A Charles Splints Case: Misaligned Target

By Dan Leicht

There was a knock at the door.

“Come in,” he said.

An elderly woman entered, mid-seventies at least. He motioned for her to sit down as he poured himself a drink. “Want one?” he asked.

“It’s nine in the morning,” she replied.

“Some people are too busy working at night to have a sip. This one is for them. What Can I do for you?”

“It’s my husband. He’s missing.”

“You check the morgue? Never mind. When did you see him last?”

“Last night. I went to bed before he did. When I woke up he was gone.”

“I’ve got you covered. I’ll need a deposit before I take the case,” he swirled the liquor in his glass, “fifty bucks.”

“That’s fairly cheap, are you sure?”

“I’m only fifty short on the rent this month. I’ll need another fifty when I find him. That’ll be enough scratch for groceries and another bottle. Then I just wait for more people like you to walk through that door. Do you have a picture of him?”

She placed a picture of her husband on the table and he showed her the door. The man in the picture was much older than he would’ve guessed. He looked to be well into his nineties, or if he wasn’t then he hadn’t been living the healthiest lifestyle. If what the woman said were true then he couldn’t have gotten far. He poured what was left of his bottle into a flask. He put on his coat and placed the flask into a pocket. The knob almost came off in his hand as he shut the frail door to his office.

He got into his car and turned on the radio. Slow beats began to play, a tranquil melody to keep his mind sharp as he drove along the city streets of Brooksend. He drove until he reached a line of bars on Lyell Avenue. He parked his car behind a dumpster and walked into the first bar in line.

The barkeep had a glass waiting for him before he could take his seat.

“Splints,” said the barkeep. “Been a while.”

“Thanks, kid,” replied the detective.

“You working a case?”

“Wouldn’t feel right if I wasn’t.” Splints pulled out the photo and showed it to the barkeep. “This guy come around here at all? Figured he may have stopped in on his way to the peep show down the street.”

“Haven’t seen him. He missing?”

“No I just like to show off pictures of my relatives. I should really start keeping them in my wallet.”

“You know online you can create a profile and show off as many pictures as you’d like,” said the barkeep.

“I’ve only got the one. Thanks for the drink, kid.”

Splints walked into the next bar and asked the same question. He went to every bar before entering the club at the end of the line.

“Seen this man?” he asked the bouncer standing inside by the cash register. “He would’ve shown up last night, no earlier than nine.”

“Ask Grant,” said the bouncer, pointing to a man at the bar. “He was here last night. Hell, he’s here all day every day.”

“It must be the food here,” replied Splints.

The detective sat at the bar beside Grant and signaled the barkeep.

“It’s been a long day, just a cup of coffee will do,” said Splints. He nudged the man next to him. “Grant, right?”

“Who’s asking?”

Splints mockingly looked around the room and over his shoulder. “Me, I’m asking. Can you not see me? Wow, the doc isn’t going to believe this. His invisibly serum actually worked.”

“You okay in the head, mister?” asked Grant.

“Hard to say, never had another mental state to compare it with. The name is Charles Splints.” The barkeep placed the mug of coffee in front of him. Splints took a sip, “Terrific,” he nodded to the barkeep, “were you here last night, Grant?”

Grant nodded.

“Did this man happen to come through here?” He pulled out the photo and placed it on the bar.

“Ha ha, yeah he was here. This guy was a riot. He threw so much money around you’d think it were tax season.”

“It is tax season, Grant.”

“Oh shi…”

“Yeah you’d better file those. Do you know where he went at the end of the night?”

Grant looked over his shoulder to one of the private rooms the dancers take their clients. Splints walked over and pulled back the curtain to reveal the old man passed out beside an empty vodka bottle. He looked over to the bouncer.

“I take it you guys don’t have a cleaning crew,” he said.

“I got here a little before you did,” replied the bouncer. “Is that the man you’re looking for?”

“Looks to be. I thought he’d be smaller. Can I get some help?”

Splints and the bouncer pulled the man to his feet. They sat him down at one of the tables.

“Barkeep, can I get a cup of that caffeinated sludge for my friend here? I’ll take another too, maybe use some water this time.”

The barkeep flicked him off and prepped another pot.

“Bud,” said Splints, “I need you to wake up.” He passed the fresh cup of coffee past the man’s nostrils. The man woke up and cusped the cup with both hands. “Welcome back. Did you have a good night?”

“Who are you?” asked the old man.

“I’m your new babysitter. Your wife hired me.”

“How’d you find me?”

“An old man in the city leaves home late at night. There were only so many options. The library closes at eight, so I knew that wasn’t it. Drink up, I need to take you home so I can buy some bread.”