Once Elizabeth was gone, I got to work planning out how I was going to approach the case. There was nothing special in a slighted dame showing up at my office and wanting me to put the tail on an unfaithful husband. Hell, cases like that probably made up the majority of my work. But I’d never had to put the tail on a man like Henry Rourke before. The man was rich beyond my wildest dreams, and if I may set aside humility for a moment, I’m quite the oneiromancer. But I wouldn’t be any kind of a detective if I couldn’t adapt and overcome. I had contacts from all walks of life. People who owed me favors. If there was anything to learn about the man, I’d find it.
And then I thought about the specifics of the situation and I frowned. The old bastard was in his eighties. Who knew if he even left his house? Oh, well. Details. There were more important things to take care of first. I put on my hat and my coat, picked up my .45. My stomach growled softly with hunger, but I ignored it. There was work to be done.
I ejected the magazine from my pistol, checked how many rounds were in it, put it back in the gun, put on the safety. Paranoid, maybe, but it was habit. Little things like that kept me alive in Okinawa, and even if it hadn’t, they drill that stuff into you until it comes as naturally as breathing.
First things first. It was time to find the son of a bitch that coldcocked me last night.
* * *
Out on the city streets, the rain was pouring down in an insistent, annoying drizzle, like a drunk with nothing to say that wouldn’t stop talking. It was appropriate since I was heading straight to Jack’s. That was the last place I remembered being before everything went dark, so I figured it was as good a place as any to start.
I walked in the door and into the smokey haze of the bar and gave a quick nod of the head to Jack. He’s a good man, a veteran of the Great War. He’s not like most folks that had fought in it, though. He’ll actually talk about. Oh, he doesn’t volunteer anything and he won’t get all weepy and start talking about his feelings; that’s not what men do. But every now and then he’ll let a story out, parsing out the wisdom in his words like he was rationing food. I remember him telling me one story about someone who served in his company that went on to become a big-game hunter. Crazy bastard got so obsessed with hunting tigers in India that he burnt a village to the ground just to kill one. Seems like a perfect metaphor for Jack’s whole generation, really. Just a bunch of men so broken that they don’t even notice when they’ve set their world on fire. All except for Jack and the men like him who were smart enough to deal with their pain head on instead of trying to hide or deny it.
Jack nodded back. I made my way over to the counter and sat down. He poured me a glass of whiskey without my asking. Jack got me. “Good to see you,” he said. I smirked at him.
“That’s all you got for me? Normally after I go on a bender and spend a day missing, you can’t wait to tell me all about how I’m your best and your worst customer.”
Jack frowned at that, his wrinkled forehead and his grey eyebrows coming together into a cartoonish mask. “A bender? What the hell are you talking about? The last time you were in here, you didn’t order no more than three drinks.”
I blinked in surprise. “What the hell am I talking about? What the hell are you talking about? I don’t remember yesterday at all! I woke up in a damn alley this morning!”
Jack chuckled. “Well, damned if that doesn’t sound like you, but you didn’t get that way here. Hell, you seemed perfectly fine when you left. You left early, even.”
I frowned. Someone must have slipped a Mickey Finn into my drink when I wasn’t paying attention. I couldn’t rightly imagine how someone would put the knockout drops into my booze without anyone noticing, but facts were facts. “When did I leave?” I asked Jack.
“About eleven o’clock. You left with this big gorilla of a man. Bigger than you even.” He laughed. “King Kong to your Fay Wray.” Jack smiled at me, amused at the look of annoyance on my face, but then the humor disappeared from his eyes. He leaned in forward and whispered in a voice so low and soft, you couldn’t have heard him unless he were whispering into your ear. “Listen, you’re not a fruit are you? Because you’re better off not trying to make up stories about–”
“I ain’t no fruit!” I said, louder than I’d intended. I look around to make sure none of the other bar patrons looked our way, but they hadn’t been paying attention. Or at least they were smart enough to pretend not to be.
“Hey, I don’t care if you are, kid. Your money’s good either way. But it’s not the kind of thing you want to get caught lying about. I knew these two guys back in K company–”
“I’m not a fruit,” I hissed. “Look, drop it. Just tell me whatever you can about the guy, will you? The son of a bitch must have doped me or something.”
Jacked folded his arms across his chest, looked down at thee counter. “Big guy, like I said. Dark hair. Flat face, but no scars or nothing.”
I nodded. “Good, keep going.”
“East coast accent. Boston, I think?” He paused for a moment, and then his face lit up. “Oh! And he had a pair of matching tattoos one his forearms. I didn’t get a good look at them, but they looked like a bird on a ball with a hook or something.”
I frowned. “Alright, Jack. Thanks a bunch.” I finished my drink and threw down a dollar. Big tip, but I was feeling generous after getting Elizabeth Rourke’s money. I would have asked Jack what he knew about the old man, but it didn’t seem to me like Henry Rourke was the kind of person to patronize Jack’s.
I walked back out into the street. The rain had let up, and there were some small puddles on the ground. I walked right through them, going over what Jack had told me in my head.
A bird, a ball, a hook.
An eagle, a globe, an anchor.
Huh. So the gorilla was a Marine.