The three of them sat quietly in the diner drinking scolding hot black coffee.
Ted stretched before braking the silence.
“What did the girl pass you Alan as we were leaving, you know when she kissed you?”
“Sorry?” He was miles away.
“I see that young lady has made a lasting effect on our little lithario?” Jim laughed.
“To be honest I don’t understand what she gave me.” He took them out of his pocket and laid them on the table top. It comprised of two sets of keys and two business cards. He moved one card aside. “I can understand this one, it’s got Mary’s phone number and address on.”
“You lucky devil.” Ted said with a smile.
“Where are you going to take her? The movies? The theatre? No? Then where? Oh no not the fight.” Jim said incredulously.
“We’re going to Luigies for an Italian afterwards.” Alan said defensively.
“That’s assuming you haven’t had your jaw broken.” Jim persisted. “Only you would consider taking a girl to a fight on a first date, well any date really.”
“Stop it the pair of you.” Ted’s words calmed them down. “This card is Stretches so we now have his home number and address. Why two set’s of keys, one set is probably Stretches and assuming they aren’t Mary’s and meant for Alan who’s is the second set’s.”
“They’ll be unlikely to be Pond’s.” Jim offered.
“True but what about the offices?” Alan said not wanting to be left out.
“I think Alan’s hit it. The keys are for the offices.” Ted decided.
“I suppose technically, if we entered using the key, it is not breaking and entering.” Jim mused.
“We’ll visit both addresses tonight. We’ll go to Stretches home first and see if they left any evidence then onto the Pond’s Detective Agency.” Ted decided.
“Don’t forget we have the weigh in tonight.” Jim reminded.
“Blast.” Ted said angrily. “We’ll visit after that then, agreed.
Suddenly the diners door crashed open and the mini whirlwind that was Scrapper came flying in with Posh following behind. Why Posh, well he came from a rich educated family before the stock market collapsed. They lost all their money and what they had left his father drank away whilst encouraging his mother to go on the game. Eventually she couldn’t take any more as he flew into a drunken rage. She whipped out his pistol from his jacket hanging on the door and shot him in the head. Posh screamed but it was to late his father was dead as he looked up he saw to his horror his mother put the gun against her temple and blow her brains out. He still had nightmares over it.
A familiar story.
“Oh there you are. You’re harder to find than a tinkers…” Scrapper was stopped by Jim from going any further.
“I think we can skip the comparison thank you Scrapper.” He said. “Have you got anything for us Scrapper?”
“Nah. But Little Lou has.” Scrapper and Posh moved out the way to reveal a frightened little boy clutching a tatty note book.
He was severely undernourished and had bow legs, a symptom of Rickets.
Ted got off his chair and got down on one knee before the boy.
“Hello.” He said gently. “My names Ted, the small fellow is Alan and the tall one is Officer Jim Harper.”
The boy recoiled when he said Officer.
The other two called out hello’s and words of encouragement.
Lou turned to Scrapper.
“And these are your friends?”
Scrappers chest inflated with pride.
“Yep. We help them out like.”
“Oh.” The boy said obviously impressed. “You boy’s are Ace.”
The three adults tried not to laugh.
Patiently Ted tried again to get the lad talking.
“The boy’s said you have something to tell me?”
It was Posh who replied.
“He actually saw what happened to Mr Skinner. He’s a runner for a group of child thieves.”
“Well it was like this see Mr Ted, I mean sir.” He spluttered over what to call his listener. “I was running some stuff from the dips to Lazy Eye the Fence. I was just going down this alley not far from the gym.”
Lou’s stomach grumbled at him for want of food. With any luck Laze Eye will give him some money for food. He does sometimes it depends what the haul was like. In the bag over his shoulder were several billfolds and women purses along with a pair of watches. There was even a couple of foreign passports.
Lou stayed in the shadows as he slinked along toward the exit of the alley.
Suddenly the exit was blocked by a large limousine.
Fearing of being caught Lou looked for somewhere to hide. The dumpster wasn’t flush against the wall so their was just enough room for Lou to squeeze into. Working on silent feet he worked his way to the end of the dumpster. He hope he could slip out and be off while they were occupied.
Two powerfully built men in expensive suits got out of the car and opened the trunk. They reached in and dragged out a badly beaten man.
Lou instead of being frightened was excited and strained to see what happened next.
The man was unceremoniously dumped on the ground. The two men didn’t hesitate, they kick him hard a few times before fastidiously wiping their hand on a cloth they had taken from their pockets.
The largest of the pair bent down by the victims head and said viciously.
“If you survive tell your friend Grant to throw the fight or you won’t be the only one of his friends to be hurt.”
They crossed over to the car. One of them stopped and took a piece of dirt of the shinning figure on the hood.
Lou slipped out of his hiding place and watched the car pull away before returning to the crumpled figure of a man huddled on the floor.
“Was there anyone in the car besides those two men?” Ted asked trying hard not to grab the boy and shake him by his shoulders.
“Yes there was man in the back but I couldn’t see him much.”
“How did you know it was a man?” Alan asked.
“The window was down and he had his arm in the gap. He had some serious gold on and he had a signet ring with the Bald Eagle on. What I would have given to get that.”
“What did you do next Lou?” Ted asked.
The boy looked down at his shoes and shuffled uneasily.
“What did you do next Lou it’s very important.”
“I though he was dying so I took his watch, billfold and his note book. I need a new note book to write in.”
“Lou collects car licence plates and writes them in his book.” Posh told them.
The pulse in Ted’s neck jumped as he leaned forward once more.
“I don’t suppose you got the posh cars number did you?” Ted asked.
“Yeah he did that’s why we brought him round to see yah. But I didn’t know about him sealing from Mr Skinner. You better have the stuff otherwise my fist will meet your teeth.” Scrapper warned.
Lou recoiled his hand going to his tatty shoulder bag. With reluctance he emptied the contents on the floor. He picked up a ring , a watch and one of Stretch’s note books and handed them to Ted.
“Thank you Lou.” He passed the note books back to Alan. “Lou did you get the licence plate?”
“Yes I did. It was a big foreign car.” He pulled open and scanned the tatty note book a moment. “There we are, its.”
He took a deep breath and read out the letters and numbers in strange stilted one by one way as if it was a struggle.
“H, E, 1, 1, 13, E, N, T.”
Ted could hear Jim noting it down on a napkin.
“You’re doing well Lou. Now do you remember seeing a name or a manufactures mark.”
“Nah cause I can’t read.” Lou said innocently.
“Then how do you know what the licence plate was.” The three adults were completely bamboozled.
“Oh I know my numbers and letters its just that I can’t read. There was a little statue on the hood.”
“Really? Could you describe it?” Ted asked.
“Yes. Its of a lady all silvery like, and she it leaning forward with her arm pointing backward like this.” Lou did his best to mimic the Spirit of Ecstasy, the emblem of only one manufacturer of posh cars and that was …
“Rolls Royce. It’s a Rolls Royce.” Jim said trying not to laugh at what he saw. “I’ll phone up the headquarters and see if we can get the owner of the car. Mary can I use your phone?”
Ted nodded his understanding while the waitress passed over the phone.
“Thank you Lou you have been very helpful. Would you like something to eat?” Ted asked.
“Yes please.” He said tentatively as if he expected a trap.
“Mary, Ham and Eggs and Beans for this young man on me please?” Ted called to his friend the waitress.
Mary peered over the counter at the boy.
“Orange juice wouldn’t go amiss either.” Mary said with a motherly smile. “And I suppose you two wouldn’t mind a soda and some pancakes.”
“Yes please Mary.” They chorused.
“Well go and wash your hands in the washroom, and I mean wash them otherwise you’re going to be hungry.”
“Aww.” Scrapper said. “I’m sure all this washing isn’t healthy for a fellow.”
“Scrapper?!” Jim called.
“Yes Officer Jim.” Scrapper looked like the doomed man going to the scaffold rather than someone going to wash their hands. “After you’ve eaten take Lou to the Father and get him bedded in. Oh and tell them I’ll be round tomorrow to settle up.
This is important Scrapper I’m relying on you.”
The boys chest swelled again in pride.
“Will do.” he said.
“And don’t think it excuses you from washing your hands.”
“Oww.” And with that Scrapper pushed open the washroom door and followed the others.
Jim returned from the phone.
“One of the forensic team is going to chase down that licence plate. But I doubt we will have an answer before tomorrow.” He looked down at his watch. “We better start getting ready.”
The other two men nodded their agreement.
“But first we need costumes if we are to become mystery men.” Alan said again.
“I’ve already got one.” Jim told him.
“So have I of sorts.” Ted said a bit sheepish.
“Bring them with you so we can go straight after the weight in.” Alan told them.
“We’ll go and see Stretch before we go to the weigh in.” Ted suggested.
“I’ll pick you up in my car and take us their and on to the gym.”
With that the three men left leaving the three children stuffing their faces.