Sorry about another portrait image, it has to be this way up 🙂
Where Humpty Dumpty Has a Crack
I had a welcoming committee waiting, last time I visited Mort Borland’s farm. My tongue remembers, probing holey gums where a couple teeth once lived.
Jimmy scans for trouble through binoculars. Hisses, points, gives ‘em over.
An attractive dame leads a horse outta the stables to a holding pen. New foal and older man gingerly follow. He’s got slicked-back hair, wearing a white coat messy with blood and hay. She closes gates then drives off in her Model-T, waving.
“Follow?” asks Jimmy, ducked low.
“Nah, let’s give Jane some more rope.”
I wait until she’s outta sight and hand the binoculars back to Jimmy, gesturing towards the farmer. He’s emerged from the homestead, approaching the vet with his rolling gait.
“Jane’s uncle Mort.” I remember he and Jimmy ain’t never crossed paths.
Jimmy’s marching down the hill before I can stop him. Doctor Vickers the veterinarian and Mort notice his approach. I hurry to catch up.
“Thanks for rescuin’ the boss,” Jimmy’s introduced himself.
“No trouble, ooh, still looks painful.” Mort winces, looking at my mug; to Jimmy and Vickers:
“Shoulda seen the others.”
“What drugs they got you on?” asks Vickers.
Now, we ain’t sure who’s mixed up in what. The Mob’s infiltrated the Trocadero race-track, fixing races and doctoring equipment. Vickers’s been our likeliest suspect, right up until our last racetrack visit.
Jane’s a Mob moll, but something her uncle Mort says makes a whole lotta sense. I got beat to a pulp, but didn’t go down without a fight.
Mort saved my hide, but anyone takin’ swings that day received plenty in return. Vickers ain’t no spring chicken, but is still delivering foals. Don’t make no sense for either to send the clowns in. Some other puppeteer’s pulling strings.
Vickers’s acquainted with my pain-killers. Lower dose versions of horse medications, I guess. He excuses hisself; Mort directs him round back, to the tub.
“So where are the others?” I ask as we head towards the farm-house; quickly detouring to visit the new mother horse.
Jimmy soothes the beast. One nail’s loose; I work it free with my pocket-knife. Inside the horseshoe’s hole, metal glints.
In the kitchen, Mort’s brewing coffee, pours four mugs.
“Kicked their sorry keisters off of my farm. Told ‘em they weren’t welcome back,” says Mort, blowing steam off of his coffee.
“Lemme guess – Jane hired them?” I press.
“Nah. My farm. I hire; I fire. She recommended them, though. Very experienced horsemen, supposedly.”
“What about those two Sicilians?” I describe, unmasked, the thugs what jumped me – Wolfman, then Cow-head. I was out cold while their identities were still hidden.
“Hum. Hardly got any labouring work outta them, but they sure looked after the horses. Blacksmith has a forge at the Troc track. Did all my shoeing. His little buddy, a gun with a lasso. Any kinda rope-work.”
I request a piece of rope or twine. Mort has both close at hand.
“Perfect,” I say, tying a quick double sheet bend. “So, knots like this?”
Mort frowns, turning my knot over in his hands. Gives either end a tug. The knot holds.
“Yeah, I reckon so.”
“Good. You’ll wanna re-shoe all your horses. Use a different blacksmith. Have Sergeant Kieron Parnell of the Metro Police supervisin’ proceedings. This lot ain’t boy-scouts; there’s only one place they tie these knots.”
“The docks?” Asks Jimmy.
“There was plenty of sailor-talk from them,” admits Mort, as Vickers, refreshed, lopes into view, swoops onto his coffee.
“The docks, yeah. We gotta particular ship we need to check on. But we’ll need backup. Thanks again, both of you. Hope neither of you are mixed up in with what Jane does in her spare time. She’s bad news.”
Next morning, we’re in our office, waiting on the word.
“What odds you make it, Gabriella and Garry’s still alive?” Jimmy’s mouth’s sounding optimistic, but his brain’s keener than that.
I shake my head.
“Me too,” he whispers.
“Garry’s only chance : if’n he ain’t spilled his guts on how he fixed that race. Gabby : well, Star Dancer’s her horse to begin with.”
“We’re sure he did it?”
“Must’a been him. Still needed that inside man, though, with access to horses and equipment.”
Alice, our secretary, knocks on the office door, sweeping in and out. “Messages.”
Like the slips of paper blew themselves in, without ever touching human hands.
“Parnell,” I read. “And Frankie Fellini. Overtime tonight, Jim? Could be rough.”
He smiles, slow. Wouldn’t have it no other way.