Episode 3 of Witt Kepler, Private Eye.
Witt rolled out of his bed just as the sun was starting to creep over the front window sill. Suddenly realizing he was alone, he reached for the .45 semiautomatic pistol he kept holstered behind the headboard. A quick search found the oh so friendly female house-guest gone, having left her white business card on the vanity, propped up on a bullet taken from his magazine.
Kamianka had smacked a full set of red lip prints on the back of the card, along with short note saying “5 hours credit remaining.” Still without coffee, Witt’s brain was slow to process the entire situation, but the previous evening’s activities were coming back to him. He read the note, cracking only half a grin. I used three hours? That’s it? I must be getting old, he lamented.
A half hour later, Witt felt like a new man. A hot shower and coffee made with a double portion of grounds helped, and a fresh cigarette sealed the deal. He knew these were bad habits, especially the smoking, but until he had a better way to deal with the stress in his life, the vices had to stay. If it weren’t for Mrs. Peabody, “it’s pronounced PIH-body, if you please,” Witt would have enjoyed sitting out on the front porch, dry firing at the squirrels between puffs. Mrs. P nagged him incessantly about the smoking. She even tried, once, to set him up with her daughter who happened to be a psychologist, in an effort to both marry her off and break her neighbor of a nasty habit. Witt saw the woman once, thought she was pretty enough, but didn’t like what she had to say.
As Witt walked out the front door, trying to formulate a proper response to Ivan Vetski’s thinly veiled threat, he heard a voice.
“Have a job yet?” It was old Mrs. Peabody, pruning the front of her rose bushes. She asked Witt the same question every day, in hopes of securing her daughter a future with a man, a man with stable employment. Witt knew he would never be that man.
“Good morning, Mrs. Peabody. I’m working for the city today, trying to bust a Russian mobster. Can you take care of Lord Melvin until I get back?”
“Don’t you worry about his Lordship. I’ll leave the back door open for him and he’ll come around when he’s hungry. Carolyn asked about you the other day. I think she’s worried about you.”
“I don’t think she has enough open appointments to find a cure for all of my troubles, but tell her I said hello.” Witt grimaced as he said those last words. He didn’t know why they came rambling out of his mouth like a train running downhill, and he certainly couldn’t take them back now. He just knew Mrs. Peabody would read more into it and start planning something, probably another accidental meeting between Witt and Carolyn. All he really wanted to do was put Ivan Vetski behind bars or six feet in the ground. Preferably before lunch.
Giving his neighbor an unspoken “thank you” as he drove off, Witt regained his focus on the problem at hand. Ivan Vetski wanting him to join the team meant one of two things: either Vetski needed more muscle or he felt threatened by Witt and wanted to keep him close. The first option didn’t make any sense, especially since the kingpin was known to have already bribed every lowlife scum in town.
Witt felt like a character from Sun-tzu’s diatribe on the art of war, where the Chinese general once said you should keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. What is the Russian up to? Witt had to find out. He had to find out before the new Assistant DA was bought off, or killed. If he could just get enough evidence of conspiracy or racketeering, Vetski could be brought in front of a grand jury.
As Witt approached the courthouse, he realized it may have been too late. A crowd of onlookers, along with a pushy local television news crew, had gathered around the front steps of the courthouse. A body lay on the steps, its position haphazard, unnatural. Blood had poured from beneath the head, running down several of the white granite steps. “A jumper,” someone told him. Witt hoped against hope that the deceased would not turn out to be Thurmon Ludlow.
Thurmon Ludow, Esquire, had an office on the tenth floor of the courthouse. The windows were sealed shut to help with climate control, so any suicide leap would have started on the roof, two stories higher. Witt moved through the crowd; he needed to get a look at the body.
It was a man, but not the Assistant DA. Witt had no idea who this man was, or why he jumped. The news crew spotted Witt and ran to get him on camera. Witt remembered the on-camera talent as one of the same obnoxious, insensitive busy bodies that covered the story at his house, when the drugs were “found.”
“Detective Kepler, what do you make of this horrible crime? Who would push a man off the roof of the courthouse? Any comment?”
Witt looked at her with an unspoken glare of are-you-kidding-me? “Ma’am, please remember that I am no longer on the police force. You will have to ask one of them for an official comment. I just came here to visit a friend. I don’t even know the poor man.”
“There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Former Metro police detective Witt Kepler, who, as you remember, was kicked off the force for stealing heroine, denies any knowledge of this heinous crime today at the courthouse. We’ll follow up on every detail and report back to you later today. Stay tuned.”
Witt knew a set-up when he saw one. The only thing left to do was go on the offensive. Turning back to the news crew, he asked if the feed was live. When the camera lights came back on, the newscaster announce she had an important statement from “Mr. Kepler.”
“Ma’am, you had said that I denied any knowledge of this crime and I felt a reply is in order. Now it is true, I do not know the poor man thrown from the roof, and I send my condolences to his family. But I also send a promise. I know who ordered this man killed, because I know who is behind every major crime in this city.”
Looking directly into the camera, Witt continued. “And I am on my way to find him, and bring him to justice. And if anyone out there is on his team, take a look at the man on the steps and ask yourself – is the money worth it?”
Witt walked away, leaving the shocked newscaster holding the microphone. She was unable to respond, only stare at the lifeless human form being zipped into a black body bag by the paramedics.
Witt knew if you can’t say something nice, just shoot. And shoot he did.
Now to see if he had hit his target.
- Intruducing Witt Kepler, private eye. (djlutz.wordpress.com)
- If Murder wasn’t a Crime (djlutz.wordpress.com)
- Wednesday Excerpts – Cassidy’s War (susanmacatee.wordpress.com)
- Chapter 4: In the dark [with 2 addition scenes] (ravenhaven.wordpress.com)