“The Scarlet Web” part Four

Over his coffee mug Sam asked, “So, you want to tell me what’s going on?”

Sam and Scarlet had driven for three straight hours before finally pulling off for a gas and bathroom break. Back on the interstate, they drove for a further two hours when Sam took an exit for a local highway. Scarlet said little during the trip. She slept in the seat some and gazed out the window. North of the city there had been farmland dotted by small towns along the highway. Soon the landscape changed. More trees and less farms and towns. For the last hour on the interstate there was nothing but Pine trees. Scarlet had never seen country like this. She was a city girl who had no desire to leave it. They drove another hour on the state highway before turning off on a gravel road. It wasn’t kept up the best and Sam’s car bottomed out a few times on the ruts. Slowing down, Sam turned onto a one track road, defiantly worse than the gravel road had been. This road led, after a quarter mile to a small cabin in the woods, overlooking a lake. Scarlet’s breath caught.

“This is beautiful,” she said.

“I don’t get here as often as I need to. But it’s here when I do. A good place to hide.”

“That’s what we’re doing, isn’t it? Hiding.”

“Yeah,” said Sam. “We’re hiding. C’mon, I’ll show you around.” Now, sitting in the comfortable cabin, Sam thought it was time he found out what was going on.

Scarlet, wrapped in a blanket and with her own coffee, sighed deeply. Six hours North of the city the air was crisp and cool. “I don’t know where to start.” she said. “Okay. First of all, ‘Lee’ is not my real last name. It’s a name I took for myself when I started working in radio. Sounded better than my real name, and my brother thought it would be wise not to use our real name anyway.” That statement raised about a thousand questions in Sam’s mind, but he kept them to himself. “You see my brother, is, well, to put it plainly, he’s a criminal. He started out doing petty stuff like robbery and grifting. He kept getting better at it and started doing riskier stuff. I’ve always loved him and I’ve tried to get him to give it up but he said it was so lucrative that he couldn’t possibly make that kind of money going straight. And he never got caught. That’s what’s so crazy about him. He’s never been caught for the probably thousands of crimes he’s committed. Anyway, we haven’t talked in probably a year or more. I don’t know what he’s into now, but these suits with the fancy car, they want to find him. That’s why they came to me. I guess they found out he has a sister and figured the best way to flush him out is through me.”

“So they smashed your door in and kidnapped you? Why did they let you come back to your apartment? When I was there.”

“They said they didn’t want to draw attention with keeping me hostage. They wanted people to see me. They didn’t count on you being there but you were. They were watching me the whole time. They had a lot of questions about you. By now they probably know more about you than you do. Are you sure they won’t find this place?”

“The property is owned by a corporation I set up that has no connection with my name or business. I tried to trace it after I bought it. The computer trail keeps running in circles back to the corporation. There’s no connection to me.”

“That was smart considering the company you keep,” Scarlet said.

“So your brother must be into something heavy with these people and they can’t find him. Can you find him?”

“Well, maybe,” Scarlet said. “He lives off the grid, nothing connected to him, kind of like you with this cabin. But I have an email address he set up for me. If I need to get in touch, I can email him. I’ve never used it so I don’t know if it’ll work. I don’t suppose you have internet here?”

“No, I don’t.”

“The suits took my smart phone from me so that’s out.”

“Too easy to trace. You wouldn’t want to use it if you had it. I’ve got an idea. About an hour North of here is the Canadian boarder. We can drive up there tomorrow, find an internet cafe or whatever you call those places, and send your email. We can get some clothes while were waiting. You have your I.D.?”

“Yeah I do, and my passport. They went through everything I had on me but gave it all back. I guess they didn’t think any of it was important. Except my phone. That they kept.”

Sam stood and stretched. He loaded some wood into the fireplace and lit a fire. They had picked up some sandwiches and beer when they stopped for gas, and ate those in front of the fire. At dusk, Sam took Scarlet down to the lake. “I’ve fished here a couple times,” he said.

“You, fishing?” Scarlet asked.

“I haven’t always been a private eye you know. I did have a childhood.”

“Ha! I can’t imagine you as a kid,” Scarlet laughed. “You’re always so stoic and serious. What kind of a kid were you anyway?”

“Being a detective and witnessing the kind of world that I work in, has a tendency to sober you up. I was just a regular kid. Rode my bike, went fishing, you know, kid stuff.”

Scarlet laughed again. “Wow. You were a kid!”

They sat in silence for a while, watching the sun go down. Finally, Sam asked, “What is your real last name?”

“It’s McCree. It’s Scottish.”

The stars came out and Scarlet marveled at the clarity of the night sky and the thousands of stars they could see. Too early for mosquitoes, they stayed out late. Back in the cabin, Sam pulled out some musty smelling blankets. “These will have to do,” he said. “You can take the bedroom. I’ll have the couch.”

A little while later Sam heard the bedroom floor creak and Scarlet opened the door. “Sam?” she asked.

“Yes?” Sam said.

“Will you come here?”

“Sure,” said Sam, as he got up.

At the bedroom door Scarlet asked, “Will you come lay down by me? I don’t want to be alone in here.”

They both climbed into bed, leaving the door open for warmth from the fire, and had the best night sleep either of them could remember in a long while.


The Scarlet Web part Three

Sam drove to the Motor Vehicles office. He had a friend who worked there who sometimes did him favors. “Well Hi Sam, it’s been awhile.”

“Hi Lois,” Sam said. “How’ve you been?”

“Fine. You?”

“Good. Say I wonder if you could do me a favor?”

“That’s pretty much why you come to me, isn’t it?”

“You’ve got a point Lois. I’m looking for a car.”

“We don’t sell cars here Sam. We only license them. You’ll have to locate a dealer,” Lois said sarcastically.

“Right,” Sam said. “Look, this is important. I’m looking for the owner of a gray Bentley.” Andy had given him the color.

“There are a lot of cars in this city Sam. And you know I could get in trouble for this.”

“I know. I’ll make it worth your while. A Bentley is a British car so I’m thinking their might not be a lot of them around.”

“I know the Bentley is British Sam, I work in Motor Vehicles. Let me see what I can find.” Sam waited while she worked her magic on the computer. “Well you’re in luck. There’s only three of them in the city. Let me print this for you.” The printer clicked out a piece of paper. “Names and addresses,” she said. Sam took the paper and stretched out his hand to shake hers. He slipped her a twenty. “Ooo,” she said. “Now I can retire.”

“Best I can do, Lois. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome, Sam. Be careful.”

“Always,” he said. Which was a lie.

Sam checked out the cars. The first one sat in a driveway partially covered by a tarp. He could see from the street that one side was covered in rust. Couldn’t be the one as Andy had told him the car he was looking for was in perfect shape. The next one was also in a driveway and an elderly couple was just getting out of it with groceries. And it was Blue. The last one he found, was registered to a rental agency. Morrison Luxury Car Rentals. Sam parked and went inside. He asked if he could use the bathroom. The man behind the counter gave Sam a look of disdain and pointed the way. When he came back he asked the man about their rentals.

“We have the most beautiful cars in town,” he said.

“I’m looking for one in particular. I’d like to rent a Bentley. A gray one.”

“We do have one. A limo, in fact, but I’m sorry to say that it’s rented out right now,” the man said.

“I don’t suppose you could tell me who you rented it to? I really need one and maybe I could convince your renter to let me have it.”

Sam noticed the rental book was sitting on the desk in front of the man. Before he could object Sam said, “Oh, by the way. When I was in the bathroom just now I noticed the toilet was leaking.” The man turned his head and saw water running out under the door.

“Oh crap,” he exclaimed as he ran for the bathroom.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Sam said, as he flipped the rental book around. He found the Bentley on the second page, quickly wrote down the information and turned the book back. He left the store before the man could get back from the bathroom. Sam had plugged the toilet up so badly that it would take him quite a while to unstop it.

The address that the rented Bentley was registered to was a hotel. Sam drove through the parking lots but didn’t find the car. Finally, he pulled into an empty spot and sat, thinking. What could Scarlet be into, he thought? He didn’t feel she was a deceiving kind of person as she had always been honest with him. Even when her honesty stung a little. And again, could he be wrong about this whole thing? Scarlet was certainly strong enough to kick in a simple door if she needed to, and who knows, maybe she was dating some rich guy who had a driver and other people working for him. If she was, she didn’t owe Sam and explanation. They were friends, nothing more. Even though he had wanted more, it just hadn’t worked. Sam pinched the bridge of his nose. He could feel a headache coming on. The day had been cloudy and gray and now it started to drizzle rain. Out of the corner of his eye, Sam saw a car approaching. It was the gray Bentley. It pulled in under the carport of the hotel as Sam got out of his car. He had no idea what if anything, he would do. A man got out of the back passenger door and behind him was Scarlet. The man grabbed her arm roughly and pulled her from the car. She tried to push his hand away and he grabbed her with both hands and moved her toward the hotel door. At that moment Sam appeared from behind the Bentley. Moving swiftly to Scarlet, Sam reached for a finger of the hand of the man holding her and bent it severely backward. The man let out a yell on let go as Sam shouldered him out of the way. Pulling out his massive 357 Magnum, Sam grabbed Scarlet around the neck and pulled her away, pointing the gun at her head.

“Alright, everyone just take a deep breath,” he said. “She’s coming with me.” Another man got out of the car and pulled out a pistol, pointing it at Sam. “Uh, uh,” Sam said. “I’ll blow her head all over your expensive suit, pal.” Sam pulled the hammer back on his pistol.

“Look,” the guy with the gun said. “Let’s talk about this. How about we all go inside and sort this out. I’m sure we can come to an agreement.”

“Not happening,” Sam said, and started backing away from them. The guy with the now, broken finger pulled out his own pistol as Sam and Scarlet headed for Sam’s car.

“Don’t,” the first guy said. “Don’t shoot him. We’ll find them. To Sam he yelled, “You’re dead buddy! I don’t care what it takes, we’ll find you!”

Sam stuffed Scarlet into his car and went around to the drivers door. Inside he started the car, shifted into reverse and backed out of the parking lot and onto the street. Shifting into first gear he burned the tires all the way down the street. Shifting into third and then fourth gear he checked his mirrors. They weren’t following.

“Dammit, Sam! What do you think you’re doing?!” Scarlet yelled.

Not looking at her, Sam said, “Maybe you hadn’t noticed but I was saving your ass.”

She pounded her fists on the dash. “Goddammit Sam! You shouldn’t be involved! You don’t know what these guys are capable of. If they catch us, they’ll kill you! Don’t you get it?

As calmly as he could, Sam said, “Don’t you think I’ve faced situations like this before? This is what I do, Scarlet. I put myself in danger nearly every day, doing what I do. If anyone can handle this, it’s me.”

Scarlet sat fuming. She realized he was right, but that didn’t make her any happier. Sam took a series of turns, went down some alleys and finally headed up a ramp to the freeway. No one was following. “There’s no where we can go Sam, that they won’t find us. They’ve got plenty of connections.”

“I’ve got a place in mind,” Sam said. “Don’t worry, they won’t find us.” Sam steered the car into the left lane and hit the gas. They were doing 85 as they headed North, out of the city.

The Scarlet Web part Two

Sitting in a chair in Scarlet’s living room, Sam Barton was exasperated. He had searched the entire place and found nothing. Not one scrap of evidence to suggest what happened to her. Sam had tried her cell phone several times with no answer. As he sat and thought about the whole thing he had to admit that he didn’t know her that well. The times that they spent together were fun but not very deep. Their’s was more a physical relationship. They drank, made love, saw some movies, listened to some bands play and that was about it. No deep conversations or secrets were shared. In fact, when Sam made a move to get closer by getting to know her better she became somewhat distant and their relationship slowly dissolved. Remaining friends was easy because they hadn’t been that close. And now it seemed, she was in trouble and Sam was completely unable to help her. Hearing the sound of someone coming through the door downstairs and thinking it might be the cops coming back, Sam got up to leave. As he reached for the door, it pushed open at him and he ran right into Scarlet coming in.

“Scarlet? What’s…where have you been? I thought you were…”

“Whoa Sam, what are you, what’s with the crime tape and… what’s going on here?”

“That’s what I’d like to know,” said Sam. “I came over to check on you. You didn’t go to work last night, your door was smashed in and you were missing.”

“Did you call the cops, Sam?”

“Yes. It looked like something bad had happened here. You had me worried.”

“Well that’s just great Sam. Thanks for that,” Scarlet said, sarcastically. “Now I’ve got to contend with the cops. Great! What were you thinking?”

“What was I thinking? Your door was smashed in, you didn’t go to work and you were missing! What was I supposed to think?”

“Oh I don’t know, maybe that I have a life of my own and I can do as I please without interference from you? Maybe that’s what you should have thought. So I lost my key and I didn’t want to call you in the middle of the night for your key, which reminds me, I’ll take that key back now that you’re here,” Scarlet said, holding her hand out. “So I kicked my door in and I,” she hesitated, “I’ve been out of town.” Gesturing with her hand she said, “My key, please.”

Sam was floored. This was not the Scarlet he knew. She was extremely agitated, and downright angry with him. Had he made a mistake? Was there really nothing going on here? Sam didn’t think so but neither did he think that this was the time to press it. Taking out his keys and removing hers from the ring Sam said, “Scarlet, you know you can trust me. You can come to me with anything. If, if something’s going on here, if you need help…..” Scarlet waved him off.

“Nothing’s going on here Sam, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Taking back her key, she softened her tone. “Look, I’ve got some things to do Sam, so maybe I’ll see you later. I ah, yeah. I guess I’ll be busy for a few days so we’ll talk again next week or something.”

Sam reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose. “Alright Scarlet, I’ll leave you to it. Do you want me to call the cops and let them…”

“No Sam, I’ll take care of it.”

“You know you can call me, right?” Sam said.

“Yeah, Thanks.” And she shut the door in Sam’s face.

Sam stood outside the door for a few moments wondering what the hell just happened. None of this made any sense at all. As a detective, Sam was pretty good at knowing when people were hiding something. And Scarlet was defiantly hiding something. She was tense and defensive, as if she just got caught doing something she shouldn’t. Her eyes had kept shifting around while she talked, barely looking Sam in the eye. And now he knew the truth. He really didn’t know her at all. And also as a detective Sam knew, he couldn’t leave this alone. He’d have to get to the bottom of whatever this was. Great, he thought. Another case I won’t get paid for. But it was more than that. Scarlet was his friend. Whatever it was she was into, as long as she was hiding it Sam knew it wasn’t good. He’d have to figure it out and help her if he could.

As he drove away, Sam decided to play dumb with the cops. If they contacted him he would say that Scarlet said she would clear things up with them. He wouldn’t reveal his suspicions about what might be going on here. That way he’d be free to investigate without them knowing. After driving around town awhile thinking things over, Sam almost got hit at a four way stop. He realized he wasn’t paying attention to his driving and so he went to a local watering hole to drink. Sam was a regular at this place and knew the bartender, Andy.

“Jameson?” Andy asked as Sam sat on a stool.

“That’ll do,” said Sam. The place was dark and quiet, just the way Sam liked it. A jukebox in one corner mostly played blues and Jazz tunes. A few other regulars were scattered about, minding their own business.

When Andy brought Sam’s whiskey he said, “You look like you’ve got a lot on your mind today, Sam. What’s the trouble?” When Sam told him what the trouble was, Andy remarked, “You know it’s funny. I just saw that woman the other day.” Sam raised his eyebrows, questioningly. “I remember you brought her in here a couple times. She seemed nice, and she does that radio gig, right?” Sam nodded. “Yeah, I saw her getting into a car. Nice one. I mean really nice, like a Bentley or something. Like a, like a limo type. Couple guys in suits with her. Nice suits ya know? Like ah, silk or something. All dark windows on the thing so I couldn’t see inside, but the driver, he held the door for them all, and he was a big dude. Dark glasses. I was walking past ya know, and because I remembered her I guess I was kind of watching ya know, and that driver, he gave me a look like, mind your own business buddy, ya know? I just looked away and moved along. Don’t want no trouble, ya know?”

“Shit Andy, Why didn’t you tell me?” Sam exclaimed.

“What do ya mean, why didn’t I tell you? I’m tellin’ you now! I haven’t seen you in a couple weeks and this just happened the other day.”

“When and where, Andy?”

“Jesus, Sam. Calm down!”

“You know what Andy?” Sam said loudly, rising from his stool. “No one in whole history of being told to calm down has ever actually calmed down! Where and when?!”

“Alright! Christ man!” Andy said. “It was ah, two days back. Yeah, two days. And it was ah, on 2nd Avenue downtown. You know, down where all those office blocks are at.”

“What were you doing down there?”

“Nevermind, Detective, I got my reasons, he said, defensively.” Andy walked away to wait on another customer while Sam thought about what he said. What the hell was that woman into? He never imagined she would have friends that dressed in silk suits and rode around in limos. Unless, unless they weren’t friends. Sam called Andy back over, apologized for getting upset with him and then grilled him for another half hour on everything he could remember about Scarlet, the car and her new friends. And then he left the bar. He had a few scraps of information but nothing too solid. But he knew one thing for sure. He wasn’t going to figure this out sitting at a bar. He needed to be out on the streets.

The Scarlet Web part One, a Sam Barton Mystery

Sam liked the sound that the tubes in his old radio made as they warmed. For a few seconds before the announcers voice came through the speaker the tubes made that reassuring bass hum combined with a high pitched whine. He thought that modern, solid state radios sounded soulless. Even though you could buy a radio today that had perfect high fidelity and distortion levels so low the human ear couldn’t hear them, Sam thought the music sounded lifeless. Those warm tubes were the heart of the radio, and without a heart well, nothing else worked.

It was late in the evening and Sam was finishing up another day of doing almost nothing. He hadn’t had a case to work on in over two weeks. It seemed crime was low in the city these days. Nothing much for a private eye to do. In a world of the internet and cell phones, Sam Barton was a throwback to a 1930’s movie. He called himself a “private eye” instead of a detective, wore a long trench coat and Fedora and carried a powerful pistol in a shoulder holster. And he smoked a pipe. He liked Jazz. An old girlfriend worked at the city’s only Jazz radio station and she was on the air late at night. Her name was Scarlet Lee and she was beautiful. She was thin, five foot eight and had flaming red hair and blue eyes. She and Sam had dated for a while but things hadn’t work out. Remaining friends, they saw each other from time to time and Sam still kept a key to her apartment, just in case he needed a place to stay. Mostly though, they met on the radio. Scarlet talking and Sam listening. He could listen to that sultry voice all night. Which he sometimes did.

Tonight however, a man’s voice came over the airwaves. The announcer said that due to Scarlet’s illness, he would be filling in on the night shift. Strange, Sam thought. He couldn’t remember a time when she wasn’t on the radio on her usual nights. Sick or not, she was always there. Sam worried that something serious could be wrong but considering the late hour, and if she was really sick, he decided not to call her. With nothing else to do, Sam prepared for bed. He kept a cot in his office thereby keeping his expenses down. Taking off his shirt in the bathroom, Sam noticed a slight pudginess just above his belt line. Age and too much restaurant food was getting the best of him. According to his rental agreement there was no cooking allowed in his office. Considering that he hadn’t seen the landlord in over three years, maybe getting a hot plate and making his own meals wasn’t a bad idea. With that thought, Sam went to bed and dreamed of bacon and eggs.

The next day Sam was up early taking care of some business. He mailed a few letters, bills to clients mostly, and then thought he would swing past Scarlet’s place to see how she was doing. Leaving his car on the street, Sam walked up to the old house. Scarlet rented an apartment in a old Gothic Revival style house built around 1880. The owner had kept it up very nicely and made several apartments inside. Scarlet’s was on the second floor. At the top of the stairs Sam could see Scarlet’s door and knew immediately something was wrong. The door stood slightly ajar and wood splinters lay on the floor. Sam reached into his coat for his 357 magnum, a new one he’d bought after losing his old one during a recent case. Easing his way to the door, Sam crouched low and pushed the door open with his hand. Nothing. It had definitely been forced open. He moved into the apartment keeping low. Five feet in he could see into the living room and kitchen. Again, nothing. No sign of a struggle or anything out of place. A short hall led to the bathroom and bedroom. Both doors were standing open. Peeking into the bathroom first, he found no one there. The bedroom door was wide open and Sam could almost see the entire room. The blankets from the bed had been thrown onto the floor and Scarlet was gone.

After talking with others in the building Sam found that the lady in the apartment next to Scarlet’s had heard a loud noise last evening but thought nothing of it. No one else had heard a thing. Sam called the police on his seldom used flip phone. Scarlet had encouraged him to get a cell phone which he didn’t like using but because of her, he carried it with him. When the police arrived they searched the apartment, checked for fingerprints and took Sam’s story about what happened which wasn’t much as Sam knew almost nothing. They put crime scene tape across the door and told Sam to leave. Sam was considered a top detective in the city. It bothered him that he could find no evidence. As he drove away he decided he needed to go back. Swinging his fully restored 1941 BMW 327 Coupe around the block he slowed as the last police car left. Pulling up to the curb Sam shifted out of gear and sat for a moment with the engine running. The last time he spoke with Scarlet was a week ago and he could think of nothing she said that was out of place. He noticed that she had seemed a little distant when they talked but thought nothing of it at the time. Now he began to wonder. Was there something going on with her? Something she was reluctant to tell Sam. He supposed she had things in her life that she didn’t talk about, they were friends but not that close after their break up. Shutting off the car, Sam got out and headed toward the apartment. He had to find something he could use to help find Scarlet. What it was, he didn’t know.

The Tarot Card Mystery part Six

Sam had a hard time letting things go. He didn’t like loose ends, and he didn’t like not solving a case. He had gotten his car out of impound with a promise to John Amos the police captain, that he would explain everything. Then he drove to Madame DuPree’s shop. It was closed. A note at the front door let customers know it would remain closed until further notice. The back door was locked. He drove the streets looking for Christi. Considering that she stole his money, he didn’t expect to find her. So he wound up back at the police station and told the captain everything that happened. He had no explanation of how the Tarot card Madame DuPree had given him changed from Death, to the Hermit. The card had been in his back seat since he rescued Christi from the abandoned ship. He also had no idea how he was poisoned. The only thing he could think of there, was that Madame DuPree could have had poison on her fingernails when she attacked him. After giving his statement, Captain Amos told Sam to go home. They would launch an official investigation and Sam was to consider himself, off the case. Before he went back to his office, Sam found another metaphysical store on the other side of town and bought a deck of Tarot cards and a book explaining them. He didn’t go for this kind of thing, but he thought maybe if he understood it, it might help him figure this out.

So he sat at his desk puffing his pipe, with the cards spread out in front of him and read the book. He read about the Major and Minor Arcana. He read about the meaning of the cards and what people used them for. He was just about to take a break when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. There was a white envelope halfway under his office door. Grabbing his 44 he quietly stood and moved to the door. Throwing it open quickly and dashing into the hall, he found no one there. Checking either end of the hall revealed no one either. Back in his office he cut open the envelope and with a tweezers, removed the only thing there, Another Tarot card. This one was the Moon.

Well, one thing was for sure, Sam thought. This case was getting weirder all the time. He had no idea what this meant but he had a Tarot book now so he looked up the card. The book told him the card meant that it was a time of uncertainty. It could also mean confusion or misunderstanding. Who would leave this? The Tarot had been Madame DuPree’s thing, but would it have been her? He didn’t think she would have climbed the stairs to his office and then he remembered how agile she had been jumping on his back during the attack. Maybe it was her. Or Michael. He had no idea, and no idea how to find out. This was one of the most frustrating cases he’d ever had. Sam knew he should just let it go. Mostly because he knew he would never get paid for his time. The old crone had hired him to find her niece but since that had all blown up, well, there’d be no money. Looking at the Tarot cards and admiring the artwork he thought, maybe I’ll try to read them. Why not? I’ve done a lot of crazier things, he thought. So he shuffled the deck and laid out three cards.

The book told him that a three card reading was common. The cards could represent the past, present and future. They could also mean the present, hindrances and help. The question he would ask was; How can I solve this case? He felt a little foolish doing this, as it was way outside what he believed in. Sam believed in what he could see and touch. This metaphysical mumbo jumbo held no interest for him. Usually. But now, because of the strange things that had happened, he wasn’t so sure. Couldn’t hurt to give it a try, he thought. So keeping the question in mind, as the book told him to do, he flipped over the cards. The first card was the Moon. The same one from the envelope. The second card was the Tower, and the third was the nine of cups. He had already discovered that the Moon card represented confusion, misunderstanding or uncertainty. That one he understood. there was plenty of all of that here. He found it interesting that that card came up in the first position. It fit. The next card, the Tower, stood for chaos, change, disruption, and destruction. Destruction he didn’t like. It could be his destruction. The card could also mean liberation. This was getting more interesting. The last card, the nine of Cups was harder to figure out. The book said it was a good card that meant that all is well. Fulfilled desires, well being and good health. He liked that but it wasn’t helping him figure out what to do. Sam wondered about the cups on the card. He dug through the book and found that the four suits, Swords, Cups, Wands and Coins were akin to the four suits in playing cards. And they had meanings. The four suits were associated with the four ancient elements of Air, Water, Fire and Earth. Cups, were associated with water. But how could that help him, he thought? And then it came to him. This whole thing had started on the water. In an old ship in the harbor. Maybe it would end there too. Dropping the book, Sam stood and grabbed his 44. He filled his coat pocket with bullets and just for luck, he put the Nine of Cups card in his shirt pocket. Couldn’t hurt, he thought.

The Tarot Card Mystery part Four

I started writing this story back in 2016. I wrote three parts and then life was interrupted by my wife’s illness. The story is a mystery involving my favorite detective, Sam Barton. Here are links to episodes one, two, and three. I’m now in the frame of mind to continue with the story. It’s been sitting, patiently waiting to be told. So here’s part four!

“She says you tried to rob her, Sam!” the police captain yelled. He had been doing this for about half an hour. Sam was driving around in his car trying to figure out what to do about this case when a squad car pulled him over. The police had went to Madame DuPree’s shop after Sam’s call and found the old woman tied up on the floor where he had left her. Taking her to the station, she claimed that Sam had come to the shop and tried to rob her. She said that she had never seen him before.

Pounding his hand on the Captain’s desk, Sam shouted back, “You can’t be serious! You know me Captain! You know who I am. You know I’d never do something like that. She hired me to find her niece. When I found more than she’d wanted, she had her gorilla knock me out and lock me in a storeroom. Look! She gave me this card.” Reaching into his pocket, Sam retrieved the Tarot card Madame DuPree gave him. Christi had tossed it into the back seat of his car after he rescued her and for reasons he couldn’t understand, he grabbed it and put it back into his pocket before the cops stopped him. “Why do you think I’d have something like this, Captain? Where do you think I’d get a Tarot card, if not from her?” Sam flipped the card over to show the Captain the face side, which had been the Death card except now it wasn’t. “What the hell…?” Sam said. “This, this isn’t the right card.”

“That doesn’t prove anything,” the captain said. “You’re not that stupid Sam, and neither am I. Having a playing card in your hand doesn’t mean squat! Now I know you didn’t try to rob her but your explanation isn’t all that convincing. So why don’t we…Sam? Sam!

“Sam looked up from the card and said, “This isn’t the right card. She gave me the Death card, but this isn’t it.” The card Sam was holding was the Hermit card. It showed an old man standing alone on a mountain top holding a lantern in his out stretched hand. “There’s something wrong here Captain…”

“You bet yer ass there is,” the Captain interrupted.

“She only gave me one card, Captain. It was the Death card. This isn’t it. How, how could that happen?

Sam’s vision started to blur. He dropped the Hermit card on the desk and rubbed his eyes. He started feeling nauseous and dizzy. Looking at the Capatin and back at the Hermit card he saw the figure of the Hermit turn it’s head toward him. Sam thought he must be going crazy as the figure began to grow larger in his vision. The Hermit lifted his lantern to illuminate Sam’s face and said, “You’re alone. You’re all alone, with no one to help you! Death will come to you in it’s time but for now, You’re all alone.” Sam fell forward out of his chair, and remembered nothing more.

The Tarot Card Mystery part Three

Here you are folks, part three!

Dull pain from his right shoulder to his hips caused Sam to wake and with his eyes still closed he sensed light coming through the office window. When the Jamaican girl shifted beneath his left arm he realized why he was in pain. Two people sleeping on a cot made for one did not afford him the best night sleep he’d ever had. Rising slowly so as not to wake her, Sam massaged some life back into his arm. Looking down at Christi, her lustrous black hair and brown bare shoulders silently invited him back to bed but he knew he shouldn’t. He wasn’t a guy who worried over much about morals but at this moment he was certainly hoping she wasn’t younger than twenty. She never did say how old she was. After a quick shower and a change of clothes he left a note for her on the desk: “Taking care of some business, be back later.” Then he left the office.

Sam stopped at a local eatery for breakfast. One of the neighborhood cops was sitting at the counter when Sam went in. “Hey Sam,” he said. “Long time no see.”

“Yeah Charlie,” said Sam, “How’s the family?”

“Oh everyone’s good. You know Martha,” he said, rubbing his large belly, “Always baking something for me.”

“Having a good woman in your life can be hazardous to your health Charlie. Better be careful,” Sam said as he sat down.

“Say, Sam, you haven’t heard any rumblings in the area about drugs have you?” The hairs on the back of Sam’s neck prickled.

“I don’t know what you mean, Charlie.”

“Well it seems Downtown has been getting some unofficial reports about a drug war taking shape around here. Two rival factions maybe. Just wondered if you’d heard anything.”

“Not me,” Sam said. “I try to keep my nose out of that kind of business.”

“Yeah I figured as much.” Charlie got up to leave. “If you hear anything you let me know, yeah?”

“You got it Charlie. See you ‘round.” Sam ate his breakfast in silence wondering again, just what he got himself into.

Finished with his breakfast, Sam went to see Madame DuPree. She was sitting quietly behind the counter when Sam opened the shop door. “So you found my niece. That was quick work Mr. Barton. Most impressive. But you did not bring her to me. Unfortunate.”

“She’s safe.”

“In your office. I sent Michael to collect her there.”

Sam was beginning to wonder if this old lady wasn’t psychic after all. “Well the office door is locked and…”

“Michael does not worry about locked doors, Mr. Barton. You may remember that I told you it would be most unfortunate if there were any entanglements between my niece and yourself. You should have heeded my advice.” Sam imagined the third frosted glass window of his office door in as many weeks smashed all over the floor and wondered just how the hell this lady knew what happened last night. Time to change the balance of the conversation.

“Look, here’s the situation. You asked me to find your niece. I found her, and got shot at and chased in the process. I intended to bring her to you but she insisted that she wasn’t going to come. I also learned a few things last night that you neglected to say. Christiana tells me you’re involved with drugs. She…”

“The girl lies.”

“That may be. However a couple things her captors said last night while they were trying to kill us suggest that she may be telling the truth. Now personally I don’t care what you’re into but when you withhold information that can get me killed I resent that. I did what you asked so if you don’t mind I’ll just take my check and our business will be concluded.”

“I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way, Mr. Barton. I told you to simply bring back my niece and not get involved with her. You also know more now than you should. I’m afraid I can’t have you walking out of here and telling what you know. Your fat police friend would love to hear this tale, would he not?” Sam heard a noise and turned to find all six foot four inches of Michael standing right behind him. Michael reached out with his right hand and grabbed Sam by his coat. Sam took hold of Michael’s middle finger and bent it backward. It had no effect. He bent it further back until he heard it snap. Michael still held Sam firmly paying no attention to his broken finger as he pulled back his left arm and punched Sam square in the face. As Sam’s knees buckled under him, the lights dimmed and went out.

Sam woke lying on the floor with a massive headache and a swollen, possibly broken nose. At first he didn’t understand what had happened. He remembered talking to Madame DuPree and nothing more. Slowly, the big man standing behind him swam into his mind and then it all came back. Why didn’t they kill him, he wondered? Sitting up with his back to a wall, he surveyed his surroundings. He was in what looked to be a store room. Boxes and crates stacked haphazardly here and there filled most of the room. There were no windows that he could see through his blurred vision and only one door. Thinking of how he could get out of the room gave him an idea. He located a large crate with the lid sitting off to one side. Looking inside it he found packing material. Sam climbed in to the crate and pulled the lid back on top. Inside he pulled the packing material over him and settled in to wait.

While he lay concealed in the crate he thought about everything that happened. Something was bothering him. He was missing something he couldn’t quite get. Something someone had said. Everything Madame DuPree had said was pretty straight forward except the mumbo jumbo about tarot cards, so that wasn’t it. The same with Christi. Michael didn’t talk, so that wasn’t it. He hadn’t talked to anyone else involved with this thing. Sam thought about the two guys on the ship. What did they say? He thought about what he had heard and then it hit him. It was Jerry. What did he say? He was complaining about losing the girl. Yeah, that was it. He said, “The big man’s going to be pissed.” The big man. What did he mean? Who was the big man? Michael, of course was a big man. Could he mean… That didn’t make sense. Michael was a big dumb oaf who worked for Madame DuPree. And didn’t talk, unless the need arose, as DuPree had said. Could he, do you suppose… The thinking was making his head hurt worse so he tried to calm his mind. The crate was cramped and Sam felt like he was getting a charlie horse when he heard the door being unlocked.

“Well Mr. Bart…” Madame DuPree began and then stopped. “Michael! Get in here!” Michael stepped into the room. “Where is he Michael? Where did he go?” Sam heard the noise of boxes being moved. Shuffling feet told him the room was being searched. “It is impossible for him to have gotten out of here! He cannot have left.”

Suddenly Michael spoke. “I don’t know, Madame. He’s not here.”

“Then where is he!?” she yelled in her scraggly voice.

“I don’t know Madame. There are no windows and the door was locked.”

“Well he’s gone! This is bad Michael. We need to find him. And with Christiana gone also, it is doubly bad.”

“I’m sorry Madame. I went to his office like you told me. She wasn’t there. The note said he would be back. He was expecting her to be there, but she left.”

“We need to find them both. Use your resources Michael. Go! But keep in touch. Find them!”

“I will Madame. I will.” Sam heard them leave, and shut the door. They didn’t lock it. So much for her psychic abilities, he thought. He waited for a good ten minutes before sliding off the crate lid as quietly as he could. Climbing out of the box, Sam made his way to the door. Opening it and looking out he found he was in the same hallway in the back of the store as before but at the far end. There was no back door. He crept up the hallway and through the curtain saw Madame DuPree sitting behind the counter where she had been before. No sign of Michael. There was only one way out, nothing more he could do. Sam strode through the curtain, turned to look at the old lady and said, “Madame,” and kept walking for the door.

A screech came from behind him and she was on his back. She was light weight but seemed powerful. Her long red nails dug into Sam’s neck as she bit him in the back of the head. He swirled around hearing the jangle of her bracelets and smashed her into the shelves full of merchandise. Her products flew everywhere and the shelves collapsed. She hung on. Screeching and digging with her nails, Sam could feel blood running down his neck. He turned and ran backward as fast as he could, smashing her into the wall. She lost her grip and fell to the floor. As she attempted to get up, Sam punched her hard on the side of her head. Her head went back, banging into the floor and she lay still. He stood over her catching his breath. Reaching over and grabbing a lamp off the counter, Sam ripped out the electric cord. Flipping Madame DuPree onto her stomach he tied her hands behind her back and then tied her hands to her feet. Sam looked behind the counter and found a roll of paper towels which he used to stop the bleeding. As he left the store he pulled out the cell phone he rarely used and called the police. Telling them what had happened there, but nothing more, Sam quickly faded into the night. For night it was. He must have lain in that room for several hours.

Now he had to find Christi. If she had stayed in his office, Michael would have found her but she was gone. Unless. Unless Michael did find her there. Which would mean that Michael was not who he seemed to be. One way to find out. Sam’s office was on the second floor of an old building not far from DuPree’s shop. He went up the back stairs and peeked through the door. No one in the hall way. Sam reached for his 45 and realized that it was gone. Dammit, he liked that pistol. He could see glass on the floor at his door from his position by the back door. He heard no noise so he went in. The glass had been smashed out of the window and his office was wrecked. Most importantly though, Christi’s clothes and shoes were still there, telling him that Michael did find her there but did not tell Madame DuPree. Which meant that Michael was probably ‘the big man’ that Jerry the sailor had mentioned and was playing each side against the other in some kind of drug war.

Sam quickly pulled off his shirt and put on his Kevlar vest. Finding his 357 in the desk drawer, he put that in his coat pocket along with a hand full of extra bullets. He looked at himself in the mirror. He looked like hell. Holes in his neck with blood trickling from them, two black eyes and a broken nose. And the back of his head burned from the bite Madame DuPree had given him. “That’s it,” he said to his reflection. “Now I’m pissed. Time to go shoot some people.”

The Tarot Card Mystery part Two

Sam drove to the harbor. There were a few ships docked there and plenty of dark warehouses with alleys between them. He left his car in an unlit area and walked toward the docks. He wore his Kevlar vest under his shirt and had changed into rubber soled shoes which wouldn’t make any noise on the pavement. Stopping by a large pile of pallets he used his 30 power binoculars to survey the ships. Several were under foreign registry and looked regularly used. Then he noticed one old ship sitting away from the others. Lots of rust and no flags told him this old boat hadn’t gone anywhere in a long time. As he worked his way closer while staying in the shadows he noticed streaks of old red paint on its sides. Bingo, he thought, but now what? The ship was dark. No lights on the deck or from any of the portholes in its side. Walking along the side of a warehouse that paralleled the ship he found a gangway from the dock to the ship at its far end. Stepping onto the gangway he bounced his weight a couple of times to test its durability. Finding it sturdy enough he stepped quickly across and tried the door. The lever handle scrapped loudly as it moved and the hinges squealed as he pushed the door open. Waiting to see if the noise would attract any unwanted attention he then stepped inside.

Not wanting to make any more noise, Sam left the door standing open. It was dark enough outside that he didn’t think any light would shine in. Standing still and listening he thought he heard distant voices. Someone was shouting, but from where? Pulling out his small flashlight he risked turning it on. He was in a long hallway with doors and other hallways leading off of it. Shutting off the light Sam started to make his way along with his hand on the wall to keep his bearing in the dark. As he moved he began to make out some features in the hallway and soon came to an open doorway where dim light spilled out. There was definitely shouting coming from the room. He passed the open door quickly, seeing no one inside and stood behind the door. The steel walls, floor and ceiling echoed the shouting voice and made it hard to make out what was being said. He thought he heard the shouter saying something about wanting information. Something like, ‘that old lady is going to get herself killed’. Footsteps began to come toward the door and the shouter yelled, “But you’re going to die first if you don’t open up!” A man in an old seaman’s coat and cap emerged through the door and stomped down the hallway in the opposite direction Sam had come, muttering under his breath. Sam waited until the man was out of site and slipped around the door and into the room.

To the left of the doorway was a young woman tied to a chair. Her head hung down, chin resting on her chest. She was wearing black capri’s and a dirty maroon button up shirt, with a few buttons missing. Sam made his way to her and as he approached her head snapped up and she opened her mouth to speak. Sam quickly clapped his hand over her mouth and said, “Listen to me. I’ve come to get you out of here. Your Aunt sent me looking for you. She’s worried you might be in trouble. Looks like she was right. I’ll cut you loose but you need to follow me out.” The girl nodded her head and Sam took his hand away from her mouth. Using his knife he cuts the ropes. As the ropes fell to the floor she stood, rubbing her wrists.

“Alright mon, lead da way,” she said in a very Jamaican accent. The two of them left the room and as quietly as they could, made their way up the hallway. Sam heard noise behind them. The shouter was back and had found her gone. He yelled for someone named Jerry and running footsteps began to get closer. They ran. A light came from behind Sam and the girl and then a gunshot. The bullet whined as it pinged off the metal walls of the ship. Two more shots came as Sam and the girl reached the door he had left open. Out the door, across the gangway and into the open space between the ship and the warehouse. As they approached the warehouse Sam grabbed the young girl and pulled her into the shadows beside the building. They lay on the ground between some stacked pallets and the side of the building, Sam’s arms around her. He put his finger to his lips indicating silence. She looked into Sam’s eyes, smiled and wiggled closer to him. “Dis is nice,” she whispered.

As the shouter ran past them another man, who must have been Jerry, came by as well. “Did you see which way they went?” he asked.

“If I’d seen which way they went I’d know where to look, wouldn’t I?”

“You don’t have to be crappy with me Monty, yer the one let her escape!”

“She was tied up good when I left her!” Monty shouted. “Someone come in here and cut her loose. Don’t you blame me fer that!”

“Big man’s gonna be pissed, Monty,” Jerry said.

“Don’t you think I know that? That old witch gets the upper hand on us, all hell’s gonna break loose! I just ‘bout had her talkin’.”

“We had her in there for three days and she ain’t said shit!” yelled Jerry. “Whata you mean you almost had her talkin’?”

“Shut yer head, Jerry, for you get it taken off.”

Jerry and Monty searched the area but Sam and the girl were hidden well enough that they didn’t find them. The two men finally made their way back to the ship, arguing all the way. Sam and the girl came out from their hiding place and went the long way around the warehouse to Sam’s car. Climbing inside Sam started the engine and pulled away from the docks.

“Where we goin’ mon?” the girl asked.

“You’re Christiana, aren’t you?”

“Oh ya, I’m Christiana alright but I liked to be called Christi if ya don’t mind.”

“I’m taking you back to your Aunt. She hired me to find you. As I said before she’s pretty wor….”

“Aww no you’re not takin’ me back to dat old bat,” Christi interrupted. “She’s da reason I’m in trouble in da first place. Her an’ her drug dealin’! Why you think dem guys had me on dat ship? She sells drugs mon. She interferen’ wit dere own drug dealin’. She makin’ more money den dem guys,” she said, motioning backward with her head. “Day don like dat. So dey snatch me to get to her. Den you come along and save me!” She laughed at this and as she laughed she slid across the car seat right next to Sam’s side. “So I’m thinkin’ I could jus’ stay wit you, ya know? We go back to your place, get warm an’ cozy for da night. Den tomorrow you can help me get back to Jamaica! My Da an’ me we lived there. He sent me to live wit’ de old witch when he was dyin’. Said I’d have a better life. But he din know about da drugs mon. So I got to get back. I got other family dere who I can go to. But dat can wait ‘till tomorrow. Tonight it’s jus’ me an’ you.” Christi slid her hand under Sam’s coat to caress his chest and felt something in his pocket. “What’s dis?” she said, snatching out the Death tarot card Sam had put there. Laughing hard she hooted, “Aww dis is rich! Did she give you dis?”

Sam at this point unsure if any of this was real, nodded his head. Christi waved the card in the air. “Oooo,” she called. “Death gonna get you!” Laughing again she flung the card into the back seat. “You not takin’ me back to dat crazy old bat. Take me to your place or let me out right here! Besides,” she said, cozying up to him again, “You look like you could use some fun in your life, mon!” Not knowing what else to do, Sam drove the car to his office. Once inside Christi spotted the bottle of Jameson whisky on the shelf behind Sam’s desk. “Let me pour ya a drink mon,” She said. Glasses in hand she grabbed the bottle and came back to Sam’s side. Setting the bottle on the desk she reached to turn on the radio. Sam kept his old tube radio tuned to his favorite Jazz station. Moving sensuously to the music she said, “Dis is more like it mon.”

“I don’t think we should be doing this,” Sam said. “You’re the niece of a client and besides, you’re awfully young.”

“Aww don’ you worry about dat. I’m old enough for you.” Christi slid her hands under Sam’s coat and pushed it off his shoulders. Beginning to unbutton his shirt she discovered the Kevlar vest. “Oh, dis has got to go,” she said. Pouring two whiskeys and handing one to Sam she knocked hers back quickly. Rubbing her lips with the back of her hand and locking eyes with Sam she poured another. Before he knew it his shirt and Kevlar vest were off and Christi was unbuttoning her own. Knowing this was a bad idea he and the girl sunk onto his cot, and into the depths of passion.