Nailed – a murder mystery in 10 Acts.
IT WAS SUMMER. Yet, her body was stiff and cold. A few police guards stood solemnly at the crime scene. The victim deposited face down on a marble floor; struck dead from behind. This is how a man snuffs out a woman, Lissette thought. The prey was Glenda Canon, a billionaire’s 25-year-old daughter. Her wet hair was still tousled. Rigor mortis was stiffening the body. She wore a short bathrobe and not much else. Fresh from the bath, not a very glamorous way to die for someone so snobbish, thought Lissette.
Lissette Zeller squeezed the mean thoughts out of her mind. A good investigator was analytical, not a social commentator, she recited in her head.
Lissette was clothed in the customary dress for detectives on the force. Her camel hair blazer contrasted with her navy-blue pleated skirt; almost a schoolgirl’s uniform – except for the black stiletto high-heels. Too high for comfort, Lissette’s black spike heels were a statement of her unmistakable hunger for male attention. In her late twenties, her shape was graceful and attractive, a Looker who couldn’t find Mister Right.
“Earl, come here. Take a note of this,” Lissette said. Earl Gressi was Lissette’s superior and her investigative partner. She didn’t enjoy male bosses, but Earl was more opened-minded than many. A stuffy middle-aged bachelor, he appeared clumsy compared to Lissette’s light shape. They both wore the same status of clothing except Earl wore blue slacks and black penny loafers. Lissette hated it when his apparel colors matched hers. It was as if he deliberately was embarrassing her. The truth: they both just had small wardrobes.
“What’d ya find?” Earl asked. He pushed his large glasses up with one finger.
“Look. The victim’s only got nail polish on one hand,” Lissette replied.
“So where’s the nail polish?” Lissette questioned.
“Good point, Zeller. Let’s look around for the bottle of greenish – it’s green, isn’t it?”
“Sort of an iridescent color, I’d say, but tinted green.”
“OK. Green it is.”
Lissette knelt down by the bed and lifted the dust ruffle. Peering under, she came to a quick conclusion: Glenda definitely had a maid. The floor was spotless. Not a single dust bunny.
“Nothing under here,” Lissette said, “I’Il check the balcony.”
When she stood up, it was apparent the men in the room were all staring. She chuckled. She relished this startling power she felt – as always. The men shifted their gaze – sheepish. Earl frowned and shook his head. Lissette clacked elegantly across the hardwood floor knowing the “boys” were still secretly gawking.
She stepped outside and eased off her suggestive performance by slipping off her shoes. I should be so lucky as to have a balcony, she thought, there I go again: more class envy. The balcony was gray cement railing with a black-and-white marble floor. Plants garnished the ends. Fake plants, she noted. There was no green fingernail polish bottle on the balcony but there was polish remover. It lay tipped over on a round cast iron table. Yet no nail polish.
“Earl, do you have your field glasses with you?” the barefoot Lissette shouted.
“You know I always do, Zeller.”
“Well, be a dear. Loan them to me for a moment, please?” Lissette said in her most honeyed voice.
“Please don’t use your female manipulations on me. It makes me ill,” Earl said.
Scowling, he tossed the battered glasses to her from the balcony door. She caught them and feigned slipping them over the edge.
“Hey! Careful We’re on the top floor!” Earl was always nervous about loaning his things. Lissette enjoyed playing on his paranoia. She pushed back her dark shoulder-length hair from her face. Peering through the field glasses she scanned the grass and concrete far below in the courtyard. Something gleamed in the grass.
“Earl, I need your help.”
He popped his head out from behind the sliding glass door. He had a quizzical and astonished look.
“I suppose you want me to fling myself down and retrieve my demolished field glasses.”
“Nothing of the sort. I need you to go down the elevator. Then retrieve whatever is glinting in the grass there. Do you see it?” She pointed down. He stepped over, took the glasses and peered down.
“All right. There is a reflection. You keep looking for more clues.”
“Of course,” Lissette said, “I’ll be looking for a brick to throw when you’re on the lawn.”
He glared at her and left. Lissette went back into the apartment and reclined on the couch. She was tired. Her five foot six inch frame fit perfectly on the soft leather couch. She ignored the ugly corpse on the floor and the few silent guards. After awhile, Earl return from the courtyard. He was out of breath and perspiring. He stopped walking the instant he saw Lissette. His mouth dropped open in disbelief. Lissette was asleep on the leather couch. Earl paled.
“Zeller! Wake up!” Earl shouted, “The elevator’s out of order. I’ve been hustling my fanny off for you – and you’re sleeping!”
Lissette yawned and stretched. She’d known the elevator was on the blink.
“This is a great couch,” Lissette said, sitting up, “Would you like to try it?”
“I can’t believe you. I’ll report you one of these days for your insubordination!”
“Such a frightening word. Earl, does it mean you want me – to submit to you?” she said in a throaty voice. Lissette tilted her head back, shook her dark-red mane, and smiled. Earl blushed at his visible excitement.
“Please! Stop! Don’t even elude to such notions, Zeller! Forget I said anything at all.”
Slowly without a word, Lissette stood up – too close for Earl’s comfort. Earl floundered gulping air. His breathing rhythm was off.
“Don’t you dare… ,” He glanced around to see no one was observing. Earl hiccuped.
Lissette grinned. Earls hiccuping was merely applause verifying Lissette’s charms. Such a risky game she played with poor Earl’s nervous system.
The coroner was preparing the body for removal. A dull thump sounded when he moved the corpse to the black body bag. Earl and Lissette both cringed. “What did you find in the garden? The nail polish?” Lissette said.
“No. This.” Earl held out his hand. He clutched a plastic sample bag containing a large silver-ladle. A tag dangled from it marked ‘Evidence’.
“Fantastic. Did it fall from the balcony?”
“Because of the distance, better said, tossed. The deceased name is engraved on the handle.” The large knob at the end was bloody.
“The murder weapon,” Earl said proudly and nodded at Lissette, “Good work, Zeller.”
“Still – where’s the nail polish?” Lissette asked, ignoring his compliment with calculation.
“Who cares about nail polish? We’ve got the murder weapon. This thing has fingerprints all over it.” Earl’s hiccups were disappearing with his growing irritation.
“But no suspect and no motive?” Lissette raised an eyebrow and produced a coy smile.
“You are so arrogant sometimes,” Earl said. She said nothing, but turned and sashayed out of the apartment. She jogged to exit ahead of the men removing the cocoon body bag. Earl shook his head. He’d let her take off this time – again. They both knew nothing more could be done until after the coroner’s report. Still, her smugness ate at him. Lissette was so beautiful but such a prankster.
NAILED Scene Two. Day One PM, Homicide Division.
IT WAS LATE NIGHT. The office was silent and empty. Lissette stared at the coroner’s report. She rocked her chair back dangling her shapely legs. She stretched and flexed, exercising her sore calves. Accursed heels, she thought. A low cough sounded at her side. She dropped the report and grabbed the hidden pistol from under her desk and spun the chair around. Her gun barrel pointed at a man she didn’t recognize.
“Not so fast,” he said, with both hands in the air, “I only cleared my throat to let you know I’ve been … waiting.”
“Who let you in?” She took note of his motorcycle boots, faded blue jeans, long white hair, and black leather jacket. He looked like a mugger’s twin. Gaging his age, Lissette put him near death. Suspicious fellow.
“I’m from downtown. Here. My badge and I.D.” He reached in his bulging coat pocket. Lissette instantly cocked the gun hammer. He stopped motionless. Slowly he pulled out a leather wallet and flicked it across the floor to her bare toes. She left the wallet on the floor and flipped it open with her foot.
“You’re agent Eli Temple? Have we met before?”
“Lots of women ask me that. Can you put down the forty-five magnum?”
She kicked the wallet back to him. Lissette released the trigger and eased the hammer slowly back to it’s metal home with a soft tap. He knows his weapons, she thought.
“Is sneaking up on women, when they’re alone, your routine?” Lissette asked. He stooped to pick up his I.D.
“Not armed ones … you caught me off guard,” he said. He evidently had been there awhile giving her the once over more than once. Lissette sneered. Slime. She didn’t like him.
“So, Temple, what brings you here … besides sight seeing?” Lissette asked. He fumbled a smile.
“I’m replacing your partner, Earl, for a few days on the murder case.”
“Aren’t you a little old to play cops and robbers?”
“I’ve not retired yet. Experienced men are the best, they say.”
Lissette smirked. She hated seducers; all brag. “So, which murder case you interested in?” Lissette prompted.
“The Glenda Canon murder case. Ring any bells?”
Lissette scowled. This guy’s a jerk. I gotta get rid of him, she thought.
“On who’s authority were you assigned to my case?” Lissette asked.
“By the Chief. I’ve my orders from the top. You can be reassigned if you like?” Eli said.
“Not a chance, Temple.”
“Good. Let’s get to work.” Eli, uninvited, pulled up a chair.
Lissette, sulking, dropped her gun with a resounding thud on the desk top. A not-so-subtle reminder who’s turf Eli was invading.
“You’ve got the Coroner’s report?” Eli said.
“Sure. Here. Help yourself,” Lissette retorted. She tossed the report into his lap. Eli stared at her a moment and picked up the report. After perusing the summary, Eli spoke, “Was she married or living with a man?”
“No,” she replied. “An immaculate conception, I suppose.”
“So it appears. The report said the victim was three months pregnant.”
A double murder. A motive perhaps? Lissette thought.
“Why did they send you?”
“Excuse me?” Eli said, peering over the top of the papers.
“Temple, why send you?” Lissette repeated loudly; mouthing her words as if talking to a deaf man.
“It’s a hot case.”
“So, I’ve supervised hot, cases before – unassisted.”
“Words out; you’re impulsive, Zeller. An unmanageable feminist vigilante. Get the picture?” Eli said.
“So they’ve sent you to baby-sit because this case is too high society and blue blood.”
“You are smart. There’s big money behind this murder. You know that. You’ll make lots of unpleasant waves for some big players unless we’re diplomatic.”
“Diplomatic? Okay, fine. I’ll be diplomatic. You’ll see,” Lissette said. Inside she was fuming. She should’ve shot Eli when she had the chance. Eli tossed the report on the desk and left. When he reached the door, he turned and said, “See you tomorrow … Diplomat Zeller.”
The door clicked shut behind him and resonated in the emptiness. Lissette winced.
“Jerk!,” she blustered. She dreaded tomorrow already. She picked up the phone and punched some buttons.
“Hello, Earl, I’ve gotta see you right away. Yeah, your place is fine. 15 minutes, sounds good. Bye.”
NAILED Scene Three- Day Two, Early AM, Earl’s Place.
LISSETTE KNOCKED AGAIN, only louder, on the third story door marked #308. She was growing restless. Finally Earl cracked the door and looked out.
“It’s me. Open up,” said Lissette. “Gimme a minute, Zeller,” Earl replied and closed the door.
Lissette could hear Earl talking to an upset female. The door popped open and a young woman exited quickly. She was pretty. She sniffed at Lissette. Lissette stood, her mouth wide open in surprise, not knowing what to say. The thought of Earl entertaining ladies never occurred to her.
“Did I interrupt something? Something … personal?” Lissette asked.
“Of course you did. But you sounded desperate on the phone, Zeller. We are partners, you know. Come on in.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t even check the time before I called,” Lissette said. She walked through the door in a daze.
“See. You were upset. It’s 2 AM.”
“Do you frequently have women at your apartment at two in the morning?”
“Seems that way tonight … you’re number two.”
“Earl, there’s a side to you I didn’t realize existed. You don’t even have hiccups.”
“What side do you mean?”
It was Lissette’s turn to blush for once. “I’ve flirted, flaunted and taunted you. I’ve been cruel.”
“Yes. You’re very beautiful but unfortunately cruel, also.” Earl looked down at his bare feet. The floor was cold. “You think I’m … cruel?” Lissette implored. Forgetting she just pronounced herself cruel already.
“Yeah. You’re very cruel. But you’re not here for psychotherapy. You’ve come to ask me about Eli Temple. Right?”
“How did you know?”
“Chief called me earlier tonight. Asked how long since I’ve … vacationed.”
Lissette plopped herself on the couch. It was old, worn, and still warm from it’s recent occupants.
What was Temple doing at 2 AM in the station? She wondered.
“Earl, I don’t know what to do? I want to solve this case but I hate this creep Temple. What should I do?”
“Use your extraordinary secret weapon: your femininity. It’s worked before. You got me to climb down and up all those flights of stairs today.”
“Oh, Earl. I wasn’t your … motivation … to do that.”
“Sorry, Zeller. But it’s true. If you were a man, I’d have told you to fetch it yourself.”
She sat thinking. “You’re right. Being female gives an incontestable power over men,” Lissette stated.
“Well, use what God blessed you with to your best advantage.”
Suddenly, glass shattered all over the carpet. At the same moment, the window drape bloomed out. Earl slumped over. Lissette scrambled to the door in time to see a tan four-door speeding away; an unmarked patrol car. Eli was curled in a ball on the floor. His breathing labored.
“I don’t think … I’m gonna … make it this time,” Earl said.
“Oh, quit the dramatics. You’ll be fine.”
The slug had punctured Eli’s right lung. Lissette picked up the phone and pressed 9-1-1. Why would a cop try to kill my partner? Or were they gunning for a different target? … me.
NAILED Scene Four – Day Two AM
THE SPEEDING AMBULANCE. “Where am I?” Earl wondered out loud.
“You’re in the back of an ambulance being rushed to County Hospital,” Lissette responded. She was bored already.
“What? How’d they let you come along? Don’t they know you’re cruel?”
“I told them I’m Mrs. Earl. Sorry. Just play along, okay?” Lissette explained.
“Liar. You should’ve gone into crime. Not law enforcement.”
Lissette brushed her dark-red hair away from her face. Steadying a medical mirror, she daubed pinkish lipstick on her rounded lips and rolled them tight together. She turned to face Earl.
“Earl, it was a unmarked patrol car outside your place.”
Earl stared at her, stunned. His brow knotted. “Why would anybody on the force want to kill me … or was it you they wanted?”
“You’d better think long and hard on that one,” Lissette said.
“That senseless Canon case,” Earl said.
“Probably. A lot of suspicious things going on.”
“You sure hit the nail on the head. So, what are you gonna do?” Earl asked.
“Make sure they don’t finish you, for starters.”
“I’m flattered,” Earl said. He sneered a weak smile.
Lissette was surprised. At that moment, she actually felt some fondness for Earl.
“Secondly, I’m gonna interview the maid from the Canon apartment.”
“Good idea but, Zeller, you’re still thinking like a woman.” The ambulance jolted hitting a pot hole. Earl grimaced with pain.
“You deserved that,” Lissette said. Her face was stern.
“You’re right. Do it your way. You usually do.”
“Why? What would you do different, Mr. Man?”
“I’d verify Temple’s credentials.”
“You mean – you don’t think he’s a cop?”
“Now you’re thinking like a man.”
She punched his bandaged wound. Earl blacked out from the pain. Consequently, their conversation ended.
“I am cruel,” Lissette muttered, “but I’m just being … honest.”
NAILED Scene Five- Lissette’s Apartment. Day Two. Noonish.
SHE DRUG HER weary bones to the bathroom. Lissette’s bladder could explode any minute. She was up all night with Earl arranging guards for his room. The guards were people on the force who she trusted with Earl’s life. Maybe not her own, but definitely Earl’s.
She flushed the toilet. Time to change the roll again. Bother.
“Oh, look. What a mess,” Lissette frowned at her reflection in the mirror. She examined the circles under her eyes. She shook her mane. Bummer, sleeping in my good clothes again, she thought, lipstick and mascara smeared in odd places.
“A long, warm shower’s what I need,” she muttered. She stripped and tossed her clothes out on the unmade bed. Circling in front of the mirror, she complimented her saccharine physique. She leaned over the sink checking her eye corners for telltale signs of crows-feet. Lissette posed with her hair pulled up on top of her head. Alas? No genuine man to praise her beauty; she could only enjoy the luxury of private narcissism.
Adjusting the shower temperature, Lissette stepped into the tub and slid the frosted glass closed after her. It felt good to get clean. She enjoyed the invigoration of the tiny water droplets pulsing against her. Even with spraying water reverberating off the hard shower walls, Lissette startled as the front door snapped shut. Jimmied! She sucked in a quick breath. Leaving the water running, she stepped instantly out. Fast, Lissette lifted the cover off the toilet tank. Taped inside was a loaded pistol for emergencies. As she gripped the gun, Lissette felt a change over her wet skin. Someone was blocking the air flow through the open bathroom door. She spun around gun raised. A spinal-chill spread goose bumps over her soapy body.
“Don’t shoot!” It was long-haired Eli Temple, weathered black leather jacket and all.
Lissette cocked the pistol.
“Don’t shoot! I can explain!”
Lissette fired. Eli dropped to the floor wincing in pain.
“See! And you wanted diplomatic,” Lissette shouted.
She hadn’t killed him, just nailed him through his left thigh.
“That one was for breaking and entering!” she shouted. She cocked the weapon again. “And, this bullet is for being a Peeping Tom!”
“No! No!” he yelled.
Lissette kicked Eli’s head against the hard tub. He lay unconscious. She kicked him again for good measure.
“I should’ve shot you last night, pervert!”
His body twitched but the old boy stayed out, stone cold. She put the Pawnshop Special back in the toilet tank, found a warm robe, and dialed 9-1-1 once again.
What was he trying to find in my apartment? She wondered. “The nail polish?”
Lissette thumbed through a glamor magazine as she gave her address, name, and other particulars. Lissette finally was permitted to say, “A stranger broke into my apartment. He’s wounded and needs medical attention. Send an ambulance, please.” While waiting for the ambulance, Lissette emptied all of Eli’s pockets. Eli Temple remained senseless.
NAILED Scene Six- Homicide Division. Day Two P.M. Fourish.
LISSETTE WAS AT THE DOOR to welcome Anita Maria Rodriguez del Aguila. Anita wasn’t what Lissette expected in a maid. Anita was tall, fit, and stately. She was the kind of woman Lissette immediately disliked. Anita was beautiful. Her brown skin and brown eyes with long black eyelashes made Lissette stare to determine if they were all real. She wondered if the rest of her equipment was real, too. Anita wore a flowing pastel summer dress.
“Hello, Anita, thanks for coming down. I know these are difficult times for you,” Lissette uttered with an icy voice.
“Yes. Who knows what will become of me?” Anita said.
Give me a break, Lissette thought, this gal’s got whimpering down to a science.
Anita stood in front of the bright glass door. Lissette smiled. Anita had neglected wearing a slip under her now translucent dress. In front of a really bright light, the Empress’s clothes were absolutely transparent! Such a wicked thought.
“Come on back to the conference room. It’s a little quieter and private,” Lissette said. Lissette observed the “Maid’s” body language. Anita had been in a police station before. Lissette led Anita through the bullpen full of noisy male detectives. Some discretely glanced out the corner of their eye. But, most heads spun. Anita was the focus of lecherous attention.
Let her be the star, smirked Lissette. Lissette stopped in front of the floor length glass window. The blazing sun was streaming in. “Could you wait right here?” Lissette asked, “Maybe you’d like something to drink?”
“No. I’m fine,” Anita said.
“I’ll be back in just a minute. You’ll be okay?” Lissette asked.
“Sure. No problem. There’s a nice view from here,” Anita said.
“Yes. I’m sure there is!” Lissette laughed. Lissette dashed into security. “Hey! You guys! Wake up! Put a 5-minute video tape in. Give me one minute on camera 5 and four minutes on camera 6. Don’t screw up or I’ll kill you.”
“What’s the deal?” asked one of the men.
“She’s a suspect. Don’t ask questions. Give me a copy in 15 minutes in the conference room,” Lissette commanded.
Lissette went to the case files for a timed 3 minutes.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” Lissette apologized upon returning.
“Oh, this warm sun is so great. Don’t you think?” Anita asked. Lissette noticed the fragrant perfume Anita was wearing. It was almost intoxicating. They both stood there soaking in the rays and watching the motion of traffic.
”I’m sure many here really enjoyed the sun this afternoon,” Lissette responded, “Come on this way.”
Lissette sat at the conference table next to Anita. Lissette watched her for a moment.
“So what did you want to talk about?” Anita asked. She fidgeted with a paper clip on the table.
“Did any men ever visit Glenda?”
“You want the name of the father of Glenda’s unborn child?” Anita said.
Lissette raised an eyebrow. “So. You knew about the pregnancy?”
“Yes, Glenda confided in me.”
“Really. What was your relationship like with Glenda.?” Anita paused her paper clip fidgeting and smiled. “Are you asking if I prefer women to men, Detective?”
“No. That’s not what l … ” Lissette stammered.
“We’re you involved with Glenda?” Lissette asked.
“Yes,” Anita said, “But, I’m not the father.” She grinned.
She suckered me, thought Lissette. She smoldered and held it in. “Did she ever tell you who the father was?”
“No. She was pretty secretive about that.”
One of the security boys appeared to deliver the video. Lissette nodded a thanks when he set it quietly on the table. Anita stared at it wondering if it contained something important.
“Well, I’ll ask again. Did any men ever visit Glenda?” Lissette asked.
“Yes. Her father visited her regularly.”
“Do you think he’s the father of her baby?”
Anita’s eyes widened. “That’d be unspeakable!”
Gotcha! Lissette thought gleefully.
“Stranger things happen,” Lissette said with a straight face. “Did he ever stay the night?”
“I think you’d best give a complete description of Glenda’s father.”
“You think he might not really be her … father?”
Lissette weakly smiled and said, “One can hope.”
“Well, he’s medium build. He has long white hair. I don’t know his age, but he looks oldish, you know. He always wears a beatup, black leather jacket …” Anita recited.
“Wait. Did you say, ‘leather jacket’? Did you ever hear his name?”
“Glenda called him by name occasionally. He always got mad about it.”
“One last question before we look at evidence on this police video,” Lissette said, “Did you ever have intimate relations with Eli Temple?”
Anita’s mouth dropped open. “How’d you know his name’s Temple?”
“I ask the questions. Could you respond to my last one?” Lissette asked.
“I want to see my lawyer before I answer any more questions.” Anita folded her arms across her first-rate torso.
I’ve read this body language before: End of Interview. I hit a nerve, thought Lissette.
“Anita, you’ve been very helpful. We’ll save this video for court. By the way, this place could use a maid. Think about it. Here’s my card. Call if you think of anything else,” Lissette said. Anita got up and left in a hurry.
She’s a maid? Right! More like gold-digger, thought Lissette.
Lissette picked up the video. I guess we’ll watch this at the annual Christmas party, she thought. She inserted the cartridge into the conference room video player. The video appeared on screen. There were the gawking men. The camera switched to what they were staring at. There was Anita in her transparent summer dress. Her silhouette, a beautiful curvaceous body and smooth, slender limbs. The camera focused on a small twenty-two caliber firearm taped to the inside of one lovely thigh.
Lissette eyes opened wide. That hussy. Then appeared Lissette in an even more transparent straight white skirt. The camera lens moved in for a closer view. Her video image leaned toward the window. Lissette held her hand over her mouth in disgust. Oh, save me! The close up revealed brilliant sun lighting Lissette up like a spotlight. Lissette laughed at herself, “Wait ’til Mr. Hiccup sees this.” The camera panned across toward pretty Anita. Her fine hand and fingers filled the screen. Her long green metallic fingernails glittered in the sun. Lissette jumped up knocking over her chair.
“The nail polish! Anita, you tramp!” she exclaimed, “She’s got the stuff.” Lissette ejected the cassette. Damn, she thought, how could I miss those green nails while interviewing her? I was distracted by her mental jousting.
NAILED Scene Seven- Anita’s house. Day Three – 3 A.M.
HMM? BROKEN GLASS BITS crunchy on the floor. Lissette yawned. Anita’s modest house – seems nice, Lissette thought. A crime photographer’s flash swallowed the small bedroom. Lissette stepped over Anita’s outstretched red hand. It had green polish on her neatly trimmed nails.
Lissette wandered sleepily toward the bathroom. She always started an investigation in the bathroom. It revealed so many personal details about the victim. Stuff you couldn’t find elsewhere. The emergency call came from a neighbor who heard gun shots. Shots most likely from Anita’s twenty-two.
Lissette stepped in and flicked on the bluish florescent light, the bathroom was jumbled. Pill bottles, cosmetics, toiletries everywhere … and lots of fresh blood.
“Hey! Joey!”‘ Lissette yelled at the photographer, “Get in here quick.” Geez, whoever trashed this place was wounded pretty bad, Lissette thought. Joey poked his head through the doorway.
“Wow! Gross!” Joey exclaimed. It was his first commentary of the morning. He, too, woke from deep slumber.
“Take a couple photo shots, Joey. Then, let me check things out,” Lissette said.
“Yeah, sure thing.”
Joey is a sicko, Lissette thought, he enjoys his nauseating job, too much.
“That ought to do it. I’ve got to shoot a few more facial-wound close-ups on the mark,” Joey said and vanished back into the bedroom.
This mark had a name, Joey. It was Anita. Lissette scanned the room; poking things around a bit with her traditional black stiletto high-heels. She yawned. No green metallic nail polish. Lissette paused staring at the white toilet tank. She slowly lifted the cover and peered inside.
There was a six-shooter taped in the tank. She shuddered and fumbled the heavy lid. It shattered on the floor. Joey came running.
“What happened?” he panted. Lissette stood there one hand spread on her throat as if voiceless. “There’s … there’s a … gun in the toilet,” Lissette croaked.
Joey stared at her confused.
Fright-tears spilled from her eyes. “She never made it … to the gun. She was pulled back – into the bedroom.”
Lissette’s finger tips were blue and numb from the shock. “Anita was a cop …” Her circulation was tightening up involuntarily. The intense reaction strangled her breath. “… like me,” she weakly whispered.
Joey walked over as if approaching a bomb. He peered into the tank. Lissette’s unexpected and odd behavior was spooking him.
“So? What’s the big deal? A gun. We’ve seen guns before,” he puzzled.
“She was a cop,” Lissette mumbled. Dazed.
“Who?” Joey asked.
“Anita was a cop! That’s why she had a gun taped on her thigh. That’s why she was at home in a police department,” Lissette roared, “She played out her part to her dying end. Anita thought I was a suspect!”
“What are you freaking out about?” Joey asked, “You know this iced chick?”
“I met her today, Joey. She worked undercover as a maid.”
“You’re kidding? This gal? She was a knockout. Who’d believe her as an ordinary maid?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it was a set up.”
“By who?” Joey asked.
“I don’t know. I really don’t. But, whoever did this is looking for the same thing I am.”
Joey looked at her with a furrowed brow. “You need sleep, Zeller,” Joey said, “What do you mean ‘the same thing’ ?”
“Anita wore metallic green fingernail polish today. I can’t find the bottle,” Lissette stated.
Joey’s eyes widened. “Why didn’t you say so. There’s a bottle in the vic’s purse in the kitchen.”
“You went through her bag without telling me?” Lissette fumed.
Joey squeezed his lips together and shrugged one shoulder, “Okay. I lifted twenty bucks. I’ll put it back.”
Lissette punched Joey so hard in the face he staggered back a few steps.
“Sorry,” he whined, rubbing his jaw.
Lissette marched into the kitchen. She picked up the purse and yanked opened the catch. She rummaged amid the usual handbag clutter, it wasn’t there.
“Joey, where is it?” she yelled. She dumped the purse contents on the table. Joey stood beside her. A blank expression hung on his face.
“I swear it was there. I didn’t take it.”
The room seemed unnaturally chill. Lissette shivered.
“Joey, preserve me. The killer was still here – in this house – when we arrived. And took the bottle after you examined the purse,” Lissette said. She stared Joey in the eye. The cold silence burned.
“The murderer … was still watching us?” Joey wheezed. He sat down missing the chair and fell to the floor.
NAILED Scene Eight – County Hospital. Day Three – 9 AM.
FLASHING HER BADGE at the nurses station, Lissette strode into Earl’s room. Earl lay agitated in his white and gray hospital bed. “Praise be Lissette, I’m so glad to see you. See. They took away all my guards. I’ve been without protection for hours,” Earl said. He was perspiring.
“Yeah. I guess you won’t need protection any more,” Lissette said. She put her badge back in her purse. She flopped it on the edge of Earl’s bed. The black purse looked like a big bug against the white linen.
“How come I don’t need protection?” Earl questioned. His anxiety level was increasing.
“Anita’s dead,” Lissette said.
“Anita who? I don’t know any Anita?” he responded.
“Anita Maria Rodriguez del Aguila, the beautiful maid who worked for Glenda Canon,” she said.
Earl stared out the door as if he hoped someone would save him.
“Earl, Anita is dead,” Lissette repeated. Earl began weeping. Lissette hadn’t anticipated this reaction to the grim news. She handed him a white tissue. Lissette waited a moment before proceeding.
“I stopped by the office before I came here. There were two fax reports on my desk. Both from the FBI. One about Eli Temple and another about Anita Rodriguez.”
“So. What do they have to do with me?” Earl asked.
“Earl, you were shot by Eli Temple. He’s confessed. He wanted to kill us both. The tan patrol car was stolen. Temple was an ex-cop gone bad; a scam artist. Anita was an undercover Federal Agent investigating him on charges of racketeering, extortion, and bribery. He was swindling Glenda and her father,” Lissette said.
“Why did he want to knock us off?” Earl snuffled.
“He was afraid we’d pin Glenda’s murder on him. Bad record, you know.”
“Where’s he at now?”
“He’s in custody of the FBI. He was extradited yesterday for crimes in a different state. He still can’t walk yet,” Lissette said. She chuckled.
“So how could he dust Anita?”
“He didn’t. But, you know that don’t you?” Lissette said. There was hardness in her voice. She was coiling for a strike. Earl flopped his head back on his pillow and blubbered.
“I never bumped anybody off.” He pounded the bed with his fists. Lissette waited for his tantrum to end.
“You gave Glenda my nail polish. Why?” Lissette questioned. Earl hung his head, “It was just a little present. She liked stuff like that. I couldn’t ask you for it. So I took it. I was afraid you’d ask questions and figure things out.”
“Like the fact, you and Glenda were secret lovers or about her forbidden pregnancy?”
“I swear. I didn’t know she was pregnant until the coroner’s report,” Earl whimpered.
“You knew she was being swindled by Temple, but you never said a thing. Earl, you’re man of too many evil secrets,” Lissette said. She clenched her teeth, “Were you in league with Eli Temple?”
“Zeller, I detest the man. I’m glad you nailed him.” Lissette sat on the bed. Earl tensed up.
“I’m not gonna hurt you, Earl. Calm down. I know you didn’t murder Anita. I don’t know if you murdered Glenda. But, I think you … you Bad Boy, were having worldly delight with both. Am I right … or am I right?”
Earl looked at the wall and nodded his head, “I loved them … both.”
“So answer this question, how did Anita end up with my nail polish? Did you give it to her?”
Earl looked blank, “I don’t know how she got it. Maybe she felt it was murder evidence. I don’t know. Maybe she stole it. I’ve got no idea.”
“Unfortunately, she’s dead. Now we’ll never really know,” Lissette said.
Earl fiddled nervously with the bed sheet. “How did Anita die?” he asked.
“Earl, I’m sorry. I can’t tell you that. You’re a suspect in the murder of Glenda Canon and her unborn child.”
“Am I under arrest?”
“Nope. You heal here for awhile in the hospital,” Lissette said, “Then you’ll be arrested.”
“Lissette, please don’t leave me … defenseless,” Earl begged. Earl had never called Lissette by her first name before. Earl was scared.
Lissette smiled, “Good-bye, Earl. She’s still out there, isn’t she?” Earl lay his fingers on his mouth. A muffled hiccup betrayed him. Lissette leaned forward and kissed Earl on the forehead. Earl hiccuped again. She slung her purse strap over her shoulder and click-clacked down the hall.
At the entrance, a sexy young creature set foot into the hospital lobby. Unquestionably, she was expert at providing something for the needy. She wore a fitted bomber jacket; unzipped to hang daringly off one shoulder. It was a deliberate unveiling of a red bikini top brimming with summer bronze tan. She stopped and peered at Lissette over her black sunglasses.
She’s pretty in a cheap sort of way, Lissette thought. The well-proportioned darling wore skintight black Spandex pants with bright yellow platform shoes. Wow! Lissette thought, how – precious.
Miss Haughty approached. A large brooch was pinned on the girl’s breast pocket. The gaudy jewelry simulated a pink rhinestone cupcake with the letters C. C. in white stones. Lissette was familiar with her fragrant perfume. It was almost intoxicating. The girl sniffed at Lissette as she passed by. This trollop was Earl’s 2-AM visitor at his apartment, Lissette thought, poor Earl, such grouchy indulgences.
NAILED Scene Nine – Homicide Division. Day Three – 2 PM.
She sat at her desk, spikes off, feet dangling. Lissette was going over the reports. She was feeling bad about Anita’s demise.
”Excuse me,” a male voice said, “Are you Lissette?”
Lissette spun around in her chair. There stood a tall, good looking man extending his hand. She reached out her hand and they shook. Nice hands, she thought.
“Most people call me Zeller,” Lissette said.
“May I call you … Lissette?” he asked.
“Well, I suppose it depends upon who you are.” she replied.
Gosh, he’s got a face like a model, Lissette thought. She tried not to appear noticeably excited.
“My name is Boz Bronkam. I’ve been assigned to be your partner,” he said.
“I’ve heard this story before. Let see some I.D. and transfer papers,” Lissette said.
He opened his jacket wide so she saw his 9mm Uzi and shoulder sling underneath. She liked a man who’d show his steel. His blue shirt stretched tight across his torso. Boz had an athletic body shape. He handed Lissette his I.D. and papers nipping her daydream.
“Nice Israeli machine gun. Illegal, isn’t it?” Lissette said.
He grinned, “I’ve got a special anti-terrorist court order.” Lissette examined the documents. She checked his age and marital status. Perfect.
“Everything’s in order,” she said, “Pull up a chair. I need your help.” He seemed pleasantly surprised.
“Already? Great.” He drug a chair over and sat near the metal desk.
“If you call me Lissette, … may I call you Boz.”
“Sure. My real name is Boseman. But you probably saw that on the I.D.,” he said. She missed that. She was too busy checking his “eligibility.”
“Does your name have a story?” Lissette asked.
Ouch, that sounded dopey, she thought.
“It’s pretty simple. I was born in Boseman, Montana, USA.”
“Oh,” Lissette said. She was at a loss for words. She was tempted to say several things – but they were all cruel. There was an awkward silence.
“Well, what kind of help did you need?” Boz asked.
“You and I are working on a murder case,” Lissette stated.
He whistled. “No kidding. Today’s my first day as a detective. This is too good,”
“This is your first day … as a detective?” Lissette repeated. Again she held her tongue from saying several mean things.
“Sorry. I guess, I should’ve told you. I’m just a greenhorn,” Boz said. He stared at his feet and slowly looked up at Lissette.
Lissette smiled at him. There was silence again.
“Well, for a greenhorn, you have great … muscles,” Lissette said. Boz sounded a nervous but hearty laugh.
“Listen, Boz. Let’s take a break. We can walk down to a little Cafe I know. I’ll fill you in about the murder on the way. What do you say?” Boz relaxed his broad shoulders.
“You know, Lissette, I could use something to eat. I missed lunch.” Lissette was in bliss.
The black phone on Lissette’s desk rang. She picked it up and listened. She didn’t say a word and slowly hung up.
“What’s up?” Boz asked, “Why the sad face?’
She sat silent for several minutes.
“My former partner, Earl, … a drug overdose. They claim it’s suicide.”
“Suicide? But you think somebody popped him?” Boz questioned.
She didn’t reply immediately. She scowled.
“A serial killer is still at large. Whether she killed Earl or not, I don’t know. We’ve got to flush her out.”
“How do you propose to do that?” Boz asked.
“I think I’m next on the hit list. I’m bait.”
Boz leaned his chair back and put his hands behind his head. With admiration he said, “You know, Lissette, you’ve got moxie.”
She smiled at the quaintness of “moxie” and wondered if Boz ever got hiccups. She would miss Earl.
NAILED Scene Ten – Lissette’s Apartment. Day Three – 8 PM.
FOR HIS FIRST DAY ON THE JOB, Boz went the second mile. He took Lissette out for a simple drive-thru dinner; hamburgers, shakes, and fries. She was glad. After hearing about Earl’s death, Lissette didn’t feel like doing much; least of all cooking.
She stood in front of her yellow apartment door and waved good-bye to Boz. I like him, she thought, Boz is unassuming, even a bit old-fashioned. Where’d I put those stupid keys? She rummaged through her purse. Odd. They were here this morning.
Wait? Earl?! Earl lifted them when I kissed him. But why? Double crossing fool!
Lissette drew the gun from her purse. She kicked off her ubiquitous black spike high heels. Slipping around the side of the building, she saw the window to her bedroom was aglow. She slid to the window’s edge and took a quick glance in. Standing with her back against the wall, she analyzed what she had seen. Nothing was out of place. But the nightstand light was switched on low. I remember turning that off; I’ve had a visitor, she thought. Lissette made a mobile call to Boz’ smartphone. “Boz? Hi, It’s me. Looks like I’ve had an intruder. Can you come back?”
She listened, “Yeah. I won’t go in. Promise. Pick me up at the gas station on the corner. OK. Bye.” She hung up. What a protective hero, she thought.
With her hidden spare key, Lissette and Boz entered the apartment. Both had weapons drawn. They quickly patrol searched the small apartment. Investigating by the book, they found things safe and sound. “You know what really creeps me out, ” Lissette said, “That stupid light was off this morning. Do you believe me?”
“You’re my partner,” Boz said, “So, yep, that light was off when you left.” He went to the light and turned it up bright.
Lissette smiled, “Thanks, Boz.” Suddenly, the hot bulb exploded spraying shattered glass. Lissette’s mouth dropped open.
“Tell me that was coincidence,” Boz said.
“Are you all right?” Lissette asked. “Yeah. Weird for the bulb to burst like that.”
“An old trick” Boz said, “Stick a piece of gooey gum on the bulb – when it gets hot – the temperature difference makes it crack and shatter.”
Lissette went pale, “Anita’s bedroom floor was crunchy with glass particles.”
“Anita? Oh, yeah. The FBI agent,” Boz remembered, “So what are you saying?”
Lissette was silent from the horror of how Anita died. She never told Earl or anyone how Anita was butchered.
“Are you okay?” Boz asked.
“No. Not really. Thinking of poor Anita makes me ill.”
“Are you gonna puke?”
“No. I’ll be all right. Just gimme a minute,” Lissette said, “It’s only fear.”
“The guys told me you’re not afraid of anything,” Boz said.
“Well, they’re exaggerating again.”
“How about I make something to drink?” Boz said.
“Go ahead. I’m thinking.”
“Wouldn’t want to interrupt that,” Boz said.
“Now you’re being cruel,” Lissette said. She smiled.
“Sorry. I’m not normally that way. I guess you bring out the worst in me,” Boz said.
“Well, you’re not the first to say that,” Lissette said thinking of Earl. Lissette sat on the bed as Boz puttered in the kitchen.
“Anita had a light bulb blow up when she switched it on. The glass shards were in the carpet in her bedroom. She then struggled in the dark to get a gun in the bathroom. There was a lot of blood in there. She lost that battle. She was hauled back into her bedroom where she was wasted. The murderer was still in the house when we arrived. We just didn’t find out soon enough,” Lissette said.
“And you think the killer’s a woman? How come?” Boz said.
“Instinct. Woman’s intuition,” Lissette said. She stood and stretched. “And because of how she hacked the victim’s body. A man wouldn’t mutilate the same way. A jealous hellcat was the murderer.”
“You think she’s here?” Boz asked.
Lissette shook her head. “We’ve already searched my place completely.”
Boz shrugged and nodded in agreement.
Lissette frowned. “Where would she hide in this tiny place?”
On a hunch, Lissette glided into the bathroom and turned on the light. The light blinked and startled her. She swung the medicine cabinet open. There on the second shelf sat a small bottle with “CC” written on the side in metallic green nail polish.
Lissette took it gently by the cap and closed the mirrored cabinet door. My nail polish! she thought. She changed her eye focus from the small bottle to the mirror. In back of Lissette, a shape behind the frosted glass shower door slid it noiselessly open. Lissette stared down both barrels of a smooth-bore, sawed-off shotgun. She dove for the floor. The weapon roared – scattering shot in a wide pattern. Dust and debris went flying. Lissette heard Boz scramble in the kitchen.
“You’re under arrest,” the unarmed Lissette shouted. She jumped grabbing the barrels of the cut-off side-by-side. Lissette twisted the shotgun toward the ceiling. It discharged again powdering the room with chalky wallboard. Lissette knuckle-punched her attacker twice in the windpipe. The woman staggered back releasing the gun. Lissette decked her in the head once more for good measure with the gun butt. The “alleged perpetrator” was down and out for the count.
“Who?! Who is this spitfire?” Boz shouted. He stared in the dusty tub.
“She – this spitfire – has the right to remain silent,” Lissette said, “Give me a minute – to catch my breath.” Lissette bent over with one hand on her knee waiting for her body to stabilize.
“Her name’s Cupcake, CC.” Lissette wheezed picking up the nail-polish bottle and showing the initials, “Gloria must have written this clue before she died.”
Lissette dropped the scattergun on the cluttered floor.
“Every murder connected with my old partner Earl, but he didn’t do it.” Lissette was silent.
Boz and Lissette stood vacantly staring at the unconscious young woman sprawled in the dusty tub.
Boz raised an eyebrow, “Are you all right?” He smiled. She gave him a friendly hug.
Lissette sipped her cocoa. She dialed 9-1-1 and waited. C.C or Cupcake was Earl’s 2-AM assassin girlfriend. Lissette sighed, Earl was just way too desperate. While holding the phone to her ear, Lissette surveyed Mr. Montana slowly sipping his hot drink. Boz winked at her. Lissette beamed back.
I’m not cruel any more. I can control my anger. And I’m not afraid. I’ll never wear my black stiletto high-heels again. No bewitchments. No seductions. A slight curve became visible at her mouth’s corner. She eyed Boz. He relaxed leaning against the wall and the dwindling light from the window played across his face.
Her natural, beautiful self sparkled. Gratitude permeated the room. The case was finally solved and over – with a brighter, new future beginning.
Still holding the 911 call to her ear, she stepped close to Boz – and slowly reached to touch his hand. It was a bold move. He gazed at her soft touch and wrapped her hand tenderly in his. “You’re not so tough,” he said.
She nodded silently, shut her eyes – unbolted her fresh heart – and leaned into a warm but not-so-cruel kiss.
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Nailed © 2017 Steve Teare