“Ray Delaney & the Filial Blade” continues, with an unprecedented dead heat in last week‘s vote. So as Delaney’s fate remains uncertain, not only this case but his life hanging in the balance, we return to the action. Remember to vote, and tune in next Wednesday for the penultimate installment!
Chapter VIII: Dead Heat
Spinning. Dark cavernous space spinning around him. Against the backdrop of glass and light a face swam before him as though described in watercolor. Eventually Catherine Sharp’s leonine face pulled into focus. No sooner had Charles LaSalle fixed onto this familiar point, than it swelled away from him in silence.
Sharp had swung her head back toward the road. In the back seat, LaSalle – groggy from a swift blow to the head with the handle of her Luger – was mere seconds away from total consciousness. And on the other end of the phone line, Ray Delaney sounded minutes away from collapsing to his knees.
“Charles Street… I…” In the pauses came the sounds of a tired, old man. “Followed her on the T… Already… called the cops.”
Assuring him that she was on the way, Delaney hung up and Sharp – throwing glances at LaSalle in her rear view mirror – put a little more pressure on the accelerator.
* * *
Delaney’s muscles were cramping when he limped out of the Charles subway station and onto the sidewalk. His fall had probably cost him his pursuit, and though he hobbled around the pavement between the old-fashioned facades of Charles Street and the busy intersection next to the subway, Candy was nowhere to be seen.
He called Catherine Sharp. As her steely voice informed him that she had caught LaSalle, had tackled him several blocks away from South Station and clubbed the back of his head with a gun barrel, Delaney had instinctively lifted a palm to the back of his head and felt the soft tissue, the spot where he had been knocked unconscious in his apartment building.
He had hardly noticed the sirens. Police cruisers pulled up behind him as he finished speaking with Sharp, disgorging onto the streets blue-clad idiots with holsters. Delaney’s head throbbed, his hip and leg burned. He couldn’t tell, but he thought the officer now approaching him might even have been the same guy who had brought Candy and Conrad Sussman to LaSalle’s room. Probably he was wrong. They all looked the same to him.
Knowing he was about to have a whole life’s worth of explaining to do, he said:
“If the cops are getting involved, then I want a pow-wow with Don Tannhauser first.”
* * *
The speed had been all for nothing. Sharp’s Chevy pulled to an abrupt stop at the far end of Charles Street, blocks away from the subway, and a portly man in a starchy brown suit held a hand up to the windshield. He stepped toward the driver’s side. He produced a badge, called himself ‘Detective Tannhauser‘.
“Something wrong with yer buddy here?” he asked. Tannhauser’s droopy mustache made a rough circle with the folds of his second chin as he leaned into the car.
“A sudden rush to the head.” Sharp looked into Tannhauser’s shrewd eyes. “Plus, he’s probably an accessory to murder. Patricide, to be precise.”
* * *
A cop car stalked down the street toward Delaney. From the passenger seat emerged Don Tannhauser, the cigarette in his mouth sending small but perfectly curling twists of smoke into the air. A blueshirt got out and opened the back door for Ms. Sharp.
“You look swell, Ray.” Tannhauser spoke expertly around his Gitanes as they converged in the middle of Charles Street. Around them, officers were fanning out into the side streets, climbing up to the wealthy apartments of blue blood Bostonians on Beacon Hill or making their way toward the river and questioning idle tourists.
Delaney and Sharp exchanged glances, and Tannhauser went on. “And here I thought you were the only P.I. stupid enough to chase down real criminals in this city.”
“No,” replied Delaney. “Just the best.”
Tannhauser removed the cigarette from his mouth. “Well, we have Mr. Charles LaSalle handcuffed in the back of a cruiser down by Boston Common. Your quarry is simply…” he waved tobacco incense into the air “the one that got away?”
Uniformed officers crawled outwards in an ever-widening circle and Delaney began to worry that, even with the police’s manpower, Candy had already slipped away. But one person had finally shown their hand. LaSalle was now the key to finding the murderess Ms. Sussman.
* * *
Sharp and Delaney sat side-by-side in front of Don Tannhauser’s desk.
“Look, I’m sorry, I…” Sharp began.
“So it was you. With the…” Delaney mimed a blow with a blunt object, didn’t avert his gaze from Tannhauser’s swivel chair opposite them.
“I was still working with LaSalle, it was his idea.”
Delaney grunted. “Pretend like Candy had taken the business end of a baseball bat to my brain?!”
Before Sharp could respond, the door to the office swung open behind them. Tannhauser stepped through, the sweat on his forehead fast making tracks for his mustache. He said: “Good news first? Or bad news?”
“How about both?” Delaney replied.