All Things Mysterious Volume Forty-Five
La Veuve Noire Obtient Meme--The Exciting Conclusion!
(The Black Widow Gets Even)
Presently Ellen Amora and the two detectives were in an interrogation room. Costello was speaking.
‘Now, listen, lady, we know you were not working alone when Quintana, Blake, Glenn, Davis, Smith, McGill, and Acosta were killed. Who was your partner?’
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
‘Oh, you don’t? Well, let me clue you in. Your old man made more than a few enemies in his life, and isn’t it funny! Seven of them turned up dead right after his murder! What a coincidence!’
‘I hope you’re not suggesting that I had anything to do with those men!’
‘Then how did you know they were all men?’
‘Just an assumption.’
‘Those assumptions will get you into trouble--like assuming that those men were involved in your husband’s murder.’
‘Think so? Quintana, Acosta and McGill all had clean records.’
‘Nuts! They were all---’
‘All what? What were you about to say?’
‘Who was your partner?’
‘You know who my partner was! My late husband! That scum Mayhew killed him when he got too close to his crime ring.’
‘Oh, you got your revenge, didn’t you?’
‘No! And even if I did, don’t tell me the cops are gonna cry over some killers being dead!’
‘I told you, Acosta, Quintana, and McGill had no ties to crime, organized or otherwise. The others all had records and good riddance, but you can’t go around killing whoever you please!’
‘Whoever killed them oughta get a medal!’
Ok, sister, let’s go.’
‘I’m through talking. Maybe a few hours in a cell will learn you a lesson.’
‘Do your worst! I’m not scared of you, cop!’
But Avery and Costello were wrong. A few hours spent languishing in a cell did nothing but make Ellen Amora more determined to stick to her guns.
‘So let’s recap. You planted evidence against Mayhew, and you killed seven men that you thought were involved in your husband’s murder. Quite a scorecard!’
‘I didn’t do anything of the kind! Even if I had, you should be grateful for the help! What has the River City PD done about the mob? Nothing!’
‘See, the thing is, we have to go by the book. We can’t plant evidence and think up exotic ways to kill people we don’t like.’
‘And that’s why you never get anything done! You need someone like me on the inside!’
Avery replied, ‘Some of those mugs are pretty dangerous.’
‘Gee, I don’t know why you’d say that! All they did was murder the only man I ever loved. Listen, those guys and Amigo served together and had a black market scheme going and they all agreed to keep it up once they got back Stateside.’
‘Is that why they whacked Amigo?’
‘That’s part of it--he wanted to pull out of the rackets, and he was getting close to having enough on Mayhew to blow the whistle.’
‘But Mayhew beat him to the punch.’
‘Yeah, and you guys did nothing!
‘At least we didn't take out innocent men like you did!’
‘I didn’t! And anyway they weren’t innocent! They were selling contraband they smuggled in from Europe! Guns, artworks, dope, women, you name it!’
Avery and Costello looked at each other uneasily. ‘Uh, you got some proof?’
‘You come on over to my office tonight and I’ll show you enough proof even for you!’
Midnight. River City is quiet, sound asleep, rolled-up sidewalks. Avery and Costello are inconspicuously using side roads to meander to the widow’s office, newly reimagined as the headquarters of her own private detective agency. The detectives were admittedly uneasy about this rendezvous; not so much fearing a double-cross as fearing the consequences of working with Ellen Amora. Could they make evidence-planting and murder of miscreants simply disappear? Was it worth possibly compromising what integrity they may have to help stanch the wave of organized crime currently sweeping River City? The first order of business was to see what ‘proof,’ if any, Ellen had. To that end, the dicks were in the outer office at the witching hour, the appointed time.
‘Get in here, coppers! I haven’t got all night!’
‘Neither have we, sister. So what’s this proof you say you got?’
‘Oh, I’ve got it all right----’
Before Ellen Amora could complete her sentence, the door burst open and three masked men wielding machine guns rushed in, covering the two detectives and Ellen.
Avery cautiously walked up to one of the men and peered at him closely, as if he could see through the mask. He found his voice. ‘Slotz, is that you?’
Slotz pulled off his mask and grinned. ‘Hey, Ave, what’s new? Wait a minute! What are you guys doing here?’
‘We’re looking at proof of this lady’s innocence in that gangland thing from the other day. What are YOU doing here?’
‘We’ve got some news for you.’
‘Mrs. Amora, this is Pullman Slotz, a colleague. Mister Flynn and Mister Carey, associates. Ellen nodded politely.
Slotz set down his tommy gun and pulled a sheet of paper from his pocket. Reading from it, he said, ‘Mr. Quintana’s pet parrot did indeed scratch him but its claws were tipped with a salve intended to relieve symptoms of psoriasis, which did not cause his death. The man took too much muscle relaxer which led to his demise and looked for all the world like curare. Mr. Blake, who was in fact the gunman who killed Mr. Amora, was assassinated by an exploding telephone. Mr. Glenn fell into a pit left by the previous owner of his house, who planned to build a bomb shelter but never completed it or filled it in. Mr. Davis was an unlicensed tattoo artist who had used a dirty needle and contaminated ink on a previous customer who died. Mr. Davis was then dispatched the same way by the deceased customer’s brother-in-law. Mr. Smith was accidentally suffocated by his cat, who had been tranquilized by ketamine introduced into some chicken by his wife, who was keeping company with the milkman and wanted out of the marriage. Mr. McGill’s anthrax had been in the book for years, having been placed there by an enemy of another man with the same name. Mr. Acosta was reaching for a package of cigarettes and lost control of his car, fell out, and was run over.’
No one said anything for a time. What was there to say? The horrible coincidences that led to the deaths of these same men that Ellen Amora could be forgiven for targeting were now out in the open. At length the woman broke the silence.
‘See, I told you I didn’t do it!’
‘But you did plant evidence in Mayhew’s office!’
‘Nuts! You mean the cat fur they talked about in the papers? How do you know he didn’t have some mangy beast in his office? How do you know there wasn’t a cat someplace else in the building? Or are you just jealous that you couldn’t nail Mayhew?’
Avery and Costello looked at each other. Slotz, Flynn, and Carey looked at each other. Perhaps this was a can of worms best left unopened. But then there was the little matter of Blake, and the booby trapped telephone.
But right at that moment, there was yet another interruption. A gentle tap-tap-tapping at the door, and it opened to reveal a timid, thin woman with a pale, washed-out complexion and stringy blond hair. She said, ‘Is one of you the man working on the Blake case?’
Avery said, ‘Can I help you?’
The woman said, ‘I’m the former Mrs. Blake. I--I killed him. I knew that he murdered that private detective and that was the last straw. I was already divorcing him, but I just couldn’t live with the fact that our children’s father was a murderer.’
Costello put in, ‘So what did you do?’
The ex-Mrs. Blake said, ‘I called LeShawn Davis; his son and my son are friends. He told me he could get Leonard out of the way for me. I didn’t want to know the details but I guess he wired the phone.’
‘That’s what he did, all right. Then he got his last tattoo. Wanna come with me?’
Costello and the former Mrs. Blake went down to the booking room, while Avery gazed at Ellen Amora. ‘Well, lady, I guess you’re off the hook. Go on, run your agency, leave town, do whatever you want to do, but I don’t want to see you in here again.’
Ellen Amora walked out of the precinct, head held high. Clinging to one of her shoes was a tiny tuft of cat fur.
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