he was this wound up. I tried to sidetrack him. "Don't you need to sneeze right now? 'Cause I do."
……Cramer stared. "What?"
……I grinned at him, hoping to dissolve the tension. The situation was slowly getting out of hand and I didn't need Cramer to actually make good on his promise and issue a warrant for Wolfe's arrest. I decided to use a sentence that had once go me out of a pickle: "How many bruises do you have, inspector? I have two, one on my forearm here and the other on my-"
……"Goodwin!" he shouted, loud enough that the pleasant looking receptionist must've heard it, and I gathered that my strategy hadn't worked. "Enough! Enough or god help me, I'll clobber you over the head with something." He took a calming breath. "I want you to know that I know that Wolfe knows something and I want him to know that I know he's keeping it to himself until he's ready to let go."
……I looked speculatively at him, thinking he must be quite a knowledgeable person to use so many 'knows' in one sentence, and decided to phrase my next words carefully: "The most boring thing happened to me just yesterday. Do you want to hear about it?"
……He seemed suspicious but curious enough to encourage me to go on.
……"After Mr. Boots left our office yesterday afternoon," I started slowly, "the genius asked me to call Mr. Durkin and Mr. Cather. They must be at the brownstone as we speak."
……Cramer eyed me skeptically. "You're not taking the piss out of me, are you?"
……I shook my head no. "Of course not, I would never do that after that many 'knows' in a row."
……Cramer sighed and rubbed a tired hand over his face. "You really are not a serious person."
……I nodded. "And proud of it."
……He shook his head, sinking back into his seat. "Anything else?"
……I smiled at him but I don't usually make the same mistake twice, so he got nothing out of me.
……When I finally got out of there, leaving Cramer to contemplate my comment in the comfort of his own office, I was feeling rather bitter about my situation, so I spent the next ten minutes amusing myself by stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, stretching my arms above my head and saying as loudly as I dared: "The warden let me out of the slammer for whole two hours. Geesh, I haven't seen this city in five years!"
……I received a large collection of offended looks from the innocent passersby and one admiring stare from a five-year-old kid before I decided I'd had enough and went home.
……By the time I arrived, Saul, Fred and Orrie had been apparently already instructed and taken their leave, for I didn't see either of them anywhere in our brownstone. I tried to squeeze something about their chores from Wolfe, but all that I got in return was an impatient "Not now, Archie." and a suggestive "Have you already an idea regarding Mr. Dursley's whereabouts?"
……I had to admit that I hadn't, and feeling properly chastised by that, I dialed Lon Cohen's number with no further ado. I caught my friend in a good enough mood, if his cheerful voice was anything to go by, so I felt hopeful about my inquiries.
……"Cohen, The Gazette. What do you have for me?"
……I laughed at him. "Is this the normal way you answer your phone or did you know it was me?"
……"Archie?"
……"The one and only."
……Lon snorted on the other side of the receiver. "Had I known it was you, I would've asked how could I be of assistance, god knows you've never had anything useful for me."
……"That's not true, Lon, I'm sure I'd proved myself to be very useful to you in the past. I did give you an exclusive last month, did I not?"
……I would bet my new pair of socks that Lon rolled his eyes. "Sure you did, Archie. What do you need."
……"Mr. Ben Dursley, a stock broker, where can I find him?"
……"Depends. What do you have with him?"
……"I want to look at his car."
……Lon's voice betrayed his confusion: "You looking for a new car?"
……I grinned, for once glad he couldn't see me. "Lon, answers first, questions later. Where can I find him?"
……He told me to hold for a minute and went in search for the information I needed. In my opinion, it took him an embarrassingly long time, whole two minutes and thirty seven seconds, before he finally returned. "Ben Dursley, by the way, there are twenty three of them in New York, seventeen in Manhattan and two of them work as stock brokers, only one can afford a car though. He lives in an apartment on W 62nd Street but can almost never be found there for he spends his nights gambling in a bar on the corner of 46th Street and Eleventh Avenue, the name's The Landmark Tavern."
……My eyes widened in remembrance. "I know that joint, I've been there once. Trust me, there's a reason I haven't been there since."
……Lon snickered. "Yeah, I heard about it. So, now for my questions."
……I promptly interrupted him. "I don't have time for that, sorry. I do promise you another exclusive though."
……"Wait, you said I could ask you questions."
……"You shouldn't have taken such a long time in the archives. Sorry, nothing doing."
……Lon murmured something unpublishable and hung up on me. I shrugged at the deaf receiver, wrote down the address Lon gave me, more for show than any particular purpose, and left the office with a simple: "See you later, sir." uttered to Wolfe.
……When I arrived at The Landmark Tavern, I found it in an even more pitiful state than I remembered. Surprisingly enough, it wasn't in the furniture or facilities and nor was it in he drinks, those looked good enough, it was in the sort of people that found themselves in such a place. The women were unremarkable in their looks and desperate in their actions and the men were vulnerable, seeing as they were already in an alcoholic haze despite the early hour. The whole business seemed to follow a simple rule, when a girl smiles at you while sitting at a bar, she doesn't have any money, if you smile in return, you do.
……It is an understatement that I had caused quite a commotion amongst the tavern's patrons since my appearance wasn't what they were used to. At least five women turned my way and smiled and exactly seven men sent me an appraising look. I made sure my face stayed impassive since I didn't want to end up buying drinks for anyone, and made my way over to the bar. The bartender didn't seem surprised to see a man such as myself in his establishment but then again, Mr. Dursley visited almost every day, so he must be somewhat used to finer tailoring.
……"What do you want?" he asked me, not lifting his eyes from a drink he was pouring.
……I cleared my throat. "I'd like to speak with Mr. Dursley, he around?"
……That did gain his attention, however not the kind I wanted. "I don't know a Dursley."
……I leaned forward, motioning for him to do the same. "Listen, you do this right and I might have a buck with your name on it. You either tell me where he is or ask him to meet me up here and I'll be satisfied."
……He looked suspicious. "What do you want of him?"
……I pulled out my wallet. "Alright, a fiver then. Agreed?"
……He eyed the banknote I waved in front of his nose for a second before snatching it up and heading somewhere off to the back. It seemed ages before he came out, though the clock in my head told me that it was barely 3 minutes.
……"He'll see you now, come with me." he said immediately disappearing again.
……I didn't see a way to go around the bar, so I quickly climbed over it and went after the bartender. He led me through a dimly lit hallway, down a set of rickety stairs and into a large room with poker tables. I could pinpoint Mr. Dursley right away, he was tucked all the way in the back of the room, sitting at a table with three other men, laughing loudly. He looked up as I entered and his face contorted into an ugly grimace.
……"Who are you?" he asked, raising his voice so he could be heard across the room but still managing to sound respectful.
……I refused to take part in a yelling match, mainly because my voice doesn't sound as refined as usual when I raise it, so I walked up to him slowly, smiling politely all the way. When I was close enough for me to grab him in case he decided to run, I answered in a normal voice: "My name is Archie Goodwin, I work for Nero Wolfe, the private detective. Have you heard of Mrs. Boots' murder?"
……Curiously enough, he looked relieved once I said that, and it was at that point that I realized the true state of his affairs. Mr. Dursley might have a very expensive car in a private garage and a very nice visiting card in the pocket of his specially tailored suit, but behind all that was a quivering man with gigantic debts from poker. Once he found out I wasn't here to threaten him nor was I about to rip him a new one, he relaxed. ……Unfortunately for me, that also meant he lost all his fear-induced respect and didn't care one whit about me anymore. "I don't know any Mrs. Boots."
……I grabbed a nearby chair and sat down onto it. "I'm sure she would've been disappointed to hear you say that. It was her money that bought you that new car after all, wasn't it?"
……I had hoped he would regain a bit of his caution at that but I had no such luck. "I don't know what you're talking about, Mr. Goodman. I don't know any Mrs. Boots."
……I didn't bother to correct him regarding my name because he'd done it on purpose anyway, and carried on with my questioning: "We have a good reason to believe you had sold Isabelle down the river, which gives you a perfect motive for her murder."
……"I didn't know her, I didn't rip her off and I certainly didn't kill her. Now scram."
……I tutted at him. "That's no way to do this, Mr. Dursley. You are a suspect in a murder case, don't you think you should cooperate?"
……"Oh I'll cooperate all right, if the dicks get a warrant that is. Until then, nothing doing."
……I tried not to let my frustration show. "Where were you on Friday evening at ten to six?"
……He actually looked thoughtful for a second. "I was at home, alone."
……I sighed. "That doesn't help much. You think you could come to Nero Wolfe's with me and answer some other questions? I assure you that if you're innocent, Mr. Wolfe will find a way to prove it."
……He barked out a short and completely unnecessary laugh. "I don't need to prove anything. Bugger off."
……I knew I blew it, yet I'd kept on it for another ten minutes or so to keep up appearances before finally giving up. Mr. Dursley was certainly anything but innocent when it came to business, whether he killed Mrs. Boots however, was anybody's guess.
……I left in a horrible mood. It is an understatement to say that I was livid. I was so riled up, in fact, that I kicked a dustbin on my way to the main street just to ease up some of the tension that settled upon my shoulders. It was probably a very juvenile thing to do and I was grateful no one saw me do it, but it did help a bit, so I thought I could let it slide.
 

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