Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The New Moon Murders - Part 2

Special thanks to M S Jackson for the new cover art! In case you missed it, here's the link to Part 1.

Part 2
 “You mean Eric Fuchs is the New Moon Murderer?” Father Burke half yelled over the cold Chicago wind.

I don’t know that he is,” Thomas Gunn said. “Then again, I don’t know that he isn’t. What I do know is that he killed his father-in-law.”
That can't be. True, Patrick Lynch wanted his daughter to marry an good Irishman but he came to respect Eric. In fact, I would even say they became friends. Mary said more than once that her father sided with Eric concerning his dedication to the store.”
They must have had a falling out because after he stabbed Captain Lynch, Eric came home and threw Mary down the stairs. I saw it as we passed through the foyer when we left.”

Tell me exactly what you saw, Thomas.”
It was the night Patrick Lynch was murdered. Eric opened the door. He had the stunned look a man who accidentally discharges a weapon. Mary was at the top of the stairs holding her back the way pregnant women do.
She yelled at him telling him she’d had enough. Said she was moving back in with her father.
Eric climbed the stairs with his head hung low. She kept yelling. He got to the top and grabbed her with both hands. ‘Your father’s dead, Mary Kate. I killed him.’
She stood there for a moment, stunned. Then she hit him. It was like a shadow passed over Eric Fuchs’ face. The shocked looked disappeared replaced by raw anger. He punched Mary in the face and she fell. He yelled ‘Oh, God. What have I done?’ and ran down the stairs to her.”
Thomas, I've known Eric since he was a child fresh from Germany. He was always absorbed in books and artifacts without a violent bone in his body. I can't believe he would hit his wife or kill his father-in-law. Especially after he tried for so many years to have a child.”
Men snap, Father. I’ve seen it again and again.”
Why wouldn’t she go to the police? I’ve known Mary for almost as long as I’ve known Eric. She’s not the sort of person you’d intimidate into silence.”
Maybe she’s protecting someone. Maybe she’s protecting herself.”
But you didn’t see Eric kill Patrick. You only saw him saying he’d killed him.”
True. But once Eric snapped he could have become the New Moon killer. I checked with the coroner after you contacted me. The New Moon Murderer used a wedge shaped blade. The same sort of weapon killed Captain Lynch. I know, I saw the body myself.”
And what were you doing investigating at Patric Lynch's death?”
A friend of mine from the FBI came to see me after the murder.”
He asked you to help with their investigation?”
Actually he was checking to see if I had an alibi. The friction between us was well known.”
I had no idea you were a suspect, Thomas.”
Don’t worry, Father, Zeke was just doing his job. I did find out that Lynch had contacted the federal prosecutors the night of his death. He planned to turn state’s evidence on someone. He didn’t trust the local authorities for some reason and went straight to the Feds.
After that my curiosity got the better of me. I went to the morgue hoping to get a flash of who killed Captain Lynch. It didn’t work but I did get a good look at the wound. So, Father, it’s time to tell me why you think Eric Fuchs knows something.”
The old priest stopped. “I performed their wedding, Thomas. I was to christen their child. You can’t tell anyone.”
I won’t make that promise. There are three dead girls, Father. There’ll be more if we don’t stop the killer.”
Father Burke took a deep breath. “It was just after New Years. Eric came to the church asking what confessional I was in. He sat down and started talking about the murders without so much as a ‘Forgive me, Father’. He named each victim and said what a tragedy it was. Then he just got up and left without another word. I tried to follow him but my old legs aren’t as fast as they used to. This is all part of a confession, Thomas. I shouldn’t be telling you this.”
You’re doing the right thing, Father.” Gunn noticed Father Burke breathing heavily. “You need to rest. The J&O diner is just ahead. We can stop there for a while.”
No, I’ll be fine. We’re almost to Avers Street. What are you hoping to see in the store? Do you think Eric’s just going to confess?”
No,” Thomas Gunn said as he turned into the alley. It was a now past noon but the sun was completely obscured by dark, snow-laden clouds.
We're not going in the store, Father. At least not by the front door. A store's front is what the owner wants you to see. A store's alley is what he doesn't want you to see. I, for one, want to see what Eric Fuchs doesn't want seen.”
At the corner of the alley someone had hung a theater poster announcing ‘The Great Cosmo, The World’s Greatest Mesmerist!’. The poster showed a tall man in a tophat hypnotizing a beautiful woman.
Gunn stopped and looked at the poster. He grabbed the edge ripped away the Great Cosmo’s face. He nodded, pleased with himself. “Better.”
You do need to forgive and forget, son. That business with Cosmo is long past.”
If he apologizes, I’ll forgive him but I’ll never, ever forget what that stuffed suit did to me,” Gunn said stomping into the alleyway.
Garbage cans, boxes, and loose paper littered the alley along with the smell of food from the J&O diner. Many of the businesses had stairs leading to basements below street level. Delivery trucks had smashed most of the snow into slush which refroze into jagged ice.
They found the well-worn delivery door with a sign that read 'Fuchs Rare Books.' A highly-polished bronze eight-pointed star was embedded in the brickwork at the top of the stairs leading to Fuchs’ basement.
Mean anything to you, Father?” Gunn said running his gloved hand over the star.
The old priest looked through the lower portion of his bifocals. “Hmm. The eight-pointed star can symbolize any number of things. It may refer to Ishtar, Assyrian goddess of fertility. It can also mean chaos from order. It might mean other things as well. Symbology needs a reference to determine its true meaning.”
Tom Gunn walked down to the door at leading to the basement. It was solid, metal-bound, and much newer than the door above. Gunn laid his shoulder into it. The door didn't budge. Gunn knelt down examining the lock and hinges.
I hope you’re not trying to break in, son. A night in jail would upset the Bishop greatly.”
Is that the same bishop that ordered my exorcism?” Gunn said as he sprang up the steps. “That's a very solid door, Father. It’s the kind you normally find in front of speakeasies.”
Father Burke furrowed his brow. “Eric running a speakeasy? Surely Patrick wouldn’t go to the Feds over that.”
No. Knowing Lynch he would have demand a cut from any gin joint action. He would have made sure the local cops stayed away. It also explains why he and Eric Fuchs were so buddy-buddy. They were business partners.”
Then what lead Eric to kill his father-in-law?”
Gunn started toward the entrance to the alleyway. “I don’t know. What I do know is Eric killed Captain Lynch with the similar weapon as was used in the New Moon Murders and that his wife, whom he pushed down a flight of stairs, is covering for him.”
As they passed the ripped poster of The Great Cosmo, Father Burke asked, “So what now?”
Now, we look for the murder weapon or a motive. That means breaking into Fuchs’ bookstore. To do that I need to get a look at it during the day so I know where to go tonight.”
As Gunn rounded the corner he spied a cute, young blond bump into a well-to-do gentleman. With polite ‘pardon me’s they continued along their way. As the girl approached Gunn, he grabbed her arm pulling her hand out of her coat pocket. She held a man’s wallet.
“Excuse me, sir. I think you dropped your wallet!” yelled Gunn holding it up for the man to see.
“Why thank you, sir,” the man said coming back to get his wallet. “The holidays may be over but its good to see a bit of Christmas charity remains.” The man dug into his wallet retrieving a $10 bill. “For your trouble, sir. Thanks to you and your lady friend.”
Gun pocketed the sawbuck and turned to the pickpocket. “Jean Marie Louis, when did you get out of prison?”
“Last week, Gunny,” The girl said as she pulled her arm free while glaring at Thomas Gunn.
Gunn glared back.“You ever think of getting some honest work?”
“There ain’t no work for women ex-cons. There ain’t no work period. Come on, Gunny. I ain’t ate in two days.”
Tom Gunn considered for a moment. “You want a job working for me?”
“You’re kidding, right? The Chicago Police Department ain’t hiring no one with record.”
“I’m not a cop any more. I’m a private detective.”
Jean sputtered. “And I let you grab me? If’n I’d known that,” Jean stopped mid-sentence. “Hey, gimme that sawbuck.”
“That’ll be your first month’s wages. I might be convinced to give you a small advance but I need your help first.”
Jean eyed him suspiciously. “Help with what?”
“With the kind of stuff you’re good at,” Gunn said grabbing his fedora as a new gust of wind blew past.
Father Burke cleared his throat.
“Father, allow me to introduce Jean Louis. She used to be one of my informants until she she turned thief. She was raised on the streets and has a set of skills any acrobat would admire. Combine that with an intricate knowledge of locks and you have one of the best second story men, er women, in the business. She’s mostly honest except when she’s not.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Father,” Jean said. “Although I ain’t too fond of the company you keep. OK, I’ll work for you, Gunny, on two conditions. One, you never, ever touch me again. I’m not someone you’ll play patty fingers with. Two, you feed me now. I’m powerful hungry.” The last was almost a plea.
“Deal,” Gunn said.
With that, Jean grabbed Gunn by his weather-stained overcoat lapel and drug him into the J&O diner. It was past the lunch rush and the joint was empty save the tall waiter name Joey and short, stocky cook named Otis.
Jean ordered “whatever’s fast and hot” while Thomas Gunn and Father Burke had coffee to warm their bones. A thick stew and bread soon arrived along with the coffees. Jean grabbed a spoon and started to eat then, after looking at the priest, crossed herself and said a quick prayer before diving in.
Father Burke pulled out his hip flask adding a bit of its contents to his coffee. Jean motioned she would like some of the same while chewing a mouthful of bread.
Jean finished the stew, belched loudly, and ordered the blue plate special. The Joey raised one eyebrow and looked at the detective. “You heard the lady, one blue plate special. And don’t spare the gravy.”
Jean’s manic eating subsided. She sat with a content smile nibbling at the bread. “Gunny, I take back three of the worst things I’ve ever said about you.”
Jean removed her threadbare coat as a combination of coffee and Irish whiskey took effect. She wore clothing you might see on a young man with a too-large sweater covering a too-small white collared shirt and wool slacks help up with braces. Her clothes were dirty but warm. She noticed Thomas looking her over. “No, I didn’t steal the clothes. The screws in the joint gave ‘em to me to keep warm.”
How long you been working this street, Jean,” asked Tom Gunn sipping his coffee while looking out the window. Snow began falling outside.
When I ran out of money I remembered a lot of rich guys shop here. Shoppin’ rich guys means fat wallets.”
You know Fuchs Rare Books and Antiquities.”
Jean nodded holding out her coffee cup to Father Burke. The priest complied pulling out his hip flask again.
Notice anything about the people coming in and out?”
Yeah, a group of fat cats went in there yesterday,” Jean said draining the cup. Her next meal arrived. She spoke with her mouth full of pot roast. “They didn’t look happy. Most had drivers drop ‘em off. Most other folks go in there don’t look right, though. All funny in the eyes if you know what I mean.”
I wonder what that’s about?” asked Father Burke.
Father, was Eric’s family rich?” ask Gunn.
No, not at all. He was born in Germany and his family came over with nothing. His Father opened that book store and did ok. Eric went to all twelve years of parochial school at St. Thomas. He was one of my best students. He loved the ancient world. He received a full scholarship from DePaul University and graduated with a degree in history and archeology. He traveled the world working for museums until his father passed. He could have sold the bookstore but didn’t. He honored his father’s wishes and took over as proprietor. Shortly after he married his sweetheart from St. Thomas, Mary Kate.”
Then how did he afford that house with a servant?” asked Gunn.
Ah, well about two years ago he began selling antiquities as well. Shortly after that he stopped attending Mass but Mary was always in the pew. Later, she became worried about some of Eric’s business associates. The money flowed but Eric became erratic. He started studying the occult to the exclusion of everything else. I should have listened to Mary. Maybe I could have stopped it all.”
Thomas Gunn rocked back in his chair. “So, Eric falls in with a bad crowd, then Patric Lynch died, and the New Moon Murders started. Then you met Eric, got concerned he was involved, and contacted me.”
Jean nearly choked on her pot roast. “You’re working on the New Moon Murders? No, no, no, no, no, no. You can count me out on this one Gunny. I ain’t workin’ on nothin’ where voodoo sacrifice's involved.” Jean wiped her mouth and started to rise.
Father Burke put his hand on her’s. “Unlikely it’s voodoo, child,” Father Burke said. “More likely Mayan, Aztec, or one of the demon worshiping cults of the Near or Middle East. That’s if it’s anything at all.”
Jean sat back down. “OK, as long as it isn’t voodoo. So what have I gotten myself into?”
Thomas Gunn leaned forward with his coffee cup cradled in both hands. “On Halloween a prostitute was found down by Lake Michigan. Her heart was cut from her chest. The police assumed it was some psycho with a Halloween fixation.
The next victim was found on December 2nd in Uptown. She’d been seen at a club earlier and left with an older guy. That guy matched the general description of Eric Fuchs. That poor soul was found hanging by neck from a fire escape, again with her heart cut out.
The last was found on New Years Eve in a trash bin with her legs ripped off and a hole in her chest where the heart used to be. The killer used her guts to make some sort of occult symbol. They never found her legs.“
Jean turned white.
All the girls were pretty, in their twenties, and seen recently in an Uptown Speakeasy or theater. I think Patrick Lynch was killed with the same blade used to cut the hearts out of the other victims.”
It’s getting stronger,” Jean said.
Father Burke looked at Tom Gunn and nodded. “She’s right, son. Each murder required more strength. That last could not have been done by one person.”
I’m a little leery of jumping to a supernatural conclusion, Father.”
That’s an odd statement coming from you, Thomas.”
I’ve arrested psychotics you would swear were demon possessed, Father. I’ve met people hopped up on drugs that had unbelievable strength.”
Enough to rip a person limb from limb?” Father Burke asked.
No,” said Gunn turning his attention to Jean. “I’m going to need Jean here cleaned and presentable for a night on the town.”
I know just the place, son.”
Hey,” Jean said. “You aint’ dollin’ me up as some sort of play pretty.”
No, I’m dollin’ you up so we can get into Eric’s speakeasy. If that fails we’re breaking into his store to do some snooping around? Capisce?”
Yeah, I get it, Gunny, but don’t think this means nothin’.”
I don’t. While you two try to make a silk’s purse, I’m going to visit Mr. Fuchs. While you’re at it Father, get her a week’s worth of professional clothes.”
Hey,” yelled Jean.
Not that kind of professional. Get her clothes like she works for a businessman.”
She’ll be the very essence of an upscale professional when I’m done with her,” Father Burke said with the smile only old men can manage when they’re in charge of running other’s lives. The priest wrote an address on a napkin and handed it to Gunn. “Give us a few hours, Thomas. We should be done by then.”
Thomas Gunn paid the check, leaving Jean and Father Burke to finish up. The snow fell harder now, collecting on the sidewalk. Cars and trucks made sloshing noises as the snow turned the slush under their tires.
Gunn pulled his fedora down further as he rounded the corner leading to Fuchs Rare Books and Antiquities. A limousine was double parked in front of the store. Cars honked. People yelled.
A large man opened the driver’s door and stood by the car. He wore a blue, pinstriped suit with an expensive white hat. Large diamond rings adorned both hands. In one of those hands he held a Thompson submachine gun. People stopped honking.
The door to Fuchs’ store flew open as two large men in pinstripes drug a third, smaller man out of the store throwing him into the limo. The three bruisers got in the car and drove off.
Thomas Gunn took off after the limo. “Turn right, turn right, turn right,” he said over and over willing the limo to turn the direction of his car. It went straight.
Cursing under his breath he ran harder trying to get a look at the men in the car. With any luck he’d recognize one of them. The snow slowed traffic enough for Gunn to come even with the limo. He recognized Marbles Malone in the back seat next to the man he assumed was Eric Fuchs.
Marbles looked his way, smiled, and rolled down the window. Yo, Tommy Gunn,” Marbles said using a derogatory name Gunn hated. Marbles spoke in low tones as if he had a mouth full of his namesake. He wasn’t known as a brilliant conversationalist. In fact, Gunn was always a little amazed Marbles formed sentences at all. “You’s seen too much, Tommy, and I knows better dan to tink yous won’t go to the cops. Nuttin’ personal.”
The thug pointed a tommy gun out the window and pulled the trigger.

Jean Louis for Savage Worlds
Attributes: Ag 8, Sm 6, Sp 6, St 8, Vi 6
Derived: Char 2, Pace 6, Parry 6, Toughness 5
Skills: Athletics* 8, Fighting 8, Climbing 8+2, Lockpicking 8+2, Persuasion 4+2, Stealth 8+2, Healing 6, Shooting 6
Edges: Thief**, Attractive, Acrobat
Hindrances: Heroic**, Loyal, Poverty, Overconfident
Equipment: Lock picks, Derringer, Billy Club
Languages: English, French, Latin

*Athletics is setting skill used for run, swim, and climb
**Pulp setting rules often allow the Heroic Hindrance to be take to gain an additional non-Legendary Edge without concern for the prerequisites.

See story for background

No comments:

Post a Comment