I scanned the sidewalks and streets as I walked the city, hyperaware of any possible attack by the three musketeers or any other enemies, though I really didn’t expect any trouble right away. I was curious, however, how the mob even knew I was involved in any way. Had Honey spilled information? Was she being tortured? Or was there some other source that had to be ferreted out? There was no way anything would have come from my police friend. Tom was not the type to betray a pal.
I could have grabbed a cab and gotten across town to the Dr.’s house much quicker, but I need to stretch my legs and brain. Clearly I was on to something, or at least my association with Honey had raised attention. What is it that the Dr. had that could engender strong-arm tactics from a group that usually liked staying in the shadows while they earned their nefarious booty. What could be held in a small statue that would have been worth exposure? Drug? Seemed unlikely, as even a few pounds of any drug would not be worth too much. It could be some information that might lead to riches, but the nervousness of the thugs and the singlemindedness of the boss indicated that it might be something else altogether.
The beers had settled nice, and a fish taco purchased from a local food truck fixed my cravings. The sun was dropping and lights were coming on. I have always been attracted to sparkly things. A long neck adorned with a diamond collar, deep emerald eyes that sparked with fire and delight, seductive ears draped. . . I felt the cold blue steel press against the back of my head. It happened so quickly I just froze.
“Mr. Dean. I don’t have time to explain or cajole. I am not here to hurt you, but will if I must. I am here representing an interested party and need to speak with you. Would you please set into this alley? I will remove the gun if you promise no funny business.” I moved into the cool shaded alley. Detritus from years of passerby were strewn about.
I could not remember anyone getting the drop on me that easily. “I am truly impressed. You are more stealthy that a fox on a rabbit hunt.” I then say that in fact, he was a fox. Somewhat smallish for a fox, his deep red hair smoothed back over his long snout and face, but unlike so many foxes, he was not smiling.
“Forgive me, Mr. Dean.”
“Duffy. Duffy is fine.”
“Duffy, then. I am a member of a secret police agency, undercover. That is the reason for the abrupt nature of my introduction. I just needed you off the street. Can’t blow my cover. But we needed to talk in person, because I simply don’t trust electronic devices. I’m not going to give you my name, but you can call me Aesop.”
I chuckled, remembering all the fables involving foxes, but I wondered if this was the wise one or trickster. “So, Aesop, what brings you to my fair city.”
“We have been running an operation on Wabo for a while. We were totally unaware of the Dr. or his daughter until very recently. There sudden appearance garnered quite a bit of intense mob attention. It wasn’t the normal attention associated with greed, or some sudden score, but almost a fear. As if some secret activity or arrangement had been compromised. Almost as if some sort of blackmail was going on. But there was no proof and no calls that our guys picked up to verify this hunch. Whatever it is, it is big. Wabo is beside himself. Usually he is pretty calm, but he has been slapping around his henchmen, staying away from the skirts, calling in markers. He did, however, mention your name on several occasions, and not kindly. That gave me the impetus to come and speak with you, since I was certain you were not on the inside.”
“You’d be right about that pal.”
“Whatever you found or are on the trail to finding really has the big boy rattled. I want to know what it is?”
“Sorry buddy, I don’t even know. Yet. I keep trying to think what might have them all hot and bothered, but I haven’t figured it out yet.”
“I would like you to share if you figure it out.”
“Well, I can’t say I will, since I don’t know what it is yet. I work for a client. But if it in someway endangers civilians or society, I might share.”
He reached into his vest (Yeah, I know. How cliché, but he was wearing a vest), and pulled out a card. No name, no number, just an “A” and a dropbox number at a local postal store. “If you want to talk to me, leave a note in the slot. Someone checks it daily.”
“What you gonna do for me in return?” I asked.
“If I have something that can be of help to you that doesn’t mess up our operation, I’ll let you know. But your helping us out can expedite our friendliness and cooperation.” For a few minutes we stood there, cut off from the rest of the world as if we were voyeurs in the forest. I grabbed a hanky and mopped my brow, and then I had the feeling that I was alone. I turned, and so I was. Amazing. This guy was good. I poked my head out of the alley and caught a glimpse of him hustling down the street as the shadows of dusk began to cloak the city.
[Join us tomorrow as we continue The Adventures of Duffy
Dean, Detective on this radio channel.]