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The Wolf Without Wings
Part 3
by E. O. Costello

The Wolf Without Wings
Part 3
by E.O. Costello
The following characters are © their owners:
E.O. Costello: Orrin F.X. Brush, A. Abel Pickering, Franklin J. Stagg,
Georgina Lupino, Dan Lupino, James Meffit, Thomas Vison
Richard Bartrop: Ilsa Klench
Kjartan Arnorsson: Bjorn

Wednesday, 1 August 1934 0755

     So, anyways: me 'n Stagg, we hadda take care of other t'ings resta yestiddy.  Nothin' major, usual crash-bang folks do when it's tourist season 'round here.  So I didn't hear nothin' 'bout th' Lupino case 'til I sits down in th' office this mornin'.

     Stagg runs down what he thinks we know:

(1) We gotta stiff wit' all sorts of injuries.  One of 'em is a busted skull.

(2) The plane th' stiff was flyin' in is missin' a ballpeen hammer from th' tool box, an' there's metal shavin's on the saw.

(3) Someone *coulda* pulled a switcheroo on th' doors in flight, and ain't no one gonna be th' wiser.

     I whistles.  "Think it's murder, then?"

     Stagg shakes his head.  "At this point, Sergeant, it's still too early to do anything but speculate.  After all, the hammer could have been missing before the fatal flight, and the shavings could have come from any number of places.  Personally, I am convinced that the door has been switched at one point or another, but we have no proof as to where, when or by whom. "  He gives wit' a sigh.  "And the late Mr. Lupino's injuries are not particularly illuminating in and of themselves."

     He looks outta th' winder (an' wrinkles his nose at th' dirt).  "What we haven't done so far, Sergeant, is investigate motives.  Including the most powerful motive for murder."

     "What, sex?"

     Th' Inspector gives me th' ghost of a smile.  "I sit corrected.  The SECOND most powerful motive for murder- money.  If I recall correctly, you indicated that that the late Mr. Lupino had wide-ranging interests here in the Islands."

     "Yeah, that's right.  But th' bulk of 'em, they're tied up in his banks, th' ones th' boys at th'  Finance Min'stry are goin' over real careful.  There's Shepherd's Hotel, too..."

     Stagg gives a kinda wry smile.  "Ah, yes.  Shepherd's.  Doing a fair trade, judging from the clientele and the bookings."  See, th' Althing wuz puttin' him there fer now.  "Needless to say, the dining room is out of my budget."

      Didn't say nothin' 'bout th' punk of a maitre d'hotel they got there.  Best not t'introduce him.

     Stagg looks thoughtful .  "Sergeant, did the hotel open on time?"

     "Yessir.  Opened on time, an' more or less on budget.  Still, tho, rumour has it, it was takin' a lotta his cash.  No casino, neither."

     Stagg raises an eyebrow.  "Rather a surprise."

     "Dunno why.  Guess he felt it didn't go wid' th' joint.  Me, I'd figger a carpet joint would do gangbusters there."

     Stagg nods.  "Do we know who the financier or financiers are?"

     "Well, his own bank, fer starters.  Folks were gettin' edgy 'bout that.  Bishop Bank an' Trust down in 'lulu did the rest."

     "So, no shady finance?"

     I shakes my head.  "None that I seen or heard."

    "But he *was* stretched?"

    I nods. "Yeah.  High livin' an' all that.  Them suites at the Marleybone ain't cheap."

     Stagg frowns.  "Odd that a hotel owner wouldn't, to mix metaphors, eat his own cooking..."

1 August 1934 0910

     Stagg has me make a phone call'r two, 'fore offices open official-like.  Y'know, avoidin' lines an' such.  Simple stuff.  Number One, Lupino's will ain't been filed yet wit' th' boys that whack up th' goodies after someone 'sumes room temp.  So, that bit o' info tells me t' makes call Number Two, t' th' offices o' Vison Brothers.

     Y'recall when I says that Doc Meffit is th' pill-roller for high society 'round here?  Well, Tom Vison...'scuse me, Thomas Vison, Esq., he's th' go-to lad for when folks gotta figger out a way t'make things all nice 'n proper.  'Course, these are th' folks who knows what fork t'use, iffen ya knows what I mean.  Not fer th' likes o' Orrin F.X. Brush, lemme tellya.  I ain't gettin' very far wit' th' sniffy lil' babe who answers th' phone, so Stagg takes th' line.  Now, see, there's th' good o' havin' a kinda high-class accent like Stagg has.  Takes him no time t'get an appointment.  An' fast, an' now.  Oh, well.  Too late fer me t'develop that kinda palaver, know what I means?

1 August 1934 1005

     I oncet heard that some guy writ somethin' 'bout some dame havin' a voice like money.  Well, that suits Vison.  Suit tailored just so.  Flower in buttonhole, just so.  Polish onna nice, clean desk, a fur could check hisself in th' reflection.  Lotsa bookcases, lotsa leather-bound books.  Fur brushed, just so.  He don't pay no attention t'me, 'course.  I'm just a local, see?  He sorta looks at Stagg o'er his pince-nez, takin' in Stagg's getup.  Don't quite meet muster, but ya can see he ain't gonna be rude an' actually say it, like.  Th' way he folds his paws up says it all, see?

     "Thank you for making time for us, Mr. Vison..."

     "Of course, Inspector.  Welcome to the Islands, by the way.  I am sure, given our mutual professions, we will see each other many times.  Hopefully, not too many.  Some coffee, Inspector?"

     "No, thank you.  Sergeant?"  Heh.  Makes Mr. Slick notice me.  Naw, I ain't gonna dirty up his nice china.  And I don't wanna be searched when I leaves fer any silverware.

     Stagg gets to th' point.  "I shan't waste your time, Mr. Vison.  I am interested in seeing a copy of Mr. Lupino's will, the one that I am certain will be admitted to probate shortly.  If at all possible, a copy which I may take wth me, in fact."

     Vison waves a paw, gracious like.  Showin' off his nice claws.  Bet he's got some dame who takes real good care o' em.  An' other things.  Lotta that goin' round.

     "Multiple copies were made at the time of execution, Inspector.  It would be no problem whatsoever to provide you with a copy.  In point of fact, I have one right here."

     "Admirable foresight, Mr. Vison."

     "Well, Inspector, it's not hard to guess the purpose of your visit, given recent events."

     Wit' a flourish, out comes a sheaf o' papers, neat-bound wit' a blue-back, an' no doubt some fancy red seal on th' last page.  Stagg takes it, flips t'ru a few pages, an' checks somethin' on th' first page.

      "Hmmm.  Dated May 17, 1929.  Quite some time ago."


     Stagg furrows his brow.  "Mr. Lupino never updated his estate planning?"

     A faint half-frown on th' mouthpiece's mug.  "Nothing was ever finalized, Inspector.  Hence, that is the will that will be admitted to probate."

     "I see.  You say nothing was ever "finalized," Mr. Vison.  That implies discussions took place, does it not?"

     Look o'er th' glasses at th' Inspector.  "Yes.  Well, there is the concept of the attorney-client privilege, Inspector, which says..."

     Stagg looks a lil' smug.  "You need not explain it to me, Mr. Vison.  I do have an LL.B."  I makes a mental note t' ask what that means later.

     *That* gets an eyebrow raise.  Counts as real emotion from this one.

     Stagg leans fowards.  "Was Mrs. Lupino your client, as well?"

     Shift in th' chair, fingers form a lil' tent.  "No, she was not.  Her affairs are handled out of Richmond, Virginia.  Family trust, you see."

    Stagg nods.   "So, only Mr. Lupino was your client.  And he is now dead."

     "That is so, Inspector.  I see what you are driving at, however.  I think you will find that if you claim the death of Mr. Lupino allows me to breach the confidences he placed in my paws, you will get an argument from me.  In court."

     Stagg looks down at his hooves, an' fingers his cane.  After a few seconds, he looks up.

     "Just so.  My apologies, Mr. Vison.  I shall have to pursue other avenues of investigation.  Naturally,  this will have a bearing on my grand jury testimony..."

     "Ah, yes.  That will be soon, won't it?"

     A frosty half-smile from Stagg.  "Quite soon, yes.  Naturally, the present evidence leads me to the conclusion that Mr. Lupino either met with foul play or committed suicide.  The occurrences on the fatal flight were clearly no accident."

     Now, y'can see this gets Mr. Slick's attention, *real* fast.  "Beg pardon, Inspector?"

    I c'n see a lil' gleam of mischief in Stagg's eye.   "I am certain, Mr. Vison, that you have as much experience with insurance companies as I do.  They are quick to take in cheques, and very slow to pay them out.  Anything in the nature of an open question will usually trigger home office enquiries.  After all, most life insurance policies have extensive clauses governing suicides and murders.  They have a tendency to delay things, do they not?"

    Vison frowns, an' starts tapping his claws on his nice, polished desk.

    "So," he says, real quiet, "in one fold is peace, and the other war, and I get to take my pick, Inspector?"

     "This is not a case of Carthago delanda est, Mr. Vison.  After all, I have a duty to find out what happened to your client.  Our interests are not in opposition.  Not necessarily, in any event."

     Vison frowns some more, then gets up, an' starts lookin' t'ru a bunch a small, shiny japanned boxes in th' corner.  Pulls out one, opens it, takes out a batch o' papers wrapped in red tape.

     "...About four months ago, Mr. Lupino  came to me and indicated he wanted to update, as you say, his estate plan.  He marked up one copy of his old will, and we had had some conversations about it.  A third draft was waiting for his review.  It is on top of the bundle of papers here, Inspector.  I will have a clerk wrap them up for you."

     A lil' mouse comes in, an' quick as a wink, th' docs are taken out, an' brought back in, wrapped all neat in a tied bundle.  Some trick.  Wunner if he got his start in a laundry.  Stagg writes out a receipt, all legal-like.  That gets Vison's attention, too.

    Stagg leans on his cane an' stands up t' leave.  "Oh, Mr. Vison?  How much do you know about Dan Lupino?"

     Now, *there's* a real frown.

     "Between the two of us, Inspector, he's a pile of spraint.  Spoiled little brat.  Drinks too much, chases tails too much.  He went to my old school, St. Paul's.  Unlike me, *he* didn't graduate."

     "Yes, Sergeant Brush here implied that he was thrown out of school.  Any reason?"

     "Getting caught in flagrante in one's rooms is usually a good reason, Inspector.  It was so in my day, and even today, when standards have slipped."

    Stagg frowned disapprovin'-like.   "I take it Mr. Lupino was not amused."

    "No one likes wasting a few thousand dollars on a wastrel, Inspector.  Still less an arrogant little puppy.  Mr. Lupino was, as you say, not amused.  Neither was Mrs. Lupino, to be sure.  Words have been exchanged among the family.  Some of them in this room."

     Boy, gettin' some idea of just how much fun this family wuz.

1 August 1934 1240

     I lookited after some minor stuff that had piled up while th' Inspector had a looksee at what Vison gave 'im.  Also had t'field a call from th' Chief.  Seems like he's gettin' a bit antsy 'bout progress.  Seemed like Stagg wuz able t'calm him down some.  Someone else'll finish th'job, iffen ya know whut I mean.

     I knew a bit o' info 'bout Dan that th' Inspector didn't.  Guy like me, I hears a lotta gossip, stuff that don't make th' papers.

     "I knows why Vison was so damn sore 'bout Dan Lupino, Sir."

     Stagg looks up from his papers.  "Oh?"

      "Well, it's like this, see?  Vison's got a daughter, 'bout seventeen.  An' ya knows what fems are like at that age..."

      Th' Inspector made wit' a wince, audible-like.  "Erm. Ah.  So, you're saying that young Lupino..."

      "Wuz playin' fondle-slap wit' Tom Vison's lil' minkess, yeah.  See, most folks 'round these parts wouldn't pay it no neverminds, but her ma, she's Euro, an' she caught 'em right when he had his..."

     Stagg sighed, weary-like.  "I can extrapolate, thank you, Sergeant.  When did this happen?"

     "Oh, this happened while 'go, right 'fore we busted him, that time when y'arrived.  Fact is, he was prolly doin' it right 'round th' time his ol' man wuz fixin' t'come back. Vison's still steamin' 'bout it.  Iffen Ol' Man Lupino was still vertical, I'll bet he'da been none too happy, neither.  Story goin' 'round that Dan got one, mebbe two girls in trouble when he was in the States."

     Stagg sorta gets real quiet, an' stares at his hooves, thinkin'.  Looks sad fer a bit, an' then shakes his head.

     "Well, that last bit of information explains something, to be sure.  And certainly the first bit of information adds colour.  I've had a look at these two wills, the one that will be filed in a few days as well as the draft will.  Here.  Have a quick look and give me your...gut reaction."

     I has a look.  Yeah, few things jump outta th' page.

     "Damn.  Th' kid gets $5,000 a year, in'trest only, an' all the condoms he needs.  Bet that's a lot."

     "Compared with the present will, in which he receives half the estate immediately, and the other half when his mother passes away.  She gets, to use the legal phrase, a life interest in that half."

    "Yeah, but she don't do that well, neither, in th' new one.  Proceeds from life insurance, in trust, an' all th' personal kit an' stuff."

    "And all of the individual cash bequests in the 1929 will are not in the new will."

    "Changed his mind, or changed t'a skinflint."

    "Or was forced to change, Sergeant."

    "Ya figger?"

    Stagg looks down at his hooves.  His voice drops down near whisper--like.  "Lot of furs aren't what they were in 1929, Sergeant."  Looks up 'gain.  "I'm starting to get the impression that all was not what it seemed in the Lupino household.  A lot of show, to be sure.  I could understand Dan Lupino's drastically reduced position in the new will.  But the elimination of the cash bequests tells me something more than miserliness, Sergeant."

     "He ain't got th' foldin' stuff in th' till?"

     "Precisely," Stagg gave wit' a nod.  "Sergeant, I'd like you to spend the rest of the day doing two things, especially since you seem to be a veritable wellspring of local gossip.  First, I'd like you to find out if the late Mr. Lupino made any unusual dispositions of items, or cutbacks in his lifestyle.  Second, see what the gossip is on Mrs. Lupino.  I don't need the facts.  What I need is the gossip.  What's being told around Casino Island."

     "When you want I should tell ya what I finds?"

     Stagg looks a lil' sour.  "Oh, perhaps later tonight.  I expect to be here.  Late."

1 August 1934, 2155

     Had quite a lil' ol' budget o' news t'give th' Inspector.  An' yeah, he wuz stayin' late.  Thing is, we wuz doin' pretty good on th' paperwork.  We ain't done this well since ol' man Sapohatan's time.  'course, that ol' guy's a paperwork wizard, anyhoo.

     I lays it on th' line:

(1) Trust officer at Lupino's bank says, yeah, Lupino'd been sellin' off some blue-chips, gradual-like, goin' on two years.  Sold a small block o' bank stock t'a groupa locals 'bout four months previous, too.

(2) Lupino'd been late payin' off some bills, an' he ain't been late before.  Owes 'bout one grand t'Sup'rior, f'r example.  Good luck gettin' that.  Cancelled some work, too, on his fancy plane.  Kinda funny: he wuz gonna do somethin' about th' door.  Sup'rior sez he got th' same notice that Bjorn had told me about.

(3) Had a chat wit' th' valet.  Ain't no Christmas bonus, last year.  'count of th' Depression an' all.  Valet figgers kitties too meek t'say anythin'.  Pilot ain't happy, he had words, but then 'gain, he wuz always havin' words, so nobody paid it no neverminds.

(4)  Word is th' deal with the Germans was legit, as far as things go, but things was real slow comin' in, an' he wasn't gettin' no profit onnit.

    Result, says me: Art Lupino ain't 'gainst the wall, but he kin see its shada.  Stagg, who's takin' all this down (in his lil' paw-writin'), makes wit' a nod.  "As for Mrs. Lupino?"

     "Ain't a whole lot, Sir, 'ceptin' one lil' bit I gotta outta th' ricksha boss."  That's Po'na, he's onea my relatives.  'course, it ain't hard t'trace a link 'tween me an' another Spontoonie fox on th' Islands.  Big families, an' my folks been 'round here a long, long time.  Anyhoo, Po'na, I explains t'Stagg, runs th' ricksha drivers' union, so he knows what's what, leastways from that angle.

     "Po'na tells me, see, that th' Lupinos had their own ricksha driver, see?"

     "Instead of a chauffeur?"

     "Well, ain't real handy t'run onea them Packherds 'round here, knowwhutImean?"

     Stagg nods. "I follow."

     "Anyhoo, th' boy they gots for th' Lupinos, he's one big, strappin' fox.  Lotta muscles, see?  Y'gets that way haulin' them rickshas 'round.  Ain't no shirt, neither..."

    Stagg sighs, an' pinches th' bridge o' his muzzle wit' two fingers.  "Good Lord.  Don't tell me..."

     I grins.  "I don't gotta draw you a picture, do I?  Lupino never caught them two at it, but he had his thoughts.  Th' guy got th' sack.  Didn't need no ricksha, Lupino says."

     "Economy move."

     "Yeah, right.  I talks t'the guy hisself.  He didn't say yes, he didn't say no, but I seen that kinda shifty look from ricksha drivers 'fore.  Y'know how it is.  Mr. Euro comes in, he's in th' casino.  Mrs. Euro is bored, an'..."

     Stagg sorta sighs, an' rubs his ears.  "God's teeth, what a family."

     Onea th' boys on th' night shift pokes a muzzle 'round th' door.  "Hey, guys?  Remember that guy with the heater ya busted back on th' 28th?  He's been coolin' off since?  He wants to talk to ya, guys.  Somethin' on his mind."

     Stagg yawns an' looks at th' clock.  Which is broken.  I shows him my watch.

     "Well, Constable, tell the gentleman in question I would be pleased to have a breakfast meeting with him."

     Constable chuckles at that.  Runs off t'tell a few folks.  Oh yeah, an' the yegg, too.