3 – The Beach House
The shower felt so good that I stayed in until the hot water ran out. I shaved with cold water in the steamy bathroom. Not the best circumstances, for sure. I pulled out my cleanest suit from the closet and put on my most boring tie. I didn’t want to give those goodie-two-shoes the wrong idea. It felt like this was going to be a two pack night so I grabbed a couple boxes of Camels out of the carton and filled my flask with scotch. If all they had was wine at this place, I’d be screwed.
I pulled my jalopy out of the garage and headed out of the city. It would take about forty-five minutes to get to the beach if there was no traffic, but who the hell was I kidding? Of course there would be. I listened to some music that seemed to match the rhythm of my windshield wipers, keeping the mist from my vision. I hate commercials, so when they came on I switched it to the talk radio station. Doing that almost turned my stomach. I had to listen to the new D.A. talk about how he was going to clean up the city. Liar. The only thing he was going to clean up was the cash that would be filling his bank account. What a damn crook.
I pulled up to the beach house about an hour later. I was real pissed by that point. Traffic is not my favorite thing in the world. The house was huge; one of those modern types of places. I had a shock at the door when it opened to a short hunchback in a tux.
“Good evening, sir. You must be Mr. Bradshaw. Ms. Masters is waiting for you. Can I make you a drink?” he said.
I chuckled. “Scotch?”
He bowed his head. “Right away, sir. Ms. Masters will be with you momentarily. Please wait here.”
The foyer was quite the spectacle. You could tell that Elizabeth Masters liked to make a killer first impression. High ceiling, paintings that probably cost more than I’ll ever make. A giant chandelier. She knew how to spend money, that’s for sure. No different than most dames I know.
Elizabeth walked in with her arms out in a disturbing (I’m sure it was supposed to be welcoming), way.
“I’m so glad you were able to make it.” She kissed my cheek (which I wasn’t expecting), and then was about to show me out of the foyer, but the creepy little butler came back with my drink.
“Here you are, sir.”
I took it gladly.
“Thank you, Ernest,” she said. “Please see to the guests.”
“Yes, Ms. Masters.”
After he left the room, I said, “Cute guy.”
Elizabeth slapped my arm. “Stop it. Ernest is amazing. He has been with me for years. Now, enough with the funny business, let me introduce you to my guests.”
“I would rather take a look at those death threats.”
“Oh!” she seemed surprised. “Okay, follow me to my office.” We walked down the longest hallway that I had ever walked. I couldn’t hear another soul in the house which struck me as funny since somewhere in this huge place, there was a party going on.
We finally made it to her office and she walked behind the desk. The place seemed to be made out of solid mahogany. Real nice. Bookcases full of books and framed pictures of Elizabeth on her world travels with the rich and famous.
She pulled an overflowing file out of one of the drawers and let it fall on the desk with great thud. The folder it was in could hardly hold the bundle of letters together. “Is that all? I thought you said nobody liked you.”
“Very amusing. Let’s be quick about this, please. I have guests, you know?”
“I’ve heard.” I scanned through them as quickly as I could while trying to still file them away in my memory. There were quite a few that I could tell came from the same person; those, I put in a separate pile. “These ones here; do you have any idea who these are from?”
“Do you think they are from the same person?”
“Seems so. They’re all long winded like this looney is more interested in being heard than anything else.”
“Well, that settles it then, this is the one who tried to kill me.”
“No, I don’t think so.” I scratched my head while thinking.
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because if you die, who the hell would this person complain to?” I lit a cigarette. “How often do you get the letters like this?”
She shook her head and shrugged. “Maybe a couple times a week.”
“I’ll look into it further, but I think that whoever this is, is a dead-end.”
A letter caught my eye. This one was very different from the others. It didn’t go into any great detail about anything. Didn’t blame Elizabeth for exact things. It was very vague. “What about this one?” I handed it to her. “Why don’t you read it for me?”
She took it and swallowed hard. “You tell, you die.”
“Every other letter here is threatening you about something that you already said in your tabloid. This one here, this one is trying to keep you quiet. This person is of the belief that you know something that you haven’t spilled. Maybe it’s something too dangerous to spill. Do you have any idea what this means?”
“No. I really don’t. You see, I hear so many things that could be real or not, that is hard to know what to print without proof.”
“When did this one come?”
“Whoever wrote this; this is the person who made an attempt on your life.”
She looked as if she had seen a ghost, then, in an instant, pretended like nothing happened. She neatly placed the letters back into the file and then back into her desk. “Really, we must go and mingle with the guests.”
“Sounds good. Any of these people suspects?”
She laughed. “That’s why you’re here, darling.”