A Charles Splints Case: EAST AVE (Short Story)
By Dan Leicht
At two o’ clock the door closed. The sun set hours ago, before Charles Splints was even started on the case. The note was slipped under the door to his downtown office after he’d just finished his dinner of rice and coffee. All that was on the note was an address. He sighed and placed it into the coat pocket of his dark brown trench coat. He’d need a drink.
By the sound of the footsteps and the quickness of the pace he figured a kid had shoved the note under his door. He’d opened it moments after he heard it sweep into the room, but the hallway was already empty.
Charles Splints, the once great detective of Brooksend arrived at the address around nine o’ clock. By then the sky was a dark blue and the streets covered in false life from the tall lamps. The address was on East Ave, a street he’d frequented in his youth, and spent countless hours downing overpriced drinks. In another life he would have invested some of that money instead, perhaps he’d be retired by now if that were the case.
The address was to an apartment over the bar Tappers. He walked in and sat down to order his first drink, scotch neat. The bartender, a recent college graduate with a beard reaching his shirt collar, poured the drink and placed it in front of the haggard old man. Six dollars, a half hour of work at the job Splints had in his early twenties, spent on a drink that would last less than half the time.
“You know who lives upstairs in this place?” Splints asked the barkeep. No other customers were at the bar yet, but he pretended to be busy anyway. Splints repeated himself.
“Yeah, good people,” responded the barkeep.
“They okay?” Splints questioned him further trying to figure out what caused the kid to give him the address.
“I guess, don’t see much of them. What’s got you so interested?”
“Wondering if I’d be able to rent the place soon. Would be nice to get back down by the bars. Been living near the supermarkets too long.”
The barkeep just nodded his head and acted like he was still paying attention to the aging detective. He could tell Splints wasn’t being serious, and he was suspicious of the old man already. Charles Splints had been shamed from the force at the top of his game, and that was years ago. Nowadays only the folks his age, fifties, knew who he was and what he’d done to help clean up the city. A twenty-year-old bartender would just see a man in a coat, but to the eyes of those that new the detective in his prime they’d see a man with a cape, a hero watching over the streets.
Charles Splints finished his second glass of scotch and nodded to the young barkeep. The whiskey-slinger paid no mind as the detective headed for the door. Splints was hoping to spark a conversation, but it was made clear fairly quickly that whatever was upstairs wasn’t meant to be discussed with strangers.
Splints walked around to the back of the building, the night grabbing hold of the streets, the blue tint in the sky swallowed by shadows. Behind Tappers was a dumpster pressed up against the side of the building, empty whiskey and vodka bottles stood in rows beside the backdoor. If Splints climbed atop the dumpster he might get his hand on the railing of the balcony — if he was a couple feet taller and twenty years younger. There’s something up there he needs to see, the reason he was lead here.
The sound of a bottle tipping behind him caused him to turn and catch sight of a young boy making a run for it. The pace of the footsteps reminded him of the delivery boy for the note under his door.
“Hey, kid!” He shouted. But the child was already gone into the night. Chasing after him would be futile. Trying to climb up to the apartment would be too. Splints pulled his collar up as a chill crept through the air. Another tipped bottle and Splints new he wasn’t alone. Louder footsteps this time, the kid didn’t run because of Splints, he ran because of someone else.
The alleyway leading to Alexander St., he could see a cloaked figure making a run for it. His stride not as nimble as the boy’s. Splints knew he had a chance at catching him.
He started to run, but noticed the man take a left once escaping the alley. Splints new the man would head onto East, probably jump into the first taxi he saw. So Splints ran back to the front of Tappers and waited at the front door. Soon enough the man came running from around the corner, but didn’t notice the man waiting in the doorway of the old bar. A taxi was right in front of Splints, but the cloaked sprinter never made it inside. Splints grabbed him before his hand could touch the handle, threw him to the ground.
He’d just found his first clue.
“Tell me something about yourself,” said Splints to his new informant.
“Who are you? You weren’t supposed to be back there!” replied the man on the ground, Splints grip still tight on the collar of his worn out polo shirt. The man tried to pull something from the pocket of his corduroy jacket, but Splints caught him and was able to pull the blade out and toss it into the gutter. He raised the young gun up to his feet and threw him into the brick wall of Tappers. The smell of scotch still on his breath Splints repeated his question.
“The kid. I was there for the kid, but you screwed it up!”
“Why mess with a kid? What’d he do to you?”
“Not me. Kid’s an orphan, foster parents wanted him gone.”
Splints delivered a swift fist to the man’s gut, causing him to topple over into the whiskey soaked street. The man tried to get back to his feet but Splints placed his size 12 on the back of his head. A couple walking by on the other side of the street, dressed for a night out, stopped and stared.
“Hey, kids!” shouted Splints to the onlookers as if a friendly neighbor, “Just taking out the trash is all. Keeping the city clean and whatnot.”
“He’s a liar. His mother told me so.”
Splints removed his foot and bent down, placing his fist into the man’s chest to prevent him from getting up. The man coughed and choked, still recovering from the punch.
“Where are the parents? Upstairs in this bar here?” said Splints as he pointed to Tappers.
“No, yes, but not now. They left for the week, locked the kid out.”
“Not sure I like this bedtime story. I’m going to need you to leave and forget about whatever these people told you they’d do for you,” Splints cracked his knuckles and adjusted his hat.
“Not unless you feel like paying me, old man.”
“Hmm, hate when people call me that.”
Splints waved to the onlookers one last time and dragged the young gun back into the alley where he first noticed him.
“Help me get up to that balcony,” said Splints, his hand still on the man’s shirt collar.
“Not a chance.”
“Gave you one last shot. Don’t you forget that.”
Splints knocked the man out using his left shoe and heaved him up onto the dumpster. Climbing onto the dumpster and standing on the man’s chest Splints was able to grab hold of the railing. He pulled himself up and managed to get over and onto the balcony. He checked the door handle to the inside of the apartment. It was unlocked.
Splints remembered how the young gun told him the foster parents had locked the kid out, someone had let themselves in. He walked slowly into the apartment, leaving the door ajar instead of creaking it closed. Inside was darker than it was out in the streets, the glow of the moon better than no light at all. Not knowing the surroundings he had no choice but to give up whatever cover he may have had, he felt the walls for a light switch. Before he could find one the lights flickered on. Splints found himself staring into the barrel of a shotgun. From behind a hard hit from brass covered knuckles sent Splints to the ground, his head bleeding.
“This guy wasn’t part of the plan was he?” Splints heard a voice say through the haze. He was regaining consciousness and realized he couldn’t move his arms or legs. He’d been bound to a chair.
“I take it neither of you are going to offer me an aspirin?” said Splints as he began to tug on the ropes binding his hands together. They weren’t tied by experts.
“Who are you? And what’d you do with Roy?” asked the taller of the two men, each of them dressed in black.
“I take it Roy is the one I used as a stepping stool. He’s taking a nap on the dumpster down below. Don’t worry, he’s dreaming about unicorns and fairies,” replied Splints as he managed to free his right hand from the ropes. “I take it the three of you are a package deal? Brothers probably. Should have skipped this job, you’d have been better off.”
“Yeah right. The payday on this job will have us sets for years.”
“You’re not getting paid.” Splints freed his left hand, keeping them both behind the chair, holding the ropes tight so the brothers wouldn’t see them fall to the floor.
“You planning on stopping us, old man?” The shorter brother holding the shotgun walked up to Splints and placed the barrel against his forehead. Splints let go of the ropes and caught the brother off guard as he grabbed the gun and pulled him foreword. A sharp pain stuns Splints forehead as he bashed it into the skull of the gunman. With the brother knocked out he yanked the gun from his hands and aimed it at the taller brother.
“Untie my feet for me, will you?”
Splints stood up as the tall brother backed away, his hands up in the air in surrender. Using the barrel of the gun as a pointer he motioned the attacker towards the chair. The brother sat down and Splints returns the favor he’d received earlier as he knocks the man out. He ties the both up, one in the chair and the other on the floor behind it.
Around the apartment there was pictures of the young boy alongside his foster parents. In each one they all look so happy, it seems odd they’d want to get rid of him. A blanket tossed lazily on the sofa suggests that’s where the boy had been sleeping. Splints made his way over to the dressers lining the walls of the one bedroom apartment. His unwanted guests had been hiding in the bedroom when he had entered.
Top drawer of the dresser closest to the bed Splints picked up an envelope sealed tight with spit. As he opened it one of the brothers came to. “Let…let us go.”
“No can do,” replied Splints as he started to rip the top off the envelope. He read the letter inside to himself as the brother struggled to get free, crying out. Splints walked over and stuffed a sock from one of the drawers into the wide mouth of the brother.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Brown,
We have received your complaints about the boy you have adopted, Edward Franklin, and would like to remind you the stipulations to the adoption. You agreed to take the boy in exchange for a large sum of money. We understand he isn’t the easiest child to handle due to his…abilities, but you signed a contract and must take care of him until his eighteenth birthday.
- Mother Margaret
“That answers a few questions…while raising a few others.” After reading the letter Splints walked over and removed the sock from the would-be-assassin’s mouth. “What are the kid’s abilities?” he asked.
“Let me go and I’ll tell you!” Splints punched him in the gut while wearing the brass knuckles the man had hit him with earlier. “He…” the man coughed blood onto his lap. “…can.” The man passed out again before he could finish.
“I really have to calm down with the push-ups, getting too good in my old age.”
With another clue in his hand Splints headed for the door.
Splints turns around at the mention of his name. Had the man awoken so soon?
“Detective Charles Splints, I slipped the address under your door so you could find me.”
“What’s going on here…” asked Splints as he walked up to the man he’d knocked out with the brass just moments before.
“You’ve done well so far, but I’m not safe yet. My foster parents have their reward and no longer need to care for me. I need your help in escaping.”
Splints exited the apartment only to find his landing pad had disappeared.
“Guess the kid finally came to.”
He made his way down onto the dumpster and back into the alley. He’d been given a new clue via the talking head of the knocked out assailant. The boy’s ability having a more supernatural nature than Splints could have imagined. He was given an address down by the docks to meet up with the boy. He’d have to think of a good escape plan on the way there. Luckily the taxi outside Tappers was still waiting around for someone.
“Dick business. Get out of the car.”
“Wake up you idiots! We’ve got to follow that guy to the kid.”
The young gun Splints had placed atop the dumpster made his way into the apartment after the detective had left. He was trying to wake up his brothers as he untied them.
“What is it you morons plan to do with me?” asked the tallest brother, the one who’d previously spoken oddly to Charles Splints.
“What are you talking about? We have to go and find that kid so we can get paid by his rents.”
“I’ll tell you where I am if we split the money.”
“What’s going on?” asked the shortest brother as he began to wake up.
“Marcus is talking funny. Says something about telling us where he is.”
“He’s right here with us. Hey, Marcus! You on cloud nine or something? Come back to reality the weather is beautiful here,” mocked the short brother again.
“Shut it, Jake. Just help me get him up.”
“I’m not Marcus. I’m Edward, Edward Franklin. I’ve taken control of the mind of your brother to speak with you. I’d like to make a deal.”
“This serious?” asked Jake.
“I’ll tell you where I am in exchange for a fair share of the money. We all split it four ways.”
“What kind of deal is that? We find you, take you out, and we get even more of the money. No deal, kid.”
“I’ll help you eliminate Charles Splints as well. Getting revenge on the man who managed to take all of you out like rag dolls should be worth a share of the money. I help you and you give me enough money to get out of here. Deal?”
“Roy, this is creeping me out. Is Marcus even still in there anymore?”
“Yes he is, and you can speak with him once I have an answer,” responded Edward through Marcus’ voice.
“Fine. You got yourself a deal,” said Roy as he shook Marcus’ hand, assuming the boy could feel it, but he could not.
At the docks Splints waited for the young Edward Franklin to arrive. The air was brisk, the sun bright, and the potent aroma of drying fish carcasses filled the air. Splints rubbed his hand over his grizzled face, scolding himself for not grabbing a coffee on the way over.
“Mister Splints!” The boy ran over to the aging detective. Wearing battered clothes and a backpack slung over one shoulder. He looked as if hobbling.
“You all right, kid?” asked Splints in regard to the boy’s sluggish movements, not knowing the boy’s use of his ability left him weary for a time.
“Yes, just had a fall not too long ago. Getting better. Do you have a plan?”
“Yeah, that cab over there. Where is it you need to be dropped off?”
“Anywhere but here I guess. Somewhere my parents will never find me.”
“We’ll need to stop at the station before we do anything. Let the badges in on your parents scheme, I’d take them on myself but I don’t run a jail out of my apartment. Though with the visitors I get it can feel that way sometimes.”
“No! No cops! There’s a reason I went to you. My parents know some of those ‘badges’, I don’t want to risk them finding me.”
“Fine. We’ll talk to the badges at wherever you get dropped. Have to let someone know where you are, especially since you’re a danger to yourself and others.”
The boy frowned and closed his eyes. Through deep blue strains of thought, like rivers running from one mind to the next, he jumped into the detective’s mind and took over the man’s thoughts. He couldn’t control the body, but the mind was all his and he was able to shut Splints down. By the time the Brothers arrived Splints was just coming to.
“Get enough sleep, old man?” Roy kicked Splints in the ribs just as his eyes were beginning to open. Splints coughed, but no blood came out.
“Could use another nine minutes. Wake me up when the bus is outside,” replied Splints with a smirk. He put his fists to the ground and began to get to his feet, but the tallest brother, Marcus, delivered a kick to his stomach that sent him flying a few feet away.
“You set me up,” coughed Splints, this time blood flowing through the words. He looked over at the boy who was standing tall as if he’d been the one delivering the beating.
“You’re gullible, old man,” remarked the boy. “After this I’ll be rich enough to go anywhere I want.”
“Yeah about that,” said Roy through a wide grin. “We’ll just take you both out now. More dough in our pockets, you understand.”
“We had a deal!” shouted the boy, his fists clenched. He closed his eyes to enter the man’s mind and wreak havoc, but the shortest brother tackled him to the ground, the impact knocking the young boy unconscious.
“We’re just playing musical chairs with the knock-outs at this point,” said Splints as he got up to his feet during the commotion. “How about you boys walk and we’ll leave it at that.” While Splints was out the brothers retrieved there weapons from him, including a switchblade he had tucked into his sock. “I take it you fellas don’t care about making this a fair fight. I mean, i’ll give you the chance to get some more guns if you’d like.”
Marcus walked up to Splints, his brass knuckles causing his fist to shine in the morning light. He took a swing and missed as Splints ducked and buried his fist into the man’s gut. The impact caused Marcus to step back, but Splints grabbed his head and slammed it into his rising knee. The tallest brother fell over, his eyes disappearing into the back of his head as drool dripped from his gaping mouth. Without wasting time Jake fired a shot at Splints, the ground beside Splints exploded as the brother fell backward from the recoil, knocking himself out in the process. Roy flicked open the switchblade and slammed it into Splints’ chest. Splints grinned as the man looked down to see the blade was actually a plastic comb.
“Really liked that comb,” said Splints as he grabbed Roy’s jacket sleeve. The man had tried to make a run for the shotgun after realizing his mistake.
“You’re dead! You hear me!” the man shouted in an uncontrolled rage. His panic taking over as he tried to break free.
“I’m not deaf, kid.” The young gun tried to struggle free from his jacket but Splints kept pulling him in. Soon the two were face to face, the kid sweating from fear. “Told you to drop the job.” Splints rubbed his forehead as the young gun fell to the ground. He walked up to the boy and searched his backpack for a phone. With it he called the badges and was gone before any of them showed up.