Phillip Connolly, a wiry man in his forties, slouched in a chair at the anchored table in the Second Precinct’s interview room. He was smoking the stub of a Lucky Strike, waiting for trouble to find him.
The door swung open and trouble in the person of Lieutenant Duncan MacIntyre entered. He was a bear, easily twice Connolly’s size. While Connolly was smartly dressed in a double-breasted suit and tie, MacIntyre was coatless with an open collar and rolled up sleeves, wearing a shoulder-holstered revolver.
The cop dropped a notepad on the table and took a seat. “Thanks for coming in, Connolly.”
“Happy to help. You know me, Mac.”
“Yeah, I do.” MacIntyre moved the ash tray closer to his adversary, took a pen out of his shirt pocket and began. “Why were you at the Richard Morgan burial this morning?”
Connolly sat up and tamped out his Lucky. “Paying my respects as a friend of the family.”
“How do you know the Morgans?”
“Early last month Eileen Morgan came to my office looking to hire a private eye.”
“Why? And why you?”
“She thought hubby was seeing another woman Saturday nights. I make a living from such cases. I’m in the phone book, you know.”
MacIntyre waited for more.
“And I knew where he had been going. It was easy money.”
“Where was he going?”
“He attended my wine tasting club on Saturday nights.”
“Your wine tasting club.” MacIntyre sounded skeptical.
“A friend of mine imports the good stuff. We pop a few corks for some invited guests and they buy a few bottles, or a case, if they like the samples.” Connolly leaned back, smiled and crossed his arms. “It’s a cash business. I get free drinks and a percentage for finding prospects.”
“I like a good wine,” MacIntyre admitted. “Could I join your wine drinking club?”
“Wine tasting club,” Connolly corrected. “You couldn’t afford the cover charge on a detective’s salary. My friend has strict participation rules.”
“Your friend got a name?”
“Verdini. Carlo Verdini. We meet in the back room of the Restaurante Italiano on the east side.”
“We’re acquainted with Verdini’s east-side operation. Any cards played at this so-called wine club?”
“Well, we are a sociable group.”
“I suppose you were there last Saturday when Morgan was stabbed in that alley on the east side?”
“Yes, I was. Just ask Verdini.” Connolly smiled. “I came early for dinner, a veal Parmesan, and stayed late for a nightcap. Morgan never showed. We all missed him.”
“Have you told Eileen Morgan where he was Saturdays?”
“I scheduled our last meeting for yesterday, to deliver my final report. Then I read Morgan got himself killed, so I canceled.”
“So she still doesn’t know.”
“Not yet. I’m seeing her later today. I’ll tell her he was just out drinking with some friends. You understand.”
“Yeah, I do. You said you scheduled your last meeting with her?”
“Well, she got my premium service, weekly updates. She was quite upset about her hubby’s possible infidelity. I made an effort to assuage her concerns, with some success.”
“While you worked diligently on her case.”
“She’s a handsome woman.”
“I noticed,” Connolly agreed.
“She just inherited a lot of money.” MacIntyre added.
“I suppose so. Morgan was a big spender.”
“I’m thinking you boys expected Morgan to show Saturday with a lot of cash. We found only pocket change on his body, so it looks like a mugging. Do you know who jumped him?”
“No. And I object to the insinuation.” Connolly paused. “But I suppose you had to ask.”
MacIntyre put the pen back in his pocket. “That’s enough for now. You know the drill, Connolly. We’ll talk again. Don’t leave town.” He stood and opened the door.
Connolly stood, lit another Lucky and put his fedora on, adjusting it to a rakish tilt. He walked past MacIntyre, but stopped in the doorway and turned. “I’ll keep my eyes open, Mac. Say, I need a few bucks for cab fare to the cemetery. I had to leave my coupe there when your boys invited me downtown.” Connolly held out his hand.
The Interview by Charles Ladd was a submission of the St. Croix Noir Writing Challenge, part of NEA Big Read in the St. Croix Valley. NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. All submissions for St. Croix Noir Writing Challenge were judged by a committee of St. Croix Valley writers and readers.