Conroy Gatz put his fedora on the hat-rack. Layla, his secretary, sat alone in the tiny waiting room, balancing a compact on her typewriter. She fluffed her blonde hair. Light shone through the window, making the dark paneling of the room a little less somber.
“Morning,” he said, nodding to Layla.
“You’ve got a client,” she replied, bending over the small mirror.
Conroy stopped, his hand on the doorknob. “Who is it?”
She shrugged. “Some guy.”
He shifted his weight with impatience. “Well, what kind of case is it?”
“A case that needs a detective. Hell, if I know, Gatz. Go in there and ask him yourself.”
He rolled his eyes and stepped into his cramped office. His desk, backed up near the window, had just enough room for a chair behind it and barely enough room for Conroy to prop his feet on the desktop. The two chairs in front of the desk huddled close to the door, giving just enough space to open the door, but not enough space to open it all the way. Cabinets lined one wall, housing the newspaper articles and files of Conroy’s past cases. The wall was bereft of photographs of family or friends, and the desktop was equally empty, except for the candlestick telephone, pushed off to the side. With the blinds up, the view of the bustling and bright Manhattan street sang through, making a stark contrast to the bland set up of the bare office.
A man sat in a chair in front of the desk. He stood up as Conroy stepped in. He was no Errol Flynn, that much was obvious. His stomach squeezed against his starched shirt and his thinning hair sat like a hopeful nest on his head while his thick glasses slipped down his nose, forcing him to constantly push them back up. “Mr. Gatz?” he said nervously.
“Yes,” Conroy said, sitting behind the desk.
“Name’s Billy Larue,” the man said, taking a seat. “I’m manager for the Davey Sisters.”
Conroy pulled a packet of cigarettes out of his desk. “The Davey Sisters?” He offered one to Larue.
“Yeah. Have you heard of ‘em? Thanks,” he said, taking the cigarette. “They’re a Vaudeville act. Singing and dancing duo. Very pretty.”
“Twins?” Conroy returned the pack to his desk drawer.
“Nah, but they’re pretty close in age and everything,” Larue replied.
“What did you want me to do? Review a performance?” Conroy said, propping his feet on the desk.
“No, sir, nothing like that.” Larue gave a nervous laugh, pushing his glasses up his nose. “It’s just that one of the girls, Eva, left a couple nights ago with her boyfriend.”
“Isn’t she a big girl now? She can take care of herself.” Conroy opened the desk drawer again, realizing he hadn’t given Larue a match.
“No, you see, she’s missing.”
Conroy snapped the drawer shut. He took his feet off the desk and straightened in his chair. “Missing?”
Conroy smiled. “Well, that’s different.” He stood up and paced the limited space behind his desk. “Doesn’t the sister know anything about it?”
Larue shook his head. “But she’s been acting really strange lately, avoiding me and stuff. She never did like me.”
“She doesn’t like you?” Conroy laughed. “You’re her manager. Didn’t she hire you?”
“Eva’s really the one who hired me. She’s the nice one. I think she kind of did it out of sympathy; I was needing a client and all.”
“Anyway, I worked really hard to make her know she’d done good by me, and I landed them all sorts of gigs from Santa Fe to Chicago.”
“And, I take it, New York?” Conroy said, sitting on the edge of his desk.
“I didn’t even know they had left but Pearl told me the next day that they had gone out to celebrate their one year anniversary.”
“Oh, that’s the younger sister.”
“And how long ago was that?”
“You told the police about any of this?” Conroy slid off his desk.
“Nah, I don’t want no scandal, see?”
Conroy nodded. “My fee is a hundred up front. When I solve the case, I expect another hundred.”
“When you solve the case?” Larue raised his eyebrows.
Conroy smiled. “Well, you expect me to, don’t you? Why else would you come to me?”
Larue shrugged. “After I’d seen your office I thought maybe you weren’t all that…”
“All right, then forget about it.” Conroy sat back in his chair.
“Oh, I didn’t mean for you to get upset, Mr. Gatz.” He bundled out an envelope and dropped it on the desk. “I – I want you to solve the case. You see, I think Pearl is hiding something.”
“Well, then I need to see her,” he said, standing up. He dumped the envelope into a desk drawer. “She got a place?”
“Yeah,” Larue said, standing up uncertainly.
Conroy stopped on his way to the door and looked at him. He raised his eyebrows. “Can you take me to it?”
“Oh!” Larue jumped. “Got it. Yeah. Yeah, sure. I can take you.” He pushed his glasses up his nose again and shuffled out the door that Conroy held open for him.
“I’m going out,” Conroy told Layla. “Make sure you take my messages, and if Freddy calls, tell him I’m on vacation.”
“You act as if I’ve never been alone in the office before,” she said.
He flashed her a smile over his shoulder as he donned his hat and then followed Larue out the door.
The Davey sisters rented a flat that was by no means secretive about its quality. The peeling paint was evidence to the lack of upkeep and this statement was supported by the cracked stoop with a hole in the middle of one of the steps. Sitting on the stoop, smoking a cigarette was a blonde in a faded blue dressing gown.
“What are ya doin’ out here, Pearl?” Larue said in the tone of a stern father.
Pearl ignored him and went on smoking her cigarette. She glanced at Conroy and an interested smile flickered briefly on her lips. He noticed that she pulled her skirt higher up her leg.
“Pearl!” Larue said, hands on hips. His glasses began sliding down his nose and the pudge of his stomach kept him from bending over properly. The stance gave him more of a comical effect than an intimidating one.
She glared up at him and shrugged her shoulders. “I wanted to give ‘em some space.”
“Give who some space?”
“Who’s this?” she said, looking past her manager. “Your flatfoot?” Her smile broadened.
“Conroy Gatz. And who’ve you got up in your place, Pearl?”
“None of your damn business, that’s who,” she said, still studying Conroy.
Larue suddenly grabbed her by the shoulders and hoisted her off the steps. “I thought I told you…” He shot a glance over his shoulder as Conroy stepped forward. “Well, we’ll just see about that,” He said, dropping Pearl roughly on the steps and pushing past her into the building.
“You okay?” Conroy asked as she rubbed one of her shoulders.
She grinned. “As good as I’ll ever be, I guess.”
He tipped his hat to her before following Larue inside.
The apartment was a mess. Gaudy costumes and lacey negligees littered the floor. Make-up was strewn across the vanity table. The queen-sized bed was unmade. It didn’t help either that the room was full of policemen. They moseyed around the place, peering out the window, jotting down notes, and rummaging through the closets. One man was standing in the center of the room, barking out orders.
“And I want the phone records on my desk in an hour, you got it?” he said.
The man turned and folded his arms. “Well, well,” he said. “Fancy meeting you here.”
“How do, Freddy?” Conroy said, grinning.
“Your secretary said you were on vacation.”
“Who says I’m not?” Conroy began inspecting the room. He stepped carefully around the clothes on the floor and headed towards the dresser to see how much clothes Eva Davey took with her on her excursion.
Freddy sighed. “I wish you’d volunteer your help once in a while. It’d certainly beat hunting you down…”
“…and begging me for help, I know.” Conroy looked around. “If this is your idea of hunting me down, you’re either remarkably good or remarkably bad.”
“Well, now that you’re here, can we get down to business?”
“Certainly. My business is finding a missing girl, what’s yours?”
Freddy raised his eyebrows. “Really now? I must say I’m disappointed in you, Gatz. I thought you were better than that.”
Conroy narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean?”
“Well, I’m looking for evidence that the missing girl is a murderer.”
“Yeah, of one James Caspar. The two had been seen skipping around together. You seem to be running a bit behind.” Freddy grinned.
Conroy drummed his fingers on the dresser, considering the insult.
Larue pushed his glasses up his nose and tut-tutted to himself.
Freddy shrugged. “Not my fault,” he said. “I guess we don’t need you after all.”
Conroy laughed. “Like hell you don’t. Fine with me.” He tipped his hat at Freddy. “Well, thanks for the tip, anyway.”
Conroy left the room, disgruntled and unpleasantly surprised that Freddy would actually be ahead of him in a case. As he strode down the narrow staircase, he saw Pearl Davey walking up toward him. He backed against the wall to let her pass.
“Thanks,” she said, smiling. She passed him sideways, brushing her chest against his. He couldn’t tell if it was from the confines of the space or her flirtatious nature.
“Hey, wait a minute,” he said.
She turned on the stair and looked demurely down on him. A certain cleverness came out in her stare. Perhaps Larue was right; perhaps she did know more than she let on.
“I need some more information,” he said. “Where do you figure into all this?”
She raised an eyebrow. “You should know better than that,” she said. “If you want to get information out of a girl, you got to romance her a bit. How about dinner?”
Conroy laughed. “Okay, I’ll be here at seven.”
She shook her head. “I don’t like being picked up. I’ll meet you at the restaurant across the street, Tonetti’s. I’m in the mood for some Italian.”
He shrugged. “Fine with me.” He turned to go but heard footsteps thumping down the stairs behind him.
“Mr. Gatz,” Larue panted, catching up with him. His pasty face blotched red, showing that any amount of speed was a trial to his flabby physique. “Mind if I walk you back to your office?”
“Suits me,” Conroy said, opening the door out onto the street. “Some things need clearing up, anyway.”
Larue pushed his glasses up his nose and followed.
Conroy walked in silence, waiting for his client to start the conversation. The sun glared down on them, making the windows of the surrounding buildings sparkle. The bustle of cars, buses, hansom cabs, and fellow pedestrians amplified the uncomfortable heat. Conroy lifted his hat and briefly wiped his sleeve against his forehead before replacing his fedora and looking expectantly at Larue.
“So, what are you going to do?” Larue said finally.
Conroy gave him a sideways look. “Do?” he said. “What did you think I’d do? I’m going to solve the case.”
“Oh. I was afraid you’d pull out. The police were –”
“The police wouldn’t know a crook if it spit them in the eye,” Conroy laughed. “No, I’m still on the case. Don’t worry about that.”
Larue didn’t reply.
“By the way,” Conroy said as they stopped at an intersection, waiting for the traffic officer to wave them across. “Why did you tell me this was a missing girl case? You knew it was a murder case, didn’t you?”
“Well I – I couldn’t be sure.”
“Couldn’t be sure?” Conroy furrowed his eyebrows. He led the way as they crossed the street.
“Well, it all points to me, don’t it? I mean, missing girl, dead boyfriend. Everyone knows I didn’t care for the guy.”
“No, Larue,” Conroy said. “Nobody knew that. Except now, I’m wondering why you didn’t bring that up in the first place.”
Larue gaped. “Well, I couldn’t have you thinking I did it. Sure, I didn’t like the guy. He was arrogant. Drove me nuts. Eva could never focus with him around. He was bad for her career.”
“You’re not making your case any better,” Conroy said, smiling.
Larue grabbed his arm and stopped. “Listen, Mr. Gatz. If I was the murderer, I wouldn’t be comin’ to you, would I?”
“Only if you were a complete idiot.”
“Right. But I came to you because I think Pearl did it and I want to make sure she gets what she deserves.”
Conroy raised his eyebrows but didn’t reply.
“She was crazy jealous over him. More so than me with Eva.”
“You were jealous over Eva?”
“You’re missing the point, Mr. Gatz,” Larue said, getting flustered.
“Maybe I am.” Conroy pried his arm loose from Larue’s grip. “I’ll look into what you said about Pearl.”
“Wait, Mr. Gatz.”
Conroy turned. “Yes?”
“Are you really going to meet with her?”
“Pearl? Tonight? At that restaurant?”
Conroy shrugged. “Why not?”
“Well.” Larue wrung his hands a bit. “If she really is the murderer, do you really think it’s safe to, well… you know?”
“What’s she going to do? Take a poke at me?”
“Wait! Mr. Gatz?”
Conroy turned, this time with a little less patience.
“If this is a murder case, isn’t it on police turf? I mean, can you still –”
“You mean can I still solve it?” Conroy laughed. “My friend the policeman needs to learn that he can’t beat me at any case.”
With that, he tilted his hat and continued down the street toward his office.
Back in his office, Conroy leaned back in his chair as he read the article in the New York Herald Tribune about society playboy, James Caspar, being shot coming out of a drugstore. The article went on to explain how baffled the police were by the lack of personal items on the body. No house keys, no wallet, only a broken wine bottle that fell out of his hand when he was shot. Mr. and Mrs. Caspar of Park Avenue identified the body but gave the press no comments. Caspar’s debonair face smiled on one side of the article, explaining with no words at all just why a young girl like Eva Davey chose him over Larue. Conroy tossed the paper onto his desk.
Layla walked in with a cup of coffee. She placed the cup in the middle of the desk and then pulled out Conroy’s cigarettes and handed him one. He shook his head. She sat on the edge of his desk, propping her feet on the windowsill. She lit the cigarette, smoked it for a moment, and then placed it into his mouth.
“What’s this?” he said, pointing at the coffee cup.
“What do you think?”
He picked it up and eyed the contents dubiously. “I’d prefer a highball,” he said.
“So get it yourself,” she said. “Come on. “What’s the story?”
“Oh, the usual. My client’s holding out on me,” he said.
“He didn’t know about the murder, did he?”
“Apparently he did. That’s the crazy thing. And he left out a pretty good amount of information, like how he treats those girls.” He inhaled on the cigarette and handed it to Layla.
“What chivalry,” she laughed as she took the cigarette. “By the way, Freddy’s called the office about a dozen times. He seemed to be in a pretty good mood, for once. He said he’d accept any help you wanted to give him. Said it was the least he could do.”
“Ah, who needs him? I never have.” He sighed, thinking about the insult of Freddy being ahead of him in anything. Then, he laughed. “It seems pretty funny, though, doesn’t it? If he doesn’t need my help why would he call? He must be stuck. The Herald Tribune says they’re baffled.”
“Are you surprised?”
He shrugged. “Guess not.”
“Is it just me,” she said, running a hand through his hair. “Or are you actually getting stewed up about this case?”
“Ah, I don’t care about the case. I’ll figure it out easily enough. I just can’t get over the idea of Freddy actually knowing something before I do.”
“Well, he is the best cop they have.”
“That’s not saying much.”
She pushed the coffee cup toward him. “Let’s hear it.”
He leaned back in his chair. “Well, to start with, there’s the missing Davey girl. A rich playboy dating a pretty girl—that makes sense. He takes her out for the weekend, and she kills him—that doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t add up.” Conroy took a sip of the coffee and made a disgusted face. “The police are certain she killed him, but why would she? Everything was going fine; they had been dating for a year.” He began spinning the coffee cup slowly on the desk in an absent-minded way.
Layla reached out and pulled the cup away from him.
He grinned up at her. “And then there’s that manager. He admitted to hating Caspar, but claims he had nothing to do with it. And he managed to leave out how rough he is with them, too. Why didn’t they fire him long ago? Why does he dislike that Pearl dame so much? And then that Pearl.” He smoked the cigarette thoughtfully for a moment. “Larue wants me to think that she did it.”
“Her picture’s all over the tabloids. She’s quite a looker,” Layla said.
He gave her a wry smile. “Yeah, and I’m taking her out tonight, for questioning.”
“You poor thing,” she said, taking the cigarette back and hopping off the desk. She headed toward the door. “However will you stand it?”
Conroy sat in his office, staring at the newspaper article. The phone rang every hour and he amusedly wondered why Freddy would be calling him so much, if he was so unneeded. He closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. Larue seemed to be too bumbling to be a murderer, but he admitted to having a motive. On the other hand, Larue suspected Pearl, and he was, after all, Conroy’s client. And she did seem to know something that she wouldn’t let on. The police thought that Eva was the murderer, but with their track record such a claim didn’t count for much.
When a quarter to seven rolled around, he took a taxi to Tonetti’s restaurant where Pearl Davey was waiting for him in a black, provocative, low-cut dress. The smell of garlic that always revealed a second-rate Italian restaurant did not infiltrate Tonetti’s. Instead the restaurant showed signs of being pretty classy. The sounds of clinking wine glasses backed up by a tenor filled the intimate space. If this was Pearl Davey’s first choice, her sister act must have done pretty well.
He walked in and sat down.
“I’d thought you’d at least have dressed up for me,” she said, touching her foot to his leg.
“What hotel did Caspar stay at?”
“What?” She pulled her foot back.
“James Caspar, he rented a hotel room. And you know where it was, so where?”
“How do you figure that?”
“He bought a wine bottle. That’s all they found on him coming out of that drugstore. He took your sister to his hotel and planned to give her a good night. So where was his hotel?”
“How should I know?”
He leaned back in his seat. “Because you and your sister shared everything. Larue’s been lining you up with all sorts of gigs, so much so that my secretary saw your picture in the tabloids. You eat at places like this. You could’ve afforded two rooms, but you got a one-room flat with one dresser, one vanity table, and one bed. You two were close. You know where it is.”
“Your secretary, is she pretty?”
He shrugged. “Sure.”
She sat silent for a minute and then said, “Are you sleeping with her?”
Conroy laughed. “Who do you think I am, Sam Spade? I don’t sleep with every pretty girl I meet.”
She glared at him and tugged her sinking neckline up to a more modest position.
“Come on.” He stood up, straightened out his coat and helped her up. “Time for a little sight-seeing.”
He led her outside and hailed a taxi. “Take us to –” he looked at her.
“The Normandy on Broadway,” she said, still glaring at him. “What are you doing?” she asked as the cab took off.
“Why haven’t you looked for your sister yet?”
“He –” she broke off.
She didn’t answer, but he had a pretty good idea.
The Normandy Hotel was a fitting playground for James Caspar to enhance his reputation. Embellishments of cupids and flowers along with crown molding framed the crimson lobby. Conroy questioned the hesitant concierge, giving a description of Caspar, based on the picture in the Herald Tribune. Caspar apparently had some discretion and checked in with a name that the police had not discovered yet. The concierge finally gave the room number, and Conroy headed toward the stairs.
Pearl Davey seemed rather unnerved to be brought there. “Perhaps I’d better wait here,” she said, looking at an overstuffed chair.
“Suit yourself,” he said over his shoulder.
But she followed him up the stairs anyway.
The room was locked with a Do Not Disturb sign hanging on the knob.
“I thought flatfoots always carried skeleton keys,” Pearl said as Conroy gave the knob a futile twist.
He went back to the lobby to find the telephone.
“Hello, Freddy?” he said into the receiver. “Yeah, a long time coming, I know. Listen, I want you to come down to the Normandy on Broadway. There’s a locked door I need you to… ah, don’t give me that crap, Freddy. You’re not busy and you know it. Yeah, well I happen to be solving a case too. And my case needs this door unlocked, so will you come over here, or do I have to break down the door?”
He laughed as he hung up and walked back up to wait for Freddy.
Pearl was smoking a cigarette and tugging the hem of her dress down and the neckline up with impatience.
“Why didn’t you wear something more comfortable?” he asked, eyeing the tight-fitting fabric.
“Well, I was sorta expecting the night to go a different way,” she said.
He smiled and leaned against the wall, hoping it wouldn’t take Freddy too long to get there.
“Listen, Mr. Gatz,” she started, stepping closer to him. “I think maybe I oughta level with you.”
He straightened up, detaching himself from the wall, prepared to listen, when footsteps, too quiet to be Freddy’s, creaked up the stairs. He shushed her and pulled her away into the shadow of the corridor.
Billy Larue walked past them, unlocked the door, and went into the room. Conroy motioned for Pearl to stay where she was and stepped inside.
The room was sparse and neat. Unlike the Davey sisters’ apartment, the floor and the vanity table were empty. A phonograph sat on the dresser, the needle poised on the middle of the record. The four-poster bed was unmade, the sheets rumpled and hanging over the side onto the floor and spattered with what Conroy could only guess was blood.
“Damn it,” Larue said when Conroy entered. “Where is that ring? I remember distinctly… ah. That’s right.” He turned from the dresser he had been rummaging through to a far corner of the room.
A beautiful but very pale redheaded girl was bound and gagged to a chair. She wasn’t in good shape; Conroy could tell that much from his distance. A black spot of dried blood stained the lacey arm of her negligee. The fabric bulged over an evidently shoddy bandaging job. Her head was leaning against the wall, apparently from exhaustion of failed attempts to shake off the rope binding her. Here lay the answer to the mystery of the missing Eva Davey.
Larue approached the chair and reached behind it. She woke up with a start and looked at him with horrified eyes.
“So sorry to wake you, my dear,” he mumbled. “But a man must make his keep. I wish I could sell that lovely negligee too but what with this –” He tugged at the stained sleeve. “It’s rather useless now.” He then flashed the diamond ring he had pulled off her finger in front of her face, chuckling to himself in a congratulatory way. He froze when he heard a sudden scream.
“Eva! You bastard! Eva!”
Conroy grabbed Pearl just in time, as she was about to dive at Larue.
“You son of a bitch!” she screamed. “You’ve hurt her! You son of a bitch!” Tears streamed down her cheeks as she fought against Conroy’s tight grasp.
Larue pulled out a gun. “Keep away, Pearl,” he said shakily. With his face pasty, and the sweat glistening on his forehead making his glasses slip down his nose, he made an unfitting villain.
“He’s right, Pearl,” Conroy said, tightening his grip. “Do you wanna get killed?” He looked at Larue. “Why the hell did you hire me if you did it?”
Larue shrugged. “I kept trying to tell you that Pearl did it. I figured you’d tell the police. Your office was so empty, I figured you weren’t any good.”
Despite himself, Conroy laughed. “You’re stupider than I thought!”
Larue raised the gun to point at Conroy. “Better be careful, Gatz,” he said. “Unless you want to taste some lead.”
“Well, I’ve always thought the taste of lead a little unsettling,” Conroy said, smiling. “But I want to ask you something.”
“I don’t want any of your questions.”
“Now, that’s too bad isn’t it? Why did you shoot Eva?” He threw Pearl to the ground behind him before she could launch another attack.
“Why don’t you shut your mouth?” Larue took a step forward.
“Was it because of your jealousy?” Conroy continued. “Or did you plan to kill her too? You shot her in the arm and tied her to the chair to keep her from running away. What would come next? Who was next on your list?” With every question he slowly advanced toward Larue.
“It was an accident!” Larue shouted suddenly. “I would never hurt her. I – I walked in the door and she was lying in bed and the sheets – I thought he was lying next to her and I just – I didn’t mean to hit her. I love her!”
Conroy gave a little cackle as he straightened his fedora. “Larue, you stupid bastard.”
“I told you to shut your mouth! I killed that stupid little son of a bitch. He was so rich he thought he owned everything, thought he owned Eva.”
“But you proved him wrong, didn’t you?” Conroy said as he carelessly dusted his sleeve.
Larue nodded his head with a maniacal grin on his face. “Sure did. Shot him coming out of that drugstore. Never knew what hit him. And what’s to stop me from doing the same to you? You and your stupid questions.” Shaking with anger and fear, he squinted his eye in an attempt to aim better.
Conroy wasted no time. He pushed Larue’s arm aside before he could make an accurate shot. The gun went off at the floor and Conroy twisted Larue’s arm to make him drop it. As the gun tumbled to the ground, Larue raised his arm to punch Conroy in the face.
“You hit him and so help me you’ll be in for life.”
Conroy relaxed and stepped away from Larue. “Thanks, Freddy,” he said, smiling. “Good timing, as usual.”
“Don’t mention it,” Freddy said through gritted teeth. He had his gun out, and he was glaring at Larue. “Get your hands up now. You too, sister,” he said to Pearl. “Hey, boys!” he hollered. “Guess I need you after all.”
A handful of cops thundered up the stairs and into the room.
“Back up?” Conroy raised an eyebrow.
“You’re always getting into scrapes,” Freddy said, chuckling a bit. “I figured they’d be handy just in case. Okay, boys, book ‘em.”
“Hold it,” Conroy said, pointing to Pearl. “She’s just a witness. No need to book her too. And don’t forget her sister. She needs to get to a doctor, and quick.”
Freddy looked at Pearl, who was pale and shaking and then at Eva, wide eyed, still tied to the chair. “All right, girlie,” he said gently to Pearl. “Hey you!” He pointed to a few of his men. “Take these two to the hospital. The rest of you get this mug to headquarters.”
As the cops led the two girls out the door, Pearl gave Conroy a fervent look of gratitude. Conroy tipped his hat as she passed. The rest of the cops followed them, with Larue in tow.
Freddy took a good look around the room. “How’d you know about this place?”
“How did you not know about it?”
Freddy shrugged. “The guy had no contacts. His wallet and his keys were gone so we had no idea where he lived. I remembered seeing him in the papers, and when I’d figured out who he was, I got his folks to come in for questioning. They identified him all right, but they said they’d fallen out of touch when they disapproved of his girlfriend, Eva Davey. Then we went to the apartment and she was missing, so we just assumed –”
“And then when we questioned the sister, she didn’t seem to know anything about anything, so I was at a loss.”
Conroy grinned. “Well, so much for me running a bit behind, huh?”
Freddy sighed. “Oh, come on. Cut me some slack. You had to know that I’d be beside myself to know anything you didn’t.” He leaned against the bed. “But, I’ve gotta hand it to you, Gatz. How’d you figure it out so fast? Or did you?”
Conroy stepped up to the chair Eva had been tied to and sank gratefully into it. “Well, since your first suspect was Eva Davey, I automatically crossed her off my list of probable suspects. Then, I’d narrowed it down to Pearl and Larue. They were the only ones with a viable motive. I’d found out Larue was jealous of Caspar and Pearl was, well, supposedly, jealous of Eva. But Larue just made a lot more sense, motive-wise, so I went with that theory.”
“Did you know she was here?”
Conroy shrugged. “I kind of figured. It didn’t add up for her to be the murderer, and if she wasn’t, there was no reason for her to still be missing, unless, of course, she was dead or stuck somehow. I’d actually kind of figured she was dead, so I was pretty surprised to see her tied to this chair.”
Freddy looked pensive for a moment. “Well, let’s hear it,” he said.
Conroy leaned back in his chair. “As I said, I figured out who had the most motive and went on from there. I noticed how strangely Larue treated Pearl, and I couldn’t figure out why she’d stand for it. He had to have a hold on her, somehow. Then, I had to figure out why he’d think he needed a hold on her. She must have known about Caspar’s murder already because he was pretty upset when he realized there were cops up in her apartment, and he started to say something about it. I couldn’t work out how he’d kept her quiet, but now I know he blackmailed her.”
“What? Does she have a history or something?”
Conroy shook his head. “But she knew he knew where her sister was. He told her that if she kept quiet, he wouldn’t hurt her sister. He told her not to go looking for her sister, either. This would have been the first place she’d search, and she would have found Eva and then told the police.”
“What about the gunshot? If Larue fired at Eva, and I’m assuming she screamed, why didn’t anyone come running?”
Conroy pointed to the dresser. “The phonograph was playing that night. It’s still where it was when it stopped playing, with the needle in the middle of the record. She must have been preparing herself for Caspar’s romantic interlude.” He laughed. “Either that or the service here is just crap. No one came running when Pearl screamed.”
“Wow.” Freddy took a look around the room. “Thanks, Gatz.”
Conroy smiled. “Don’t mention it. Besides, if you hadn’t jumped in, I might have winded up with quite a shiner.”
Freddy shrugged. “Well, I didn’t like the scumbag taking a poke at you.” Then, he grinned. “I’m the only one who’s allowed to do that.”