Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #14

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“David’s problem is that he’s too insecure,” said Michael.

At my suggestion, my assailant’s boyfriend had dressed himself before we got into the serious questioning. I figured it would make him more comfortable. Helping me to maintain my own focus was a purely secondary consideration. I set my phone to record audio and then placed it on the table between us.

“He’s always worried that people will think he’s dumb. So he doesn’t speak up and then people take advantage of him.”

I nodded sympathetically. On a personal level, I wasn’t feeling too sorry for poor, insecure David Barty, but you don’t discourage someone who’s feeding you information.

“When we met, he was doing muscle work for some real bad news crews. He was depressed, and thought that was all he was good for. But I saw this spark in him.”

“Uh-huh,” I said, smiling through gritted teeth. “I know just what you mean. Who were these crews he worked for?”

“There’s this guy based out of Little Narnia. Has a whole little empire smuggling in contraband from other worlds and stuff.”

Now we’re talking, I thought.

“I don’t know who actually runs the whole thing, but David got his jobs from this really sleazy guy named Eduin.”


“He spelled it with a ‘u’,” Michael clarified. “E-D-U-I-N. But pronounced the same. Kinda cheesy. Not sure what his deal is exactly, but he’s got pointy ears, super-skinny. He’d be hot if he wasn’t such a slimeball.”

“Sure,” I said, trying to stay cool. The over-eager fisherman scares away her catch. “Think he might be an elf?”

Michael nodded. “Yeah, might be. I didn’t ask. Always tried to avoid him as much as I could, but I met him a couple of times with David.”

“Where’s this guy hang out?”

“He runs a club. Crossover. Gets a mix of people from other worlds and locals who want to meet people from other worlds, if you follow me.”

“I think I do,” I said. “I’m guessing this place might sell a lot more than drinks, once you get into the back room?”

“You guess right,” Michael huffed. “At first, David said he was just working security, like a bodyguard or a bouncer. But sometimes he’d come back with bloodied knuckles and he wouldn’t want to talk about it.”

“Do you know if this Eduin character ever used a robot? Remote, like a drone?”

He frowned. “A drone? No. Definitely not this guy’s style. He didn’t even have a cell phone.” Then his eyes widened. “Wait, there was this one guy…”

We were interrupted by the sound of a key in the lock. I cursed under my breath.

The door opened and David Barty entered, holding a bottle of wine. “Michael! Are you here? Can we talk…”

When he saw me, sitting at his dining room table, his jaw dropped, and so did the wine. Luckily for their security deposit, it just thumped onto the hardwood floor and rolled away.

The look on his face turned on a dime from stupefied to enraged. “What are you doing in my apartment?” he roared.

I hopped out of my chair and retreated, putting the dining room table between us.

Michael stood as well. “David, calm down.”

“What did you tell her?” His face was very red now, complete with bulging vein on his forehead. I will not pretend that I was not terrified. I can be a scrapper, but trapped in a small, private apartment, with two guys that had eighty pounds on me, each, was not a situation that inspired confidence. I backed up another step, bumping up against a display case.

Thankfully, my good old mouth’s instincts kicked in.

“Hold it there, Mr. Barty! You don’t want to do that.”

“Oh yeah?” He laughed, advancing another step. “And why not?”

Good question, I thought. Then I had it.

Taking a step to the side, I placed both hands on top of the display case behind me. “We wouldn’t want a rain of froggies now would we?”

I gave the case a shake, to show I was serious, and several of the tiny figurines wobbled. One of them, a little frog in a raincoat, tipped over.

His eyes went wide, and the blood drained out of his face. “No, don’t!”

I reached into the case and grabbed the fallen statuette. “Very cute,” I said. Holding it up to the light, I examined the base. “Oh, and a limited edition too.”

He held up both hands, as though he were placing them on an imaginary table. “Just put down the frog, and I’ll let you walk out of here.”

“I don’t think you’re in much of a position to negotiate, Mr. Barty,” I said. “After all, this is just one frog of many.” I gestured to all the other cases. “You strike me as a man with a lot to lose.”

“David!” Michael shouted. “Just listen to what she has to say!”

Barty was still breathing hard, coming down from the burst of adrenaline, but he nodded.

“Okay. First,” I said. “You have a seat.” I pointed to the chair that I had so recently abandoned.

While he sat, I moved around toward the door. “Now it just so happens that you’re a lucky man, Mr. Barty,” I said. “Not only have you got a boyfriend looking out for you, but turns out, you didn’t let your boss down today after all.”

He furrowed his brow. “What do you mean?”

“Well, after you let me trick you onto the train,” I said. “You were just so mad that you hunted me down and intimidated me. Even though you and your buddies all got caught on the security camera, names and faces, you convinced me to recant my statement and drop all charges. Eduin ought to like that, don’t you think?”

Barty remained silent, but I detected the glint of hope in his eyes. I grabbed a dish-towel off the counter, and wrapped the raincoat-frog in it. “Now this little guy is coming with me, as a token of our new friendship. If we’re still friends in a week or so, I’ll see that he finds his way home. You understand me?”

He nodded, his jaw clenched. He gasped as I dropped the frog into my pocket, and then closed his eyes, nodding again. “Yes,” he said. “I understand.”

“Good,” I said, opening the front door. “I’m glad that we could come to an agreement.” I started to slip out the door, but then spotted the dropped bottle of wine. “I’m taking this too,” I said, grabbing it off the floor. “You two have a lot to talk about, and you should probably do it sober.”

With that, I closed the door and then exited the building as quickly as discretion would allow. Once on the street and around the corner, I sat on a stoop, opened the wine with shaking hands, and took a long swallow without even looking at the label.


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