I let the auto drive handle the car as I made my way back to my apartment slowly sobering up while staring at the night sky. The moon was barely a sliver, making the city darker and the side streets I slowly drove by that little bit more ominous as I listened to the occasional police siren in the distance. The road was almost empty on the way back only the rare view of another car to interrupt my thoughts.
Inside the quiet of my apartment I went into a cabinet and found a watered down whiskey and a Japanese rock garden an old client had given me. Placing a large rock in the center while thinking of the Jade Frog, I set a series of smaller ones around it in no particular pattern. Arthur Dolwes, Clarise, my mystery gunman, the police surrounding this case. I continued with the experiment leveling the sand then beginning to rake the patterns of samon I had been taught long ago. I had never quite mastered the art but as I watched the ripples form in the garden the feeling started to overtake me that I was only missing a critical bit of information and then I would understand what had happened to my unknown frog. I set one more stone in place for the unknown, finishing my drink and the waves in the sand before taking a long slow look at my work. This method had never actually solved a case for me, but it was a relaxing way to go over the details in my mind. When I felt the sand had told me all it intended to, I left the garden in place and the glass on the counter top. A deep sleep overtook me almost as soon as a laid down.
Morning came far too early as I woke up to Sarah’s voice. “Detective, Mrs. Clarise Dowles shall arrive in the office in just over an hour, if you desire to meet her here you need to get moving soon.”
“On my way.” I slowly wiped the sleep and the last effects of the whiskey out of my eyes, quickly stealing the small luxury of a shower before sliding a fresh set of clothes on. I took an extra moment to check my revolver before sliding it into the holster hidden away in my coat. I was in no mood for auto drive this morning speeding out of my building to the office with just one stop for coffee and something resembling a bagel.
Sarah was waiting for me as I passed through the door. “Good morning detective. I took the liberty of turning on the coffee, but you seem to have that taken care of already.”
I found my desk mentally preparing myself for my possible client to walk though the door. “Anything new shake out overnight?”
“The murder made the news, but the police are keeping the frog quiet for now. Most likely staking out the usual suspects and hoping that someone will try to move the jade and give themselves away.” Sarah slid next to my desk with a twinkle in her eye. “I assume Miss Azure was happy to see you.”
I took a long drink of my favorite coffee shop’s dark roast. “That is a complicated topic as always, and I think you are about right about the law.” A small knock on the door freed me from this line of conversation as Sarah went to answer. The door slid open and I could hear Sarah’s voice in the entrance. “Please come in Mrs. Dowles, the detective is waiting for you.”
I rose as Mrs. Clarise Dowels entered the office. The tall brunette was in a dark green dress and matching hat that succeeded in making her look significantly more conservative than last night as she was tearing up the Century Club. “Please Mrs. Dowles come in. Can I get you anything?” Sarah’s research showed that the lady was pushing fifty but I had no doubt she could turn half the heads in any room she walked into with a little effort. Can’t help but wonder what Authur Dowles did to get so lucky., well lucky until recently.
“Clarise will be fine Mr. Sloan.” Clarise took the seat I offered her as I found my way behind the desk pulling up the file on the Jade Frog case to current.
“I understand you want me to continue working the case your husband left on my doorstep.” I watched closely to observe her response at the mention of the late Arthur Dowles.
Clarise slid her hat off, bright green eyes looking straight into mine. “Correct Mr. Sloan. My late husbands finances were not what he led me to believe and another loss would not be acceptable.”
“That can be arranged, although with the law involved I am not sure what I will be able to turn up.” I spun my chair slightly considering my next words. “I’ll need ten percent of the fee up front and not refundable. No disrespect intended but I do not risk getting shot at for free. Also you should know that detectives are not lawyers and I do all I can to protect my client’s privacy, however with a murder investigation in the middle of this there is a limit to what I can keep hidden from the law.”
“Your terms are acceptable and I had nothing to do with my husbands murder, although I am sure the police suspect me.” Clarise spoke very calmly, seemingly unaffected by the tragedy. “I won’t lie to you it was a loveless marriage. Arthur and I led separate lives. He deserved better than this though.”
Sarah nodded in the background, indicating that my client to be was more or less on the level. “Very well” I took a small tablet, modifying some details. “This contract will secure my services, arrange for payment, and grant me access to the personal files of Arthur Dowles. With luck I Will have news for you soon.”
Clarise Dowles glanced over the contract for just a moment before letting the tablet scan her thumb and retina. I checked the screen on my desk, payment had cleared and Sarah was already going through Arthur Dowles personal information. I rose from my chair. “I will contact you as soon as any information is found.”
“Of course. Thank you detective.” Clarise Dowles rose, replaced her hat, and exited the office without another word.
I took a slow walk around the office mulling the case over in my mind. “Let me guess Arthur Dowels is dead broke.”
“Close to it detective. I assume you suspect he was involved in the theft.”
I found my seat looking over the data Sarah was processing. “I am almost sure of it. He must have stashed the thing somewhere though, if it was at his house the cops would have turned it up by now. Let me see where his car has been.”
Sarah turned up a list of locations tracking his movements. “Two visits to the same area downtown.”
I scanned through the records. “That area is pretty low rent for a guy like Dowles. One stop right after the theft, and one a few hours before he was murdered. Would explain why he wanted to keep this quiet. Put me through to Orange.”
The line was only on hold for a few seconds before the image of Julian appeared on my screen. “Looking for favors again Sloan?”
“Just a name, some of your competition in the south part of Downtown.”
“That is pretty close to Roy Jackson. Wouldn’t recommend dealing with him though, a complete idiot. What did you want to know?”
“You just told me, thanks” I hung up on him as Sarah confirmed the address. If felt good to put one over on Julian from time to time. I found my hat and made for the address. This caper was sloppy work all around and I figured I was just ahead of the law as it was. It was only a few minutes before I arrived at the crappy lower level apartment of one Roy Jackson. I decided for the direct approach and knocked on the door, to be quickly greeted by a weasel-faced man holding a small gun pointed at my chest.
“Get inside, and no sudden moves or else.” I complied slowly walking inside the dump Roy Jackson presumably called home. “You’re the detective Arthur hired, how did you find me here.”
“As you said I’m a detective.” I slowly walked toward the cabinet on the far wall. “And I am guessing you shot Dowles after your little deal went south.”
“That idiot was going to talk.” I could almost here the panic in Roy’s voice. “That’s far enough.”
“Listen Roy, do you mind if I call you Roy. This isn’t going to work.” I took a step backward as he twitched nervously. “If I found you the cops can’t be far behind, that cruiser outside the window is probably looking for you.”
He turned the the window straining to see what might be outside through the dirty glass as my left hand slipped into my coat. I could almost see the hairs on his neck stand up as I pulled back the hammer on my heavy revolver. “Don’t turn around. I can see you are just about desperate enough to try a shootout with my gun pointed at your back, but I am going to give you one chance.” I slid the cabinet open that he was so desperate to keep me away from easily finding a piece of jade in the shape of a frog. “I am only being paid to find this frog, so if you walk out the door slowly without turning around and run I won’t shoot you in the back or come chasing after you.”
Roy nodded slowly and opened the door. I could hear his footsteps quickly moving off in the distance as I activated my communications. “I assume you already called Bruno.” I took a moment to seal the Jade Frog in a plastic bag, just in case it got dusted for prints later.
“Of course detective, I doubt Jackson will make it far.” A couple shots rang out in the distance. I followed quietly and peered around the corner to watch a couple of BULS lifting Roy Jackson up off of the ground and dragging him to a nearby police cruiser. That peashooter he was carrying wasn’t enough firepower to bring down a BULS unit. It did seem to have upgraded him to deadly threat judging by the broken leg.
I joined Lieutenant Bruno as he arrived on the scene. “Causing trouble again Sloan?”
“Solving it this time.” I removed the plastic bag containing the frog from my pocket. “I assume you will need this for evidence. I would like it noted in the record that it was in my possession and handed over willingly on police orders.”
“Fine, fine. 715 take that frog into evidence and then get a statement from Mr. Sloan here.”
It only took a few minutes to give the cranky looking robot an accounting of what went on in the apartment and then I was back in the car and talking to Sarah. “Contact our client and tell her the Jade Frog is in police custody.”
“Already done detective, although the Dowles estate just filed for bankruptcy a few minutes ago. I doubt we will see the full amount we were promised.”
It figured. Even the down payment would keep the business in the black for a while longer so for the moment, case closed.