Chapter Thirty Four

St. Louis, 8:33 a.m.


Estelle, with Dee Dee in tow, threaded her way through the city to the Police Station. A small line of people had already formed at the front desk despite the early hour. The Sergeant dealt with them one by one in an official and detached manner.

An excruciating half of an hour passed before they stood directly in front of the policeman.

“Sir,” Estelle said calmly, “we are here to speak to those in charge of the murder investigation at the levee this morning.”

The sergeant did not look up from his paperwork. “That is impossible, Ma’am. They are interrogating a suspect at the moment and cannot be interrupted.”

Estelle blustered, “Suspect? You already have a suspect? Who is the suspect, may I ask?”

She knew full well who their suspect was, for when Romeo opened Smitty’s earlier that morning and found Pie’s body, he went to report it to the police and never returned. Dee Dee came to her in tears, barely able to relay the news, but Estelle assured her that by the day’s end, she would find a way to get her father home.

Finally, the sergeant’s distant and unconcerned eyes rolled up to meet hers. “I cannot tell you who the supect is. I told you it was an open investigation.” He looked down at Dee Dee and some recognition dawned on him when he saw her. “The man we have is being interrogated and even when the detectives are finished, no one can speak with him, so you may as well take this little girl on home and go about your business.”

Estelle protested as politely as she could without offending the sergeant, but he was setting like concrete. Then he saw one of the detectives assigned to the case and called him over, “Quinn! This here lady wants to speak with you about the murder on the levee.”

The red mustache meandered over with an air of irritation. “Yes, what is it?”

The desk sergeant waved Estelle and Dee Dee out of the way. “Next?”

They walked to the detective, Quinn, who was leaning with his right buttock on a low wooden rail that ran the length of the room, separating the riff from the raff.

He looked tired. His hands rested upon the top of his calf and Estelle hoped that Dee Dee did not notice his bruised knuckles—or at least did not understand what they represented.

“What do you want?” he asked gruffly.

“We would like to know what has happened in the investigation about the murder.”

“Why, I cannot speak to you about that,” he said with an imperious snort. “What does this have to do with you, anyway? Did you know the victim?”

“No, but this is the child of the man who reported the crime, and—”

“I thought as much,” he said as he glared at Dee Dee. “You know your daddy is gonna be in here a long time? Why don’t you tell your mammy here to take you on home and we’ll let you know when the trial is set.”

“Don’t speak to her like that! You are a horrible man!” Estelle said, dragging Dee Dee from his line of fire.

“Her?” Quinn scoffed. “Sure looks like a little n_____ boy to me. Anyways, this fellow is being questioned and ain’t nobody talking to him but us, so you all just run along.”

“But he did not murder that man!” Estelle protested. “He only came here to report a crime and now you hold him without a hearing or legal representation and . . .”

“You may think that, but we don’t know that,” the detective said. “We got enough to hold him and, until he tells us what we want, he ain’t seeing nobody. I have things to attend to, Ma’am, so good day.”

Without further niceties, the man stood, pushed through the gate in the railing and strode away.

Dee Dee squeezed Estelle’s hand so hard, the knuckles of both their hands cracked. “Estelle? What can we do? Daddy is sure to be blamed for this, but he did not do it. He also thinks whoever really done murdered Pie is like to be after the boys and Emma.”

“There, there, little Dee Dee, you mustn’t worry,” Estelle said as she clung to the child on the worn limestone steps of the precinct house. “I know it sounds hopeless, but I think I know of someone who can help. Matter of fact, I think she is the only one who could help, but I am afraid of the price she must be paid . . .”

Estelle took the small white card from where she had it tucked in her sleeve.

Alexis Free. Detective. Liberty Investigations.

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