Dark Memories and Cold Bones - Volume 1 by Dorothy Davies

EXTRACT FOR
Dark Memories and Cold Bones - Volume 1

(Dorothy Davies)


Dark Memories and Cold Bones Volume 1

Iced (Rie Sheridan Rose)

 

The dame walked into my life through the smoked glass door, all long legs and cascading copper curls. She slunk forward like a great cat on four-inch heels, a full-length fox coat thrown over one shoulder. Enough ice encircled her neck and dripped from her earlobes to fund a small country. There was money somewhere behind that three piece suit—not too far behind either. I wondered what had brought her to my dingy office.

“You're Sebastian Pool?” she asked, her voice warm honey with a whiskey burr.

“Yeah. Who's asking?” I swung around in my chair, hands clasped behind my head.

“My name is Clarissa Montaine. I would like to hire you.”

“For what?”

Her sapphire eyes narrowed. “I need you to kill a man.”

That caught my attention. “I'm a private dick, not a hit-man.”

“I'll make it worth your while.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a roll that would choke a horse.

My feet hit the floor with a thud. “You've got my attention.”

“You ever hear of Simon Barstow?” She tossed the cash on my desk.

“The industrialist? That's who you want me to kill?”

“Would you do it?”

I picked up the wad and began to count it. There were more hundreds than twenties in the roll. I had reached two thousand bucks and not even made a dent. “Why do you want him dead?”

“He's my husband. Or, he was. He's filed for divorce and I can't have that.”

“Why not? A pretty dame like you will find somebody else.”

She dropped the coat to the ground, stalking away like a panther on those deadly heels. They clicked like nails driven into the hardwood floor. At the door, she spun to face me, chest heaving like an agitated ocean. “I don't want someone else,” she hissed. “I want what is mine. If he divorces me, I lose everything. All the money, the prestige, the house. But if he dies before it's final, I’ll get it all.”

“Doesn't he have a kid or two from another marriage?”

“I can deal with them. Nigel wants to take his father's place—in every sense of the word—and the girls are easily swayed teenagers who just want to find rich husbands of their own.”

She was cold as ice, this broad. I felt chilblains coming on just being in the same room with her.

“You've thought this out, I see.”

“It's all I think about.”

“Why did you come to my door? There are plenty of PIs in Chicago.”

“I heard you didn't look too hard into where the money comes from.”

“No, I can't say that I do. But I also don't usually go around icing innocent businessmen either.”

“Innocent?” she growled, fumbling with the buttons of her blouse. “Would an 'innocent' man do this?” She ripped aside the silk and showed me several fist shaped bruises on her creamy skin. “He is always very careful about the face, but anywhere else is fair game.”

I frowned. This changed things. I didn't hold with killing no innocents, but I sure didn't believe in hitting a lady either. Seemed like the old man just might deserve anything he got.

“He hit anyone else?”

“I've seen him smack Nigel around a time or two. He's been smart enough to keep his hands off the girls, but I don't know how long that will last. There's a ticking time bomb in that house.”

“So, don't you think you'd be better off out of there, even if you did lose the fortune?”

Her eyes blazed. “I've earned every penny of it and I'm not giving it up.”

“Yeah, so you said. Okay, so suppose I decided to do this thing for you...where and when would you want it done?”

“You do have a gun, right?”

I pulled my .38 out of the desk drawer. “Will this do?”

A smile bloomed across her face, like the sun rising. “That'll do just fine.”

 

***

 

She spent another hour going over her plan in detail. Over and over, ad nauseum. Guess she figured a guy like me was too stupid to get it the first time. But I tweaked to it right away. It wasn't as if it were terribly complicated. It was one of the oldest stories in the book. Girl wants boy, girl gets boy, girl wants to lose boy without losing all the benefits that came with boy. Girl hires hit-man. Bada-bing, bada-boom...

She would get Barstow down to a nightclub of my acquaintance in a seedy part of town. How she did that wasn't my concern.

I'd be waiting outside in the alley with my hat pulled low and the .38. He'd never know what hit him—and in that part of town, no one else was likely to raise an eyebrow over it. Wrong place, wrong time... gee, what a shame.

We set the time for that evening. No need to pussyfoot around now that the plan was in motion. So, I grabbed an early dinner at the Third Street Diner and was crouched behind a refuse bin in the alley by seven.

Clarissa had promised to have the old man there by nine. Better safe than sorry, I always say, so I was there early. Chain-smoking my thoughts into some sort of order. And what I kept coming back to was - what a horrible idea this was.

Sure, the woman had given me ten thousand dollars—which wasn't too shabby. I'd finally gotten around to counting it all when she left. But hating her husband was no good reason to kill him. The longer I squatted behind the spoiled vegetables and rotten meat the more convinced I was of that fact.

So, when at last I heard the sound of footsteps heading my way, I’d made up my mind about the situation. I knew something had to be done. If not, she'd never get off my back. It just might not be what she was expecting.

Clarissa wove into view, clinging to the arm of a handsome gent about fifteen to twenty years older than she was. It had to be Barstow.

She had left behind the three piece suit for clinging chiffon, but she still wore the fox, and... if anything... more ice than before.

He was trying to hold her upright but she staggered along. I was pretty sure most of her stumbling was an act. Even in the dim light provided by the single streetlight on the corner I could see that he was being most solicitous. He was also six inches shorter than her and looked so fragile that a strong wind would blow him away. Somehow, the beating story was losing more and more of its credibility the closer they got.

Just outside the mouth of the alley, they stopped and I saw the flare of a match illuminate her profile as he lit a cigarette for her.

“I don't know why you insisted on coming down here, Clarissa. It's a bad neighborhood even in daylight.”

“You never want to have any fun,” she answered and I could hear the pout I couldn't see. “Where’s your sense of adventure?”

“I think I left it in my other suit,” Barstow replied wryly.

I bit the inside of my lip to keep from chuckling. Good comeback for an old guy.

“Have you thought about what I said?” she asked, her voice sharp and hard.

“I can't beggar my family, Clarissa. I think the settlement I've offered you is more than adequate. After all, the divorce was your idea.”

I drew my breath through my teeth with a hiss. So, the dame had lied to me.

I saw her glance toward the alleyway—no doubt wondering if I had overheard. Well might she wonder. This news changed everything for sure. My resolve solidified. Any feelings I might have had for Clarissa froze.

I hadn't been too keen on icing the man in the first place, but he seemed like an upstanding guy who wanted to look out for his kids in the face of a greedy gold-digger. I pulled the .38 out of my pocket and steadied it across my opposite forearm.

If I didn't do something right here, right now, the bitch would only try again with some other poor sap. Barstow deserved better.

I put a bullet between her eyes.

She went down like a sack of bricks.

“You can come out of the shadows now,” Barstow called softly, his voice steady as a judge. “I was expecting something of the sort when she persuaded me down here... but, I rather expected the bullet would be for me.”

“It was supposed to be,” I answered, keeping the gun trained—just in case. “She paid me good money to ice you tonight.”

“What changed your mind?”

“Just answer me one question... did you ever hit her?”

“Hit her? God, no. I would never hit a lady.”

“Didn't think so. Though she allowed that you did. Your son too, she said.”

“Nigel? He's been at boarding school since before I met Clarissa.”

“What about the girls?”

“What girls?” His voice was honestly puzzled.

“Don't you have two teenage daughters?”

“No. Nigel is an only child. He's fifteen.”

She had made the whole thing up. Played my emotions like a fiddle. Damn it. I'd believed every word out of her lying mouth.

“I don't know what she told you, sir—or what she paid you—but you’re welcome to keep it. I won't come looking for you. However, if I were you, I'd get the hell out of here before someone reports that gunshot.”

I snorted. “In this neighborhood, I doubt anyone noticed. What will you tell the cops?”

“The truth. Some unknown assailant gunned down my wife before I could stop him.”

I faded down the alley and took to my heels. Barstow seemed like a straight-up guy, but I wasn't pushing my luck.