Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Girl Sleuth-Chapter 26

(To read from the beginning go Here.)

Anne jerked her arm free and lowered her voice. “Hear him out.”

“Believe me, I will wring it out of him if need be. He’ll have my full attention.”

Jaw set, she stepped back, put her hands on her hips, and raised her voice “I’m afraid you gentlemen have made a mistake.”

The three agents halted at the door. They looked to Erik for confirmation.

He took a step closer to Anne. “This is baloney and you know it,” he muttered.

She lowered her voice as well. “Just take him in the kitchen. You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I promise.”

“Agent Carter?”

Erik sighed. “Let him go.”

“This isn’t the guy?”

“I’m going to have a little chat with these two and get this sorted out. You fellas take up position in the hall and street. Make sure no one comes in or out, without my say so.”

Nodding, the agents released their captive with obvious reluctance and filed out the door.

Erik stood in the center of the room, arms crossed and spine rigid. “Spill it.”

Now that she had won her point, Anne regretted her tactics. Erik wasn’t the bad guy. He was just trying to do his job. “Tom didn’t have anything to do with Carol’s death.”

“Tom is it?”

Anne held up her hands. “Let’s sit down.” Her gaze sought Tom’s. “He’ll tell us everything he knows.”

He nodded and flopped into the nearest chair. “I’ll tell you whatever you want to know. Just catch Armstrong.”

At last, Erik unbent enough to take a seat. “Who’s Armstrong?”

Tom rubbed at the stubble on his cheeks. “Rick Armstrong. He approached me about six months ago. I was strapped for cash and he offered me a way out, without getting my legs broken, or worse.”

All but holding her breath, Anne settled into a seat.

“I’m an engraver see. A good one. He wanted plates made for ten and twenty dollar bills. I wasn’t going to go along with it at first, but then he persuaded me that it was my only option. And he said he’d cut me in on the deal. He made it sound foolproof.” His hands moved to scour through his hair.

“Then what happened?”

“I met Carol. She was the most beautiful woman in the world. And smart. And loyal. And…” His voice seemed to catch. “We were going to get married. I didn’t want her tangled up with a creep like Armstrong, so I started trying to get out. The twenty-dollar plates were done, and I told Armstrong that I’d take a flat fee and be out of his hair for good. He wasn’t having none of it though. That’s when I realized that this wasn’t strictly small time. He wanted more plates. Lots more.”

“How many?”

“At least a dozen sets.”

Erik let out a low whistle.

“I don’t know how Carol found out what I was caught up in, but she did. That’s when Armstrong told me about another gang that was trying to horn in on our operation. I didn’t want her caught in the middle, so I sent Carol home to Ohio, and told her I’d clear out and come for her as soon as I could.” He heaved a breath as if coming to the end of a steep climb.

“Armstrong told me this morning that Anne here was part of Joe Gansky’s gang and that he’d found out she’d pushed Carol in front of a car. He said it was why he tried to bring her in last night. When he told me about Carol, I…”

Anne leaned toward Tom and rubbed his arm.

“I waited until he went out and then I came over here to kill her.”

Erik eyes flickered over her as if he thought she were crazy, but he didn’t comment on the fact that she was trying to comfort the man who’d set out that day to kill her. “So what’s Armstrong’s angle?”

“I don’t know.”

“Don’t give me that.”

“I told you I thought this was strictly small time, but he’s got way more funding than he should.”

“How many sets of plates did you make?”

“I got eight sets of twenties done.”

Anne shook her head. “So how do we get him?”

Both men looked at her.

“Not just for the counterfeiting, but Carol’s murder,” she continued.

Tom licked his lips, and a spark flared in his eyes. “I’ve got an idea, at least if you’ll help Anne. It’d mean making you bait.”

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