A Charles Splints Case: The Pendant
By Dan Leicht
It was in the afternoon when she walked into his office, waking him up in the process. He’d forgotten Jimmy, his secretary, took the day off, something about visiting his sick grandmother.
“Excuse me, but are you Charles Splints?” she asked.
His eyes were still glazed over from the night before, a case having lead him to one of the new bars on East Ave. It was eight in the morning when he made it back to the office, not enough time for his rest to apply the beauty it promised.
“Splints is good enough,” he replied. “And you are?”
“Abby, Abby Weston.”
He got up and poured himself a mug of coffee from the two day old brew. “Want some?” She turned him down. “What brings you here, Abby?”
“I need you to find something for me, a pendant. It belonged to my mother.” She placed her purse down in the chair and walked to the window. “I feel dreadful about misplacing it,” she said, distress guiding each word as she spoke. She looked out over the city of Brooksend from the third story office.
“A pendant, eh? You’ve already tried the lost and found at the Charlamont?” he said. She was dressed in ritzy attire, her black dress and designer sunglasses both screamed money. It’d take money to afford the Charlamont, the most expensive apartment building in the city.
“The doorman hasn’t seen it I’m afraid,” she replied. “I fear someone’s taken it.”
“Let’s back up here. Describe the pendant.”
“It’s gold, with a small profile of a raven in the center, with a diamond for an eye. It has sentimental value you see.”
“Of course it does. What a thoughtful gift. I’ll take your case,” said Splints.
“How much do you want?”
“Two hundred dollars to start, another hundred when I find it.”
“That’s a lot cheaper than I imagined,” she replied.
“Take a look around, Abby. This place is a hole in the wall, the coffee is stale, there’s no need to charge more.”
“If you charged more perhaps you could fix things up a bit around here.”
“Nonsense,” replied Splints. “I’ve got everything the way I like it.” He pulled a flask from his pocket and put a dash into his coffee.
“Could I perhaps pay you the three hundred when you’ve found the pendant?”
“Not how I operate, do you want me on the case or not?”
She placed the money on his desk, two one-hundred dollar bills, and walked out. He placed one in his pocket and the other in a drawer of Jimmy’s desk. He grabbed his coat by the door and followed after her.
She didn’t hail a cab but instead walked the entire twelve blocks to the Charlamont. The doorman let her in and she disappeared. Splints walked up and was rejected.
“What gives?” asked Splints.
“Do you live here?” asked the doorman.
“I’m on a case, bud. I’m a man of mystery, like the ones you see in the movies.”
“Go play spy somewhere else, Sir. I can’t let you in.”
Splints presented the man with the one-hundred dollar bill.
“Right this way, Sir.”
Inside was elegant, both the walls and floors were swirling with marble. Splints walked up to the front desk where a man in a turquoise suit stood, his eyes consumed in the computer screen in front of him.
“Hey, pal,” said Splints. “Did you see a lady just walk in here? Real pretty face, black dress.”
“And you are?” asked the man in the turquoise suit.
“Lucky for you I’m not the fashion police. Anyway, the lady doesn’t live here, your doorman must have a thing for brunettes. I’m wondering if she asked you anything when she walked in.”
The man rolled his eyes and returned to the computer screen. Splints jumped over the desk and pulled up the man by his collar, high enough that the five-foot-four desk clerk’s feet couldn’t touch the ground.
“She asked what room Mr. Helshot was in. He’s only been living here a few weeks, I thought she was a friend. Room 241.”
There was gold trim lining the railing as he walked up the stairs. He ascended two flights and walked down the hall until he arrived at room 241. He put his ear close to the door to listen for a moment. On the other side he could hear Abby talking with someone, the other voice was deeper, that of Mr. Helshot, a well known millionaire in the city.
“I put Charles on the case like you asked. Why are you not telling me what this is all about?” asked Abby.
“I’ve paid you for your part, this isn’t something you have to worry about anymore,” said Helshot. “If this Splints character is as good as people say he is then he’ll find his way to the end of the trap I've set for him. All for a few hundred bones, what meager dreams people have in this city.”
“What makes you think he won’t figure it out?”
“By the time he does it’ll be too late. If you explained the pendant to him like I asked he should be at Princeton’s Jewel Boutique by now. Princeton himself will be at the counter and give him the next clue to follow.”
“Which is?” asked Abby.
“I’m not some diabolical villain who blabs his whole scheme.”
“Just tell me, I promise not to tell anyone.”
“Pour me a glass of scotch will you? One for yourself if you desire,” he said. With the glass in his hand he took a sip and sank into the leather couch. “Princeton’s clue will send him to the pawn shop on that dirty Fifth Avenue, I would never let anyone see me there. Princeton’s going to tell him the owner of the pawn shop tried to get the pendant appraised, say someone sold it to him for three hundred dollars. When Splints shows up at the pawn shop,” he fell into a fit of laughter, “he’ll,” he slapped his knee, “be shot on sight.”
“What’d he do to deserve such a fate?” asked Abby.
“That peasant stuck his nose where it doesn’t belong. He broke up a gambling ring a couple weeks ago, got into a brawl with some of the men there, had each one laid out by the time the police arrived. All of the money was seized. Luckily I only lost eighty-thousand, but I can’t risk it happening again.”
Splints knocked on the door.
“Who is it?” shouted Helshot.
“Room service,” replied Splints, disguising his voice. “We have a complimentary bottle of blue label for you.”
“Abby, if you would be so kind, could you let the gentleman in?”
Abby placed her glass down on the coffee table and opened the door. Splints pushed her to the side with his arm and walked over to the millionaire.
“What? How is this possible? You shouldn’t be here,” said Helshot. In his panic he spilled the glass of scotch on his lap. “What’s the meaning of this?”
“I’ll be honest,” said Splints, “I heard what you said about me.” He poured himself a glass of scotch and took a sip. “Not bad,” he said, nodding, “makes me wish I actually did have that blue label with me, I know a guy like you can afford better. I did recently hurt your wallet, though, didn’t I? What’d you do to recoup the money you lost? You probably fired one of your chefs,” Splints looked him up and down, “hmm, maybe not, you look like dinner time is your favorite time of day.”
Helshot stood up and patted his wet crotch.
“Come on now,” said Splints, “not in front of the lady.”
“How’d you find me?” asked Helshot.
“Your messenger didn’t take a cab. She gave up the only money she had in her purse to put me on the case, you’re a cheap bastard, you know that? I took a peek when she was distracted with the beautiful view I’ve got, asked for it all to put me on the case. No, instead she walked twelve blocks in heels, a shoe I noticed in my office she wasn’t all to comfortable wearing, a detail which clued me into her not being accustomed to this lifestyle of yours. What’d you do, find her down at the shelter and fix her up?”
“What do you plan to do now?” asked Helshot, walking backward as he spoke.
Splints glanced over at Abby and then back to Helshot, who had his hand in a drawer of a small nightstand by the window. Splints rolled his shoulders to crack his back. The millionaire pulled a pistol from the drawer and shot right away. Splints dove towards Abby and took her to the ground with him. He rolled over and pulled a switchblade from his coat. He threw it at Helshot and hit him in the gut. The gun slipped from the millionaire’s fingers as he stood in awe, looking down at the wound.
“You’ll live,” said Splints. He picked up the phone and pressed one for the front desk. “Hello, is this Mr. Ugly Suit I’m speaking with? Your anger tells me I’m correct. Listen, I’m in room 241, there’s been a spill, could you send someone up to get a stain out of the carpet? Worse than red wine. Also, if you get a chance, call the police. Oh, and before I forget, send a bottle of blue label up, charge it to the room.”