Interrogation two has been converted into a makeshift investigation room, in which all the materials pertaining the Marie Hoboken murder were to be gathered and pinned to a cork board. However, evidence has proved elusive and the board remains as clear as the day it was screwed into the partition. Ian relaxes into one of the foldout chairs as best he can, while the other detectives who are working the case, each one as clueless, encircle him. The Sarge straddles a seat at the centre of this group, infuriated by what he was hearing.
“Do we have any leads as to who the father could be?”
“No sir,” braved a young detective to Ians’ right, “though there were rumours she was dating an actor, Josh Hartnett.”
The rookie wakes up.
“Josh Hartnett. Jesus, I love him in that film. What was it called?” He clicks his fingers to the rhythm of his mind. “The one with the tits in it?”
The Sarge drops his head.
“Would someone kill him and save me the trouble?”
The group fall silent while some of the detectives visibly contemplate removing their pieces to fulfil the Sarges’ order, their hands falling inside their overcoats. Ian, against his better judgement, decides to chime in.
“We’re looking into any threats the Hoboken family have received in the past, sir. The murder may have been motivated by greed, someone looking for a slice of the families fortune.”
The Sarge picks up to the delight of the gathered officers.
“Good, detective. Anything else?”
“Well”, continues Ian, suddenly motivated, “the barbiturates found in the victims body can only be administered by a registered physician, so we are interviewing doctors in the state who may have had a connection to the victim. We are also checking for reports of stolen medicines, hospital break-ins et-cetera. See can we catch our fella in another crime.”
“And the staff of the hotel?”
“They all checked out sir.”
“Well thank fuck for that. Finally I bear witness to some honest to God police work. Tomorrow people, I expect some suspects to be pinned to this board and possibly some answers too. Now get out there and do some fucking work.”
Geoff had remained quiet at the back of the room during the meeting, his patience for these formalities uncommonly fragile, but he suddenly speaks up, surprising many of the officers who know him better as someone to remain as unobjectionable as possible.
“Aren’t we forgetting something?”
The Sarge was almost out the door, his back turned on the room, sweat marks visibly ringing his shirts neck line and armpits.
“The baby sir. What about the kid?”
The Sarge spins around with a snap and several of the detectives back up to the walls.
“You said the baby had died.”
“No. I said he probably died. The kid could still be alive somewhere.”
The Sarge had moved as Geoff spoke and was now nose to forehead with him.
“The baby’s a ‘he’ now, is it?”
This caught Geoff off-guard. His face and shoulders drop.
The Sarge cuts him off.
“Yes you did boy.”
Several of the detectives reach for their guns again, this time contemplating turning their pieces on themselves.
“Look boy, I expect you can count, so I’m not going to tell you how many stripes I have on my arm. Consequently, what I say, fucking goes. But, to be completely fair, I’m going to shut my eyes and count to three. By the time I open them I expect you to be down in the basement measuring piss, or whatever goddamned thing you do down there.”
The Sarge wrings his shoulders like a boxer before a fight and closes his eyes.
The lobby of the Great Hoboken is deserted apart from the hotel staff who patrol the large, well lit foyer like Roman sentries. Ian wordlessly flashes his badge to the desk clerk and proceeds to the long row of lifts. The first one opens as he reaches them but he doesn’t enter. Something stops him. Something in the lift.
The sole occupant quivers at face level to Ian, listlessly hanging as if it was waiting for a response to a question or if a bright light stunned it. But this turned out to be false as the moth exits with haste, catching Ian off guard who steps back, almost loosing his balance. It twirls and twists in the air excitedly, tapping along the adjacent lift doors. A ping sounds. Another lift door opens and the moth flutters inside, out of sight.
Ian can do nothing but follow, his steps light on soft carpet. As he paces the wall, he withdraws his revolver and clicks the hammer open, unsure of what to expect as he builds the courage to turn into the open lift door. But nothing awaits, not even the moth, except the hum of elevator musak. He enters slowly, pressing the ‘P’ button for penthouse, when confident that there were no surprises.
A brief jolt follows the hydraulic whish of the doors closing, as the lift begins its ascent. Ian glances around, looking for any detail out of place. An unscrewed panel or a stain on the lino, but the lift seems to be normal as far as he could tell. However, it does not float to the top uninterrupted, stopping on the thirteenth floor. Ian privately questions the luck involved in having a thirteenth floor, remembering an urban legend about some hotels that skip from twelve to fourteen because of superstition. This train of thought is immediately displaced though, replaced with a sinking realisation that there may be something to that myth.
The man has red hair, blue eyes and is about Ians height, perhaps a couple of inches taller. He was handsome, with straight white teeth, but Ian recognises the dye job, though professional and easily mistaken for the natural colour.
“Hmn.” Ians’ reply is born from surprise but, to the stranger, it must have sounded like disinterest.
“This lift is going up”, he adds quickly, remembering his destination.
“That’s alright,” replies Red, “I’m in no hurry.” His smile is deceptively friendly, as if he was from the country and just visiting New York for a few days.
They stand as far apart as two people in a lift can, the stranger leaning against the wall, inspecting his fingernails. A distinct vibe emanates from him, casualness mixed with a focused concentration. Sweat chills Ians’ neck while his face feels ready to melt.
“Quiet tonight, ain’t it?” Ian attempts to sound nonchalant, but his voice crackles with intensity.
“Yep. I was surprised to find the lobby empty when I arrived. Like someone died.” Red gives a short, sharp laugh, like a cough, but Ian ignores the comment, trying not to become aggressive too soon.
“Are you staying long?”
“Just leaving, in fact. Had a small bit of business to attend to.”
Ian mumbles an incoherent response, his eyes locked to the swishing arm that indicates the floor, the type which you only see in upscale hotels and old movies. It stops at the five o’ clock position, the penthouse, and the doors glide open with a ping.
Ian doesn’t move from his corner.
“Isn’t this your floor?” asks Red, looking at Ian, standing up tall.
“Ain’t you getting off?”
Ian glances back to Red.
“Well then. We have a problem.”