CHAPTER THREE: ON THE PROWL
Bruce finished writing and glanced out of the window to see John coming out of the bar and walking towards his car.
“Where are you going Horace?” he wondered. “If you’re going where I think you’re going...” Bruce tossed the notebook aside on the passenger seat and started the car with a roar. He punched the accelerator and barreled down the road ahead, heading for the corner of Fifty-Second and Twenty-Eight streets.
Approaching the small office building, Bruce pulled around the rear of the building and parked in the alley. He held his sides as his stomach growled in protest.
“I might grab a bite to eat first,” Bruce mused as he bounded out the car, “before I start asking questions.” Heading down the alley for the main street, he heard a car coming and hurried to a corner then peeped around it. Bruce spotted John pulling up and parking across the street of the office building and step out. Bruce sighed in relief and made his way to the nearest food court.
John pulled up in front of the small office that had a painted door labeled ‘Angelo Turquet, Private Investigator’. He got out of the car and went up the office steps to knock on the door and wait patiently. After several moments, he received no answer. John went around the side of the building but paused when he spotted the green and yellow sports car parked in the alley.
“What is Bruce doing here?” he thought. He turned and looked up at the building. “I wonder if he’s here already.” John returned to the door and knocked again.
“Hold on,” a voice called from within. The door opened moments later to reveal a young man with dark curly hair in a tan suit and pale blue dress shirt, pulling a dark brown tie that he tried to lace on. “Oh, hello,” he said brightly. “I’m getting dressed as you can see here.”
“So I see,” John said plainly.
“Do we need anything?”
“I’m Detective Horace.” John pushed past the young man. “I have a few questions for you.”
“I’m Turquet,” the young man replied as he shut the door. “You must’ve known that already - my name’s on the door!” He laughed heartily. John rolled his eyes.
“Sure, right that,” he muttered and looked around the small office for anything unusual. The office, modestly furnished, had books, papers and files strewn about on the solid oak desk and nearby metal filing cabinets. Behind the desk were rows of shelves with books of various kinds of subjects and tall cabinets against the wall. “What are you researching?” John asked as he found another stack of books piled on the floor and a few more near the desk, then came across a chair in the corner stacked high with hard covers and folders. “It looks like a war zone in here.”
“Each has its relative place,” Turquet answered.
“Where can I have a seat?”
“It’s probably under more books…”
“You need an assistant.”
“Nah, I’m good.” John turned around to face Turquet who stood behind him, with one hand in his pocket and the other hooked into his waistband.
“Are your files a mess inside as well?” Turquet grinned.
“Those are the only ones organized!”
John snorted. “Where’s Bruce?” he wondered. “He should be here by now and this guy’s obviously stalling…”
“Want a drink or anything?” Turquet asked, breaking John’s thoughts.
“I heard you’re trying to crack a tough case,” John said, ignoring Turquet’s offer. He walked around the room, picking up and moving various items before setting them back down again. Turquet hurried behind him, placing items back as they were. “Why didn’t you let us in on it?”
“That’s why I’m called a private investigator,” Turquet replied. “It’s private.”
“If you ever need any help, you can always ask for me.” John turned to have Turquet bump into him. “By the way, weren’t you asking about me and my partner?”
“So you have, correct?” Turquet’s face flushed and he stepped back.
“Just to see if you were working on the case as well is all.” He grinned.
“I don’t know anything about it.” John poked Turquet in the chest with his hand. “Either you don’t know what you’re doing or you’re lying to me. Which is it?” Turquet smiled sheepishly.
“You want to know what’s going on, right?” He turned to the desk and picked up a folder amid the pile. “Well, I’ve been trying to crack this case and it’s getting a little complicated. People with information keep coming up missing and my main man just got shot to death...”
“Would that be Vinnie Finito?”
“Yeah... What, you’re working on it as well?”
“I am.” John nodded.
“Do you want a copy of what I have so far? Maybe we can help each other out.”
“Sure.” Turquet handed John the folder, then headed for the file cabinet to pick through it. “Whatever deal that’s supposed to happen at the hotel is dropped now,” John thought as he read over Turquet’s notes. “This means added security, more thugs with itchy trigger fingers, and a nervous boss that’s behind it all.” He thumbed through the pages to stop when he came across a note in similar handwriting to the letter: Shipment at ten, room 613. “How long have you been working on the case?” John asked.
“About two months.” Turquet answered. He left his current cabinet to go to another across the room. John took the note and placed it into his pocket.
“This must’ve been the original shipment time,” John mused, but asked aloud, “Will you keep me updated just in case?”
“Sure!” John set the file folder onto the desk.
“Thanks for letting me know the latest. I have to go.”
“See you!” John left the office and once he stepped outside, he shuddered.
“Most likely nothing will come in, but that doesn’t mean no one will be there,” he muttered. “There’s something about that guy…” Walking towards his car, he glanced into the alley to see the sports car still parked. “What is he waiting on?” John shook his head. “It’s not my problem now; I have other things to worry about.” After getting in and driving away, he passed Bruce that walked down the street, stuffing a cheeseburger in his mouth.
Bruce returned to his car, stuffing the remaining cheeseburger into his mouth. He guzzled his soda to wash it down and tossed both now empty containers into a nearby trashcan.
“Now, to get started,” Bruce thought. Making his way to the front of the building, he paused when a young man in a tan suit exited and walked up the street. “What have we here?” Bruce followed him, keeping his distance.
The young man came to a bus stop and waited patiently. Bruce stood nearby a bookstore, watching him carefully. The bus came down the street and the young man stepped back, watching others get off. After everyone exited and the bus pulled away, the young man crossed the street. Bruce continued after him.
After walking several blocks, the young man entered a large boarding house. Bruce crossed the street to look at it from the outside. He heard a round of gunfire and quickly ducked behind a car. Slowly getting to his feet after a few moments of silence, Bruce spotted the young man leaving the building, walking confidently. He frowned when he saw blood stains on the back of the jacket.
“What just happened?” Bruce murmured under his breath. He went around the car and hurried into the boarding house.
John drove his car around the block, looking for possible crimes that could be committed.
“Being on patrol without Bruce isn’t the same,” he grumbled to no one in particular. “There’s too much silence and I’m in my head too much…”
“Come in Mark One,” said the dispatch operator. John picked up the radio’s receiver.
“Mark One here,” John said as he slowed to a stop at a red signal, “Go ahead.”
“Code Three, a 415 has been called in on 2167 Gravois... A possible crime of violence.”
“Roger that,” John said. “I’m on my way.” John reached over to the underside of the seat and grabbed the red light, then placed it on top of the car’s roof. Flipping a pair of switches, he turned on the siren and the dome light began flashing its red and blue light. Pulling around the car in front of him to speed down the street. John made a quick turn around the corner and barreled in the other direction.
“What could be happening at the old boarding house?” he thought. “Unless some thug figured he could get easy money from the keeper...”
Pulling up in front of the boarding house, John quickly got out, heading up the stairs. He entered the building and into the lobby where he saw a wounded clerk lying on the floor near the desk, gasping weakly for breath. Before John could find a phone to call for assistance, the breathing stopped. John knelt down to listen for a heartbeat, but heard none. Sifting through the dead man’s pockets, he found a wallet and opened it, scanning the materials tucked within.
“So, you used to be Rick Collins,” John muttered after glancing at the state identification card. “Why would you be killed, Collins? What secret did you hold?” John set the wallet back inside the dead man’s slacks pockets and headed upstairs to search for more clues.
Hearing footsteps below, John pulled out his revolver, pushed the safety and pressed himself against the wall. He walked silently back towards the desk to peek over and clenched his teeth when he saw Bruce crouched in front of the dead clerk, gun in hand.
“Bruce!” he yelped. Bruce quickly got to his feet and turned, pointing his high-powered pistol in John’s direction. He quickly lowered it when he realized who stood before him.
“What are you doing here?” Bruce demanded.
“I was about to ask you the same,” John snapped. He motioned towards the body on the floor. “He’s dead.”
“You know what I have to do, then.”
“What?” Bruce backed away, eyes wide. “You mean--! You think--?”
“All the pieces add up -- you’re just been too trigger happy lately!”
“You can’t think I did this, do you?” Bruce clenched his hands as he walked from behind the desk. “Some other guy shot him!” John tensed as Bruce’s knuckles turned white as he gripped the pistol tightly. “I was just checking if he was still alive!”
“I wish I could believe you Manny, but you have to go Downtown.”
“I’m no murderer! I’m a cop!”
“You used to be.” Bruce quickly pointed the pistol at John. John reacted by pointing his revolver ahead, aiming for Bruce’s arm.
“You’ve got the wrong guy, Horace,” Bruce snapped. “You just have to believe me.”
“Then who did it?” Bruce started backing away, keeping his pistol trained on John.
“I don’t know. Some guy in a suit!”
“I need more than that.”
“I see your safety’s off... You can hurt someone with that gun of yours.”
“I don’t want to blow you away, Manny.”
“Sure you will, if I make any sudden movements!”
“Wherever you got that gun from, if you use it, you’ll be arrested.”
“Then let me go. I’ll run.” Bruce reached the door.
“I can’t do that.”
“Then what are you going to do?” John kept his gun trained on Bruce, refusing to lower his weapon. Bruce took off running out the entrance and he ran after him.
“Has Bruce lost his mind?” John wondered.
“I need to find that guy,” Bruce thought as he ran into an abandoned building down the street. “He figured he could take that guy out and leave me to take the fall for it -- All he got was my attention!” He spotted John coming up the stairs, searching for him and quietly stepped back out, then ran in the opposite direction.
“Wait!” John called. Bruce ducked into an alley and waited for John to appear. Moments later, John entered the alley and pointed his revolver ahead, gasping for breath. “Why are you running?” he demanded.
“I’m sorry Horace,” Bruce answered. “You don’t trust me and I can’t have that.”
“I do trust you...”
“You don’t put enough faith in me!” Bruce yelled and tossed the pistol onto the ground. It clattered and skidded towards John.
“Come on Horace,” Bruce pleaded. “You wouldn’t shoot an unarmed man; you wouldn’t shoot your friend, would you?” John released the safety and set the revolver back into his holster. “Alright, so I give up.” Bruce put his arms before his body, crossing at the wrists. “You can arrest me if you want, that is if it’ll make you feel any better.” John approached him with caution, unable to read Bruce’s expression. “Come on Horace,” Bruce thought. “Think about it. Think about what you’re doing!”
“The Bruce I know doesn’t give up that easily,” John said as he stood before him. “What are you trying to do?”
“I’m trying to clear my name, that’s what!” Bruce sighed. “You’ll just have to believe me on this one.” John turned away.
“You’ve got one day.” He put a hand to his hip while the other ran through his blond hair. “After that, you know I have to come after you.” John sighed heavily as Bruce approached his pistol about a foot away. “Just promise me that no one else gets killed...”
“I can’t,” Bruce said softly. “I don’t know why they’re being killed in the first place.”
“Just go, Bruce.” John waved him away. “Get out of here before I change my mind.” Bruce smiled and picked up his pistol, then took off running.
Bruce returned to the private investigator’s office and banged on the door with the head of the gun. The door opened, revealing the dark-haired young man in the blue shirt and tan suit. Bruce pointed the pistol at his chest and the young man’s black eyes went wide.
“Who are you?” he yelped.
“Let me in, or I’m splattering your brains all over the place!” The young man backed inside and Bruce walked in, shutting the door with his foot. “You’re answering a few questions for me,” Bruce growled. “Firstly, who the hell are you? Secondly, who did you just kill?”
“The name’s Turquet, but I didn’t kill anyone, I swear!” the young man yelped. “It was in self-defense, honestly!”
“Then why did you leave the scene?”
“I already called it in. Someone was supposed to be on their way!”
“No wonder Horace showed up,” Bruce thought sourly. “Alright,” he said, lowering his gun. “I have more questions.”
“Like what?” Turquet stumbled over his poor footing and struck the desk. He quickly got to his feet and laughed nervously.
“I was told you were working on a case.” Bruce tucked the pistol into his waistband and crossed his arms. “What kind?”
“Why would you want to bother?” Turquet turned away. “You want to kill me, go ahead. I bet I know who sent you.”
“I don’t kill. I’m a cop.”
“Oh yeah? Let me see your shield then.”
“Oh.” Turquet picked up a folder off the desk. “Here.” Bruce took it from Turquet’s hands to thumb through the folder, finding names and faces he recognized.
“Here he’s got info on Strozzi, the Finito brothers, and Gognitti!” he thought, then asked, “So you’re working on the Roscoe crime family as well?”
“I’m trying to,” Turquet answered, “but I keep running into dead ends.”
“What if I try to help you?” Bruce set the folder onto the desk.
“I only have one condition,” Bruce said. “You help me clear my name and I’ll help you crack the case.”
“Whoa, hey, hold on!” Turquet put up his hands. “What kind of trouble are you in?”
“You’re a private investigator,” Bruce snapped. “You’re not supposed to ask; you just solve the crimes.” He grinned darkly. “So do you want my help or not?”
“I don’t want to get into something too deep now,” Turquet protested. “I just got started!”
“I’m a detective, so we have nothing to worry about.” Bruce jabbed Turquet in the chest with an elbow. “We cops stick together, right?” Turquet scratched at his head as his eyes rolled to the ceiling, trying to think.
“Alright, I guess.” He sighed and kicked at the floor as he put his hands into his pockets. “So what do you want me to do?”
“First I want info on a name: Gognitti.”
“It’s in the folder.” Turquet headed for the rear of the room. “I’ll be back. I’m going to change my clothes.”
“Don’t run away now, or I’ll have to shoot you.” Turquet’s face flushed scarlet and he quickly stepped into another room. Bruce picked up the folder again and pulled the paper that had information on Gognitti.
“Last name Gognitti, first name Rico,” Bruce muttered to himself. He scanned the handwritten information. “Gognitti was in charge of the mob family’s funds,” he read. “Also running the various businesses created by Strozzi. He’s on the verge of breaking apart since lately he’s been coming up short...”
“Are you ready?” Turquet called, breaking Bruce out of his thoughts.
“Not yet.” Bruce said, picking through the rest of the notes. He thought, “If Gognitti was in charge of the operation, then who over-saw the deal?” He remembered the letter. “All I got outta that is a name of Alfred...” Bruce paused when he encountered another page in the folder with the name Alfred Murete. “This must be my guy. If the first deal didn’t go well, then there must be another about to happen.” Bruce grinned when he noticed the page had a small listing of last known addresses. “Come on, Turquet,” he said. “We’re visiting an old friend of ours.”
“Where are we going?” Turquet asked.