Murder at the Chanticleer Club
By E.O. Costello, M. Mitchell Marmel, and Walter Reimer
(© 2011 E.O. Costello, M. Mitchell Marmel, & Walter Reimer)
(Characters © 2011 their respective owners)
(This here’s what yez call onea dem works of fiction.
Any resemblance to anybody, live or dead, well, dat’s too bad for them, hanh?)
Dey say it takes all kinds t' make a world.
An' in my racket, you meet most of 'em.
It was Monday, June ninth o’ thirty-seven. It was hot on Meeting Island. We wuz working th' day watch outta th' Detectin' Bureau. My boss an' partner is Inspector Stagg. The Chief is Charley Sapper. My name's Brush.
"Inspector? Sergeant? Excuse me, but the Chief would like to see you both in his office."
Dis was Ciss Lopp, th' secretary for th' Detectin' Bureau. A cute kid. Little sweet on th' Inspector.
I grabs my jacket. "He say why?"
Stagg just raised an eyebrow as he finished signing off on the Bromsky caper and putting th' file in th' OUT box afore grabbin' his cane an' gettin' up.
Ciss just smiled and shook her head. "He didn’t say, other than it was important."
I squared off my shoulders and grunted. "Hoo-boy. In th’ mornin’, in th’ evenin’, ain’t we got fun."
Ciss just giggled as th' door closed behind us.
Chief Sapper kinda grinned at us as we walked in. "Inspector Stagg! Sergeant Brush! Please, come in. Take a pew."
The Chief's grin faded.
"We've gotten a call. Apparent homicide over on Moon Island."
Th' Inspector raised an eyebrow up. "Apparent? The Syndicate base?"
Sapper shook his head. "No, although it would appear that one of the base personnel may be involved."
Stagg gave wit' a li’l nod. "Go on."
Sapper's face turned serious. "The incident took place at The Chanticleer Club-"
The Chief aimed a li’l smile my way as my ears flattened- "an establishment just north of the Syndicate base . . . but I see that Sergeant Brush knows of it." Sapper's smile gets wider. "Sergeant? Would you be so kind as to enlighten the Inspector?"
And looks at my paws. "See, sir, it’s like this . . . y’know th’ Double Lotus?"
Stagg just grinned. 'Course he knew; his girlfriend useta work there. "Well, sir . . . Chanticleer Club’s like that, sort of – ‘cept they’re men only, iffen y’know what I means." I blushed deep red.
Stagg’s ears twitched. He musta seen somethin’ like it in New Haven, ‘fore things went bust there. "I . . . see," he said careful-like in a dry kinda voice. "Do we know any of the circumstances surrounding the incident, Sir?"
"For the last time, Franklin, call me Charles," Sapper said wit' a grin. "You’re the same age as my older brother, by God." Stagg just gave him a li’l smile. Sapper kept goin'. "In any event, the manager of the place, fellow called Eddie Nelson, called asking for me personally and reported that one of their members had been found dead in his room. He told me that he had forbidden the members there on the premises to leave and had sealed the room pending your arrival."
I raised an eyebrow. "Mighty fast work, sir."
Stagg nodded, agreeing wit' me.
"Damned good police technique for a civilian, yes, and it’s to Nelson’s credit," Sapper sez. "Of course, I did hear once that he’d been in the constabulary back in Canada before coming into money and moving out here . . . but that’s neither here nor there. There should be a water taxi waiting for you at the dock. Report back as soon as you have anything."
I clears my t’roat. "Chief, I gotta problem widdat place. Look, I can’t put a finger onnit, but there ain’t somethin’ healthy ‘bout dat joint, an’ I got some real personal ‘bjections ‘bout walkin’ in there. Ain’t no way I kin be objective, see?"
Dis earned me twin frowns from Stagg an' the Chief. "Your objections are noted, Sergeant," Sapper said ta me. "However, the Spontoon Islands Constabulary Detective Bureau investigates crime everywhere in the Islands regardless of species, creed or," he screwed up his kisser a li’l, "orientation. Like it or not, the Club’s here in the Spontoons."
He picked up a file. "So, off you go."
We wuz dismissed.
"It ain't that I'm tryin' to be a noodge, sir," I sez as I lugged a Murder Box outta the front door of HQ. "It's just . . . there's a feelin' 'bout that joint what makes my 'ackles go straight out, see? I ain't gonna be at one hunnert percent-like iffen I gotta worry bout . . . well, th’ feelin' 'round the place. Th' aura, like th' Wise Ones say."
Stagg gave wit' a nod as we headed for th' water taxis. "It’s all right, Sergeant. I must confess to being a bit reluctant myself. For, ah, somewhat different reasons. But a job is a job nonetheless."
I nodded unhappy-like as th' Inspector looked thoughtful-like. "You know, Sergeant, apart from that visit to the Naval Syndicate last year before our, ah, fishing expedition, I’ve never seen much of Moon Island-"
We wuz passin’ Luchow’s, an’ I steps between th’ Inspector an’ th’ gate as a rabbit buck, short wit’ a medium build, comes flyin’ outta th’ place, endin’ up puff over ears in th’ street.
Th’ owner (and Stagg’s main squeeze) comes out, dusting off her paws. “And STAY OUT!”
The rabbit straightens hisself out an’ gives her the whipped puppy-dog eyes, ears down. He sez, “Rosie . . . “
“Don’t ‘Rosie’ me, you little mamzer! Come around here again and you’ll go away diced,” and she waves a double pawful o’ claws at him. He gets t’ his feet an’ lopes off, lookin’ like he wuz about ta cry.
One thing I gotta give ta Rosie Baumgartner. She can switch her temper on an’ off like a lightbulb. "Good morning, Inspector!"
I hadda grin. Rosie allus brought a weird, fond look to Staggsy's kisser. Want my opinion, she's prolly th' best thing happened to the Old Buck since he set hoof on Spontoon. "And a good morning to you, Miss Baumgartner," he sez, tippin' his hat slightly. "You are well, I trust? Problems?"
Rosie grinned, her tail snapping back an' forth. "Very well, Inspector." She then grimaces like she’s fixin’ ta spit. “I hired this gonef, a so-called artist already, to paint a mural in the restaurant. Advertising for a kid’s menu.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” Stagg ventured.
“Yeah, it sounded good to me too – until this little k’nacker picked up his brushes.” She shook out her headfur. “That’s what I get for paying up front.”
“What was the problem?” Stagg asks.
“Come on in and see.” So we go on in an’ look.
I can see why she’d get her back up. Th’ guy painted a bunch o’ little bunnies, which yez would figure since he’s a rabbit.
But they wuz doin’ things ya normally see adults doin.’
Coupla th’ bunnies had weird colored fur, too.
I hadn’t seen anythin’ like it since the Mahokus had their last family get-together. Rosie’s cook, Russki rabbit named Nick, was grinning at the sight while my dimbulb budders B’onsss an’ K’nutt started whitewashin’ th’ walls. Her waitress, vixen named Vicky, was shakin’ her head.
“I . . . see,” sez Stagg.
Rosie shook her head. "I shoulda known better. It’ll take three coats of whitewash to cover them up.”
Stagg raises an eyebrow. "And you still engaged his services?"
Rosie opens her paws out in a helpless-type gesture. "What can I tell ya? He swore up and down he wasn’t doing that kind of thing any more. Little schlimazel. Well,” Rosie sez, dustin’ off her paws, “that’s taken care of my exercise for the day. May I say, Inspector, that you are looking very well this morning.”
We all grinned at dis. Stagg's new cotton suit was a present from Rosie a coupla months or so or back. Light an' breezy, which helped him cope wit' the hot weather. I hear tell Rosie had personally cut Stagg's old linen suit inna rags.
Stagg gave wit' a li’l bow. "Why, thank you. May I say your outfit . . . is most flattering as well?" Shoulda been. Stagg blew a buncha winnings* on it. (* See "Bachelorette Partying")
Rosie giggled. "What the hell, always wanted to dress up as a Deutscher biersmädchen. I hafta be careful with the bodice, though, if I stretch the wrong way, my boobs pop right -" She cut off as we both started blushing beet red. "Anyway, what brings you two out with -" she copped a peep at the Murder Box- "your magic bag of tricks?"
"Murder at th’ Chanticleer," I sez, uncomfortable-like.
Rosie's eyes got real wide. "Omigawd!" she gasped. "Is Eddie okay?"
"I believe Mister Nelson is the one who telephoned," Stagg told her ta reassure her.
"Ah, good," Rosie sez, relieved-like. "He and the boys are good folks." She gave me a sharp glance.
"Place gives you the willies, don't it?"
I nodded, all miserable.
"S'okay, Sarge," Rosie sez ta me. "Lotsa gals around here feel the same way about the Lotus." Bein’ a former bartender at the Double Lotus, Rosie knew what she was talkin' about. "H'm. I know the joint, even been there once. Want me to tag along?"
I shook my head, and Stagg looked kinda doubtful. "Er . . . Miss Baumgartner, from what I’ve heard it’s hardly the place –"
"No sweat, hon," Rosie said firmly. "Like I said, I know Eddie and the boys. Besides," and her eyes took on a li’l devilish look, "you need a Virgil to guide you through Hell." She whirled around and looked back over her shoulder. "Back inna minute – just need to change into something more suitable." Stagg raised a paw to stop her, but the cheetah was already inside and headin' up the stairs.
I gave Stagg a sour look. "Pretty enthusiastic, eh, sir?"
Stagg was watchin' her vanishin' tail real close. "She does seem to be full of surprises," he sez absent-like. "I had wondered where my copy of Dante had wandered off to . . . "
Say this, the dame changed fast. Stagg an' I did a double take as Rosie came out the back door. She was inna suit same as Stagg's, 'cept medium blue wit' thin white pinstripes an' a fedora over one eye.
I groaned. "Aw, jeez, it’s Junior G-Man time. Hey, how many box tops didja send in t’get dat outfit, hanh? Did it come wit’ a decoder ring?"
Rosie linked up her arm wit' Stagg. "Yeah, and I have a message for you: Little Orphan Airedale says Drink More Ovaltine," She made with a wide grin. "Shall we head for the water taxis, Inspector?"
Stagg still looked a li’l gobsmacked. ". . . I suppose we should."
Th' trip ta Moon Island was quiet.
I sorta sulked, Stagg looked thoughtful-like and Rosie got perkier as we got closer. Weird. The Chanticleer Club was onna north end of the island, wit' the naval base takin' up th' south tip of the island, goin' along the eastern shore up inna the forest.
As we got closer, I saw Stagg was givin' a coupla ack-ack batteries the eye.
"Yeah, th’ Syndicate’s got the whole joint lookin’ like a hedgehog with its back up."
Stagg gave a nod. "How many people live here, Sergeant? Other than the military, I mean."
I waggled a paw. "I’d say ‘bout a coupla hunnert or so. Mosta them either work on th’ base or have businesses here. Some farms," an’ I point at some terraces cut inna side o’ the ridge.
As we rounded the tip, I pointed. "There it is, sir."
Lotta trees there. Almost hid the roof of the joint, which sortakinda looked liked one 'a them plantation houses they got down South in the U. S. of A., 'cept it was built wit' darker local wood an' stone. The li’l dock had a sign readin' PRIVATE LANDING in several lingos.
Rosie called out to three furs walkin' out to meet us as the taxi got closer. "Oi! Eddie! You doing rough trade now?"
Slim greyhound in short sleeved shirt and gabardines frowned. "Not funny, Rosalie," he sez, stickin' out a paw to help Stagg outta the taxi. "Inspector Stagg? Eddie Nelson, manager of the Chanticleer Club." Coupla lugs wit' Nelson. Wolves. Both an inch taller than Stagg’s antlers, wider 'n me . . . and not an ounce of it fat. Nelson gave 'em a nod. "These are Bob and Ray, two of our bouncers. I have to say, I’m very pleased to meet you-whuf!"
Rosie had stepped outta the taxi and given him a big hug. "You okay, then, Eddileh?"
"Fine, fine," Nelson said, pullin' back from Rosie an' pattin' her padded shoulder. He gave her a good up and down look. "Didn't know you were doing drag these days."
Rosie made wit' the dimples. "Only in the line of duty."
Stagg looked kinda, ta quote the song, bemused, bothered and bewildered. "And this is Sergeant Brush, Mr. Nelson. I wasn’t aware your establishment needed such visible security."
Nelson smiled a little. "Ordinarily we don’t, Inspector. However, we serve a certain . . . clientele. At times, movie stars or performers may stop here for ah, some quiet time. Bob and Ray are here mainly to keep prying eyes away. Now, you probably want to see the room. Follow me, please."
"One moment, please," Stagg sez as he waved at me t' give Rosie th' Murder Box. "Sergeant, I would like you to interview the club’s management and staff. This looks as good a place as any. Miss Baumgartner and I . . . will take a look inside."
I breathed a quiet sigh of relief. "Yessir."
Rosie gimme a wink an' purred "Outside in the nice, fresh air, eh?" I just flattened my ears and gave her a Look.
Nelson looked a li’l surprised. "Um. Inspector. Rosalie isn't going to . . .?"
"Take a look at the deceased?" Rosie sez. "Eddie, I'm from the Lower East Side, remember? Won't be the first stiff I've seen."
Stagg took her off to one side. I cocked an ear as he sez, quiet-like, "Are you absolutely certain about this? I can handle things once we get inside."
Give the gal credit. She gave Stagg a brave li’l nod, even if she had gone a li’l pale. "If I'm going to be . . . well, with you, I figure . . ." Her voice went gruff-like. "Part of the territory, is all."
Just as I remembered from past visits, the dock ended at a wide path paved with stone flags and hedged in with well-tended greenery. Other paths branched off, making their way around the trees and some barely-visible benches.
After maybe thirty yards, we came up to the frangipani-lined front door. Yep, same dark wood as the rest of the place, but with leaded glass windows and, of course, the silver rooster sign on an ebony background.
Nelson opened the door with a theatrical flourish and bowed as we stepped in. "Welcome to the Chanticleer Club, Inspector!"
The guy in the cloakroom took our hats as Nelson proudly waved a paw around, showing the joint off. "The present incarnation of the clubhouse was built about ten years ago, and I’ve tried to maintain the standards."
"Looking good, Eddie," I said with a wink. "Been awhile since I've been here."
"Oh yes," Nelson said, nodding. "I certainly couldn’t forget that, Rosalie. This way, please," as he led us into the main lobby.
Stagg looked at me curiously. "Err . . . Rosalie?" he asked.
I looked a little sheepish. "We had sort of an intramural softball game about three years back. Lotus versus Chanticleer. One helluva lotta fun, to be sure." I looked around the lobby. "I can tell you one thing, this is a damned sight swankier than the Lotus . . ."
The lobby was a little smaller than you might expect in a hotel, but still stood two stories tall with an assortment of wicker chairs and small tables scattered around the ground level. The second story had a balcony running around its perimeter, and the number of doors told ya that the establishment was part hotel, part social club.
I made with a wolf-whistle. "Well! THAT's new!"
Franneleh’s ears blushed bright red. He's so adorable when he does that.
The statue was of a whitetail buck, and WHAT a buck! Well equipped and, as they say in the old romances, "proudly rampant." From its hooves to the tips of its antlers it musta stood twelve foot high if it was an inch, and stuck out . . . well, never mind. A waist-high railing ran around it. Nelson explained, "One of our members is a noted sculptor, and he made this especially for us. Many were, um, rubbing it for good luck, so we had to put a railing around it."
"For whose protection?" I stared at it, mesmerized. "Now THERE'S a thirteen pointer . . ." I gave Franneleh a Significant Look and slowly licked my lips.
If possible, he blushed even redder. "Not even in my prime."
"We could try . . ."
"No. Let’s not mix business and pleasure, shall we?"
"Spoilsport," I teased. "Pleasure later, then."
A pair of gophers dolled up in tuxedos had been admiring the statue while we came in. They saw us coming and made for the main staircase as one asked, “Do you think that statue is accurate?”
“Oh, my, my, my, I don’t think so. Terrible problems for the tailor, simply terrible.”
The other paused, paw to chin, then nodded. “Oh, yes, well said. Well, would you think he dressed to the left or right?”
“Hmmm. Don’t you think, in this context, that ‘dress’ is ironic?”
“Ah, you are witty! Oh, certainly. I should think any element of wardrobe would be superfluous.” The two gophers proceeded up the stairs arm in arm and I had to bite my lower lip to keep from giggling.
We were looking at a pair of doors set up with the same crystal as the front door. Nice stuff! "This is the entrance to our lounge, bar and dining room," Eddie was saying. “Hallways to left and right lead to our game room and other areas."
Franklin arched a brow. "Game room?"
Eddie smiles at him. "Billiards, Inspector. We aren’t blatant about what goes on here, and we have a strict code of conduct for all members and their guests while they are in the, ahem, public spaces." He led us down the right-paw hallway.
"Speaking of conduct, could you tell me what allegedly happened?" my buck was asking.
"As far as I know, last night one of our members, fellow named Truman Coyote – "
That pulled me up short. "The author?"
Eddie nodded. "Mr. Coyote brought a guest, a fellow from the base. Weasel; tall, thin chap with reddish-brown fur and brown headfur. I’d estimate five-nine, one-sixty pounds."
Franklin looked at him closely. "Your training shows. How long were you in the RCMP?"
A chuckle. "Ten years."
We rounded a corner and walked by a half-open door. I almost gaped; a feline wearing a British constable’s formal uniform tunic and helmet, but nothing else, strolled out and eyed us before hurriedly retreating and closing the door. "Good lord, Percy!" came a muffled exclamation. "There’s a woman out there!"
The muted reply could be heard. "I shall write *such* a letter to the Committee!"
A glance from Franneleh, and I stifled my laugh to a little snort.
Besides, some of the things I’d seen upstairs at the Lotus, who was I to snicker?
Up a wide flight of stairs, then the hallway went on for several yards. Franklin asked, "So, Mr. Coyote brought a guest in?"
"Yes. He often did. In any event, he was last seen alive in the bar at approximately nine last night, after dinner, having an argument with the weasel. From what I gathered from the bartender and several others, Mr. Coyote wanted to do a few things that the guest was, err, unwilling to do."
As we passed one room there was a slapping sound, followed by a shivering moan. The Inspector’s ears stood straight up and I had to blush. "Some people like the most curious things. Here we are." Nelson stopped at Room 303 and offered his passkey to Franklin while I opened the Murder Box and made sure there was film in the camera.
My buck gives me his version of the Significant Look. "Last chance . . ."
I gave his free paw a quick squeeze. "Whither thou goest . . ."
Eddie raised an eyebrow, a hint of an ironic smile on his muzzle, but said nothing.
The Inspector unlocked the door and nudged it fully open with his cane, surveying the room closely. "How many people were present when the body was found?" he asked.
"A housekeeper found him exactly as you see him," Nelson said. "As soon as I was told about it, I locked the door and told Bob and Ray not to let anyone leave the Club grounds until they’d given information to the police."
Franklin nodded approvingly and stepped into the room. "Have all of the members and their guests present been told about the incident yet?"
"Well, Inspector, typically everyone here is a late riser." I gave a short, deep chuckle at this, which prompted curious looks from the two guys in our party.
Swanky digs. The Chanticleer could compete with the Grand or Shepherd’s, as I could testify from my earlier visits. Standard sorta suite, sitting room, bedroom and bath. Scattered buncha papers on the desk, on top of which was a movie script with lots of notes and comments in the margins. Half-empty decanter, two glasses next to it, both used.
I bent down and sniffed at one. "Brandy, and not cheapo stuff either."
"Get pictures of the room. Use the ruler on the chalkboard for scale." I nodded and started with the happy snaps while Franklin and Nelson went on into the bedroom.
At the doorway my buck paused. His ears went straight down as his jaw tightened. I came up behind him and I felt my mouth fall open.
The late Mr. Truman Coyote was lying in his fur and on his stomach, his paws cuffed behind his back. A collar was around his neck. His thighs were held apart by a short bar. His ankles were tied together and a rope ran from them to a little ring on the back of the collar. On a table next to the deceased there were some melted candles, a puddle of cold wax, and several clothespins.
The room reeked of stale musk. Two kinds, the dead man and one other’s.
I gave a worried glance over at Franneleh. Despite his years of experience, I kinda doubted he’d ever run into something like this before.
"Is this – " Franklin paused, shuddered, and swallowed. "WAS this normal for Mr. Coyote?"
"I do know that he liked being tied up," Eddie said, "but whoever tied him either forgot or didn’t know the first rule."
"Club rule or, ah, general rule?"
"General rule, and a sine qua non: Never leave the partner unattended. As I’m sure you know, the body can’t hold a posture like that for long without putting pressure on the neck. After a while, you strangle yourself."
"Whoever did this may have wanted it to look just like that.”
I whistled respectfully. "Now that's a guy who's well hung -" Stagg glared at me. "Sorry, slipped out."
"Hmpf. Miss Baumgartner, get pictures of the body and the room in general. Don't use the chalkboard near the body yet, though. Then we'll see what the late Mr. Coyote can tell us."
"Righto, Boss." I busied myself with putting another flashbulb in the camera.
Franklin was looking around inside the bathroom "Mr. Nelson, what did you do after you locked this room?"
"I notified the membership, the ones that were up, then called the base to tell them that there might be a problem with one of their people. Standing orders have been left for members waking up later this morning."
"And the name of the sailor?"
"Richard Marten, usually called Dick." I managed to suppress my snicker, mostly successfully. "He’s usually the guest of another one of our members, a Daniel Roan, but Dan’s out of the country right now. Business trip, I think."
I had to lighten the mood a bit, so I aimed the camera at Coyote’s slack-jawed kisser. "Come on, baby, smile pretty for the camera!"
"Cool customer, our Rosalie," Nelson muttered quietly.
Franklin nodded shortly, eyeing me in an odd way. "Almost too cool . . . Miss Baumgartner, hold on one moment." Taking the camera out of my paws, he placed the blackboard/ruler near a seemingly empty part of the bed, and took a few photographs of it from different angles before giving the camera back.
"Right. Rubber gloves on, now." I watched as he started to go over the body, first concentrating on the knot that secured the rope to the collar. He then had me take some really close-up photographs of the collar and the knots. "Pass me those heavy shears, please," and he cut the collar from the body, then severed the rope several inches from the knot.
I held a bag open for the collar and rope, and Franklin sealed it. "Now . . ." He used his fingers to brush back the fur on Coyote’s neck. "See these, Miss Baumgartner?" he asked, pointing to a series of parallel red welts. I nodded, raising the camera for a snap. He continued. "Mr. Nelson is quite correct. As Mr. Coyote got tired, he put more weight on the collar. It shut off the blood supply to his head, and he passed out. That put all of his weight on the collar, and it shut off his air."
"So his death was an accident?" I asked. I guess I was starting to look a bit pale.
All of a sudden, I was starting to FEEL a bit pale.
"We won’t know until we’ve talked with everyone in this place, as well as had a chat with Mr. Marten," Franklin replied, using tweezers to pick up a clump of fur from the dead man’s thigh, and another from the red velvet duvet that covered the bed’s satin sheets.
I ran a paw over the sheets. I love the feel of satin. "I still can’t get over the décor in this place. Seriously, a bed to die for."
Franklin quirked a smile at me. "How does the saying go? ‘Another crack like that, Angel, and you can go sit in the car.’ "
I laughed. Sounded a little brittle. Forced, even.
Stagg looked at another clump of fur. "Mr. Nelson, you said that Marten’s fur was reddish-brown?"
Stagg nodded as he put the last fur sample in an envelope. "You can send for an ambulance now, Mr. Nelson."
I made one more attempt to keep my mind off the dead doggy, and laughed. Sounded funny, sort of gruff – more like a growl than a laugh. "Better make it quick, though. If rigor mortis sets in, yer gonna need one funny-shaped coffin."
The Inspector turned and gave me a peculiar, searching look. Shaking his head, he went into the sitting room to test various objects for fingerprints.
After cutting the late Mr. Coyote’s bonds, the ambulance crew showed up. They didn’t have any trouble in straightening the corpse out to fit the stretcher. Franklin added the evidence bag containing the collar for Dr. Meffit to analyze.
As we headed back down the hallway we paused, nostrils twitching. Gopher musk. Soft noises, too, coming from a room whose door was slightly ajar. Suddenly a voice could be heard.
“You know, I believe a state of arrival is very much imminent."
"Such a coincidence, I am operating under the same belief."
"Shall we arrive in tandem?"
What followed was a series of grunts as Eddie pulled the door closed. “You’ll have to excuse them,” he explained. “They’re very friendly, but somewhat naïve.”
“Didn’t seem all that naïve to me,” I sniffed.
Nelson shrugged and said to Stagg, "I hope you’ll be able to solve this, Inspector. We’ve never had anything like this ever happen, and our reputation is on the line."
"We’ll do all we can, Mr. Nelson," Stagg said. "We’ll head over to the base now, and interview Marten."
We collected our hats at the foyer and walked out to the dock in time to see Durian-Face facing off against the two wolves, who were looking at him with bemused expressions.
Aw, there’s GOTTA be a story there.
"Awright, ya bums- back off or ya gets to meet Headache Maker up close an' personal-like," I growls ta the twoa dem. My ears hadn’t stopped layin’ back since I wrapped up talkin’ with th’ last of the ‘guests.’ Damn, they gave me da creeps.
The tallera th’ two, Bob, laughs an’ waves his damn tailfur at me. "Promises, promises, ya little tease."
Ray chuckled and said, "Ya goin' ta show us yer blackjack? Ya show yers, an' I'll show mine." He winked. "I get off work at five."
I starts ta growl again when I sees th’ Inspector an’ Miz Baumgartner headin’ up the dock.
T’ank th’ Gods.
“Anything useful, Sergeant?” Stagg asks, leaning on his cane.
"One o' th' members says that he seen a guy leavin' by th' side gate near 'nuff round eleven - hey!" I turn and glare at Ray, who laughs and tries lookin’ innocent.
Yeah, innocent as a baby – baby rat, that is.
"Ray," Nelson warns him, "remember - paws off the police. He's not a member, after all."
"Sorry, Mr. Nelson," the wolf says, soundin’ like an altarkit caught smokin’. "He's got cute tailfur, is all."
I bites back what I wanna say and just rub th’ seat of my pants. "Yeah, why dontcha go hang by yer t’umbs. Write if ya get work."
The wolf whimpers like he’s scared.
I turns back t’Stagg.
"Anyhoo, sir, th' guy was described by all th’ folks what seen ‘im as a weasel, dark red fur an' wearin' what looked like a Syndicate uniform." I close my notebook an’ ask Rosie, "How'd ya like yer first?" Can’t help but chuckle at the green showin’ on her nosepad.
"Don'wannatalkboutit." Aw, little kitty’s prolly got a stomach upset, an’ she ain’t as bouncy as she was afore she went inside. She asks Stagg, "Where . . . to next? The base?"
"That's the logical destination," the buck said.
Rosie got greener th’ further we got from the Chanticleer.
"Did I actually volunteer to photograph a corpse?"
"Thought so." Her breakfast hit th’ water.
Stagg patted her back soothingly. "You actually did quite well for your first murder."
"How many murders have you investigated?"
"Counting Mr. Coyote?"
Stagg thinks a bit, like he’s doin’ sums in his head. "My off-paw guess is about one hundred and forty-six."
Rosie manages this weak smile. "Guess I have some catching up to do." She leaned back over the rail, tryin’ to add last night's dinner to her breakfast.
Long time ‘go, I hears this word bein’ used that ain’t English nor Spontoonie, ‘shady-froodah’ or sumpin’ like that. Means yez get a kick outta someone else’s getting’ th’ short end of th’ stick.
Watchin’ th’ cheetah vent was fun, but th’ Inspector had evidence with him, so I looks it over. "Interestin' stuff, sir.”
When he’s on a murder case, Stagg’s almost like a Wise One, real cagey-like with his talk. "I have some interesting data, and I'm thinking through what I'd like to ask Mr. Marten when I see him. Which reminds me, Sergeant; do you see that lanyard coiled and hung over there, on the hook?" He points to the rope. "Could you please cut a length of it, about . . . oh, eighteen inches long?"
Taxi driver thinks first I’m gonna rob him when I pulls a blade from my sock. When I lets him know what I plan on doin’ he gets loud in Spontoonie. Well, I ain’t havin’ none o’ that, but he’s my people, yassee, an’ th’ rope’s part o’ his livin’. So I tell him a few t’ings and cut a length o’ rope from the coil. I gives it to Stagg, who stashes it in his pocket.
By this time, Rosie finishes up upchuckin’ an’ looks all grateful when Stagg passes her his pawkerchief. She sees me grinning at her and she sproings a pawful o’ claws at me an’ growls, "Well? What are you laughin' at?"
"Me? I'm laughin' while I'm waitin' fer youse t'pay th' driver fer a hunka rope." She looks at me sorta confused an’ irritated, so I rubs it in a bit. "No myst’ry why ya didn’t catch it – ya were heavin’ yer dinner. Welcome t'th' glam'rous world o' detectin', toots."
My chuckle an’ her growl get cut short by Stagg tappin’ his walking stick on the water taxi floor.
At the RINS base, I made it a point to take the conference room chair next to Franneleh and away from Durian Face, who just grinned at me.
I stuck my tongue out at him.
“Children,” my sweetie murmured in his best Inspector Stagg tones, “behave yourselves . . . “
Just then, two shore patrol furs (big, strapping guys!) escorted in a muscular weasel wearing pawcuffs.
Good-looking guy, at that.
As the bracelets came off and the weasel took a seat, Franklin flipped his notebook open and jotted a few notes. “You are Richard Marten? Alias Dick Marten?"
The weasel looked nervous and a little shifty. Which is kinda normal for weasels, I s’pose. "Yes."
I had brought a notebook, too. Nothing like playing the part to the hilt, after all. Jotted down a thought: Shame?
Franneleh gave the weasel a thoughtful look. "I assure you, Mr. Marten, that at this point in time we are merely making inquiries. I'm curious as to why you might be afraid or nervous. After all, according to your file," and he looked over the weasel’s file in front of him, "you are a ten-year veteran, you hold the rank of petty officer, and you have a number of letters of commendation."
Marten nodded faintly. "And one accusation of murder. Inspector Stagg."
Franneleh nodded and jotted a note. "Ah. You know who I am?"
The weasel shrugged. "Folks talk, Inspector. And I know what your job is. No offense, but being hauled out of a brig to talk to a police detective doesn't make a guy leap about for joy."
"Understandable, Petty Officer." Franneleh took pains to use his title. "From my standpoint, you are a material witness to this crime, the RINS' point of view notwithstanding. It's all for the best that we get . . ." Franklin paused and thought a moment. ". . . that we get to the truth of the matter."
"Now, then. Did you know the deceased, Truman Coyote?"
Marten chose his words. "Yessir. It'd be about 17 months or so. Dan . . . um, that's Dan Roan . . . he introduced us during the Club's annual Christmas Party."
"For the record, that's The Chanticleer Club?"
"Are you a member there?"
The weasel shifted a little uneasily in his seat. "I dunno how much you know about the Club, sir. I mean, the members there are usually pretty rich and all that. The annual fees, well, I couldn't pay 'em on a petty officer's salary. They've got some sort of tradition, though. Furs that can't pay, but have been guests a lot . . . well, they aren't members, exactly, but we can . . . um, use the facilities just like members. Mr. Nelson would probably back me up on that."
It’d be like Eddie. He’s good people.
Franneleh nodded, and made a note. "So, in general, you're a familiar sight at the Club?"
"Yessir. My ship, the Proudhon, is based out of Moon Island."
"Do you see many individuals at the Club?"
Marten just gulped and studied his paws. Franneleh sighed. "I am not asking, Petty Officer, to browbeat you. The information from that question may help me locate other witnesses who can back your story."
Marten sighed. "Well, Dan Roan and I have been friends for a bunch of years now, and Mr. Coyote and I have . . . well, were, friends for a year and a half or so. Occasionally, well, when they aren't there . . ."
Franneleh nodded. It took a few minutes, but there was finally a quick discussion of names. Some I knew, some I didn’t, a couple were a surprise to me. Franneleh moved on to another point. "Would there have been any jealousies involving you, Mr. Marten?"
"From Mr. Coyote? I don't think so. He was kind of a free spirit, anyway. As for Mr. Roan, well, he always said that when he wasn't around, the Club should be my home."
"And you've been involved in no incidents, nothing that would go down in The Member's Book or such?"
The sailor shook his head. "Nossir. Look, sir. There's no way in hell I could ever afford the Club on my salary. You know about The Purple Oyster?” [I did, and nothing good either.] “Then you know what kind of a difference there is. The Club, well, that's a home away from home to me, and I'm very happy there."
My buck nodded, making more notes. "Let's talk about the night in question. You were, I assume, on liberty from your ship?"
"Yessir, 48 hour pass. Shore Patrol will have it in its records, includin' the times I checked in and out of the base."
"Yes, so I see. So you visited the Club directly from the base?"
"Yessir. I...well, they keep a few dress uniforms for me there."
"Well, I'm a regular and . . . well, they've got some standards, sir. Guys like me, we have to wear our uniforms in public spaces." Marten made a slow smile. "I gotta say, the Club does a real good job of makin' the uniform crisp and starched. I've been bailed out of more than one snap inspection by the guys down in the laundry."
"So, you arrived at the Club. This probably would have been, what, the day before the incident?"
"What did you do?"
"Well, lessee, I had a steak and a baked potato for lunch, with some of the Club's beer -"
I couldn’t help myself. "Better than Seathl beer?"
To my surprise, Marten nods. "They brew a weissbier that's better'n anything I've had at home, ma'am."
Stagg nodded. "And you found Mr. Roan was away on business?"
"Yessir, he'd left a note for me in my mail."
"You collect mail at the Club?"
"May I have permission to look at your mail, Petty Officer?"
This . . . well, this pissed the weasel off for a sec, then he looked scared. He looked at Franneleh again, sighed and nodded tightly.
"I appreciate your cooperation, Petty Officer. The contents will remain confidential. Now then: having determined Mr. Roan was not on the premises, what then?"
"Well, I had a long walk around the gardens and such. I mean, some of the more open spaces. You don't wanna disturb anyone else when they're . . . well, busy."
I nodded. "Yeah. I hear ya."
"Did anyone see you at this activity, Petty Officer?"
The sailor thought. "One, two of the gardeners, maybe. Oh! Probably Lucius Grebe. He had his typewriter in one corner of the garden, and was blazing away."
Durian Face and I looked at each other in surprise as Franklin’s jaw visibly tightened at the name. The weasel looked puzzled, but kept quiet.
Franneleh sighed. "Thank you. This occupied you until what hour?"
"About, maybe, six. Did a little reading in the Club's library, then had a washup, then went into the dining room, again. They have a table there for . . . um, unattached guys."
A nod from Franneleh, who motioned the weasel to go on. "Well, sir, I'd sat down there, when Mr. Coyote saw that I was at that table, and had a waiter bring me over to his table. We had dinner, and . . . well, we went up to his room."
"Which room was that?"
The weasel nearly lost it. "What the hell do you think happened?"
Guess he had a few bad moments in his life.
Franklin looked at his pencil in his paws. "Rather than speculate, I’d prefer to hear the details from you.”
Marten breathed a few times.
Then he went into details.
Including the use of a candle.
Brush went out early on, saying he wanted a smoke.
Me, I took VERY careful notes.
"And the next day?"
"I didn't hate myself in the morning, Inspector, if that's what you're asking."
"No, I'm not."
The weasel looked at Franneleh’s level gaze, and nodded. "Well, I went for a long swim in the pool, near the Ruins. Did some sunbathing, and a bit of exercise. Mr. Coyote was busy working on some project for Azimuth, so I didn't want to disturb him. It wasn't like Mr. Grebe, he likes working in quiet."
"And you took your meals . . .?"
"Breakfast was with Mr. Coyote. Lunch was served at poolside, and I signed for a few drinks in mid-afternoon."
"Eventually, though, you left poolside?"
"I dressed for dinner, yes. I was at the eight o'clock seating."
"At the unattached table?"
"No, with Mr. Coyote."
"And what happened?"
"Mr. Coyote first talked about the script he was working on, "The Final Mile" or such. Something about a pair of cross-country killers getting executed, and flashbacks to their crime. Anyhow, he started on that, but, well, he moved on to other things . . ."
At this point, Marten got more’n a little squirmy.
"Did Mr. Coyote ask you to do anything, Petty Officer?"
The weasel looked down at his paws for awhile. "Mr. Coyote, well, he liked a particular game. Now, see, Mr. Roan, he doesn't go in for any of that stuff, and, well, I'm kinda limited in that sort of thing."
"What was the game Mr. Coyote wanted to play?"
"He wanted to be hogtied. He liked the sensation of being helpless, he said."
"But you didn't like that, well, game?"
"No. I mean, there's just something . . . you know, degrading about it. That's not what I'm . . . well, that's not why I . . ." Marten just shrugged.
"And you and Mr. Coyote had an argument."
"Started at the dinner table, continued at the bar, and continued up in 303."
"So you were with Mr. Coyote, in his room, on the night in question."
"Did anything happen?"
Marten told us exactly what happened. In detail. Again, I took notes.
"But you didn't reciprocate?"
"Not the way Mr. Coyote wanted."
“So you left?"
"Yeah. Dunno if anyone heard me, though. Doors and walls are kinda thick, and you know, folks are occupied."
"So, there were many who saw you have the arguments in the bar, and some might have heard you leave."
"Yeah, I suppose. It was a good bit of back and forth. Coyote's got a tongue."
"Yeah, so I've heard," I said.
That earned me a hoof gently pressing down on my foot. "Having left 303, what did you do?"
"I went out for a smoke."
"Yeah, out. Nowhere in particular."
"Did anyone see you?"
"Did you go back inside the Club?"
"Yeah, during the morning. Changed clothes, had breakfast, reported back to the ship."
"What time was that?"
"About 0700, just after reveille."
"So, you didn't take the full 48 hours."
I passed a note to Franneleh: "Check laundry for old uniform?" He nodded, and turned back to Marten.
"Did you like Mr. Coyote?"
Marten thought for a bit, then shrugged. "He was sort of, well, you know, a Jekyll and Hyde kinda guy. One minute real nice, next minute, real bitchy. He'd take a lot outta anyone."
Franneleh made a few notes, then asked Marten to do something that surprised me. He had the guy stand up and place his paws on the table, bracing himself. Marten and Brush (who had returned from his smoke) looked just as surprised as me, but Franklin watched quietly, then asked me to take a picture of Marten’s paws as they were placed on the table.
"Strong fingers. Must be good for tying knots."
Marten's eyes flashed as he sat back down. "My old man, and his old man before him, they ran salmon boats. I was on the wharf near as old as I could walk. Bet yer sweet bippy I know how to tie knots."
Franklin reached into his pocket, and pulled out the length of rope he had had Brush cut (and I had to pay for). "Let's have a bowline, Petty Officer."
The weasel blinked. Fast paws. Franklin had me take a snap of the knot then stashed it in a bag. He went over and shook paws with the weasel then turned to leave. "Sergeant? Petty Officer Marten looks like he could use a cigarette."
This earned my buck a what-the-hell? look from Brush, but he fished his pack and matches outta his pockets an’ tossed them to the weasel. Marten grabbed ‘em out of the air with his right paw and lit one up. "Thanks, Sergeant," he said gratefully, tossing the smokes and matches back.
At the front desk, Franneleh signed out a copy of Marten's record, including his pawprints. I gave him my best puzzled look.
"Fran . . . I mean, Inspector, did you learn anything from all that? I mean, it seems . . ."
My beloved waved a paw. "There's a lot that 'seems' in this matter, Miss Baumgartner. But not all is as it appears."
Brush grinned. He had more experience than I did of my buck’s way of doing his job. "Back t'th' Club, sir?"
"No, Doctor Meffit's shop, I fancy."
The look of relief on Brush's face was a sight to behold.
Almost made up for having to pay for that rope.