So I grabbed Peter by the scruff of his neck, hauled him up and pushed him out of the bar with him whining and protesting all the while.
Sure we attracted a few glances, but nobody called out or interfered.
I manhandled him out through the front doors, practically flung him out onto the pavement.
That’s when something heavy hit me hard on the back of my head and I was suddenly on my hands and knees, vision blurred as I watched Peter running down the street and round a corner. Then I blacked out.
I was woken up by daylight filtering through my eyelids and my skull screaming blue murder at me as if a demented child were drumming on it with steel hammers. Gritting my teeth I forced open my eyes and pushed myself up onto all fours, tried to stand and immediately collapsed onto my ass. I felt the back of my head gently then looked at the palm of my hand; no blood, that was something at least.
What the fuck had Peter gotten himself into this time?
He’d recognised whoever it was who’d hit me over the back of the head, that was for sure. Maybe if I asked around I could find out who he was in trouble with, or maybe if I asked around enough they’d find me, only I’d be prepared this time.
First thing was first though, I needed a drink.
Salomon’s was closed at this hour of the morning so I headed back to my car, slumped into the driver’s seat and took out my hip flask from the glove compartment. I took a deep swig of fiery nectar, leaned back and closed my eyes.
I figured he’d managed to get away from whoever it was since he’d had a head start while I was getting clubbed. Maybe he’d gotten scared enough to leave town, found a car and driven to his auntie’s house out in the suburbs. Since Mrs Fredrickson didn’t believe in owning a telephone I’d have to drive out there again to find out.
Well whatever, I was entitled to collect an instalment anyway.
Couple of hours later my car dragged itself over her gravel driveway, growling and wheezing like a decrepit dog on its last legs. I choked the life out of it with a twist of the ignition key as I wrestled with the handbrake.
The front doors of her mansion were wide open. I looked around, saw no gardening tools lying about or any sign of her ageing butler. My gut tensed up, and I knew it wasn’t because of my choice of breakfast.
Something wasn’t right here.
I reached into my glove compartment once again, took out my six-shooter, pushed out the bullet chamber and spun it to check for ammo. Four shots; should be enough to fend off any intruders while I retreated to my car if I needed to.
The house was silent, but I was damned if I was going to call out to see if anybody was there. I crept through the corridors carefully, ears straining for the slightest sound. I raised my gun as I entered the parlour, swinging it round the room and then round the back of the door; nobody there. I went back into the corridors and into a study. Mrs Fredrickson was slumped face-down over a desk, head cocked at an odd angle. I checked the room then walked over to her to take a closer look.
Her head was propped up by pencils, one up each nostril. Dark blood and gunk had run down each pencil and onto the desk, congealing there like blackcurrant jelly. Her eyes were wide open and bulging from her skull, the blue lips on her pale face contorted as if she had screamed.
That was one severe case of graphite poisoning.
It also meant I was going to have to go through her lawyer to get paid; besides, I’d need to speak with that lawyer to find out who stood to inherit her money and her mansion. If it was Peter, then he might be in more danger than I thought. I needed to get back into town, fast.