A Stained Past

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The year was 1956, and all of Port City was in bed with Jimmy the Pig. You couldn't walk around the block without running into one of Jimmy's thugs, and if you didn't pay, well, let's just say that you should pay unless you enjoy cold swims in the middle of the night with new shoes of the cement variety. Jimmy owned the city. Every laundry mat and Italian bistro paid protection to him. Shipments didn't leave or enter the city by water or rail without inspection by his men.
My name is Thaddeus Reed, and I’m the last clean cop in the city, or, I was. I was kicked off the force. Three years ago I moved in on one of Jimmy's operations after the police chief, a true king of thieves, told me to look the other way. I made the arrest, and on my way back the station I was intercepted by another officer who had orders to stop me, shoot me, and release the criminal I had arrested. The officer who shot me received a bonus, and I took six weeks in the hospital. When I was ready to return to the force, I discovered that my position was eliminated. Budget cuts. I work as a private investigator now, where I can really help people.
She walked through my office door at twelve past eleven, dark auburn hair in a tight bun, her brilliant, piercing green eyes and a sharp nose. She wore a dark brown pencil skirt and a green blouse. Her small mouth appeared to be hiding a frown, although she seemed relatively calm.
“I hear you’re a man who can fix problems. Find people,” she said.
“I can be, if the price is right.”
“Typical, wouldn’t help a poor widow out of the kindness of your heart.”
“Listen, Miss…” I said, not knowing her name.
“Olivia Trinehart.” She finished my sentence.
“Ms. Trinehart, I’m trying to run a business here. Times are tough, I have bills to pay. I can’t help poor widows purely out of the kindness of my heart. I need some kind of payment. Now, if you don’t have money to pay, I’m sure we could arrange something.”
“Oh, I have your stinking money,” she snapped, “and if you can do your job, you can have it.”
“And what does the job entail?” I inquired.
“You need to find my husband’s killer,” she said.
“Sounds dangerous, one hundred twenty five dollars a day dangerous,” I pitched.
“Oh, a big strong man like you can handle it,” she said sarcastically, “ninety dollars a day should suffice.”
“One hundred a day plus expenses,” I countered.
“You have a deal. Find my husband’s killer and you get your money,” she resigned.
“Tell me about your husband. What do you know of his murder?” I asked.
“He worked as a foreman down at the docks,” she began to explain, “all this trouble started when Ted refused to hand over a shipment over to Jimmy the Pig’s goons.”
As Trinehart explained the situation to me, my mind wandered. I began to think of Nancy, my last secretary. She left for New York to take care of her father, who had recently taken ill. Her absence was a shame, really. I didn’t know how to work the coffee pot. I could do with straight gin in the morning, so not too bad, but still annoying. And the office was growing messy too.
Trinehart had finished her story, and was looking at me, “well that’s all.”
“Good enough,” I said, “check back with me in week. I should have your killer by then.”
Trinehart scribbled down her address on a torn piece of paper and handed the scrap to me. I glanced at the words, which were written in a curling, formal font, and memorized the address, then tossed the paper onto my desk. As she turned to leave I said, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Whatever you say Mr. Reed,” she responded “whatever helps you sleep at night.” She left.
With nothing better to do, I retrieved my Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum revolver, the sole occupant of my bottom right desk drawer, left the building, locking the battered door behind me, and headed off for the docks. When I arrived I quickly found the main processing office and encountered the head of operations at the docks, Greg Steelhead, whom helped me with several past cases that occurred at the dock. If anyone knew something, it was him.
Steelhead greeted me with genuine excitement, “Thad! You old dirt bag! How ya’ been?”
From my past experiences with Steelhead, I knew that if you didn’t immediately chalk up the main point, he may have you signing a labor contract and drinking a scotch with him in three minutes flat. “Cut the crap Greg, I’m here about Ted Trinehart.”
“Oh, that poor of son of a gun?” said Steelhead, “I hear he’s taking a long swim in the river. Why are ya’ interested?”
“Does it matter?” I asked.
“Well it sorta does, Thad,” said Steelhead, “Ya’ see, I can’t swim.” Steelhead laughed at his joke. A smirk appeared at the corners of my mouth, although I tried to remain stoic. “Listen,” he continued, “Ya’ didn’t hear it from me, but the reason Ted got in so much trouble is that he refused to give something to Jimmy’s goons. I hear it was a crate of automatics, Tommies, illegal, but I’m not sure. I think he sunk the crate in the river when caught wind that Jimmy’s goons were planning a heist.”
“Thanks, Greg,” I said, “do you know which of the goons it was? Marshall? O’Connor?”
“I don’t know if I should say, Thad,” said Steelhead uneasily, “if people were to catch word that I was flapping my lips, I don’t think it would be to long before they iced me.”
“You know I won’t tell anyone Greg.”
“Yea, but you never know who’s listening, these office walls are thin.”
He raised a single finger up. One moment. He picked up a pen and scribbled a name on a scrap of paper. I glanced at the freshly torn piece of paper, reading the name. I grimaced.
“Are you sure, Greg?” I said.
“Yea,” he replied, crumpling up the paper, “I know you have a history with him, don’t feel like you have to follow through with the case.”
“Thanks Greg,” I said, turning to leave, “I owe you one.” I don’t like to owe people things.
“Now wait, Thad-!” he said.
I slammed the door behind me.

To say that I knew Patrick Reese was like saying that the judge knew the hangman. He and I were both cops on the force together. I joined the force to help the city; he joined it for the power. Looking back, the decision to become cops makes us both seem crazy as loons. He was the cop who shot me, taking me off the force for good. After he received his bonus, the dirt bag left the force because Jimmy the Pig offered him a better deal. The chief didn’t care; Reese would be doing work for him either way.

I decided that I didn’t want to spend my day chasing down bad memories unless it was with liquor. I remembered how Nancy always scolded me about drinking alone, and with her in mind, I headed to the Stained Glass, a local bar.

The tavern was dark inside. A radio was playing music; it sounded like jazz. The barkeeper, who I met on several occasions before, was named Monty Wellings.

He greeted me friendlily, “Hey Thad! Haven’t seen you in these parts for a while. Thought you climbed back up on the wagon. Would’ve been a damn shame too!”

I looked at him. I didn’t return his smile. “No Monty, fell off a few miles back, not looking to get back on. How about you pour me a whiskey on the rocks?” I sat down at the bar. The smells of assorted alcohol drifted pleasingly up to my nose.

“As long as you can pay me, Thad,” he said, “just got the window replaced from the last time you were here.” He poured a whiskey for me.

The last time I was in the Stained Glass was a month ago when I had a shootout with an armed robbery fugitive. The fight left Monty’s places a wreck. I apologized, and paid to replace the stain glass window that faced the street, the namesake of the bar and Monty’s pride and joy. Monty didn’t care too much about the havoc. I was a regular before then, and he was relatively used to such situations. I stopped going to the bar afterwards. I don’t remember why.

I sat in the bar for about an hour. Customers came and went, but nothing too interesting happened. After my third drink I stood up to exit the bar. I paid Monty, and was walking towards the exit, when Patrick Reese, that dirtiest of cops, walked through the door.

He was wearing a blue and black suit with a striped pattern. His shoes were heavily shined, and a fedora rested on his head. He was accompanied by three other men, dressed likewise. Reese’s face was graced by an ugly, jagged scar that ran in an arcing pattern from his left ear down to beside the corner of his mouth. His brown eyes closed the distance between us. His wide nose snorted like a pissed off bull’s nostrils. He opened his mouth to lick his lips with his fat, tobacco stained tongue, revealing several gold teeth. “Well well well, what do we have here, boys? It appears that Mr. Reed here didn’t get the message last time. This is our turf,” asserted Reese.

I looked him in the eyes, “You think the entire city belongs to you Reese, you idiot.” It probably wasn’t a good idea to anger Reese, but the whiskey was starting to affect me.

“What did you say, you dirty low down piece of trash?” he growled.
“I said you’re an idiot, you naïve little punk. The city doesn’t belong to you, it never has, it never will,” I snapped. “Now, why don’t you just leave this bar before someone does something they’ll regret?
“I’ll show you something you’ll regret,” said Reese, as a he pulled his gun from the holster at his hip. He pointed his piece at Monty and pulled the trigger. Monty let out a little yelp. A red stain began to spread from the center of his chest. He slumped to the floor.
“You see that boys? Mr. Reed here shot this innocent bartender. I suppose we should take him in. Keep an eye on him though, he’s dangerous,” said Reese. His goons advanced on me.
I took my gun from my hip. “Don’t touch me, Reese. You’ll regret it.”
We stood, guns pointed at each other. Nobody was making a move. The light from the windows cast colorful shadows on the tense scene.
“You think you’ll get away with this, Reese?” I asked, “Our guns aren’t even the same caliber; you can’t pin that shot on me.”
“You really have no idea how much power I have, do you pin head?” he condescended, “I own the system. Jimmy makes sure of that.”
“That’s what you think Reese,” I said, “One day Jimmy will be brought down, and the system will clean itself out. And you’ll be flushed down into the gutter like the filth that you are.”
“Shut your mouth, nancy boy. You know nothing about the system,” said Reese, “It won’t end with Jimmy, and it certainly won’t end with me. And I’ll do what I need to make sure of that.”
“Really, Reese,” I said sarcastically, “You? Kill someone? Oh, I’m sure you’ve never done that before.” I was trying to bait him, get on his nerves so he would let down his guard.
“You know damn right that I would, and that I have,” said Reese, “I’ll hurt or kill as much trash I need to in order to stay on the top.”
“Oh, right, of course you would,” I said, “After all, isn’t that what you did to your wife?”
Reese glared at me. “What do you know about that?” he said.
“Oh, not much. Only what I’ve heard on the grapevine. You beat her within an inch of her life after she tried to go public with the department’s corruption.”
“That isn’t true,” said Reese quietly.
“You know it is. You couldn’t stand that she had a conscience. You thought that she could ruin you, so you hurt her, to make sure,” I said.
“No…” he said, trailing off.
“Yes,” I said, “you have a tendency to hurt anyone who comes close to stopping you. No warnings. No, not from you, they’re, what did you say? They’re trash in your eyes.”
Reese stood in front of me, gun pointed firmly at my chest. His eyes were empty.
“The same thing happened, recently, with Ted Trinehart,” I said, “He was going to ruin your plan to acquire guns, so you ruined him. You couldn’t bear the thought of someone even daring to screw with you, so you took care of him. It’s a matter of principle isn’t it?”
“Enough!” he screamed. He fired a shot into the thick air of the bar. “You can prove nothing! I did not hurt my wife, and I definitely didn’t kill Ted Trinehart!”
“Of course you didn’t Reese,” I teased, “You didn’t kill anything. After all, how can you kill worthless chaff? They weren’t alive were they? No! Of course they weren’t. They were just mild annoyances getting in your way. Nothing that bothers you can be worth anything can it? No! of course not! You’re the most important person in the world.”
“That’s enough Thaddeus,” he said, “You’ve lied to my face enough for one day.”
The door opened behind him.
“Boys,” said Reese, “Let’s teach Mr. Reed here a lesson.”
Reese’s men raised their guns from their waists. They steadied their aim on me. There was no way I could take on Reese and his three goons at once. As they were about to pull their triggers, a loud cracking sound resounded throughout the room, and Reese crumpled to the floor. Olivia Trinehart stood behind Reese, holding a large bottle of Scotch, cracked severely at the bottom. Reese’s men looked around the room confused.
“Quite the arm you have there, Ms. Trinehart,” I said. I fired a shot from my revolver, catching one of Reese’s men square in the chest.
“Why don’t you scurry on out of here boys,” I said, “You can probably still save the bloody one if you hurry.” Confused, the two men that remained standing grabbed the shot goon and unconscious Reece and rushed out of the bar.
“You sure make your way around town,” said Olivia, “How did you end up here in the bar next to my apartment.”
“Dumb luck I guess,” I smiled slyly. It wasn’t dumb luck. I had Trinehart’s address, and I knew that Reese frequented the Stained Glass.
“Well, anyways, I guess it was a good thing that I was home, and overheard the gunshots and screaming,” said Olivia, “otherwise, you would’ve been dead meat.”
“I think you underestimate me, Ms. Trinehart,” I said.
“I think you overestimate yourself, Mr. Reed,” she said, looking at me intently. “So, that Reese guy killed my husband?”
“Yes,” I said, “I’ve had some trouble with him in the past, but none that gave me a legal reason to track him down.”
“Do you think you can get him?” she worried.
“Anything’s possible,” I said, “Some things more than others. But he’s going to be lying low for a while; that blow you gave him to the head will take a while to recover from.”
“I suppose,” she said.
“Say, Ms. Trinehart, with your husband gone are you sure you’ll be able to support yourself all alone?”
“Are you questioning my self-sufficiency, Mr. Reed?” she said.
“Of course not,” I said, “I’m sure an independent woman like you can survive on the streets by herself. After all, with no job, you’re certainly not going to be able to keep a roof over your head. But I hear that rat is great this season.”
“Are you trying to get at something, Mr. Reed?” she said.
“All I’m saying is that I have a position for a secretary open in my office, and I think it would be in both of our best interests for you to take it. After all, it may help you pin you husband’s killer quicker.”
“I’ll have to sleep on it,” she said, “in the meantime, maybe we should get some help for Monty over there.” Monty had been moaning in pain the entire time.
I walked behind the counter. Monty was on the bar floor. After a short examination, I determined that the bullet hadn’t hit anything major, and that the wound was relatively shallow in his abdomen. I fed Monty some whiskey, and then sterilized the wound with the liquid. I took a pair of pliers from underneath the bar and removed the bullet.
“Make sure you bandage that, Monty,” I said, “I need to be out of here before the cops show. And remember, I was never here.” Monty nodded his head at me and I started walking towards the door. Trinehart stopped me.
“Thank you for the effort Mr. Reed,” she said.
“Any time,” I affirmed, “You can pay me when you send in your application.”

“Who said I was applying?” she said slyly.

I walked out of the bar with a grin on my face. I loved a job well done. I went back to my office, turned on the radio to the ball game, closed the shutters, and drank until I fell asleep. The next morning I woke up with a splitting headache. I noticed an envelope had been slipped under my door. I opened it. Inside was one hundred dollars and a job application. I smiled.





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