Murphy's Law (Revised) - Part 2 - Scenes 1 - 4

Murphy's Law
Revised
Part II: Scenes I-IV
By Josie

“Murphy understood the law and knew justice. He also knew that the two were often not the same. To catch the bad guy and win a confession, you had to be willing to step outside the box and take chances. That’s what made him a great cop. But that didn’t give him the right to take the law in his own hands. All he had to do was have a boy examined to confirm his true gender and now his mistake was going to cost him. Maybe his job? Maybe a demotion?

But then nothing in this case was turning out like it should. He should have seen this coming. He should have known that you can test the odds and you can test your resolve, but never pit your luck against Murphy’s Law. Because sure as the devil will get his due, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong!”


 
The Legal Stuff: Murphy's Law  © 2007, 2009 by josie.

Originally written in 2007, Revised and Reposted 2009.
 
All Rights Reserved. These documents (including, without limitation, all articles, text, images, logos, and compilation design) may be printed for personal use only. No portion of these documents may be stored electronically, distributed electronically, or otherwise made available without expressed written consent of the copyright holder.
 


 

Part II: Detective Murphy

 
 
Scene I: Eight months later . . .

September 1, 1961
 
 
Charlie sat on a bench outside Detective Murphy’s office waiting patiently. He had been instructed to wait, which he did amidst the clatter of typewriters and policemen milling about. Although no one in the busy place seemed to pay him much notice. One fellow in a white shirt and tie had inadvertently tripped over his extended legs. One or two others asked what he was doing there while others just sneered in passing. Otherwise he was left to his own. Just another schmuck sitting in Temple Street Station during the morning shift change, and at the moment, he was feeling a bit out of his comfort zone.

He had already been sitting for an hour and was about to give up the wait when he spotted a guy walking toward the office who looked important and very much in his comfort zone. The kind of guy others walked around, not through as they walked down the hall. Except for one passer-by who couldn’t resist a playful jab to the gut along with the usual glib remark, “Hey Spike, bout time you showed for work”

That’s what he called him, “Spike.” To Charlie, he looked like a Spike too. It wasn’t as though Charlie himself wasn’t a big man. He had a noted mean streak and not many ventured to press him for a hard time. It was the fact that he was in a police station, where everyone strolled by in nicely pressed uniforms or dress-coat and tie, except Jack Murphy. He was unshaven, he wore no coat or tie and his shirt tail hung out behind.

“Now that’s a Spike,” he through to himself, “A man who danced to his own tune, and from his willful look, one quite use to getting his man.”

“Detective Murphy?” Charlie asked as he stood up and placed himself between the detective and the office door he wanted to enter.

“Yeah, least that’s what my psychiatrist keeps telling me.”

“Good Morning, Detective Murphy. I got me a little concern here. Something I thought you might be able to help me with.”

Jack looked him up and down before responding, as if sizing him up. From the look of his navy blue work trousers and his first mates cap he thought he could get away with a snub. “I’m busy, go see the desk clerk.”

Of course, Charlie had been around the block once or twice, and had dealt with his share of policeman. He knew to be respectful, but he put on his pants the same way and wasn’t about to hear it. “It’s important, Detective, real important!”

Jack looked him in the eye. Then as if afraid to show weakness he continued his way partially through, and partially around the bigger man as he said to Charlie, “Yeah, okay. Come in, we’ll talk.”

Stepping into his office, Jack was immediately descended upon by his new assistant, a rookie cop fresh out of the academy. The rookie had only recently been assigned to him until the department could arrange for the transfer of a qualified officer. “Detective Murphy, I got those reports you asked for. I’ve put them on your desk. You also got a call from a Mrs. Gretchen Heller. She asked for you to call her back when you get in.”

“Yeah, okay, Cee-cil,” Jack mocked the name. Damn, how he hated to ever say it. No matter how he cut it, Cecil Benover just wasn’t a respectable cop’s name and he couldn’t wait to get rid of the kid. “Now, why don’t you run along and show me how well you learned to fetch coffee at the academy,” he followed up with a contemptuous sneer as he waved Cecil off. Then taking a seat behind his desk, he motioned toward Charlie. “Come have a seat, mister . . . mister?”

“Claiborne, Charlie Claiborne.”

“Okay, mister Clay-born, what’s on your mind?”

“That’s Clai-borne, and I’ve a missing person to report.”

Jack exhaled a sigh of exasperation, believing himself right about Charlie from the start. “Look dumb ass, you file a missing persons report at the front desk, but only after waiting 30 days, and only if it ain’t your wife, ‘cause I’m too damn busy to be looking for your old lady who’s probably run off with some other guy. Now if you’ll excuse me . . .”

“Ah, I ain’t trying to be rude or nothin’, but that would be a friend who is missing, not my wife, and it’s been 8 months. She disappeared leaving behind everything untouched, handbag and all.”

“Yeah, okay, I’m listening.”

“I’m a Merchant Marine,” Charlie proudly beamed. “I work me 8 months straight then I get me 4 months off. You see, that’s how it is in my line of work.” Charley followed as he removed, then held out his gnarled blue seamen’s cap to show Jack. It was as though that rag cap visibly weathered by salt and sea would somehow legitimize his claim.

“Yeah, well . . .”

“Yeah well, I’ve been crisscrossing between here and Osaka hauling them little Japanese cars for the past 8 months and because she asked me, I let her use my place while I was gone. When I got back I found her missing. Her stuff untouched, exactly how it was before I left. I’m talking everything, Mr. Murphy, her dresses, undies, jewelry, make-up, shoes; the works. Even a locket her mama gave her. Heck, even the liquor was untouched.”

“Yeah, so . . ?”

“So I’ve spent the better part of the last 3 weeks asking around, and no one’s seen hide or hair of her. I think . . . no, I know something’s up.”

“This missing person, she’s a friend who lived with you?”

“Yeah, off and on, you could say that. She lived where she worked, but she chummed up with me mostly. Anywhere else she might be I’ve checked. I asked her employer too.”

“What did her employer say?”

“Nothin’. Just that she quit. Didn’t say were she was going. No word of explanation, stuff like that.”

“Well there’yah have it! She quit! Maybe she went back with mommy and daddy. It happens everyday.”

“Nope!”

“How do you know that?”

“Because she once told me the gold locket she wore belonged to her dearly departed mama. And she never knew her papa. That much she told me.”

“Okay, so maybe she went back home to shack up with some old boyfriend, you check on that, big fella?”

“Nope!”

“Why not, smart guy?”

“Because she never told me where she was from. I asked her once and I was kind of sorry I bothered to ask.”

“What’d she say?”

“Ah, nothing much. Just somethin’ bout a hobgoblin back home that eats up men and spits out their bones, and . . ,” Charlie shied away unsure if he should go on.

“Yah, and . . ?”

“. . . and them kind of bones ain’t no use to me,” Charley shrugged.

Jack chuckled and sat back in his chair feeling comfortable with the guy. He saw him as an honest, hard working man who played by the rules. He was the kind of guy he could sit down and share a drink with, his girlfriend no doubt the same.

“I guess it ain’t much to go on, but I figured if she wanted me to know more she would’ve said. So I didn’t ask no more. One thing I know for certain though. She wasn’t from Brooklyn.”

“Oh, what makes you say that?”

“Her accent! It was like she just rolled out of the hills and landed here without a step between. That said to me she ain’t been here long, if you catch my meaning, Mr. Murphy.”

“Ah hu! So you’re saying you don’t even know where she’s from, this Miss . . . Miss whatever her name is?”

“No, sorry, I don’t. Like I say, she never said, but her name is Molly and she used to work as a maid for a Mrs. Kline down on Slade Street.”

“Molly? Molly who?”

“Molly I don’t know her last name.”

“Hey fella!” Jack barked a bit put out. “Whatever you’re selling I ain’t buying. I figure a man can go without knowing where a girl from, but sorry! No last name? Either you’re working for the Department of Practical Jokers ready to spring a ‘gotcha’ on me or you’re one dumb ass. Either way I ain’t buying it.”

“Detective, look, she called herself Walker. That is until the scotch ran out and I set a bottle of Jack Daniels down in front of her. From then on it was Daniels,” Charlie threw up his hands and shrugged.

“The point is I wasn’t fixin’ to marry the girl. We was just having a good time. You know, ask a lot of questions and the next thing you know she’s wanting a wedding ring. Know what I mean?”

“Jesus, you come in here looking for a girl and you don’t even know her last name, where she’s from, or exactly how long she’s been missing and you want me to go find her! Look sonny, this isn’t the lost and found and I don’t have a crystal ball. I think you need to go back home and wait it out. If you’ve not heard from her in say . . . ahmm, a year or two, come back in and see me.”

“I ain’t going to do that, Detective!” Charlie replied, leaning in and squaring his shoulders. Maybe she ain’t no Madison Avenue skirt, but where I come from a man called Spike don’t stand around and let no bad thing happen to an innocent girl just because he ain’t got the time. Besides, I heard you were the best, and the way I got it figured, you oughta be takin’ some pride in that!”

Charlie’s speech caught his attention. Why not, Jack was a compassionate guy. Just ask his cat Rosco and he’d be the first to tell you the guy was as considerate and kindhearted as they come. Heck, he still visited his mother twice a week at the rest home. Like a religion, even though she couldn’t even remember his name.

That said, he was also a detective. A man hired by the citizens of the City and Borough of Brooklyn to sift through the facts so law and order would prevail. He wasn’t paid to waste time and taxpayers dollars chasing after every broad who flew the coop. He had to have the cold hard facts no matter his feelings. That’s why the Detective in him paused long and hard, and heaved an exasperated sigh. He had nothing concrete to go on.

However another part of him who wasn’t about to let it go. Spike! The bull dog in him who’s pride was piqued. “Spike” was to Jack Murphy’s “detective” as a prize fighter was to a thug. The polar opposite forces inside the otherwise compassionate man. One was shrewd and calculating, the other believing any weapon, by any means, is fair game when at war. It was the detective in him who played by the rules of law. It was Spike who knew if you only followed the rules and played by the percentages nothing would ever get done.

Spike also knew to win at this game you had to be willing to step outside the box and take chances. That’s what made him a great cop, or so he liked to take pride. That’s also why no one ever got away with slipping one past him. Ol’Spike always got his man. 100%, and with his pride now piqued it was Spike, not the detective who finally spoke out in response. “So you’re alleging fowl play here?”

“Look Mr. Murphy, if she got another job then why leave all her stuff behind? Why ask to use my place then not show up? Why would she hide away from her friends, say nothing or leave a note? No, she ain’t the type to disappear for no reason at all. Go ask around. Ain’t no one going to look you in the eye and tell you any different.”

“Yes, but she quit her job. She was obviously planning on doing something.”

“So? That don’t mean after she got paid something bad didn’t happened.”

Jack scratched his head. He thought on it a moment then exhaled with a gust ruffling the papers strewn about his desk, “Damn, I’m probably going to regret this, but . . . Got a description?”

“Yup, wrote it all down right here for yah,” Charlie was proud to say, handing over the slip of paper.

“Don’t bother over all the miss-pellings, I ain’t no brain surgeon.”

“She depressed, have mental problems or reason to want to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge?” Jack followed as he perused the description.

“Nah, not Molly, ask around. They’ll all tell you the same thing. Molly was fun loving gal and had the world by the tail.”

“How old is she?”

“30 something, don’t know for certain. Pretty little thing though.” Charlie fidgeted and flashed a grin, but only until he picked up on the serious look on Jack’s face. “So what’cha think, detective?”

Jack was rubbing his chin deep in concentration when Cecil returned with the coffee. “Well, I ain’t makin’ no promises, but . . .”

“Your coffee, sir,” Cecil interrupted.

“Enjoy it with your jelly donuts, son.” Jack stood up, grabbed his hat and signaled for Charlie to follow. On his way out the door the detective called back to Cecil. “Call that Heller woman and tell her I’ll call back tomorrow. Then I want you to run off to the city morgue and run a check on all unidentified victims for the past 8 months. I’m looking for a girl, age 30 to 35, 5-6,-5-7 approximately 120 pounds, green eyes, brunette, birth mark high upper right thigh. Got it?”

“Sure thing, boss,” Cecil grinned in a snide way, figuring the time was right to toss back to Jack a bit of his own medicine. “So how far up do you reckon I should be lookin’ for that birth mark, Detective Murphy?”

Cecil ducked out of the way just in time as the pencil Spike throw whistled just past his head. Had it not been for his quick reflexes, the thing would have stuck him right between the eyes.

“Get on it, pecker breath!”
 
 
Scene II: Amelia’s Return
 
 
Rose had the evening meal done, the dinner cart set and she was waiting for Katherine to come in and retrieve it. That had become her new routine ever since Molly and Gerald sprang for greener pastures 8 months ago. She had tried to get Katherine to hire a replacement. She had even offered the name of a friend in dire need of work. Speaking out even louder once Amelia, her daughter returned from finishing school. Katherine however thought differently, believing they could make do without.

Not the heavy work, like the laundry and the upkeep of the floors. She still contracted out for those services, but making the beds and putting up the freshly laundered linens wasn’t asking a lot of her. Even at her age there was still much she could do. Even so, she couldn’t help but feel some resentment in the way Molly had left. Leaving Katherine high and dry with no warning, no talking it over with her.

As Katherine explained it, “She came home just after 9 and Gerald was already in bed. She said something had come up and would have to leave. So I paid her the salary due then along with Gerald she went downstairs and packed up. I didn’t even hear her leave. Not a word of explanation. Not a ‘thank you’ or ‘good-by,’ or a word about where she was going.”

That was no way to treat Katherine, not after trying so hard to accommodate the girl. Favoring her like she would her own daughter. Gerald as if he were her son. To Rose, her actions were selfish and wrong-headed, and it pained her to a degree. Although, thankfully, all that soon chanced after Amelia’s unexpected return.

It was a blessing Amelia’s return had coincided so well with Molly’s departure. The timing, if not orchestrated couldn’t have been more perfect. Katherine seemed a different person now. She smiled a lot more and was obviously very proud of her daughter. Rose felt the same, even though she actually knew so little about her.

In actual fact Rose never saw much of Amelia. She never stepped foot in the kitchen just as Rose scarcely had reason to step out of it. Rose knew much of that could be expected of course. After all, busying herself with domestic chores was hardly something for a fine young woman to do. Least not after two years of finishing school.

Most of what Rose knew about her came from an occasional brief encounter. Usually just a glimpse from the back and screened by Katherine as mother and daughter scurried about, always in the wrong direction. So close they seemed, almost inseparable. As if Amelia was still tied to her nurturing mother for sustenance.

Rose found it all rather endearing to tell the truth, even though a bit out of the norm. She was nearly a grown woman after all, and would’ve expected something more in line with one woman relating to another. She supposed Katherine had good reason to treat her daughter as she did. She was young, fresh out of finishing school and perhaps because of it, a bit vulnerable too. She might have even done the same had she a daughter of her own. In that sense she felt a bit envious of the bond Katherine shared with her daughter. It was something quite special. Something she felt she wanted to understand better.

Of course she wasn’t about to admit to that. Rose was not a busybody, or so she prided herself. Nevertheless she hadn’t even been introduced to Amelia. Not formally, not otherwise. True, she had never asked for an introduction. She just assumed one would come when Katherine was ready. Unfortunately that day never came and now she couldn’t ask. Not after 8 months had past. It would appear nothing less than foolish.

Still the “not knowing” was always on her mind. She often wished she could look further in the recesses of the house to get an unbiased view of things. An unannounced view, on her own and not under Katherine’s direction as it was now. She saw no harm in that. After all, she wasn’t looking for material to gossip to the neighbors or to do malicious harm. Just to satisfy her interest. The only question was how.

She was a strong woman, but hobbled by age she had her limits. Still, it was a big house and never far from her mind was an incident that had once happened to her. It was many years ago, but it was still as fresh in her mind as the day it happened.

She was working as a maid in a house just as large. At the time she was going through her daily routine, in one room and out another. Busy, concentrating on her work and whatever else fills the imaginings of a working girl going through the humdrum of everyday life.

Everyone in the household had left for the day, leaving her alone to manage enough work for two maids under the watchful eye of three cats and a canary fearing for its life. It all kept her quit busy. To busy to notice, and had the mailman not appeared at the most opportune time, she wouldn’t have even known he was there. The mailman had caught the burglar red-handed coming out the front door. A bag full of the families’ best silver draped over his shoulder. The mailman tackled him, Rose called the police and in the ensuing investigation it was discovered the man had been in the house in plain sight the whole while.

The man had dressed to impersonate the floor maintenance man and knew just the right time to appear. Only you would’ve had to be paying attention, because it wasn’t the day he was supposed to be there. Exactly as the robber had planned it and no one took the slightest notice. He even admitted to have been in the same room with the husband and wife. Close enough to Rose to remove the silver from the buffet drawer while she was polishing the table not 5 feet away.

While this was a bold act of crime, it was not unusual. At least that’s how the investigating officer explained it. In fact, it was a well used tact by criminals. To sneak into a home when people are involved in their active lives and don’t expect it. Without reason to hide behind curtains when the best place to hide is in plain sight. Hiding amongst us is supposedly a common tool of the trade, a trick of the mind that can place criminals close enough to reach out and touch you and you’d never even know they were there.

Her door remained locked from that moment on. It also provided an important lesson in the complexities of human nature. Showing that sometimes the simplest solution is the most obvious, but least expected. A ploy she though might have some use for her as well, without appearing out of place or deliberately nosing about. All she needed to do was to make her presence common place. Not infrequent and announced as it was now.

Obviously she had never done anything like this before, and wearing her boots it wasn’t exactly cloak and dagger. Still, she figured if she kept her distance and they heard her plodding about often enough she might well become as inconspicuous as that criminal was to her. It’d take a ton of patience and a degree of stick-to-itiveness, but she exercised both and soon found out she was right. In no time at all she found herself peering in on some rather personal moments.

At first it was a matter of just watching quietly from a distance for a few precious moments. Just long enough to get a glimpse of her. To satisfy her curiosity you understand. To see her sitting beside Katherine, poised, musingly engaged and graced with her mother’s nature charm.

She was obviously a very beautiful young lady, but there was something else about her too. Something she couldn’t see from a brief and distance look that left her short of understanding and yearning to learn more. Like why Amelia dressed as she did, and why Katherine would allow it? Sometimes she dressed as no more than a child with oodles of petticoats and lace. Other times like . . . well, like Molly. Like a tawdry bar room hussy, with exaggerated heels, brief skirts and make-up that would venerate a 42nd Avenue drag queen.

Most of all she wondered why Katherine seemed so approving? Instead of screaming out at the excesses, she coddled her. As if Amelia were a child who needed to be told what to do and how it should be done. Instructions in life Katherine seemed too happy to give, her daughter only too happy to learn.
 
 
Scene III: The Investigation Begins
 
 
Jack Murphy looked around Charlie’s apartment with some skepticism. While the detective in him - the Sherlock holding the magnifying glass - surveyed the landscape with a fine tooth comb. Spike was another matter however. Spike, the bull-dog in him was busy checking out the finery. One item in particular, a rather stunning low cut red dress.

“Mercy! I’d say the broad knew how to jerk a guy’s chain. Did she bring all these goodies from the Kline residence?”

“Nah, she never brought stuff with her, except what she as wearing. This is just stuff she bought around here, when she stepped out to shop a bit.”

“Yeah? What stores she shop at?”

“Don’t know, I never asked.” Again Jack shook his head, while Spike leaned in close and spat out in a rather caustic tone, “Wouldn’t be trying to make it too easy on me now, would yah big fella?”

After two hours of going over the room and examining the suitcase full of clothes he had only two things to show for it. A set of prints and one short, low cut red dress. A unique dress with a unique designer label he hoped would be of help in his search. He had found nothing else of value. No ID, pictures, addresses or letters - Just the lingering scent of a chic young woman who had every reason to want to live. It wasn’t much to go on, but he wasn’t about to admit that to anyone else, including himself.

Actually Jack didn’t really say much of anything. He just mumbled to himself, scratched the back of his head and then asked Charlie for the names he was to talk to. The list didn’t give him a lot of confidence up front, but he had less to go on in the past and did well enough. He had the nose for it, and his nose led the way to the first name on the list — Katherine Kline.

Slade Street wasn’t that far away, and he knew the area well. He had even worked a homicide on the upper east end of Slade a couple of months back. An area housing predominately white professionals affluent enough to have hired help do their dirty laundry. As was the last case he worked there, an affluent businessman in cahoots with the butler to do his wife in. He saw it as that kind of place, dirt deeds going on behind plush velvet curtains. So when Katherine opened the door to invite him in, he had his well trained eye fixed on any suspicious movement coming from behind the drapery.

Katherine sat behind her late husband’s desk in the study. Jack sat in front, in view of her nicely toned legs slightly spread beneath the desk. Her daughter Amelia was standing behind her chair. “Mrs. Kline!”

“Yes detective, I’m Katherine Kline. This is my daughter Amelia. How may I help you?”

“Yes, um, pleased to meet you, Miss,” Jack mumbled with a nod toward Amelia while retrieving his notepad and pen.

He was not one for social protocol. The niceties always escaped him. However, those legs beneath the desk growing increasingly further apart hadn’t escaped Spike. Something that took up an inordinate amount of his attention as he stooped down to pick up the pen he had just dropped. “Ahum. Now, as I mentioned, Mrs. Kline I’m a detective with NYPD and I need ask you a few questions.”

“Certainly, Detective.”

“May I ask your maiden name, ma’am?”

“Stanton. Katherine Stanton Kline.”

“I thank you, Mrs. Kline! I’m looking for a person reported missing. I believe the girl worked for you. She went by the name Molly.”

“Yes, officer, that’s correct. She worked for me about a year ago, but she’s no longer employed by me. She was a good employee and I hated to see her go.”

“Fine, now if you could provide me with a last name please!”

“That would be SMITH. S-M-I . . .”

“Ma’am, please, I may be a flatfoot but I did go to school.”

“Yes . . . yes, of course. One moment detective,” she followed as she leaned down to retrieve a file from a desk drawer. “I think I have all you need right here in her payroll file.”

Jack looked up at the pretty, but demure looking girl standing behind Katherine now in plain view. She was dressed in a long sleeve white blouse and a blue plaid jumper bearing a crest that read, Amherst Girl’s Preparatory. He caught her looking at him for a short moment before again lowering her eyes. She was 18, 19 perhaps, with her short hair bobbed with bangs in the common fashion of the day.

“Quite pretty and built,” he thought. Maybe her legs were a bit too thin for his liking. He also thought her shoulders and knees conspired against her to a degree. Surely not fashion model material, but with her looks, she was going to make some lucky fellow a great wife.

Katherine sat up holding a vanilla folder in her hand. “I think you’ll find what you need right here, detective.” She smiled as she handed him the folder. “You find her payroll receipts and what information I have.”

“Bingo!” He beamed that ‘shit-that-was-too-easy’ kind of grin as he quickly scanned the file. “Is it alright if I use your phone, ma’am?”

It didn’t take him long to get Cecil on the line. He might have been a rookie, but he had a knack for being where he was supposed to me. “Hey kid, do me a favor and run a check on Molly Smith. SS number . . . Got it? Yah, I’ll hold.”

Jack looked up with the phone tucked under this chin. He had pen and paper on his lap and the sound of hope in his voice as he continued to pursue his line of questioning. “It says here you paid her fifty dollars a week in cash, is that right?”

“Yes detective, that was her weekly pay and I pay all my employees in cash, always have.”

“In Cash?” Jack repeated in disbelief. “I’ve never heard of such a thing. You keep that kind of money in the house?”

“I do, Mr. Murphy. Is that a problem?”

“Well no, but that’s what banks are for, right . . . to cash checks?”

“My employees prefer the convenience, detective.”

“Yes, I can believe that,” Jack shook his head, sighed and thought to himself, “only on Slade Street.”

“Well then, tell me Mrs. Kline, did she live here, in the household with you?”

“Not inside the house, detective. I’ve a converted flat in the basement I provide. It has a separate entrance.”

“Did she leave anything behind?”

“Nothing detective, not one thing.”

“Did she happen to mention where she might be going? Where she might be found?”

“No, detective. She just said she was leaving. I paid her what was due and she packed up and left. She was a good worker and I was concerned, but it’s not my business to pry into the affairs of my employees, Detective Murphy.”

“Huh, is that so.” Jack quickly searched his memory trying to think of one woman he had ever known who wouldn’t have been the least bit curious. It seemed almost opposed to a woman’s nature to ask no questions whatsoever. “Then I suppose you did a background check, checked references, things like that. May I see it?”

“I’m sorry, detective; I didn’t feel a check was necessary. She seemed very nice and I hired her. Is that against the law?”

“No ma’am, suppose not . . .” Jack paused wondering whether a woman this savvy could really be that dumb.

“Or was she just playing the dummy for her own good?” he wondered. “Well then, have you any names? Parents, grandparents, siblings, she might have mentioned?”

“No, detective, she hadn’t mentioned any I’m aware of.”

“Was there anyone she had frequent association with, friends, neighbors . . .”

“Rose my cook comes to mind. As for Mr. McGee the gardener I’m not so sure. Molly had a thing about colored people, but you might want to ask.”

“I’ll need to speak with them.”

“Rose is here, you can speak with her when you like. Mr. McGee is off today. He’ll be here tomorrow after 6 a.m.”

“Thank you, Ma’am. Now, did she leave behind any mail, letters of any sort?”

“No, detective, I don’t recall her having received mail at this address.”

“Nothing? Well now, tell me Mrs. Kline, why do you suppose a guy like me might find that rather odd? Maybe even a bit suspicious, if you get my meaning. Do you know of any reason she’d want to hide things from you?”

“No detective. As you know it’s not at all uncommon for those with transitory status to use general delivery. Although I will admit, she did seem to me rather selective in what she revealed, and why. However, since we women have so few arrows in our quiver, I think it’s only natural she’d want to make the best use of what she had.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning for a woman living alone, information is a weapon that can work for or against you. So being selective about what you want people to know, or not know, or think they know can be a prudent tool in that regard.”

“I see. Kind of like what my Ma used to call, ‘little white lies.’”

“Well detective I don’t see any reason why Molly would need to lie to me or anyone else. At least not as you think of it. Let’s just call it a woman’s prerogative, shall we.”

“Women!” he muttered to himself. “Only a woman could liken a lie to an inalienable right.”

It was on that note that he again heard Cecil on the other end of the line, “Got it, boss!”

“Okay boy, I’m listening,” Jack flashed a grim the Cheshire cat would have envied.

“It says here, Molly Smith, address 1290 Lincoln Boulevard, West Chester.”

“Bingo!” His eyes lit up. “Got a line on a phone number?”

“Negative boss. Just the address, but it shouldn’t be too hard to look up.”

“Yeah, well, why don’t you dig it up for me and let me have it!”

“Yeah, sure, I’ve got it for yah, right here! It’s listed in the Yellow pages under Memorial Cemetery, West Chester, date of death, March 3rd, 1959.”

“Ahhh . . . okay wise-guy, I got it!” Jack turned from elated to pissed-off with a turn of his lips. “All you had to do was say it was bogus, shit-head. Now, why don’t you run off and find yourself a nose to match that fat lip I’m going to tag you with, you moron!“ He slams down the phone, “Ma’am, can you please show me her room, or flat or wherever you freaking call it!”

Jack was regretting his bad luck. Spike however was totally pissed-off for being made to look like a fool. While the detective in him searched Molly’s room and found nothing. The room was spotless, thoroughly cleaned by Rose and given a fresh coat of paint by a handyman. “Anything of hers you’ve stored elsewhere in the house?”

“No, she took everything with her. She didn’t have all that much to take.”

“She left by taxi then, I presume?”

“I suppose so, Mr. Murphy, but honestly I can’t recall even bothering to look.”

“Huh!” Jack grunted sounding not at all convinced. It sounded a bit like her faded recollection of this innocuous fact might not be a bit too convenient. This was a girl she supposedly liked and had hired her without checking her background. A good employee, one she hated to lose. Who worked in her house for almost two years, yet knew virtually nothing about. A girl who simply walked out the front door carrying all her worldly possessions in her hand and she didn’t “bother” to look out to see her leave? “Mind if I look around?”

“Well, no, but it might help if I knew what you were looking for.”

Jack crooked a smiled, while the detective glared intently into her eyes for clues to what she might be hiding. Spike did the talking. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe kick the dirt around out back. Maybe check the attic, look behind the draperies, that sort of thing.”

“What is it you hope to find, detective.” She replied as casually as asking when she might be allowed to return to her knitting.

He had just been testing the waters to assess the temperature of her response. Fear is not always the easiest thing to conceal, especially for a woman with no experience with this sort of thing. It was a little like trying to hide an elephant in a broom closet, but he saw no evidence of that. If she had a body buried out back, she played a very cool hand. “Yes, well then, I suppose I should speak with Rose, the cook.”

Katherine brought Jack into the kitchen begging a moment of Rose’s time. He had come from a working class family himself, so he knew to be respectful. He even sat down as she spoke so as not to come off as brash or hard-nosed. Women of Rose’s sort usually weren’t afraid to push back. Not that it did him any good. Rose was not about to be lulled into anything, and her posture and tone of voice said as much.

Rose could imagine any number of difficulties Molly might have gotten into. Why not, she was a problem child. All the same she wanted it clear from the start she was not a busybody. At least that’s what she told our detective when he asked her about Molly. “I have a key for the kitchen back door, come to prepare the meals and leave. I know my place Mister, and it ain’t being a busybody with my nose stuck in all the wrong places. Have I made myself clear, young man?”

Jack had to admire her pluck, and with the track rules set he played by her rules. Careful to keep Spike under wraps, he listened respectfully with the patience of a monk on retreat as she described Molly as a friend, but rather incompetent employee. “A gift horse,” is what Rose had called her job. Something Molly was too young and inexperienced to understand. A girl in need of a good husband to protect her from her own devises.

Rose had coughed up a bit more than her opinions over the course of her monologue. Mostly about Katherine who he seemed just as interested in as Molly. Though oddly, she didn’t say a word about Gerald. It wasn’t that the poor boy wasn’t in her thoughts and she had more than one opportunity to bring his name up. She simply saw no reason to drag his name through the muck. Besides, the detective had to know Gerald worked for Katherine as well. Katherine would have told him, and if he had an interest in Gerald, a man this thorough would surely have asked.

He hadn’t found the day a complete loss. He had learned she wasn’t a disgruntled employee, nor was she the type to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. Plus with only fifty dollars in her purse she couldn’t have gotten far. It’s not easy planning the great escape on that kind of money. That is unless she had a stash of cash no one knew about hidden under the pillow, and he certainly saw no evidence of that.

All of it was useful information, although for whatever good it did, it hardly seemed worth the cost of the liquor he bought on the way home. “Oh well,” he thought to himself after taking one long hard swallow. “This was just one of those cases where nothing seemed to want to go my way.”
 
 
Scene IV: The Fly on the Wall
 
 
Rose opened the back door to let the delivery man in. He set the bundles of freshly laundered linens on the kitchen table then left leaving Rose to the business of sorting. With the evening brisket and dumplings set in the oven, she separated the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom items into three neatly folded stacks. Picking up the stack of towels destine for the upstairs closet she stepped out of the kitchen to put them away.

It was just another of her frequent visits she now took throughout the house. Impromptu visits, chores she had voluntarily taken on so Katherine would grow accustom to her plodding about. She did little to disguise the fact she was there, although out of respect for their privacy she did try to blend in. Which it turned out wasn’t really all that difficult to do — even for an old woman with two lame hoofed feet. She simply made her visits unannounced and remained quietly at a distance so as not to disturb or disrupt.

The tact turned out to work pretty darn well for some odd reason. If not surprisingly so, given how obsessive Katherine had been in the past about her privacy. Whether or not Katherine was truly that inattentive or simply making the accommodation Rose really didn’t know. Whatever the reason, Rose now found herself free to wander about when and where she chose. Giving her greater access, and like a fly on the wall the opportunity to peer into their lives.

She found the downstairs quiet, though she looked through the rooms regardless. Hoping to find them as she frequently did reading or knitting or learning the ways of fashion and “belle maniá¨res.” All part of haut culture she supposed. Something Katherine insisted she practice the intricacies of quite often.

She continued on up the stairs with her stack of towels heading for the hallway closet. When she got there she found it quiet upstairs as well. That is, except for the sound of running water in the bathroom at the end of the hall. The bathroom was some distance away from where she stood, but not so distance that she couldn’t hear Katherine and Amelia inside sharing the bath.

She had just opened the closet’s twin louvered doors and set the towels on the shelf when the bathroom door opened. Hidden behind one wing of the louvered door she turned to peer between the slats and saw Katherine heading toward her room. Obviously she didn’t know Rose was there, hiding in plain sight. So close yet so far from her thoughts. Just like the thief had done to her.

She was wearing Molly’s rubber gloves and apron to protect her black dress. Then again, it didn’t appear as thought she had been scrubbing the tile. Rose could tell that because in her haste Katherine had left the bathroom door open and instead of the smell of disinfectant an overly-rich floral scent spilled out into the hallway. The dizzying scent as thick as a mist saturated everything, and at its source, Amelia, sitting in the tub shaving her legs. Rose watched as she finished one leg and then propped up the next on the rim of the tub.

She felt shamefully like a peeping tom to tell the truth. Standing there watching the girl extend then point her red painted toes out from the opaque white of the bubbling bathwater before commencing to shave. Her eyes fixed on each stroke, taking great care to insure a gentle and smooth glide of the pink razor along the length of her upwardly extended calf before starting anew.

She knew she shouldn’t be looking in on such a private personal moment. There was nothing right or noble in all this peeping-tom business. Nor did she think too highly of herself for doing so and thought to pull away. Something she wanted to do and would have done if not for the fact that this was the first time she’d ever seen her without her mother standing between.

She felt rather encouraged by what she saw as well. Amelia appeared so completely at ease. Much like a child quite used to being watched over, Katherine’s help with her bath still an everyday sort of thing. “Quite a relationship,” Rose thought. “Not many girls her age were as candid with their mothers.”

Moments later Amelia was rubbing the length of her long slender legs with baby oil just as Katherine reappeared from her room. In one hand she carried a red rubber-latex fountain bag. In her the other hand, a length of tubing attached to what must have been a nozzle, of sorts. Certainly nothing she was familiar with, and in terms of shape and size she wouldn’t have thought it suitable for the purpose at all.

The door remained open long enough to catch the barest glimpse of Amelia rise up, turn about and rest her hands on the rim of the tub. Just as Katherine had asked her to do before the door closed behind.

“Well,” she thought to herself, “perhaps it’s something modern. These were the 60’s after all, Sputnik and all that. The ladies these days used new things. Everything was now streamlined, disposable and easy to use.” Not like the crude but efficient method she still used at home.


 
Lyrics: “Mack The Knife,” Bobby Darin, Curb Records,  © 1959.

         “Only The Lonely,” Roy Orbison, Monument Records,  © 1960.

         “Annie Hall,” TM & C @ 1977, United Artists Pictures, lic. MGM.
 
 
Acknowledgment: I would like to gratefully acknowledge cs. for her editorial support, guidance and infinite wisdom, all dispensed with a heart as large as her titanic talent. Thank you cs, you represent all the best our community has to offer. (*_*)

 ©2008 by josie. All Rights Reserved. These documents (including, without limitation, all articles, text, images, logos, and compilation design) may be printed for personal use only. No portion of these documents may be stored electronically, distributed electronically, or otherwise made available without expressed written consent of the copyright holder.

xxx


 

To Be Continued...


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