Fortunately, for him, the cities along the Alton stretch of the Mississippi River had one thing in abundance: riverboat casinos. He found one and parked. What game would give him the greatest advantage? He guessed he would start with blackjack, just because it was the one with the rules he remembered the best. The security guard didn’t even card him. His goatee seemed to be proof enough of age. Two stops he made first: the ATM, and then the cage. He got a hundred dollars in casino chips. submitted by
He wandered past the slot machines and found the blackjack table. It was early enough in the day that he was the only one sitting at the table. Knowing what he knew about security cameras and goons wandering the floor, he made a deliberate show of sitting down with his hands above the table and placed his palms flat. This was to provide a visual record, if accused of cheating, that not once did he have his hands below the table, eliminating the possibility of using a card counting device. The dealer, a man in his mid-forties, regarded him. “Hello, sir, this is blackjack,” the man introduced. “How much would you like to bet?”
Manfred set down fifty dollars in chips. The dealer handed him two cards, face up, a three, and a seven. Before the dealer could pull out his own cards, Manny quietly used his see-through vision. The dealer was going to get a nine and a six. The dealer put one of his cards face up and the other face down. The dealer was in a better position than him now, closer to twenty-one. The next card was a seven. “Hit,” he told the dealer. Now he was at seventeen, forcing the dealer to hit to try and beat him. He saw, however, the dealer’s next card and had to force himself not to smile. It was a jack, worth ten, putting the dealer at twenty-five, a bust.
“Good job,” the dealer said. “Table pays two to one, so you get a hundred.” He handed Manny a hundred-dollar chip. Manny put down the new chip with the fifty and went another round. The dealer was going to get a seven and a queen: seventeen. Manny looked at his cards to come. He could get a two, a five, an eight, and a three. He would beat the dealer again. The dealer whistled. “Two in a row, that’s something.” He looked further ahead. The dealer would have a nine, and a queen, putting him at nineteen. Meanwhile, he could get a six, a two, a king, and an ace. He would lose either way. He pulled his chips aside and bet fifty before going another round. The cards were dealt. “Ah, I guess no one can win ‘em all.”
“I’m still in the positive, so, I’m going to keep going,” Manny replied.
The dealer shrugged. “Sure.”
This went on for a while. He would bet big when he knew he would win, and bet small when he knew he would lose. He had to stay under some amount just over eleven hundred dollars, because above that, he’d have to fill out a tax form. Maybe he’d do that at another casino, but right now, he had to maximize his starting bet at another casino. After nine hundred dollars, he stepped aside. After cashing his chips in, he pocketed the money and headed out to his car. He put the money in the middle compartment. He stared at it. Two weeks’ pay after taxes still fell short of what he had. He drove off, headed another ten or so miles to another casino. The Mississippi River had several of these to choose from.
Sitting down at another blackjack table, he sat across from another dealer, and at least two other people sat here. Normally, it would be hard to consider how far ahead to look at the cards, but somehow, her brain was smarter than his. The other people noticed his incredible luck, and he tried to minimize it by placing more on losing bets. After quite a bit of winning, some eleven thousand dollars, security approached and asked him to leave. He went to the main cage, cashed out, and was handed a form.
“Your Social Security card and Driver’s License, sir?” the cashier asked.
He opened his wallet and produced them. “Death and taxes,” he joked, handing them over. He filled out the form, and handed it back. An uncomfortable few minutes passed. “I’d like my winnings in a check, please, minus a thousand in cash, if you could.”
The cashier smiled, returning his identification. “Certainly, sir,” he said. A few minutes later, and he had a check in his pocket and more cash in his wallet. He also had a security escort to his car. He drove off and didn’t stop until he got to a branch of his bank, some four miles away. Shutting the engine off, he realized his heart was pounding.
He leaned back in his chair. A ragged breath escaped. He had to remind himself nothing was coming after him. He had gotten away with it. Obviously, he figured, otherwise security would’ve pulled him aside then and there. He went up to the ATM and deposited the check. He doubted he could handle explaining things to a live person. He could scarcely believe that almost half a year’s money had entered his possession. Starting the car again, a thought occurred to him.
Assuming this is real, he realized, it would be absurd to believe it would only happen to him. He’d gotten so mentally high from the winnings, and so distracted by the possibility of insanity, that the basic hadn’t even struck him until this point. After all, he’d unlocked more evidence: the likelihood of him hallucinating turning into another person was high. However, for the insanity option to be the truth, now, he’d have to have somehow beaten the incredible odds of casino blackjack consistently enough to have won almost twelve thousand dollars. Also, he realized he’d only been in the close, Alton casino. He’d never been in this other one. So, he would’ve had to hallucinate something he’d never seen before, in significant detail. So far, he’d made a lot of money, and assuming this wasn’t a giant hallucination, he could make more. But what bothered him is the fact that, he knew what would happen next.
He’d read enough comics to know that, should he decide to use his powers, he’d be pulled into a situation he had little control of. It rattled him, knowing that, if enough people developed powers like his, society could very well collapse. He’d read plenty of comics and even some novels, and almost all of them had the same message: society can’t handle these things. The last thing he wanted was for the world to turn into Sengoku-era Japan, with local leaders fighting wars with each other. Another disturbing thought was, he could turn into Capacitor. Michelle Delanter was a very powerful super. She had the standard flying brick power set, and fought godlike beings before. In the comics, there had been a great deal of fights she’d been in. Unfortunately, her defining characteristic was that she always had an enemy to fight, many of which were more powerful than her. Obviously, he knew, in those stories, she always won. This wasn’t a story; this was life. He had no guarantees of winning. There were no mentors to teach him how to fight as a super. He had no one to help him learn.
This was new territory. He sighed and shook his head. “Dammit,” he thought out loud. He started the car. He felt the weight of possible events to come pushing down on him. If only he could wish it away, he believed. Then a mental image flashed through his mind. Some super out of a young adult novel obliterating the entire city and its surroundings. The old him would’ve been a victim, swept away like a sandcastle, no way to fight back. Now, he might find himself having to do battle, but he wouldn’t be a helpless victim. In fact, it might turn out to be his only tool to survive.
He returned home. If trouble would come to him sooner or later, he would be prepared. He had to know how complex her powers were and to what degree they worked.
One of the first things he tested was her intelligence. Was she as smart as him? Was she smarter than him? He had to know. In college, he’d completed calculus one with a ‘B’ and that utterly thrilled him. Once he found out he wouldn’t have to complete calculus two he almost danced a jig. Now, he dug around the internet until he came across a year two calculus primer. Since it’d been almost a decade, and his math skills were rusty, he began reading through the descriptions. The websites had various levels of descriptiveness, so if he came across one that didn’t seem technical enough, he found one that was.
After twenty minutes of reading, his mind snapped back to self-awareness. Suddenly, he became aware the math fascinated him. As far as he knew, it never occurred to him that math could fascinate anyone. More importantly, not once had any of the topics that bewildered him even remotely troubled her. The wiki for Furious Thunder indicated that all the versions of her possessed some degree of enhanced intellect, most being a four out of seven—with two being an average person. The latest incarnation, however, had been upgraded to a five—marked by the descriptor, “high genius.”
“She possessed an intellect much higher than the common man,” he read, “even before becoming enhanced. Afterward, however, her brilliance was brought to nigh-superhuman levels. Although not as smart as beings such as Psi-Storm, she can outsmart many of the cleverest enemies.”
Clicking back to the tab with the math instruction, he clicked on a video of a woman explaining some of the history of calculus. I don’t know if I’d wear that, he thought.
At once he hit the spacebar, pausing the video, and leaning back in his chair.
He’d just imagined himself, in her form, wearing the woman’s clothes, and found himself not enjoying that idea. He’d analyzed what he would look like in Capacitor form, dressed like that, and it bothered him. He’d judged her clothes. That thought caught him by surprise.
I’ve never cared about fashion or how clothes look, he thought.
A gasp almost escaped his mouth. The answer immediately presented itself. When I’m physically her, he realized, specifically, the brain, she has a different gender identity than I do. It would have been confusing if he didn’t currently have the intelligence to understand it. As far as he could tell, even though the brain was the seat of consciousness, there was no break in awareness. Granted, he had to admit, it had only been a few days. Still, it was no Jekyll & Hyde; there were no two people. There was just one person, with two different forms. It’s like two different word processors on the same computer, he realized. They have different features, but they share the same basic essence.
It occurred to him that he’d shifted some excess weight to her form. Even though he did it to make his clothes fit her, it triggered the same body image issues he had as a guy, but worse. Still, at the very least, it made it convenient that his large pants fit her.
His pants had slid down. He stood there and pulled his pants back up. A thumb and index finger slid into the gap where previously, it had been snug. Standing up, he pushed the chair aside and backed up. His male form re-emerged as he shifted back to normal, even transferring his excess weight back. Checking the waist of the pants, he coughed and shook his head. Somehow, in less than twenty-four hours, her enhanced body burned through enough fat to make his pants loose.
Shifting back into her form, he clasped his hands over his face, breathed in and out, and sat down on his bed. This would be one hell of a learning curve.
Had to write a descriptive essay back when I was in school and just came across it again. Disclaimer: the featured hand is the cliche climax where the villian gets there on the river but the essay is mainly for descriptive purposes-not high level poker content lol. If you read it, hope you enjoy. submitted by
"All in", that moment in poker when you put your entire stack on the line. I'm sitting at an oval table resembling a horse track with nine other degenerates all trying to do the same thing: win big. Beads of sweat start to form on my forehead, my mouth gets dryer as the rate of my heartbeat increases to a rapid gallop. I can feel blood pulsing and beating in my temples like war drums, but why? With the first three cards shown, I have the best hand at the moment. The sucker at the end of the table called my all in bet but his hand needs to improve in order to beat mine. With two cards to come, the gentleman, if he's worthy of that title, given the fact that he's already had two warnings from the staff about patting a waitress' rear, seems confident that he'll get lucky and his card will come. He needs a diamond. Around me there is table banter: A couple of Asian men looking like they just got off of work, talking to one another about poker strategy, or something else, I couldn’t tell. Young online gambling prodigies crunching numbers and blabbing about odds and statistics. Apparently, the likelihood of my opponent catching the card he needs to best me is roughly thirty five percent. There's always a frail old man at the table who sits expressionless and is almost a bigger distraction than the actual loudmouthed players themselves. You almost feel guilty about taking his money but, in an environment like this, there’s no room for that. Around me people are ordering drinks, drunkenly spilling on themselves, the table, and other players. Overly confident Middle Eastern business men singing aloud to themselves as if they think no one is around. And that's just my table, one of fifty-four in a crowded side room of the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles.
The casino is built into a Crown Plaza Hotel located in the industrial area of Commerce, California. The décor does not have direction, there is a Greek-style fountain in the front of the building and you are greeted by Sphinxes in the lobby. The carpets attempt to be elegant with its green Renaissance era floral pattern but it only comes off as desperate; the same desperation that ninety percent of these gamblers experience on a day to day basis. There is a subtle smell of cigarette smoke baked into the walls that has almost dissipated from the days when it was still legal to smoke indoors. That doesn’t bother me because when I play poker, I smoke. In order to maintain this degenerate image I project, in order to sell the experienced poker player persona, I need to have another vice to compliment my gambling. I don’t drink when I play, so smoking will do. Along the path to my table, I walk through the casino hearing cheers of joy and cries of anguish as players gamble with their paychecks and rent money. The shuffling of chips in the players’ hands sounds like rain falling into an aluminum gutter, trickling down the drain over and over again. To my right at the bar, waitresses are serving drinks with fake smiles to entice greater tips from hopeful men.
The next card is a spade. There is a skip in the powerful beat in my heart as I feel that I’ve dodged a bullet, but the relief is short-lived since there’s another card to come. I sense my opponent at the other end of the table experience the same skip in his rhythm but for a different reason. His disappointment is followed by the distressed pleas to the Poker Gods, “One time! One time!”. As he prays for his card to come, I quietly pray that it doesn’t.
I pass a lone security guard sitting in his booth overlooking part of the room, he’s not paying attention, going through the motions of his mundane job. I’m just short of twenty one years old and have a baby face to boot but he doesn’t notice. I’ve been coming here for the past three years and the jolt of adrenaline of possibly getting caught when I step into this building has worn off. It used to be exciting, something new; my main distraction in my “game” was looking over my shoulder to see if someone was “radio-ing me in”, but that doesn’t cross my mind anymore and soon won’t be an issue at all. In order to get a table, I navigate my way through a sea of passing players to put my name on the waitlist, trying not to clip their shoulders with mine. The room has a subtle odor of an old cafeteria but is overpowered by the countless bodies sitting at tables.
Playing poker in a casino this size is a germophobe’s worst nightmare. Hundreds of players touching the same chips, same cards, coughing, sneezing, eating, wiping their hands across their nose; the Purell stations at each entrance are staring at you with a grin, mocking you because even they can’t sanitize what’s breeding in the room. This is my haven because this is where I hope to make it big and become a professional poker player. This is the lifestyle I desire, the big life, like you see on TV. I envy those guys, living in the Las Vegas suites, playing poker day in and day out, partying in the best clubs, traveling to other countries to increase the size of their bank roll. The filth, cheap décor, and childish thrills are just stepping stones along the path to poker stardom.
My name is called and I once again find my way through a multitude of players to my table. I empty my wallet by taking out five crisp one hundred dollar bills and give it to the chip runner who confirms “five hundred on seat three”, as he’s been trained to do. Hands come and go as I get into my groove and zone out on the dark green felt table. After playing for a few hours, I notice that same dark green felt under all of my finger nails from the excessive shuffling of chips and mindless activity that my hands perform on the table. It’s all part of the charm. The hand of the night is dealt and I’m all in, with only one card left to come, I’m in great position to take down a very large pot. Both my opponent and I are staring intensely down at the table where the previous cards have been laid out, waiting for the last one to drop. The dealer with robotic discipline taps the felt twice with his hand signifying that he is about to place the final card on the table. The casino is empty. All noise and background chatter ceases and it’s just me, the “gentleman” at the end of the table, and a hand turning the last card over. I am off my seat leaning over the table in hopes to be the first to see the card come.
Nausea tickles my stomach as a bright red seven of diamonds is exposed. I drop back into my seat, disgusted about what has unfolded. My mind is racing with confusion, disbelief, and denial as I stare at the seven that has always been my lucky number. Celebrations at the end of the table erupt as I sit to think about what has been stolen from me. This entire rollercoaster of emotions has happened in less than twenty seconds and I am left exhausted. I get up to go relieve myself with a cigarette so I can torture myself by reliving the moment and trying to determine what I could have done differently. With each drag, my mouth fills with a foul yellow smoke that is thick and bitter. I’m still shaking from the abrupt anti-climax and the cigarette is only a temporary fix. I could go back inside, make one last withdrawal and win it back, easy, but my better judgment kicks in and I call it a night. The ride home empty handed is lonely and seems longer than the time it took to arrive. There’s always tomorrow.
Walking into the casino today, five years later, recalling the major wins and crippling losses, is very enlightening. I think about how young I am today at twenty five and it’s comical how much younger I was back then. Going with my best friend is for pure enjoyment, I am not trying to be the professional degenerate poker player I once sought out to be. But, being there now has a dullness to it that it never had five years ago. The inside continues to be renovated, eliminating that shoddy charm it used to have. With updated electronics and a new kitchen, it can almost pass for a place that people would want to go even if they didn’t gamble. Just as a bitter-sweet sense of nostalgia settles over me, I sit down at a table and hear the sound of all the chips around me and begin to shuffle them myself.
My headache pounded as hard as the rain against the window. I’d been trying to sleep through my hangover, but the sound of sirens outside my apartment kept me from the sweet bliss of hibernation.
It was a small studio apartment, not more than an average room and a walled off toilet on the side. I didn’t need much more, though. It was just a place to rest off a bender once in awhile.
A knock at the door, I ignored it. Anyone worth a damn in this city had a key, the others could wait until I was sobered up. Another knock, “Take the hint, buddy. Whatever you want to sell, I ain’t buying.”
“Mr. Wesseli, we know you’re in there.” A man’s voice called from the other side. “Open the door. This is the police.”
I mumbled to myself a list of expletives. “Hold on. Let me get some pants on.” My eyes opened briefly, “never mind. Apparently, I’m still wearing them.”
My right knee ached as I limped to the door to greet my guests. Detective Sugahara and a couple of cadets I didn’t recognize. “May we come in?”
“What do you want, Tomeo?” He hated when I used his first name. I figured being on a first name basis was one of the perks of being on the other side of the law for so long. “If Rico sent you here, he was mistaken. I’ve cleaned up my act, see?” I waved him into the cramped room.
“It smells like shit in here.”
“Gotta have something to feed the pigs.”
“Where were you Friday night?”
“Saw my girlfriend, went for a drink or two, then you woke me up.”
“You went for a drink?” the detective wrote something in a small notepad, “for three days?”
“I was thirsty.”
“Get a coat, we’re going to try this again at the station.”
I limped along as Detective Sugahara walked me through the halls of the police station, to a small interrogation room. I saw the adjoined viewing room was empty. ‘Tomeo doesn’t want our conversation to be seen,’ I thought. Inside the room was a metal table, its legs bolted to the ground. On the table, I saw a manila folder with paperwork spilling out, and a full ashtray. My heartbeat steadied, realizing I wasn’t the only suspect. Two fold-out chairs sat at opposite ends of the table, lit by a single fixture in the middle of the room.
“Take a seat.” Detective Sugahara said, shoving me. He sat and picked up the folder. “I’d ask you where you were last Friday night, but I’ve already got a good idea,” he withdrew a photograph and tossed it onto the table in front of me.
My wrists strained against the handcuffs as I looked at the gruesome picture. “You’ve got the wrong guy,” I told him.
“My sources say otherwise, Mr. Wesseli.” I’ve got two eyewitnesses say a man matching your description entered Norah Trezza’s apartment building at 8:05pm. On Friday night.”
“The same two witnesses have you coming out of the apartment two hours later, looking scared and running north to 5th street.”
“Only more proof of my innocence, Tomeo,” I laughed, trying to ease the tension in my throat, “I don’t run for shit. Maybe you’ve noticed my limp? Went to the docks at night to... um... think. Saw some shit I shouldn’t have,” I winced, remembering the old pain, “Took a knife to the knee cap. A piece of it is still in there, makes getting through a metal detector a son of a bitch.”
“What’s your point, Windsor?”
“Point is, I wasn’t a snitch then, and I ain’t a snitch now.”
“Not gonna snitch, eh?” Sugahara mind seemed to be in overdrive. I stared at the picture on the table while he lit a smoke. “So you do know something,” he blew the smoke in my face and leaned forward. “What do you know about Norah?”
I knew Norah. She was the nurse that patched up my knee. I saw her again a year later and we’d hit it off. My brain was fogged but I remembered entering her apartment that night. She said she had to tell me something important. I swallowed hard, my mouth dry with dehydration and regret.
“Jesus, man. Are you still drunk? I asked you a question.”
“Never heard of her,” I lied, “Can I go now?” I hated the act, the mask I had to put on. There was nothing I could do to help Norah though, I had to try to help myself. ‘If I clear my name, maybe that will bring her closure,’ my thoughts wandered. I’d never truly loved her, my heart belonged to another.
The detective pulled out another photograph and tossed it onto the other. “If you don’t know Norah Trezza, then why was there a picture of you in her apartment?”
“What is it, realizing that we’ve got you?” He took another drag and leaned back against the chair.
“Spit it out, dirtbag. I ain’t got all day.”
“I’m really fucking photogenic,” I smirked. “Can I keep this?”
Sugahara landed a right cross against my cheek, sending me off the chair. I blacked out and began dreaming about Norah. Remembering. It had been warm in her apartment. She kissed me when I entered. I remembered her looking at me with fear behind her big brown eyes. I remembered feeling anger, like I’d been betrayed, then nothing.
I woke up half an hour later with my headache worse than before, a bruised jaw and a little hole where I could have sworn a tooth had been. I was lying on the floor of a jail cell, nursing my blue swollen wrists for another hour before the detective came back to see me. A bandage covered his right fist. “You’re free to go,” he exhaled slowly, choosing his words carefully.
I limped behind him through the main floor. I felt like every officer was watching, hoping that I’d do something stupid. Tomeo opened the front door and ushered me outside, into the wind and rain. I turned around, caught him watching me. “Detective, you never answered my question.”
He walked down the entrance steps to me, hands stuffed inside his double-breasted trench coat. “What question was that, Windsor?”
“Can I have the picture?”
He laughed, looking around the busy street. “Too many witnesses, Windsor.” He said, leaning in so that only I could hear him. “But mark my words, Wesseli, this only ends one way. With you behind bars, or dead.”
He walked back into the police station. “Good chat, old friend.”
“Yeah, let’s do it again real soon. Don’t leave town.”
I knew I couldn’t go home. Tomeo surely had the place bugged by then, and at least one plain clothed officer dispatched to follow me. First, I knew I had to lose any tales, then I needed to figure out how to clear my name. I wasn’t innocent, no one was in this shit town, but I wasn’t going to go down for a crime I hadn’t committed. I needed help.
For an hour I limped through dark alleys, taking shortcuts through restaurants until I was sure no one was following me. Along the way, I’d pickpocketed enough cash to hail a cab. “Where to?” asked the cabbie, with a slight German accent.
I rattled my drenched hat onto cab floor. “42nd and Hazel,” I told him.
The cabbie shook his head. “You know we don’t go past 30th. Too dangerous.”
I pulled out someone’s wallet. “An extra fifty for your trouble. I’m not gonna walk.”
We rode in silence. The gray sky seemed to darken with every block we drove. Homeless people huddled on the street corners, warming their hands over garbage can fires. The familiar sound of gunfire rang out in the distance, but no police sirens could be heard. Cops rarely had the courage to show their faces on this side of town.
Before I had a chance to thank the cabbie for the ride he was gone. Mist rose up from the sewer grates around me, spreading over the wet, cracked concrete. I looked up at my destination, a five-story apartment building. A fire escape obscured its old Gothic architecture. I thought for a moment about all the times I’d had to use the fire escape to get out of a bad situation.
Inside, the lobby was empty. There was a wall of mailboxes to my right, half smashed and hanging open. Worthless paper strung on the floor. Anything of value was unsurprisingly missing.
I didn’t trust elevators, but my knee was begging me to avoid the stairs, so I hit the button and waited.
“Didn’t expect to see your face in these parts, Wesseli.”
There was only one woman in the city that could sneak up on me, “I could say the same to you, Zena.” I turned around. Zena’s ginger hair cascaded over her exposed shoulders. Her snug black dress flowed over supple curves. Little was left to the imagination, but it set my mind afire. She carried a small black purse in one black gloved hand. In the other she held a cigarette holder to her mouth and puffed, making little white rings in the air between us.
“It’s Mrs. Kristof now,”
“Say it ain’t so. You married?” my jealousy was obvious, the elevator door opened. “I never thought I’d see the day.” She followed me in, taking another pull from the half-lit cigarette as she did. The tip of the holder stained red from her lipstick.
‘Lucky lipstick.’ I thought to myself.
“What floor?” She asked, “I’ll push the button for you.”
She always did know how to push my buttons. We’d gone together for a time, in the early days. Small scams mostly. She’d distract the casino dealers while I’d swap in loaded dice. Or she’d take a business man to bed and conveniently leave the place unlocked for me. I’d like to think we’d still be together if it weren’t for me pushing her away. She always thought we could have a life together, but I knew better. Zena was too good for the likes of me, and I let her know it.
“Take me to the top, Mrs. Kristof.”
“You must be here to see Mr. Mannsfeld.”
“You know him?”
The door opened, and she stepped out. I fought the urge to watch her body glide through every sultry step, I failed. The elevator doors began to close, breaking my trance. When I made it into the hall, she was already closing another door behind her. I followed, stopping at the door. A placard on the door read, ‘Franz Mannsfeld - Private Investigator.’
My hand raised to knock but before I could, Zena opened it. “Mr. Mannsfeld will see you now,” she winked at me like we were back at the casino, about to con a foreign dignitary.
“Thank you, my dear,” I stepped inside the dusty room. The sound of thunder erupted outside. “Mr. Mannsfeld, I’m Windsor Wesseli and I need your assistance.”
“Straight and to the point, I like that.” The man was younger than I’d expected, in his early twenties if I had to assume. My instinct was to turn and walk out, figuring his reputation must be pomp and circumstance. He rose from his seat and pointed to the chair across from his desk. “Have a seat and tell me all about it.”
I told him about being picked up on by the police, being accused of murder in the first. The victim, Norah Trezza. Even Tomeo Sugahara, the detective that questioned me. I also told him about the photograph of me that they claimed was at the scene of the crime. All the while, Mr. Mannsfeld sat in his chair, chewing on an unlit cigar and spitting bits of paper and tobacco onto the floor.
“What didn’t you tell Mr. Sugahara?” he asked after I had finished getting him up to speed.
“What do you mean? I didn’t tell him anything because I don’t know anything.”
“Well let me tell you something, Mr. Wesseli,” He stood up, red-faced with anger. “I don’t work for free, and I don’t work with liars.”
“I’m not lying, I didn’t kill that girl, I swear!”
“Yeah, but you’re hiding something from me.” He walked across the room, Zena had picked up his trench coat and hat, waiting for him. “If you want my help then I need to know the truth.”
“What makes you think I’m hiding something?” I asked, my jaw slacked with confusion.
“Same way I know you and Zena here were lovers.” He stared into my eyes. “I’m neither blind nor stupid. And you wouldn’t be hiring me if I was, so out with it!” It was then that I knew that his smooth skin displayed a lack of years, not of skill.
“I knew the woman.” I blurted out, reaching into my jacket’s breast pocket for a cigarette.
“What woman,” he pointed to Zeta. “Her? We already established that.” The private investigator began chomping on his cigar again. He spat another wad onto the floor and said. “You can’t smoke in here.”
“Norah Trezza. I knew her before she died. What do you mean I can’t smoke in here?” I watched him pull out a cigarette case and hand one to his assistant. “But you’ll let her?”
“I didn’t say she couldn’t. Smoking is a privilege of the employee and the employer. You are neither. Since I haven’t taken the case yet, you may not smoke in my office.”
“Please, Mr. Mannsfeld. I don’t know who else to ask for help. Sooner or later the cops are going to realize that the photograph isn’t the only thing that ties me to the room.”
The young man stood up and went to the door where he collected his hat and trench coat. “I’ll do some digging, no promises. I’ll let you know the day after tomorrow if I’m on the case,” then he left.
“That went well,” Zena said.
“Why are you here?” I asked, lighting up my cigarette. “This is the wrong part of town for a doll like you to be on.”
Zena rubbed her purse, “Don’t worry about me. I can get along on my own now.”
“Still packing the old .38? Good girl.” I mocked, patting her ass as I walked out the door. “A lot of creeps out there.”
“I know, I dated one of them.”
I knew I couldn’t go home, so I decided to do some investigating of my own. A few blocks up, on 39th I knocked on Rico Doublon’s door. “Who is it?” he yelled from the other side.
“Windsor Wesseli, let me in.”
“Listen, Windsor. I don’t want any trouble, man. You’ve got some serious heat on you right now and I can’t be associating with that type. I hope you understand.”
“I understand that you don’t want your friends to know you’ve been spilling secrets to the cops for the better part of a decade. I understand that you don’t want the cops to know you’ve been warning the crooks about what they’re up to, either.”
The door swung open. “Get the fuck inside and shut the fuck up.” He led me into the living room and sat on the couch. “You know, you’ve got a way of ruining people’s day.”
“It’s one of my specialties,” I walked into the kitchen. I grabbed a loose bottle of old whiskey from the counter and took a swig. “What have the pig's been saying about me, Rico?”
“It’s not what they’re saying, Windsor. It’s what they’re not saying that matters.”
“How do you mean?” I asked. I took the bottle with me into the living room. “They haven’t been asking about me?”
“What kind of shit did you step in, Windsor?”
“It’s been a long day. Tell me what I need to know and I’ll be out of your hair.”
“Alright, alright alright, those sick fucks are out for you, Windsor. They mean fucking business too, man,” He took a few deep breaths and continued, “They weren’t just asking about you. They were asking about your family, your friends. Tomeo was relentless, asking about everything under the fucking sun.”
“Sugahara was here?” I asked.
“Yeah, man. He was the one asking most of the questions.”
“About Norah Trezza?”
“Who the fuck is Nora Trezza?”
“Interesting. They asked about everything except what they’re investigating me for.” I took another swig from the bottle. “What did you tell them?”
“You know me, man. I’m always playing both sides. I told them enough to get them off my back, nothing more.”
“Did you tell them about Zena?”
“Sure, man. They didn’t seem interested, though. You two haven’t been a thing in a long time.” He grabbed a cigarette from the coffee table in front of him and lit it. “What surprised me was how many times he asked about Dutch. Like they didn’t know he’s dead.”
I closed my eyes, “Dutch? You’re sure?”
“Crazy, right? We all saw the obituary. You’re brother’s been dead almost two years, and now the police want to ask him about you. Fucking ignorant sons of bitches.”
“All of our lives may be in danger, Rico. Including yours.”
“From the cops? I can handle the cops. I scratch their back, they scratch mine. It’s in their best interest to keep me around.”
“Yeah, their best interest. Not mine.” I smashed the bottle of whiskey over his head. “I guess it is true what they say. Snitches get stitches. That’s for dragging Zena into this.”
I left the apartment, headed back below the 30th street line, civilization. The rain was letting up, I could see that the morning sun was about to rise. A neon vacancy taunted me just across the street as I meandered along the road. I wanted to clear my name but knew I couldn’t do it with the fog of sleep deprivation distracting me.
Inside, the clerk asked for my name. I grabbed one of the wallets I’d borrowed the day before and rattled off the name on the driver’s license. Five hours later I woke up in my hotel room, still clothed a little buzzed. I felt as though I’d missed something important, a clue that could help me, but I couldn’t place it. ‘Why would the cops want to talk to Dutch?’
It was almost noon, I hadn’t eaten in almost two days. I picked myself up from the bed and headed out again. Outside, it had started raining again. Big globs of water, falling heavily on everything. The kind of rain that could soak you to the bone in an instant. I walked to the nearest diner to get some food. Ahead, I saw Detective Sugahara walk inside. ‘Just my luck,’ I thought as he opened the door, letting a woman in before him.
I followed as they were seated at a booth. They’d just brought the menu’s to their faces when I sat next to the woman. She shrieked when I jabbed her side with the driver’s license I’d stolen. “Quiet or the lady gets it in the ribs,” I warned them.
Tomeo looked up from his menu, then back. “Windsor. I didn’t expect to see you on my day off. To what do we owe the pleasure?” He said calmly. “Have you met my wife, Le?”
“This isn’t a joke, Tomeo. I want answers.”
“I tell you what you want to hear, you let my wife go, Is that it?”
“Someone is framing me for a crime I didn’t commit.”
“We’re just doing our jobs, buddy. The evidence points to you, so we’re investigating.” His hands were steady and deliberate, he took a glass of water to his mouth. “If we had enough to convict you yet, we wouldn’t have let you go.”
“You were asking about Dutch. Why?”
“Our records aren’t always the most up to date, Windsor. We didn’t know he had died. Sorry for your loss.”
I dug the card into Le’s side harder, I was beginning to fear it would bend and the ruse would be up. Tomeo was always armed, he probably had a gun to my crotch under the table that second. Le winced in fear.
“If you so much as cut a thread on her shirt, I will end you here at the table,” He stared into my eyes, unflinching, “You understand?”
“What do I have to do to prove my innocence?” I asked.
“Our only other suspect was Dutch, with him out of the picture I’m afraid you’ll have to provide solid proof. Otherwise, we’ll throw everything we’ve got on you just to see what sticks.” He took another drink of water, “This isn’t a game, kid. Norah died and someone’s going to pay for that.”
I thought for a moment, trying to gauge the importance of these clues. “Why was Dutch a suspect?”
“We might not have good records, but we do have a lot of character witnesses that say Dutch was Norah’s ex.”
“Lovers?” I lost my breath like I’d been punched in the gut. “Who told you that?”
I stood up, let the driver’s license fall onto the table, and walked out the door.
Sugahara followed me out the door. “Windsor!”
I turned, “yes detective?”
“Anyone lays a finger on my wife, they get a bullet through their head. I’m not sure you did it, but that won’t mean shit if I have to put you down.”
He went back into the diner, muttering something about a “fucking prick.”
My stomach was in knots, I’d lost my appetite. ‘What does Zena have to do with this?’ My knee ached, but I didn’t have any more cash to bribe a taxi with. That was soon remedied with a finger in the shape of a gun through my jacket’s pocket. I was a terrible actor, but on these streets, people don’t expect a bluff. I had cash enough to get me to Mr. Mannsfeld.
When I arrived the rain had settled to a drizzle, but the wind had picked up. Every drop felt like a slap in the face. That part of town reeked of desperation, beggars asking each other for change. I looked up at the top floor, to Mr. Mannsfeld’s office. There I saw the one shining a beacon of hope the town had left, Zena stood there, looking out.
I waved awkwardly, not knowing if she noticed me. She was on a high enough floor that I saw the glass break before I could hear it. The same could not be said for the sound she made when she hit the ground. I shielded my eyes, “Oh God, Zena! Not you,” my feet fumbled to get to her. Mangled flesh in a ripped dress was all that remained. I looked into her open eyes, but they didn’t look back.
“Windsor? What happened?” Mr. Mannsfeld asked, huddling up to the scene. His face was aghast at the sight.
“She’s dead,” I mumbled through stinging tears. “She fell out your window.”
“Impossible. The window is double paned, even with a running start she’d bounce off,” he sighed in resignation, “No, this was murder.”
“Does that mean-”
“The perpetrator may still be inside.” He stood up and rushed to the door.
A crowd had formed around the body; paying respects or looking for anything on her they could scavenge. It would be hours before an ambulance would make it to the scene, a fact of life for those that lived in the area.
I followed Mannsfeld, figuring that if the killer was still inside, they might also be responsible for Norah’s murder. “I can’t climb the stairs with my knee like this,” I told him.
“Yes, that does present a problem. I’ll take the stairs, you go up in the elevator and see what you can find.”
The elevator was on the top floor, taking precious seconds to drop. When it opened, I could see a figure standing there with a large black hood obscuring his face. He was a tall, formidable presence, unmoving. Then in a burst of speed, he’d laid me on the floor and ran out. I struggled to regain my footing and chase after him, but he’d already escaped.
Inside Mannsfeld’s office, his desk was laid over on its side. Little shards of glass strewn on the floor. Her purse on the ground by the door. The snub-nosed .38 lay in the middle of the room. I’d given it to her as a birthday gift for protection. Mannsfeld was examining his upturned desk. “Don’t touch anything, Mr. Wesseli.”
“In case it’s a clue?” I asked.
“No,” He said, “I’ve cataloged everything in my mind already. You have an uncanny ability, though, so I’d rather you stay and keep to yourself while I sort this out.”
“To fuck things up.” He heaved the desk back onto its legs and examined it more, “Replacing the window and desk will be added to your bill.”
“You’re on the case?”
“You ask a lot of questions, Wesseli. Of course, I’m on the case.” He sighed, “The person responsible for Zena’s murder is almost certainly also involved in the death of Norah Trezza.” He found a matchbox on the floor, picked it up and lit the cigar he’d been chewing on. “I’d bet my life on it.”
“You said that Zena couldn’t have run through the window. What happened here then?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Mannsfeld watched my blank expression and realized that it wasn’t. “It was a man, over six feet tall. He’d been snooping around my desk. Here, see these markings?” he waved at me to come to his side of the desk. “This lock has been smashed by a blunt instrument.”
I could see the indentations in the drawers locks. “Crude.”
“Yes, good observation. This was not the work of a trained locksmith.”
“So Zena must have come into the office while he was searching your files.”
“When doesn’t matter. The only thing of import is that she did. They must have startled each other because she drew her weapon, and he flipped the desk in defense.” Mannsfeld got up and ran to the revolver on the floor. “She fired two shots. One round went through the window, and the other lodged into the underside of the desk.” He picked up the gun and opened the chamber, revealing two spent shells. “The bullet through the window was enough to weaken it.”
“When I arrived, she was standing at the window, alone.”
“There was a struggle, definitely. He disarmed her and threw her against the desk. When she regained her footing, he pushed her out.”
“Do you have any idea who did this?”
“That’s actually why I’d been away from the office. I was chasing a lead in your case. One name is repeated consistently, and surprisingly to me, it isn’t yours.”
“Yes. For an apparently dead man, he’s been busy.”
“Are you telling me he’s alive?” My mind flooded with our last words, the smell of gunpowder. My jaw clenched tight, “Keep Zena safe,” I murmured.
“What was that? I couldn’t hear you.”
“The last thing Dutch said. He’d been shot, was bleeding out. I held him close, listening to every labored breath. I expected him to say he was sorry for getting us into that situation, instead he looked into my eyes and said ‘keep Zena safe.’ So I did. The next time I saw her, I broke things off clean. She was safer without me, I was dangerous.
“So you saw him die? Felt his pulse?”
“I watched his chest stop moving, his eyes go blank. Is that dead enough?”
Mannsfeld looked out the broken window. “Apparently not. If he was still alive, hypothetically, where would he be?”
I rubbed my forehead and thought, “Fuck if I know, the sun’s about to fall so he’d be halfway to soapy-eyed at the bar by now.”
“Good, that’s a start. Which bar?” he was visibly excited, in direct contrast to my sullen stance.
“Are you fucking serious? There’s no way, even if he was still alive. He wouldn’t be stupid enough to go back to our old hangout.”
“All I said was that it’s a start. And he may very well be that stupid. After all, he is your brother.”
I briefly considered throwing him out the window for insulting me, but I didn't want to further desecrate Zena’s body. If I wanted to clear my name, I knew I’d have to swallow my pride and go along with him, so I answered, “We used to meet up at the Black Dog pub on Myrtle street.”
Mannsfeld spat his cigar and stomped it on the floor. “I’m parked out back.”
Once inside his black sedan Mannsfeld began, “She was a good assistant, hard to find that kind of talent in this part of town.”
I hadn’t come to grips with her being gone yet, the situation had rendered me numb. “She was one of a kind.” I stared out the passenger side window, at the dirty forgotten city. Garbage fires lit the sidewalks instead of lamp posts. ‘If you don’t harden up, the city will break you like it did all those hapless fucks,’ my brother used to tell me.
“Where’s the body?”
“What?” I was shaken from my thoughts, “What body?”
“Your brother’s, where did you bury him?”
“I didn’t. The cops were on their way, there was no time to move the body.”
“Not even a funeral?”
“The old crew held a vigil in his honor, had a moment of silence. It was touching, but no we didn’t have a funeral per se.”
“Interesting,” Mannsfeld parked on the side of the road and stepped out, “let’s have a drink.”
Inside the pub, the smoke was thick, oppressive. Jazz played on the speaker in slow soft tones under the sound of conversations. No one looked up at the newcomers walking in from the rain, it was one of the things I loved about the place.
We took a seat in one of the quiet corners and looked around. “Recognize anyone?”
“Hard to say, but I don’t think so.”
A leggy black waitress stopped by and asked for our orders. “Two double whiskeys from the well, neat please.” Mannsfeld brandished a stack of money and a picture. “Also, have you seen this man around?”
The woman’s beautiful face turned bleak, nervous. “He hasn’t been around in a while.”
My eyes widened, “How long ago, exactly?” I nearly shouted.
“Exactly since he came in here asking about some asshole brother of his. He raised hell, causing a big scene. He ain’t allowed back here until he pays for the damages,” she pointed behind us at a head-shaped indentation in the wall.
“Please be a bit more specific for my slow friend here,” Mannsfeld said with a sly grin.
“However long that’s been there, is the last time any of us have seen him. Two, maybe three weeks. Anyway, is there anything else I can get for you two?”
“That will be all for now. Keep the change.” He handed her a twenty.
“So Dutch is alive,” I shifted in my chair, “what does it mean? Why didn’t he contact me?”
“I deal in the world of intentions, the definitions of which are never absolute. If I had to guess, I’d say he didn’t contact you because he either didn’t want to or couldn’t.”
The waitress arrived with our drinks, and Mannsfeld thanked her with a slap on her ass.
“Thanks for narrowing it.” I took my shot, it burned its way into my empty stomach. Out of instinct, I pulled out my cigarettes and lit one up. The smoke soothed the burning in my throat. “We’ve got confirmation that he’s alive, where does that leave us? How do we find a ghost?”
Behind me, a tall bald man with a long handlebar mustache interrupted. “Word has it you two are looking for Dutch.” He cracked his knuckles menacingly to try and intimidate us. I looked back at Mannsfeld and could see that it was working. “I can tell you where he is, for the right price.”
“I’ll give you the rest of this stack of cash for an address. Half now, the other after I confirm you’re not fucking with me.”
I gave him a puzzled look, “we’re bribing people now? I guess times haven’t changed since I left the business.”
“Oh don’t worry, Windsor. I’ll just add it to your bill after I’ve solved the case.”
Soon we were back in Mannsfeld’s car, driving to an abandoned building in an all but abandoned part of town. The moon peaked briefly through the clouds as we drove, only to be replaced by more wind and rain. The car’s heater couldn’t keep up with the dew collecting on the side windows. My words broke the long silence, “I haven’t been here in a long time.”
“It’s not high on my list of vacations spots, either.”
“This is where it happened. Where we left him for dead.” I sank into the chair and lit another smoke. “I wonder if he’ll be there.”
“Only one way to find out, I suppose.” Mannsfeld slowed to a stop across the street. He parked and looked out. “He might be watching, we should circle around, see if we can find a way in without being spotted.”
I stayed in the car for a moment, settling my heartbeat. ‘What am I going to say to him?’ I asked myself but had no answer. ‘Is he going to kill me?’ I probably deserved it.
Mannsfeld tapped the glass, interrupting my thoughts. “If you don’t get out of the car I’m adding a rental fee to your bill.”
We traveled through the dark pelting rain to the side of the large warehouse, staying in the shadows to not be seen. One of the trailer dock roll up doors was open. Mannsfeld decided it was as good an entrance as any, stopping just before and peeking his head in.
“See anything?” I whispered.
“Not yet, it’s dark. But I think I see movement.” His hot breath added to the growing mist outside. “There’s a crate inside, we’ll get a better view from there.”
Before I’d had a chance to argue, he was already gone. I watched his low shadow as he made his way to the pallet and ducked behind it. Looking back at me, he waved for me to follow.
Inside, the noise of the rain was amplified by the tin roof of the building. My eyes adapted to the darkness, but couldn’t penetrate the deep shadows.
I heard a voice, “You were tough to find, Dutch.”
Mannsfeld patted me on the back, letting me know he’d heard it as well. We peered over the wooden crate, saw two figures standing around what looked like an enormous duffel bag.
“That was kind of the point, Detective Sugahara,” I didn’t recognize Dutch’s voice, it had become deep, harsh, “what do you want?”
“My reputation precedes me, I see.”
“You’ve been busy. Knocking heads and asking questions you shouldn’t ask. Even if I was
dead, by now I’d know your name.”
“Then you know why I’m here.”
“A fool’s errand.” He lit a cigarette, illuminating their faces for the first time. He’d aged, his hair was white, but it was definitely Dutch. “You’re trying close the Trezzo case.”
“I don’t take kindly to an innocent woman being murdered in my district.”
“The innocent die every day and you cops do nothing about it. Crime is everywhere, anyone without a gun gets the knife. Norah was no different, and she wasn’t innocent. Nobody associated with Windsor is innocent.”
“You’d have us believe that, wouldn’t you? Pinning that young woman’s murder on your own brother.”
“No brother of mine would leave me to die. A brother wouldn’t let the pigs have me. Do you have any idea how hard it is to keep a fake name straight when you’re pumped up on morphine? To know a cop is posted outside your hospital room door, just waiting for you to get well enough to go to jail?”
“That’s all in the past, Dutch. We’ve got your prints all over her apartment, your blood was on her dress.”
“She deserved it, Norah turned on me. We were a team, and she went and fell in love with the mark.”
“The mark was your brother, Windsor?” Sugahara unsnapped the revolver on his belt. “You were doing a long con, was that it?”
“Something like that. She was supposed to buddy up to the guy, gain his trust. Find out where he hid the loot.” He began pacing around the duffel bag. Sugahara kept his distance, one hand on his gun. “We were gonna plant some drugs and send him off to kiddy jail, teach him a lesson.”
“But she fell in love with him.”
“I warned her that he was dangerous, but it was too late. I could see it in her eyes.”
Dutch reached for the duffel bag between them. Sugahara jumped back, pulled out his revolver and pointed it. “Stay back. I don’t want to shoot you, but I will.”
“She wasn’t supposed to fall in love with the mark, detective. After everything we’d been through, nursing me back to health, helping me make a new life. My new life was supposed to be with her.” He stood back up, leaving the bag on the floor. “And she chose that scum bag instead? It’s not fucking fair!”
“Life isn’t fair, Dutch. You know that.” Sugahara’s weapon was still pointed at Dutch. “Especially in this town. Seem’s like no one gets a fair shake.”
“Well, I’m changing the rules. Windsor took everything from me. My life, my woman. So I’m taking every fucking thing from him. How lenient do you think your detective buddies will be when they find your body with a confession note stuffed in your throat?”
“About as lenient as my bullet’s going to be when it goes through your fucking skull. Dutch Wesseli, you’re under arrest.”
“See, that’s where you’re wrong Detective. You’re going to arrest Windsor Wesseli for the murders of Norah Trezza and Zena Kristof, “He bent and patted the duffel bag. “That is if you want your wife to live. What was her name again?”
“You fucking monster. What did you do to Le?”
“Do what I say and we all get out of here alive. Now put the gun on the ground and kick it to me.”
Sugahara hesitated but did what he was told.
On the other side of the crate, Mannsfeld whispered in my ear, “I think this is the time we intervene or leave.” He sounded sickly like he’d just eaten a hundred bullets. “We can’t stay here and do nothing.”
He was right, I couldn’t let Dutch ruin any more lives. I stepped out of the shadows, “Dutch. You keep bringing everyone into this, but your problem isn’t with them. Let them go and you can have me.”
“Detective, arrest that man or I’ll shoot your wife in the chest and leave her to die like he left me.”
I put my hands in the air, walked slowly towards them. “Let’s not do anything hasty, now. I’ll go with the detective peacefully.”
Dutch waved his gun, gesturing for Sugahara to arrest me. “You’ve got plenty of evidence to book him.” He laughed, his malice towards me was palpable. “I’m sure you’re used to telling white lies to get the job done, you don’t make detective if you haven’t worked the beat, and there ain’t any clean cops on the beat.”
“You’re right about that,” Sugahara admitted. He reached into his jacket and pulled out another pistol. Dutch jumped, a flash of light illuminated the dusty warehouse for a second, then faded back into darkness. In the burst of light I could see Sugahara’s eyes widen, he fell to the floor.
“I warned you, detective.” Dutch bent and unzipped the bag, revealing a sleeping Le. He pulled a vial from his pocket and put it under her nose. She woke with a startled gasp. “Go be with your husband.”
“Tomeo? Oh no, what have you done?” She screamed and crawled to his limp body.
“What now?” I asked.
“Now we end this.” He walked around me like a shark circling its prey. “An eye for an eye, a life for a life.”
Mannsfeld stepped out, his hands in the air, “That’s not quite right, though. A life for a life? By my count, you’ve committed three murders, in an attempt to frame your brother.”
“Jesus, Windsor. How many others are hiding back there? You want all that blood on your hands?”
“We haven’t been formally introduced. My name is Mannsfeld, a private detective.” He straightened his jacket and stood tall. “As I was saying. Even if you were to count your own near death, which I do not, by your standards you’ve already more than evened the score.”
“You little shit. I’m going to paint the walls with your blood.”
“Back off, Mannsfeld. I’ve got this.” I tried to reassure him. “The rain can’t last forever. Sooner or later, the sun will rise.”
“Windsor, we’re going to end this here and now, but I have one more thing to tell you before we do.”
I puffed up my chest like my big brother had taught me. “What is it, Dutch. I ain’t got all night.”
“That guy was wrong. It wasn’t three murders. Technically, it was four, Norah was pregnant.” Lightning and thunder rumbled outside, showing my brothers maniacal grin.
I leaped onto him. His gun fired into the air as I tackled him to the ground. “You sick fuck!” I said between blows. He took hit after hit to the face, staring at me, taunting me. My fist raised high, and he grabbed it in his palm, twisting. I winced in pain as he pushed me to my back.
“I wanna know, brother. What would you have named that little boy or girl?” He hit me, breaking my nose. He picked up my head and smashed it into the ground. I lost my sight for a second. “If it was a boy, maybe you’d have named him Dutch after his uncle?” His elbow landed hard on my chest.
“That’s enough, Dutch. He’s not coherent enough to feel anything you do now.” Mannsfeld interrupted.
Dutch lifted himself off of me. “It will never be enough. Not until he’s dead.” He kicked me in my side. I turned, coughing blood onto the floor.
The room lit up with another thunderous bang. Dutch fell beside me.
“I told him I’d put the bullet through his skull,” Detective Sugahara said with a short breath. “Why do the bad guys never listen?”
Mannsfeld crouched beside me, extending his hand to help me up. “I’m going to call an ambulance for Sugahara. Would you like to tag along?”
“And make the same mistake I made the first time? Not a chance in hell. I’m staying until the coroner puts a god damned tag on his toe.”
“That’s too bad.” Mannsfeld patted me on the back. “I’m on the lookout for a new assistant.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Yeah, you could work off the ridiculously large bill I’m going to be sending you.”
“Don’t make me laugh,” I sighed, my body woozy with pain, “You must not check your mail. I fired you yesterday.”
Mannsfeld chuckled, “You can’t fire me, I never took the job formally.” He turned toward the bay door. “Think you’ll be ready to start in two weeks?”
I looked at Detective Sugahara. “Think I’ll be in jail in two weeks?”
“There’s a good chance,” he smiled, “but it won’t be for this.
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