[untitled]‘s exciting Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, “Ray Delaney & the [adjective] Blade”, continues with Chapter 4, in which we learn more about the menacing machinations of Sharp, Sussman, and LaSalle. But most importantly, remember to vote at the end of the chapter to decide the course of Delaney’s fate next Wednesday.
Chapter IV: Ménage à noir
The light cascaded from the corrugated roof top of the building on his right, leaving dinner plate-sized spots on the ground. He had walked the last mile, hoping that Sharp’s four-door had not taken any unexpected turns up ahead. After fifteen minutes, he had been rewarded by the sight of a Chevrolet, its trunk powdered with dust, standing in front of a disbanded warehouse on the outskirts of Weston.
Delaney ducked inexpertly behind nettles and thorns, and made his way toward the building. Coming to a window with its lower pane missing, he crouched and listened. He could hear Sharp’s voice bouncing warmly against the inside of the warehouse.
“…a meeting, but I’m going to be there. Just agree, and make sure you keep your little endeavor under wraps.”
A second voice, lower. “Okay, but you need to keep Candy in check, too.” LaSalle’s voice.
“Really, Charles?! Why, I thought I’d let her run wild!”
As her voice faded, Delaney sensed the phantom Ms. Sharp moving toward the exit. Steps echoed and then crunched on gravel and broken pavement. The two figures climbed into the Chevy, and Delaney leaned back against the building to exhale.
Sharp and LaSalle meeting out of town, conspiring. So Delaney’s client was Ms. Sharp’s, too. Or perhaps she was playing him and Candy off against one another for a tidy profit. Smart, thought Delaney. LaSalle was at the Ritz in Boston. He would have to pay him an unexpected visit – one that Ms. Sharp would not be able to attend.
He walked slowly back to his car, the dust on his suit dissipating with each step.
* * *
That night, it was cold and it rained. Delaney felt like an actor, sitting in the window of the Idlewild Lounge sipping whiskey from a short glass. Beyond his own light-speckled reflection, tourists and local couples, homeless men and swaddled children, moved quickly along Tremont Street trying to escape the dreary scene. Back in his office were three hundred of Charles LaSalle’s dollars and the monogrammed switchblade. He could almost see the ghost of a knife and a long narrow 100 lying on the table in front of him as he waited for the bourbon visions to kick in.
They were all lying. Candy, LaSalle, Sharp. C-L-S. Candy must have run away from her hometown, away from Charles LaSalle. That much seemed true. But why? Delaney had no idea. He thought again of the blade. It was a thing. A clue, something of substance bearing the burden of something with none. And Sharp had given it to him for a reason.
* * *
At quarter of midnight, Charles LaSalle swiped his key card, opened his hotel room door, and found an unkempt and unsober Ray Delaney reclining on the king-size bed, remote control in hand.
“Ah, Mr. LaSlall,” the detective slurred. For a moment, LaSalle stood transfixed, the door held open with one hand. Delaney rose, gripping the bedside table, and tossed the remote carelessly onto a chair. The television flickered out.
“What the hell are…”
“I have something that belongs to you.” LaSalle let the door swing shut on its hinge. Delaney withdrew from his inside pocket the switchblade. Pressed the button. Fissskk. The knife sprang in an arc until its blade was vertical.
Moving around the bed toward the other man, Delaney twisted the knife in his hand. LaSalle backed away in the opposite direction. “We’re on the tenth floor, Charles. So unless you plan to crash through the wall, I think you oughta consider sitting down and spitting it out.”
LaSalle deflated onto the edge of the bed. Delaney pulled a wooden chair from beneath the room’s large oak dresser and sat down opposite his client. “Where did you get that thing?” LaSalle demanded.
“So it is yours?”
“That’s not what I said.” He shifted uncomfortably.
“I think you know where I got it. Now why did you hire me to track down Candy Sussman?” Even over his own whiskey-soaked breath, Delaney could smell LaSalle’s cologne.
“Okay, okay.” LaSalle’s was eyeballing the switchblade. “Sharp… Catherine Sharp, right? That’s where you got the blade. About a month ago, I hired Sharp to trace Candy. Back when she first disappeared. Candy and I were engaged, that much is true, but she skipped out of town just weeks before the wedding, taking her large – and rather attractive – inheritance with her.”
LaSalle looked away from Delaney, a meek smile attached to the bottom of his face. Some things were beginning to add up. He continued: “She has millions in the bank, Mr. Delaney. I couldn’t let her get away. So I hired Ms. Sharp to find her.”
“Then why hire me? Two’s company…”
“Well. The problem with Ms. Sharp is that she found what she was looking for. Candy paid her off, at least that’s what I suspect. And now Sharp is playing me – and you, Mr. Delaney – for all we’re worth.”
“And this?” Delaney held the blade up again, the metal glinting in the lamplight of the room.
LaSalle hesitated, glancing at the hilt of the knife and its ornate engraving. “It’s not mine. Sharp showed it to me after I arrived in Boston. She told me that Candy had brought it with her from North Carolina… that it was an heirloom of her father’s.”
Delaney opened his mouth intending to splutter whiskey-spit at LaSalle, to shout down his version of things and to get at the truth. But suddenly, LaSalle’s door splintered and figures crowded through the jamb, wet from rain and livid with anger.