Jocelyn Beauregard, Private Eye (part seventeen)

Having completed NaNoWriMo ’10, I’m going to share one section of my story here every Friday until you’ve read the whole thing. Hooray for easy update days! Enjoy.

Every musclehead and tough guy in town passed through the docks from time to time. There was always work to be had there, and while it wasn’t the sort of work that appealed to Jocelyn there was never any shortage of hands around to get it done. The constant, chaotic influx of people and goods also made this the best part of town to hide a gin joint in a dingy back room. If Dickie Mitchroy really was working as a hired thug, he’d have had frequent business at the docks, whether it be legit or otherwise. Showing his picture around, it shouldn’t be long before Jocelyn got a bite.

This indeed turned out to be the case. Within just a few minutes of flashing Dickie’s photograph, Jocelyn found a fellow who knew another fellow who’d heard Dickie had been working as an enforcer for a nearby gambling parlor. In asking after that gambling parlor Jocelyn heard a lot of disgruntled stories about marked cards and loaded dice, and even met one man who’d had a less-than-friendly run in with Dickie himself.

The story involved the menacing swinging about of a lead pipe, threats of fingers being bent backwards, and being dangled over a pier by the ankles. Jocelyn had a very hard time rationalizing what she was hearing with the strapping, button-down gentleman in the photograph at the Mitchroys’ place.

As it happens, that particular gentleman was involved with some unsavory business of his own, though Jocelyn didn’t press too hard into what type. Long story short, there was a minor clash between this man’s employer and Dickie’s, which ended with some money changing hands, some muddy lines being drawn, the illusion of due respect upheld, and everyone saving face. Somewhere in there, though, Dickie had been followed home late one night. Thus did Jocelyn learn that Dickie Mitchroy’s current place of residence was a fifth floor flat at 62 Dryer.

It was late in the afternoon before Jocelyn made it back into town. 62 Dryer was a building even more run-down than the one she lived in, if it could be believed. Clotheslines criss-crossed the street in every direction, and the proximity to a cramped garage caused the odors of grease and gasoline to permeate the air.

A mechanic in dark grey overalls was busy changing a tire in the garage. Jocelyn begged a minute of his time, just long enough to show him Dickie’s picture. This time she remembered to bat her eyelashes, and though she wasn’t sure she had done it correctly the mechanic seemed happy enough to help her anyway. He confirmed that Dickie did, indeed, live in the nearby apartment building. He was even kind enough to point out his window.

That’s when she next thought of Max Barrett. As far as he was concerned, Jocelyn’s job was over and done with. She’d done the legwork he couldn’t do. She’d found a reason for him to come knock on Dickie Mitchroy’s door. “Red tape,” she told herself. “Due process.”

All she had to do was find a telephone and put a message through to Officer Barrett’s desk back at the precinct, and her life would get at least a small bit easier. She would not, however, get the opportunity to put some burning questions to Dickie Mitchroy. What’s worse, she doubted Officer Barrett would leave the door as open for her as Detective Clark had. Handing Dickie over to Officer Barrett could very well be the end of Jocelyn’s involvement in the Ted Holdren case, and she’d come too far to simply abandon everything to someone who had a vested interest in Ted Holdren staying missing.

Jocelyn thanked the mechanic, stepped lightly through the rousing game of Kick the Can that was transpiring in the street, and made her way into the building. She climbed the stairs up to the fifth floor and quickly located the door to Dickie’s flat.

Unsure as to what she’d find on the other side, Jocelyn knocked. She waited a few moments as a good deal of nothing happened, then knocked somewhat louder. This time, much to her surprise, it was the door behind her that opened.

“He’s not in,” said a deep, gravelly voice from across the hall, “but for a tomato like you I’m sure he’d rush right home.”

Jocelyn spun around to find a muscular, leather-skinned man standing in the doorway opposite her, wearing a sleeveless shirt and noisily crunching away on an apple. He made absolutely no buts about enjoying the sight of her, either; Jocelyn’s coat covered all but her shins and ankles, but this fellow’s eyes were doing their level best to crawl over every inch of her exposed legs.

“I’m sorry,” she said, “and you are…?”

“I’m Ed,” said the man, not bothering to first swallow his mouthful of apple, “but I can be whoever you want me to be, cupcake.”

“That’s okay,” Jocelyn replied, “you can be Ed. Are you a friend of Dickie’s?”

“Oh, I’m a friend to pretty much everyone,” said Ed. “How about you, doll? You need a friend?”

“No, actually, just Dickie. I’m…” This time, Jocelyn remembered in time to use a false identity. Unfortunately, it wasn’t false enough. “I’m his sister,” she said.

That answer seemed to please apple-eating Ed. “You’re Laura Bell?” he asked. “Well ring-a-ding-ding. Ol’ Dick led me to believe you was as ugly as a barnyard hound. Guess they have some attractive hounds up that way, eh?”

Jocelyn wasn’t used to being flattered and insulted by the same comment, so she just did her best to brush it off. “Thanks I guess,” she said. “Say, do you know when Dickie will be back in?”

Ed scratched at the white scruff on his chin. “Now let me think,” he contemplated. “He said he had a real important errand to attend to, but that he’d be back by supper. I expect he’ll be home inside the hour. You can wait with me if you like, I’m real good company.”

“I don’t think that will be necessary,” said Jocelyn. “You don’t happen to have a key, do you?”

“I do, as it happens,” Ed said. “Back in two shakes.” He took another gratuitous bite of his apple before turning around and heading back into his flat. Exactly two shakes later, he re-emerged holding a large ring of keys. “I’m the building super,” he explained as he unlocked Dickie’s front door. “I’m not supposed to do this, but it’s just a harmless family visit, right?”

The door swung open. “There you go,” said Ed.

Jocelyn thanked him and entered Dickie’s apartment. It was illuminated only through the front-facing window, which lacked curtains and was bolted shut. Underneath the window was a radiator which, judging by how bitter cold the room was, must have been inoperable. A flimsy-looking box spring sat in the corner with a worn matress rolled out over top of it. It wasn’t a bed so much as simply a somewhat-softer-than-the-floor place for a body to lay down. The pile of afghan blankets on top made it look more comfortable than it probably was.

Jocelyn went for her notebook in order to record the details of Dickie’s bed before moving on to the rest of the room, but the sound of the front door closing interrupted her and made her jump. When she spun around Ed was standing inside the room with her, pulling the key from the door and still smiling broadly.

“Why don’t you have a seat, cupcake?” he offered. “And don’t fret. Like I said, I’m real good company.”

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