Friday, November 29, 2013

Jack Nimble Mysteries, Part 2: House-fires & Mailboxes

Apologies for the highlighting across most of this post, the computer is taking issue with this post for some reason.

-T Granger


“Ten past one,” the man called Solomon announced, clasping the pocket watch closed again and returning it to his pocket, “A new day begins, filled with new hopes and opportunities.”

“That’s great, Solomon,” said the man in black, “but our office is still burning.”

It was still raining. The skies above were nothing but clouds from which poured the torrents of water that broke on the streets of the city below in a steady, rolling thunder. Nevertheless, the building was still on fire.

Blazing hot and bright even in the rain, the flames burnt along every beam and board of the house, scorching the brickwork black with smoke. The fire crew worked steadily but slowly as they attempted to beat back the fire. Hoses jetted arcs of colorless water into the midst of the flame, but so far there seemed to be no effect.

A few of the trees along the street had caught fire and looked ready to spread the fire further through the houses before the firemen dealt out the axes. The trees now lay discarded in the street, swept aside to make room for the fire engines, all ablaze with Authority lights.

Amidst it all, the two men watched from out in the street under an umbrella as their apartment burned.

“Kind of makes you wish you had a marshmallow, doesn’t it?” asked the man in black, one hand wedged into a clinging pocket, the other gripping the handle of the large umbrella they sheltered under.

“I would guess that this might have something to do with our investigations last night on the South Side” the man called Solomon said, running a gloved finger along one horn absent-mindedly, “your thoughts, Jack?”

“Perhaps a bit of chocolate too,” the man in black mused, “and a graham cracker or four.”

“A valid point,” continued Solomon scratching his chin with a bony finger, “it’s not necessarily from the current culprit, could be from another source. Unrelated arson perhaps, or even another criminal pattern, possibilities abound.”

“And maybe even a handful of hotdogs to toast on the fire, mmMm.”

“True, such motives can never be ruled out until all is caught and handcuffed.”

“On the other hand, perhaps a few strips of bacon would be nice also.”

“Do you really think, I can scarcely credit such a hunch.”

“Yes, some bacon would be quite nice.”

“Well, if you say so.”

“On the other hand-“

“Yes, I might have left the oven on.”

Before long, the fire was extinguished completely. The small office building stood dark and skeletal, gutted of all but its brick framework by the fire.

Now dark and all but deserted at this late hour, the streets stretched long and dark. At lengthy intervals along the roads, the dark thickened into the heavy yellow morasses of light cast by the streetlamps.

If you had been standing out on the sidewalk, in the dank stretch of black between one streetlamp and the next right in front of the charred burnt building, you might just have noticed the two men standing there, but it isn’t likely.

“Time for a search would you say?” this from the man in the black suit; Jack.

“Definitely” answered Solomon .

In unison the two men stepped forward and around the rearing wall of blackened brickwork that was all that was left of the front wall. In unison the sharp white lights of two flashlights stabbed out to pierce the dark around the two men. In unison the lights fell upon all that was left of the old building; utter rubbish.

“Exactly what do you expect us to find in here?” came Jack’s voice, overturning with his foot a small set of drawers, now warped and charred by the fire, its little drawers hanging out like the teeth of an old man.

“Clues,” came Solomon’s reply, shoveling through the splintered shards of an ancient and costly looking lamp, “Perhaps something left behind by the arsonist, whomever they were.”

From out of the darkness there came an orchestral popping of knees and one of the flashlight beams dipped lower to the ashes strewn heavy and thick across the ground. A hand sheathed in a black glove dug into the ash illuminated by the light and emerged clasping a long and battered leather bound handle of some sort. Disappearing from the beam of light, the gloved hand drew the handle upwards until it was at last revealed at length to be attached to a vicious looking medieval broadsword, its blade and cross tree now blackened with the smoke, and with several of the leather straps bound about the hilt snapped by the heat.

“A clue do you suppose?”

“No. Remember tenant 9b’s ‘collection’.”

“Ah, yes.”

With a shearing of ash and charred wood, the sword blade was shoved into the ground and the flashlights moved on about their respective search.

Over the next half hour, several more disturbing objects were unearthed among the ashes including, but not limited to, a honey badger preserved in formaldehyde, a briefcase full of hundred dollar bills, which the two men estimated as fake, and a blackened human skull, which they estimated as quite real. Unfortunately, all of these artifacts could be easily traced to the other tenants who had once had a place in the old office building.

It was therefore some time before the two men came upon an artifact of actual interest to them. Half submerged in the flaky gray ash beneath a stack of lovingly framed Victoria’s Secret catalog covers (estimated property of tenant 12c) sat an heavy metal mailbox, chained shut and clasped tight with a heavy padlock. Hanging from the chain was a heavy, simply made metal key.

Like carrion swooping in towards a wounded animal, the twin flashlight beams converged on the mailbox and the two men behind them studied it closely.

“A padlocked mailbox,” observed Jack.

Inside a building,” added  Solomon, “with its key to boot no less.”

“A clue?”

“I’d say, it’s a safe bet.”

            One of the flashlight beams was suddenly adjusted and a gloved hand made its way into the light, took hold of the key and placed it in the padlock.

            “Only one way to find out, really,” came Jack’s voice.

            The key turned in the lock.

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