The Silver Bullet

This free short story is brought to you by the author of Maggie's Milkman and Extraordinary Rendition. 

For audio click here

She asked questions like a tortoise eats lettuce, slow, steady, methodical, her mouth seemingly munching the words thoroughly as she spoke. Then, once the questions were asked, she stared at me intensely, like she was scared I might disappeared if she let go of my gaze. She was an insignificant woman; small, mousy, quiet, the wouldn't say boo to a goose type, you wouldn’t notice her in an empty room. Not the usual style of client I get. She sat nervously in my office, clutching her bag on her lap like it contained the crown jewels or something.
‘So what can I do for you?’ I said, tired of answering her questions, she'd probed my credentials plenty. 
She looked around making sure no one else could hear her.
‘I think they are trying to kill me,’ she said quietly. I tried not to roll my eyes, how many times had I heard that line? It must have been 2nd on the list after I think my husband is having an affair.
Molly chose that moment to come in with a tray of coffee. The woman jumped a mile at the sound of the door, she was genuinely scared, something had spooked her, but it was probably nothing. She took her coffee with one hand, the other still firmly on the bag. Molly sat down and took out a pad to take notes. I was teaching her the ropes.
‘Who are they?’ I asked.
‘My ex-husband’s family,’ she said. Again I struggled to control my response; it was always the ex-husband’s family.
‘Why?’ I asked, but I knew the answer would be something about custody.
‘Because he lost custody of our children,’ she said. Bingo! I thought. 
‘So why do you think they’re trying to kill you?’ 
99.9% of these cases were just paranoia, noticing things that weren't there, imagining threats that didn't exist, but if she wanted to pay me to put her mind at ease, I’d take her money.
‘I was followed home,’ she said quietly. I’d heard this before, usually it was just a figment of their imagination, their paranoid minds playing tricks on them. ‘And’ she added ‘someone tried to break in to my house.’ Again this might have been true, but we lived in a town where 1 in 3 houses were broken into, that’s a lot of people trying to kill their ex-wives. 
‘And then there was this,’ she dipped her hand into the bag she’d clutched so firmly on her lap and pulled out an envelope. She handed it to me. I looked inside and there was a silver bullet and a crudely written note, 
'die bitch' 

Maybe this wasn’t an invention of a suspicious mind, after all.

Part 2 
For audio click here
This is part two of The Silver Bullet for part one click here
Wayne Wilson’s office felt hot and stuffy, there was a stale smell of sweat in the air. Wilson was running late.  His secretary had told me to wait, so I was waiting, taking in my surroundings. 
He entered the room like a tree in a storm and then stood still, still a flurry of movement. Wilson was exactly what I expected, a walking mid-life crisis. He’d married his childhood sweetheart, and thought he was happy. But then as he grew older, he grew restless. He started questioning why he was with his insignificant other when the world was full of nubile 20 somethings. Surely they could better satisfy his ego, if not his desires? I bet it was his secretary who first turn his head. 
He obviously fancied himself as some kind of big shot financier, but you could tell he didn't quite sit at the top table, there was something a little run down, a little shabby about him. He welcomed me with a smile as fake as his Rolex and a handshake as lame as the excuses he was about to give. 
‘Tell me about the bullet, Mr Wilson?’ I said. I like to get straight to the point, it helped to catch them off guard, but Wilson was wise to me. 
‘What bullet Mr Archer?’ he said. His tone told me he had no time for games, he was a busy man. 
‘It’s Mr Stanley,’ I corrected him, I hoped my tone told him I crushed fools like him for fun. 
‘Your wife received a death threat and I thought you might know something about it.’ I said. 
‘I don’t have a wife,’ it was his turn to correct me. ‘And I don’t know anything about any death threats. I’m a reputable businessman Mr Stanley, not some kind of gangster.’ 
I found gangsters to be like racists, no one ever admitted to being one, but still there were plenty out there.  It was time to change tack. 
‘Who do you think might want your wife dead Mr Wilson?’
‘My ex-wife, Mr Stanley and I don’t know.’ 
‘Do you have any enemies, Mr Wilson, someone who might not know she’s your ex-wife?’ His ears pricked up, the ego aroused. He liked to think of himself as being worth a death threat, his chest puffed a little. This pathetic little man had sent a death threat to his own wife and then was getting an ego boost thinking it might be for him. Most people were scared of death threats; to him it was a badge of honour. 

‘Not that I can think of,’ he said but I could almost see his brain working. He realised he had to give me a lead because right now all leads led to him. He gave me two names, one I recognised and one I didn’t. I thanked him and shook his hand again. I had a feeling I’d be back sooner rather than later.

Part 3
For audio click here

Hristov smiled when he saw me, his smile was much more genuine than Wilson’s. He was my new best friend and I knew he’d answer my questions. 
‘Getting bored of Molly,’ he said. He always said this. He’d told me I could have any girl I wanted when Molly got too much. 
‘She’s still a star,’ I said and nodded towards his office.  We went in and he poured the drinks, not out of the expensive bottle I noted. 
‘What can I do for you Archer?’
‘Your name came up in conversation,’ I said. He looked suitably interested, ‘about a death threat.’
‘Archer,’ he looked a little irate, ‘you know I don’t do death threats.’ 
No, you just kill the bastards, I thought to myself but I was wise enough not to say it. 
‘I know Hristov, but I am collecting information, how well do you know Wayne Wilson?’ I asked. 
Hristov looked blank for a moment, then seemed to remember the name. ‘Financier?’ He asked. I nodded. ‘Sleazy son of a bitch?’ He added. 
Hristov ran a brothel, he knew sleaze when he saw it.
‘Born again sleaze,’ I said, this time Hristov nodded. 
‘He wanted to borrow some girls,’ Hristov said. ‘Had some big function, wanted to impress some investors. We had a little argument about the bill, nothing too serious, he just wasn’t keen on paying.’ 
‘But you persuaded him?’ I said. Hristov smiled, telling me all I needed to know.
‘We came to an understanding,’ he said. I knew Hristov, I knew from personal experience he didn’t hold a grudge, if Wilson had paid, it was the end of the matter. 
‘You know someone called Knoyle?’ I asked. Storm clouds drifted across Hristov’s face, he knew him all right. 
‘I’m a busy man, Archer. Got to get on.’
‘C’mon Hristov,’ I said. ‘You know what you tell me stays with me.’
‘He’s a drug dealer,’ Hristov said quietly. ‘I try to keep my girls clean but he is persistent. We fall out from time to time. He got a bit more heavy after Santa died. Be careful if you go after him.’ I thanked my new friend and headed away. Maybe there was more to this than met the eye. 

I found Andrews exactly where I expected to find him, propping up the bar in Copelands. He looked the worse for wear already, but that suited me. The drunker he was the more he would sing. 
‘Get the man I drink,’ I said to the barman and put a note on the bar. Andrews looked at me wearily. 
‘Tell me about Wayne Wilson,’ I said. 
‘What’s to tell?’ 
‘Does he make any trouble?’
‘He’s small fry, thinks he’s a player but he’s neither one thing or another. On the edge of legal, as I said, there’s nothing to tell.’ 
‘How about this business with his wife?’ I signalled to the barman to refill our glasses. 
‘You mean the bullet?’ He said, I nodded. 
‘Fuss about nothing, if you ask me, she’s invented the whole thing.’
That thought had crossed my mind.
‘What do you know about Knoyle?’ I asked.
‘Now he is a player. You be careful with that name,’ Andrews slurred. 
‘Second time I’ve heard that today.’ I said. 
‘Well, whoever you speak to gives you good advice.’ The copper said. 
‘Where can I find him?’ I asked. 
‘He’s a drug dealer, Archer, they are only found when they want to be.’ 
‘Give me a clue.’ I said. 
‘Try Rayer’s.  A little bird told me he’s set up shop there.’ 

I put some more money on the bar and walked out. It was time to head home. Molly was waiting for me.

For audio click here

I was restless, I’d told Molly all about Wilson, Hristov and Knoyle, she was a good listener. She told me she knew Knoyle. She said he used to hang around Cupcakes. Then, one day, Hristov and him had a falling out. Rumour had it he’d done a big drugs deal with the Russians and bought Rayer’s with the proceeds. He’d tried to recruit some of the girls before Hristov got wind and sent him packing. Molly suggested we take a little walk down to the club, I didn’t think it was a place to take a lady, in fact it wasn’t much of a place for a gentleman either, but she’d insisted. 
Rayer’s was the kind of dive where you’d expect to find a drug dealer. The original Rayer had died mysteriously a few years before, it had changed hands a few times since then, but it was still dark, dirty and unwelcoming,; you only went there if you wanted something. 
‘Is the boss around?’ I said to the adolescent behind the bar. 
‘Who wants to know?’ he replied. Bloody Hollywood, I thought, gives every kid their clichéd lines. 
‘Just get him,’ I said, Molly put her hand on mine and smiled at me. She was telling me to be careful. 
‘Please,’ I added. The barman turned and went out back. 
‘Hello Darling, good to see you again,’ Knoyle was all glitz and gold. Hiding in plain sight. He obviously remembered Molly from Cupcakes. ‘Looking for a job?’ He said. 
‘Hi, I’m Archer Stanley,’ I cut in, offering my hand. 
‘I know who you are,’ he said to me. I didn’t know if he was being genuine or if it was another Hollywood line. 
He did me the honour of accepting my handshake, his eyes fixed to mine as our skin touched. 
‘Can I ask you a few questions?’ I said. 
‘You can ask,’ he smiled, ‘but I might not answer.’ He was a smart arse, the kind of kid who thought money bought respect. I was glad I had Molly with me, I had the feeling the scumbag wouldn’t have given me the time of day without her around. He was obviously trying to impress her.
‘What can you tell me about Wayne Wilson?’ I said.
Knoyle looked at me. I didn’t like his eyes, they seemed to penetrate my brain. 
‘Wilson? He’s a customer, not a very good one.’
‘Is he married?’ I asked. 
‘How would I know?’ 
‘He owes you money?’ I said. 
Knoyle was still staring at me. He nodded. 
‘Drugs?’ I asked. He didn’t look very happy at my line of questioning. ‘Hey I’m not the police, I’m just trying to paint a picture.’ I said. 
‘Well you’re a lousy artist,’ I smiled, it was a good line. ‘I think you better leave,’ he added. 
‘How much did he owe you?’ I asked, ignoring his advice. 
‘If you are ever looking for work darling, you know where I am,’ He said to Molly. He turned away.
‘Enough for you to have him killed?’ I watched him shift from one foot to another.  
He turned around and took a step towards me.
‘Mr Stanley, I don’t know what you think you know about me, but I am not in the business of getting people killed.’
‘Do you still sell guns?’ I looked at Molly, I’d never heard her voice sound so determined. 
‘Hey little lady where did you hear that?’
‘Answer the question,’ I said. 
‘Did you sell a gun to Wilson?’ It was Molly again. ‘Is that why he owes you big money?’
‘So let me get this straight,’ I said, not letting him answer. ‘You sold a gun to Wilson, he didn’t pay you, you send his wife a death threat. Is that how it is?’
‘It’s a nice little story to tell the police,’ Molly said. 
‘They’d be all over here like a rash.’ I added keeping up the double act. 
Knoyle looked at Molly and then at me, he was trying to work out if we were being serious. I smiled at him.
‘Let’s go Molly, we’ve got all we need.’ 
‘Ok,’ Knoyle said, ‘I did sell Wilson a gun and bullets, and no he hasn’t paid me yet,’ he looked genuinely hurt. ‘But I didn’t send any death threats. I’m no coward, Mr Stanley, I sort out my problems face to face.’
I nodded, I never for one second thought he’d sent the bullet. But he’d told us all we needed to know. Wilson had sent us on a wild goose chase but the geese had led us back to him. 

‘Sorry,’ Molly said as we walked home. 
‘No need to be sorry kid, you did great.’ I smiled at her. ‘But tell me, how did you know he sold weapons?’
‘I didn’t,’ she confessed, ‘it was a lucky guess. Call it women’s intuition.’
‘You’re good,’ I said. 

‘I’ve got the best teacher,’ she replied and gave me a little kiss on my cheek as we walked. 

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