I, the Judge and Jury - Part 2

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
WIl is drawn deeper into Chips' murder...

Submitted: December 20, 2014

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Submitted: December 20, 2014

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I, the Judge and Jury II


I get lucky and find a parking space right in front of Chip Reynolds’s apartment building, a five-story walk-up. I walk in and take the stairs to the second floor; Chip’s apartment is in the back. I take out my lock pick set and jimmy his door open and slip inside; either Chip is the sloppiest person on the planet or somebody has been inside and tossed the place. Chairs are turned over; cushions slashed opened and everything, tossed on the floor. Even with the mess I can see there is not much here in the way of personal affects, no framed portraits, newspapers or magazines. I walk into the kitchen and check the refrigerator, which is almost empty; I see one plate, one bowl, one glass and one spoon and fork in the sink. The bedroom did not fair much better; the mattress is flipped over and cut open, the closet only has two dark suits, and one pair of black shoes and everything is on the floor. The bathroom is almost barren, except for a shaving kit that has been dumped out into the tub. It looks as if Chip never settled into the apartment or was not here long enough to put down roots. Whoever had been here, did not find what he or she was looking for since every room, drawer and closet had been opened or dumped; you don’t keep looking for something after you have found it.
I walk back into the living room, stepping over the mess and gently kick a book out of my path; I spot the edge of a photograph sticking out of a book cover. I kneel down on one knee and flip the book open and pull back the cover; it was her, the beauty I saw on the street earlier. In the photograph she is leaning against the railing of a wooden fence, it looks like she might be at a ranch or cabin. This cannot be Chip’s sister; I do not see any family resemblance. Maybe a wife or girlfriend, maybe we should have called him Lucky instead of Chip because this lady is way out of his league. As for myself, I would call me a Dodo bird; I never heard the person come up behind me, but I feel the familiar pressing of a gun barrel to the back of my head.
“Hands up!” The man says.
I comply.
“On your feet, slowly.”
I follow his lead; I see a large hand reaching around me to pat me down. The hand stops when it feels my .38 under my arm.
“Ok, hand it over, slow. Two fingers.” The man instructs me.
“I reach into my coat and pull out my gun, using my thumb and index finger and let the gun hang on my finger, as the man takes it away; lucky for me, most people don’t check the ankles so I know my backup .22 is safe.”
“So you have a back-up piece, don’t move!” The man says as he drops down and finds my backup gun.
Wait! Did I say that out loud? Damn it!
“Ok, turn around, slow.” The man says.
As I turn around, I see the man’s frame matches his hands. He’s about as big as Grant and maybe five or six years younger; he is wearing a navy suit and black hat, and his gun is a .45. I think I can take him, but I know I cannot take him and his twin standing behind him; the second man picks up a chair with one hand and flips it upright and slides it in front of me.
“Sit.” The first man gestures with his gun.
“You didn’t say Simon says.” I smile.
“Funny guy, Simon says, take a seat.” The man orders.
I comply again and move to sit down.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?” The first man demands.
Before I can answer, I hear my name fall out of a pair of familiar lips. I look past the second man and see a familiar face, Ms. Amy Chen. Even in her dark blue skirt and matching four-buttoned waistcoat with long sleeves going down to her wrists, Amy Chen is as fetching as ever and just as dangerous, I am sure.
“Agent Chen, I’m surprised to see you here; I thought you would be in the Crowbar Hotel on Uncle Sam’s dime?” I say to her.
“Yes, the Giovanni affair. I did take a dressing down on that one, but cooler heads prevailed, and I was returned to my former position. The greater good, you understand.” Amy smiles.
“The price of freedom, I guess.” I frown.
“Give Mr. Owens his guns back,” Amy orders.
The first agent looks at her but complies and returns my guns to me as Amy sets up a chair across from me and sits.
“Agents Smith and Jones, give us some privacy,” Amy orders, as she removes her hat and places it in her lap.
Both men look at Amy this time, unsure if they should follow her direction.
“It’s fine; Mr. Owens and I are friends. I’ll be safe with him; wait outside.”
The agents follow her instructions and step out into the hallway, closing the front door behind them.
“So now that we are alone, perhaps you can tell me exactly what you are doing here?” Amy asks, in a more demanding tone.
I look her over a moment and decide to tell her what I know.
“I’m here investigating a murder.”
“Yes, Christopher Reynolds. We received word, but that doesn’t explain why you would take such an interest in his demise. It’s not like you’re being paid.”
“We served in the same unit during the war.”
“Of course there it is, you two were friends; I don’t know how we missed that in his vetting.” Amy nods.
“I wouldn’t say we were friends; we just served together. So I guess; Chip was working for you?”
“Yes, Mr. Reynolds was one of my operatives. He had the right credentials, medal of Valor, favorable recommendations from his senior officers and most importantly, the right mind-set for this type of work.”
“I always thought he was a little crazy,” I tell her.
Amy lets a little grin escape her lips. “He jumped at the chance to take this assignment.”
“What exactly was he doing for you?” I ask.
Now Amy is looking me over, deciding if I can be trusted.
“What do you know about the Partito Nazionale Fascista, PNF?”
I don’t know any Spanish, so I just stare at her.
“The National Fascist Party?”
“Oh. Nothing.” I shake my head.
“Well, during the war they fought on the side of Germany. When Mussolini was over thrown and Hitler defeated, many of Mussolini’s inner circle fled Italy to other countries like Brazil and Argentina to escape capture.”
“Thanks, but I don’t really need a history lesson.”
“Yes. Well, one of Mussolini’s trusted members of his inner circle was a politician named Domenico Leccisi. It’s believed that he was one of the major architects in the PNF and has plans to carry on Mussolini’s vision for the future.” Amy tells me.
“And what does this have to do with Chip?” I ask.
“Leccisi disappeared in Argentina; we think he may have had surgery done to alter his appearance. The intelligence that we were able to gather on him points to an Alexander DeCecco, a powerful businessman here in the States.”
“I’m still not seeing the connection.”
“We believe Domenico Leccisi and Alexander DeCecco are the same man; a new face, same agenda. He’s been here in the States for over a year, and we need to know what he’s planning and put a stop to it fast!”
“So why not pick him up, isn’t that what you guys do?”
“He has some sort of diplomatic ties to the Italian government, so we can’t approach him directly.”
“Ah, so that’s what Chip was doing, he was your inside guy. He was killed because of you!” I point sharply at her.
“No, he was killed because of what he found out. His last report to us said he found out something big, but he was afraid that his cover might have been compromised. He was going to use a backup plan to bring me what he found incase they were on to him. Unfortunately, he never said what his backup plan was or what it was he found out; I can only assume YOU were his back up.” Amy frowns.
“The problem with that story is the only one who can confirm it isn’t talking, he died before he could tell me anything.”
“He didn’t talk to your associates and he had nothing on him?”
I shake my head no; Amy leans back and sighs before speaking again.
“Well, that’s too bad; that puts us back to square one with DeCecco, unless…”
Here it comes…
“You are not constrained by the rules I have to follow, perhaps you could investigate DeCecco and find out what Christopher found out.” Amy smiles.
“And why would I do that?”
“Because you have a code, Mr. Owens. You can’t let something like this stand; if you do it will just sit there staring at you saying why didn’t you solve this when you had the chance instead of just letting it sit here. It doesn’t matter if he is a good man or bad, friend or foe, when somebody dies on your watch you have to do something about it. You just can’t let it stand.”
I can’t argue with that.
“Ok, so where do I find this DeCecco guy?”
“He’s here in the city; he has several properties, but spends most of his time at a private club he owns, ‘Il Duce’ on Beacon Street,” Amy tells me.
Beacon Street, where the rich and influential do business; this guy must be a power player to have set up shop there. I slip my backup piece into my ankle holster and stand. “Ok, I’ll check him out, but there’s one thing you got to know. Whoever is responsible for Chip’s murder is going to stand trial in one courtroom, mine.”

“So you’re going to be the Judge and Jury that hands down the sentence on them? I can live with that, so long as you bring what it is that Christopher found.” Amy says, looking up at me.

I nod and slip my .38 into my shoulder holster and walk to the front door. Agents Smith and Jones step in to block my exit and I stare them down with my eyes. Amy instructed them to let me leave. When I get down to my car, I hop in and start the engine; ‘Nature Boy’ by Nat King Cole comes on the radio, as I pull into traffic and head back to the office.

*

Back at the office, I walk in and see the bloodstain on the floor has been cleaned up; maintenance always does a good job getting the stains out of the wood. I walk into the back office and see Rick leaning back in his chair, behind his desk. He’s finishing a glass of Bourbon and sets his glass down next to the bottle of Evan Williams on his desk. He looks at me as he refills his glass and then pours two fingers into a second glass on his desk for me. I walk up to the desk and pick up the glass, nod to him and drink it down.
“Did you find anything at Chip’s apartment?” Rick asks.
“Yes I did and you’ll never guess who I ran into there.”
“Was it, Amy Chen?” Rick smiles.
What? I hate when he does that. “How did you know?”
“You have a tail.”
I turn around to see if I have some toilet paper stuck to my shoe (It’s happened before).
“No, check out the window.” Rick says, spinning his chair around to the window behind him and leans forward.

I walk over to the window and look down to the street.
“The black sedan parked at the corner; they pulled up right after you. Looks like a government vehicle, two men inside and they haven’t moved, but they keep staring at this building.” Rick tells me.
“Agent’s Smith and Jones, yeah they are Ms. Chen’s people,” I say, walking away from the window and sitting down in one of the chairs facing Rick's desk.
Rick swings back to face me. “So Reynolds was working for Chen?”
“Yeah, he was undercover, trying to get the goods on a pacifist guy who worked with Mussolini named Alexander DeCecco.”
Rick gives me a puzzled look, and I replay my statement in my head.
“Wait, scratch that. He’s a Fascist!”
“Oh; so what’s the play?”
 “He runs some swanky club on Beacon Street, ‘Il Duce.' I think I’ll stop by there tonight and check him out.”
“I’ve heard of that place, and you’ve got two problems partner; it’s black tie only, and it’s a private club,” Rick tells me.
“Black tie is not a problem for me (this is going to be a problem for me, I had better swing by Brooks Brothers on my way home and see if I can pick up a Tux), but getting in the club may be a problem. I don’t suppose you know any members who can get me in?”
Rick leans back in his chair and smiles.

*

“Sure, I can get you in,” Old man Deacon "Deke" Smith tells me. “I’m a member in good standing there.”

“Great! I’ll swing by and get you at nine o’clock, and we’ll drive over there.” I smile.

“Sure thing.” Deke smiles.
“I got to run!” I say, checking my watch.
Old man Deke nods as I run to my Desoto and take off for the Brooks Brothers store on Sixth Street.

*

Four hours later, I’m in my Tux (Hymie at the store gave me a rental price for the suit, so long as I bring it back undamaged) and I pick up old man Deke, he’s wearing a casual dark brown suit and a yellow tie and a grey fedora. He seems a bit underdressed for what I heard about this club, but I don’t want to hurt his feelings, so I keep quiet. On Beacon Street, we park down the street from ‘Il Duce’ and start walking towards the entrance. I see a short pudgy man in a Tux standing at the top of some stairs in front of a red door; he’s holding the door open by the brass handles, for patrons as they arrive to the club. We get a little closer to the entrance and Deke turns into the side alley, pulling me with him; we walk a few more yards and stops at a set of steps with a metal railing on the wall, leading to a metal door.
“Wait here,” Deke tells me.
He climbs the steps and knocks twice on the door. Moments later, the door opens, and a tall, young man leans out from inside.
“Old man Deacon "Deke" Smith! I mean Deke how you doing?” The man asks, with a big smile on his face.
“Cletus, looking good my man!” Deke smiles.
I watch the two men shake hands, grip and slap the back of each other’s hands, followed by palm slaps and a fist bump and hug. I checked my watch for the time and realized they have finished and are both staring at me.
“Who dis?” Cletus asks.
“He’s with me; he’s good people,” Deke tells him.
“Well, if he’s good people, come on in.”
Deke waves to me to join him and I follow the men into the building.
Inside, everyone greets Deke as if he’s the second coming; I turn to him and stare.
“I thought you said you were a member of the club in good standing?” I ask.
“I am a member in good standing with the Wait Staff; everybody knows my name.” He smiles at me.
We are in the kitchen and the room is suddenly quiet, as all eyes are on me; a big man in a chef’s uniform pushes his way in from the back of the crowd and looks me over.
“Who dis?” He asks.
“He’s with me; he’s good people,” Deke tells him.
“Well, if he’s good people, then he’s welcome!” Chef says.
The kitchen fills with noise again.
“Will needs to get into the club, can you help him out?” Deke asks Chef.
“Sure; Cletus. Walk this gentleman to the side service entrance that will get you onto the ballroom floor un-noticed.” Chef tells me.
“What are you going to do, Deke?” I ask.
Deke is watching a leggy Cigarette Girl pass by and tells me; “I’m going to stay here and catch up with some of my buddies. I’ll meet you out front in about an hour.”
Deke follows the Cigarette Girl, and I follow Cletus to the side service entrance.


***


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