Elsie Holstein learns the tricks of the sleuthing trade.
|“Welcome aboard, Miss Holstein. I may call you Elsie, yes? Please have a seat.”
“Thank you, Mr. Bassett. Yes, please call me, Elsie,” she said. She took the chair in front of the detective’s desk and leaned forward.
“I trust you're settled into your new digs and that everything is to your liking?” The hound fiddled with his “H. Bassett, Detective” nameplate.
“Yes, I have, thank you, boss. I’m looking forward to working with you. It's good to learn the tricks of the sleuthing trade from a master.”
“Good, good. Then, let’s get started with this new case handed to me by my good friend, Chief Hampshire.” The detective pulled open a desk drawer and reached inside. He pulled out a manila folder and tossed it, sending it spinning across the desk. Elsie pinned it mid-spin and opened the folder.
She read through the file. “Looks like a truck was hijacked from the Pointer Dog Chow Company,” she said.
The detective planted his elbows on his desk, steepled his paws and nodded. “It appears to be an inside job. The driver has disappeared along with the truck. Informants say they know nothing no matter how hard the cops shake them. The chief and I are friends. He knows I’ve got sources who’ll never talk to a cop. He’s asked me to tap those sources, so that’s where we’re headed now.”
“Very good, sir. I’ll get my car and meet you out front. You can tell me where to drive.”
They drove to the lower east side, across the railroad tracks, and into the low rent district. They parked outside of a cheap motel so rundown it was clear its better days ended many decades ago. Exiting the vehicle, Detective Bassett and Elsie walked to Room 104. Bassett knocked on the door once, twice quickly, then three slow knocks. The door opened as far as the chain would allow. A bleary, red-rimmed eye squinted through the crack.
“Whaddya want,” a raspy voice croaked from behind the door.
“Let us in, Weasel. We only want to talk to you,” said the detective, not unkindly.
The door shut, the chain rattled, then the door opened wide. They stepped inside the decrepit room and declined to seat themselves on any of the furniture.
“We need to talk about the Pointer hijack, Weasel. Tell us how to find the driver.”
“You think I know anything about that?” Weasel’s shifty eyes focused everywhere but on the detective.
“I know you know something about that, Weasel. The mob’s got the goods. You’re in the mob. You’ve heard the talk. Tell me what you know.”
Weasel scratched his head, then his chin. “Black’s his name. Ratty Black. The mob’s tryin’ to take over the dog chow market. They stealin’ from Pointer and packaging the product under another brand. They force the local stores to buy it up and sell it cheaper. Go talk to that bartender, Crow.”
Elsie pushed forward and thrust out her chin. “Who’s Crow?”
“The bartender over on East Central. The big black rooster. He’s friends with Ratty, they go way back.” Weasel scratched his armpit, then his chin again. “Go ask Crow. He can tell you where to find Ratty.”
The dank dive was empty save for one lone drunk slumped and snoring across the bar. The big black rooster standing behind the bar glanced up from polishing a glass as the pair entered. “Whatcha drinkin’?”
“Nothing, thank you. We only have a question to ask, Mr. Crow.”
“Name’s Crow and got nuttin' to say.” He went back to polishing the glass. Elsie drifted off down the bar, eyes scanning the walls as she went.
“We’re looking for Ratty, Crow. He’s got something we need to discuss.”
“Don’t know ‘em; ain’t seen ‘em.” Crow spat on the floor.
“Mr. Crow,” Elsie said, “are you aware that your liquor license has expired?”
Crow huffed and rolled his eyes. “So what?”
“So that’s a violation of the law,” Elsie said as she walked back. “We could have the police here in a minute to shut you down. Mr. Bassett is good friends with the chief of police.”
Crow huffed again. “Ratty’s out back parking the truck right now. I told him I didn’t want no part in this.” Crow tossed his polishing rag over his shoulder and jerked a thumb toward the bar’s rear door.
They spilled through the door into the alley just as Ratty exited the purloined truck. Bassett punched Ratty in the jaw, knocking him out cold. The wail of a police siren rose in the distance.
“You did it, Mr. Bassett, you caught the thief! And here comes Chief Hampshire, just in time.”
Mr. Bassett rubbed his bruised knuckles. “We solved this case together, Elsie. But the truck will block the chief’s car.”
“I’ll move the truck into one of those parking spots over there,” she said. "The chief is gonna need some room to get this filth into a cell."
Elsie parked the truck just as flashing blue lights heralded Chief Hampshire’s arrival. He jumped out of his vehicle and ran over to the truck. “Good job, miss,” he said. Elsie smiled and opened the truck’s door. As she reached for his offered hand, he whipped out his gun and fired one shot into her head.
“Her accomplice did it.” Chief Hampshire closed the door on the cab’s blood and brain-soaked interior and holstered his weapon. “Can't trust anyone these days."
The rumble of a heavy truck entered the alley.
“They’re coming to transfer the product,” said Hampshire.
“Good, good,” said Bassett. He handed Hampshire a wad of cash. “Wake up Ratty, give him this and tell him to pay Weasel and Crow.”
“Got it.” Hampshire pocketed the money and said, “C’mon, boss, let me drive you back to your office.”
As they ambled toward the police car, Hampshire chuckled and clamped his hand on Bassett’s shoulder. “Guess it’s time for you to start looking for a new trusty assistant, huh?”