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Edge of Midnight Monday: The Unmasking of Mr. G

by Azrael

Case One – The Death of Harry Fontaine

Chapter Eleven – The Unmasking of Mr. G

31st October, 1949

And now, for the thrilling finale in The Death of Harry Fontaine, read on …

POV: Shirley Homes – 30th

Despite James being initially sceptical of the new car, his wariness began to wear off and I suggested taking it for a test drive. I had my reports and expenses to deliver to Lady Valentine after all, and that would take us to a good part of town where hopefully there wouldn’t be too many Tongs around. He agreed, and as I got my papers in order Leo decided that he wanted to come along too. I was flattered that he offered; although I prefer to do things by myself I had to admit it would be a comfort to have Leo along. He stuck his head round the door to Jake’s room to get the okay from him… and one of the Tommy guns.

All set we headed to the classy part of gateway, downtown. It was nice to get out of the small basement and be doing something again. It didn’t take long until we pulled up to the large mansion, along the long gravel driveway. The door was opened by the butler at the front who invited us in. He was rather scathing, telling me to ensure I didn’t bleed everywhere. He showed us through to a drawing room where we waited for Ruby (after a few more veiled insults). We soon heard the clacking of her designer heels approach. She greeted me as disdainfully as she could manage, reserving a warmer greeting for James. At least soon she wouldn’t be able to consider me merely as the ‘hired help’. I presented her with my reports and expenses, but she insisted on a summary. Dissatisfied that I hadn’t been able to determine the identity of Mr G, who had ordered Harry’s death, she expected me to continue. Well, we had some clues, and clocking up a few days’ more fees was certainly tempting. She signed and stamped my expenses and directed me to take them to her accountant in town.

The guys were happy to take a little detour there before heading back. I also stopped off to make a slight addition to the sheet. I was greeted my Mr Hederich, who swept me into his back office as soon as he noticed Lady Valentine’s signature. After he had totalled the figures and entered them into a huge ledger I was presented with a banker’s draft for $175, the most money I’d had my hands on for almost a year. I wanted to take the opportunity while I was in town to open a bank account. Although the boys were getting a little fed up they were kind enough to wait for me in a nearby café. It was the least I could do to pick up the tab, and some donuts for later. Somewhat relieved, James then drove us back to Jake’s.

When we arrived I cheerfully handed the donuts over to Rocky. Having gotten such a hefty expenses list cleared had left me feeling rather elated, to the point where it wasn’t even hard being civil and talking to Jake Bullet. There was a fairly businesslike mood in his office; we acknowledged that just because we’d finished Nick ‘the Nail’ Andrews, Mr G wasn’t going to stop looking for us. We had to find and deal with him first. We bandied around ideas as to who he might be and how we could confirm his ‘real’ identity. Someone suggested that a photo of him could help.

“well, we know he’s going to end up at the Jade Lotus at some point, it shouldn’t be too hard to wait somewhere and take a picture.” I pointed out..

“Right,” Jake said, agreeing with me. “But we’d need to keep our distance so he doesn’t spot us. Does anyone have a telescopic lens?” James shook his head.

“I have a camera, but no telescopic lens,” I added. Jake gave me an odd look.

“Just when did you get this camera?” he enquired. I suddenly recalled how I’d deliberately put off buying it until after Jake’s payment so he wouldn’t take it instead. I quickly thought back… I didn’t think I’d mentioned it before, so I decided to play it down.

“Oh, it’s just some grotty old thing that I found in the office,” as I tried to cover I tilted my head to the side and brushed my hair back from my neck. The gesture was designed to pull my eyes away, to try and hide the deceit. However as I looked back at Jake I noticed the suspicious look fade as the movement brought his eyes downwards. He nodded, if he wasn’t entirely convinced it seemed he at least was going to drop the matter.

Glancing to the side I saw some kids returning home from school in their Halloween costumes. I was struck by inspiration, “we don’t need a telescopic lens, at least not tonight! If we wear costumes and cover our faces we could get close enough to take a picture without him recognising us.” James didn’t seem too taken with the idea, I could understand that he wouldn’t be keen to get that close to Mr G again. Well, I certainly wasn’t, not until I’d healed up some anyway. But the guys were determined to get that photo, and this was our best shot. Literally. “Come on, it’s Halloween, we’re not going to have another opportunity like this!” I pointed out. Jake asked me to call the Jade lotus and find out if there was an event on, if there was it’d be a sure thing Mr G would be there.

The operator put me through to the concierge at the club, we were in luck, tonight there was going to be a Halloween masquerade ball, in the theme of cops and robbers. I asked if we could have some tickets put on the door for us as Jake held up 3 fingers. He started making gestures to get me to ask how much the tickets were. I shook my head – if we were the sort that needed to ask that kind of thing we shouldn’t even be going. After giving a false name and address I hung up. I announced that the theme was cops and robbers to the others. James seemed flustered as to what to wear and I was elected to go out and get costumes. Getting the guys to make a note of their sizes and whether they’d prefer to be a cop or a robber, I asked if either Rocky or Leo could accompany me, Jake sent Rocky.

There wasn’t much left for hire, but I got the main things I wanted, including broad fabric masks which covered up a large part of the face. Returning to the apartment I handed out the large brown paper bags. James unpacked his first. He had a cat-burglar costume, black leggings, hat and mask, and a black and white striped top. Jake had a dress policeman’s uniform with a peaked cap. I helped the boys with their outfits, doing up zips as required. It said quite a lot for James’ anxiety that he let me coat his face with bronzer to try and change his skin tone. Once they’d finished I got changed, taking care to adjust my bandages so they didn’t’ show underneath, and to tuck all my hair into a long red wig I was also using for extra concealment. As I prepared I heard high pitched screams from the door – I guessed Jake was ‘tricking’ the kids; well, more fool them to come knocking on the mob’s door.

Taking a deep breath I stepped out to the main room. I hadn’t warned the guys just how… small my cop uniform was, but their reaction told me I’d picked the right one, I mean, the less attention on my face the better. Leo, who’d returned from changing the licence plates, recovered enough to pay me a compliment. Nice that one of them thought to do so!

Piling into the car I was getting more and more nervous about our mission this evening. I wasn’t the only one, James was rubbing his hands nervously. I wished I could have said something to help, but he had a lot of bad memories to deal with. Jake held his usual casual, carefree posture and I found myself wondering if he was troubled by anything and looking for any signs that what we were about to do phased him at all.

Arriving at the Jade lotus we saw that this event was bigger than I’d expected, crowds of reporters clustered around the door to snap at the famous faces gracing the club tonight. We joined the less conspicuous, slower queue to get our tickets. I recognised a few faces entering, not least Lady Ruby, with Giles as her escort. Blinded by flash bulbs, they fortunately didn’t spot us.

I’d never been inside the club until tonight, but it was spectacular, and even more impressive for all the decorations that had been put up. The room was already very busy, with quite a variation on the cops and robbers theme on display. I suggested losing ourselves in the crowd at the bar and getting some drinks in. while queuing we surreptitiously looked around, trying to spot Mr G. James spotted him first, on a table near the front of the room. He was joined by a woman with a distinctly sour look on her face and another gent. I could recognise him at least; Lt. Martin Dickerson, second in command to Captain Rosario Newman, who ran the 43rd precinct.

And there, just off the stage, chatting to the table was none other than Eliza. I could see why she’d be confused with Eva, certainly the superficial description matched, and the similar names could add confusion. I could also see why James had allowed himself to be led by her out the back of the club. Certainly all eyes on the table were focused on her, apart from the seated woman, who looked at her husband with false adoration while radiating envy.

I announced to the guys that I was taking my cocktail and sitting near the ladies’ room so I could intercept the jealous woman when she went in. I placed my glass on the table for it to be immediately joined by another one. I was puzzled for a moment, a little early in the evening for someone to approach me for company, did someone else want the table? Looking up I found myself face to face with Jake, making my breath catch.

“I thought I’d join you, it seemed polite,” he explained. I nodded, as awkward as it was it would save me fending off unwanted attention during the evening. Besides, the music was too loud here to be able to make small talk.

I didn’t have to wait long until the seated woman made a move. I excused myself and headed in first, fishing out my compact and powdering my face by the time she walked in. She stood next to me to use the mirror to touch up her lipstick. I broke the ice by complimenting her on the shade, and after a bit of small talk I take the plunge and introduce myself, “Bess Stockwell” I say, holding out my hand. She took it and replied, “Andrea Garton”.

I hope that is your real name, I thought to myself, because you, and the company at your table has just told us who your husband is.

I was going to introduce myself as a PI, but mid sentence I saw her react badly, a haunted expression passing across her face briefly. I changed it to explaining that I was told I would be a PI by my husband when he chose this costume for me. A look of understanding crossed her features, and she even gave me a backhanded compliment as to how the outfit didn’t suit me. We moaned about our respective husbands before returning to them. I seated myself with my back to the Gartons’ table and asked Jake if the name meant anything to him. He nodded, then told me he knew of a Detective Garton working for homicide in the Frying Pan, apparently with a reputation for being unbribable and incorruptible. “It seems he’s our number one suspect for Mr. G, if his wife isn’t wise to it,” I concluded. It was doubtful she was though, if she had hired Harry she clearly didn’t know why he’d be spending so long ‘at the office’. I also pointed out that she wasn’t afraid of bandying about her surname beginning with ‘G’. Oh yes, and that Jake was my husband. (So keep acting the way you are, aloof and with me only out of politeness, I mentally added).

“Anything else I should know about, just in case it comes up in conversation?” he asked, not seeming too happy with the falsity I’d thrown out.

“I told her you’d tricked me into wearing this costume by telling me it was a PI’s outfit…” As a necessary cover-up, I added to myself. We began discussing the need to stay at the Jade Lotus any longer. Apart from a photo, which didn’t seem so necessary now, we decided that we could leave long before the de-masking at midnight. I suggested that James could head out now and wait in the car as he was so unhappy here. Jake suggested that we stay a little longer. He didn’t give a reason, but for appearances’ sake I agreed.

I was just about to return to James at the bar when the imposing figure of Ruby Valentine bore down on our table. “Shirley!” she cried out loudly. “I didn’t expect to see you here”. I tried to shush her while Jake explained we were here undercover. However, she obviously wasn’t used to paying attention to those she spoke to, and continued to blurt just as the music set finished, I wondered if her voice had carried to the Garton’s table, but didn’t dare turn around to check. She headed off shortly after, but I guess the damage was done. “He’s coming over” muttered Jake so softly that his lips barely moved.

I sat keeping my back to him, hoping the bad light and the wig would prevent him from recognising me if he only had a brief glance. Jake however must have seen that he intended to come over as he grabbed my wrist and hauled me away from the table. I tensed, expecting to make a dash for a door, but instead he led me onto the dance floor. Trying to copy everyone else he adopted a suitable pose, but I realised that he was totally inexperienced as I moved my right hand down to place his left on my hip and raised my left hand to indicate he should take that. Doing so caused me to wince briefly, I’d left the sling in the car, but the wound in my shoulder was far from fully healed. Jake took my hand tightly and held my arm up for me, and I found my expression adopt the dreamy eyed smile I’d perfected for such occasions. Steering him through the crowd towards the door I looked over his shoulder, trying to spot an emergency exit, or something closer. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed ‘security’ personnel moving towards the dance floor. Jake’s steps became larger as he tried to move away from the Gartons, however that made us stand out even more.

Even so, we still weren’t going to get to the door first, not by being this subtle.

It seemed we were trapped again, right here in the middle of a Tong safehouse that we’d voluntarily, no – paid, to enter. Hopefully they haven’t spotted James, I thought, I’d hate for him to go through that again.

Suddenly the dancing crowd was swamped by balloons, ticker tape, spiders and netting. I guess one of the catches had come loose and prematurely released what had been suspended from the ceiling. This was our chance! With a brief look at each other Jake managed to convey that we should split up. I dashed for the door with the panicking crowd, making it outside and to the car shortly after James did. Jake emerged a few moments later, having slowly and more stealthily made his way out. However with the crowds spilled out the security. “Drive!” Jake commanded. “Err… who boss?!” asked Leo, confused by the panic. “You, you’re behind the wheel!” He pulled away as the Tongs hoped on bikes, obviously intent on following us. “Easy now,” Jake instructed, “don’t draw any attention to us.” Sure enough after noting down some details the bikes peeled off and returned to Eastowne, I guess not wanting to draw attention to themselves either.

Part way back Jake got Leo to pull over and change the plates back to the originals. Hopefully Mr G would be tied up for a few days while he figured out he’d been duped. When we returned to his apartment Jake vanished into his back room; I guess to use the horn as his voice came through occasionally. Given that we were still Mr G’s prime suspects he suggested we stayed at his again. James willingly agreed, I didn’t want to, but Jake did have a point. I headed to his room.

Making it clear I wasn’t happy with the arrangement I slept right on the edge of the bed again. Jake left me with quite a lot of space, however I suspected that was to lull me into a false sence of security rather than out of consideration.

Friday

Most of the city would probably be aghast at the front page news, but I derived immense comfort when I opened up my edition of the Gateway Post. Turned out homicide detective Garton had been shot in the course of an arrest. Happy circumstance or something more planned? Could it have been a co-incidence that shortly after a few of us learn Mr G’s true identity he bites the bullet? I myself had spent the last couple of days checking over the case notes, trying to find a way I could connect Garton to the Tongs with some solid proof. No doubt shortly I’d presented it to someone something unfortunate would have happened. I guess someone else had more direct means or resources. I thought back briefly to the comment made in the car on the way back from the Halloween ball, I’d expressed how lucky it was the balloons had been released from the ceiling just when we needed them, to which James replied, “Yes, it was, wasn’t it” rather pointedly. There was definitely a subtext there aimed at Jake. I didn’t know what had happened, although it did seem an extremely fortunate coincidence. Perhaps James had something to do with it, but what precisely I didn’t know.

Now that my research was somewhat moot I decided to kick back and enjoy the paper for the morning before I drew up my final expenses for Lady Ruby. Ah yes, I had one more thing to do today.

After lunch I strolled down to the far end of Snoops’ row. I adopted my usual sashay, although the confidence I exuded was false. I acknowledged the nods of greeting I got, and I could easily tell those that kept themselves apprised of the street’s scuttlebutt as they looked at me with an ‘I know what you’re off to do’ expression. Well, this time they’d be wrong.

Taking a deep breath I headed down the stairs to Jake’s office. I knocked, and after a few moments the door was answered by Rocky. Part of me was relieved Jake hadn’t answered the door himself as I just wanted to get this over and done with. So when Rocky called back to Jake’s room telling him I was here I quickly interjected, “it’s okay Rocky, no need to disturb him. Look, I brought these for you.” I handed over the bag of donuts I’d brought over. He took them gratefully. “And could you give this to Jake please?” I said, handing him a sealed envelope. “Uh sure”, he replied somewhat confused. “The boss is in right now, you can give it to him yourself,” he told me. I debated for a second whether I should go in and hand it directly to Jake, letting him know why I was doing things this way. I decided against it. Jake was smart enough to realise what it meant, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be there to deal with the fallout. “No thank you Rocky, I have to head off now.” I made my excuses and left, even though Rocky was still trying to get Jake to the door.

As I walked back to my office I felt a real weight lift off my shoulders. I should have done this long ago. Now I was free from Jake, the Pattersons, and the rep that went with that.

Saturday

I allowed myself a long lay in, I wasn’t expecting any visitors, or business to come by. I’d woken earlier, in the cold light of dawn and seen the all too empty bottle I’d been sipping to celebrate. Feeling the effects I dozed off for a few more hours and it was almost midday by the time I got up to get ready. I put on the new red dress I’d bought using Ruby’s expenses payout. As I hadn’t had to replace my revolver after all, I’d used that money to buy myself a second one. This was really high class, long and silky. Maybe I’d wear it out to some nice cocktail lounge tonight. I wondered briefly if I should tag along with Benton or go somewhere by myself. I’d just finished making myself presentable when there was a knock on the door. Leaning against the doorframe to the back office I noticed a tall, stocky man through the frosted glass. “Come in” I called. I chastised myself for not grabbing a file, or notepad, or something to give me that ‘secretary’ air, but I needn’t have worried as Leo came in. “Afternoon, Shirley,” he greeted me pleasantly.

“Hey there Leo, did you enjoy those donuts I left for you yesterday? Rocky didn’t eat them all did he?” I was concerned as to why he was here today, given that he’d be doing the rounds for protection.

“Uh, no. He left some for me, they were good thanks.” I nodded and smiled, trying to seem more casual and relaxed than I felt in the maelstrom of thoughts. “The boss asked me to give you this,” he declared, handing me a slip of paper. There wasn’t much on it, it said simply, “Carvaggio’s 8pm”.

“The boss says you’ve gotta be there, and he won’t take no for an answer,” he explained.

It certainly hadn’t been what I was expecting. Why did Jake want me at this restaurant? Now that I wasn’t obliged to give him my ‘payment’ was he going about obtaining it the old fashioned way? Hardly romantic though, jotting down a few details and sending a heavy round to deliver it. There was something else going on here, otherwise Jake would have been here himself.

“Why am I supposed to be here?” I asked Leo.

“I don’t know, I was only told to deliver the paper,” he replied apologetically.

“I need to know more, like who’s going to be there, if something’s happening afterwards, what to wear,” I explained, hoping to find out more.

“All I know is you gotta be at Carvaggio’s at eight, and the boss won’t take no for an answer,” Leo insisted. I must have looked really put out as he changed his tone, taking my hand as he implored, “please Shirley, I’m worried it’s not going to be so good for your health if you don’t go.”

I mellowed a bit, from Leo’s unexpected concern towards me, and the reminder of Jake’s lack of compassion. I told him more gently, “I just need some questions answered, if Jake wants me to go so much he can ask me himself.” Leo didn’t seem used to polite defiance as he looked hesitant. I let him use my phone after he requested it. After what sounded like a confused discussion with Rocky he managed to tell Jake about how awkward I was being and got further instructions.

“I’m to take you to see the boss,” he announced after hanging up.

“Fine, just let me get ready.” I threw on my trenchcoat and stuffed a few things into my handbag, not knowing how long I’d be out for. Leo seemed suspicious as he insisted on carrying it as we walked down Snoops’ row. I let him, fine by me if he wanted to be all gallant looking.

We arrived at Jake’s, and once again I steeled my resolve in order to descend the stairs to the entrance. Jake was waiting inside, and as soon as we’d arrived asked his boys to make themselves scarce. My eyes widened. Just what did Jake have in mind?! Rocky and Leo did indeed vanish. Jake invited me to sit down, indicating a chair nearby. I swallowed heavily and did so. I’d rather have stood, but I wasn’t going to upset him over something trivial. Leo had left my purse on the table, at least it was in the same room… should I need it. Jake spoke casually and had a smile on his face that would make sharks think they were going to be his last meal.

“Carvaggio’s, eight pm, I won’t take no for an answer,” he reiterated.

“But, I…” I began

“I won’t take no for an answer,” he repeated more forcefully.

“I just have some questions…” I tried again.

“Formal dress, be there at eight.” He stated.

“Who’s going to be there? Am I going anywhere afterwards?” I wanted to ascertain.

“Just the dinner.” Jake assured me. Noticing his evasion my suspicions were confirmed. There was definitely something more here.

“Who’s going to be there?” I tried again. I was somewhat taken aback when Jake announced that he would. Why then was he so adamant?

I tried to explain to Jake why I paid cash this week, but I struggled to find the words. I ended up saying, “because I want to have as little as possible to do with the Pattersons”. Although I couldn’t deny it, the real reason was because I wanted to have as little as possible to do with Jake. However, with him standing right there, in front of me, I couldn’t bring myself to say it. Partly because of his intimidating stare, and partly because… deep down I guess I didn’t want to cut him off, not entirely.

“I won’t take no for an answer,” he stated again.

“You… you can’t take my money and expect my time as well!” I protested. Somehow though, I knew I was defeated, and I decided to at least get something out of it. “Okay, I’ll go. So long as this is the last time I ever have to see you.”

I was surprised that he nodded in agreement. “Oh, it’s the last time you’ll have to see me” his grin turned smug. The arrogance of that man knew no bounds! I grabbed my handbag and made to leave, he made no attempt to stop me as I continued out the door and up to Snoop’s row.

Looks like I’d get a chance to wear that new dress of mine after all.

I was somewhat assured by Jake’s agreeing that this would be the last time we’d meet. I still thought there was something a bit hinky, but my Webley was coming with just in case I really was about to end up in something deep. Seeing as it was the last time I’d sure make myself a sight to remember. I dressed myself up to the nines, although it seemed the new dress I was wearing deserved nothing else.

I took the slower, but cheaper bus across the city to Downtown. I didn’t arrive at Carvaggio’s until 8:20, but I wasn’t going to be the one waiting around. The restaurant is in a huge, ornate building, wrought iron and colonnades decorating every possible part. Stepping into the foyer I saw it was just as plush, with marble and gold etchings. I heard a string quartet playing from the restaurant, and the melodic tinkling of a fountain. My observations were interrupted as I spotted Jake approaching. It seemed I wasn’t the only one to make an effort, Jake had on a nice tux, I could clearly see the quality of the cut and threads. I smiled to myself as I wondered just how often that got an airing. Over his arm was slung a cashmere coat which looked oddly familiar… He almost looked half way honest this smartened up, although the scowl on his face ruined the effect somewhat.

He approached me, saying nothing but his expression speaking volumes – he clearly wasn’t impressed at how late I was.

“The bus was late. My apologies.” I said in a non-apologetic way. He gave me a disbelieving stare. I looked him straight in the eye and raised an eyebrow slightly. He’d got here on time, no doubt by driving – if it was so important he could have given me a lift too.

“The table’s ready.” He announced sternly. If this was a date he was hardly going for a romantic mood. I followed him into the restaurant, and he led me to a section which didn’t have any empty tables. I started to look around wondering just what I was doing here. He stopped at a table occupied by a middle aged couple, and pulled out the remaining empty chair, holding it for me.

I sent him a look of pure loathing, for the deceit, betrayal… and for the smug expression plastered all over his face. What was he playing at? Was this his way at getting back at me for the past few days? Some kind of twisted reminder as to how I needed him to ‘save’ me from that date with Gregor? I then took a closer look at the pair sitting opposite me. The man was familiar, but from where… I’d come across a lot of new faces recently… then I placed it. Silas, the man I’d met as I’d made my dishevelled departure from Jake’s office that morning. He introduced himself and the lady next to him, who turned out to be his wife. “I remember meeting you briefly in Jake’s office a few days ago” I told him. I was relieved when he merely confirmed it, rather than commenting on my state of disarray. At least that was out of the way. So just what did he want to bring me here for?

Silas cut in, telling me about how he’d heard about my part in the case in finding Mr G. Not from Jake, I added to myself, I couldn’t see him wanting to share the glory. Nevertheless I tried to play down my part, for a number of reasons. Silas then went on to say as to how the Pattersons wanted to hire me to work for them.

I was gob smacked. This was the last thing I wanted, and went against all my plans to disassociate myself from that mob. I felt myself anger, how dare he just step in and ruin things like that! No doubt Jake was in on this as well, but it was an extreme way to retaliate for my cash payments.

Silas went on to explain how I’d be an outsider reporting to him, particularly on Jake’s new promotion, making sure he was keeping in line. “You’ll be able to work a lot more closely with Jake in the future,” he pointed out several times. Eventually I had to reply, “I’m sorry, but that isn’t exactly a selling point.” Quite the opposite in fact, I added to myself. Silas looked genuinely surprised. He tried to make the offer more lucrative, offering more money, protection without payments, and so on. He also tried to talk down my latest employer, Lady Valentine, but though she may not be perfect she wasn’t exactly the mob, and I doubt even she could commit atrocities on the Pattersons’ level.

I figured I was better sticking to my original plan… however, did they want me that badly they’d go to the effort of ruining my business? Or would even slighting them be enough for that?

POV: Jake Bullet

James and Shirley are still round my place. Too scared or injured to go home. In James’ case it’s the fear, and I sympathise. Shirley however, seems quite keen to leave, but is in no good state to be allowed.

We’re discussing Mr G, and what his real identity might be. We know where we can find him. He’s known to frequent the Jade Lotus. So all we need to do is get a photo of him, and then try and track down his real name.

With it being Halloween, Shirley suggests that there might be an event going on at the Jade Lotus, and she calls up to find out. It seems she is in fact correct; they’re holding a masquerade with a cops and robbers theme. Shirley books three tickets without even asking the price, and after hanging up seems to think I’ll have no problem paying for them.

Wanting to know what I’m getting myself in to, I have Rocky call them up again and find out the ticket prices. Pricey. Certainly out of my budget, but I can hit my savings. It is after all a good cause, and Shirley seems to insinuate that I’ll be able to get the money back when she puts in her expenses claim to Ruby.

With Shirley, James and myself needing costumes, Shirley takes our measurements and heads out to a store to rent outfits. She asks if she can take Rocky along for protection, and I give her permission to take him. While she’s gone I head to a local shop and stock up on candies.

Shirley returns, with a smart policeman’s uniform for me. Quite the irony. She has a cat burglar outfit for James, but doesn’t let us see what she has for herself yet.

Planning ahead I ask Leo to ‘obtain’ some car plates for our car so that it won’t be identifiable as easily while we’re in Eastowne.

The afternoon passes into evening, and it’s time to get changed for the masquerade. James and I get changed quite quickly, but Shirley’s locked away for ages getting ready. In the meantime I’m answering trick or treat requests from kids at the door. Scaring some of them with an unloaded gun, but giving them all large quantities of candy.

We all head out to the Jade Lotus, even Rocky and Leo are along to provide muscle. When we get there the place is teeming with celebrities. We manage to work our way to the front of the queue, pay for and collect our tickets, and then head into the busy club to get drinks and orient ourselves.

I’ve never seen Mr G before, but James has, and I’m relying on him finding our target. After a few moments of scanning the crowd James murmurs and gestures discreetly over to a table near the stage. There’s a guy with a large cowboy hat, and James identifies him as Mr G. So all we need to do now is wait for as good an opportunity as possible to get a photo.

While we’re watching them Shirley points out that she recognises one of the men with him. He’s Lt Martin Dickerson of the 43rd ‘frying pan’ precinct, second to Captain Rosario Newman. This is the biggest indication so far that Mr G might also be a cop, and it’s looking like this plan is paying off already.

There’s a woman with Mr G – she looks like she’d be his wife. She’s acting a little jealous when Mr G talks to Eva, so she might be a good way in.

We’re watching for a while, when suddenly we notice ‘the wife’ heading to the washroom. Shirley takes the opportunity and quickly follows ‘the wife’ in to the washroom.

She’s in there for some time, but eventually returns looking like the cat that got the cream. It seems like she got the woman’s name. The ‘wife’ is called Andrea Gorton, and that ties in with the moniker for ‘Mr G’. It’s looking like we have a name for him, that Mr G is Mr Gorton.

When Shirley reveals the name, and asks me if I recognise it, it stirs up a memory. The name rings a bell and it takes me a moment or two to dredge up where I’ve heard it.

He’s another cop from the 43rd precinct, and when I start thinking about it I remember him being named as a guy the Pattersons had tried to bribe, but found to be unimpeachable and incorruptible. Well it turns out, I guess, that he wasn’t all that incorruptible, just that he’d already been corrupted by the tongs.

Now that we have a name, we don’t like the idea of hanging around too much. but before we can go we see Ruby Valentine bearing down on us, and at the top of her voice she exclaims what a delight it is to see Shirley there. My heart sinks. Mr G’s attention has been caught by Ruby’s words. I don’t know if the name means anything to him, but I didn’t want to draw his attention in any way.

I shush Ruby, explaining we’re here as part of the case, but it’s already too late. Mr G is up on his feet and heading in our direction. I do the only thing i can think of, and grab Shirley and pull her out onto the dance floor. I’m not much of a dancer, so Shirley takes the lead while I try and keep an eye on Mr G and make sure he doesn’t get close to us. But he’s getting closer, and I can see him gesturing towards security.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, the balloons netted to the ceiling start falling. This obviously isn’t the planned release time, and there’s a mixture of confusion from some guests, as well as general chaotic celebration as balloons fall amidst the crowd. Shirley and I take the opportunity to head for the exit, hoping that wherever James is that he’s doing likewise. Security are following, but they can’t get ahead of us through the crowd, so we manage to get out first. I spot James has smartly exited the club too, and I bundle everyone in the car before leaping in and telling Leo to drive off. I tell Leo to drive slow, not to look suspicious, despite some thugs leaping onto bikes to follow us. I know we can take them if they catch up. I reckon they know this too, as they break off their pursuit. Once we’re in the clear, I get Leo to change the plates back to ‘normal’ and return home.

Almost the first thing I do when we get back home is to put a call through to Fritz and ask him if he could have a camp bed sent around the next day, along with some photos of Detective Earnest Gorton. Fritz says that it shouldn’t be a problem, and I settle down for the evening, with both James and Shirley once again staying over.

The next morning the delivery boy Rex turns up with an envelope of photos and the camp bed. While he’s setting the camp bed up, I look through the pictures of Gorton. I find the clearest one and take it through to James and show him.

“Hey, James, is this guy, the Mr G you recognise from the other night?” I ask him, and he confirms that it is.

Well, there we go. We’ve successfully identified the real identity of Mr G, and it explains precisely why the Pattersons have been unable to bribe him. I pick the phone up and call Silas, letting him know that I have had a positive identification of Mr G as Earnest Gorton. Silas says he’ll look into it, and praises me for the good work.

A few days later I’m listening to the news on the radio, when I hear about the unfortunate death of Detective Gorton on the news. I smile while I listen to the details, knowing it was no accident.

Collection day comes around, and while me and the boys are out collecting I pick up on some rumours that Nick “The Nail” Andrews has been seen around Eastowne. News that sends a chill through me. I had thought that I had killed the gaunt, but it seems like he might have been tougher than I thought. More immediate and interesting is that Shirley makes a point to come around and hand-deliver her $5 protection money. It seems like she doesn’t want to continue her previous payment plan.

This is a bad time for her change of plans, especially with Silas wanting me to arrange a date with her for him. Still, at least I can fob him off easily now without needing to come up with some sort of excuse. I lay out the news to Silas when he does call, but he doesn’t take no for an answer. He wants Shirley meeting him at a particular time and place, and no excuses.

This does pose me with a dilemma, and I try to make things easy by sending Leo around to Shirley’s with a note telling her the time and place, but no other details. Hopefully she’ll make incorrect assumptions or be too curious to refuse. I tell Leo that he isn’t to take ‘no’ for an answer from her. However, about ten minutes later he phones up. It seems that ‘no’ is indeed her answer unless I answer some questions. So I tell Leo to bring her around.

When Shirley arrives, I send Leo and Rocky away and invite Shirley to sit. She’s trying to interrogate me for details, but I stick to the details I want to give. The time. The place. Formal dress. She keeps asking who’s going to be there, and I say the only thing I can think will mollify her. I tell her that I will be there. She protests that she has paid her protection money, and wants nothing else to do with the Pattersons. I repeat that ‘no’ is not an acceptable answer.

Shirley finally states that she is prepared to go if she never has to see me again. This isn’t the sort of arrangement I’m interested in, and I don’t accept her ‘deal’. I do however simply say ‘Ok’, accepting her words as being her position, letting her mislead herself into thinking I am agreeing to the deal. It’s a little underhanded, but Silas wants her there, and I have to make sure she is. Thinking I have agreed to her deal, Shirley stands and leaves.

When the time for Shirley’s meeting with Silas comes around, I put on my best suit and head to the restaurant. I know Shirley is going to be angry, and I don’t know what Silas has planned. But I want to be there to diffuse the situation if needed, or to help Shirley stave off Silas’ advances if need be. I’m uncomfortable. I don’t want to have to go up against one of my own. But nor do I think the situation is fair on Shirley.

It doesn’t help that she’s late. I’m waiting and waiting, knowing that Silas must be getting impatient. Maybe Shirley’s decided she’s not going to turn up! I put a call through to Rocky and Leo, asking them to check on Shirley. It seems she did leave on time, so it’s probably just a bus running late.

Just as I finish the call I see Shirley arriving, and I feel some of the tension of the wait slip away. I don’t want to sugar coat proceedings, so immediately indicate for Shirley to follow me, and I lead her to where Silas is sitting. Silas is there with his wife, and I know that this means Shirley is safe with him for the moment, and so put at ease by this I pull out the chair for Shirley to sit on, and then turn around and walk away, wondering what I’ve let her in for.

Originally authored by: Alice & Azrael


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