We each were alone with our thoughts; thinking about the skeleton with the bullet hole in his forehead. Who he was? What was he doing in the speakeasy? Was he the last man standing when prohibition ended at the Primrose Hotel speakeasy? How did he get dead? Questions, questions, questions. And not a single answer insight.
“Why don’t you call Marilyn and see if we can get together with her and Lyons for dinner later tonight at Timothy’s?” I said to Vanessa as we drove out of Mossville and headed home. Timothy’s is in reality Timothy’s Pub, a local bar, burger and steak joint a short walk from our apartment. It was the place where Vanessa and I met and we dine there two or three times a week. The food is cheap and good. Besides, neither of us wants to go to the trouble of cooking when we get home from work. Vanessa made the call and after a few words nodded to me letting me know that Marilyn and Lyons would meet us tonight. Vanessa and Marilyn then talked for twenty minutes preventing me from listening to the book on CD we’d been listening to on the trip because Vanessa has a hard time hearing the phone when a CD played in the Jeep.
Vanessa and I checked in with Tom Forsythe Sunday morning before we started on our way home. He said, “I called Bob Murdoch last night. I know him. We worked together on a few cases in the not to distant past. He told me, and I quote, ‘he’s a pain in my ass.’ He said you’re ‘like Philip Marlowe trapped in the twenty-first century’. And he said those were your good points. He also said that you were a damn fine PI, honest, dependable and that your word was good and he hates PI’s.” Tom Forsythe chuckled at Murdoch’s last statement. What could I say. It’s all true.
“We’re heading for home but I’m planning to come back in a few days to, with your permission of course, look into the killing,” I said.
“Detective Forsythe,” Vanessa started, “as an attorney and a former prosecutor, I would consider the entire Primrose Hotel a crime scene until further notice and if I were you, I would prevent any demolition until this death is resolved.”
“You’re right, Ms. Malone. That’s gonna cause a some people lot of problems,” he said with a smirk on his face.
“Please call me Vanessa.”
“Vanessa, I’ll secure the hotel. I talked with the mayor and he said that the he and town council wanted to solve this skeleton matter. I’ll know more about their thinking when you get back. Jake, check in with me first when you do get back and I’ll share with you what I can,” Tom Forsythe said.
“I might bring Vanessa with me if that’s alright with you.”
“I don’t see any problem. Check with me when you get here,” Tom Forsythe said. We shook hands all around and Vanessa and I headed for home.
“Can you recommend a hotel in town?” I asked. He gave me a dirty look. Vanessa stifled another giggle. We shook hands all around and Vanessa and I went looking for a place to spend the night.
We found the Midnight Motel just outside of town. It looked like just what it was, a seedy motel on a little used county road near a dying town. It did however have one good thing going for it. It was the only motel within thirty miles of Mossville.
We decided to check anyway. The room was clean, and did not have the lingering fragrance of used cigarette smoke. The toilet flushed, the hot water ran hot and the television had cable and more importantly worked. I took a quick shower to sluice away the accumulated dust from this afternoon.
The sign on the steakhouse across the county highway touted prime rib as their specialty. Vanessa and I decided that after the day we had a steak sounded good.
Later, while laying in bed when smokers would be enjoying their post-coital cigarettes, my wife rolled on her right side looking at me, took my hand in hers and said, “this skeleton intrigues you, doesn’t it? It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle that’s challenging you to solve it. Deep down, you want to solve it.” Vanessa was right.
I muttered something, I’m not even sure what I said.
“What are you working on now?” Vanessa asked.
“Not a whole lot. Just a couple of pre-employment applications to verify,” I said.
“Nothing of any great matter. Come back to D.C. with me, finish up what’s on your desk, let me take care of the two cases in front of me and then you and I can come back in a few days.”
We fell asleep wrapped in each other’s arms.
“Will you call and let us know what you found out?” I asked. “If you have any questions about me, you can check with Detective Lieutenant Bob Murdoch, D.C. Metropolitan Police homicide squad or you can call Randy Barrows or Alan Rose at the Barrow and Rose Law Firm in D.C. I’ve done some investigative work for them recently and Vanessa happens to be an associate there.”
“I’ll check you out and if you are who you say you are we’ll get along just fine. I’ve seen you work, you’re smart, you’re good and you’re professional. I’ll get in touch,” Tom Forsythe said.
The town police headquarters was in the three story red brick building that also served as jail, town hall and offices. The town building dominated the southwest corner of South and East Streets diagonally across the square from the Primrose Hotel and directly across from the old dress shop.
After Vanessa and I signed our statements, Tom Forsythe said, “I’d appreciate it if you both could hang around for a couple of days.”
“I’m due in court Monday morning in D.C.,” Vanessa said. “We can stay overnight but we’ll have to leave around mid morning.”
“Alright. Check in with me before you leave town, please,” Tom Forsythe said.
Vanessa and Madeline were in the lobby waiting for us. Vanessa let the other three tour group couples go on their way reasoning that the only thing they could actually testify to in court was seeing the skeleton. Which she and I could do just as easily. Besides, she had their names and addresses if Tom Forsythe needed to contact them.
Vanessa hurried up to me and said, “I’ve been watching the elevators waiting for you. How did you get out of the speakeasy?” Vanessa asked.
“Through the tunnel,” I said with a grin. I told Vanessa about following the tunnel through the old dress shop and out onto the street.
“That must have been how they restocked the speakeasy,” she said. After a few seconds of her lawyer brain whirling away, she said, “That may be how the killer dumped the body and got away.” We told her of our two possible theories of how the skeleton arrived in the speakeasy.
We were met by the uniform cop Tom Forsythe sent with the roll of drawings to the clerk’s office.
“That young snot nosed punk in the permits office gave me a ration of shit about havin’ to rummage through the plans files for a set of seventy year old drawin’s, especially on a Saturday,” the uniformed cop said. “I told him to get his ass in gear or he’d spend the night in our fine jail.”
“What did he say?” Tom Forsythe asked.
“Nothin’. He walked away and was gone about forty-five minutes and came back empty handed. He said there was no other drawin’s,” the uniformed cop said. “And I tend to believe him. He seemed kinda nervous about havin’ to tell me he didn’t find nothin’.” Tom Forsythe nodded.
“How about the both of you coming to the station with me and give us your formal statements?” Tom Forsythe said as we were ready to depart.