A Cincinnati Cold CaseR. W. Nichols / Mystery & Detective
A Cincinnati Cold Case
by R. W. Nichols
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 R. W. Nichols
When ex-detective Jimmy Warren returned to his drafty downtown office after the rare indulgence of an expensive steak sandwich, his low mood wasn’t improved. Of course the burned lip he'd received with the first bite hadn't helped. It stung to high heaven. Lately he'd used food as a boost, with his waistline unfortunately showing this propensity to be a bit too common. He just couldn't seem to snap out of the funk he was in. The new career he’d been forced into, his dwindling bank account, and the cursed enlarging waistline combined to play roughshod on a normally good nature. He’d only had one client he’d been able to help since he’d opened his office. If you wanted to call it ‘help’. An unhappy woman had come in two months earlier asking him to find out if her husband was cheating. Turned out he was. Jimmy hated having to confirm her suspicions. The woman was devastated, but her check cleared, and, if you get right down to it, he couldn’t be blamed for her choice in men. And he certainly needed the money. Money was worse than tight. He’d considered running an ad in a larger paper, but hadn’t dared risked the cash. Sadly, the local paper so far hadn’t given him much by way of clients, but it was all the advertising he could afford.
One hand on the knob to his office and the other still on the key in the lock, he pushed the door open, only to see a man seated, leaning back with his muddy shoes disrespectfully crossed above the poor abused mahogany top of Jimmy’s desk. Jimmy’s bad mood became substantially worse when he recognized Thug One. Too late he remembered that where Thug One was, Thug Two wasn’t far behind.
“What the hell are you--?” the words burst out of Jimmy’s mouth just before a hard fist round-housed into the left side of his face and the lights went out.
“Hey, wake up Mr. High-and-Mighty, you.” The words accompanied some not-too-gentle face slapping. Jimmy could hear one of the thugs laughing in the background, as he tried to turn his head away from the unpleasant bombardment. “Meester Private Eye,” the voice sneered. “You not taking care of my seester and she ees not happy.”
With an effort, Jimmy focused his eyes on those of Thug Two, which were only a foot from his face. The man had eaten something spicy loaded with garlic for lunch and his breath was curdling Jimmy’s stomach, threatening nausea in addition to a blossoming headache. Jimmy groaned and tried to roll onto his side only to find the stars he’d seen earlier return. The man hovering over him might not be the sharpest knife in the caddy, but he sure could pack a wallop. Thug Two grabbed him by the collar and assisted him roughly into a sitting position. From there the man began to jerk him upright, but, fighting escalating nausea, Jimmy gasped out, “Wait a minute! You hit me badass hard. Give me a second.” He hoped to appeal to the man’s vanity - the hoodlum was proud of his fists and his pugilistic talents - hoping to get gentler treatment. But he wasn’t stretching the truth. He’d really been clobbered.
Both thugs laughed raucously. Jimmy was glad he’d proven so entertaining. One thing about the brothers, they were jovial for silverbacks and easily amused. Why their physical appearances were so brutish and their sister so drop-dead gorgeous was a question that plagued him, even battered and confused like he was. It was a question that would stump geneticists.
When the room stopped spinning he took the offered hand and allowed the foul-breathed, dark-complexioned man to pull him to his feet. It was all Jimmy could do to keep his balance and not fall back to the floor. But he managed to keep his dignity. Some things you have to do because you’re a man. Allowing the brothers to see him vulnerable was something it was best to avoid. Never let an animal see that you’re afraid. And avoid eye contact – wasn’t that the rest of the rule? Regretfully, he hadn’t done that. Of course, now he might be able to with the way the eye felt. It was swelling rapidly.
“Okay, now what’s going on? Why’d you hit me?” Jimmy asked Thug Two, as soon as the floor was steady.
“You need to know thees ees serious,” Thug One answered. He was the usual spokesman for the two. “Our seester ees broke. Since the divorce she ees not final, it ees your job to take care of her.”
The divorce? Apparently Ada had filed saving him the effort. That was good to know. And by the way her brother had worded it, there was a hope that they wouldn’t expect him to take care of her afterwards. Which was another very good thing. She’d probably already found another man for that. Surprisingly, Jimmy didn’t feel pain at the thought. In fact, the only things that hurt were his face and the back of his head that had collided with the scuffed hardwood floor, and, don’t forget, the blooming headache. That was progressing nicely. Jimmy expected a whopper before the next hour rolled around. What a lucky day. And it was going from bad to worse. The only good thing was his burnt lip didn’t demand much attention. In fact, he thought he might be able to forget it entirely.
“What happened to the thirty-five grand we split? She go through seventeen-and-a-half thousand already?” Jimmy asked, his voice rising in disgust. Ada certainly knew how to spend money. That was one of the things they’d argued about throughout the years and why their nest egg hadn’t been larger. “She knows she’ll get half when the house sells.”
Thug One clucked sympathetically. “Our seester has expensive tastes; you know how it ees. She needs to be taken care of and Papa says you weel do it until the divorce.”
What Papa says, Papa gets. Jimmy remembered some of the violence that rumors attributed to Xavier Velasquez. He was not a man to cross. And if he said “until the divorce” then that was what he meant. He was a man of his word. Jimmy thought there was a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, the divorce went through quickly.
“I can give you five-hundred dollars.”
“Papa, he wants you to be fair. You don’t want heem unhappy, do you Jimmee?” Thug One asked in a soft voice.
Jimmy looked at the two bear-like men glowering at him.
“I have seven hundred in cash. That’s all I have. I’ll barely be able to survive.”
“That weel do. You weel survive, I am sure. You are smart guy.”
Jimmy slowly pulled his wallet from his pocket, trying to look down-in-the-mouth. This was going to crimp his style, but only marginally. He was fortunate that the brothers didn’t know he’d been frugal with his half of the split. Still, it was another seven hundred dollars down the drain. That divorce better be final soon. He hoped the poor sucker waiting in the wings (he knew there had to be one) had some idea of what he was getting himself into. On second thought, no, he didn’t. Let the fool find out later. After the divorce.
“You weel send money. We no come back, right?”
“Of course. Whenever I get a retainer, Ada will get paid. Tell Mr. Velasquez that he can depend on me. I just thought that because she’d left me, I wasn’t responsible.”
“Not the way eet works, bro’,” Thug Two finally jumped into the conversation.
Jimmy looked at him in surprise; the man spoke so rarely. “I see that now,” he said, wincing as he touched his jaw.
“No hard feelings,” Thug Two added. “We just get your attention.”
“Well, you got it. Next time just call.”
The brothers again thought him humorous, clapping him on the back as they left. Jimmy said goodbye, shut and leaned against the door. He closed his eyes and gingerly fingered his face. He winced as he found the spot where Thug Two’s large, hairy fist had connected. Sighing, he found his way to the bathroom to survey the damage.
“Whoo,” Jimmy whistled when he got a good look. There was no longer any doubt about Neanderthal in his family tree. The proof stared back at him through the streaked mirror. In an attempt to control swelling (something he didn’t waste much hope on), he wet a washcloth with cold water and held it to his cheek and eye, lamenting the timing of his new look. A client was coming in that afternoon and this would do nothing toward establishing a good opinion. He could say that his brothers-in-law, sons of a mob boss, had laid him out because they didn’t feel he was treating their sister right. No, that wasn’t good. Should he lie and say it had been an accident? If the client had any sense, he’d know that wasn’t true. The bruising showed exactly what had happened. He could even make out the imprint of all four of his brother-in-law’s huge, simian knuckles, surprising proof that Thug Two did indeed have opposing thumbs.