Hard-Boiled Amateur Sleuth, Episode Nine

Written by Mark Wm Smith

An overeducated, blue-collar cowboy, Mark Wm Smith grew up on along the banks of the Yellowstone River in Eastern Montana. Raised by a long haul trucker and a bartending waitress, Mark learned the hard ways of the modern frontier, scraping life from the unforgiving high chaparral.

March 10, 2019

Murder at the Edge of the Orient, Episode Nine

Lori Bennett stepped through the door.

I cringed, expecting a scolding over my misuse of the ornamental pillow.

“Oh my God!” she screamed, running to the bedside and pushing me down. She kneeled, holding Jimmy’s head between her palms. “My poor boy. My poor sweet child.”

“Keep pressure,” I insisted, shoving the makeshift compress at her.

Lori grabbed the pillow, blood smearing her hand, and reapplied it to Jimmy’s wound. “What have you done?” she howled.

“Higa did it!” I launched a finger of blame with the vigor of a five-year-old.

The walls shivered at Lori’s wail. “You shot my poor boy!”

“The gun went off,” Higa whimpered in a pitiful version of his drawl. 

Lori’s maternal preservation charged through his authority. “How could you shoot a child? Pig!”  

“I only meant to scare them. Besides, it was Pierce’s fault. He—”

I took advantage of his faltering command. “You shot Jimmy to make him look guilty.” A rising tide of personal guilt spurred my accusation. “When you saw Sharon rejecting you for a boy, you killed her. You followed her and shot her in the head. I have proof.”

“There was no intent to shoot anyone,” Higa stated, the southern pulse flattened by legal culpability.

“Stop talking, Garth,” the voice of Logan Pasfield echoed from the miniature stairwell. “Higa didn’t sleep with Sharon. I asked him to follow her.” 

“What’s that, Master Sergeant Higa?” I asked, the frustration squeezing furrows into my brow. “Have you learned to throw your voice? I swear I heard Captain Pasfield try to convince us you’re innocent.”

Logan pushed his way around his sidekick. “Sergeant Higa wanted to help me. It kept me out of the picture.”

“Literally,” I said. 

Pasfield offered me his upturned palm. “Those photographs won’t help you, Sergeant Pierce.” 

I pretended not to hear and locked eyes on my prey. “You hired him, Logan, sure. He took advantage of that. The Lost Texan, all saddled up with righteousness comes to your aid. But he bought a ticket to ride the train of broken-hearts with the rest of us. Only, he couldn’t handle it. So he killed her.” 

The gun in Higa’s hand trembled. “You don’t have to cover for me, Logan. This yay-hoo has wrapped it with a second-rate hog-tie to throw suspicion off the kid,” he spewed out with the drawl-setting dialed to ten.

“Oh yeah,” I said, fumbling around in my memory for the argument. “How about that Heckler & Koch MK 23? Who has one of those? Policeman, that’s who.”

Higa held the 9mm Baretta higher. “This is my weapon, Airman.” 

“Your only weapon, I’m sure.” Shame for getting the kid shot made the blame game increasingly difficult. I shifted tactic. “You wouldn’t use your own gun, anyway. Seems like you also got to the scene before the Prefecture cops, Higa-from-Balderdash.”

“I’m from Garden City.” He stabbed at me with his gun hand. 

Pasfield pushed the pistol barrel south. “Garth. Let this go. The Prefecture will be here in a hot second. They can handle it.” 

Higa let the senior agent peel his white knuckles from the gun grip.

More shooting might have pacified my rousing sense of stupidity. Another person bleeding out the compassion for their bungled sleuthing. Instead, my ears detected the rising sound of those comical British police sirens stolen by the Japanese for Jackie Chan movies. Their pained yowls made me realize the complexity of my confusion.

Jimmy groaned. “I killed them both,” he mumbled into the alarm undulations that had taken over the room.

“There!” Higa shouted with glee.

I clenched my fist for the punch to his face.

Pasfield stepped closer. “Is that a confession, Jimmy?”

Lori Bennett shifted position to block Pasfield’s advance. “I will not let Jimmy take responsibility. He didn’t hurt my husband. My husband hurt him. Jimmy’s suffered enough.” 

“What are you talking about, sister?” I could barely contain the flood of hysteria at one more actor on the stage. Sharon would love this. A true Shakespearean tragedy.

 Lori began a rapid-fire disclosure. “I stole Biff’s pistol and followed Connor. He was easy, still caught in that stardust web Sharon cast around with the mastery of a fisherman hunting tuna. All I needed was the dirty little sex motel my bastard husband was using for his trysts.”

My addled brain wanted to stop her and tell her she’d used the wrong phrase.  Jimmy was the bastard. Biff only acted like one.

“Everyone will think I killed him for jealousy, for sleeping with a whore.”

Logan Pasfield clenched his jaw but held his ground.

“My reasons were nobler. He abandoned his baby boy. Left him and his mother to die on the streets. They didn’t have a chance. It was a miracle of God Almighty that Jimmy survived. Living with junkies while they used his mother as a sex toy so she could buy drugs to feed her habit. Watching psychopathic pimps beat her nearly to death for their twisted entertainment. Left with God knows who whenever she entered rehab after rehab only to be booted out because she had no insurance and no money. Meanwhile, Biff played drinking games with his frat brothers and screwed anorexic cheerleaders. His Cruella DeVille of a mother poured tens of thousands of dollars into legal teams whose sole purpose was to deny Jimmy’s existence. High-dollar subterfuge meant to keep her precious shooting star from scandal after he fathered a son out of wedlock with an emotionally tortured young woman.”

“They did that?” I asked.

“Things I didn’t know,” Lori said, her voice trailing as she touched her cheek against Jimmy’s blanching forehead. “I didn’t know,” she said to Jimmy. “My poor baby boy.”

That’s when it hit me. Her commitment to Jimmy. A commitment she planned on taking to the gallows. Their apparent connection transcended a woman without children helping a child without a mother. 

I started to say it. “You’re—”

“He was a shitty man, my husband.” Lori lifted her emboldened stare to AFOSI Agent Logan Pasfield. “But I married him. I married him to find Jimmy.”

Logan’s befuddled stare matched the feeling of the group. “What are you talking about, Missus Bennett? Did you kill him? Did you murder my wife?”

“Oh, I shot him. Yes. I shot him in his dick that skirt-chasing shit heel.”

I pushed for a turn. “You married him to find Jimmy. Because he—”

“Killing him helped us all,” she exclaimed over the noise of ambulance and police sirens arriving just outside. Doors slammed and Okinawan professionals charged the entrance, their combined boots and chattering voices crowding our cozy space with pandemonium. “That worthless piece of garbage who called himself a law enforcement officer abandoned my sister to die and left her son without a mother or hope or opportunity. All so Biff Bennett could play Ivy league soccer.” She actually spit on Pasfield’s mirror-shined boot toe.

“Killing Sharon didn’t help,” Logan said.

“She was collateral damage. I couldn’t leave a witness. Anyway, her beds were made.” 

“And now Jimmy,” I said. “Alone again.”

Lori was crying for Jimmy’s forgiveness when the local Police dragged her away.

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  1. Gail

    Another Interesting but unusual story from Mr Smith, with unexpected twists and turns in every paragraph. I needed to read this through twice to follow the convoluted threads.Well done. But surely the past tense of ‘drag’ is ‘dragged’, not ‘drug’, in the last sentence?

    • Mark Wm Smith

      Nice catch, Gail. thank you for the feedback.


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