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The Club Max Murder Case
Daniels knew the hooker was employing her trade upstairs again. He opened his eyes in total darkness. Above him the third floor ceiling shook his entire apartment like the rotor blades from battlefield choppers attacking an encampment. The thumps accelerated as he rolled out of bed and reached for the lamp. He flipped the switch and his eyes ached. His wood carved pipe and a gold lettered, blue bound edition of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the stories he liked to read before sleeping, were strewn across the tiny bedside table. Now he would fatigue would follow him during his shift at the warehouse. " If I ever reported the goings on up there, there would be serious trouble!"
He reached for his navy, velour bathrobe as the racket persisted and he pushed his arms into the sleeves. Then he tied the robe tightly, pressed his lips together and stepped into his fur-lined slippers. His twisted gray hair stuck up straight in the mirror. He rolled his eyes and combed his fingers through the mess. " Who cares how you look, Daniels? "
He was going to complain about the floozy upstairs. In the dimly lit outside hall he planted his feet on the matted rug and peered up the varnished banister. Now the stereo bass resonated through the plaster walls. " I should be calling the police. So many times I should have called the police."
On the first floor, Mrs. O' Toole's door creaked open and her blue permed hair jutted into the hallway. She was fully dressed in an acrylic white knit sweater and green polyester slacks. Three red molded suitcases were lined up next to her door.
" My God, Mr. Daniels. Someone is being murdered! Just when I'm about to leave on vacation."
" Go back to your apartment, Mrs. O' Toole, I have the situation well in hand. You and your wild notions ... murder ... You've been reading too many of those supermarket tabloids. Go back inside."
She trudged up the vinyl stair treads. " Not in your life. I can hear that pounding way down to the first floor. Why couldn't you hear it earlier, Mr. Daniels? "
" Because I was sleeping. I was sleeping. And I do put that in the past tense, Madam. Was sleeping!"
" Who you calling a madam?"
Daniels ground his teeth and tried not to look at her as they climbed to the third floor. " Proper address, Mrs. O'Toole. Proper address."
" Well, you should have done something about that woman long ago. I hear she's living a wild life," said Mrs. O'Toole, pushing her index finger into his arm.
" Why me?" Daniels stopped on the stairs as the clatter, now only half a flight up, persisted.
" She wears those miniskirts and the knee high boots."
" Mrs. O'Toole. She's a hooker. A Club Max hooker. Step out of your naive existence and see the real world." He trotted up ahead of her and tightened his bathrobe loop again. The sound of a man crying drifted down the stairs along with Miss Quintal's usual seductive perfume. As angry as he was, he hoped she was not in trouble. He tiptoed across the worn hallway carpet and through the open doorway.
Within the stereo's jazz music, the wailing mixed with a steady the banging on the floor. Quietly and slowly, he inched his way over the green shag rug near the bathroom. White book shelves extended from the wall, separating the front room from the hall, and he saw long strands of auburn hair through the stacks. He cautiously peered around the corner.
A strapping young man, Daniels recognized as one of Miss Quintal's frequent visitors, knelt and rocked her bloodied body in his wide arms. His face was contorted, tears smeared over his moistened cheeks, and he repeatedly called out her name. " Gina ...Gina ..."
" My God," said Daniels, his hands shaking as he realized the woman was, indeed, dead. " What the hell have you done?"
" No! No!" shouted the young man, his eyes wide as he looked up at Daniels.
He quickly let Miss Quintal slide onto the rug and leaped to his feet. Panic overtook his face when he glanced at the body and then rumbled like a steer out of the pen. Daniels jumped aside as the young man agilely darted past Mrs. O'Toole and cascaded down the stairs.
" What's in there, Mr. Daniels?" she asked loudly.
" Nothing ... Nothing, Mrs. O'Toole." He attempted to stay calm, retreated and abruptly escorted her to the dimly lit outside hallway.
" Why are you pushing me?" She broke free and stomped inside. Her high-pitched scream only added to the confusion. " Murder! I knew it was murder!"
" I warned you, Mrs. O'Toole!"
" Murder! Murder!"
" I'm calling the police!" Daniels galloped downstairs to his own apartment. Mrs. O'Toole's lamenting continued outside as he scrambled to his bedside phone. He placed his finger on the emergency police number. Something loud erupted outside in the back alley as he dialed the station. He pulled the twisted phone cord to the window as the young man from upstairs, seated on a motorcycle, spun onto Atlantic Ave.
" P.W.P.D. This call is being recorded. Officer Crimmins, speaking. "
" Murder. There has been a murder. Apartment, apartment, oh, God, I'm drawing a blank-"
" Slow it down, sir. Slow it down. Where are you calling from?"
Daniels cleared his throat and spoke slowly. " Charles B. Daniels. Covington Arms Apartments, corner of Covington and Atlantic."
" Who has been murdered, Mr. Daniels?"
" The woman upstairs. Gina Quintal. Her boyfriend ran out-"
" You saw him?"
" I assure you I have noted and will note every detail of this case. Big athletic kid. Looked like a football player. Left on his motorcycle down Atlantic. South. He went south."
" His name is Joe," said Mrs. O'Toole from the doorway.
Daniels turned, squinting his eyes. She annoyed him every minute she was with him." I have a lady here who said his name was Joe. Joe what? Mrs. O'Toole?"
" Well, I don't know his last name. "
" Last name?" asked Crimmins.
" Oh, for God's sake, Mrs. O' Toole. What good is a first name?"
" Last name?" repeated Crimmins.
" No, I'm sorry, Officer." He mustered a sharp grimace for Mrs. O'Toole's benefit. " We do not. He was a tall, big framed ... Big face. Brown hair. Thick. This case could be cut and dry. Hmm ..."
" Driving a motorcycle?" said Crimmins.
We have people on the way. Does anyone require medical help?"
" She needs a psychiatrist." Mrs. O'Toole opened her mouth and folded her arms tightly across her sweater.
" What was that, sir?"
" Nothing. Nothing. We're all right here."
" Personnel are on the way, Mr. Daniels. Stay away from the murder scene ... Touch nothing."
Daniels hung up. " They say touch nothing, Mrs. O'Toole."
" The taxi is picking me up. I'm supposed to be at the airport in half an hour to catch the red eye."
" They'll want to question you."
" But I'm going to Arizona!"
Daniels shook his head as she left. " Doesn't know his last name&ldots; Unbelievable ..."
Jones zipped his red parka and trailed his assistant coach out the locker room door. The colder fall air stung his face as he panned the bright foliage lining the practice field to the Shaker style music conservatory and five-story brick library. With the St. Pats and Hamilton both undefeated, Jones was determined to push his team today. Only one squad would emerge in first place after Saturday's contest.
" Woosey, where's Joe Svoboda?"
" I didn't see him, Matthias" answered his wavy haired assistant.
" Or his motorcycle. "
" Joe is usually the first one on the field. Since the whole world thinks I'm going to run against St. Pat's, I need to keep Joe practicing the long ball. What an arm on that kid." Jones trotted by the leave strewn baseball field onto the adjacent football practice field's limed grids.
" Mac says Joe is a brick wall. He's been watching videos of all our games."
" Look, Woose, Mac and I are friends, but competitors, too. I won't let St. Pat's win the division ... He isn't expecting Joe to pass. We've run for the past five weeks." They reached the upper practice field, rimmed with red and yellow maples. Leo Crowley, his thick beard rusty in the afternoon sunshine, dragged an olive team equipment bag across the grass. " What do ya say, Leo?"
Leo's stocky frame filled his red and black Hamilton College wind- breaker. " Coach, Arnie Dewars just heard a rumor from his sister in Prince William. She talked to her friend who is a cop on the Prince William force-"
" Excuse me, Leo. One second. Woosey, let's get them warmed up and then we'll run some basic stuff."
" You going live today, Coach?" asked Woosey.
" I think I will. Contact on a day like this would separate the men from the boys. That's for sure." Jones looked past the baseball field's chain link fence to the locker room door. To the right Larsen Stadium was empty and draped in shadows below the town up the hill. He wondered why Joe was late for practice. " Where's Joe?"
" That's what I'm trying to tell you, Coach. Arnie says they're holding some kid for murder at the Prince William police station. Some kid with a motorcycle."
His stomach jolted, Jones spun around. " Leo, if Arnie Dewars told you: consider the source. "
" He seemed sure."
" If your implying Joe is over the Prince William police station then just forget it, Leo."
" Arnie's sister said the rumor was all over town."
" Rumor ... I don't believe it. Especially if Arnie had anything to do with it. " Jones walked with Leo along the sidelines. " Leo, when Joe finally gets here I'm thinking of letting him pass. No running game on Saturday. What do you think?"
" I always thought Joe should pass more, Coach."
" Won't be expected, will it?"
" Nope. Kid's the most natural athlete I ever saw."
Jones nodded as Woosey brought the team through calisthenics, accompanied by a loud verbal cadence. The sunlight filtered through the half bare maples, producing yellow glow through the wide leaves. A shiny black low rider rolled along the outside fence. Jones thought he saw a pair of binoculars in the open passenger window. He turned back to the team as the boys as they went through simple line and passing drills. He waved his assistant over. Woosey, holding his clipboard, ran across from the line.
" Coach, you want to start some plays?"
" What I want, Woosey, is Joe Svoboda out on the playing field. This is a critical game on Saturday," said Jones, rubbing his numbed hands together. The low rider's tinted window moved upward and the car looped around to the fence opening. " That low rider keeps going back and forth along the fence. Mac sending people to spy on us?"
" Probably just some kids. Matthias, you're always too suspicious. You want me to go back to the school to look for Svoboda?"
" No, I'll have Leo check. I need Joe out here practicing. He's the backbone of this team. I just can't use little Larry Resnick against St. Pat's
" Resnick and Svoboda hate each other. "
" I'm not going to base strategy on who does or doesn't like somebody else, Woosey. Start running some plays here." He headed down the grass. " Leo!"
Leo looked over his shoulder and turned. " Yo."
" Leo, check the locker room for Joe, will you?"
" You want me to call the police station?"
" Stop with the police station business." Jones shook his head and watched the team. " Arnie has everybody all revved up. Leo, Just track him down."
" You got it, Coach."
As the large framed Leo trundled across the lower field to the gymnasium locker room, the low rider's engine rumbled like a truck along the fence. Jones glanced over his shoulder and approached his team.
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