Hard-Boiled Amateur Sleuth, Episode Eight

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 3, 2019

Murder at the Edge of the Orient, Episode Eight

Higa directed traffic with his service weapon. “So you killed the Captain and his lover, right, boy?”

Jimmy implicated himself with a hangdog drape. “He deserved it.”

“What are you doing here, Master Sergeant Higa?” I asked. “Something convinced you less than an hour ago I was the shooter. You’re like a dog who can’t find a bone.”

Higa chuckled with the warmth of a burnt out wood stove. “I figured on finding the culprit here. Traditional police work. I call it stakeout.” He waited for our applause. 

I kept it in my pocket as a passive taunt.

The cop in him tired of waiting. “It’s a good day. Catch the killer and lock you up as an accomplice.”

“I don’t want to be your accomplice.”

Higa flared with anger. “I’ll just shoot you in self-defense and take the youngster in alone. How’s that, smart ass?” 

The flash of arrogance cleared it up for me. Higa didn’t know I had the pictures. He came to the hotel because he was the killer. Which meant he was looking for evidence that might incriminate him. “Why did you kill them, Master Sergeant Higa?” 

“Look, Pa, no weapon.” I lifted my jacket tails. 

“If everyone had a gun,” Higa offered, “we could set up a triangular Mexican standoff.” 

My heart shuddered at the image. A small step placed my body in front of Higa to hinder his access to Jimmy.

He tipped the pistol to align with my chest.

I used his defensive tack to pull him further off balance. “So you were in love with Sharon? That your motive?”  

Jimmy stepped into my shoulder. “You murdered my father?” 

I moved sideways to block him from an easy shot.

“What do you care who shot the bastard?” Higa’s indifferent Asian mug shifted toward the disgust. “Way I hear it, he left you to die on a dusty and deserted trail in the hills of Virginia. Might be, a thank-you card is more in line than accusation.”

I braced my shoulders for Jimmy’s advance. “That your brand of confession?”

Jimmy poked his chin higher to speak over me. “You shot him? That was my job. He abandoned my mother. Left her to waste away on meth. Let her live her life as a whore.” Jimmy’s voice cracked. He swallowed the memory. “You yanked revenge out of my hand. Not yours to take. Not for some sad sack broken heart.”

Higa bristled. Everywhere but his eyes. Widened pupils and swelled ocular blood vessels exposed tenderness. A weakness I hadn’t expected.

“Hurts don’t it, Master Sergeant?” I declared. “You kill people, there’s a price to your soul. Didn’t reckon that in your plan, I guess.”

“Hearts get crushed,” he countered. “That’s the name of the game. Somebody loves. Somebody cries. Somebody fires a shot. Death comes early.”

“Spoken in the words of a true sociopath.”

“Or a cop who’s been around the barn.” 

My breathing had slowed. Jimmy’s chest kept cadence against my back. 

Higa stood as rigid as a stone-carved Shitake samurai. His pupils constricted.

My hackles stood to attention and my ticker thumped with the energy of a trapped stallion. On instinct, I twisted hard, jacking my left elbow high behind me. The movement caught Jimmy and shoved him onto the bed.

The 9mm bullet from Higa’s Baretta cut the air we’d abandoned and lodged in the wall with a thud. 

My ears held the explosive discharge with boxing gloves. 

Higa’s lips flapped with the zeal of a cursing outlaw.

My wide kick landed at his knee. I snagged at the gun barrel as he tipped sideways. Residual heat seared highly valued skin. My yelp vanished under a second muffled blast, chasing flame and smoke from the gun’s tip. 

When my eyes found Jimmy he was already bleeding. Agony stretched his expression into a grotesque mask.

“You idiot!” I screamed into the gallon of water that filled my head. 

Higa’s dumbfounded look made it apparent that shooting us was not in his design.

“You saw her meeting with Jimmy,” I shouted. “You followed her and thought she was taking up with a kid, no older than your daughter, and it sickened you. Your jealous heart couldn’t stand the rejection.”

I knelt on the bed beside Jimmy. Blood covered the left side of his shirt to the fourth button. I grabbed one of the small decorative pillows and held it on the wound. “I hope you’re a righty, pal. That wing won’t be worth a damn for a while.”

My hearing cleared enough to pick out the beginnings of a confession.
“It’s too late for me. Lori…. I got nothing else.”

Higa too busy talking to catch it. “You don’t know a damn thing, Pierce. I wasn’t stalking her—” 

“Shut up, Higa. You shot a boy to cover your tracks.” I said the words, but other wheels were turning. “I have evidence of you watching her.”

It shut his mouth. A glance showed me his defeated slouch. My brain wrestled the other idea, trying to pin it to the mat. Lori’s interest in Jimmy. Her vendetta with her husband. Sending me on an errand and following me to the rendezvous.

“Get on the horn and call an ambulance,” I told Higa. “You don’t want this boy’s death on your hands.”

He limped to the phone, mumbling. “Don’t die you little shit. I still need your confession.”

Higa was babbling in Nihongo when Jimmy stammered through tears, “I didn’t mean to see him dead. Why couldn’t he just admit I was his son?”

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