Ray Delaney’s investigation of the [adjective] blade continues apace, with a shocking twist that will determine Delaney’s, Candy’s, LaSalle’s and Sharp’s fates, and unveil the missing word in the case of “Ray Delaney & the [adjective] Blade”. Read, vote, and tune in next Wednesday for more!
Chapter V: Kingdom Come
Everyone stood, quiet and upright, like pins at the end of a bowling lane. Delaney had risen, allowing the switchblade to fall to his side. That it would remain obscured from view he could only hope.
“What is this, an AA meeting?” he said.
The police officer ignored Delaney, stepped around the two figures he was escorting. He asked:
“Is this him?”
LaSalle had come to his senses, was moving toward the door, muttering Candy’s name. Delaney took the opportunity to push the blade against his pants leg until it clicked back into its plastic shell. He exhaled, felt the sweat creeping like cold, dead fingertips down his back.
“That’s him,” said Candy. She receded into the hallway and behind her companion. Dramatic, thought Delaney. “That’s Charles,” she whispered.
“Mr LaSalle.” The officer had lain a hand on his cuffs. He and LaSalle were just inches apart. “I’m going to need you to come with me…”
Delaney feigned indignation. “Hey, hey, hey, this guy is my client, shamus. What’s he being charged with?”
“Criminal harassment. Ms. Sussman says he’s been threatening her.”
Behind the old man, Delaney saw Candy smile. In another light, it would have been beautiful.
* * *
Hotel lobbies have always been here, they are a great unifier, Delaney thought. The full social spectrum filtered through the prism of the hotel lobby. Strollers with little, fat baby flesh being pushed in and out of elevators, long-lost relatives of Beacon Hill blue-bloods sipping cocktails at the bar, and night porters in 1940s uniforms idling by the revolving doors.
Sobering up in an easy chair, Delaney’s head felt raw. Rubbing a hand over the tender spot left by yesterday’s assailant, he had failed to notice Candy and her companion re-entering the lobby.
“Mr. Delaney, I assume?” The older man stood, imperious and outdated, a foot in front of Delaney. Delaney grunted. “My name is Conrad Sussman, I’m Candy’s father.” His accent lilted in and out of the Carolinas.
“Then apparently,” Delaney said, pulling the knife out of his pants pocket and getting up. “This belongs to you.”
“Certainly.” Sussman reached out an arthritic hand and took the blade. “I appreciate your candor and your help, Delaney, but as you can see…” Candy hovered in the background, a smile pasted to her lips. They were good lips. “My daughter and I are the victims here. Mr LaSalle simply needed to be taught a lesson. I think this should suffice.”
As Delaney pushed through the revolving doors just minutes later, he thought he caught glimpses of Candy’s face in the pools of rainwater on the sidewalks. She was definitely the kind of girl he would write bad checks for.
* * *
The following morning, Delaney’s tongue bristled like sandpaper. The sunlight catching the right-angles of his filing cabinet bathed his office in warmth. He had called the city jail and been informed that LaSalle had been bailed during the night by a woman who matched Ms. Sharp’s description. The Sussmans were still here, staying at the Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge, though they would most likely be leaving town as soon as they were sure that LaSalle had been deterred from his pursuit.
Outside, buildings loomed over the mid-May pavement. Her face swam before his, indistinct and yet beautiful. Candy Sussman. She could not retreat, could not crawl back along the coast to North Carolina, without having said a single word to him. Delaney bounced across the road and past the subway entrance, onto the sidewalk and further along Hoover Street. His Buick, baking in the open sunlight, hove into view.
Pulling out his car keys, his eyes slowed and fixed on the left-hand rear tire. Like a melting snowball, it had flattened at the bottom and seemed to be sinking into the ground. Slashed, airless. Cursing, he went to the trunk for the spare, the key turning loosely in the lock.
Lifting the trunk lid, he found if not the tire-slasher then at least the tire-slasher’s weapon of choice. Buried in the crimson-soaked chest of a portly man whom Delaney instantly recognized, the switchblade glinted in the sun. The embossed letters C.L.S. were barely visible on the hilt of the knife, and the empty eyes of Conrad Sussman gazed, vertically and in a dead parallel with the blade’s handle, into the sky.
Delaney cursed again, and more vociferously.