Murder At Midnight
A lot can happen at a bar on a Saturday night. I was sitting there on my usual stool, sipping my beer, and minding my own business when she walked into the joint. I set my beer down to get a better look at her. She had on a white dress with pineapples on it and in her bright red hair was a white flower. Her white shoes, which matched the rest of her attire, seemed to glide her across the floor. I looked down at her feet to make sure she wasn’t walking on air. She came up to the bar and sat down in the empty seat that was next to me.
I didn’t know if I should talk to her or not. I just had my heart broken by Amanda a few days ago. I still wasn’t over her, but then again maybe this dame was exactly what I needed to get over Amanda. I said, “Hello.”
She said, “Hi” back to me.
I introduced myself to her. “My name is Josh Slim.”
“Brooke,” she said stretching her hand out to me. There was a slight pause before she asked me, “So, do you come here often?”
“All the time,” I said and then I returned to my beer. It was the truth. I mean after all, I was in Carl’s every night of the week since I retired from the force. I started out my career as a regular traffic cop. Then, I got moved around a bit. Next, I got promoted to detective where I stayed till the day I retired. Finally, after I noticed I was blowing my entire pension on beer, I figured out a gig I could do in my golden years.
“So what do you do besides sit in this bar and drink Mister Slim?” She asked me brushing her curly red hair back.
“I’m a private eye.” That made her sit up quick. It does for most women. I decided to become a private investigator, because I needed extra income to pay for my drinking habit. Beer doesn’t come cheap. Yeah, I could be one of those guys who just sits in his studio apartment and drinks every night while watching television, but then I wouldn’t get the opportunity to socialize and that’s how you pick up clients is by socializing. Besides, beer on tap always tastes better than beer you get from a bottle and beer on the sidewalk tastes better than beer you get from a can.
Anyway, back to my story. After she sat back in her chair, her eyes got wide and she said, “Really!”
“Yes, really,” I said finishing my drink.
“How much do you charge?”
“It all depends on the case,” I said pushing my glass in front of me to let the bartender know I was finished. “Why do you ask?”
That was the wrong question because the next thing that came out of her mouth was, “Well you see, I have this situation…” I rolled my eyes. Every woman I was interested in had a situation. The situation was usually a cheating boyfriend or a cheating husband. I started listening to her just because she was gorgeous. Then she said something that really caught my attention. Something I didn’t expect. She said, “I think I witnessed a murder.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
She started her story all over again from the beginning. She told me that over the past two days, a man has been following her everywhere she goes. She then told me the reason why she came into Carl’s in the first place was she was hoping to sit next to and talk to some random guy and hopefully that would get the fella to take a hike. Apparently I was the guy who drew the lucky straw.
“What makes you think you witnessed a murder?” I asked her as I signaled for the bartender to bring me another beer.
She leaned into me and whispered, which she really didn’t have to do. I mean, we were in a bar for crying out loud. She started to tell me how two days ago as she was driving home from work, she saw a van and a small two door vehicle pulled off on the side of the road. She slowed her car down and watched as one guy pounded the face of the other into the ground. She was telling me that as she slowed her car down to a crawl, the one man stopped punching the other guy, and then he hopped into the van and started following her. She made a few twists and turns and she thought she got rid of him, but then the next morning as she was pulling out of her subdivision, she noticed the same van from the previous night was behind her. The van followed her to and from her job. She started to get freaked out, but she didn’t want to go to police for fear that the guy might do something rash.
“So instead, you run inside a bar and sit down next to the first guy you see.”
She blushed, “Pretty stupid I know.” Then she decided tried to defend herself, “But you don’t understand. I’m a single woman in her forties who lives by herself.”
“I’m a desperate drunk in his sixties who hits on anything remotely close to his age in a skirt.”
That made her laugh. She smiled and said, “Remotely close? I could be your kid.”
“No you couldn’t,” I took a sip of my beer and then finished what I wanted to say, “Because I would never let my kid walk into a place like this.”
She grabbed my free arm with both of her hands. Then leaning her head against my shoulder, she said, “You’re so sweet.” I quickly took a drink of beer and tried to ignore the smell of her body spray or whatever it was she was wearing. She smelled like some kind of tropical fruit. I tell you, when this woman picks a theme, she really sticks with it. After a few seconds, she let go of my arm. “I’m going outside for a cigarette,” she said to me and then she grabbed her purse and walked out the back door.
I should have went with her, but I didn’t. Maybe it was because I don’t smoke. Maybe it was because I was a selfish drunk who wanted to do nothing more than just sit there and drink his beer. Maybe it was because I knew she was trouble and I knew that if I followed her, I’d only be getting myself into more trouble. I regret it now, because a minute or two after she was gone, I heard a scream come from where she had been.
Everyone in the bar froze except me. Call it my instinct but after years of serving and protecting, it is just in my nature to run towards a bloodcurdling scream. I ran out the back door and there I saw Brooke. She was lying there with her throat slit and blood leaking out of her stomach. There was also a gag in her mouth. Apparently, there was a struggle. Looking at Brooke’s body, I would have guessed that her killer came up to her from behind and put a gag over her mouth. He probably tried to slit her throat but she struggled, so in order to slow her down, he stabbed her in the mid-section a few times before he finally got the cut he wanted.
I asked the woman who screamed if she saw anything. She shook her head. She was as white as a ghost. Carl, the owner of the bar, came outside to see what had happened. He almost threw up after he saw the body. I grabbed him and told him to make an announcement that there has been a murder outside and that no one was to leave the bar until after the police say so.
As Carl was making his announcement, I kicked the door to the men’s restroom open to see if anybody was inside, and of course there was nobody in there. I looked at the sink and noticed that some of my evidence had been washed down the drain. The killer was inside the bar.
I ran up to one of the bartenders and asked, “Has anyone left in the past ten minutes.”
“No, no, not my knowledge,” she said in a very nervous tone.
“Good,” I told her as I quickly scanned the crowd, “and keep it that way.” I went back outside to investigate the crime scene some more. After a few minutes, the police had arrived.
Sergeant Joe Daniel was the first of the officers who came through the back door. He looked at the body and then he looked at me. “Well Slim, once again you are at the scene of the crime before we are. Do you mind telling me what’s going on here?”
I was still staring at Brooke. I was remembering how when she first walked into the bar, I thought she was an angel and now she really was one. I wondered how much effort it took her to come into the bar looking the way she did and now the beautiful white dress with pineapples on it that she wore was covered in her own blood. I thought about that curvy smile she gave me before she went out for a cigarette and now there that large curvy mark around her throat.
“Slim, Slim,” Joe started saying to me. “Detective!” He shouted and I grabbed him by his shirt and pulled him away from the rest of the officers.
“You can’t call me that here Joe.”
“Why not?” He asked in a quiet voice and he put one of
his hands up in the air to let the other officers know that everything was
“Because the killer is in the bar and I’m willing to bet my pension that he doesn’t know I’m a former cop.”
“Wait,” a smile came to Joe’s face. “You mean to tell me that our murderer is inside that bar and he doesn’t know you use to be a cop?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” I whispered to him. “This tiny parking lot is full. If he would have been parked back here, he would have left and we would be looking at an open spot. He could have walked to the front of the building, but too many people would have seen him coming out of the alley. He could have went the other way but it’s an awfully long walk to the next street from here. That means he must’ve headed back into the bar. Now since only three people have been out here since the murder, I need you and the boys to rough me up a bit so that the civilians inside know we mean business and so that the killer tries to come after me before he escapes.”
“What makes you think he will come after you?”
“Because I was the only person the lady talked to before she died. That corpse over there was the only witness to the roadside murder that happened two days ago. So if we catch this guy, we catch the killer to both of these murders.”
“What makes you think it was a guy?”
“I went into the men’s restroom before you guys got the phone call and I noticed that whoever used the sink last, used it to wash some blood down the drain. Plus, our lovely lady here said a man driving a van had been following her the past two days.”
“Did she describe the vehicle?”
Joe called all the officers into a huddle. He told them everything I had just said. In less than a minute, we had our game plan. After a minute or two, Joe dragged me back inside and threw me up against the bar. He was loud on purpose making sure everyone in the bar knew he meant business. “YOU WERE THE LAST ONE TO SEE HER ALIVE! TELL US WHAT YOU KNOW!”
I acted as cowardly as I could without trying to make the boys laugh, “Honestly officer, all I did was talk to her for a few minutes and then she went out to have a cigarette by herself. I swear.”
Joe threw me into a table. Everyone in the bar was now more than willing to cooperate.
Carl almost blew my cover. He shouted to Joe, “Hey, you guys need to stop that. You might be able to do that to Slim, but if any of you rough up my real customers, I’ll make sure you guys make the front page of tomorrow’s paper.”
I shot Carl a dirty look and then I looked around the room. The police officers had three out of the four exits covered: The front door, the back door, and the emergency exit. The only exit that wasn’t covered was the one in the back that the employees used and that was my cue. I sat on the barstool next to the door that said, “Employees Only” on it. All I had to do now was wait.
I scanned the room to make sure to see who it could possibly be, but mostly I waited. I had both my hands on top of the bar. I wanted the killer to think I wasn’t armed. Even though I had my gun in my suitcoat, I didn’t want to have to use it. A shot would terrify the customers and that would lead to Carl never letting me in here ever again.
It was hard to tell exactly who the killer could have been. After all, Brooke didn’t give me a description of the guy before she died. I kept an eye on everyone who came close to me. Finally a man dressed in a black suit came towards me. I looked down, but I couldn’t see his hands. That is until of course until a knife was practically in my side.
“You and me, we’re going for a walk old timer,” he whispered in my ear and made a motion with his head towards the Employees Only door.
“Fat chance,” I said. The guy tried to poke me, but what he didn’t know was the boys put a vest on me before we walked back into the bar. I grabbed the guy’s wrist and twisted it. I got off my barstool, grabbed the back of the guy’s neck with my left hand and shoved his face into the wall.
“The old guy’s trying to take a hostage,” someone in the bar screamed. “He really was the killer after all.” A few people pulled me off of the man in the black suit. He tried to run but the officer who was guarding the backdoor grabbed the man in the black suit by the collar and pushed him back up against the wall.
“Shouldn’t you be arresting the killer?” The man in the black suit asked.
“You are the killer,” I shouted as I tried to free myself from the grip that three of Carl’s customers had on me.
Joe came to my defense. “This is Private Investigator Josh Slim, formerly Detective Josh Slim.”
“Wait, you’re a cop?” The man in the black suit’s mouth almost hit the floor.
“A private eye, but close enough.” After I said that, the three customers let go of me. I took a few steps towards the man in the black suit. I wanted to choke him, but I knew I couldn’t do that. So instead I told him how we caught him. “You see, I practically live here. Had I not told Carl to make the announcement that no one was to leave the bar, you probably would have gotten away with it. You couldn’t park your car in the back, because it was full back there and someone would have seen you pull out of the alley. You needed to wash up after stabbing her so many times, so you came back in here and you used the restroom before you left. I’m guessing you were on your way to the door when Carl made the announcement for everyone to stay put. Then once the boys and I made it clear to everyone in here that I was the last one to talk to the lady before she died, I made sure that you had an opportunity to come after me before you made your escape. Very smart move using a knife. It’s a very quiet weapon, especially in a bar.”
After further investigation, we discovered that the guy was not only a successful business man, but he was a family man as well. He had a very deep anger problem, which his wife (now his ex-wife) was more than happy to tell a jury. That of course explains the road rage. He thought Brooke had seen him and since he was paranoid, he decided to take his anger out on Brooke next in the hopes of covering up his tracks.
As for me, people who were there at Carl’s that night still pat me on the back to this day for catching Brooke’s murderer. Occasionally, I will ask one of the bartenders for a drink to be garnished with a few pineapples. They will take two pineapple pieces and put a toothpick right through them. Then I will take those two pineapple on that toothpick, walk outside, and lay them on the spot where Brooke was murdered at midnight.