Seventeen Minutes and
Eight Blocks Later
Downtown Seattle, Washington
“Are you married, Eliot?”
He straightened his tie and zipped up his dark leather jacket, buying time with menial activity. “I am not, married, no.”
“Divorced?” Harriet asked with wide eyes.
“Is this your idea of small talk?”
“We still got a couple more blocks to go. I wanted to know if there was a Missus Eliot Ness, once upon a time.”
The former detective stopped and turned to her with a sudden flare of anger, clearly a touchy subject. “There were three former Missus Eliot Ness’s if you must know, but to clarify, there were also two former Missus Bob Stack’s—I’ve been married five times in two lifetimes and I’ve decided to get off the train before I’m the new Larry King.”
Harriet touched his arm with a friendly rub. “I meant no offense.”
“Well,” he started and turned to walk away, “you made offense.”
The two walked the rest of the way in silence, making vague grunted affirmations whenever they needed to agree on the direction to go in.
Eliot and Harriet were winded after walking the ten blocks from the hotel to an older building that had seen many renovations in the last few years. They stared up at the fourth floor, the boyfriend’s place.
“If he’s there,” she started, swallowing hard before knowing how to finish that sentence. “Eliot, are you going to shoot him?”
“I’m sorry I was short with you, earlier.”
She pulled her hood up over her head and looked back at Eliot with a blistering candor. “Over that. Are you going to shoot him is what I asked you.”
He stared up at the window. “Do we have a choice?”
“There’s always a choice.”
“Spare me the hippie-free-love.” He grasped behind to the gun tucked into his belt, reassuring it was always within a moment’s reach. “Any double is a danger.”
“What isn’t a danger?” She began in a heated frustration. “Crossing the street is dangerous!”
“Yeah, but when you cross the street, if you get hit by a car, it doesn’t cause a thermonuclear explosion!”
“A catastrophic-fission reaction,” Harriet corrected.
“I don’t know if you heard, I was never good with science in school.”
She checked for her firearm as well, gripping the handle as she stared back at Eliot. “I don’t know if you heard, but I wasn’t allowed to go to school my first time.”
“Then I commend you on being a fast learner.”
“You, ass. Let’s head inside.” She led the way, walking up the steps and opening the door to the large foyer. It was quiet in the lobby: a room decorated with a mixed smattering of rustic furniture and modern art pieces. “Yup. Gay men definitely live here,” she whispered so low that only she could hear and then laughed.
“Let’s take the stairs, okay?”
“After you,” she motioned to a door to the stairway off to one side of the lobby.
They moved up the stairs in silence, checking every floor for any suspicious activity. The two arrived on the fourth floor landing and slowly crept through the doorway. Harriet began walking down the hallway past all matter of strange welcome mats adorning the area in front of numerous doors. They whispered back and forth about the insanity of some of the phrasing on the mats.
“That last one said, ‘A bear in the bush, is worth ten in the back.’ I’m at a loss for what that even means,” Harriet whispered with a scattered giggle.
Eliot eyes were wide at some of the subject matter on display in the hallway. “What’s a twink?”
“I’ll tell you when you’re older. What did you he say the number was again?”
“Uh, four twenty two,” he whispered as he removed his weapon from the back of his pants.
Harriet and Eliot took both sides of the door marked ‘422’ and listened ear-to-door for any sign of movement.
“I don’t hear anything,” he said.
She shook her head back at him, affirming that there was nothing happening on the other side of the door. “You can kick in a door, right?”
Eliot tilted his head and scrunched his face with annoyance. “Can I kick in a door? Lady, please.” He took a step back and held for a moment. His leg came forward with incredible force and shattered the wood around the deadbolt on impact. Like a gentleman, he motioned for the lady to enter first (not thinking about the situation, clearly.)
Harriet pushed in through the front door and immediately sensed that something was amiss within the apartment. “Do you smell that?”
He sniffed for only a moment before responding. “Gun powder.”
She chambered a round into her pistol and kicked off her shoes, leaving her barefoot to walk silently through the apartment. The living room was a clutter of magazines and takeout boxes half-eaten or discarded without care; the type of haphazard construction of garbage that gave the world the term ‘roach motel.’ Harriet motioned with her head for Eliot to observe the congregation of refuse.
“Somebody living here was worried,” he whispered back; his own shoes neatly kicked onto the carpet.
“A missing boyfriend, perhaps?”
He began to nod in agreement but stopped himself as he looked over the substandard living area once more. “No, actually. This isn’t fear, this is depression.”
Harriet puzzled over the statement as she moved into the kitchen; the mess on the counter giving the living room a run for its money. The stench was anything but breathable. She coughed and pushed past Eliot into the breakfast nook.
There was a body on the table, shot twice through the back of the head. She recoiled at the awful display of a man with his skull collapsed on the breakfast table.
Eliot got to his knees and began examining the scene without hesitation. There were two broken bottles of beer: Mexican brand, both full before they crashed into the ground, and two rotting lime wedges sitting on the reclaimed wood floor. “He’s about fifteen feet from the door, and he dropped the beers after the shots to the head, not before.”
She was careful not to look at the body on the table. “What does that mean?”
He grabbed for the man’s wallet and began rifling through it for identification. “It means, he offered the person who was here with him a beer.” He took a long breath in and slowly out, “he probably knew him.”
“Do you think Richard was here?”
Eliot held up the license, concerned. “This is definitely Francis Martel, I’d say there’s a good shot he was here, yeah.”
Harriet wandered from the room and into an adjacent bathroom, leaving Eliot alone in the kitchen examining each aspect repeatedly in an effort to put this together.
She called from the room over. “Eliot, I think we have a problem.”
“Not right now, Harriet. I’m having trouble finding the second shell casing—that might give us a clue.” He hollered back to the bathroom.
For a moment, Harriet did not respond and he continued sweeping his hand across the underside of the table. “Eliot Ness, if you don’t stand up and walk in here right now I will drag you by the chest hair you wear v-necks to show off—as if there’s anyone in their right mind that finds that attractive anymore.”
Eliot hopped to his feet, hurried into the next room over, and stopped dead in his tracks.
The blood was everywhere.
In the middle of the bathtub, fully clothed, was Richard, shot an indeterminate amount of times in the chest because the blood was everywhere. He turned to Harriet, “go get some air.”
“Is he dead?” She was gasping on the words as they came out.
He put his arms around her, trying to calm her down. “He—he looks pretty dead, yeah.”
“We tortured him,” Harriet could barely speak. “We tortured an innocent man, and now he’s dead.”
“Go get some air, Harriet. Now, please.”
She could feel his arms ushering her out of the apartment and into the hallway. Harriet turned to dispute the plan just as the door closed in her face. For minutes, she paced up and down the hallway trying to figure out a next move. Without thinking about it, she dialed a familiar number on one of the throwaway phones they bought on a gas station.
It rang three times.
John answered, slurring his salutation. He continued, “Harry, what is it? Is something wrong?”
She swallowed. “Richard’s dead. So is his boyfriend—there is blood everywhere.”
“Harriet, did you guys check every room in the whole apartment?”
“I walked out before we checked the bedroom. John, I’m pretty sure they’ve been dead for days.”
He began to yell. “You left Eliot alone in there?”
Harriet looked up and down the hallway for anyone in earshot. “John, we will be on our way back in twenty minutes, I’m sure of—”
She dropped her phone on the ground, still on the line with John Quincy, as the plastic bag wrapped tightly around her head and dragged her back into the apartment.
As she struggled on the carpet to get a good look at her assailant through the bag, Harriet felt a strong blow to the head as the inside of the bag began to fill with blood; her blood.
“Eliot!” she screamed as loud as she could across the living room. “Eliot, help me!”
There was no response from Eliot. She had no time to wonder what had happened to him as she saw the arm rear back for a second blow.
The first one had not knocked her out as intended.
As the arm came down a second time, everything went dark.
Harriet woke up, hours later, in a dark room she was unable to make out. She was tied to a chair and the bag was still on her head, covered in dried blood that made it impossible to see where she was or who was there.
A series of quiet footsteps began walking her direction.
A knife came down with force into her leg and she screamed with everything her lungs could muster.
The voice, muffled by the disgusting bag, whispered into her ear far too quietly to identify. He spoke a single word that shut her up immediately.