Sunday, August 30, 2015

Jade Frog Part 5

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.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Jade Frog Part 4

I kicked in the auto drive to let myself think as I cruised westward towards my apartment, spinning the details of the case over in my mind. The pictures I had quietly taken of Dowles murder turned out better than I thought. Sarah was able to reconstruct a fairly accurate 3D image of the scene. No sign of forced entry on the front of the building or any indication of a struggle. Either my former client let the killer in or they slipped past a fairly high end security system and used the back door completely undetected. When dealing with crooks I always bet on stupid. I’ll grant you there is the rare criminal mastermind shifting blame to a third party as they slip into the night, but usually someone just panics and starts blasting holes in whatever poor soul is close by. Then we move on to the wife Clarise Dowles. A suspicious lack of grief at the very least. But if she was behind this and looking for a patsy why hire the peeper who just saw her husband get dead. Even the dumbest member of my profession would have their guard up after that scene, and I liked to think I wasn’t quite stupid peeper number one.

Enough of the case for now. I cleared my mind for the moment as the Fairlane turned into the cracked aging concrete that made up the parking garage under my apartment and rolled to a stop at number seven. I barely made it in the door as Sarah appeared in front of me her translucent form wrapped in a deep green ball gown. Partial AIs like Sarah are not supposed to understand things like humor and irony, but I had long suspected there was a kink or two in her programming somewhere.

Sarah spun on her heel and led me into the apartment. “I had a simple back suit with a white shirt prepared for you tonight, it should allow you to look striking without making too much of a scene. I also have a pot of coffee on hand although after this excursion you really could use some rest.”

“Well done as usual Sarah, anything else for me?” I jumped into the shower and let the shock waves clear the sweat and dirt from a long day in the Los Angeles sun. Water showers had sadly become a thing of the past, especially for those of us living in a western desert. One might comment at my lack of modesty but I had been working around Sarah for years and computer programs are incapable of that type of thought anyways.

“Miss Azure has responded to you message. Security at the Century Club will allow you access, unarmed of course. There was a sub message attached that if you ever desire her help again to contact her yourself and not use your, and I quote. ‘Weird fake assistant’”

“Now I will have to do something to make it up to her.” I slid the suit on quickly and found a hat to match. “What would I do without you Sarah?”

“Without me you would have been shot and most likely killed on March 3rd, 2013. Enjoy the club detective.” Sarah faded from view as I shook my head and returned to the car and on to the Century Club.

I took a slow spin around the block to take the place in, gray stone bathed in a soft blue light projected up from the ground. A single red bulb in each open window and doorway and no sign of any kind. If you didn’t know where the Century Club was, as far as they were concerned you did not need to know. A couple gorillas in tuxedos stood at the front door as a barrier between the inside of the club and those unfortunates waiting outside and not yet deemed attractive or rich enough to gain entry. I of course strode up like I owned the place, only to be stopped by the oversize paw of gorilla number one.

“Club is full” the ape looked down at me with contempt and nothing even resembling intelligence.

“Oh my mistake I forgot to introduce myself. Sam Sloan, Miss Azure is expecting me.” Seeing the name drop having the desired effect I removed his hand from my chest as me looked back to his partner with doubt in his eyes.

“He is on the list.” Ape number two could read, amazing.

“My mistake sir enjoy your day.” I strode past him without a word a into the club proper. I love throwing that type off their game.

The entire inside was bathed in the same deep blue light as the outside with small accents of red highlighting the dancers on stage and anywhere else they desired to draw your attention. The place was packed with the rich, powerful, and sometimes just very attractive entertaining each other away from the prying eyes of the rest of the world. In the middle of it all like a ringmaster to the circus Miss Cherry Azure a knockout blond in a short blue dress with veins of red neon lighting up her pale skin. As soon as she saw me I tipped my hat at her and slid into a booth signaling the waitress for a bourbon on the rocks. Cherry and I had gone around the block a few times years ago and she still thought well enough of me to grant the occasional favor. If anyone knew what her real name was they were not telling, although I did know that anyone trying to play the lady as a fool would soon learn how badly they misjudged her, if they survived it.

And there across the room was the woman I came for. Clarise Dowles in a tight black dress entertaining a pair of strapping young gentleman several years younger than she was and putting down what I was sure was not her first martini of the night with wild abandon.

Out of the corner of my eye I watched Cherry reach behind her ear as the red neon effect instantly faded. She slid into my booth quietly. “I’ll be Sam Sloan what brings you into my little corner of the city.”

“The usual a case. Trying to decide if I am dumb enough to take it.” Cherry was a little too comfortable outside of the law for my tastes, but it was still good to see her after all this time. I turned my head pretending to take in the lavish room. “Glad to see you are still able to make ends meet.” My eyes followed Clarise and her young companions all the way to the private area in the back. That was all I was going to get tonight. My favors with Cherry did not go so far as interrupting her VIP lounge.

“Business is good darling” Cherry said almost convincingly projecting false modesty. “Speaking of I need to get back to it.” Cherry stood and smoothed out her dress. “Come back some night at close when you are not working a case and I’ll introduce you some of my private collection.” She tapped the waitress on the shoulder. “Give the gentleman another one, on the house.” The young girl scurried off quickly as Cherry turned back to me. “Don’t keep me waiting too long Sam. I might forget what an honest man in here looks like.” A flick behind her ear and the ringmaster in red neon returned striding off to rule her domain.

“Yes ma’am.” I took my time with the second drink remembering old times before packing it in for the night.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Jade Frog part 3

The tires on my Fairlane squealed against the pavement as I pulled up to the Beverly Hills home of Arthur Dowels. Looks like the gentleman wasn’t doing too bad for himself. Not the greatest mansion I had ever seen in this part of town, but I nicer place than I would generally see the inside of. Even from a distance I could see the BULS units surrounding the place and the electronics in the car detected the jamming equipment the police used to keep information from leaving high profile crime scenes. I quickly tapped by comm unit. “LA’s finest have the place locked down tight, I am going to see what I can find out. I’ll be out of touch until I clear the jammers. Keep working things on your end.”

Sarah’s voice crackled back.“I am listening to all public data streams detective. Although I should warn you funds are a little short to pay bail at the moment. Do try not to get arrested.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” I parked the car and headed to the front door on foot. There were almost immediately a pair of BULS blocking my way to the front door.

“This is an active crime scene unauthorized access is forbidden. Please move along.” The units cold eyes were staring at me almost daring me to try to force their blockade. Trying a fistfight with a couple bits of tin that could punch their way through most walls was not my idea of a good night however.

“Detective Sam Sloan badge number 8775. This is the home of my client Arthur Dowles who I need to speak to.” The interpretation software of BULS was not terribly refined. You were best to speak very simply and try not to confuse them.

“Verifying……” The red eyes blinked as they were communicating with whoever was in charge of this mess. “Lieutenant Anton Bruno has granted you access. Go straight in the front door and do not interfere with the crime scene.”

I took my time walking to the door of the white home that almost qualified as a mansion while keeping an eye out for for any hint of what had transpired here tonight. I made it about halfway before the officer in question flung the door open. “Sam Sloan, why am I not surprised.” Anton Bruno was about six feet of angry Italian with a badge and way too expensive suit for a cop. He had never particularly liked me after I walked all over a couple of his cases a few years back. “Get in here.” The Lieutenant always had that special talent of talking to you in a way that made you wish you had stayed home that week. Rumor has it more than a few criminals outright confessed when he started yelling. “I don’t suppose you care to tell me why you were working for Arthur Dowles?”

“You know I don’t discuss my cases Lieutenant, and nice to see you too.” I strode into the house slipping by Bruno and stopped short at the sight of the body of Arthur Dowles laying on the floor with what appeared to be three bullet holes.

“Then I suppose you also have no idea why your client ended up on the wrong end of several bullets.” I didn’t bother to respond as I had a pretty good idea what was coming next. “Units 146 and 147, book Mr. Sloan here as a material witness and run him down to the station. If he resists club him over the head a few times, arrest him , then book him as a material witness.”

The BULS are notoriously literal minded so I decided to go quietly. It was another hour before Bruno showed up much calmer then he had been at the house. “Now would you like to fully explain your relationship with Arthur Dowels, or shall I just arrest you for obstructing my investigation now?”

I took a minute to think it over just to annoy him then told him the about Arthur hiring me to find his Jade Frog. Then told him five more times. Cops of any brand like to wear you down by repetition to see if you can keep your story straight. It took two more hours to convince him I was at least probably telling the truth. Which is fair as I left out my visit to Mister Orange. If I led the law to his door he would never speak to me again. Eventually the law relented and let me back into the world.

By the time I got out of the police station the Fairlane was waiting out front for me. I am forced to admit auto driving cars do have some uses. The communicator flared to life as I entered the car. “I assume you have in fact not been arrested this time detective? I have also found out our client has been killed, although I suspect you knew that already.”

“Yeah the police filled me in. I took a few pictures of the scene while Bruno was busy yelling at me. Uploading to the database now.” A mechanical eye does have it uses after all. “I doubt it matters as our client becoming dead leaves us out in the cold.”

“Perhaps not detective a Clarise Dowles has contacted you about continuing the case while you were in police custody.”

“That was quick.” I found half a cigar left in the car an lit it up as I thought this new development through. “Her mourning period may have set a new record.”

“I agree detective, however voice analysis suggests she is on the level. Mrs. Dowles requested to see you tomorrow morning.”

There was a spray of ash as I tossed my cigar to the curb. “Make it late tomorrow morning, I would like to observe this woman a bit first. Do we have a way into the Century Club.”

“Checking… One of the performers tonight is a Miss Cherry Azure that I believe you are acquainted with.”

There was a blast from the past. “It’ll do, send a message to her in my name and have my suit ready when I get home. Looks like I am going out tonight.”

“It will be taken care of detective, stay in touch.”