The day hadn’t quite hit afternoon yet, but already you could tell it was going to be another scorcher. July had decided to turn brutal with hot days and steamy nights, both of which seemed to always put the citizens that call the city their home slightly on edge.
I’d spent most of the morning leaning back in my chair with my feet on my desk looking over tomorrow’s races for a couple of bangtails that might bring in a little scratch while only stopping now and then to occasionally read my name backwards on the closed door.
I decided nothing was going to come my way today and sat up while pulling a bottle of cheap corn from the lower draw. You could always tell how biz was shaking by the quality of booze in the drawer and by the bottle of cheap rot gut I held in my hand, you could tell it hadn’t been very good.
I was just about to pull the cork out when the side door swung open and she walked in, “Kind of early to be calling it a day, huh Rexy?”
Janine was a good doll and an excellent secretary, way better than this job required. She had a look about her as well, all legs and lipstick, and I often wondered why she didn’t put those looks to use to get herself a better job.
I glanced down and was reminded of the nice chunk of ice she wore. Yeah, finance probably wouldn’t be happy with her in a big office surround by eager men. What was his name again? Eddie? There’s always an Eddie in these stories, isn’t there?
I pour a half a glass of brown liquid and downed it in one fluid motion, “Good a time as any I suppose.”
I went to pour another when Janine snatched the glass from under the lip of the bottle, “Uh huh, Rexy. Not so fast, Dix is coming over. Says he wants to talk with you.”
Detective Dixon? Now there’s a name I hadn’t heard in a while. Started out as a flattie running down the numbers boys over in the 2nd. Never seemed like anything special, but he must have impressed someone because he was promoted into the clubhouse fairly quick.
Dix used to call on me often back then. Usually to have me check on one of my stoolies or pound the street for some info. But I heard he’d gotten a gig in some special Homicide Division and since then he seemed to have forgotten my phone number and address.
“He didn’t say and I didn’t ask. You know I don’t like to get caught up in all the details of what you do, Rexy.”
I put the bottle back in drawer and pulled out a small white envelope, “Here,” I said as I tossed it to Janine, “then you might as well take off. I doubt Dix is coming over here after all this time for a social call.”
Not long after Janine left there was a knock on the door. I adjusted myself in my chair and slightly pulled open the drawer where I kept my trusty roscoe. I was sure it was Dix, but after that whole Joel Cairo mess, I wasn’t taking chances anymore.
It was Dix alright. Same old, same old. Sure, he had put on a little weight, but Dix was never a small man to begin with what with his stout figure and huge hands. Time seemed to do him good for the most part although I couldn’t help but notice he was still dressing in the same ratty fedora and flogger he always wore. You’d have thought moving up in the company would’ve afforded him a better wardrobe.
“So, what brings you here after all this time, Dix?” I motioned to a chair, deciding to skip the usual pleasantries.
“Business I’m afraid,” he replied tossing a large envelope on my desk. “I hope you haven’t eaten yet.”
I couldn’t imagine why Dix had a case of the squirms, I’d seen plenty of chop scenes before. Once opened, I pulled out twenty-seven eight-by-ten black-and-white grainy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was.
I flipped through the pile slowly, studying each photo and taking in the carnage displayed in each one. I wasn’t sure what I was looking at, but it certainly was a mess. “Where did this happen?”
“The Glass Cabinet, around 10pm give or take. Know the place?”
I nodded as I continued to scan through the photos, everyone in the city knew the Glass Cabinet, anyone who ran beer hung out there.
“Check out number 5.”
I flipped over the pile and shuffled through until I found the photo labeled “#5” and pulled it from the pile tossing the rest onto the desk. There was so much going on that it was hard to tell where one body ended and another began. “OK, I give. Who’s the stiff?”
“That? That is, or was, Amsterdam Zeiss.”
It takes a lot to catch this street hardened peeper by surprise, but even I gave out a low whistle from between my teeth when Dix said the name. Zeiss had come to the city with five other siblings and it didn’t take them long to rise to the top of the beer world. Events, tastings, more photo ops than you can count, the whole family was big players, and not above flaunting it.
“Was” being the important word here. The family turned out to be the unluckiest bunch of plugs there ever was. Not long after beginning to hang out at the Glass Cabinet one of them wound up dead from mysterious circumstances that never did get righted by the cops. Two others met their fate in separate accidents involving children and one was later taken out by a dog. Zeiss’ last remaining sibling died when a bunch of large, heavy objects shifted and crushed him at some seedy dive called The Drying Rack.
Many said these were simple accidents, but the buzz in the gutters was that the pint glass gang had been hiring droppers to slowly eliminate their competition. Whatever the case, Zeiss always took precautions anytime he stepped out of the Glass Cabinet. Probably thought he was safe in there though, the Glass Cabinet was known for red-lighting anyone stupid enough to get in the dutch within the establishment. Looks like he was wrong.
“So far we’ve only got a handle on two of them. One was some daisy Tulip visiting over from Max’s, the other’s an as yet un-IDed member of the pint glass gang.”
“You know how the game is played, Rex. Thirty, thirty-five glasses in the Cabinet at least and yet no one saw nothin’
“Nawww,” Dix replied crinkling the corner of his mouth up in a smirk of contempt. “You know how the game is played, Rex. Thirty, thirty-five glasses in the Cabinet at least and yet no one saw nothin’. Door opens and closes a few times, screams, cursin’, and when it’s all done,” Dix leaned forward and put his fat finger on the pile of photos, “just a pile of meat in the wagon for some poor croaker to sort out.”
I tossed the photo on my desk and leaned back in my chair. “So, what’s so important about this case that caused your shadow to fall on my door after all these years?”
“I need your help, Rex,” Dix sighed as he removed his hat and ran his thick fingers through his thinning hair. “You know the cops have never done right when it comes to everything that’s happened to Zeiss’ family. The higher ups are really keen that we solve this one to everyone’s satisfaction.”
“And let me guess, Dix. By we they mean you.”
“Yeah,” he nodded. “We’re stretched at the crime scene. Investigation still isn’t done with the taggin’ and baggin’. But I’ve got a lead that I need tracked down before it goes cold, and since we used to drink from the same bottle, I thought maybe….” The last word trailed off as he pulled a smaller photo from his pocket and handed it to me.
“Who’s the sap?” I asked studying the picture.
“Some butter and eggs man by the name of Morgan. Eddie Morgan”
I couldn’t help but let out a chuckle. Like I said. Always.
“He apparently also did part time as Zeiss’ shutter man. He’s been seen hangin’ around the Glass Cabinet a lot, and I’ve got a couple of people on the outside that put him near there around the time the chill went down. I figured with your connections you can at least put a tag on this bloke before he decides to wander off. What do you say, Rex? I’ll pay the usual. Twenty-five a day, one day in advance.”
I pushed closed the drawer containing the gun and opened the bottom drawer pulling out a bottle and then two glasses. “Two days in advance.”
“Two? Come on, Rex. We used to be pals.”
“Yeah, well your pal just sent his secretary home with a pay envelope that’s light a few Lincolns. and she’s going to pretty heated unless I have the rest when she bursts through that door tomorrow morning.”
I poured a couple of stiff ones and slid one to Dix. Besides, I thought to myself, if I’m going to help you look good for the Johns then the least you can do is buy me a better bottle of booze.