Delaney’s Buick sat alone in the parking lot, glittering under the street lamps like a dime-a-day engagement ring. The tarpaulin roof was pushed inwards and a pool of murky rain water had gathered in the concave indent. Pulling open the rusty door he crunched into the driver’s seat and reached for the car keys in his pocket. He twisted the ignition, shot a glance in the rear view mirror and left the parking lot.
Clouds were subsiding and the night was becoming clearer. His head was not. Colours and numbers floated amongst his thoughts. Number 1 had been green, spotted with red blood and fibres, lying on the grass beside the dead woman. Number 2 was black, hidden in an inside pocket whilst he hung dead and purple. Number 3 was yellow and old—stuffed in the old guy’s mouth after he had been killed. And now, number 4 was burning a hole in Delaney’s coat lining.
He reached his street in a daze, parked up and headed into the lobby of his apartment complex. Leaving the elevator at the fifth floor, he was suddenly assailed by a blow to the head, followed swiftly by nausea, vertigo, and finally blackness.
His vision worked like a badly-tuned television. Someone was stood in front of him but he could only make out the lines of their figure, clothed in grey and poorly lit. The lighting wasn’t just for drama, he thought.
“Mr. Delaney,” a female voice said. “I believe I have something you might be interested in.”
“Who are you?” he growled.
“My name is…” she paused. “Ms. Sharp.”
“That wasn’t terribly convincing.”
“I have no interest in convincing you of anything. But if a name means that much to you, by all means use it, Ray.”
“I kinda got a migraine. Got anything for that, Ms. Sharp?” Delaney asked.
“This might help,” she responded, tossing a small object onto his lap. Lifting it up until it caught the lamplight coming from the corner of his apartment, Delaney figured his eyes were getting old. It was about three by two inches, a black card with four images of smaller, multi-coloured cards on the front. An Uno card.
“Where did you find this? And how the hell did you get into my apartment, anyway?” He got up, faking a machismo which had long drained out of the gash in his head. “This is—”
“My name is Andrea Sharp. I work out of town—a private investigator.” She paused and managed to ignore the sneer on Delaney’s upper lip. “Anyway, you should be thanking me. I found you out there, bleeding on to a perfectly competent beige carpet. Whoever gave you that,” she said, pointing at the back of his head, “probably heard me coming and bolted.”
Delaney grumbled and pulled off his coat one arm at a time. He pulled out his car keys and wallet. Nothing was gone. He checked the other pockets, but it took a moment for him to realise: number 4 was missing, and it was odds-on favourite than his attacker had managed to get hold of what he was after before Ms. Sharp had interrupted. “And how did you…?”
“In a previous life I had a penchant for picking locks…”
Daylight was creeping across the room when Delaney finally undressed and lay down to sleep. The new Uno card remained as a centrepiece on the living room table, but Andrea Sharp had left to head back to a morning appointment. She had told him that the card had been found on a body out in Quincy—a real estate developer named Madison had watched his liquid assets plummet to zero in the space of a week, and his wife had watched him plummet to the ground from the top of a downtown skyscraper the following weekend. Madison’s body was torn up pretty bad, she said. But clasped in his left hand had been his wedding ring; in his right was the plus-four card.
She had read about the murders happening up here. And she didn’t believe in coincidences.
Neither did Delaney. Her mysterious appearance at the moment of the fourth card’s vanishing act didn’t scan. Why had she arrived in the early hours of the morning? And even if she had read his name in the newspaper reports, how did she come across his unlisted address? He looked out of the bedroom window. It was raining again. He guessed she had had her chance.
Delaney attached the new piece of evidence to the magnetic board in his office. Madison’s suicide had to be linked to the previous four killings. A white, middle-aged man throws himself off the top of a building when his business goes bust. He scratched his beard and dropped his fedora on top of the telephone.
A more familiar and more alive white, middle-aged man appeared at the door. “What do you want, Cannon?”
“Losing evidence again, Delaney?” he sneered. “You should take the stairs instead of the elevator—it would do you good.”
“Have you just come to wiseacre, or is this a social call?”
“Here—” he tossed a manila envelope on to Delaney’s desk. Inside was a letter, addressed to the killer’s first victim, a 32-year-old woman named Lindsay King. He scanned it and realised that there were several other sheets behind it. It was the same letter on the same letter stock, addressed to Austin de Selincourt—victim 2. Beneath this were two other letters for numbers 3 and 4, Mr. Ira Schneider and Mr. Carl Franken. “And take a look at the sender’s address.”
“Well, well,” muttered Delaney. “Let me teach you something, Cannon. We call this here a clue.”