I made a pot of coffee and while the coffee dripped, I called Crystal O’Shea. Terry Perez still was not at the house. She was supposed to be there at six o’clock that night. I drank a cup of coffee while scanning the sports pages to find out how the Nats fared last night. They lost. Having finished the coffee, I headed out the door. Time to go to work.
I drove to the address Crystal gave me for Terry Perez. She resided on the north side of R Street NW between Thirteenth and Fourteenth Streets in a former five story single family red brick townhouse which in New York City would be called a brown stone, except that is, for the red bricks. Each floor had been converted into a single apartment with the former main stairway of the house accessing each apartment level.
It was in rundown neighborhood just north of Logan Circle. A hundred years ago this was one of the more fashionable vicinages of upper class mansions in the city. Over the next hundred years the upper class moved to the west side of Rock Creek Park and a different class of people moved in. The cycle repeated itself about every twenty five years or so; the older residents moved west and newer residences moved from the east into the neighborhood. It was always an upgrade for everyone.
The big single family mansions were divided into apartments and the neighborhood further decayed. Strip joints expanded west from Ninth Street and the area became a haven for ladies of the night, their pimps, pushers, junkies and a collection of drunks sleeping in doorways. Urban renewal and the Metropolitan Police were beginning to work their magic in the neighborhood.
The building itself looked run down. It must be trash day. There were five full garbage cans in front of the basement areaway. The aroma of rot permeated the air around the garbage and a swarm of iridescent bottle flies hung around looking for a free lunch. A layer of grime and neglect covered the ornate brickwork.
Lyons was just as proficient with the killing arts as I am. He’s also a good shot. He does some independent work for anybody with enough money to hire his services. He also does some work for a certain three letter government agency who shall remain nameless and who doesn’t want to be connected to the jobs they hire Lyons to do. I don’t know what exactly Lyons does for a living and I’m sure I don’t want to know. They say ignorance is bliss and when it comes to knowing what Lyons does, I want to be very blissful.
“What are you working on now?” Lyons asked.
“A missing diamond necklace worth two hundred fifty G’s,” I said.
“Nice,” Lyons said. “How’s it going?”
“We have a theory of ‘who dun it’ but what we need is proof. You want a drink?”
“Chivas OK?” I asked.
“If that’s what you have, that’s what I’ll have.”
I poured two scotches, put the bottle on the desk and pushed his drink towards him. He took a sip.
“Look Jake,” Lyons started, “don’t forget, when you need help on a case call me. I’ll rearrange my schedule if I have to. Working with you would be like old times but without anybody shooting at us.”
“I don’t know about the ‘anybody shooting at us’ part,” I said. “Can’t guarantee that. But I can always use backup.”
“Works for me.”
We caught up on old times and went though half the Chivas until my stomach growled.
“Vanessa has to work later tonight. Ever been to Timothy’s Pub?” I asked.
Timothy’s Pub. Timothy’s has been my favorite watering hole since I moved into the neighborhood. It is also within staggering distance of my apartment. A lot of dark woodwork and fake exposed beams, Timothy’s decorated in a designer’s idea of what an authentic Irish pub should look like. It didn’t quite make it.
“Good booze, good burgers.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“Let’s go.” We went.
“She said my real mother was a scared sixteen year old unwed girl who was rejected by her parents when she got pregnant. She was hardly more than a child herself. ‘Mom’ told me that my birth mother never even looked at me; just told the nurses to take me away. Once I asked ‘Mom” what my birth mother’s name was but she said she didn’t know. I never asked again.
“When I was eighteen, the orphanage kicked me out. They said I was a man now and had to go out on my own. ‘Mom’ was there that day. She hugged me with tears running down her cheeks. She slipped me a folded sheet of paper. Once outside, I unfolded the paper. It was a letter to me and folded inside the letter was a twenty dollar bill. She wrote her full name, address and telephone number in the letter. Her name was Mildred Wicks. She told me later that being unmarried she wasn’t allowed to adopt me although she wanted to from the very first day. I stayed with her for a while. During that time I couldn’t find a job, I couldn’t even get a job digging ditches. I came home one night after I’d been living at ‘Mom’s’ two weeks and told her that I joined the Marines. She hugged me and cried. You know the rest.”
I just patted his knee. There was nothing I could say. It took quite a lot for the usually private Lyons to open up and tell me about his being an unwanted orphan.
Lyons and I fought together, got drunk together, got laid together. He became closer to me than any of my brothers. I knew I could depend on him to have my back and he knew he could depend on me to cover his back. When we came back stateside, I tried to fix him up with my sister Julie. They went our a few times but the chemistry just wasn’t there. I think it was Lyons being introverted and Julie being an extrovert. They parted friends.
I lingered in the office as I was no no hurry to head home for the night to an empty apartment when there was a knock on the office door. I slid my right hand into the top desk drawer and wrapped it around the butt of my .45. “Come in,” I called out.
“How ya doin’, Sarge? How’s Vanessa?” He said.
“We’re both fine. Corporal, what’s up?” Corporal was my old platoon corporal and best friend, Ben Lyons.
“Good, I just got back, I’ve been in South America for a few weeks. The job took a lot longer than I figured.”
Ben Lyons is six feet three inches tall with dark, wavy hair that more than one woman said they would die for. There was the ever present dark stubble on his strong face. He looked like Willie and Joe, Bill Mauldin’s World War II cartoon characters of two weary and bedraggled infantry troopers who stoically endure the difficulties and dangers of duty in the field, in civies. We’d been in Iraq together and in the field almost a year when one night we were hunkered down behind good fortifications in a half destroyed house. The sun began to set and the rest of the platoon were hunkered down behind good fortifications in other nearby abandoned houses for the night. We were ordered to wait until we were relieved. It appeared that relief wouldn’t happen before tomorrow dawn.
We settled down sitting hip to hip, our backs up against a wall and our legs stretched out. I could feel the tension draining down my legs and out my feet. We feasted on our MRE’s. We were quiet. It looked like Lyons was deep in thought.
“Sarge, my mother abandoned me the day I was born,” Lyons said. I stayed quiet and listened.
“I grew up in an orphanage in New York City. Stayed there until I was eighteen. Nobody wanted to adopt me. Its a bitch seeing the other kids being adopted. Nobody wanted me. There was a matron at the orphanage who started working there the day I was born. She told me that her first task that day was to go to the hospital and pick up an abandoned baby. That abandoned baby was me. She became my unofficial mother; she was the only mother I would know. As I grew older, I heard the other kids who had parents, at one time or another, talk about their mothers and fathers. I had no conception of what they were talking about. When I finally figured it out, I started calling the matron ‘Mom’. She taught me a lot of things about life.
It was late in the afternoon when I unlocked my office door. I was tired. Interviewing people while not physically difficult is hard on the psyche. I bent over and picked up the mail from the floor, looked through it as I walked to my desk. Wow, another check. It must be my week. The blinking light on my answering machine was flashing. I pushed the play button and my wife Vanessa’s voice came through the speaker.
“Jake, I have to work late tonight for court tomorrow. I see you when I get home. Shall I wake you when I get home?” She asked in a purring voice.
I picked up the phone and dialed Vanessa’s work number. “Vanessa Malone,” she said as she answered the phone.
“Yes,” I said.
“Who is this?” She asked.
“Some guy that got the hots for you.” Click. I called her back.
“Vanessa Malone,” she said as she answered the phone again.
“Hi Jake. You got my message? I’m sorry, I have to get ready for tomorrow and I have about five more hours to go.”
“Yeah, that doesn’t sound like fun.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“I still have the hots for you.”
“That was you? I thought it was an obscene phone call,” Vanessa said
“It was, this is.”
“Hold that thought,” she said.
“Oh, I will.”
“I love you,” Vanessa said.
“I love you too.”
“Fend for yourself tonight for dinner. We’re sending out for sandwiches later,” Vanessa said.
I looked at the piece of paper Crystal gave me as I was leaving her house. It was an address on R Street near Logan Circle. It must be Terry Perez’s. I’ll have to check it out in the morning.
“Thank you for your help.”
“You’re welcome. I hope you find Crystal’s necklace,” Pauline said looking at me with an enticing smile on her face.
“So do I.”
“Thank you Pauline,” Boyle said. Pauline walked from the office looking over her shoulder at me with that same smile on her face.
She didn’t steal the necklace,” I said.
“Body language?” Boyle asked
“And eye contact.”
“Pauline likes you.”
“I like her too.”
“No, I mean she really likes you.”
“Oh.” After letting that settle in I said, “I guess that’s all we can do here now. Is Crystal in the living room?” I asked.
“Yes.” Crystal sat on one of the living room loveseats with her legs tucked under her reading a book.
“Are you finished already?” She asked looking up from her book and patting the seat next to her. “Jake sit.” She was talking to me but she was looking at Boyle.
Boyle told Crystal about Carol and the coke. “Get her out of the building today, now,” Crystal said. Boyle nodded.
Crystal pondered for a moment. “I liked Carol. She’s been with me for years. She was a good worker and very popular with the clients. I hate to let her go but I can’t, I won’t have drugs in my house. Some of my clients are prominent judges. They will tolerate the ladies but they can not tolerate the drugs.
“Did any of those three steal my necklace?” Crystal asked.
“No.” I told her about lie detection techniques and how the three passed.
“Boyle, what do you think?” She asked him
“They didn’t steal your necklace. Jake thinks Terry stole the necklace.” Boyle told Crystal our theory of how Terry stole the necklace.
“I’m glad Pauline is innocent. What are you going to do next?” Crystal asked.
“Find the evidence to have Terry Perez prosecuted,” I said.
“Jake, remember I want to know first before getting the cops involved,” Crystal said, as she took a slip of paper from between the pages of her book and gave it to me. On it was written an address in her fine script.
“What about the dress you ruined?” I asked after a moment of inspiration.
“He put another two hundred dollars on the table and started taking his clothes off. I told him the dress cost me three hundred dollars. He threw another hundred on the table. That covered the dress. Crystal collects the clients charges from which she pays us our commission after the clients leave. Any tips are between the client and us.”
“Did any of the ladies mention their tips that night?” I asked.
“Carol was pissed off. She wailed that her john stiffed her.” Pauline said, laughing at her own choice of words. It was funny. “The others didn’t say. We generally never talk about tips.”
To make a short story long, three minutes later he was finished and breathing hard. I like sex and I like money; if it weren’t for the clients this would be a damn fine job.”
Pauline was as bright as Crystal said, Pauline had a quick, dry sense of humor. I couldn’t help but laugh at how she told her story.
“Pauline, did you see anyone near Crystal’s office door during the party?” I asked.
“No, I didn’t.” I didn’t think she would but I had to ask anyway.
“Sometimes in this business, you have to take the good with the bad. Sometimes these high and mighty clients don’t have the couth of a, a… I can’t think of anything with that low; high position, low class,” Pauline said.
“Pauline, what are your plans when you decide to change professions?” I asked.
“Why do you ask?”
“Just curious,” I said. I love having someone answer my questions with a question of their own.
“You know what curiosity did to the cat, don’t you?”
“Yeah, but I thought I’d ask anyway.”
“I have enough money saved up and invested in T-Bills and blue chip stocks that when I walk away from this profession as you say, I’ll be in good shape, that is unless of course, I walk away in handcuffs.” She laughed.