Arms & His Mistress
Arms stared down at the revolver on his desk. He picked it up and felt the weight of the gun, the cold, hardness of it against his hand; it was a good fit.
He had pulled this little number off a dying man in an alley one night. He heard the shot, a single one, loud, sharp, and clear. He followed this noise and saw the man lying on the pavement, still struggling for breath. But Arms just stood there and did nothing. Then he saw the gun. Hanging out of a coat pocket as the blood pooled around the man’s head, he’d seen the pearl handle glinting in the lamplight. He was young then, still a good man, but he was struck by his own callousness and lack of sympathy for a human being. He thought to go to the police about the murder and the gun, but then he decided to say nothing and to keep it. It was a beautiful gun with ornate carvings along the barrel; clearly an antique, but light enough to carry and conceal; he cherished it like a sweet mistress.
Now he handled it with care, running his fingers along the barrel and thinking about his life. Only when he was alone, in a reverie, might he think again about Rose, the one woman that he loved and lost. His single, most cherished memory of her ran through his head over and over again; he was standing at the top of a wheat field in northern California as he watched her walking along a fence line towards him, carefree and young. Wearing a deep blue dress that swayed around her like waves of water, he could feel his love for her overwhelm him. As she walked the sunlight caressed her auburn hair, and in his memory, she finds her way to his open heart, staying there forever. But, of course, he lost her. What had he to offer her? He was by then a broken man, burying his pain and rage against the world in a whiskey bottle. The memory of her drifted in and out of his thoughts often enough for it to still feel real and painful. Yet, all these years later, he wasn’t sure if she had ever happened.
But the hole in his heart was still open; his loneliness and his anguish were real. He felt the handle of the gun in his hand, held it gently, and thought about Rose on that sun-drenched day in all her sweetness and light. And then she was gone, as he heard the outer door open and close and Foil talking to Mildred, flirting with her in his usual, carefree way that he had with all women.
Bella & Charlie Martin
Bella stood on a corner in a part of town that her parents would not want her to be. She had said she was meeting some friends at the library. She took her bag, and walked down the street, but then when she could no longer see her own house, she crossed the street and took a bus to Venice beach where she was meeting Charlie Martin, the man whom she had met for the first time the Sunday before in her local park when she was walking the family dog, Sheba.
Charlie had a dog too and they got to talking about all sorts of things that interested her and seemed to interest him. Bella had very little experience with men, especially charming ones who knew how to make a girl feel desired in a “I’m not going to take advantage of you kind of way” while actually taking advantage of them. Charlie was amicable, sweet, and seemed to hang on her every word. She felt flattered and happy from the attention, and she agreed to meet him again when he suggested it, even though she felt it was wrong.
Bella was very ready to fly free from her constrained family life, but another more experienced woman would have told her that this was not the way to do it, nor was this the man to do it with but there was no one to talk to or give her advice. She was an only daughter and she didn’t trust her friends to not say anything to her parents. So, she kept this little secret safe in her heart, and there in a very few short days it blossomed into a dream, a fantasy, and then as often happens in a young girl’s mind, into something adventurous and delightful that was going to change her life forever, take her away from her family and make all her dreams come true.
And so, she stood on the corner waiting for Charlie to arrive and spirit her away to a new, wondrous life. When he arrived in a car, and not on foot as she expected him to, he proposed that they go for a drive. Something in her said not to get into the car, but she was still lost in her dream of adventures and love, and Charlie seemed so encouraging that she couldn’t resist. In she got and off they drove.
It was a lovely day. Everything was perfect and Charlie was a gentleman the entire time. He took her for a picnic and they strolled along a river. He never touched her or tried to kiss her. He was kind and gentle, and made her feel incredibly special. These clandestine meetings went on for weeks and the more time Bella spent with Charlie, the more in love she became until she knew that her heart was forever intertwined with his.
And the dreams blossomed into such strong emotional feelings that she knew she would do anything for Charlie no matter what he asked of her, and then this is exactly what happened. One day on a picnic in another lovely spot he had picked out for them, he requested that she do the strangest thing and that was to ask her brother Big Sam to get her a mink coat from one of his backstreet vendors.
He didn’t come right out and ask her; no, his request came to her in a roundabout way of sorts. He seemed almost to put the idea into her head because she didn’t remember thinking about it herself. But then it was she who seemed to be offering to do something for him, as if he hadn’t really insinuated himself into her thoughts so much that she would do anything for him.
Bella had never asked her brother Sam to get anything for her, ever; they were close but she would never have gone to him to ask for something. She would almost have never asked her parents for anything either. She was a good Catholic girl who had been taught to be thankful for what she had in life, and to not ask for too much. This was a sin and she believed in giving not taking.
But for Charlie Martin she would do anything and so she went to her brother Sam and asked for the mink coat. He was taken aback by this request not because he couldn’t get the coat but because this was a new side of Bella than the sister he had grown up with, he didn’t question her and chalked it up to her becoming a woman and wanting to have nice things. However, when she came to him again a few weeks later asking for a mink stole, he thought this was odd. In another few weeks she asked again for a garment made of fur, and then Brendan O’ Shea’s body washed up on Venice beach.
He didn’t put two and two together at first, but when Bella again asked for something else made of fur, he started to get suspicious. The tip off about O’ Shea’s body that the insider gave him made him think to immediately get in touch with Arms and set up a meeting.
Sam didn’t yet know about Charlie Martin (not his real name), but he was pretty sure that Bella was being used by someone. Her demeanor had changed and she seemed distant with everyone in the family. She mooned around and acted like she was living in another world, she wasn’t herself at all; his strapping, healthy, joyful sister had been replaced with a girl who kept asking for material goods that she really had no use for at all. Where was she putting everything, for whom was she wearing these clothes and why.
His brotherly sensibilities kicked in and he actually began to worry, for he dearly loved his little sister and he felt very protective of her. The other brothers, Ricky and Paolo, were off in their own lives and he was the closest brother to Bella.
This is how Arms found him when they had their meeting and this is why Arms was willing to listen to Big Sam, and to even consider taking the case of the mysterious and suspicious boyfriend.
FAH Meet to Discuss the Case
At Swine’s Detective Agency, the hot air was still being pushed around the room by the rusty fan when Foil stepped through Arm’s office door.
“About fucking time! You look a little worn out Foil, did Bette get the best of you last night?” But Foil only smiled; despite the amount of running around he did, he tried not to kiss and tell.
Hog entered next, looking cool and relaxed just as any man would who had a wife at home taking care of him.
The two sat down in chairs facing Arms, who still held the gun in his hand. He never went anywhere without it, and often held it out in the open during their meetings. The other guys weren’t sure why, and they never asked. It was better to let Arms alone about these personal matters.
“Ok, boys,” Arms started, “let’s get down to business, I have a plan.” “Of course, he did,” the two thought, simultaneously, giving a quick glance at one another, but luckily Arms didn’t notice.
“Big Sam has asked us to do a couple of jobs, but the first one is to find out who his sister Bella’s boyfriend is and what’s his angle.” He paused for the others to take in this information.
“What the fuck?!” cried Foil.
“We don’t do that kind of shit work,” said Hog with disgust in his voice. “What’s going on Arms, we sinkin’ so low that we gotta take crumbs from the small-town mafia boss now?”
“There’s a bigger job coming, and you know I wouldn’t have taken it if it wasn’t a good one. This one’s a strange case, like I said on the phone, and we got a good chance of making it really big if we can solve these. So, stick with me boys, and I’ll explain.” Then he added, “have I ever steered you wrong?” Of course, he hadn’t. In fact, Arms had kept the cases coming in from the start years ago, and the business had grown pretty regularly since then.
Foil and Hog were comfortable in the fact that Arms wouldn’t have said yes to a case if it wasn’t a challenge, but they remained unconvinced of the relevancy of finding a missing boyfriend.
“What’s the deal with this boyfriend?” asked Foil, putting his feet up on Arms’s desk and making himself comfortable for the long haul.
Hog lit a Marlboro cigarette and let it dangle from his mouth, expertly taking a drag on it every once in a while, and letting the smoke out the other side of his mouth as he listened to Arms’s explanation of Big Sam’s proposed job for them.
Arms began outlining the case as he understood it. “This is about Big Sam’s pretty little sister, Bella. He thinks she’s involved with some bad guy, certainly trouble, and he wants us to find out who and take him out of the picture,” explained Arms. The boys nodded their heads showing they understood that this was a favor that Arms was doing for Big Sam, and not something that they would do for anybody else.
Hog interjected at this moment and asked Arms, “do you think this is some kind of setup?” What’s with Big Sam not doing this for himself? It doesn’t make much sense to me.” Hog was a stickler for knowing the truth; he trusted Arms with his life, but they had never spent any man hours searching for stray boyfriends, why this time?
Arms sighed and knew that it was going to take time to persuade the guys to take this case. He had met with Big Sam and seen him drop the tough guy image so he would have to make Foil and Hog understand that pained brotherly love that he had seen in Big Sam’s eyes and heard in his voice. It was surely Arms’s own pain at losing his brother that had made him accept a case that typically he would have walked away from in a flat second. But he didn’t want to say anything to the boys about that side of things, he had to take a different approach.
“Look, just listen to me and I’ll tell you what’s up with this case,” said Arms sounding irritated, and even frustrated with his friends. They took notice of this change of tone, and knew to wait to hear Arms out or else they would be faced with a mighty rage on their hands. Best to let Arms explain everything and go from there.
“As I was saying, Big Sam is worried about his little sister Bella. She’s 18, and clearly ready to get out of the house. She’s been asking for expensive items from her brother, mink coats, stoles, and gloves. Everything mink, and everything new. It ain’t like her to ever ask anything, let alone ask her brother. He never sees her wear the fur, but knows she’s got it somewhere. There’s obviously somebody else in the picture; I’ve said we’ll find that somebody and bring him in to Big Sam.”
The Case That Wasn’t
But Arms didn’t end up doing what he promised Big Sam or even taking the case after all because the same morning that he was trying to convince his partners that searching for Bella’s boyfriend was good for business, Charlie Martin’s body was found floating in the sea by a couple of local fishermen out on a day trek. When he was dragged from the water, he was wearing a snappy grey pin-striped suit with sterling silver cufflinks still attached. It was clear his body hadn’t been in the sea for very long, but something had got at his face. He had open, ragged cuts down the sides of his cheeks and chunks of flesh were missing from his forehead. He looked like he had been clawed by something vicious. Strangely his suit pockets were filled with brightly colored, sopping wet parrot feathers.
All this information was in the autopsy report at the morgue where the police had taken the body after it was brought to shore by the fishermen. Also found on the body was ID showing that Charlie Martin was not the man who Bella thought he was, but one Antonio Boudreau from New Orleans, Louisiana, with a rap sheet as long as a man’s arm. Starting at a young age Charlie / Antonio began his life of crime with picking pockets. He moved on to stealing cars, and then to robbing banks in his later years. He served time as a juvenile, and then a few years at San Quentin for the bank robberies. Worst of all, he was a draft dodger, and spent his time running from the law. Life continued on in this manner, if his record could be believed, and ended when his body hit the water and he drowned.
Found on the body in the inside pocket of his fancy suit was a picture of his young sweetheart, Bella Scorvino. The inside man who had originally alerted Big Sam to Brendan O’ Shea’s death also sent word to him about Charlie / Antonio and the picture of his sister. In turn, Sam sent a runner to the Swine’s Detective Agency for one of the boys to meet him at the morgue. Any one of the three would do, as they were all excellent at their jobs and by now Sam knew Arms had briefed the other two on the case, such as it was at this point.
Big Sam and Foil stood looking down at the body of the man who had once been Bella’s boyfriend. “Dead and out of Bella’s life was better than alive and causing problems,” Sam said to Foil quietly. The man was older than Bella probably realized as well (almost 30, he was), and it seemed he had a wife and kids back in New Orleans, so an all-round bad egg considering the circumstances, but maybe not a killer.
Foil examined the body carefully, using a pen to lift the edges of the suit here and there, and to probe in the pockets for more clues. Foil observed that the pin-striped suit seemed to hold a wealth of information; odd that whoever killed Charlie/Antonio didn’t think to empty out his pockets first. This was a real mystery and suggested that it was a quick crime, one done in the heat of the moment and not planned. So maybe no one was tracking this guy, but he ran into someone who didn’t like him and sent him on his way to the fishes.
“More likely a smuggler and part of Brendan O’ Shea’s crime ring,” said Foil to Big Sam, as he pondered what he was going to tell Arms and Hog back at the Agency. “Whad’ya think Sam, you seen this guy before?” asked Foil. “Never,” replied Sam, “but I bet he was the kind of guy to blend in and not call attention to himself, except when a pretty girl like Bella entered the picture.”
Foil understood what Big Sam meant; Bella was a pretty girl, but to him it seemed lucky that Charlie / Antonio was taken out before Big Sam got to him. Sam would probably have killed the guy himself he was that protective of his little sister.
Outside the morgue Foil watched as Big Sam slid into his shiny black Cadillac, which whisked him away to some office on the outskirts of the city, and Foil, ever on the lookout for a lovely pair of legs sauntered slowly down the boulevard towards the Agency thinking about the man who was lying on a cold slab waiting to be claimed by his New Orleans wife.