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Dick Oakes: Night Detective

November 16, 2014 Leave a comment
Dick Oakes: Night Detective

Dick Oakes: Night Detective

AN ONGOING SERIES FOR FANS OF ROUSING, HARDBOILED YARNS

I was standing in a Pots Barn when the call came and boy was I glad of it. It had been an hour since I walked in the place, just intending to pick out a holiday wreath. The next thing I knew, some clerk was going on about boxwood cone trees, decorative rattan sleighs and lush magnolia and bright berries. I couldn’t make any of it out.

It was Bingaman. “Some sort of orgiastic youth affair in one of the warehouses. We got a kid dead and nobody is talking,” he said.

“Yeah, well, I’ll lean on ’em. Just let me see what the deal is with these succulent pinecone wreaths and then…”

“Dick, you better get down there right now. Forget about the wreath.”

It was in the old Lankville shipbuilding district. Grim, windowless warehouses– dark to the street. I finally found the soiree around back, towards the river. Must have been a hundred of ’em in there– a band was still onstage but there was total silence.

The kid was college-aged– lying in a pool of blood. He’d been dead about an hour and it was a slug that had caught him.

I looked up and noticed something funny then. I approached the stage.

“You guys were playing when this happened?”

HO Scale model of the murder site. Perfect for vintage train layouts. Contact Dick Oakes, Lankville Police West, 5-3822.

HO Scale model of the murder site. Perfect for vintage train layouts. Contact Dick Oakes, Lankville Police West, 5-3822.

The frontman nodded. He couldn’t look at me though.

“How come none of your instruments are plugged in?”

He looked down in horror.

Bingaman came down and we leaned on a bunch of ’em. It was a lovesick, tortured boyfriend deal. Maybe the boyfriend had something on his ex, maybe he didn’t. Maybe he came there to reveal it and maybe somebody had shot him. And it all came back on a girl that had been onstage earlier. Everybody gave us the same address and description. It was candy.

“You wanna’ handle this, Oakes?” Bingaman asked. “Seems like your area of expertise.”

I nodded.

“I gotta’ get back to the station. Move some of those trays around.”

Him and those trays. I couldn’t figure on any of it.

It was a 5-floor walkup downtown. None of the buzzers were marked. I leaned on all of ’em. They said I would be able to tell by her voice.

It was number four. “I’ll come to the lobby,” she said. She had a voice alright. A voice that took your knees out. The lock buzzed.

The lobby was a poorly-lit, fetid place with an old vending machine that dispensed cartons of milk. Someone had ordered a pizza recently, eaten half of it and then crushed the rest into the carpet. Decorative ham circulars and public-service challenge warnings littered every corner.

I could hear her heels clicking on the stairs. It was a dangerous sound, I knew it. And then she stopped at the base like a girl making her entrance at a ball. And it was a grand one.

C’mon Oakes, a voice said but I elected to ignore it.

I don’t think I need to tell you that she was selling it everywhere.

I don’t think I need to tell you that she was selling it everywhere. Her eyes were large, dark and self-possessed and she had cascading, meticulously-coiffed hair that seemed to never quit. She was the kind of girl that could go from good to bad in a minute, and back to good again. A sort of quick-change artist. And right now, she was as good as a cooling pie off a windowsill in the Lankville countryside.

“Mr. Oakes,” she started. “If this is about that unfortunate incident down at the warehouse…” She stopped, waiting for me to pick it up.

“Why’d you bolt?” I had to burn a cigarette. A sign said no smoking but I figured, if they were allowing pizzas to be crushed into the carpet, they probably weren’t sticklers on a little ash.

“The victim, Talbot, I knew him…we were good friends. I couldn’t bear it…” I could see she was thinking about whether to turn on the waterworks.

“How’d you know him?”

“He had a very nice video camera and fashioned himself a bit of a director. We made movies. He liked to make movies about those creatures…you know…that are half-woman, half-fish.”

I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about but I played along. “You acted in some of these half woman, half-fish movies, then?” I was trying to figure out if there was a blue angle or not.

“It didn’t require much acting. I just laid on a rock by the old truck bridge. Talbot had rigged up a little fin for my legs.”

“Skip it. Let’s get to the murder. Who plugged him?”

“Jimmy Berries. That’s Talbot’s brother.”

Berries. The name rang a bell. And not because of the Pots Barn either. There had been a Talbot Berries that had run deliveries for a pizza joint. He had been shot by some bigwig Lankville business man. They had covered the whole thing up. I looked down at the pizza crushed into the carpet again. She saw me. And that’s when it broke down.

“It’s real big, Mr. Oakes. The connections in all this. Bigger than any of us.”

I knew it. And I knew then that she was innocent.

To be continued

Dick Oakes: Night Detective

October 20, 2014 Leave a comment
Dick Oakes, Jr.: Detective

Dick Oakes    Night Detective

The Lankville Daily News is lusciously delighted beyond measure to present a new feature by Dick Oakes, Jr.

I pulled into the lot as the sun was going down. Just about everyone was gone. I went up the back steps.

Bingaman was up there. He always wore black suits, buttoned just above his round, pumpkin-like stomach and he had perpetually watery eyes. He never sat in a chair but always rested half-assed on the side of a desk. He tossed a folder at me and mopped his brow. It was hot as all hell.

“We got a possible suspect I need you to bring in– on that Saffran case. You’ll find the details in there. Take an extra cartridge though. Might be a bunch of hillbillies in that house, might not.”

I drove on out there and parked in an ancient, weedy alley around back. Several efforts had been made to pave the thing and then abandoned. Farm detritus was everywhere. There was a thick grove of trees and then an open expanse in darkness. I crossed it low to the ground. The house up ahead was dark.

They had sectioned off the part of the field nearest the house as a sort of backyard. It was full of seemingly pointless holes and there were shovels strewn about, all different sizes, some were strangely angled. There was an old banner strung between two trees that said, “HAPPY EASTER, LES”. It looked like it had been plugged full of holes.

What the hell kind of guys am I gonna’ find here I thought.

I reached the back door and waited awhile. Not a sound. I kicked it in. Somebody was right on me. He got a couple of good rights in but he was real weak on the left and I got him pinned to the floor. There was an extension cord on a sink in the kitchen and I got him tied up good and tight to a dining room chair. I leaned down.

“You know who I’m looking for. Let’s have it.”
“Rance’ll kill you.”
“Let’s give him a shot at it. Where is he?”
He didn’t say anything for awhile. I gave him that. I took out a flashlight and popped it on the dining room table. It was covered in dusty bound circulars for an appliance store. I knew the place.
“This must be where I’ll find Rance,” I said, holding one up.
He spit on the floor.
“Says his name on the bottom,” I noted.
He dropped his shoulders. Asshole I thought. I dragged him upstairs and shoved him into a hamper. He seemed to go somewhat willingly.

I made Tri-Town Appliance in fifteen minutes. It was closed– a dim light from somewhere barely illuminated the showroom floor.  There were lights on upstairs though.  I crept around to the back.  There was a rickety wood staircase that led up to a back door. There was a beach towel hanging out to dry– it had a graphic of a red bulldog encircled with the legend, If You Cannot Run With the Big Dogs, It Might Be Better to Remain Seated on the Porch.  Second time in an evening that I’d had to figure on the kind of man I’d find behind this door.

"I made Tri-Town Appliance in fifteen minutes."

“I made Tri-Town Appliance in fifteen minutes.”

I kicked it in.  He was sitting in the kitchen in his workshirt, a bare light bulb dangling above his head.  On the table in front of him was a gigantic book with a series of color diagrams pasted in– different lines and arrows drawn all over the place connecting the shapes.  There was a dog-earned binder nearby that had a label attached that read My Enzymes.  I held the .40 on him.

“You Rance?”

He stood up and came towards me.  He was old but strong.  He got the .40 up in the air and for awhile, we rolled around on the filthy kitchen floor.  I kept noticing that the workshirt had patches of different appliance brand names and a patch over the breast that said RANCE.  That’d do for identification purposes later.

He gave a good fight but in the end I came out on top.  I spun him around and cuffed him.  He started crying.  “I wanted the people to say that Ol’ Rance– he died in his sleep,” he said.  “Ol’ Rance, he died while pursuing his favorite hobby, making graphs of his own enzymes,” he said.  He was getting senseless.  I jerked him to his feet.  “Will they?” he asked.  “I don’t know, man,” I said.  But I couldn’t look him in the eye.

I put him in the backseat of the cruiser.  “You want a washer/dryer combo?” he offered suddenly.
“Skip it,” I said.

We drove the rest of the way in silence. I pushed him up the back staircase and propped him up in front of Bingaman, who was moving some bagels around on an enormous tray.

“Well…this Rance on the Saffran case?” he said. He kept looking back at the tray for reasons unclear. His eyes were watering again.
“Look at the patch,” I said.
He studied it carefully. He didn’t say anything but he nodded his head and gave a little smile.
“You know what to do.”

I took him downstairs. Might be a break in the Saffran Case, might not.

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