This is the entertainment center of the city. It borders the east side of The Greenway.
It was just before two o’clock in the morning and Joey was sitting at the bar in The Oasis Club. For Joey it was his favorite time of the night to be in the club. The musicians were at their best, and most of the patrons were just relaxing enjoying the last moments of a great evening. Joey was himself relaxing as the waiter cleared the mortal remains of a porterhouse steak that he had just polished off.
He sipped his brandy and from his spot at the corner of the bar he could keep his gaze on that new singer Tony hired. The smooth brandy and Gwendolyn’s full red hair and green satin dress was enough to keep him in place for the moment. That dress, it clung to Gwendolyn’s curves like, like, Joey and every man in this joint wanted to.
Joey had just made the decision to go on and break the ice with this angel and see if she would let him walk her home when she finished her set. If he played his cards right, maybe she would invite him in when he got her home. Then he could...
“Mr. Nickels! I am sorry to disturb you Sir”
Joey snapped out of the little daydream he was enjoying to see the busboy. Tommy, something? Standing next to him, looking like he had seen a ghost.
“Sir,, Mr. Solano asked to see you its,, important, something’s happened.”
Taking one last look at his dream Joey stood up and tossing off his drink.
“That’s ok kid, business before pleasure after all. What’s happened? Hay! Tommy!”
Joey saw the busboy moving quickly towards the back of the club. When Joey got to the alcove were the restrooms are Tony was blocking the entrance to the bathrooms. He was tactfully apologizing to one of his guests about him having to use the bathroom in the kitchen and ordering Tommy to show the guest the way.
Joey had known Tony Solano all his life, even before Tony opened the club. Tony and Joeys Uncle had been partners for years before Joey was even born. So he knew by the look on his face the something what ever it was had to be very bad.
“Joey, your not going to believe this, take a look.” Joey walked to the bathroom door and opened it looking in.
What was left of two men was on the floor. It had to be a knife. A knife and a lot of hate because who ever did this made a point of doing it over and over an over again. If that was not enough, the killer made a point of spreading as much of it on the floor walls, and for Gods sake, the ceiling too!Joey turned back to Tony.
“No not yet, Joey the one by the sink had this in his billfold.”
Tony handed him a sticky wallet and Joey opened it. His eyes going wide, he quickly looked back in to the bloody bathroom.
“You cant be sure its him, I mean look at them.”
“Joey it is him. I saw him come in the club a few hours ago. Jesu! What the hell am I gona do!”
Joey shut the door and pulled his friend aside.
“Not panic for a start! Look, go offer everyone free champagne.”
What! Are you crazy! Did you see...”
“Tony listen to me someone must have seen something we cant let anyone out of the club in till we ask some questions. Offer free champagne then lock all the exits and call the cops. We sure as hell cant hide this. Better if we don’t. Go on Ill be right behind you.”
Tony left to return to the club. Joey heard the cheer the crowd let out for the free booze. He looked back at the wallet in his hands. The name in the fine leather billfold was Palo Malatesta. The son of Carlo Malatesta, the head of the Malatesta crime family. One of the five families that controlled the Cities underworld. Yea, this was going to be trouble lots of it.
Joey returned to the club and began asking questions, starting with the staff. By the time the police started to arrive he had put a few facts together. Clair, the cigarette girl had seen a men in a black shirt and white dinner jacket making towards the men’s room like he was on a mission. At just about the time Gwendolyn started her last set. Well that didn’t really mean anything, toss back enough drinks and it dose become a mission to get to the men’s room.
Then their was Otis, the doormen, a guy with no jacket pushed his way into a cab Otis had hailed for a young couple. Otis even remembered what destination the man gave the driver, the Hermitage building downtown. Joey returned to the restroom alcove and began looking for a place someone might stash a white dinner jacket, a white dinner jacket covered with blood. It only took Joey about five minuets to find it, in a corner was a bin for dirty table linens. Joey let stay were it was and went to find Tony. Tony was in conversation with detective Cunningham! Their must be a dozen or more detectives in this part of town but we get the one who is known to be up to his hips in the rackets.
Well Joey had a good start so he headed out the back door and out the alley to the next street. He jumped into a cab and headed to the Hermitage. It was just past two am so he didn’t really expect to find anything, but it was a start. What Joey did find was the street blocked off and the front of the building crawling with cops!
As least this time Joey saw a friendly face, a patrolmen, Davie Edwards. He was redirecting traffic away from the front of the building. Getting out of the cab Joey waved to his friend.
“Edwards! Its been a while how’s the home life.”
“Not bad, How have you been Joey? What brings you downtown at this hour? You following a cheating husband? Edwards quipped.
“Nah, it was your Marin who hired me to keep an eye on you.”
“Hah! I have a face that keeps me from cheating and Marin lacks the money to hire you.”
“That’s for sure on an honest flatfoots pay, say what’s going on hear any way?”
“Some poor bastard jumped off the Hermitage building, landed on top of a parked car. Bit of a nasty mess, If you value your last meal I advise you move on.”
“I’m sure your right, but if its ok with you buddy I will just slip past for a look?”
“I warned you, so don’t blame me”
“Thanks Ed, my best to Marin”
Joey walked up the street were the meat wagon boys had pulled what was left of the jumper off the roof of the car. Oddly enough the body was more intact then you would have expected having just taken a flight off the roof of a twenty story building. What caught Joeys eye was the black shirt the poor bastard had been dressed in.
Joey entered the Hermitage building, the lobby all black and white marble was cold and silent. The elevators all open and locked off for the night. So was the door to the stairs on both sides of the building.
So, how did he get to the roof? The sounds of voices made Joey move back and hide behind a marble pillar as three men came out of a side door Joey had passed when he came in. The sign on the door had said mail room.
Three well dressed men came out Joey recognized one of the men even before one of the other two said his name. Hell, anyone living within fifty miles of Titan knew Martin Davenport, one of the cities leading citizens and businessmen. He owned half the city and this building as Joey recalled. He had his main offices on the top floor. So why is he in the mailroom at two o’clock in the morning?
The three men had left out the doors on the other side of the building away from the mess in front. Joey walked up to the mailroom door and removed a small leather pouch from his coat. The lock on the door was harder to pick then it looked. When Joey opened the door he was surprised to see a small empty room with an elevator on the other side. The elevator was open and locked off. The button panel had two buttons Lobby and a second unmarked button.
On a hunch Joey returned to the Lobby and checked the directory on the wall. He then checked the public elevators, then left the building and crossed the street. Standing in front of a small sandwich shop he counted the floors of the Hermitage building. The elevators and the directory said twenty floors everyone knows the Hermitage building has twenty floors so why do I count twenty-one?
How and why do you hide a whole office building floor?
She hadn’t been down at the Oasis tonight, and she was frustrated. She sat in her bay window, looking down from her Boulevard-facing loft apartment; the red-and-blues reflecting her face back at her in the glass in turn. The beat-cops still swarmed the sidewalk, tiny from her vantage point, combing the area for anything that could be of use. Patrons were starting to be let out in small groups, and she decided that the best way to get her gossip would be to head down there herself.
She was tired… tired of so many things.
Her breath fogged the pane of glass as she sighed. Stalling until the haze cleared, she glanced upwards, and started. A shadowed figure crouched on the corner of the rooftop opposite, watching the scene below just as she was. The silhouette suggested both a trench coat and fedora, but gave little else away.
She darted from the window, not wanting to be similarly seen. Quickly donning a veiled evening hat and a smart pair of heels, she very nearly ran into the hall outside her door. She rang for the elevator, and not long after found herself on the sidewalk across from The Oasis.
“Oh! Juliette!” She heard a woman’s voice rise above the din of the excited crowd. Kitty Donovan rushed across the street to her, hep cat of the week following close behind. “Were you inside? Did’ya hear?” The woman glowed with a mixture of enthusiasm and gin.
Shaking her head set her perfect curls to shimmying around her face. “I was out at the Mystery Theatre.” She spoke with a pout on her full lips.
“You missed a doozie of a night! Palo Malatesta was murdered! In the men’s room!” Kitty giggled conspiratorially.
Juliette couldn’t keep her eyes from glancing to the top of the building. Apartment windows rose up above the posh nightclub, and above those, someone might still be watching. She pulled her gaze down and affected a surprised gasp to her voice. “The mafioso?” She paused, knowing she needed to say more. “It’s a shame. He was such a sheik!”
Kitty laughed. “Only you, Juliette! You’re too dangerous by half! Thinking of gettin’ yourself a sugar daddy, sounds like.”
The women chatted a bit more, exchanging less important gossip. They parted ways with promises to lunch the next day before heading down to the afternoon races. Juliette made her way closer to the club, greeting the people she knew, but not really stopping to talk.
[Overworked police officer]
"Sorry, mam, ca't let you in. The Oasis is gonna be closed for tonight. If you would like to make a statement, please talk to Detective Shay over there in the brown suit."
Juliette didn’t really have a reason for wanting to snoop; nothing past idle curiosity at least, or so she told herself.
When the cop stopped her, she minded after a fruitless attempt to convince him otherwise. Moving a small distance away from bristly man, she looked up once more, but the rooftops were too high and too dark for her to make out from the pavement, her sight diminished by neon as it was. She decided against talking to the detective. Like as not, the man on the building was nothing more than a curious observer, just like herself.
Reporters were starting to arrive, noted by the buzzing of intrusive voices and the tell-tale pops of flash-bulbs. She raised an arm to cover her face, but it was too late. A few of the story-hungry vermin swarmed her, not willing to believe she had no story, with her being so close to the Oasis’ entrance.
“Ms. Royce, did you see the body?!”
“Did you talk with Palo before he died? Did you dance with him!”
“Ms. Royce, did you do it?”
The questions grew more and more absurd as they fed off each other, cornering her against the wall of the club.
“No! No no no! I got nothin’ to say to any’ve ya!” She shouted, the timbre of her voice perhaps a fair bit higher than it needed to be, as she shoved her way undemurely through the photographers.
She retreated back to her apartment in a huff. She’d rather the mysterious man see her through the window than spend another minute around the vultures. But she didn’t prefer it enough to be stupid. Without turning on the lights, she hurried through the main room of her apartment to the loft where she’d styled her room.
Once she was in bed, she reflected on the evening. The Mystery had been nice, and the fella who took her had been good company. Pleasant thoughts quickly turned south, however, and she soon found herself wondering if the sensationalist newspapers would take her tantrum and turn into something more.
She didn’t sleep well.
And she was right. The morning headline of one of Titan’s more frivolous papers sported a photo of the fairly handsome mobster opposite a photo of her, looking dazzling in her anger as she pushed a man with a camera. The headline read PALO MALATESTA MURDERED! And in a text only slightly less dramatic, Juliette Royce: Jilted Ex or Brand New Dame? After scanning the article, she decided to stand up Kitty on there lunch date. She’d been quoted, talking about Juliette’s views on the deceased’s good looks.
Where did these reporters get this stuff? She thought, unhappily. The NERVE of them!
The door buzzer cries for attention in the front hallway.
She nearly jumped out of her skin when the buzzer when off, but she managed not to curse aloud. Barefoot and tightening her robe about her, she padded silently to the door and peered through the peephole. Her hand moved to the baseball bat beside the door as she looked.
Through the fishbowl-skewed lens, a young toeheaded porter stands awkwardly in the hallway dancing the classic jig of the impatient and incontenant. Clutched to his chest is a bare dozen roses.
She moved out of the line of the door, pressing her back against the wall beside it. With her face towards the door, she called out in a soft voice. "My pardons, sir. But who are you?"
If there was a gun in those roses, she prayed he shoot through the door at the sound of her voice. If there wasn't... well, she wasn't certain who would be sending her roses so very early in the morning.
"Hi, miss," he croaked, trying to clear his throat.
"These were left for you at the front desk. Looks like you have an admirer."
"Be a good boy and leave them by the door? I'm hardly decent, darlin."
She held her breath.
"No problem, Mrs...," he drawls and glances at the flowers, "Royce?"
"I'll leave them right here. There's a card too. Have a nice day!"
Tapping his feet together, he turned, set the roses by the door and continued his rounds.