Three Days Later
Downtown Seattle, Washington
Harriet looked up at the Space Needle in wonder. It was a monument she had not seen up close in this lifetime and which did not exist in her first journey through the United States.
“Kinda thought it would be smaller,” she laughed, her head cocked slightly to the side.
Eliot handed her a paper cup filled with fresh roasted coffee and smiled as far as his jaw would allow. “You’re the first woman in the history of the world to have ever said that.”
“Sounds like your cheek is healing pretty nicely in such a short time. I can understand what you’re saying again!”
He rubbed the bandage covering the wound on his cheek, “still hurts like hell, though.”
She put her arm under his, cowering a bit in the slightly chilly overcast of Seattle in the autumn. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking, Eliot?”
Her arm so alarmingly entering his personal space took the former detective aback, but he played it quiet and led her down closer to the peer. “I was thinking how unsurprising it is that Richard chose to live in Seattle, the vegan capital of my patience.”
“Two jokes in as many minutes! Ladies and gentlemen, Eliot’s stick-from-ass removal procedure was all we could have hoped for! The surgeons,” she feigned a moment where she held back tears. “The surgeons just did God’s work on this one.”
“Yuck it up, Missy.” He glared. “I know where you live.”
“In a building that used to ship two hundred thousand boxes of fish sticks a day? It’s not hard to find, it says ‘Fish Sticks’ on the front of it. If you Google the words ‘fish sticks,’ it’s the fifteenth result.”
He laughed for a moment before grabbing his cheek from the pain. “I suppose it’s not the grandest hideout in the world.”
“Far from it, Eliot Ness.” Harriet took in the fresh Washington air and slid her arm further under his elbow.
They walked down a hilly street toward pier sixty-seven and looked out onto the bay, a maze of joggers, and joggers pushing children in tiny vehicular teepees, surrounded them on all sides.
“So, where are we meeting this cop friend of yours?”
Eliot grimaced at the notion. “I wouldn’t exactly call him a friend. We worked together, but we didn’t get along so well.”
“You made him look incompetent every chance you got didn’t you?”
His cheeks flushed a bright pink. “I would say that sums up my relationship with Detective Ransic, yes.”
“Can I ask you the real question?” Harriet said in a lower tone, looking across to the children playing in front of the aquarium on the waterfront.
“Ignoring the how for a moment, why did he have a blank? Why would he go out of his way to prove that he had time to write on Richie in the park?”
“I knew you were going to ask me about that.”
“How could I not? We just took a red eye from Kansas to Washington to track him down.”
Eliot took a long and knowing sip of coffee. “Because he knew the way to prove to me that he’s not who we think he is.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Which was?”
“I pulled the trigger, Harriet. I looked him right in the eyes and pulled the trigger—and he knew I was going to.”
“A guilty man will always run. A guiltless man will go to incredible lengths to prove his innocence. He could have run away at any time. He probably could have killed any one of us, and if Albert’s come-to-Jesus moment three days ago is to be believed, writing on Richie would have blown Kansas sky high.”
They continued walking down the damp Seattle sidewalk, past parked cars and tiny restaurants. The conversation continued to decipher what information they had and if the chaos that surrounded them would ever amount to any sense.
“Is this the place?” Harriet asked as she stared up at the hotel on the bay called The Edgewater.
Eliot smiled at the familiar landmark, taking in the surrounding salty air. “Indeed, it is. This is my favorite hotel in the United States—there’s a Beatles suite if you reserve far enough ahead of time. The band actually stayed in there!”
“Do you need a moment?”
“No, thank you, I’m quite alright. Ransic is inside and we shouldn’t keep him waiting.”
He opened the door for her, like a gentleman, and followed her into the lodge-like lobby, complete with the head of a buck adorning the wall behind the check-in counter.
Detective Julius Ransic was sitting in a high-back chair and patiently flipping through an issue of Esquire. He looked up and saw the two approaching from across the way. As Harriet came within earshot, he jumped to his feet to introduce himself. “The name is Julius, madam. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
She extended her hand, expecting a simple handshake, but Ransic took a knee and gave her a lingering kiss on the back of her wrist. “So, how are you enjoying Seattle?” Harriet asked with a tiny of confusion.
“I would move to this part of the world if I could—I mean, I wish we were here under different circumstances.” Ransic had not stopped smiling at Harriet since she came into the room.
Eliot took a step forward into the conversation. “Did you get what I asked for?”
Ransic rolled his eyes and turned to the man he used to work with. “For starters, I hate you and die. Secondly, yes, I found out who Richard is dating and have a name and an address.”
“Can we have it, please?”
The response was an eye roll. “Can we just take a minute to answer some of my questions please?”
The eye roll reciprocated with a sigh. “What questions, Ransic?”
“I got dragged to Kansas to aid the FBI in a murder case that matched up with the open cases we have in Los Angeles, cases you helped us investigate.”
Ransic poked Eliot in the sternum in a show of misplaced authority. “Don’t play stupid, Stack. I know you were in Lawrence when those two people were attacked in the department store.”
“There was a stack of what now?” Harriet asked, confused.
“I went by Bob Stack when I was a police,” he leaned over and whispered into her arm.
Her eyes swelled. “You told people your name was Robert Stack?” Harriet scoffed and shook her head in disgust. “No one ever figured that out?”
Ransic looked back and forth between them. “Are you talking about the guy from Unsolved Mysteries? Wait, your name’s not actually Bob?”
Eliot shared a long glance with Harriet for blurting out the information in such a reckless manner. He turned back to Ransic and did his best to feign a smile. “No, my name is actually Eliot—it’s a long story. That address?”
Detective Ransic took a step back and stared at the floor for a prolonged moment. “Okay, this is all getting just a bit too weird.”
His gaze came back up. “Chloe, at least she said her name was Chloe—”
“It’s Joan,” Harriet cut him off.
Eliot punched her in the arm in a playful manner. “Would you stop helping now, please?” He walked Ransic away to a corner. “What did Chloe tell you exactly? Anything weird?”
“Like what? She mentioned an Eliot being in the police station with that Alex kid and I didn’t even think about the fact she was talking about you. You, Chloe, Jessup—all using fake names at murder scenes, it’s kinda suspicious.”
“What did you say about Jessup?” Eliot asked, suddenly alarmed.
Ransic leaned against the canvas of a painting in the lobby. “That Chloe chick said that he was lying about who he was too. He’s been acting really weird since you left.”
Eliot grabbed the detective around the shoulders and secured his undivided eye contact. “Julius. Who did she say that Jessup was?”
“You’ve never called me Julius before.”
“I swear to god, I will punch you through this wall.”
“Holy shit, Bob, er, Eliot, whoever the hell you are—calm down, man. She said he was “Napoleon,” which I think means he’s like him or something.”
Eliot looked over to where they had left Harriet, his eyes wide with surprise, and turned back to Ransic. “I need that address now.”
The detective pushed Eliot with considerable force into the opposite wall of the hallway. “I have half a mind to arrest you on any number of suspicious charges right here and now. How do I know you’re not a murderer? You lied about everything else.”
He straightened his coat and pulled his body off the wall. “I can prove to you right now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am not a murderer.”
Ransic backed off a few paces. “And how are you going to do that?”
“Because if I were a cold-blooded murderer, I would have killed you already you feckless child.”
The detective dwelled on that for a moment before nodding. “Yeah, that makes sense.”
“Name and address, please, Julius.”
Ransic reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a piece of notebook paper. “The boyfriend of your suspect is named Francis Martel, he lives in a loft ten blocks away near that pinball bar on Second Avenue. I think it’s called Shorty’s.” He handed over the piece of paper with some hesitancy.
Eliot grabbed it and extended his hand for a shake. “Thank you.”
“Stay away from Jessup, request a transfer—do whatever you can to get away from him.” Eliot said with a sudden gravitas.
He turned and walked sharply away from Detective Ransic and put his arm under Harriet’s and led her toward the door.
“What happened? Did you get the address?”
“Yes, but we have a much larger problem, Harriet.”
She returned the sentiment with a puzzled look. “How large of a problem?”
Eliot took a moment, realizing what he had just said. “Actually, our new problem is very short.”