[untitled]

Scene Three: Alea Acta Est

Int., night. Candy Soosman Hartnett is talking animatedly. Delaney is listening, his face an art in practiced unreadability.

Candy had barely finished telling her tale when there was a knock at the door. I got up and opened it inwards to a man with a bluish face, an aquiline nose and what, according to my admittedly limited knowledge, looked like a Luger Parabellum.

As I glanced from the barrel to his face, I could see a nervous twitch in both. I lunged as quickly as my muscles allowed. I had managed to turn the gun barrel to one side while simultaneously twisting the grip out of his hand before Candy shouted, “Ray! No, wait.”

I looked at the gun. The safety catch was on. Candy stepped between us and said, “Ray, this is Mr Butler. He’s my husband’s assistant and associate.” I looked at Mr Butler. He looked at me. “He was just doing his job—he must have wondered who I was talking to at such a late hour and thought that he should double check.” Butler nodded like a good dog.

“Well,” I said. “I don’t think I’ll ask what line of business Mr Hartnett is in that he needs assistants like Mr Butler here. At least I can be sure he doesn’t earn enough to afford someone who’s good at their job.” Just as nothing is scarier than the wrath of a giant, there is nothing more amusing than the fury of a small man. Butler began to scurry away muttering something about calling his boss right away.

Turning back, Candy was alone in the middle of the room, the tired rings beneath her eyes drawing her face in and making her seem even thinner than normal. Her usually sleek figure had suddenly lost its appeal, or perhaps it was just my own exhaustion playing tricks on desire. I wasn’t quite sure, and I wouldn’t be tonight.

“I should go,” I staccatoed. I grinned quickly and added, “but I’ll be back to pick you up tomorrow night, 8pm, for dinner.” She smiled as I was leaving her room, but by the time I’d reached the revolving doors in the lobby it was the tired, drawn, melancholy Candy Soosman who stayed burned into my retinas.

Int., night. Delaney is walking his apartment in the dark, peering out of the windows. A tumbler of whiskey in his left hand, he is wearing pyjama pants and a white vest.

As I softly lay the curtain back in place I switched on a floor lamp. There was no point in pretending I wasn’t here—Mr Butler had followed me to my building and knew I was at home—but I always took a moment to ascertain whether or not my erstwhile companions were going to stay the night or not. And since the black soft-top Buick was subtle, but not that subtle, I knew the aptly-named assistant to Mr Hartnett was staying the course. I sipped some bourbon. What the hell, I thought—he’s got a bucket seat and a hundred cups of coffee, and I’ve got whiskey and an adequate bed.

I sat down and allowed my mind to put some jigsaw pieces together. After our jaunt in Germany five years ago, Candy Soosman had come back to a distant aunt who became more distant on her passing and her passing on an unexpected inheritance to Candy. Where once she’d sat through one hundred lowlifes and ex-criminals looking for an easy broad, now Ms Soosman was a rich young woman with a fortune and in want of a husband.

Enter Julian Hartnett, stage left. A successful businessman in his own right, Hartnett had his own multinational company producing biochemical products and his own yacht. By then, I didn’t even have my own hat. They took off for the west coast in a Cadillac with no roof and no goodbyes.

Then last week Don had called me in to act as a safety net in this mess of a case he was working on, telling me that I might be someone the perps would trust just enough to deal with. What he didn’t tell me was that Sadie Tannhauser was involved. And what no one had told me was just what it was she had that these guys were after.

The end of Candy’s story clattered around in my skull, hooking left to right. “And something went missing, Ray—important papers from Julian’s office dealing with some new project of Hartnett Biolife’s (I don’t really understand the technical side of things).” That last part I hadn’t believed. “Julian told me that he thought his new secretary had taken them—that he couldn’t trust her—and he told me her name. Sadie Jenkins, formerly Mrs Donald Tannhauser.”

Ext., night. Delaney’s apartment lights are extinguished. Mr Butler is reading the morning edition and drinking coffee in his Buick.

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