Tales of Men is a blog series showcasing short stories, prompts, and other writings.
Cry Murder, Part I
“The ache in Solomon’s stomach grew stronger. He swallowed the bourbon. It burned into his stomach with that fantastic sensation that went straight to the head.”
It was near midnight on a soaking wet Wednesday.
Lightning lit up the neighborhood and thunder struck a chord that shocked through Solomon’s veins like a heart attack. Any more coffee and that heart attack would be a real problem. He had received a call earlier in the evening about a potential murder. The caller stressed no police and must have known that Solomon wasn’t the type of shamus out to publish secrets. As soon as the man with no name gave an address, Solomon called the operator for a listed name on the address. He jot down the name on an old piece of paper and crumpled it up into his pocket. In seconds flat, he threw on a coat, lit a cigarette and rushed out the door. Thirty minutes had passed until he realized that he was in the wrong end of town. Solomon was glad the killing was sealed and delivered, because at this rate there would have been a man’s death on his spilling conscious; moreover, he was no medic. August never had any intention of being close friends. The humidity choked the life out of him. The rain brought a cooling clarity that revitalized his strained lungs. No police, the caller’s request played over and over again, must be a shady landlord with too much history in the department. Couldn’t risk getting his name on record once more, might as well be the third strike? Solomon wasn’t bothered by the lack of invitation; simply, anxious. Anxious about getting his hands full, not to mention the essential practicality of police work. Nevertheless, his services were requested and he desperately needed the work. The headlights from the beat down Plymouth grew fainter in the rain. He could barely make out any of the home addresses from the street. After several necessary turn-arounds and heavy squinting, he found the place: 1526 Victoria Boulevard. The lights were on and the rain poured down like a blanket. The place was quietly unassuming; one would never know that a murdered man lay inside waiting for redemption. But who really knew the grimy secrets behind closed doors? Waiting for the rain to subside, Solomon sat still in the car and reached into the glove box for the vacationing bourbon. One sip turned into an uninhibited swim and he bled much needed impartiality. After the drink, he needed a long smoke. Breathing in the nicotine was a double edged sword; it calmed his spirits all while making his heart beat faster. He took another long swallow of the bourbon and lay it back in its resting place. Solomon was not a superstitious individual, however, almost being out of smokes proved to be a sign of imminent danger. In order to prepare for the unknown, it was pertinent to carry certain comforts to ease tense muscles. One of his few comforts was a fresh pack of smokes. He reached down into the inner flap of his trench coat and opened up the case…one lonely cigarette looked up at him. He was in for an interesting night.
In a matter of seconds he was out of the car and standing in front of the house. It felt like a slew of secrets lay behind this door. All the while there was a slight ringing in his ears, no police. Solomon never much cared for the police, but he always felt they had a necessary presence and a respectable authority. Then again, he hated authority. The foundation rattled from the firm knock he shoved into the door. Noise of whispering and hustled movement crept through all cracks. As soon as the doorknob turned, an achy wave of presentiment filled his gut. Quickly, he analyzed the scene one square inch at a time through the slow opening. It was a woman behind the door. A man would have opened it fast to get it over it, especially if he had a pistol in his hand. He would have wanted Solomon in, quick and easy…painless. This was a woman who was stalling, didn’t like the situation; perhaps she was forced into compliance. His suspicions proved accurate when he caught sight of the ankles, they were nice ankles. After the ankles, he drew his eyes up gradually. The girl looked like she should be around twenty with freshly dyed blonde hair, Solomon could still smell the ammonia. The girl’s face was gaunt and confused. She looked down with a kind of concerned shame.
“Solomon Shell. You called about an hour ago. Cried murder.”
“Did you call the police? We said no police, do you remember?”
The man with no name didn’t mention anything about ‘we’.
“No police, you emphasized that well. Just me. Are you going to invite me in or let me melt in the rain?”
“Alright. Come in.”
He made small, careful steps inside and drew his eyes left, to the living room. It was an incriminating scene. Two men towering over a bloody body. Solomon’s stream of thoughts were interrupted by an echoing boom of a voice from a man bigger than an ordinary man should look. The big man stood at a monumental seven feet tall, with arms like trees and a mountain range for shoulders. Wearing a grey white suit, navy blue tie, and alligator shoes. He was sweating madly.
“Solomon, innit? Can’t forget a name like that!”
“That’s right. Whoever called was short on details. Someone mind starting with the dead man in the living room?”
“Thank Sally Boy for that. He don’t like doing much talking and when he does, it’s usually short and sweet.”
The big man made eye contact with Sally Boy and gave him a sly wink in which he responded with a short and sweet, “Errr.”
Sally Boy was the evolutionary opposite of his apparent boss. He appeared about five feet tall, burrowing eye brows and an ugly, twisted expression.
“Sally Boy, that’s one down. Could I have the pleasure of being introduced to the rest of the party?”
“Down to business, okey. Need to see my birth certificate?”
“That wouldn’t be a bad start. For a dead man lying at your feet, you’re chipper. And the rest of you are quiet. Remember, you called me out in the rain.”
“Where are our manners? Elizabeth, pour the man a stiff one…”
The girl fidgetly slid across the room with a stench of ammonia following quickly behind.
“I prefer bourbon.”
“Okey, bourbon it is.”
Bourbon splashed into two polished highball glasses and the remainder went onto the floor. In seconds, the girl handed him the glass and she was cowering in the shadow of the big man. She resembled a timid little girl with an immutable trust for her daddy. The ache in Solomon’s stomach grew stronger. He swallowed the bourbon. It burned into his stomach with that fantastic sensation that went straight to the head.
“There’s a dead man covered in blood. Now I don’t claim to be an expert by any means, but it appears as though he took a good beating before he was stabbed in the gut from the looks of the blood trail. Probably been laying there for a while. Every minute the heat is getting to him. The longer we stall the more uncomfortable it’ll be for all of us. While I appreciate the bourbon, I’m not sure what else I’m doing here and I’m beginning to feel like a school boy. So, why no police? My guess? Big man hasn’t volunteered his name yet, which makes me think mob; threads seem to confirm that theory. Sally Boy must be a last minute excuse for security, probably gave him the beating. Dead man maybe owed some money, hasn’t paid up.”
“Better than thought, boss.”
“Seems wise, Sally Boy, I agree. I’ll take bait. Where ya going with this, Mr. Solomon?”
All was well for a short minute, until Solomon took the last swallow and could see the bottom of the glass. Reality hit him over the back like a stroke.
Big man let out a bellowing laugh and Sally Boy looked for permission to laugh along. The second hand on Solomon’s watch landed on the forty-five as he started to yawn deeply.
“That bourbon must be kicking in. You weren’t lying about being a school boy! Well, go on…”
Big man must have known the direction Solomon was headed. Beads of sweat ran down his forehead. The girl feeling imminent guilt cowered lower in his shadow.
“I wouldn’t rush over here in the rain without first cross-checking the listed name.”
Solomon reached into his pocket and pulled out the crumpled piece of paper. He took it out and spread it open carefully.”
“Phillip Miller, 1426 Victoria Blvd: must be our dead man. And the girl, well you introduced her with her first name, Elizabeth. Too informal, considering a murder. If I had to guess, I’d say she’s big man’s new squeeze…and dead man’s wife. Plus, the bottom of the highball has an engraving: ‘With Love, Betty’. We’ve got a dead Mr. Miller, his wife caught having an affair and an accomplice to his murder. Not looking so good. So, why do the murderers invite an unlikely shamus to accompany the scene?”