A Charles Splints Case: The Decanter
By Dan Leicht
The sun looked grey through the clouds. It’d been raining non-stop for days, sometimes heavy, sometimes a drizzle. Newspapers became best-sellers again as makeshift umbrellas. Charles Splints watched the ink bleed from his office window, as he waited for the phone to ring.
Around his third glass of the afternoon it rang. His secretary Jimmy answered it.
“What’s the case?” asked Splints when Jimmy entered his office.
“A man called, Jeremy Frances, said something about a missing decanter. Didn’t want to tell me too much about it over the phone. He says he wants to meet with you in person. He gave me an address to a dive bar with no name.”
Splints took the note from Jimmy’s hand. “I could go for a drink.”
“Think I could tag along on this one?” asked Jimmy.
“And miss all the fun here? I wouldn’t do that to you, kid. Maybe next time.”
Splints grabbed his coat and left the office. He hailed a cab and recited the address.
From outside it looked like a door leading to an apartment. There was no sign, no windows, just a small white brick building with a black door. Inside the lights were dim along with everyone sitting at the bar. He took a seat and ordered a scotch neat. It wasn’t long until someone took a seat beside him and ordered the same.
“You’re him right?” said the man beside him. “The detective?”
“Something like that,” replied Splints. “Are you the shy drunk who misplaced his decanter?”
“It’s not misplaced. It was taken,” Jeremy sipped his drink, “by my uhh,” he took another sip, “friend.”
“Cheating on your wife?”
“How’d you know?”
“Friends don’t steal decanters. They just drain your booze whenever they visit, not much reason to take it with them. Do you know where she lives?”
“I did, but not anymore. She took it the day she moved. She stopped over and was going to tell my wife, but I pleaded with her. She grabbed the decanter on her way out.”
“You screwed up big time, pal. Why not pick up a new one? Let me guess, sentimental value?”
“It was my grandfather’s, then my father’s. I was hoping to pass it along to my son someday.”
Splints brushed his hand through his hair. “How old’s your kid?”
“He’s ten. I was waiting to give it to him when he turned twenty-one.”
Splints signaled the barkeep for another round.
“Fifty bucks,” said Splints.
“Fifty bucks and I’ll take the case. Another fifty when I find your decanter.”
“Oh, of course.” He placed the money on the counter.
“Write down her last address along with a brief description of her.” Splints slid over his receipt copy.
Splints finished his glass and put the money in his pocket. The man to his left had passed out on the counter while reading the newspaper. Splints took the paper and walked out the door.
Outside it was still raining. Splints walked along the streets of Brooksend with the newspaper over his head. The address he’d been given was less than a ten minute walk from the bar. The short distance meant Jeremy had been to the bar many times before, which made it a comfortable place to meet Splints. When he arrived at the apartment building he buzzed the first person on the list outside.
“Who is it?” said a woman’s voice over the intercom.
“Rosebuds delivery service,” said Splints.
“I’ve a flower delivery. Do you want them or not?”
“I’ll buzz you in.”
Splints entered and made his way to the room in the address. He kicked the door in and scoured the empty apartment, looking for the decanter, hoping it could be as easy as her leaving it behind.
“Excuse me?” said someone from the doorway. Splints turned around to notice a young woman standing in the doorway, a taser in her left hand.
“Careful with that. Have you seen outside lately? I’m essentially a walking lighting rod. The name’s Splints.”
“What’re you doing in here? Elissa moved out already.”
“I’m a friend of hers. She left something behind and wanted me to stop by and check. Who’re you?”
“I’m Amanda. I was her neighbor,” she placed the taser into the front pocket of her sweatshirt, “up until she moved back in with her mother.”
“It’s a shame what happened,” said Splints, still looking for the decanter.
“Jeremy said he was going to leave his wife for her. I told her not to listen to him, but she did anyway.”
“I’m still wondering why she had to move back in with her mom,” replied Splints.
“She didn’t tell you?”
“She doesn’t share everything with me. Do you know?”
“She was buying a house with that prick, Jeremy. He made her pay for the down payment so his wife wouldn’t find out. Said he’d share the mortgage cost with her and eventually move in after the divorce was finalized.”
“I take it he backed out?”
“When he told her he wouldn’t help pay like he said he would she showed up to his house. She was going to tell his wife everything, but she said he acted like a child throwing a fit. She pitied him. She did score a nice decanter on her way out, same style my grandfather had.”
“Do you know what she did with the decanter?” asked Splints.
“Pawned it probably. I’ve thought of doing the same with mine, but doubt I’d get more than ten bucks for it.”
“I’ll give you twenty.”
“What?” she asked.
“Twenty bucks for your decanter. You said it’s the same style right?”
“Why do you want it?”
“She sent me a picture of it after she stole it. I told her I’d like it for my collection, but never saw it in person. What do you say?”
Amanda left the apartment and came back with her decanter.
“Pleasure doing business, Amanda. This’ll look great in my collection.” He inspected the decanter for any nicks or blemishes. “It’s perfect.”
Splints waited at the bar. The decanter beside his glass of scotch. Jeremy came in and took a seat.
“You found it,” said Jeremy, “it’s been only a couple hours.”
“I’m a professional, Frances. You owe me another fifty.”
Jeremy placed the money on the counter and took the decanter.
“Something else I need from you,” said Splints.
“What is it?”
“Pay Elissa the money she spent on the down payment. Either that or figure out a way to get it back.”
“Could I pay you another fifty to figure that out?” asked Jeremy.
“I’m off the clock,” said Splints. He signaled the barkeep for another.