Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Penny
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Cigarette smoke coiled acridly through the air of the antique store. Outside the fury of a spring storm was breaking over Chicago, showering the city in a hard rain that sounded like hail as it rattled glass pane windows and diffused the soft illumination of the street lanterns into an ambient, distant glow. The interior of the store had no such mercy, new electric lights burned overhead, throwing an uncompromising light over the interior of the small store. Items from every contient lay in apparent haphazard collections. Ivory statutes from the Congo, Roman coins on red velvet display cases, scrimshawed coral from the South Sea islands and books and scrolls from every civilization that had paused to develop a script. Ordinarily the store would have smelled of sandalwood, furniture polish and the admixture of other exotica. Today though it just smelled of blood.

“How long has he been dead,” Knox asked as she accepted the cigarette from the police detective. She didn’t ask ‘what did he die off’ because the hilt of an oddly curved knife still protoruded from the chest of the body which lay spawled on the floor of the otherwise pristine floor of Goldman’s Antiques and Exotica.

“Six hours at the outset,” the policman replied, his voice not quite cured of the Celtic lilt of Boston and points east.

“Customers said he was here till five, got the call when his housekeeper came down after he didnt come home for dinner.” Knox nodded at the words and took a long drag at the lucky strike. Opportunity Knox was a tall woman nearly five feet eight with long red hair held up in a tight bun at the nape of her neck. She was willowy, with the musculature of a dancer or a fencer, both of which she had been at various times and had an attractive heart shaped face that could turn heads. This would have been particularly true if she bothered to put any effort into make up, which she currently didn’t. She wore a leather jacket and dark khaki pants with incongruous combat boots which must have been made specifically to fit her small feet. The other speaker Benjamin Stone of the Chicago police department was an ordinary looking man in early middle age. He might once have been a boxer but his physique was slowly going to fat despite his attempts to repress the tendency with diet and exercise.

“You know whats going on Tuney? Old man have any enemies?” Stone’s voice suggested that he hoped the answer was no. Rather than answering immediately she crouched down next to the old man’s corpse. Alois Goldman had been a lively old man, a shrewd collector and dealer in antiques and rare items. Knox had often sold items she had aquired or sort professional opinions from the old man and she felt a stab of pain to see him like this. It was worse that it was in his store, a place which she had always thought of as a sanctuary.

“No I dont Ben,” she said firmly, “I got a telegram that he wanted to see me about something the next time I was in Chicago and here I am.”

“The same day he is found dead?” Stone pressed, he held up his hands in supplication when she turned to glare at him.

“Look I know you had nuthin’ to do with it Tuney, I’m just saying its odd is all. That is why I wanted you to see the body before we moved it. See if you might pick up on something we missed,” Stone explained in his patient, reasonable, Bostonian drawl.

“Nothing missing from the place?” she asked stalking around, idly picking up what might have been a Hindi religious idol made of jade. She turned the thing over in her hand several times before setting it down again. Stone snorted eloquently.

“Not so we can tell but who know if someone made of with an Elephant Penis in a place like this, its not like there is a catalogue,” Stone retorted. Knox sighed.

“I dont think Alois was trafficking in Elephant Peni,” she said tartly. Casting another look around the store, she strained to find some clue to go on. No mysterious letter or journal or any other such cliche. Just a sweet old man, dead on the floor of the store in which he had spent the last few decades of an eventful life. Knox crouched down once more and lay a hand on the corpse's waxen brow. The flesh was cold and slightly slimy to her touch.

“Who did this to you Alois?” she asked her voice intent, "and why?". Whoever it was, they were going to pay dearly.

Nope, jumping in is perfectly fine!
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Jbcool
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Jbcool The Scribbling Scotsman

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William Cavendish-Blake glared at the face before him in an expression of revulsion and disgust that he usually only kept for his enemies. Everything about it repulsed him, from the dark brown widows-peak of the short straight hair, greying somewhat prematurely at the temples, to the aquiline nose and angular chin, the black rings beneath two heterochromatic eyes – one blue and one hazel – and the thin-lipped mouth which seemed too small for the face. It bought a rage up within him that made that mouth twist into a grimace, for he was looking into a mirror and the face was his own.

“What happened to you?” Came a threateningly muttered question tinged with a British accent, “you had it all, old man, and you lost it all.”

Another swig of Vat 69 whiskey burned its way down his throat, the other hand scraping across one unshaven cheek with a grunt, those eyes moving down as he took a small step back from the mirror to view his bared torso above the towel wrapped about his waist.

It was a broad-shouldered assemblage, the body of a man who had once fought on battlefields in Belgium and the Middle East, who had climbed mountains and delved into the African savannah, but who now did more sitting on his backside than exploration and adventure. There...there, just above and to the right of his navel, there was the scarred tissue of the entry hole of the bullet – fired from a German rifle – that had taken him out of the war, and nearly taken his life. He had lived though, through sheer willpower alone, but even as he gave that torso another once-over he could not help but shake his head and turn away from the mirror and back to his bottle.

Five days he had been cooped up in the Allerton Hotel, five days! True that it was a men's only “club hotel”, as it should be, but it was situated on the recently en vogue Michigan Avenue; shops, hotels and clubs being opened all along the avenue, and he had no damn time for them or the people that frequented them.

God but that whiskey burnt ones throat.


There was another knock at the door to his private rooms – spacious and breezy, with everything he could want and need, but nevertheless a prison – the first striking of the wooden portal having clearly gone unnoticed.

“There was a telegram for you sir,” came the muffled voice of a young bellhop, “said I was to write down everything they said, give you the message, and then forget it again.”

“What the Hell?”

Striding to the door on long limbs, he thrust out his hand and swung back the door with probably a little too much force, the adolescent boy trying to give his best smile as the note was handed over at a gesture from the older and more impatient man.

One line after another he read, and one line after another he began to feel a sense of foreboding coming over him.

“Who sent it? Did they leave a name?”

“No sir, just...the note.”

“Here, take this and go away.”

Money changed hands and, as the door closed behind him, William found that he hadn't breathed for over a minute. As if afraid to, he let his breath slip from between his lips and pressed his back to the cool door.

Alois Goldman was dead, the shrewd but cautious Jew finally having got himself killed, as it did indeed seem that murder had been the order of the day. Even now the police were sniffing about the place, no doubt looking for clues that they would not find, and he was just standing there in a towel.

One look out the rattling window told him it was in all likelihood a bad idea to go walking about in Chicago at this point in time, but Alois knew things – had known things – that others did not, that they should not. He couldn't just sit down in the lounge and drink his night away, he had to do something.

“Looks like I'll be heading to the local station...” His eyes caught sight of himself in the full-length mirror once more, causing him to flinch internally, “God I hate you.”
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Chicago PD headquaters was a large red brick building that had been raised at the turn of the century. It loomed, squat and unlovely over the lowering dark of the city. Inside, in a large room with floor tiles of shiny linoleum Opportunity Knox sat on a battered police desk, while Detective Stone sorted the few personal possessions found on the body of the late Alois Goldman. It wasn't so very much, but it was typical of the calm methodical man Opportunity had known. A cigarette lighter, made in Austria, well used. A pair of spectacles, gold rimmed, left lens broken. A fountain pen, inscribed with the logo of Cootes Bank London. An appointment book, well used and dog eared, accession numbers printed in a neat precise hand. A gold florin, minted in Asti in 1623. Nothing that screamed at a motive for murder.

Knox sighed and picked up the appointment book. Nothing leaped out at her as particularly out of place, some of the things were a little exotic perhaps but nothing she would have batted an eyelid of Alois had produced it during a conversation. Idly Knox leafed through the pages, reading Alois small neat handwriting. Names, dates, addresses, brief descriptions of item and prices.

"Anything useful?" Stone asked, taking a sip of truly terrible coffee from a chipped ceramic mug. Knox threw down the appointment book in frustration.

"Nothing even scheduled today," she snapped, springing to her feet and beginning to pace. Something struck her as odd about her statment but her mind continued to race down other paths, leaving the fragment she had missed for the moment.

"Something is wrong here Ben," she said holding up a hand to begin counting off on her fingers.

"One, why kill an antique dealer, if it was a robbery why was nothing stolen?"

Stone shrugged, leaning back against the desk to let Oppurtunity go on.

"Two, if he was killed, why leave the murder weapon? Was the killer interupted? If so why didn't that person come forward." Oppurtunity furrowed her brow as she paced back and forth in the small office.

"Three why kill someone with a curved knife at all? Why not use a gun like civilized people? Was it personal? Does it have some significance? If so, significance to Alois? To the killer? To both?"

Stone gave a weary snort, interrupting her count.

"You know it really dosent count if you make multiple points using a single finger Tuney," the cop said with weary amusement. At that moment the door banged open and an older woman stuck her head into the room.

"Ben," she greeted perfunctorily before her eyes slid to Knox with disapproval. Mavin had never really cared for her, or her friendship with the senior detective. Her solution was to pretend that Knox didn't exist as much as possible, a solution which Oppurtunity found eminently acceptable. Apparently the late hour had cracked her iron resolve.

"There is a gentleman here who says he was a friend of Mr Goldman." The woman didn't put any loading on the question but it was clearly a question. Stone looked at Knox who shrugged helplessly.

"Yes. Fine, show him in," Stone said and flopped into one of the uncomfortable chairs, breathing a long sigh out through pursed lips.

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America, it truly was the New World. After the Great War had ended it had entered a period of prosperity and somewhat of a 'boom' as they called it; homes and lodgings were built, families able to grow without much worry, jobs plentiful for all. Perhaps the only thing making his walk through the Chicago cityscape was the weather – torrential downpours like this always reminded him of death; bodies hanging on barbed wire, the feeling of a corpse beneath your feet...you could never get dry, never.

There it was! The headquarters of the Chicago Police Department, not much to look at if truth be told, but this was where he had been heading and this is where his already weary feet had bought him.

He took the steps into the building in pairs, brushing the rain off of him as thoroughly as possible when he entered the foyer of the station; behind the central desk was a quite bored officer, his brown eyes looking up from his paper only briefly enough for William to grimace at him in return.

“Waddya want?”

Well, it was not how he would have been greeted in Britain, but he was not in Britain. Mores the pity.

“Yes, well,” he managed to cough, removing his sopping beige trench-coat to reveal a pinstriped suit that fit his form quite finely, a tie done neatly about his neck and his pocket square slightly dampened by the sheet volume of rain. As he took another step forward he felt a weight upon his brow, one hand reaching up and removing his fedora; it was only when a puddle seemingly appeared from thin air and splashed all over the floor that he realised just what the weight had been.

“Now why did you have to go and do that, pal?” Questioned the officer, finally paying the veteran some actual attention, “as I said, what do you want?” His question was more emphasised now, every syllable dripping with an unspoken curse on the man who had just wetted his tiled floor.

“Um, my apologies. I would like to speak with a Detective Stone if I may, I heard he was investigating a case of much interest to me. He was a friend of mine, you see?”

“One moment,” instructed the officer, a telephone in his hand and his eyes never leaving the newcomer even when he spoke, “damn limeys.”

“Hello...yes...there's a man here who'd like to speak with Stone. Uh-huh...uh-huh...yes...alright then.”

After instructing William to 'hang tight and dry off' it as a matter of moments before a woman appeared, once more asking him what he wanted and receiving the same answer as he had given the desk Sergeant. The woman certainly was snippy, but not altogether bad to look at, as far as older women went.

“I will go and see if the Detective will see you, please wait here.”

Subdued voices could be heard, discussion no doubt, and his eyes moved over the unpicturesque interior of the station as he waited for time to pass. Boy was he glad he'd never joined the police force, although the army had gotten him shot.

More moments followed as he was ushered into the room, the door closing with a soft click behind him, and he was finally allowed a moment to look upon the Detective. A nondescript gentleman in his middling years, of classical Irish stock by the looks of him and his facial features, closer to Ireland than America in his bloodline. Oh yes, there was certainly something to Stone, possibly the way he held himself like a fighter?

“Detective Stone, thank you for seeing me.” It always helped to be amicable to a new person, and the smoothest tone he could muster rolled off of Williams tongue, a hint of aristocratic enunciation presenting itself as he finished his words, “I was a friend of the late Alois Goldman and recently heard of his demise, although the details are still concealed from me. I would be awfully obliged if you might clear a little of that shade away, that I might discover what you know and maybe help in turn?”

It was only after he had finished speaking with the seated Detective that he realised they were not alone, not having bothered to peer anywhere else in the room, his eyes falling on a much lovelier creature than the one he presently addressed.

“My apologies,” he began to say by way of both greeting and excuse for not seeing her earlier, “William, William Cavendish-Blake, at your service.” He glanced briefly back to Stone, “at both your services.”

Yes, she really was lovely, that face...that fiery hair, shame about the bun...

It was so easy to get distracted in the presence of a beautiful woman.

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Opportunity watched with equanimity as Stone shook hands with the new comer in his typical bluff Celtic fashion. He was an odd looking fellow, in late middle age with graying hair and curiously mismatched eye. Opportunity seemed to recall there was a term for that although the exact nomenclature was lost in her indifferent school days. Stone followed the gaze between Cavendish-Blake and Knox and nodded.

"Yes, Mr... Cavendish-Blake, this is Tuney... er that is Opportunity Knox," the detective stumbled looking a little uncomfortable at saying the name outloud.

"My parent's were sadists, and worse aficionados of the pun," Opportunity said easily, hoping down from the table and extending a hand to the newcomer. To her surprise he took it and kissed it in the old world fashion, she arched an eyebrow but he offered no comment. He had the look of a man who might have been a friend of Alois, though Opportunity had never heard of a man with eyes like his in that circle.

"Well sir," Stone said drawing out the two large black and white photos of Goldman's corpse and stiffling a yawn, it was very late.

"I'm afraid we have little enough to discover to you in all truth," Stone went on, sipping again at his abysmal coffee and grimacing. While attention was away from her Opportunity once again flicked through the book, this time looking for William Cavendish-Blake or intials that might be his. She found none, although once again was struck by a subtle sense of wrongness.

"My Goldman was found murdered in his shop with this strange knife, which miss Knox assures me," Stone turned to look at her to convey his skepticism, "is of Egyptian or Near Eastern design. We dont as yet have a supsect or a motive or even know if anythin..."

"Thats it!" Oppurtunity broke in excitedly, stunning know to momentary silence as she excitedly paged through the appointment book, pages flickering by as she furrowed her brow with concentration. Stone exchanged a look with the new comer and shook his head wearily.

"What is 'it' Tuney," he asked gently. She held up the book to both men.

"No appointments today," she explained, "Alois kept meticulous records and he had meetings everyday except Saturday, you know the Sabbath, but today for the first time ever, no meetings."

"And that helps us how?" Stone asked, setting his coffee down, having given up the valiant attempt to swallow the muck.

"No idea," Opportunity admitted cheerfully.
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