This is the opening to a revised edition of my first e-book
I stood there, the gun still warm in my hand, barrel smoking from the gun battle.
“Why did he do that, Sarge? I tried my best to talk him out of it.”
“Living with the guilt finally got to him, Patti.”
“Couldn’t he have talked it over?”
“No, the only thing worse than being a dirty cop is being the son of a loose cannon, and none came looser than Bill Chart, Patti.”
I looked around. There lay the body of Bill’s son, my ex-partner, Adrian Chart.
“I had no choice; he pulled first, Sarge,” I said through my tears.
“I know, Patti, we all saw it. Nobody blames you. It was his way out.”
The last thing I remember was the Sarge saying in a soft tone, “Take a week off Patti, something like this will haunt you. I know. I have been there myself.” Dazed, I stood there, trying to remember how it had all started . . .
* * *
I’d wanted an office and had pestered the sergeant for months for a place to work. For my sins, I’d got this dark and dingy office with paperwork piled high of old, unsolved murders. The air was dank with the musty smell of old paper, a place where the light had long gone missing. This precinct was Middleton Detective Agency. Even hardened drunks avoided this run down area of town. Sitting at the back of the office, I looked in desolation at the pile of old cases, Sgt. Pug Phillips had recently dumped on me.
“Why don’t I get anything good?” I muttered, knowing nobody was listening, or if they were, they didn’t care. Cold coffee was still on the table from last night, the ring marks showing how I had spent the long, hot and humid days at Middleton going over old and long-forgotten cases which had been given to me so that I’d have something to do
“A young girl, trying to do a man’s job” is what the crew said on that first day months ago.”
Here I was, stuck at the back end of nowhere, in a dark office so lonely I had to get my coffee and doughnuts. The guys never took any notice. I often wondered if they would notice if I just didn’t turn up. “
I’d never been a girlie girl. I was always looking for a mystery to solve rather than play with dolls or admire film stars. And this was my reward! All I have is the deadbeat job in a run-down office, in the worst part of town.
Sometimes, I wish I’d just got married like the others; had a nice cosy life and a good husband, I muttered to myself – then, ‘Hell, no! Patti. Where did that come from, gal?” The drudgery and boredom were getting to me. All these cases! Some go back to the ’20’s. Most of the witnesses are dead now, I mumbled under my breath. Trust me to get cases that are not only cold, but deader than the dodo.
Sitting there alone, I was surprised to hear a knock on the door. I was more surprised that anyone knew where I was. Standing in the doorway was an old man, leaning on his cane.
“Please come in and sit down.”
“Thank you, young lady,” he said. “I have information on an old case, and you might like to re-open.”
“Why not ask at the desk?”
“They closed the book years ago, and don’t want old wounds re-opened, that is why.”
“Which case is this?”
“It’s one from the ’20s. It was the Morrissey & Jeffries case.”
“What can you tell me about it and why should we reopen it now?”
“I am telling you about it because my spirit is crossing and I want to clear this case up. You get it re-opened, and I will let you know what I know.”
“How can I trust you?”
“Just tell Pug, that Dennis spoke to you.”
The man got up and walked back down the corridor. When I got up to see which way he went, all I saw was a whiff of smoke. Looking through the case files, I was disheartened to see how many had just been left open, with no closure for the families. Back then, the force could not spare the workforce to chase up leads, what with all the gangsters and bootlegging.
With Mayor Johnson going for a second term, he needed to show power to the mobs, so all the force was put on alert, and other crimes became less necessary.
“So sad,” I thought. “These poor people never had closure.”
One thing about the Morrissey & Jeffries killing back in 1926 caught my eye. Link Morrissey and his girl, Darlene Jeffries went for a drive, but never arrived at her parents’ house, even though it was only twenty minutes across town.
Getting up from the desk, I walked back down the dark corridor to the elevator shaft. Pushing the button to call the aged machine into action, all I could hear was the grinding of gears, as the cable span on the wheel.
“Shit. Not again. When is the landlord going to fix this damn thing?”
Setting off up the ten flights of stairs to the main office, I already imagined the calls from the men, “Here comes Nancy Drew, lads.”
Leading the barrage, as always, would be Adrian Chart. The man was as roughneck as they came. If he did not draw blood, then it was a lousy fight. Seven years ago his old man, Bill Chart, had passed away, and Adrian was just like his dad. His wife had left him six years ago, and then he hit the bottle hard.
One theory as to why Chart kept his job was the bosses needed his street knowledge to track the mobs. As a cop, he was one of the worst on the force – but for cracking the heads of gangsters, he had no equal. They said he lost it all when Maggie left him. After that, he didn’t care what happened. He’d go in first and take as many down as he could before a proper enquiry began.
The only trouble was, Chart was as much a threat to his colleagues as he was to the mobs. He was often so out of control that a situation that could have possibly we could have resolved ended up almost like a gun battle.
Every day for the last month, when I’ve logged in, I’ve had to cope with Chart and his cronies jeering and cat calling. Chart and about eight other old-school cops call ladies ‘doll’, and they should stay at home and tend to the men folk.
As I walked in, Chart swung around in his chair, “Well look who…”
As he spoke, I realized I had had enough. I felt the need to be recognized for what I do – now!
Before he could finish his sentence, I swung a left and hit him in the jaw. The force rocked him in his chair so violently that he banged his head on the desk.
“Anybody else wants to take on Nancy Drew? You over there – you look desperate!
Chart’s friends gasped, taken aback to see how quickly he had was taken out of the fight.
“Let me just inform you all – I might be female and ladylike most of the time, but you rile this gal, and she’ll turn wildcat on you – so feel free fellows.”The squad room remained quiet as I walked to the sergeant’s desk, my hips swinging with the grace of a gazelle. I gave them a smile and a wink.
I approached the desk with grace and poise, not letting the pain of the blow show, as I gritted teeth.
“Finally got what he deserved there, Patti,” the Sarge said. “Saw it building last week. I was halfway to telling him to back off ya, but knew the only way he would, is if you slugged him. Remind me not to get on your bad side. That was one hell of a left you packed, gal,” he said with a wink.
“That’s nothing Sarge, you oughta see my right.”
“Where did you get those moves?”
“Wrong side of the wrong town; living hand to mouth; when you’re fighting for anything, you learn not to back down. I don’t look for fights, but I never back down.”
“I don’t think he’ll bother you, Patti.”
“Well not for a week or two. I know Adrian’s sort, Sarge. He just festers away, waiting for a chance to get even. Sarge, can I ask you something?”
“Sure, Patti, what’s on your mind?”
“Sarge, do you remember the Morrissey & Jeffries case?”
“Of course I do. I was in my first year on the streets, and we never figured it out. It’s bugged me ever since.”
“I’ve been looking it over, and was wondering if you could you give me the background, as the notes are sketchy.”
“No problem. It was towards the end of Mayor Johnson’s first term in office. The mobs were running us ragged. Everywhere we turned, they had us out gunned, out manned and seemed to know our every move.”
“Do you think it was a leak from this side?”
“It certainly looked like it, but we couldn’t find out who it was.”
“What was going on at the time?”
“Morrissey and the Jeffries families were two of the biggest families in Midtown. Duke Jeffries was the boss of the largest fleet of trucks in the area, and Mal Morrissey was the biggest maker of hooch. We got the wind they were going to link up for a talk somewhere, but it never happened in the end.”
“Why didn’t it happen then?”
“When the shooting came, both families blamed each other, and never got to the table.”
“So who took over then?”
“That is the strange thing. Nobody stepped up to the plate. A power vacuum got created. Anyone could have taken charge and joined them as a neutral, but nobody did.”
“Were there any theories at the time?”
“There were loads of them, Patti. Maybe a hit from either side that they didn’t want to take the rap for – or some even thought about an out-of-town hit man – they all held water -apart from one thing…”
“Nobody took charge when the dust settled?”
“Right, Patti. We never figured it out. Not then and not to this day.”
“So, what was with the young couple Sarge?
“Everyone thought this would be the perfect way for both sides to merge. They always were keen on each other, even in school. Parents just nudged nature along I guess. They were going over to Links’ to tell his family about the wedding day plans when suddenly the car swerved and went into the lake. Back then, Johnson Marrow was the only one who had a truck with a winch powerful enough to drag the vehicle out of the lake. But he was way out of town and by the time he got back, the lake was frozen solid, and we couldn’t get the car. When the ice melted in March the following year, nobody wanted to know.”
The Sergeant continued, “Mayor Johnson’s cleaning up was in full swing as he was back for a second term. He was purging the area of that type, and mobs were running scared of his men. Somehow we had stopped the leak, and the power balance had swung back our way.”
“That is odd, the mayor plugging the leak, and coming back again.”
“What is the cause of your sudden interest in the case?”
“A man came into the office about twenty minutes ago, and told me he had some new information on the case.”
“Is he genuine?”
“I don’t know, Sarge. All he said was to tell you that his name is Dennis.”
The room went quiet. Looking about in astonishment, I said sheepishly, ‘Did I say something wrong?’
Pug took me aside to tell the story. “No, you didn’t say anything wrong, Patti. It’s just that Dennis was my first partner. We were out on a call to the dockland area. We suspected hooch was coming across the border. Dennis and I were on the lookout. All was quiet at our end, then from out of nowhere there was a hail of bullets from behind us, and before I could turn around, there he was lying dead; my partner got shot from behind. There was a search for the killer, but none ever showed up, and the case was forgotten in a rush to get the streets clean.”
“Sorry, Sarge, I didn’t know.”
“It’s OK, Patti. It was over twenty years ago, but it still haunts me. So what did Dennis tell you?”