Over a breakfast of coffee and aspirin I glanced through the morning papers. Business had been slow lately, and I could use a new case. My funds were low, especially after the previous night. That Volare dame sure charges an arm and a leg for a drink. (At that thought, I double-checked my limbs; it wouldn’t have surprised me if Mrs. V. actually demanded an extremity. Fortunately for me, it seemed cash was good enough last night.) Nothing in the Steamlander jumped out at me. All was quiet it seemed. While that made me worry what was brewing, worrying wasn’t going to pay the bills. What I needed was something big, something juicy, something criminal. A client who paid up on time would have been a big plus. Pushing aside the Steamlander, I grabbed the Tattler, and there I saw it: “Theft, Murder as New Toulouse Sinks Into Swamp of Sin.” Sin I didn’t care so much about; they could do what they pleased in that department. And the cops didn’t much cotton to private dicks sticking their noses into murder. But theft – that was right up my alley. Theft tended to mean some cranky property owner who wanted his stuff back, and that often meant a reward. I read further.
Picking my way through the high-fallutin’ language in the piece, it seemed that a Mrs. Dubois got a box of jewelry ripped off, and was offering a reward. Rewards were good: I didn’t have to gin up a client, all I had to do was find the jewels to collect. On the same day, one Albert Caput – ain’t that a great name? – met his maker near a house of ill-repute. Coincidence? Maybe, but I didn’t believe in those kinds of coincidences. If I had to solve the murder to get back the jewels, well then, the police would just have to be a little understanding. I would try to stay out of their way and they could stay out of mine.
I stuck my battered fedora on my head, ignoring the fresh pain that caused, and threw on my coat and gloves. I filled my flask with a pint of rye and set out for N.T.
The tram let me off at Laveau Square. The bright colors dazzled me. If this was supposed to be Lent, what was Mardis Gras like? But I didn’t spend much time worrying about their souls, as I had a crime to solve. Besides, it was clear strong drink was no stranger in these parts. I thought we’d get along just fine.
I started at the Dubois house. It was a ritzy place, a right palace compared to some of the shacks in town. You could smell the money, as though the maid rubbed that scent right into the leather upholstery. I saw the empty jewelry box, sitting on the mantle. Stupid broads, I thought, giving the rest of us dames a bad name. Anybody could have taken the goodies from the unlocked box. Sheesh.
Figuring I wouldn’t get anything new from the house or the lady in it – Mrs. Dubois was still hysterical over the burglary – I moseyed to the police station to talk to the dick in charge. He wasn’t in, but he had thoughtfully left his notebook on his desk. No one else was around, so I snuck a peek at his report of the theft. Not much meat in that sandwich, it seemed. This Detective Montgolfier seemed distracted by something else. I was at a dead end. I took a swig of rye and thought about my next step.
Dead end - that was it! The very dead Al Caput. If I assumed the two crimes were related, I could start from that end, and hope it led me to the jewels. I moseyed to the brothel where his body was found. I met two working girls, one getting dolled up for the evening and one soaking in the tub to wash away the day’s work. The room stank of cheap perfume, sex, and desperation, but I wanted information so I kept it polite. [Editor’s OOC note: logging in on my second day of the hunt, I was on the balcony of the brothel and there were, in fact, two working girls in the room, one soaking in the tub. I apologized for the intrusion, but the girls were both gracious at the interruption and in character, so we had a brief but fun impromptu role-playing session regarding the mystery, though I was doing my Caledon Victorian thing, rather than the hard-boiled detective thing. Thank you, ladies!] They told me about one of their colleagues, one Emma, who hadn’t been seen since Al went kaput. Her cosmetics were strewn across a small table, so I poked through them while trying to shut out the talkative one, going on about how messy Emma always was, and the bathing one, whose attractive gams occasionally poked out of the bubbles and distracted me. One thing got through my ears, though: Emma had suddenly started reading a lot. That was interesting. Must be something behind it, I thought. I tipped my fedora to the girls and let myself out.
One clue led to another, and, before long, I was piecing together the story. And what a story it was! In the end, I had the jewels and then I had the reward. [Ed: Well, come on, how fair would it be to go through each of the clues?] Solving the crime felt good. Having money in my pocket again felt better. I flagged down a gypsy air cab. “Steam Sky City, if you please. The Green Fairy pub. I have a rematch with an absinthe bottle, and I don’t want to be late.”