A James Cartwright Hard-Boiled Noir Short Mystery
By Oliver Dean Spencer
The Spanish Curse (Excerpt)
The first wild birds of the morning
Are breaking out of the trees.
And now the night is dying
On the sharp edge of the stone.
Let’s find a corner of darkness
Where I will love you always,
won’tcare about people
Or the poison that they spread.
FEDERICO GARCIA LORCA
I FOUND HER THAT MORNING sitting by herself, at a table tucked away in the corner of a cafe, over on Michigan Ave. I thought of going to her and striking up a conversation—perhaps unearth further details about who she was. But I decided against it. She seemed intensely immersed in her book—whose title and author I couldn’t quite make out. The book’s cover held a sort of macabre image of a limp figure hanging from a tree, contrasted by large block lettering in red and black ink.
After about an hour of struggling with crossword puzzles from a local rag paper, I saw that she was finally ready to leave. She left some change on the table for her coffee and croissant and headed to the front door. I pretended to concentrate on my crosswords as she walked by.
Exiting a few minutes later, I caught sight of her a few hundred yards ahead. Her limp was more prevalent now as she made her way down the middle of the street, her body convulsing back and forth, from leg to leg. The sun had been bearing down hard that day, and the soles of her shoes left mirrored imprints on the black asphalt below.
She turned right, off Michigan Ave, onto Wabash St. About halfway down the block, I spotted a black sedan cruising towards her. It came to a crawl as it passed her but didn’t stop. She seemed to take no notice of its interest in her. I tried catching a glimpse of the driver, but all I got for my troubles was a goofy mugshot of myself staring back—off the sedan’s black tinted windows. I made a mental note of the plates, as it made a right at the next corner and disappeared out of sight. But not for long.
The girl had made her way to the intersection and was about to turn left when the black sedan reappeared moving fast towards her. I hit the pavement at a full run—holding out hope I could reach her on time. But I was too late. The sedan had come to a complete stop. Two men got out, grabbing hold of her and forcing her into the back.
By the time I reached the spot, the sedan was already a block and half up Wabash. Out of breath and lungs aching I wasn’t ready to give up yet. I pushed hard in the sedan’s direction like some crazed wannabe marathon runner. I caught a final glimpse of the sedan as it made a sharp right tight turn onto Dalzelle, disappearing from my view for the second time that day. I continued for several more blocks, walking up and down the various cross streets, hoping to catch a glimpse of the sedan. But nothing.
I tracked down a phone booth a few blocks east of where I was and fed it a couple of quarters. I was put right through to Detective William Ant. I was surprised. Usually, it took a parade of elephants to get him to answer my calls.
“Cartwright,” he shouted into the receiver, busting an eardrum in the process. “Where you been?”
Ant was pissed at me about the last case in which a teen shot and killed her mother. The bullet had been meant for me. He still blamed me for the mother’s death. He’d argue, and not for the first time, that if I’d gotten the authorities involved, things would have turned out different. But I didn’t buy into any of that self-serving rhetoric. Besides, I’d been hiding under a bottle of Kentucky bourbon for the past couple of weeks. All that was important now was saving the girl’s life. And I told him so.
“Listen, Ant. There’s no time for any bullshit. I need your help tracking down a kidnapping. The girl’s about five-ten, thin figure, walks with a limp and is probably in her late teens. I was tailing her when she was grabbed by a couple of thugs who threw her into the back of a black sedan with the plate numbers BEA6615. They were heading south of Wabash the last I saw.”
“OK, James,” realizing that this was not the time for bad blood, “I’ll issue a BOLO right off. But you need to come in and file an official report with us. You hear me, James?”
I heard him alright—cut off, as I dropped the receiver back onto its cradle. What I needed to do was find the girl fast. There was no time to feed the bureaucratic sloth.
The Spanish Curse is available on Amazon: $2.99 or free with Kindle Unlimited