“There’s a woman here to see you. Real looker.” Daisy said, sticking her head in through Murphy’s door.
Murphy nodded to send her in. He got a good look at her as she came in through the door. Eyes downcast to look demur, but there was a light to them that said otherwise. Her lips were the kind that always seemed to be smiling, or on the verge of it. A beautiful girl, no doubt about it.
“What can I do for you Miss…?”
“Adeline Sandos. Thank you for seeing me, Mr. Murphy. I have a problem. I’m not quite sure how to explain it.”
“Just start at the beginning,” Murphy said, with a generous smile, his eyes intent upon her.
Adeline hesitated, looking away and then back at Murphy. “Well, it’s my husband, you see.” Murphy nodded, as though he had expected her to say that. “He’s gotten mixed up with some bad people I think. And I’m worried…”
Here she hesitated again. Murphy leaned forward slightly. “What worries you, Miss Sandos?”
“Well, I’m worried there may be another woman.”
Murphy nodded, as though he had expected that too. He made her tell him everything, even those things she seemed reluctant to talk about, asking questions about particular details. When he was done he sent her on her way with some reassurance, telling her to put a retainer down with Daisy. He watched her leave the room, his eyes lingering on her as she left, his lips pursed in thought.
Adeline left the detective agency and took a cab across town to the Hotel Bellmire, an old and majestic place downtown that seemed a little faded, as though it were a picture on a postcard that had sat in the sun too long. She did not stop at the front desk, heading straight up to the fifth floor where she let herself into one of the rooms. The Brides were waiting for her there.
They were a set of twins, handsome and youthful, though less youthful upon closer inspection, with glittering eyes and smiles with edges.
“How did it go?” one said.
“Just like you said,” Adeline said. “I told him everything, just like you told me to to tell it.”
“And he didn’t suspect you of anything?”
Adeline shook her head. “It didn’t matter what I said. A whiff of innocence and desperation was all he needed. He was in all the way.”
“Good girl. Fix her a drink,” the one brother said.
The first brother glared at him, as if to tell him to do it himself, but he got up and poured Adeline a whiskey. She drank it off in one gulp.
“There’s the matter of my payment,” she said, fixing them both with a steady eye.
“All in due time, all in due time.”
Adeline shook her head. “How about now instead?”
The first Bride brother gave her a thin smile. “Very well.” He fished an envelope from within the breastpocket of his suit and handed it to her.
Ignoring the two men, Adeline counted out the bills. She glanced up at them. “This is half what I’m owed.”
“Yes, you see our little scheme is only workable if you make yourself scarce. You will do so tonight and, at the conclusion of the affair, you will receive the remainder of what was agreed.”
“This wasn’t the agreement,” Adeline said, shaking her head. “I get it all now, or I leave here and go straight to the police and sing my song.”
“That would be unwise,” the first brother said, with a disapproving shake of his head. The second brother pulled a pistol out from the waistband of his suit. “Most unwise.”
Adeline looked at the gun and shook her head. “You think you can scare me? You don’t need a body on your hands. You need me gone.”
“That can be arranged.”
“Not the way you want it, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation. No, you’re not going to kill me. Too messy. Too easy to tie to you. I made sure to talk to the front desk and let them know whose room I was headed to. So, I’ll just take the rest of what we agreed and be on my way to disappearing. Otherwise, you can expect visits from Murphy and the police.”
The second brother cocked the pistol and raised it up so that it was pointed directly at Adeline’s head. She stared at him without blinking, her face expressionless.
The first brother made a disgusted sound and waved at the other. “Put that away. We can’t be taking chances at this juncture of the affair. Very well, Miss Sandos.” He pulled out a thick roll of bills from his suit pocket and counted off ten. “This should square us, I think.”
Adeline tucked them into the envelope with the rest. “Pleasure doing business, gents,” she said with a curt nod. “You won’t be seeing me.”
She turned, not bothering to wait for a reply, and headed for the door.
Murphy was waiting for her when she came home.
“See, I knew it didn’t check out,” Murphy said to her, an amused, but superior expression on his face. The cat that had the mouse in its paws and was going to play awhile. “It smelled a little funny. All of it. And then I get to looking into you and it seems there is an Adeline Sandos, but you ain’t her. And that’s when I knew the Bride boys were up to something.”
Adeline’s face betrayed no emotion. “Am I supposed to congratulate you now, or something?”
“What are they about? What’s their game?”
“Shouldn’t you be over there asking them that?”
“In due time,” Murphy said. “In due time. First, there’s some things I need you to clear up.”
Adeline sighed. “They sent me. I’m supposed to disappear and cause you some problems. That’s my end of it. Anything else you want to know?”
Murphy seemed taken aback. He swallowed, his triumph not seeming so complete now. “Why are you telling me this?”
“It’s not my problem their little scheme is blowing up in their face. I got my money. Now run along and confront them. They’re probably hoping you will anyway. That’s what you all want isn’t it?”
Murphy frowned, but he stood and put his hat on his head. “Just tell me your end of it,” he said, shaking his head.
Adeline laughed. “I already told you. I got paid. Now, you don’t want to keep those boys waiting. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of yelling and threats and such.”
Murphy looked as though he wanted to disagree with her, but instead he walked out the door, leaving her alone. Adeline pulled out the wad of bills from the envelope and tucked them underneath the coffee cup at the back of one of the cupboards. Then she pulled out a bottle of whiskey and poured herself a shot.
In A Flash: read a new story every Thursday…
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