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from Killing Time In LA by Kenneth Lawson

Copyright © 2020 Kenneth Lawson

Chapter 5 Day Five, Monday, June 13, 1949

 The smell of rain was still in the air.

 A quick glance out the window told it had rained hard. 

 While I did morning stuff I considered the progress we’d made yesterday.

 In some ways it had been a lot. 

But on the more basic level as to who killed Emma Hardy and why. 

I was still clueless.

 But I had more people to check out. Which is what the program was for today.

  I had given the list of names Lane had given Bob to Walt last night at the bar.

 He would be using his contacts to find out what he could about The names and the Lazarus Project.

**

While Brenda and I ate, I turned on the radio. The weather report confirmed what I saw outside.  The cloud cover was thick and dark this morning. There was no blinding morning sun to wake up the citizens of Los Angeles this morning. And from the look of it out my windows it didn't look like it was clearing off anytime soon. 

I’d been messing with this case from around the edges for several days and I was getting tired of getting nowhere. It was time for a direct approach. 

I hadn’t heard from Walt. I didn’t worry about it. I would ,when he had something to report.

 Meanwhile.  Meanwhile my mood was getting as foul as the weather. 

 In the Packard I pulled out my notebook and checked the names I had written down.   Brenda had given me an address for the lawyers Clarence had seen the other day. 

The cloud cover turned to rain again about halfway to their office. It was pouring rain by the time I reached them. 

 I parked on the street in front of their offices.  Sitting in the car for several minutes I let the rain continue pounding the roof of the car. The  sound it made reminded me of the sound of rain beating against the steel roofs of the Quonset huts I’d been stationed at a few times during the war. It wasn’t a pleasant memory. Eventually I pushed the war out of my mind.   After several deep breaths, I opened the door and stepped  out into the downpour. My trenchcoat did help keep me from getting completely soaked in the short walk from my car to the door. The overhanging   ledge that protruded from the side of the building tried to help keep some of the rain from directly hitting the doors. But a gust of wind about the time I tried to open the door let a sea of rain in with me as I ducked into the door. Letting it close behind me. I let myself drip for a minute as I looked around. It was a small lobby.  Not the grand and expensive lobbies I’d been in months ago. No marble floors or marable clad walls here. Just a basic wood floor and wooden wainscoting topped with a fresh coat of paint to hide the abuse that walls have suffered over the years.  It was  neat and clean, by no means fancy. 

The sign on the wall near the door told me the  only lawyers on the fifth floor was probably the ones Clearance he went to see.

 The elevator was old. Probably older than me. It was one of those manual affairs that had steel gates at the floor and one on the box itself. You slid them both shut and punched in the number of the floor you wanted, I hit five.  I slid the gate back and let myself into the square box that  hung in the opening of the wall. Closing both the gates, the one in the wall, and  the gate on the car itself, I hit the button for the fifth floor.

The elevator protested as it came to life. I could hear gears whining and feel the weight of the car being held up by the chains and cables that ran it. It made its way  up the fifth floor. I felt like it was working as hard as it could to keep from dropping me back down the ground floor.  Once I was safely on the solid floor of the hall,  I breathed a little easier.

I wasn't looking forward to the return trip. I just hoped it didn’t turn into an express ride down five floors.

The fifth floor hall was as equally spartan as the lobby. Several sconces hung from the walls on either side of the hall. They held bare light bulbs that shed their light in bright blazes that blinded one if they looked directly at them. 

The shadows that they cast helped to fill in the gaps left by years of neglect and abuse.  If the sun had been out this morning it would never have made it through the dirt and grime that covered the lone window at the far end of the hall. 

I stood in front of the elevator and thought.  There were only a few doors in the hall. One door had a wooden plate screwed to it that announced the fact they are lawyers.

 The rest of the doors only had numbers on them. I tried each of the doors  as I passed on my way to the lawyer’s door. They were all locked.  I expected that they  would be. But One never knew.

 Eventually I stood in front of the lawyers  door.  I had taken as much time as I could. There was nothing left to do.

 WIth my Id in my hand. I knocked on the door.

“Come in.” came the invitation from the other side of the door.

 The thunder and lightning that had been stalled over the harbor   decided to move about then. Sending a severe shock though the building as lightning crashed not far from the building. The floor shook with the clap of thunder that  echoed in the empty hall and probably across the block. I jumped as it went off.

 All of this occurred just as she had invited me in. 

 I gently pushed the door open.  

She was old. Older than the elevator I’d just rode up on.

 Her horn rimmed glass framed her face as he stood up to meet me.

“Yes, can I help you?”

“Eh yes, I hope so Mam. My name is James St.James. I’m a PI.”

As I approached the desk that stood between us. I held out my Id in my right hand.

“Mm, I see…” She commented as she read the information on the card. Handing it back to me. 

“How can I help you Mr. St.James?”

I referred to my notes, partly to keep my facts straight, and for show.

“Two days ago, Saturday, the 11th , You had a visitor, one Clearance Hardy.

I would like to know exactly who he saw and why.”

“Assuming this is true,..”

“It's true. He was seen going in here, and to this floor. As this is the only office up here that's being used. It's a reasonable assumption that he saw you.”

“I see.” she sat back down.

“And why should I tell you anything.”

“Becasue he may be mixed up in a murder, and if you or you bosses had anything to do with it, you and them could be accomplishes or  even charged with the murder.”

 There was a lot more that I could tell her, and even more I couldn’t tell her because I didn't know. But I let it go for now.

 “I see.” She seemed to like that phase.

 I stood over her trying to look as imposing as I could in a dripping wet trench coat and a fedora half bent outta shape  in my hand.  Sometimes silence says more than a lot of words.

 I didn’t move. My hands  held my hat as I tried to keep it from dripping on her desk.

“Who was murdered?” She finally ventured to ask.

“His sister-in-law, Emma Hardy.”

“When?”  She turned dead white and leaned back in her chair. I thought she was going to faint. But she held on.

“Tuesday Evening.” I didn't volunteer anymore. Either she knew already or she's been living under a rock the last few days.

 “Mam, please don’t make me have to get angry. It's more work than I want to do today. Just talk to me.”

***

About then, thunder crashed and the whole building shook.

 The lights blinked off then back on in a split second.

 I didn’t move.

 

“He's out of town.”

“Who's out of town?”

“Mr Reynolds.”

“Mr. Reynolds who?”

I was fast losing my patience.

“Stop playing twenty questions with me and talk to me.” I leaned over the desk. Not caring if I got the papers neatly stacked on the corner wet or not.

She found his appointment book.  Opening she pointed to that day in question. There was nothing listed there.

 “He was here.” I told her.

 “Does Mr. Reynolds often have meetings that aren’t in the books?”

“Yes. Sometimes if it's a client or a special situation, He’ll come in on Saturday.”

I see…’ As I flipped through the datebook. I noted there were several meetings listed within the last couple of months.   I wondered how much else wasn't in the books.

“Were you here for the meeting that didn't happen?”

“No. I don’t  do meetings. I just answer the phone and take messages.”

“I see. And where is Mr.Reynolds right now?”

“I told you he was out of town.”

“I know what you told me. Now tell me the truth.” I wasn't in any hurry to intimidate an old woman. But she wasn’t telling me everything.

 I leaned over the desk and looked directly at her.

“Look I’m wet, tired and have been chasing circles for two days, and I’ve about had it with  the bullshit. You tell me where I can find your Mr. Reynolds right now or things are going to get ugly real fast.” My jackets had shifted so she could see the forty five hanging under my suit coat. 

She squirmed in her chair.  I’d hit  women before. But only as a last resort. And definitely not an old lady. 

   I looked over her shoulder at the door behind  her desk.

“That his office?”

She nodded yes.

 “You have a key?”

“No.”  I stood back up and went around behind the desk. Right next to her chair in the small room. Trying the knob, it was locked. 

 Looking to the side  at her. I pulled my gun from its holster. She turned white.

“Key?” I asked one more time as I aimed the muzzle of the gun inches from the small area between the knob and the edge of the door.  Looking at her one more time I flipped the safety lever up and prepared to squeeze the trigger.

Suddenly she found the keys. Pulling them out of the back of the desk drawer. She handed me the ring. Still white.

“Thank you.” I stepped back a step and slid the pistol back into its home.

  She slid her chair as far away from me as she could get in the small room. 

 I unlocked the door. 

 Pocketing the keys I stepped into the slightly bigger office that lay behind it.

 The inner office was not much bigger than the outer office. The center was taken up by a large desk. And a couple of wooden file cabinets stood on either side of the door. And a small couch was cramped against one side wall. And a couple of small chairs took up what space there was left.

 I stood in the middle of the room and looked around. It didn’t take long. Unlike the spacious office of Lane Hardy, this was a closet masquerading as an office.

I worked my way around and sat down behind the desk. I’ve liked to see how a room looks and feels from the place their work is done. It didn't  get bigger from behind the dsk.

 The desk was neat. Not as neat as Lane’s, but it wasn't bad. I looked through the stack of papers on the left side. Nothing of interest here. I worked my way through the desk drawers. By now she had moved enough to stand in the doorway and glare at me with her arms folded across her chest. Her sundress hung from her like it was at least one size too big.  Satisfied the desk was useless. I got up and approached the filing cabinets. The top one was locked. 

“You have the keys.” she told me with more than a touch of irritation in her voice. 

“So I have.” I fished them out of my pocket. It took me a minute to find the keys for the filing cabinets. Sliding the top drawer open. I flipped through the files. There wasn't a lot there. And most of them looked fairly old. Going Back to the war. 

As I flipped through the  files in the next drawers.

“You still didn't tell where Mr. Reynolds is.” I reminded her.

She took a deep breath and sighed.

“ I don’t know.” she sounded relieved to finally say it.

“You don’t know?”

“No I haven’t seen him since last Friday.”

“Friday the tenth?”

“Yes. I was here for a while in the afternoon.  He left in the middle of the afternoon after a phone call.  I stayed here and finished what little I had to do. That's the last I saw him.”

“Why didn't you tell me that before. It would have saved both of us a lot of time and aggravation?”

“Because the last thing he told me was to say  he was out of town for the weekend.”

“Clearly he wasn't.” I said referring to the meeting on Saturday.

 She nodded yes.

While I kept poking through the files of one Mr. Reynolds lawyer Several things passed through my mind.Who called him on Friday afternoon? Getting The Phone records for the office would be interesting. And what connection did he have to either Lane or Clearance, or as far fetched as it seemed how about the Lazarus Project?  And of course where he was now?  Hell, was he even still alive?

So far I found nothing about any of the people I was looking into.

The second file cabinet held more recent files.

“He’s not here. So why are you?”

“Because He was expecting a phone call. I was supposed to answer it for him.”

“Did it come?”

“No, not yet. And I Needed to finish up a few files  anyway.” She supplied.

 “What's he working on now?”

She leaned against the door frame while I  went through the next drawer down. 

Flipping through the files I almost missed it. 

Buried between divorce case and a lawsuit he'd lost was Clarence Hardy.

**

 I pulled out the files along with several others that looked interesting.

**

I plopped the files on the nearest flat surface and  went  back to the drawer. Clearly this was where the most recent work was kept.  Eventually I had several more files pulled ou...






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