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Murder at Midnight
It was a dark and stormy night. Thunder rolled ominously in the distance and lighting exploded across the black sky. Ed Sullivan picked up his pace in a weak attempt to beat the storm home. He quickly broke off from the main street and took a shortcut down a narrow alley. A figure suddenly appeared; a gun in hand. With one shot, Ed Sullivan went crashing to the ground; dead. The figure dashed away just as the rain came pouring down.
Charlie O’Brian sat at his usual stool at Al’s Diner. He took a sip of his black coffee, hoping it would help his terrible headache. The door to the diner slammed open with a bang and a frantic looking policeman entered.
“Charlie! Thank God you’re here! There’s been a murder about three blocks from here! Come on!”
Charlie groaned. “Today, Jack? Really?”
Jack Bower, who was already halfway out the door, stopped and slowly walked back towards Charlie.
“Did you hear me? I said there was a murder!” Charlie just sat there and calmly took another drink of his coffee.
“Are you drunk?” Jack asked, taking in Charlie’s bloodshot eyes.
Charlie held up a finger, signaling the man to hold on while he swallowed his coffee. “No, I’m hung-over,” he replied.
“For the love of-come on!” Jack said irritably, grabbing Charlie’s arm and steering him out the door.
Charlie arrived at the crime scene twenty minutes later. He carefully ducked under the Crime Scene: Do Not Cross tape and walked up to John Harris, the chief of police. Without even looking at Charlie, the chief began to brief him. “Ed Sullivan. 42 years old. Took a bullet to the chest and died instantly.”
Charlie whistled and glanced at the body. “Suspects?”
The chief gave Charlie a meaningful look. “There are none.”
Charlie sighed and ran a hand through his messy brown hair. He looked at the chief of police and said, “Well that’s helpful, isn’t it?”
“Hardly,” the chief replied, not picking up on Charlie’s sarcasm.
Charlie gave him a half smile. “Don’t worry, Chief. We’ll catch the guy who did this.”
John Harris looked at Charlie long and hard. “I hope to God you’re right.”
Charlie hurried down 7th Street and made a sharp turn, taking him down a street full of beggars and run-down shops. He picked up the pace before stopping outside of a particularly shabby looking store. Charlie reached for the handle of the door and as soon as he did, the owner jumped out from behind the counter and flipped the sign on the door to say “Closed”. Charlie chuckled softly and pushed the door open. The bell tinkled and a strangled voice came from the back of the shop. “We’re not open!”
“The hell you are,” Charlie said, walking up to the counter. Charlie heard a quick sigh before he saw the owner shuffle to the front of the store. The man had extremely greasy hair and his face held a close resemblance to a rat’s. Even his mannerisms were twitchy and nervous like a rodent’s.
“Well, what is it? What do you want?” the owner asked.
“Information,” Charlie replied.
The man sneered. “Information? I’m sorry but I’m afraid I‘m all out of information.”
“Don’t play games with me, Frank,” Charlie warned, slowly withdrawing his gun.
Frank eyed the gun nervously. “I-I don’t know wh-what you mean.” he stuttered.
Charlie sighed. He loaded the gun and held it to Frank’s head. “Tell me what you know about Sullivan, Frank, or I swear to God I’ll pull the trigger.”
“You’re bluffing,” Frank said.
Charlie cocked an eyebrow. “Am I?” he asked, slowly pulling back the trigger.
“All right! All right! I’ll tell you what I know!”Charlie smiled slightly and put his gun back in its holster. “Look,” Frank said, lowering his voice. “I can’t tell you too much but I can tell you that you might want to take a look at Sullivan’s financial records.”
“You don’t happen to have his financial records, do you?” Charlie asked knowingly.
“Nope.” Frank replied.
“Come on, Frank. You and I both know you’ve got the dirt on everybody in town.” Charlie said, reaching for his gun.
“Alright! Alight! Let’s not get hasty.” Frank said. He reached under the counter and produced a thick file folder with the name “Sullivan” written on it.
Charlie dropped a thick file folder onto the chief’s desk. “What the-” John started.
“Sullivan’s financial records,” Charlie explained. “He owed money to just about everyone in this God d*** city; including Marchetto.”
John looked up. “Marchetto?” he asked. “Tony Marchetto?” Charlie nodded. “My God,” the chief whispered, placing his head in his hands.
“Marchetto’s our guy,” Charlie said confidently.
John sighed and looked up. “We may know that Marchetto’s involved but we still can’t place him at the scene of the crime.”
Charlie threw his hands up in the air. “For God’s sake, John! Sullivan owed money to the Mafia and you think it’s a coincidence he’s dead?”
The chief stood up with such force that his chair flew back and hit the wall. “No, Charlie, I don’t think it’s a coincidence but I do think that we need substantial evidence before we try to convict somebody like Tony Marchetto!”
“Evidence,” Charlie repeated, laughing bitterly. “John, do you know who this man is and what he’s done?”
“Yes Charlie, I know exactly who he is and what he’s done but that doesn’t change the fact that we need evidence.”
Charlie frowned at the chief of police before he started toward the door. With one hand on the doorknob he turned and said, “I know this man murdered Ed Sullivan. I’m not just going to sit back and watch Tony Marchetto and his goons get away with another murder.” The chief opened his mouth to reply but Charlie walked out the door before he got a chance.
Charlie shoved his hands further into his pockets as he continued walking. He turned down a narrow alley and stopped outside of a rusted side door. Charlie knocked on the door three times then stepped back and waited. A slit opened at the top of a door revealing a pair of dark eyes. “O’Brian,” Charlie said. “Charlie O’Brian.” The door swung open with a creak and Charlie entered the room. He saw six men sitting around a table smoking cigars and playing cards.
“So I jammed the roscoe in his button and said, 'Close your yap, bo, or I squirt metal.'” said the man dealing the cards. He looked up and saw Charlie. “Charlie! Sit down and tip a few. Want a cigar? One of you bozos get this man a cigar.” Charlie sat down in a spare chair and took a cigar from the man on his left. “So what are you trying to nail me for now?” the man asked.
“Sullivan,” Charlie replied. “Ed Sullivan. You killed him, Marchetto, and I know it.”
“’Ya got any proof of that, tough guy?” Tony Marchetto asked, slowly laying down a card.
Charlie hesitated. “Well, no…” he admitted.
“So youz got not proof I bumped off Ed Sullivan?” Marchetto asked, with a smug look.
Marchetto shrugged. “Don’t see how it matters but yeah, I knocked off Ed Sullivan.”
“You’re not going to get away with this, Marchetto.” Charlie warned.
Marchetto laughed. “Didn’t you just say youz got no proof? Besides, open ‘ya eyes, Charlie. I own this city. Judges, DAs, even some of ‘ya pals down at the station-they all work for me!” he said, laying four aces down on the table.
“You cheated!” one of the men accused.
“Oh yeah, Vinny?” Marchetto asked.
“Yeah!” Vinny replied.
“Yeah? Well how ‘bout youz go climb up your thumb before I pop ‘ya one, savvy?”
Charlie silently got up from the table as the men continued arguing. He opened the door and it slammed shut behind him. He smiled to himself and began to walk.
Charlie O’Brian sat at his usual stool at Al’s Diner. He took a sip of his black coffee, hoping it would help his terrible headache. He unfurled the New York Times and read the headline on the front page; Marchetto Behind Bars! Charlie smiled and continued to read.
“On November 10, 1947, Anthony “Tony” Marchetto, 38, was tried and convicted of 3rd degree murder. “Don’t see how it matters but yeah, I knocked off Ed Sullivan.” Marchetto said, in a taped conversation used for evidence in the trial. Detective Charlie O’Brian, 33, testified against Marchetto, revealing the taped conversation that had take place several days earlier. Chief of Police, John Smith (continued on A2)”
Charlie laid the paper down on the counter and took another swig of his coffee. In the distance he heard the high pitched wail of sirens and he was already anticipating his next case.