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"Goooood evening Chicago! Some tragic news coming your way; yesterday, April 15th, the German Luftwaffe bombed Belfast, in Northern Ireland. It is reported that nearly a thous-"
I clicked off my radio in my car; I couldn't bare anymore bad news on the war, I had my own troubles. Stepping out of my car into the heavy rain, I noticed the streets were flooded up onto the sidewalks, forcing people to stay in, but no one should be out this early in the morning anyways. I ducked into Ray's Diner escaping the torrential rain that put a stop to my investigation. My coat weighed down and clung to my body; my feet made loud squeaking noises as I crossed the linoleum floor to the short bar. The pungent smell of coffee filled the small diner and there was the faint sizzle of the grill in the back being started by the cook. I sat down with a solid slosh and Molly approached me with coffee cup and pitcher in hand. I came to this diner every morning for my cup of Joe and was always greeted by Molly, with her light brown bob lightly brushing against her rounded jaw line. She was wearing her favorite violet colored dress which complimented her slender figure; to me she was beautiful in the most innocent and plain ways.
"Good mornin' Detective Mason. Usual cup o' Joe I suppose?" greeted Molly in her distinct Chicago accent.
"Oh Molly, how many times do I have to tell you to call me Vince?" I had replied with a sly smile as this was our usual routine every morning.
"Sorry Vince," Molly answered with a flirtatious smile. While arranging her Daphne flowers in the vase she asked curiously, "Say, how's that investigation of yours coming along? Getting close to catching The Scarlet Canary yet?"
"I won't make any progress if the weather keeps up like this, but yea I believe I'm close to cracking the case wide open."
"I'm sure you'll find her soon enough," she cooed as she delicately laid her hand on top of mine, revealing a small smile.
"Molly, I gotta ask you somethin' ," I muttered reaching into my right pocket.
Suddenly my police radio came crackling to life, with the Sherriff's booming voice coming through telling me a new body was found and was believed to be linked to The Scarlet Canary killings. I quickly apologized to Molly, finished my coffee, and trudged out into the worsening storm.
As I was heading towards the crime scene, I was reviewing all of the facts about the case that I knew. One, The Scarlet Canary was definitely a pissed off woman who had it out for men; two, at every crime scene a red feather was left; and third, I had narrowed it down to a few suspects, with Sandra Archer at suspect number one.
Sandra Archer was a drop-dead gorgeous, bomb-shell of a woman. Her long dark brown hair, dipped and curled around her lovely face and framed her perfect figure, right down to the small of her back. Her lips were a rosy red and full; her eyes, a striking blue, were hungry like a hunter. She worked at The Blue Moon Pub, singing classic jazz and blues tunes every night, trying to achieve her dream of making it big, but no one ever made it big out of this little suburb of Chicago. Sandra may have been stunning, but she had a monstrous record with the police. Being caught with countless drugs to violent outburst against her timid husband, she was a force to be reckoned with.
The crime scene was a frenzied mess when I arrived: journalists clambering for a bit of information like malnourished dogs; portly policemen trying to hold back the masses; civilians quivering with terror slowly realizing what evil had occurred in their own neighborhood. I fought through the crowd to get to where the body laid cold and lifeless. Upon entering the crime scene, a slender officer briefed me on all of the details. There was once again a red feather that was left, enticing us to pick up the trail to find our killer. The victim was named Jason Pawlak. He had fit the pattern of the killer: alcoholic/drug addict, male, and had a history of beating his wife.
I stooped over the body, studying every minute detail. It was lying in a puddle of blood; mixing with the rain it created a crimson stream into the nearby gutter. The body limply draped over the curb, with Jason's face upward to the sky as if he was looking for some angel to come down and save him. His throat had been slit and there were several stab wounds to his chest cavity. I was acquainted with this all too familiar scene; it once provoked a sense of deep sadness, but now I felt a wave of anger and determination to find this killer. I stood up with a stern look on my face and marched off around the corner to The Blue Moon Pub, in search of Mrs. Sandra Archer.
An acrid, poisonous cloud of cigar smoke billowed out of the front door when I had set foot in the pub. The strong odor of whiskey and cheap beer filled my nose as I approached the bar. I glanced around searching for Sandra, but only found her haughty manager.
"Sir, where may I find Mrs. Archer?" I demanded in a stern voice.
"None of your goddamned business! I'm tired of you harassing Mrs. Archer and I about your absurd cat and mouse chase" barked back the manager as his lips curled viciously.
"Listen here, bud! This is official police business, and you can either tell me where she is or I can ransack this whole place looking for her. Your choice," I growled at him as I fisted his shirt collar; his devilish face squished as I hoisted him high.
"She's out back having a cigarette. An' I should sue you for police brutality!"
I stormed off towards the back of the bar where the exit was. I had burst out of the door when I ran into Sandra herself. She was wearing a skin tight red dress, with a deadly look in her eyes.
"Lemme' guess, you're here to ask me 'bout the murder down on 4th Street right?" snickered Sandra, while her cigarette swayed on her full lips, "Jus' so ya know, it wasn't me. Like I've said a million times before; I have better things to do."
Before I could say anymore, she swaggered back into the pub to prepare for her next show, the door closing behind her with a solid click. I knew it was pointless to pursue her while she was in that state of mind and figured a different officer would arrive soon to pick her up for questioning. In the mean time, I was at a loss of what to do, so I strolled towards the crime scene trying to find what I had missed along the way. Eventually I was back at the stage where the crime had occurred.
Suddenly a curious thought popped into my head, telling me to look behind some discarded cardboard in the nearby alleyway. I cautiously approached the pile of debris. I pulled back the first layer and discovered something I couldn't believe; it was a red feather with a strand of brown hair stuck on it. Did it belong to the Scarlet Canary? I had to go somewhere to collect my thoughts and put things straight in my mind, so I headed back to Ray's Diner, maybe a good ole' cup of coffee would help clear up my thought process.
The door swung open with a little jingle of a bell. I shuffled toward my usual seat at the bar, with a thoughtful look on my face.
"Looks like you got somethin' a brewin' up in that head of yours Detective. What's up?" questioned Molly who wore a concerned look and was toying with her precious violet flowers in their petite vase.
" You just can't leave those flowers alone, can you?" I shot her a coy smile, "And it's not much really. I just finally got some solid evidence on the killer." With that a startled look darted across her face, and vanished as soon as it appeared. "I'm going to try and catch her right before she strikes. I'm getting awfully close, but Imma call it a night Molly. Goodnight." Giving a curt nod and smile to Molly, I got up solemnly before more could be said and headed home.
It was 6 a.m. and the air was still crisp when I stepped out of my cruiser. The station was in a big commotion. I weaved my way to my office, grabbing a cup of coffee along the way, which to my disappointment was lukewarm. I shut my office door forcibly, the glass window shaking slightly. Seated at my large oak desk I stared at the mountain of paperwork that dominated it. I was sorting through some files when a young officer burst through the door.
"Detective Mason! Sorry to interrupt, but something is going down. The Sherriff said he'd like ya to go check it out. I don't know the specifics, but rumor has it, it has something to do with The Scarlet Canary. You might wanna hurry before it turns into a circus --"
Before he could finish, I jumped out of my chair, toppled it over, and sprinted to my car. I slammed the vehicle door shut and blared the sirens. Careening down the roads, I called in to the Sherriff and asked where the crime had occurred. He replied in a quiet, grave voice, "The Blue Moon Pub."
I parked in front of the pub and raced in. The main hall was severely quiet; everyone spoke in hushed whispers. I lessened my sprint to a slow, bewildered walk and took in my surroundings. Upon the stage a gruesome scene was played out. A tall, gangly man laid sprawled out on center stage. His face was contorted and twisted with pain and he too lied in a bath of blood. There was a single red feather that laid on his chest, taunting us. Once I was on the stage I realized who this dead man was; it was Sandra's manager. I was confused because he didn't fit the pattern; he wasn't married or a substance abuser. A timid hostess was interviewed and revealed that he had been having repeated arguments with Sandra, further solidifying my suspicions.
A piercing scream filled the building as Sandra was dragged out of her dressing room in nothing but a simple robe. Her makeup was half done and her hair up in a disheveled bun; she was no longer a glamorous singer, but showed her true ugly self.
"Let go of me you dirty pigs! Get your hands off of me!! You have no right to do this! Someone help!" shrieked Sandra as she struggled to escape the grips of two officers.
"Sorry Sandra, but you gotta head down to the station for questioning," I replied in a calming voice.
Sandra heard my voice, she jerked her head in my direction, and her eyes burned with hatred. "How dare you accuse someone of my social standing of committing something so dastardly! I expected someone like you, Vincent Mason, to have more sense than this!" She was ushered into a police car and chauffeured to the station.
I had returned to the station and everything turned from bad to worse. Not only did another horrible storm roll in, we had a dangerous animal to deal with. Sandra had lashed out and attacked a rookie. As I always said, "Never send a rookie to do a detective's job."
The interrogation room was small and dank with a single light dangling in the middle of the room. On the other side of a cold steel table sat Mrs. Sandra Archer, with her arms crossed and a ferocious look in her eyes. I could tell this interview wasn't going to go anywhere.
"So Mrs. Archer, where were you during the murder of your manager?" I said this not expecting a response of any sort.
"Like I've said a million times before, I didn't do anything. I was in my dressing room getting ready for my show, obviously." She gestured to her unkempt hair and robe.
"Well, how has your relationship with your manager changed over the past few weeks?"
"I don't have to tell anythin' to you guys. I know I'm innocent and that's all that matters."
Sandra refused to speak further on the subject, which didn't surprise me at all. She remained in jail for a few days, but was released due to lack of solid evidence against her.
Nothing new had developed over the next week with the Scarlet Canary case. Some officers said the spree was over, but I strongly disagreed. This was the calm before the storm, and the worst was yet to come.
It wasn't until mid-May that something came up. There was an attempted murder in Ray's Diner. I traveled there expecting the worst, but I was mostly afraid Molly was hurt. The diner had never been that busy in its entire existence until that afternoon. Throngs of people surrounded the diner and were chatting in an excited buzz. I slowly entered the diner in fear of what I may see. The all too familiar jingle of the bell rang out, cutting through the thickness of silence. The innocent jingle didn't fit the ominous scene. The diner was in disarray: the Daphne flowers were strewn about, glass from the vase sprinkled the floor, and several dishes were smashed and littered the ground. Suddenly, Molly sprinted up to me, her dress torn and tears streaming down her cheeks. She grasped me around the neck and sobbed into my shoulder.
"Oh Vince I'm so glad you're here! It was horrible, so very horrible! She got Jerry. Jerry the cook! Oh! He was the nicest man around; who could do such a thing!?" Molly wailed out in pain.
"It'll be okay, I promise Molly. We're awfully close to catching this horrible lady. There's nothing to fear."
"Hey! Detective you might wanna' come n' see this'," interrupted an officer, poking his head out of the back kitchen.
I followed this officer behind the diner. Two massive garbage bins dominated the back alleyway. He led me to the furthest one away and we both peered inside. We saw a bloody knife and a small torn piece of fabric which was wrapped around the handle. I picked up the piece of cloth and inspected it in my large, calloused hands; tears suddenly pricked the corners of my eyes. Crumpling the dainty fabric in my hands, I buried it deep into my coat pocket, hoping to drive this horrific realization out of my mind.
I strode back through the diner staring at my worn, black shoes, and hands stuffed into my pockets. Hundreds of thoughts raced through my mind: How could she? Why? I asked myself the most important question of all, how could I have fallen in love with a cold blooded killer. This thought clouded my mind while I fingered a tiny velvet box in my right pocket.
I didn't know where to go; my holy sanctuary had been brutally violated. A freezing numbness consumed my mind and body; I was in pure shock. My feet moved with a steady rhythmic beat, going nowhere in particular. Rain began to drizzle, bouncing off my hunched shoulders, rolling down my arm, and plummeting to the damp pavement. Everything seemed to move in slow motion, while the word "Why" filled my every thought.
I slipped into the nearest bar, the rain became a heavy playing a dismal harmony on the window panes. Slumping down on a stool at the far end of the bar I ordered the strongest drink the bartender had; I planned to drown out my thoughts one way or another. Three drinks and a few hours later, my vision is blurry with the mix of hard liquor and tears.
As I struggled to stand up, a light hand rested on my shoulder. In my drunken stupor I shrugged it off and took a few stuttering steps toward the exit.
The grip tightened on my shoulder with a soft, but firm, "Vince, sit down before you hurt yourself."
Turning around, I twisted my face and leaned in, narrowing my eyes trying to figure out who was two feet in front of me. A cloudy image slowly revealed itself; a small round face, surrounded by brown hair. I placed my unsteady hands on their cheeks and searchingly looked into their eyes and stammered, "S-S-Sandra?"
"No. . ." replied a soft meek voice.
My brain was sluggish, trying to figure out who was in front of me. Suddenly, the drunken clouds were lifted, revealing and reminding me of the events that occurred early that morning with such sharpness it seemed surreal. Tears filled my eyes; tears of pure hatred yet filled with undying love. I didn't know how to react, I stuttered for words, but I couldn't create a coherent thought.
"Vince, I've been searching for you. I snuck out of Ray's to come find you, but I sure didn' expect you to be like this. . ."
"H-How could you," my voice quivered.
"Forget all that for now, I just. . ."
"How could you!? I loved you Molly. . ." my voice had erupted into a roar which cracked and spilled over with emotion. Tears now cascaded down my strong jaw, and streaming down my neck onto the stiff collar of my shirt.
The faint wailing of police sirens sounded in the distance, mixing with the thunderous clashes, and the relentless pattering of the rain on the windows. The bar itself was as silent as a tomb, even the crashing of dishes in the kitchen had ceased. Screeching tires pierced this almost serene silence. Molly's face was overcome with pure terror; her body made the slightest jerk towards the door, but seemed to decide against it. I will never forget how she looked; she seemed like a frightened fox that had just been cornered by the hounds and knew that her fate had finally found her.
Everything was thrown into a frenzy in a second. The room filled with the boisterous voices of officers, sharp squeaking of shoes pierced the ear, and the rain still patted out its steady, desolate rhythm. My brain was still dulled with alcohol, it ached with the over stimulation of what was happening.
Molly captured my face in her hands, planting her small, thin lips on mine for only an instant before a dark skinned officer pried her away with merciless force. Her body whipped away from mine and was twisted as they placed the silvery cuffs around her petite wrists. She glanced up at me through her disheveled bangs, her eyes full of tears, remorse, and with so many words and feelings left unsaid.
After I had left the diner, officers had scoured for clues. They found the red feather boa, the calling card of the Scarlet Canary, in the trunk of Molly's old blue Ford. Connections between her and her victims were uncovered shortly after, they all had abused her in some way.
I collapsed to my knees, as I watched my beloved Molly be dragged away through the storm into a police cruiser. I was left alone in that bar on the moist tiled floor in the thick silence, sobbing silently to myself. I set the dainty diamond ring on the grimy floor and listened as the rain continued relentlessly drumming on the illuminated windows.