The Crimson Scorpion Strikes! Part 3
by Shane MIgliavacca
The Crimson Scorpion Strikes! Chapter 3 Man in the Middle
Large hands pushed Phil Jenkins into the back of a large black car. A short man in a brown suit was already seated there. The short man held a revolver in his hand. Pointed at Jenkins. The man with the large hands entered behind him. With two thugs sitting on either side of him, Jenkins had a feeling his night was about to take a unpleasant turn.
“Get his gun.” The large man grumbled.
The brown suit waved his gun at Phil as he reached into Phil’s jacket pulling his nickel-plated Star Model B from it’s shoulder holster. The short man admired it before sticking it in his jacket pocket.
“I’ll want that back.” Jenkins said, a warning on his lips.
Laughter came from the front of the car. Two more men sat there. A driver and another goon who turned to look at him, laughing at his comment.
“Well Jinks.” The man said. Smiling a viper’s grin. “Wouldn’t happen to have the key to that locker on ya?”
“See the thing is Goose…That key belongs to my client. It ain’t mine to give out like a Christmas present to mugs like you.”
“Oh no?” Goose asked. He nodded to the man with large hands. “Benny if you’d help Jinks here reconsider.”
Benny with the large hands grabbed Jenkins again as the car sped up. Goose reached out, pushing the back door open. Allowing Benny to dangle his captive out of the speeding car.
“This helping any?” Goose laughed.
Jenkins watched the asphalt rush by. His hat flew off his head as the wind buffeted his face. He watched as it disappeared into the darkness of the night. He’d liked that hat. Roxy had bought it for him. It was also the only hat he owned.
“Better start dishing or it’s bye bye birdy.” Benny chuckled. “My hands tire out easily.”
“Okay. Okay.” Jenkins gasped.
Benny pulled the man back in. Jenkins ran a hand through his reddish brown hair.
“I’ll give you the key Goose.”
“See. I told the boys you could be reasonable Jinks.”
As Benny reached for the open door, Jenkins elbowed him in the gut, hard. Ribs broke as he drove his elbow in. He followed the elbow up by pushing the stunned man out of the car with a startled scream. A loud thud echoed through the night as Benny hit the unforgiving asphalt.
“In a pig’s eye!” Jenkins hollered. Sending another elbow into the man in brown as he tried to bring his revolver to bear.
“Get him you idiot!” Goose ordered.
Goose was going for his gun as Jenkins struggled with the short man. Desperate, Jenkins kicked out, hitting Goose as he tried to draw a bead on him.
Goose’s arm swung wildly from Jenkins’ blow. Inadvertently clubbing the driver in the back of the head with the gun.
The driver let out a sigh as he slumped over the wheel. Jenkins heard Goose curse as the car careened towards a steel lamp post, seconds before there was a loud crash and then nothing.
When Jenkins woke a few people had started to gather on the street around the wrecked car. He pushed the limp form of the short man off him. Taking his pistol from the man’s jacket.
“Told you I wanted it back.” He said, sliding it back into it’s holster.
From the front seat, Goose groaned. Setting up, blood dripped from a gash on his forehead. He looked at Jenkins with glazed eyes.
Jenkins walloped the stunned goon in the face with a right, laying him out.
“And don’t call me Jinx.”
He staggered out of the car. A few concerned citizens came forward, trying to help him.
“Everything is fine folks. I’m a cop.” He lied. “I’m sure some boys in blue will be by soon. In fact let me go find them.”
He quickly flashed his P.I. License. Hoping they’d buy his little ruse. It wouldn’t do to have them make him stick around till the real cops showed up.
“None of you happened to see a nice hat anywhere in the street on your way here did you? About my size?”
The gathered people looked at him perplexed. Not saying a word. So Jenkins limped off as fast as his feet allowed. He had no intention of informing the cops about what had gone down. After what he’d gone through as a patrolman, he didn’t want anything to do with them. From his experience, most of the police in Starlight were corrupt. Those that weren’t ended up leaving as he did or worse, ending up like his partner. Dead. Made to look like an accident. One Jenkins was framed for.
He’d made it to an alley when he heard the sirens of a couple patrol cars reach the crash site he’d fled a few moments ago. Let them deal with Goose and his stooges. Jenkins needed to get back to his office, get in touch with his client, tell ‘em what he’d found. Then after, pass out on the couch with some bourbon.
Damn, he’d liked that hat.
How long was it? Jenkins woke on the ragged couch in his office. Tasting bourbon and drool on his lips. The front door to the office slammed shut. Damn. He was fairly sure he’d locked it. Pulling out his pistol, Jenkins darted out into the outer office. A startled blonde in cheap dress, cigarette dangling from her mouth stood there. Staring at him incredulously.
“Morning to you too Philly.” She said. Her thick New York accent bit like a snake. “Rough night?”
Jenkins holstered the pistol. “You could say that Roxy.”
“If yur gonna live here, at least remember the couch folds out.”
“Yeah, my back would like that.”
Roxy looked around the office. “You didn’t make too much of a mess.” She glanced over at the hat rack by the door. “Where’s your hat?”
Roxy Decker secretary extraordinaire. Jenkins didn’t really need the help. Nor could he really afford it. Roxy emigrated to Starlight from the Big Apple, where she’d hung with a bad crowd. Nearly a week after getting here she lost all her money. It was dumb luck they’d met at some dive bar in Mid-City, the poverty and crime ridden section of Starlight. Jenkins liked her spunk as she told off a lecherous drunk. After hearing her sob story, Jenkins offered her the job. A job up until then hadn’t existed.
“Get. Get. Get!” Roxy commanded from the outer office. “Will you get your cat off my chair!”
Teddy the cat. Another stray Jenkins happened upon. The cat had a thing for sleeping on Roxy’s desk chair. When it came to the cat, the woman didn’t have any patience. To make matters worse, the cat knew it. It delighted in giving her a hard time of it. And Jenkins was right in the middle of it all.
“C’mon Teddy.” He said, picking up the protesting feline.
“Keep that flea bag in your office.”
Jenkins whispered in the cat’s ear. “Looks like we’re both in the doghouse today buddy.”
Jenkins met his client for lunch later that day. Lucy Pendergraf. She’s hired him to prove she hadn’t murdered her husband for his life insurance policy. Something his family and just about everybody else suspected her off. What Jenkins found out was that Kurt Pendergraf was in debt up to his eyeballs to Goose and his bookmaking racket. The bookie and his goons were desperate to get their hands on the insurance money. Feeling they were owed it.
Jenkins slid the locker key across the table to the widow. “It’s all there.”
“Thank you.” The woman smiled. It was a weary, troubled smile.
Kurt’s real killer had been his mistress. The woman had tried to frame Lucy in order to blackmail the widow into giving her the insurance money. Money that was waiting in a nondescript looking locker in Starlight’s train station.
“If you don’t mind my asking…” Jenkins asked. “…what are you going to do now?”
The woman looked at the key in her hand. “Start over somewhere else and try to forget.”
Jenkins accompanied her to the locker. The mistress was in jail by now. Goose and his goons the same, if not they wouldn’t be sticking around town. Still he wanted to be sure she got her money safely. And there was the small little thing of being paid. He’d like to tell the grieving widow she didn’t own him anything. The world didn’t work like that. Not for Phil Jenkins and not for anybody else in Starlight City.
Roxy needed to be paid. There was rent for the office which he lived out of. The cat needed food. Not to mention keeping the lights on. After all that he was lucky if he’d have any money left to buy a new hat. Self-consciously he ran a hand through his hair. He felt naked as a new born without that hat.
Lucy took a wad of bills from the case. “What I own you and a little more.”
“Thank you.” He took the cash before he stopped himself. “You don’t need to give me anything extra.”
“No.” She touched his hand. “I can’t begin to know what you’ve gone through for me sir.”
Lucy Pendergraf left without another word. As he watched her leave, Jenkins couldn’t imagine what she was feeling. Her husband murdered. By the woman he was cheating on her with. And to top it off he’d had a gambling problem.
You could never really know anybody. There were always secrets. Ones not even those closet to you could ever know. Of course it was people’s deep dark secrets that kept him employed. Finding them was his job. He was good at it. It didn’t mean he enjoyed it though.
As he made his way up the stone steps to street level Jenkins felt his bad day get worse. A patrol car sat there. The pudgy man in uniform leaning on the car smiled at Jenkins in a way that made him want to run back down the steps.
“Phil.” The man said.
“Captain Rhodes.” Jenkins sighed. “To what do I owe the honor?”
“You know me boyo. Always picking up your messes.”
Jenkins chuckled. “Goose?”
Captain Danny Rhodes was the father of Jenkins late partner Jeff Rhodes. He didn’t buy the story of his son’s death anymore the Jenkins did. Captain Rhodes was one of the only cops he trusted. The man had always been a straight shooter. When Jeff had taken him under his wing after Jenkins joined the force the captain became a surrogate father. When Jeff was killed he was the only one that believed Jenkins hadn’t been responsible.
“Got two in the hospital. One in a jail cell. And one on a slab in the morgue.”
Rhodes raised a hand. “-Don’t want to know. As far as I’m concerned, must have been self-defense.”
“Well, actually it was.”
“Just be careful son. I won’t be around to cover your arse forever.” The captain opened the door to the patrol car. “By the way, good work.”
Jenkins smiled. Maybe the day wouldn’t turn out so bad after all.
“Oh captain, your boys didn’t happen to find a hat? About my size?”
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