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Jim the old guy
Post subject: Overseer - chapters 12 (partial) and 13
Post Posted: Nov 29, 2006 7:24 pm
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Joined: May 31, 2005 10:36 am
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“Hey, adelante,” he answered equally and motioned me to a chair at the table.
“Compadre, I didn’t expect to see you looking so good.”
Sonny was smiling and eager to talk. “Murphy, I’ve come face to face with my demon.” This was a major revelation taking into account the shell of a man I had met 36 hours earlier. But something seemed out of place. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, still…
“Slade?” I asked, but sure that’s who it was. Sonny nodded. “What happened?”
“In the depths of my despair, I had a vision of redemption. I realized I couldn’t pass on without confronting what I feared most in life. Slade,” he said through clenched teeth. I can imagine the feeling for I have come to abhor this Slade character myself. “I tracked him to his lodge. I broke in,” he said rubbing two fingers together a la a safe cracking expert. “I’m still a good detective.” I couldn’t help but notice Sonny seemed tired, out of breath. Maybe he was just exhausted from the day’s activity. Yeah, that was it.
“So, was Slade there?”
“No, not at first,” he answered, laboring more as the conversation progressed.
“So, what happened?”
“I had to take something from him. Something important! Nothing could replace my Maria. I found something, Murphy. I know it’s important because it was hidden. Here,” and he handed me a bloodied STG passcard. In fact, his whole hand was full of blood. I panicked.
“God, you’re hurt! I’ve got to get you to a hospital,” I said, rising out of my chair.
“No, there’s no need,” he averred, voice unsteady and weakening. Was Sonny dying in front of my eyes? Apparently so.
“But, Sonny, there’s so much more I need to know. Mexico, the sign Slade left for you at the Anasazi Ruins, the....” Sonny held up his hand in a gesture meant to silence my ramblings. He reached into his shirt pocket and took out a handwritten note and handed it to me.
“This should answer your questions. I wrote it while waiting for you to arrive.”
However, I was desperate. Sonny needed medical help muy pronto. “Sonny, please, let me take you to a hospital. Now!” I was pleading with him. But, it was not to be. That much I could discern from Sonny’s eyes.
“It’s okay, Murphy. Don’t you fret over a washed up old PI like me. Just take care of yourself. You’re a natural, Murphy, I can tell. You got a gift for PI work. Just don’t turn out like me.” With that he turned his head away as though he were shamed. A lump came up into my throat.
I started to say something, but he beat me to the punch. “I’ve had my last drink, amigo.” His eyes closed for a second and his breath was becoming quite shallow. “Maybe not,” he said, opening the eyes once more. “Maybe there’s time for one more.”
“Uno mas,” I said softly. He nodded in agreement. I reached behind me, grabbing the half empty bottle of bourbon from the counter along with a clean glass. I poured two fingers worth and handed it to him. He raised it to his lips, but stopped short.
“Salud,” was all he said. I shuddered within, like a man about to allow the tears of sorrow to burst forth. His calmness in the face of death was overpowering. I was losing it as fast as Sonny was fading. But he didn’t drink the booze. He stopped short again.
“No, pour one for yourself,” he commanded with an extra burst of energy. How could I tell him that I hate drinking? I’m not about to break one of my addendums to the book of PI rules. That’s sacrilegious.
“I’m not really much of a drinker,” was my flimsy excuse. Can I actually refuse a dying man’s wish? Would that qualify me as cold hearted? Squeaky-clean, but cold hearted. My conscience was doing flip-flops, engaged in a three way tug of war with my brain and heart. Just what kind of man are you, Murphy? Was the Colonel right? In order for things to work properly, will I need to bend the rules at times?
After a moment’s thought, Sonny added, “For old time.” That did it. I can’t take any more of this.
“Alright,” I conceded. Turning back to the counter and grasping another clean glass, I asked, “So, what happened when Slade got back?” I turned to face my PI compatriot. Death was staring back at me. His head tilted back, eyes closed, small smile on his lips, Sonny Fletcher, old time PI, husband of Maria, hater of Slade, was dead. My jaw was clenched tight, forcing back the tears. Anger replaced the sorrow; anger against Slade.
I looked at Sonny and poured myself two fingers worth of cheap bourbon. Clinking my glass to his, I said, “Salud, hombre,” and downed the entire drink. It burned like fire, the cleansing fire of self-righteousness. My goody-two-shoes comportment was definitely unnecessary at times; especially times like this. The Colonel was right. And I enjoyed the drink. And had one more before I left. That’s when I recalled my words earlier. The old saying pricked my mind. Be careful what you ask for; you just might get it. I’ll never see Sonny alive again.

2043 A.D. Chelsee’s apartment

“At least he was able to die in peace.” Ashamed of the way I acted back then, I hung my head and stared at the empty glass in my hand.
“I didn’t know it was going to be such a sad story,” Chelsee said revealing a soft feminine tone. “Who killed Sonny? Was it Slade?”
“Well, Sonny didn’t actually come out and say so, but I surmised it was him. After my second drink, I called the police. While waiting for them to arrive, I searched Sonny’s apartment and found a note with the address to the Big Surf Lodge. It turned out to be Slade’s digs. I was going to pay him a visit, but, since the clocked had chimed midnight, I decided to go back to my apartment and crash. Flopping onto the bed, I took out the note Sonny gave me and read it.
“It went like this:
Murphy,
I thought you deserved to know the truth about the events that led to my wife’s death and my eventual confrontation with Slade earlier today.
A little over six years ago, my wife and I were approached by a Mexican government official and asked to take part in a covert operation. A weapons manufacturing company, located just south of Nogales, Mexico was suspected of selling illegal arms to a group of international terrorists. Since these transactions had been taking place over a period of two years, the government was able to place a covert operative in a key position. Gaining the trust of the guilty party, he contacted necessary personnel in the FBI, UN Security and the Mexican version of the ATF. What they needed to finalize the last of the shipments was a go-between or mediator to set up the sale. That’s where Maria and I came in.
We negotiated the date, time and place of the meeting. But, we did not have to be present. So, after we set it up, a UN Operative, General Sam Jones, advised us to disappear quickly. He was concerned for our welfare. It seems the arms company representative had hired an international hitman to clean up any loose ends. That hitman was none other than Big Jim Slade, the Angel of Death.
Needless to say, we high-tailed it back to our ranch near the Arizona border. I made a few calls to some friends here in San Francisco where I once had a successful PI business and had them make arrangements to hide us until things cooled down. Part of the trap was the capture of Jim Slade. That’s where the UN Operative came in. It was his job to nab the wise guy before he could strike again. Apparently, they had been after him for at least ten years.
Maria and I surveyed our supplies and decided it would be a good idea to pick up several items before leaving. I went into the city and hit a couple of stores. When I returned to the ranch, I got the shock of my life. Slade had slipped through the trap set for him and, before leaving the country himself, he opted to stop at our ranch to ‘pay a bill.’
I found my wife slumped at the foot of a giant cactus, still tied to it. She had been beaten, tortured and shot in the head, Russian Roulette style, which is Slade’s trademark. The gun was still in her hand. One spent shell lay on the ground near her feet. Shaking like a leaf, I pried the gun from her hand and examined it closely. The initials BJS were carved on the handle. Also, there was a note attached to her blouse. It simply said, “You’re next, Fletcher.”
For several minutes I held my wife close to me and bawled like a baby. Then I got angry and swore revenge upon Slade. This was followed by a more realistic emotion - fear. Yes, I feared for my life. After Maria’s funeral, I moved back to San Francisco and set up a small PI business with a little help from Colonel Dobbs. A few weeks ago, I heard that Slade was in town. That’s when I went into hiding. Carl Linsky was the last person to contact me at my office on Fourth Street before I packed up and moved into this dump.
But, I was only kidding myself. Wallowing in self pity, barricaded from the outside world by unceasing fear, and plagued by a guilty conscience, I knew it was just a matter of time before Slade found me. Alcohol was my only companion until you dropped in. You renewed my spirit and inspired me to be the man I once was. That’s when I paid a visit to Slade’s lodge. You know the rest.
One more thing. I mentioned in my previous note that Slade left a sign for me at the Anasazi Ruins. As I flew by the ruins, I saw a gulch a short distance from them. There were some vultures and other scavengers picking the bones clean off some unfortunate soul. It may have been Bosworth Clark, but I’m not sure. Anyway, something shiny reflected the sun in my eyes. I decided to go down and have a look see.
Next to the body was a gun with the initials BJS carved on the handle. Slade knew that I was on his trail. How, I don’t know, but he knew. That’s why he left me a sign. At first it scared me. But, after your visit, I feared him no more. Thanks again.
Time is short, Murphy, so I’ll be signing off. Soon I will join my Maria in the hereafter. And who knows, maybe someday we’ll meet again. Till then, keep up the fine fight. And if you see the Colonel soon, give him my best regards.
Sonny

“You know, Tex, I’m beginning to see why you and Sonny hated this Slade character. He was a real low-life. Torturing and killing a woman is insidious.” Chelsee’s heart was speaking through her mouth. I appreciated her candor.
“Yeah, well, that was a long time ago. But, it wasn’t the end of the story. After a fitful night’s sleep, I decided to rise nice and early and head out to the Big Surf Lodge. I figured Slade was not acting on his own, so he must be getting orders from someone. And if I could get my hands on them, they just might lead me to the Overlord.”

Sunday, Nov. 15, 2037 A.D.

Slade checked his watch for the hundredth time. It read 3 a.m. Although he was tired of waiting for Greg Call to show up, he really didn’t have anything else to do. Besides, the victims owed him a debt. The last two confrontations were just that - confrontations. He had lost control and had been embarrassed. No one knew this except himself, and possibly his boss. That bloody bathplug knew everything. It disgusted ‘The Mind, The Man, The Body’ to no end. And, like it or not, he still needed his boss. Collecting all of the passcards was the key to his future. He could feel it. Once they were in his possession, he would sell them to the highest bidder. Coupled with the bulging Swiss account, he would have enough to live on very comfortably in Brazil the rest of his life.
Slade’s thought processes were interrupted by the landing of a speeder. His senses kicked into high gear. He smiled as he saw Greg Call exit the speeder and head into the building. Once the door closed, Slade aptly walked over to it and, using a credit card he stole from Rona Morgan, he nimbly slid the card down the door frame and coaxed the lock open. He was in and on his way to the fifth floor.
Standing outside room 525, Slade listened for noise. He could hear Call walking from room to room. Finally, a door shut and he heard the shower turn on. Using the same trick on Call’s apartment door as he used on the entry door, he slipped inside and sat down on the couch. Twenty minutes later, the shower turned off and he could hear Call drying off. Within moments, Call came out dressed only in his underwear. He stopped dead in his tracks.
“Good evening, Mr. Call,” Slade said while holding a gun on the unsuspecting tenant.
“I know who you are and why you are here,” Call said calmly, although fear filled his heart.
“Really? I’m touched. If that’s the case, then let’s get down to business. I want your STG passcard and I want it now. Oh, by the way, don’t try anything stupid. I won’t hesitate to use this,” and he waved the gun at Call.
“The passcard is in my nightstand drawer. I’ll get it.”
“You mean, we’ll get it.” Slade was no fool, even though Sam Jones and Sonny Fletcher played him for one. None of his victims kept their passcards in such a flimsy hiding place. He wasn’t sure if Call had a gun, but he surmised Call had something in the drawer that would prove harmful to Slade. So, he just played along.
Call moved slowly to the bedroom.
Slade moved cautiously behind him.
Call was six foot six, 280 pounds.
Slade was ‘The Mind, The Body, The Man’.
Fate was going to deal someone a bad hand.
And it wasn’t going to be Slade.
When Call opened the drawer, a large throwing knife, like the ones used in a circus, was sitting right on top. He grabbed the handle expertly, for he had learned to throw knives when he was a boy. As a mutant, the only place he felt wanted was a small travel-
ing side show. An old knife thrower had taught him the ins and outs of knife-throwing and he was prepared to deal this murderous scum a death blow. It was his only chance.
Wheeling around like a spinning top, Call flung the knife towards Slade. Only Slade’s cat like reflexes allowed him to twist out of the way, the knife sticking in the wall, only millimeters from Slade’s head.
“Wrong passcard,” Slade said and shot Call between the eyes. The big mutant fell to the floor with a thud, blood and brains splattering the blinds behind him. Slade smiled and proceeded to tear apart the apartment. All his searches proved bootless. Once again he had been foiled. His boss wasn’t going to like this - not one bit. He shook his head in disbelief. How could this be happening? His line of work had brought him immense joy over the years and he didn’t really want to retire. But, in lieu of recent events, he would have to retire out of necessity. Additionally, Slade seemed to be loosing his touch.
Taking one last look around, Slade left the apartment. And he left the door open. Because he had used a silencer, no one yet knew that Call had been shot. But, in order for his boss to be satisfied and in order for the money to be transferred to his Swiss account, he wanted someone to find the cadaver as soon as possible. Then he left.
Greg Call, Mutant League member, proficient computer programmer, friend of Larry Hammond and former employee of Gideon Enterprises, was dead. Lying on the floor of his own apartment, the big mutant had known his day was coming. He had prepared for it. Earlier that evening, he had written a note to Larry Hammond and mailed it. Contained therein were instructions in case of his demise. Larry would know what to do. They had talked about it after the death of Carl Linsky. It wouldn’t bring him back to life, but it would be helpful in stopping the genius, the touched genius behind the STG project. If he wasn’t stopped soon, Hell would move to earth.

Slade landed his speeder in the parking space designated #6. Taking a deep breath and exhaling, he got out and walked around to the sliding door of his unit. Taking the key from his pocket, he twisted it into the lock, entered and closed the door behind him.
Flipping the key in his hand, like George Raft flipping a coin without watching, he sidled to the kitchen to get a tall, cold glass of spring water. Tossing the key on the counter, he downed the water like a camel preparing for a long journey across the desert. Feeling even more satisfied on taking care of #6, he opened a small package of Norton’s Fig Bars and chewed two of them into oblivion.
After undressing and hanging up his clothes, he pounced on the bed and quickly fell asleep. He dreamed of killing people and wresting passcards from them. Concluding the dream was a delightful trip to Brazil where he lived in the lap of luxury surrounded by beautiful woman. What a good night’s sleep he had!

Outside Chelsee’s apartment, 2043 A.D.

“Have they left, yet?”
“No. He’s telling her the history of the world up there,” answered the man with the pointed nose. He had been waiting outside for two hours and was getting impatient. “Why don’t I just go up there and do them both right now?”
“Patient, my fine feathered friend, patience. I’ve got this thing planned perfectly.”
“If you say so,” the watcher acquiesced. And he continued the vigil outside, listening through an earpiece to the conversation inside. Tonight would be the night for revenge. Tex Murphy, meddling, bumbling and unpolished detective would soon get what’s coming to him. And his girlfriend, too!

Chapter thirteen: 2043 A.D.
Chelsee’s apartment - STILL

“You didn’t go out to the Big Surf Lodge alone, did you?”
“Sure, why not?”
“Well, I mean, with Slade’s reputation and all, I just figured you should have called the police.”
“Well, you figured wrong. I wasn’t ready for the police to get involved. Not yet, anyway. Remember, I was a young, eager, and fearless PI back then. If Sonny took something from Slade, then so could I. Not to best Sonny, by any means. No! I just thought Slade may have something else that could further the case I was working on.”
“So, was he there?”
“Yeah, as a matter of fact, he was. After landing my speeder, I slyly snuck around to the back of the lodge. Peering around the corner, I could see wooden steps leading up to a small deck. On it were unremarkable wooden chairs, painted to look like actual redwood. Papa Johns ran the best cheapest place on the coast. I looked into the kitchen and saw it was empty. Tiptoeing up the steps, I noticed the widows were slightly ajar, but not enough for me to climb in. Also, they had a security protection device on them so I could not slide them open any further. Tiptoeing over to the sliding door, I could hear some noise coming from the bathroom. Apparently, our hitman was taking a shower.
“My desire to ransack his lodge was insatiable. On the bed was a briefcase which I just had to have, but it was chained to the railing. Zeroing in on the chain, it turned out to be handcuffs.”
“But you carry a spare key, right?”
“Wrong again. But that was not the issue at the time. First I needed to get into the lodge. The door wall was locked and my campaign to search his belongings began to look futile. That’s when I saw it. On the counter in the kitchen was a key and it just might fit the lock on the sliding door. Now I had to figure a way to get it.”
“I can hardly wait to hear your brainstorming idea.”
“Do I detect boredom creeping into your voice?”
“Uh, no, Tex. Please, continue.”
“Thank you,” and I light up another Lucky Strike, drawing deeply off the newly lit cig. I’m going to make her wait a few more seconds before I begin again. Serves her right.
“I know what you’re doing, Tex. It won’t work,” and she smiles cunningly. Rats!
“Right! Well, you know how I like to put my hands in my pockets when I’m stymied or thinking?” She nods. “That’s when my hands rested on two items - the magnet from Clark’s lab and my tape measure. I put the two together, slid the tape through the open window, guiding it across the counter until it made contact with the key. Then I simply retracted the tape and the little bugger was in my hand.
“I could hear the shower going, so I figured I would have a few minutes to rifle through Slade’s stuff. However, if Slade came out during my rummaging, I would not only have to hide, but I would need to be certain to replace anything out in the open to its original location. I mean, if he spotted something askew, he would know someone was in there and I’d be another notch on his belt.
“My heart skipped a beat as I unlocked the sliding door and entered. I took a deep breath and closed the door. That’s when I saw his wallet on a small table. Upon opening it, I took out a lotto ticket and a scrap of paper. To make double sure I had the right guy, I also peeked at his license. The picture staring back at me was the guy I saw at Clark’s lab. My eyes burned into his - on the picture, that is. Yeah, I was a little nervous searching his place, but I was equally angered over the deaths of Clark and Sonny. I was determined to get the briefcase and anything else I could get my hands on. But first, I replaced the wallet on the table.”
“Uh, Tex, I hate to interrupt, but, why take the lotto ticket? Were you hoping it was a winner and claim the prize?”
“Really, Chelsee, you must trust my judgment. Back then I considered such activity as mundane and depersonalizing, if there is such a word. No, the reason for the ticket was simple. A man like Slade usually has superstitions, including things like lucky numbers. Even from across the room I could see the briefcase required a numeric combination to open it. Ergo, the numbers on the ticket could be the key to opening the case.”
“Was the ticket a winner?” Her persistence is beginning to annoy even me.
“Uh, no, actually. I checked the paper the next day and....never mind. Anyway, the two items went quickly into my pocket. Then I went into the kitchen. I rummaged through all the cupboards and drawers, finding only two things of interest. One was a Gideon’s bible. Although I left it in the drawer, I couldn’t help but wonder if J. Saint made a royalty off of them. Ha! Ha!”
“Was that an attempt at comedy? If it was, don’t quit your day job.”
I smirk at her attempt at comedy and responded with, “I don’t have a day job. In fact, under normal circumstances, I don’t have any job! Oh well. The other item I found was a vial containing some white powder. On the vial was a piece of tape with the words ‘chloral hydrate’ written on it. We PIs call it a ‘Mickey Finn’. A few drops in a drink and you’re out for several minutes, maybe hours. That goes into the pocket as well.
“After I was done with the kitchen, I checked the adjacent living room. Less than moderate furniture with nothing to offer. I was about to leave the kitchen when it hit me.”
“Slade hit you?”
“No, silly! Think for a minute! Everything had to be replaced in their exact locations. What one item did I have that needed to be replaced?”
Chelsee thinks for a moment and then lights up like the aurora borealis. “The key!”
“Bingo! So I took it out of my pocket and set it on the counter. But, another thought hit me. What if I need to come back here? I mean, it was possible. If so, I may need another key. As I was pondering this possibility, I searched the fridge, hoping to see something I could use for a mold. The only food in there was several bottles of spring water and some fruits and vegetables. Sheesh! A health nut, no less. But, on the counter was a box of Norton’s Fig Bars. Carefully removing one, I took the key and pressed it firmly into the bar. It made a perfect indentation. All I would have to do is go see a good locksmith - one who will not ask troublesome questions - and have him make a copy.”
“Since you were now out of bananas, did you eat any of the fig bars?”
“Get a grip, Chelsee. Of course I didn’t!”
“Tex, why would a health nut like Slade have a box of cholesterol filled cookies lying around?”
“For the same reason we all do. Each of us has certain weaknesses. A lot of health conscious people still indulge in certain snacks in order to satisfy their sweet tooth. I know a woman who is the epitome of health, works out every day, eats no fats, etc. But she does have a sweet tooth. Every Friday she goes to the Dairy King and gets a hot fudge sundae.”
Chelsee glares at me. If looks could kill, I’d be sliced ham. “What woman?”
Pretending not to notice, I light up another cancer stick and take a drag. Blowing a couple of smoke rings, I then take a sip of my bourbon. “Say what?” I ask innocently.
She grabs my tie, pulls me close, and demands, “What woman?”
“Oh! Kerry Perry, from the company who hired me to steakhouse the stakeout.”
“Steakhouse the stakeout?”
“Did I say that? Just a slip of the tongue.” And I give her that stupid grin of mine.
“It better be. Now,” she says, releasing my tie, “Continue the story. And no sidetracks this time.”
“Sure, Chelsee, sure. Uh, where was I? Oh, yeah, the fig bars. Well, after making an impression of the key, I left the kitchen and checked around his bedroom. Lifting the mattress and box spring was useless; there was nothing on the chairs or under their cushions; the pictures showed up nothing; the nightstand had only Slade’s cell phone, but I left it there. Only the briefcase remained.
“That’s when I heard a noise that rattled my teeth. His cell phone began to ring. Shoot! I knew I wouldn’t have long, so I started to look for a place to hide.
“The shower turned off.
“The shower curtain slid open.
“I saw the closet by the front door.
“The bathroom door opened.
“I made a silent bee line for the closet.
“On the next ring, I opened the closet door, turning to see Slade with the towel over his head. He was drying his hair. I slipped into the closet and closed the door on the next ring. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding. That was a close call. I’d be dead if he saw me. Standing there, I could see him through the movable slats on the door. He answered the phone and proceeded to have a business conversation with his employer.”
“Who called him and what did they say?”
I stand up and walk to her wet bar. Pouring another bourbon, I pretend not to notice her exuberance. I know I shouldn’t frustrate her like that, but I am a man, and we just have to do those sorts of things.
“Tex? Sweetie? I know what you’re doing and I don’t like it one bit!” She sort of sang those words, trying to emphasize her displeasure. Should I?
“What? Oh, the story. Yeah, well, I wasn’t sure who Slade’s boss was, or even if it was his boss. But he apparently told him he had new orders for Slade asked if he was to pick them up at the same drop point. Immediately, my mind perked up. If I could find out where his drop point was, I might be able to intercept those orders and temporarily prevent another murder. He also mentioned that he took care of number six. I felt my stomach sicken. Has he killed six so far? If so, this guy had to be stopped soon. I thought, maybe I should have gone to the cops. But, it was too late now.
“Slade was still drying himself off when he walked up near the kitchen. He turned and suddenly, I was staring into the eyes of a cold blooded killer. The dark background of the closet was the only thing that kept him from spotting me. It gave me pause, my nerves at the limits. He then proceeded to mention a little problem from the past. He told his phone mate that he would take care of it. I figured he was talking about Sonny, not knowing that he had already taken care of it. Bastard! Oh, sorry, Chelsee.”
“That’s okay, Tex. I can imagine how you feel. Please, continue.”
“Anyway, I was even more resolved to steal his briefcase. But first, I had to get out of this closet - alive! Seemingly, Slade’s conversation was coming to an end, for he said he was going to get dressed and leave. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw his clothes hanging next to me. My body went rigid. He closed his phone, ending the call, and then walked to the closet. With a lump in my throat, I balled my hand into a fist. If I punched him the second he opened the closet, I might have a chance to get away.
“He reached for the handle, turning it till it clicked. My heart was pounding. It’s a wonder he didn’t hear it - I sure could. Then he looked over his shoulder. He muttered aloud, ‘I’m going to get something to eat first.’ He let go of the knob and headed for the kitchen, closing the door behind him. Although my life had flashed before my eyes - again - I let out my breath and wiped the cold sweat off my brow.
“I opened the closet and walked out. As I went to close the door, I decided to give a quick search to his pants pockets. I found a post office box key. I didn’t know which post office or which box, but I had the key. And it just might lead me to his new orders. Then I closed the door. I went directly to the bed, trying to figure out a way to get the briefcase. Then I realized something. Since I had checked every room thus far and had not found the handcuff key, it must be in the one place I hadn’t checked.”
“How did you know Slade didn’t have it with him?” She stared at me for a moment and then smiled in defeat. “Never mind.”
“Good thinking. Besides, if he did have it on his naked body, I wasn’t about to search all the nooks and crannies to find it. So, the one room left to search was the bathroom. I opened the door and entered, closing it behind me.”
“Tex, can I ask you a question? Why didn’t you leave the lodge and return after Slade left? You did have an impression of the key, after all.”
“A couple of reasons. First, with Slade in the kitchen, he would have seen me leaving through the partially opened windows. That sliding door was the only way in or out of the lodge. Second, he might take the briefcase with him. Third, I wasn’t about to leave until I had that case in my grubby little paws.
“So, I did a fast but thorough search of the bathroom, finding nothing. I realized that Slade wouldn’t be in the kitchen all day, so I looked for another hiding place. That’s when I heard the kitchen door open. Turning, I espied the bathtub with its sheer shower curtain. It was my only chance. But, as I saw that, I saw his overcoat hanging on the door. I thrust my hands into the pockets, grabbing anything I could, except the guns. I dove into the tub, getting as low as possible. While I was hunched over, I heard the bathroom door open. By the racket the hanger made, bouncing against the door, I assumed Slade had taken his overcoat. He must be getting ready to leave. Good. That would give me a chance to get the brief....
“My mind went into complete shock. What if Slade wanted to take the briefcase with him? He would notice the key was gone and start searching for it. Only time would tell if I survived this ordeal or not. I waited with bated breath. A number of defense possibilities wove through my mind. What would I do if he opened the curtain? My mouth was dry as a desert at midday. But, my fears were unfounded. A few minutes later and Slade left the lodge. I deduced this by the opening and closing of the sliding door. Again I sighed in relief. My visit to the lodge was one of the most memorable ran sackings of my entire career.”
“You know, Tex, all kidding aside, I’m really impressed with your PI instincts.”
“Thanks, Chelsee. Some PIs struggle with their trade. Me? It just seems to come natural, like Sonny said. I have a penchant for deductive reasoning. Don’t get me wrong! I’m not boasting. The ability to make rational deductions has saved my life more than once over the years.”
“Except when it comes to women.”
“Hey! We all make mistakes,” I say defensively.
“Easy, old paint. I wasn’t attacking; I was merely making an observation.” Old paint?
“Sorry, Chelsee. My marriage was a dark period of my life and I wish it never happened. Course, if it didn’t, things might’ve been different. I mean, we may never have met.” With that I double shuffle my eyebrows in a suggestive manner. Chelsee smiles and blushes in return.
“Enough, already! Get back to the story.”
“After Slade left, I got out of the shower and opened my hand. There was the handcuff key. I had to laugh. Wondering if Slade would find me was so nerve wracking that I hadn’t noticed that my hand was tightly closed around the key. So tight, that it left a deep impression in my hand. Maybe I should have done that with the door key instead of carrying a crumbly cookie in my pocket.
“At any rate, I opened the bathroom door and walked out. I was a bit disappointed, though.”
“Why”
“Well, it seems that Slade likes to take cold showers. I mean, there was no steam on the bathroom mirror. And I can never resist the urge to draw on steamed up mirrors.”
“Oh, please!”
“Sorry. The fact that he took a cold shower was significant. A number of well known madmen, perverts and psychopaths have been know to take cold showers. Why? I don’t know, but it seems to be some kind of personality disorder.
“But, time was of the essence. I used the key on the handcuffs, wrapped my hand around its handle, and scooted out of there.”
“Did you, uh, keep the handcuffs?” Now it was her turn to double shuffle the eye-brows.
“No. I wouldn’t have known what to do with them back then. However, with briefcase in hand, I made a bee line to my office. I was glad to be alive, but absolutely ecstatic over obtaining Slade’s briefcase. I set it on my desk along with the other items I borrowed.”
“Borrowed? Don’t you mean stole?”
“Tsk! Tsk! Chelsee, I’m surprised at you. I didn’t steal anything. What you call theft, I call tactics.”
“A rose by any other name.”
“Look, do you want to know what I found or don’t you?”
“Touchy, touchy! Of course. Don’t let me hold you up.”
“Thank you. The first item I examined was the paper scrap from his wallet. It read, ‘Orders from Robert Knott. Passcard F Password: Singer.’ Well, it didn’t take me long to realize the password was an anagram, like the others. Playing with it for a minute or two, I deciphered it as ‘Resign.’ I wrote that in my notebook, next to the other passcard and password notations.

_________________

"If you look to me for illumination, you better have a flashlight!"

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