Chapter Five, Part 2
She jumped as I cleared my throat, then forced words up it. “Tell me what happened here,” I growled, wondering what story she’d formulate. If I knew her name, it stood to reason I knew she hadn’t been here ‘for hours.’ I could only hope her lying words would be easier to get my head around than all the possibilities hinted at by her pleading eyes.
“Oh, it was horrible! I was—asleep—when a scream woke me. It was Birgitte, our maid.”
“Your maid lives with you?”
Mallory Bahnhof spent a half-second calculating, then shook her head. “No, but since Herbert disappeared”—that she managed with absolute assurance—“I asked her to stay, nights. I—I was afraid. And now—now look what I’ve done to her!” My client forced tears into her eyes. In seconds she’d be drying them on my coat—dames seem to take my outsize duds for the world’s largest handkerchief. I’d soaked up an ocean of tears in my day.
“What have you done?”
“Why, I’ve killed her!”—And there they came, streaming down her cheeks. She buried her face in my coat.
“There, there.” I barely tried a soothing tone. We silverbacks rule by fear and intimidation, not soft words and gentle caresses . . . though I was tempted to run a finger through her hair. “Tell me the rest. What happened after you woke up?”
“I heard Birgitte scream,” Mallory snuffled into my coat, “and then the sounds of—of struggle. And I—I—”
Again she threw her head back, and this time the moon gave her gaze the power of a jackhammer. I flinched in spite of myself. “I’m not brave, Mr. Kong. I know I should have—have rushed down to help, or called the police, but I—I climbed out the back window and let myself into the alley. I hid in the shadows until the . . . screaming . . . stopped, then crept around and saw the front door open. I didn’t dare go in. I’ve been hiding ever since.”
Apparently my client would have me believe she slept in the clothes she wore when calling at my office. And that she would cower in the shadows of her own violated place of residence rather than run for the nearest copper. She related this story with more than a straight face. Her features were wrecked by an assumed grief, the cheapest false beard-and-mustache disguise over the truth. Either she assumed a big ape was too dense to grasp the finer points of a tall tale, or else she assumed I knew so much by now I would assume she was lying no matter what.
—And yet, for whatever reason, I played along. “And your maid is still in there?”
“I don’t know,” she whispered. “I told you, I haven’t dared—”
“Right. You’ve been hunkering in the shadows ever since. All right; let’s take a look-see.”
I crossed the street. Mallory gripped my trenchcoat, stumbling along behind. I ignored my spine’s objection to the idea of my squatting to peer into the doorway. Before I’d bent my knees, a curtain parted from the window above the door. A tommy gun poked out, its barrel a foot from my eye.
“Don’t move, Kong,” slurred a voice devoid of any recognizable human emotion. “This thing might not pierce that hide of yours, but I doubt you want to take one in the peeper.”
Check back next week for the continuing saga of King Kong: World’s Biggest Dick!