Read Angel Food and Devil Dogs Online

Authors: Liz Bradbury

Tags: #Gay & Lesbian, #Literature & Fiction, #Fiction, #Lesbian, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Romance

Angel Food and Devil Dogs

BOOK: Angel Food and Devil Dogs
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~Contents~

Angel Food and Devil Dogs

 

As private detective Maggie Gale works to prove the innocence of a mentally challenged pinball wizard who's been arrested for murder, she is called to college president Max Bouchet's office to discuss the suspicious suicide of a gay professor. There, Maggie shakes hands with the attractive Dr. Kathryn Anthony, who smiles at her with a faint but unmistakable touch of lust. Maggie is hired and meets a collection of quirky suspects, one of whom might just be a murderer. Maggie's humorous and caring friends and family support her as she works against escalating danger, and toward escalating romantic encounters with Kathryn. Will Maggie untangle both mysteries? Will the sexual tension swirling around Maggie and Kathryn pull them together? Or will the murderer target Maggie before she gets either chance?

Chapter 1

"Maggie Gale," I said to the prison security guard. Attorney Sara Martinez and her law partner Emma Strong followed me through the check in. They both greeted the guard by name and got a genial response compared with the flatline I'd received when I'd flashed my private investigator's license. When I'd been a cop, I knew everybody at the jail, but those days appear to have passed.

"In here," Sara said, leading us into one of the lawyer/client conference rooms. Sara Martinez is my younger sister. Today though, she was my boss.

Fenchester City jail smelled of disinfectant, sweat, and despair. Not necessarily in that order. With a table that looked like it had been clawed by wild animals, this room sported the additional aura of raging fear. We sat and waited in plastic chairs.

Sara and Emma looked crisply professional and at the peak of fashion, even under harsh fluorescent lights. I was wearing a polo shirt and jeans. My private detective undercover uniform and what I wear most days, whether I'm working or not. I'll never reach the peak of fashion. I don't even know where the flatlands of fashion are. But I was fairly sure the fluorescent light was making my pale skin look as green as my eyes.

"You've known Mickey for a long time, Maggie, but I don't think you understand how hard it is to get a direct answer out of him. He's sweet and gentle but he's kind of a problem child," said Sara.

"He's accused of rape and murder, Sara,
problem child
is an understatement," I countered.

"But he's innocent and that's what you're going to prove, right?" asked Emma. She took off her glasses and eyed my shoulder bag with the same eagle gaze that made tough witnesses cave on the stand.

I'd called them to meet me at the jail because I had some new evidence. Emma and Sara were two of the sharpest lawyers in Pennsylvania. Mickey would never understand how lucky he was to have them on his side, and pro-bono no less.

Emma said, "I just got the notification that his arraignment hearing's next Monday. That gives us six days to get the charges dismissed or at least get him out on bail."

"I think I've found something to punch a hole in the prosecution's case." I pulled a large manila envelope from the bag and laid it on the table.

"What?" asked Sara, her dark eyes flashing with excitement. "Is it good? Tell!"

But I was interrupted by a guard leading a thin childlike man into the room. Mickey Murphy pushed his matted blond hair away from his face. His eyes were red and swollen, his nose was raw from sleeve wiping. According to a social worker's report, he'd been crying almost constantly since the police had nabbed him. He was in serious trouble. Just two weeks after he'd been
transitioned
from a halfway house for adults with mental disabilities into his own tiny apartment, his next-door neighbor, a young social worker named Daria Webster had been found dead. She'd been raped and strangled. Circumstantial evidence tagged Mickey as the prime suspect.

When Mickey looked up and saw Sara and Emma, a happy smile transformed his entire presence. He was more than just relieved to see them, he was thrilled.

"Hi, hiya, hi!" he rapid-fired loudly.

"Do you remember us Mickey?" asked Sara gently.

"Huh? Oh yeah, yeah... She-ra and Wonder Woman? That's right... right?" he said wrinkling his brow, then grinning.

Sara and Emma weren't fazed by Mickey's obtuse identifications. It's just my opinion mind you, but Sara, while hot looking in her own right, doesn't favor She-ra, and Emma, while also quite fine, wasn't exactly wearing a star-covered body suit.

Sara explained, "Mickey likes cartoons, he likes people to call him Mickey Mouse." She turned from me to Mickey, got his full attention, then said deliberately, "Mickey, this is Maggie Gale, you've seen her before, she's our... your private detective. She finds out things. She's helping us with your case."

"Maggie Gale? Gale... I can name you Storm, cause Storm is a superhero and helps people. She-ra and Wonder Woman are the best superheroes and they are like, the best lawyers right?" He pointed at Sara and Emma with both hands. They glanced at me and couldn't keep from smiling at my incredulous expression.

Sara said smugly, "She-ra is the protector of Eternia, you know."

"Oh, right, of course," I snorted softly.

Mickey was mulling over my new moniker, looking down at the tabletop. He said to himself, "Storm... from the X-men, but there's another superhero named Storm, he's a man, he fights bad guys, but he likes girls, do you think people might get them mixed up?" Mickey looked up with a puzzled face.

"Perfect," murmured Sara.

Emma said, "You know what, Mickey? Maggie fights bad guys and she likes girls, so I think it would be OK if you call her Storm even if people get the two characters mixed up. She has to ask you some questions and you need to answer very carefully."

Mickey nodded seriously, turning in his chair to me.

"I hear you're a pinball wizard, Mickey," I said simply. His comfortable expression stiffened to wariness.

"Um, yeah, so?"

"Mickey, she's on your side, like Storm. OK?" said Sara, who probably also wanted to say...
so
?

"Yeah, Storm." Mickey was nodding, paying full attention again.

"The police say that the day Daria died, you had a lot of bruises on your legs. Remember?"

I was hoping Mickey would recall the day of the murder, when cops interviewing the neighbors found Mickey's door standing open and him hiding in his underwear in the corner of his tiny bedroom. The cops had seen a dozen finger and fist shaped bruises on his thighs and figured they were defense wounds. They pressed Mickey and he'd blurted a vague confession.

Mickey looked at me sideways and finally squeaked, "I don't... but I didn't hurt Daria. I would never hurt her."

Everyone who knew Mickey felt he was innocent, but prejudice against people like Mickey outweighs the opinions of friends. The public was desperate to feel safe, so Mickey had been arrested.

The fight for Mickey's freedom rapidly became an uphill battle. Mickey told Sara and Emma that he couldn't remember the day of the murder at all. Which was probably true, because while his cognitive ability fluctuated between an 8 to 12-year-old level, Mickey's extremely selective memory was that of a child of 4. He retained certain items with incredible clarity, but he forgot scary things he didn't want to remember.

"Look at this." I put a flyer from the envelope on the table. It was an advertisement for the pinball convention that had been in the middle of downtown Fenchester the day before the murder. Then I pulled out two eight by ten glossy photos. One showed rows of pinball machines set up at the convention. The other featured a single blazingly ornate machine. Sara and Emma stared at the pictures. Mickey's eye glazed over with toy lust.

"Did you play these machines?" I whispered. Mickey stared at the pictures and then slowly looked up at me. "This one,
The Slam-meister
? Did you play it?" I pointed to the picture of the four-legged electronic monster with five garish levels and ramps. Its name, lettered in flashing lights, glared off the page. "What was your best score?"

"Seventy-five thousand six hundred twenty points," Mickey rattled off, "the best score of anybody. I won, but I..." he froze.

"They told you at the halfway house not to spend your money on pinball machines, didn't they? They said you couldn't live on your own if you skipped work and used up all your money to play? Mickey, it's OK for you to tell us, it really is," I coaxed.

Mickey pushed his hair out of his eyes with his wet sleeve and nodded. Then he stared back at the machine. "I used to play at the bar on the corner, but they told the owner not to let me. This was different; it was only for one day. So many machines, and this one... nothing's like it, and I got the best score. I remembered I wasn't supposed to play. So I left, and then I forgot. I didn't want nobody to know I played the machines..." he said in a far away voice.

Emma said softly, "Maggie, what's the point of this?"

Sara leaned in, "He played the day before, not the day of the murder. We can't use this as an alibi."

"Yeah, I understand that," I said, "but look..." I reached into the envelope and took out five more photos. "I went to a pinball convention in York yesterday to get these. Everyone was packing up, I got there just in time." I put the glossy photos on the table. Three men and two women, each had towels covering their underwear, but the bruises on their upper thighs, in the shapes of fingers and fists, showed plainly. Everybody had at least a dozen of them.

Sara grabbed a photo and stood up. "These bruises are just like the ones Mickey had. The ones the case is built on. Are there bruises on their hips and stomachs too? Who are these people?"

"Pinball wizards. If you want to win, you can't just hit the flippers, you have to use body English, you have to nudge... well, you practically have to hump the machine. I've seen these people play. It's physical. Bruises from thigh to waist. It's an occupational hazard. Mickey played hard, he won, and he must have been bruised from it. Even if he can't remember, fifty spectators saw him get the top score. I have the names and contact information of a dozen people who were in Fenchester for the convention. They'll testify they saw Mickey play, and they'll also testify about the physical marks of pinball competition."

Sara nearly shouted with exasperation, "But why hasn't anyone come forward? All the newspaper articles..."

"Because Mickey used his pinball name, didn't you buddy, not Mickey Murphy, not even Mickey Mouse, your special name?" Mickey hadn't been listening to a word we were saying. He was still staring at the photo of The Slam-meister. I touched his shoulder. "You use a different name when you play pinball, don't you Mick?"

"Oh yeah, my pinball name. I'm Mighty Mouseman when I play pinball," chimed Mickey obliviously.

Sara and Emma slumped back in their chairs, their expressions showed unmistakable signs of relief. The unexplained bruises had even shaken their confidence in Mickey's innocence. That was all gone now. They were already recalculating their defense strategy.

"Mickey," said Emma gently, "do you remember now, the day the police came?"

Mickey looked up blankly. "Huh? Um, Chief O'Hara, Batman and Robin, and The Sandman... he's one of Spiderman's enemies, he shot me... I hate him..." Mickey trailed off.

"Nobody shot you Mickey. We want to know about the bruises on your legs, remember getting bruises on your legs from playing pinball?" Sara asked evenly.

"I guess that's what happened," said Mickey in his best effort to please. All of us looked at Mickey, each understanding that his defense would have to come from us, because he couldn't defend himself.

After a long moment, Sara and Emma stood up. This was the hardest part of their visits with Mickey. "Mick, we have to go now," said Sara in her softest voice.

"Can I go too? I really want to go home, please?" His desperation was painful to hear. Tears streaked his cheeks again.

"No, I'm sorry honey, but maybe in a few days. We'll work hard on it," Sara squeezed his shoulder. Mickey tried to look brave as we filed out. I saw Emma give him a tiny pack of Kleenex as I slipped through the door.

BOOK: Angel Food and Devil Dogs
10.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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