Posts Tagged ‘Noir’

The Christmas Killer

January 4, 2020

Marla took a deep drag of her cigarette and coughed before tossing it to the pavement and stamping it out. She had barely stumbled out of bed just thirty minutes before. It was New Year’s Day and the party had been out of control the night before. She had lost count of how many glasses of egg nog she had had and that was long before the champagne even showed up. She had thrown on some shades in order to hide bloodshot eyes and had done the best she could with her hair and makeup. An investigative reporter had to look professional. Apparently, there were no days off for a true professional even though she wanted to spend the day hovering near her toilet. Ah well.

The paper had not sent over a photographer which was either an oversight or a budget cutback. The Spotlight was always being overshadowed by the Tribune and television so things were getting a little tight back at the office. The accounting department was getting increasingly testy. So, Marla was surreptitiously snapping pictures with her cell phone from behind the police tape. It looked grim. Cops at crime scenes always looked grim but this one looked particularly bad. Everybody was walking around either ashen-faced or pissed. Not a single cop was lax in their duties guarding the crime scene. Marla suspected she knew what the cause of it all was.

It was the Christmas Killer. It had been more than a week since the killings had begun. On Christmas Eve, a young woman had been found dead in an alleyway. She had been stabbed in the carotid artery and had bled out. It had not been pretty. What was curious is that the deed had been done with a simple candy cane. It had been sharpened to a point and driven deep. It had certainly put an extra chill in the air just before Christmas. The next day there was a very similar killer only this time the victim was male and the target was their femoral artery. Christmas Day in broad daylight. Every day since then there had been another bloody killing, all done with the same sharpened sweet. It was a baffling serial killer case because there did not seem to be a pattern with the victims.

So far, Marla had been at every crime scene but she had gotten very few details. After the first two kills, the cops had done well clamping down on any information they had. Though, the killings kept happening so they must not have had much of an idea yet either. It was frightening that a killer like that could work with impunity in a big city. It made anybody a target. It was a fact that Marla knew all too well. She had made a point of never being alone in the open wherever she went. She moved through crowds and attended parties. Safety in numbers had been her hope as it had been the hope of a lot of people during the last week.

Marla spotted a familiar face near the police tape so she headed in that direction. She had already tried flagging down an officer or detective for a comment. None of them would comment but she had not really expected them to. At one point, like at other crime scenes, she had shouted at them the question of whether it had been the Christmas Killer. The flinch she had seen in one officer had told her all she had needed to know. She moved over toward Rick Friedman who looked almost as hungover as she did.

“Hey Rick,” Marla said. “What’s a private investigator like you doing here? Can’t you see the professionals are already on the case?” She smirked, loving to tease even her closest friends.

Rick sighed. “Good morning, Marla,” he said. “You know very well that I’m a professional. I’m at least as good at sniffing out the facts as you are.”

“Only too true,” Marla said. “I’ll give the devil his due but seriously what are you doing here? I wouldn’t peg you as a rubbernecker.”

“I’m here for the same reason as you and the cops are here,” Rick said. “I want to help figure out who keeps doing this.”

Marla’s eyebrows went up. “You had the same hunch that I did, huh?” she asked. “The Christmas Killer strikes again.”

“I did,” Rick said. “Two of the families have hired me to assist with the investigation.”

“The cops must not be happy with that,” Marla said. “You’re making as many friends as I am.”

“No,” Rick said. “They’re not going to be happy that I’m snooping around but maybe I can see something if I look from an outside angle. Which brings me to why I’m glad that I ran into you.”

Marla smiled. “Aw shucks,” she said. “Why are you glad to see me?”

“I have a proposal for you, Marla,” Rick said.

Marla laughed softly. “I’ve already been married, Rick,” she said. “It didn’t work out.”

Rick smiled. “No,” he said. “I suggest a team-up. You and me. We try to figure some stuff out.”

“Are you for real?” Marla asked.

“I am,” Rick said. “However, I have one caveat.”

“Only one?” Marla asked. “Brave man.”

“Whatever you get, you keep out of the paper until the guy is caught,” Rick said.

“Deal,” Marla said. “For an exclusive, I can stay quiet for a little while but we should really get to work.”

“Agreed,” Rick said.

The Toughest Frail Pt. 2

August 16, 2014

The coffee was good at Sullivan’s.  It was rich with a hell of a kick where most other places in the area  served liquid chalk or something burnt at the bottom of the pot.  The coffee was good but the company was not.  Sure I liked Captain Hagher well enough but the man was a top brass policeman and was usually more of an obstacle than he was assistance.  Even if the Captain believed him about not having anything to do with the murder, there was still a tension in the air.  Harper had two standard moves in a tense situation and one of them involved pulling his gun.  So, he lit a cigarette.  Nice guy that he was, he lit the Captain’s too.

“Harper, I have a problem.” The captain said after a long drag on his cigarette.
“We all have problems, Hagher.  What’s your problem specifically?”  Harper

“Besides a private dick who thinks he’s smarter than he is?  I have your card in a victim’s pocket.  That’s what we call a lead.  You say it doesn’t mean anything.  The cop in me says different.  Care to comment?”

“I told you out there.  She was a client but her case was closed.  All that was left was the billing and I’d be crazy to take out a client before they paid.”

“What was the case, Harper?”

“Hey, I’ve got a little bit of ethics, Hagher.  She may be dead but it was her business.  Show some respect.”

“That’s cute, Harper.  I don’t think you even know how to spell ethics.  You’re a private dick, a gun for hire.  Just tell me what there is to tell.” The Captain said with a sneer.  It made me clench my fists under the table.

Now I had a problem there because I do have ethics.  I do have a personal code and I tend to stick to it even when I’m hungry and it would be so easy to betray my clients.  My problem was that two blocks away there was a frail laying in the street and somebody put her there.  In the end the dilemma was easy.  Dames win every single time.  I wasn’t about to let the Captain know he’d won so easily though.

“Alright, Hagher, you’ve got my back against the wall.  I’ll talk.” I said with a growl.

He smirked as if he had won something and leaned back and sipped from his second cup of coffee.  “I knew you’d come to see things my way, Harper.  So spill.  I’ve got a murderer to catch.”

“I realize that but if I empty my guts, I want in.” I fixed him with my hardest stare to show I meant business.  My wallet was pretty thin at the moment with almost no hope of resuscitation.  Truth and justice for this lady was fine and good but my landlady takes paper money.

“You want in?  Well, I’ll see what I can do, Harper.”  Something about the way he stumbled over his words made them less than honest to me.

“I’m in or I’m out, Hagher.”

“You spill or it’s handcuffs for you.”

“If I’m not in then handcuffs it’s got to be.”

“Damn it, Harper.  Don’t do this.  You know they got me by the balls with the budget.”

I leaned in slowly wand looked him the eye.  “Don’t tell me not to do something, Hagher.  I will do it.  I’m doing it now. Put me in.”

The was a long drag on his cigarette and a sip of coffee.  He repeated both again after an exasperated sigh.  There was a glare and deathly silence.  I tried not to show my enjoyment.

“You’re in but only to save me paperwork and because my detectives are overworked.”

“Hire better detectives and you’ll close more cases.” I said with a smirk.

“I’d love to hire better detectives, Harper, but I’m hiring you.  Now spill so you can get to work.”

“She’s a high class little number from Iowa, made her way east and brushed off the dust to make it in the big city.  She gave me that much for free but didn’t much talk about herself.  She hired me to follow her husband around to see what piece he was getting on the side.  I found her husband with a sweet woman on the west side of town.  I let her know and gave her my bill.”

“That’s it? Geez, Harper, it wasn’t exactly worth the wait.”

“Well, as long as I’m on the case now I’m going to go question her husband.  I would think that would be obvious.”

“Trouble with that, Detective, is that her husband is the other victim.  Dead on a bed in the Biltmore Hotel.”

I blinked. “He’s what?!”

The Toughest Frail Pt 1

July 17, 2014

To the police Lucy Hart was just another dead body. She was just another homicide case to run down so they could close another file in a never ending quest for a raise or a promotion.  To me, she was my client or at least she had been.  Now she was face down on Sullivan Street and starting to smell.  I had wondered where she was with that last check and now I knew.  Damn, I wish she had just skipped out on the bill.

My name is Caleb Harper but most people who know me just call me Ace or just Harper.  I’m a private detective and most of my cases involve catching people doing what they ought not to do and that meant cheating spouses.  Ocassionally I ran down leads for the police but those jobs were few and far between.  I was good, damned good but times were tight and I had sunk to living in my office’s second room.  I had hoped when the Captain called that they had a job for me.  This did not smell like a job.

I took one last drag of my cigarette and then stamped it out on the pavement, still damp from last night’s downpour.   The city of Baltimore had been drenched all week and tonight was shaping up to be another rainy summer evening.  The uniform standing with me gave me a sour look and didn’t flinch when I gave him one back.  I bent down and picked up the butt and walked it over to the trashcan and gave the cop a good hard look as I dropped it in.   He still did not flinch.  I had to respect that but I did not have to like it.

The uniform was there to babysit me while we waited for Captain Hagar.  I had a tendency in the past to get a little too curious when left alone at crime scenes.   The police did not seem to like that sort of behavior so they assigned me a babysitter.  He didn’t look all that talkative which was great because I wasn’t in the mood to talk to any grunts.

The good Captain took his sweet time too.   He came walking up and waved his officer away so we could talk.

“Captain Hagher, to what do I owe the pleasure of getting dragged down to a crime scene this early in the morning.”

“It’s nine in the morning, Harper, and I would think it was obvious why you’re here.”
“And supposing it’s not?”

He gave me a look that would chill the heart of any lowlife.  A look he probably used in interrogations all the time.  “It should be, Harper.” He pointed over at the body that even now was being covered to stop the press from snapping a picture. “We found your card on her person and her being dead and all.  We thought you might have something to say about the whole thing.”

“If I checked in with you every time one of my former clients died, I’d be a regular fixture around the precinct.  I don’t know anything, Captain.”

“And would you say the same under a hot light at the station?”

“I’m telling you Captain, I had nothing to do with the frail anymore.  Well, maybe  an unpaid bill but that’s it.  Honest Injun.”

The Captain sighed. “I trust you, Harper.  I trust you about as far as I can throw you but I trust you.  Mind if we get a cup of coffee and talk?”

“Only if you’re buying.  Give me coffee and I’ll say anything you want.”

“That’s what I like about you, Harper. Your strong sense of ethics.  Let’s hit the shop on Walton. It’s just around the corner.”

“I know where it is but lead the way and I’ll follow, Captain.”

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