By the time I pulled my Hudson up to the scene, the sun was rising over the San Gabriels. It was a big house, with walls and a gate that probably should be called an estate, it was more than a house. I didn’t bother to show my badge to the uniform on the door, “Eddie here yet?” I asked.
“In the library,” the cop said pointing with his chin, as I breezed past him and went in.
I spotted my partner, Eddie Mercks, in a room off the hall talking to some dame. She was a straight haired blonde. Long, lean, and a real looker, the kind of girl who could keep you awake at night. The kind of girl you wouldn’t introduce to your mother. I recognized her. We had a history.
I headed that way and hooked Eddie by the elbow pulling him to the side. He held out his hands, palms down, “wait here doll.” He said to her, “We’re not done yet.”
“What are you doing, Eddie? Do you know who that broad is?”
“Jessica somebody,” he said. Then he consulted his notes, “Jessica Hathaway.”
“Yeah, that’s right and Jessica Hathaway is “Big Paulie” Costello’s girl.” I looked back at her. She was holding an unlit Lucky Strike between long manicured red-tipped fingers and leaning up against a Queen Anne desk. She wore a floor length crimson dress slit high up the front and her long legs went all the way down to the floor ending in high heeled mules that matched the outfit perfectly. I scanned back up the tight fitted dress, looking for weapons. I thought about patting her down but then I remembered “Big Paulie”, “Look Eddie, go easy on the broad, OK. We don’t want any trouble with Big Paulie’s boys.”
He nodded. “Sure thing Dan, but… “
“What’s the matter with you?” I interrupted, “Where’re your manners? Go light the lady’s cigarette – where’s the stiff?”
“In the Conservatory, Dan. It’s that way,” he says pointing further down the hall. Then he adds, “This fuckin’ house has a conservatory! Do you believe it?” He reaches into his pocket for some matches.
“I believe it,” I said pulling a crumpled pack of Camels from my jacket pocket and fishing out the last one. I flicked my Zippo and lit it as I turned towards the door, “Eddie,” I ask through the smoke, “Whose house is this?”
“I thought you knew, Dan.” He said, “This is Paulo Costello’s house. He’s also the stiff in the Conservatory. Tapped twice, once in the chest, once in the head, a real clean job.”
I looked back at Jessica. She smiled, pursed her red lips, and batted her eyes. She didn’t seem all that broken up to me. This case was starting to get interesting.
I headed down the hall.