Carlotta Wynn keeps pace with the hood following Mrs Winslow... remaining a steady fifty paces behind and mingling into the night with the experience of a cat. In no time at all she is soaked to the skin, and wishes she had thought of pulling on a coat before leaving her office hot trod in pursuit of the couple now half a block in front of her.
Suddenly, Carlotta's client turns down a narrow side turning... and for a full half a minute Carlotta loses sight of both Mrs Winslow and the two bit hood... who in turn follows the strange woman down the alleyway.
There is a scream! Followed by the sound of hurriedly running footsteps echoing in the night.
Carlotta quickly retrieves a small hand gun tucked discretely under the hem at the back of her skirt, and moves like the wind towards the commotion to see what evil thing has transpired. Her footsteps splash in the puddles and her heart pounds like a bass drum deep within her chest.
When Carlotta turns the corner and rushes down the alley. She is just in time to see Mrs Winslow's attacker vanish from view round a corner some distance ahead. But Carlotta's client is lying face up in a gathering pool of blood.
Carlotta's client is lying face up in a gathering pool of blood.
When Carlotta reaches the body of the prone woman, she notices she has been fumblingly searched and her handbag has been snatched. Blood is pouring from a knife wound in Mrs Winslow's chest, and she is very obviously dead.
Somewhere in the distance, a police whistle is heard, and Carlotta knows it is only a matter of minutes before law enforcers arrive on the scene. Better not to be present when that happens, and the P.I. knows she needs to make a quick exit.
Thinking quickly and with female instinct, she checks the one place she knows another woman would hide anything valuable... fastened in her stocking top, or thrust down the inside her blouse.
She comes up trumps!
A thin sheaf of papers is lodged inside the dead woman's undergarments. Carlotta extracts the papers, careful not to get any blood on herself... pauses for a moment, removes the woman's wedding ring and prepares to vanish into the gloom of the alley.
'The money from that ring will fetch a pretty penny, and she won't be needing it any more, will she?'
Carlotta reasons; having enough of a conscience to feel a slight pang of guilt at her roguish actions.
Hurrying away from the crime scene, by a series of twists and turns Carlotta winds her way through the back streets and alleyways until finally, some thirty minutes later, she finds herself standing safely outside her private apartment on the corner of Dock Street. Before slipping inside, she looks left and right up the road to make sure she is alone, fumbles with a key in the lock, then closes the front door behind her.
Once inside her scruffy and dishevelled pad, she moves over to the cupboard in the kitchen, removes a quarter full bottle of whisky, pours herself a stiff drink (which she swallows in a single gulp) then sits down at a table and places the small bundle of papers in front of her; the stolen ring next to them.
Opening the folder carefully, she notices a small splodge of drying blood has soaked into one corner of the sheaf of papers.
Carlotta quickly sees that these are indeed the papers her client was so eager to protect, and just like she said, they were deeds to land in the Jiangsu province.
But what makes her start, inhale with shock, throw her hand to her mouth and cry out 'oh my... no' isn't the realization that the woman had (apparently) been telling the truth; but was caused by a single name which was repeatedly written on the papers:
'Mr. Charles Ray Mortimer'
Signed witness and executor of the deeds.
Mort, her dead lover!
She pours herself another drink, emptying the bottle into her glass in one go, and continues reading.
Mort had mentioned in passing that he once had bad dealings with a heavy mob over on Cash Side... the rather select and upper crust district of L.A. heights where the rich and influential lived. But he had never elucidated much beyond the fact that he had been a 'gofer'... a middle man for a notorious crime lord who expected and extracted loyalty in blood - other peoples.
She carries on reading, way into the night, just a tiny lamp casting a small circle of light around her.
© 2008, Stephen A Gilbert.