For a hundred dollars a day, plus expenses, Bill Chapter is your man in the city. If you need ingredients picked up to make a nice sandwich, Chapters will do it. If you need the answers to the afternoon crossword puzzle, Chapters will do it. He doesn't like to be bothered when he's working, especially when he's not working. In this installment of "Busted Love," Chapters plays up some hunches and makes some phone calls and does not work up a sweat.

Catch up on the case!


There was a phone call in the morning. It was Sandy Connors. "I'm in the lobby," she said.

I hung up, took my time getting dressed, and then took the elevator down. She wore a denim jacket and a black shirt. There was a hole in her left stocking shaped like Croatia. "Good morning," she said. We moved to the hotel dining area where they were serving a continental breakfast. I had coffee and watched her cut into half a grapefruit with a spoon, and then massage the juice like it was sore.

"How did you know I was here?"

"Your assistant told me."


She touched her lip. "Yes, that sounds right." She plucked a seed out of the pulp with a probing finger and wiped it on her napkin. "How is our matter coming along?"

I nodded and sucked the taste of coffee from my teeth. "Good."

"So you know why Stanley--"

"I meant the coffee." I looked at her and pushed my tongue against the roof of my mouth. "I can't discuss the details of an ongoing investigation."

"What you're saying is you don't know."

"The case is still developing," I said. "But I have a working hypothesis."

"I don't like people giving me the run around."

"And I don't like being bothered at work."

Her face went red. "Now wait a minute."

"No, you listen. You hired me to find out about your Romeo-- not to have breakfast. Now don't get me wrong. It's been a gas watching you molest that grapefruit but unless you have a better reason for looking over my shoulder, I'll pass on dessert."

She sighed and reached into her purse. "Someone slipped this into my textbook." She handed me a slip of paper. It was torn out of a spiral notebook. All it said was "Call Him Off."

"I was at the library. I went to use the bathroom. It was wedged in between two pages when I got back."

I brought the paper up to my nose.

"What is it?"

"Perfume. Lilac maybe."

"That's not my scent."

I looked at her. "I know." I sniffed again. "Also stale beer. There's this place called Weasel's that has cocktail napkins. Is it close to the library?"

"It's on the same block."

"Stanley spend time there?"

She shrugged. "Everyone goes there. It's a college bar."

I folded the paper up. "I'll call you when I get back to New York. Until then stay out of my way." I got up and let her take the check.


I dialed the phone number from the yellow sticky note I found in Jenkins' room. A woman's voice answered. It had the squeezed crawl of a woman who was past seventy, maybe past ninety. "Hello?"

"Yes." I cleared my throat. "This is Transcontinental Communication Services. Who am I speaking with?"

"April Christian." I wrote the name down on a slip of hotel stationery. I read her phone number back to her. "Is this your phone number, ma'am?"

"Yes," she croaked, as if she was the one asking the questions.

"Trans-Com has been authorized to award you a reimbursement voucher for your phone overpayment."

"Oh my."

"I'm going to need you to confirm your mailing address and we'll send it off to you right away."

She hesitated for a moment. "Well, it's Sixteen Morrison Drive. Towson Township, Delaware. What is this for again?"

"Your reimbursement voucher ma'am. Towson? By the lake?"

"Yes, that's correct."

"Thank you, ma'am." I hung up the phone and got the number of the police precinct from the front desk. I called the switchboard operator and had them put me through to Jonas McCarthy.

"It's me," I said.

"I'm at work."

"When do you get off?"

"Three hours. You want to grab a drink or something?"

"I need a ride."

"A ride? To where?"

"Towson Lake."

"That's over an hour away."

"Just be here, Jonny." I hung up the phone. Ten seconds later, when it rang, I pretended I was in the shower.


The rain started. I watched from the hotel lobby. The bell boys scrambled around handling luggage with umbrellas gripped in their teeth. McCarthy showed up in his trench coat, wet around the shoulders and skirt. His face was ragged. No flowers or chocolates.

I got up to meet him. "Don't look at me that way, Jonny," I said. I patted him on the arm. "I'll buy you a steak." We went out into the parking lot and we climbed into a four-wheel-drive monster -- a car built for problems.

"You're lousy," he said to me as we got on our way.

"How do you mean?"

"You only call when you need something." He darted his eyes at me and caught me opening his glove box. "Don't touch that."

I took out the gun and slid out the clip.

"This isn't police issue," I said.

"Sometimes I go bear hunting."

I sighted the gun at the wheels of a semi truck up ahead. "And this water pistol is enough to bring down a bear?"

He got off the highway onto a different stretch of road. The window wipers beat thick skins of rain off the glass. "It is if you know where to shoot."

I wiped the trigger down with my shirt sleeve and slipped the gun back into the glove box.

"So what's this about?" he asked.

"Work," I said.

Jonny got sullen. He was right that I didn't treat him right. "It's a jilted lover case. Some college kid went up to the lake with some friends. When he got back, he went chilly on my client."

"What exactly do you hope to find?"

"Won't know until I get there. Maybe nothing. It's a hunch mostly."

Jonny scoffed. "You should try some real detective work one of these days."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means evidence, Bill. Forensics. Proof. That's what closes cases. Not your gut." He started telling me about a fraud case he had been working on earlier in the year. I stopped listening and watched the trees shake in the rain.


Posted by billchapters on Tue, 15 Jul 2008 12:28:21 -0400 -- permanent link

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