"There was no trace of arsenic anywhere in his apartment," Dixon said, examining her burger carefully. "Is that a pickle?"|
"That is, indeed, a pickle. And a conundrum," Dorsey said. She looked around the diner. It was a greasy spoon of the first order, with stains on the ceiling and floors that even rats wouldn't eat off of. Stale donuts sat in greasy glass displays and a waitress poured tar-black coffee into a chipped cup. Behind her, smoke boiled out of the kitchen, bringing with it the smell of cooking fat and oil. Cooking utensils clattered loudly, drowning out the television mounted high up in the corner.
"He came here every day, hunh?" Dixon said.
"According to the cops," Dorsey said. "He had a bowl of chilli and a cup of coffee, like clockwork, before he reported to court." She dropped the burger on her plate without taking a bite. "They're still talking accidental contamination."
"And what does his wife say?"
"She hired us, didn't she?" Dorsey prodded the burger with a finger. 'Us' was the D4 Detective Agency, represented by Danny Dorsey and Delia Dixon, currently engaged in the investigation of the death of Ronnie Adair, former public defender and current victim of a fatal poisoning. "No arsenic here either, that they could find."
"Either eat it or don't, but stop poking at it." Dixon bit into a fry and made a face. She spat the chunk of chewed potato out and wiped her mouth with a napkin. "That gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘raw fries’." She looked at her partner. "But he died of arsenic poisoning, according to the ME."
"Yeah," Dorsey said.
"And since we've looked everywhere else..."
"My little gray cells are tingling," Dorsey said, affecting a Belgian accent and tapping the side of her head.
"That's probably just the secret sauce," Dixon said, opening her burger and eyeing the oddly-colored condiment that covered the blackened patty. "Give me your opinion on the chef."
Dorsey surreptitiously looked over at the fry cook who was sipping coffee behind the counter. "Prison ink and an exercise yard tan. Somebody just got out of the six by eight resort."
"Six by eight what now," Dixon said, raising an eyebrow.
"I heard it on TV."
"That doesn't mean you need to repeat it." Dixon sat back.
"Adair was a public defender," Dorsey said, ignoring the jibe. She picked up the rubbery pickle and waggled it at the fry cook.
"Stop that." Dixon frowned. "Okay. So what's the plan?"
"I need to get into the kitchen."
"I suppose I'm to be the distraction, then?" Dixon said, sighing.
"Any time you're ready," Dorsey said, waving a hand languidly. Dixon stood and headed for the toilet, shaking her head. Three minutes after she entered the restroom, there was the sound of metal on brick, and then a loud of hiss of splashing water and a high-pitched yelp.
A broken water-pipe could earn you at least ten uninterrupted minutes with a scene, a suspect, or a bit of evidence, depending on how wet your partner could stand to get. As the fry cook and the waitress dashed for the toilet, Dorsey vaulted the counter and entered the kitchen. Quickly, she looked around. A bubbling pot of chilli sat on the stove.
Near the stove, a garbage bag containing kitchen detritus laid half-open. Dorsey knelt beside it, pulling out half a dozen thin strips of paper, all slightly gummy with residue. She sniffed it and realized that it was flypaper. Or it had been. "Flypaper, but no flies," she murmured.
She turned slightly, spotting another pot under the stove. "Odd place for a pot," she said, pulling it out and running her finger along the rim. Rubbing her fingers together she put the pot aside and stood. On TV, she'd have taken it for testing, and after a color saturated montage sequence accompanied by appropriate music, they'd explain how if you boiled flypaper and skimmed it, you got arsenic.
"Hey! What are you doing back here?" the fry cook said, stepping into the kitchen, his fists clenched. Her eyes flickered over his tattoos.
"Health inspector," she said, flashing her private investigator badge, hoping he wouldn't notice. "Hasn't anyone ever told you that it's a hazard leaving opened bags of refuse in a kitchen like this?"
"They weren't open when I left."
"Let's not get into who opened what when who left," Dorsey said. "When did you get out of prison?"
The man's face screwed up in an expression of confusion. "What?"
"Never mind; was it a coincidence that your public defender was a regular here, or is that why you wanted the job? Going by the state of your food, it wasn't a love of the culinary arts."
"Get out of here," he said, confusion giving way to caution.
"Already going," Dorsey said, making to step past him. His hand snapped out, grabbing her arm in a painful grip.
"Let me see that badge again," he began.
Dorsey's heel came down on his instep. He yelped and let her go. She pivoted and gave him a gentle push, sending him down. He fell on his ass and she was over the counter a moment later, startling the waitress.
Dixon was coming out of the bathroom as Dorsey hit the door, moving quickly. Dixon hurried after her, ignoring the waitress and the fry cook. "Did you find anything?"
"I found the murder weapon," Dorsey said, waggling her fingers.
"I don't care how many certificates you have, those ain't deadly weapons," Dixon said.
"Arsenic, chum," Dorsey said. "I think our fry cook has committed a parole violation or two."
"I heard it on TV. Adam West was the best Batman."
"Maybe you need to stop watching so much TV," Dixon said. Then, "So?"
"He was boiling flypaper. Probably put a bit in Adair's food every day. It took months, but eventually..." she flapped a hand. "Not quite as elegant as a swamp adder and a bell cord, but easier to do." She tapped the brim of an imaginary deerstalker. "Case closed, Watson."
"Definitely too much TV," Dixon said.