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A Bier for Baby

By Dean Evans

She was all woman, and knew it. As gorgeous a babe as ever got caught in a murder web. . . .

CAPTAIN HART slammed the phone back into its cradle. He cursed and glared over at Detective Lieutenant Sammy Gomez, seated at a desk across the office.

"Another killing," he growled. Gomez blinked. His dark brown eyes looked old, parchment old, as eyes sometimes can. "Cain's unwanted legacy," he said quietly. "Each day brings murder." He smiled a little at that. "Prose," he explained.

Hart grunted. "This killing?" said Gomez. "Yeah. This killing. A bawdy house—in front of it, I mean. North Angeles Street. Four thousand block. You probably can't miss it, with a corpse and all hanging out in front. Hop to it." He looked down, dismissing Gomez, then suddenly looked up again. "And boy? A suggestion. A light little paddy on this one might be indicated. The joint belongs to G. Llewellyn Phipps."

"Phipps?" asked Gomez.

"Yeah. It ain't exactly on his letterhead, so go easy."

"Councilman Phipps?" Gomez was staring.

"Yeah. Why the surprise? Everybody in the department knows about Phipps. He's got fingers in a dozen pots."

"Everybody but one," corrected Gomez. "I hadn't heard of it." He looked down at his hands and slowly began to rub the fingers together. "I went to high school with his wife," he said softly. "Laura Mang, she was then. Seems a long time ago."

"Well bless my soul," said Hart. "A memory tucked away like a pickle in a bottle of brine. Maybe when we get over it we can trot out and see about this killing, huh?"

THERE was a corpse, the usual thing. It was a man, head jammed down on the concrete in front of the steps of the house on North Angeles Street. It was no extraordinary man, just a man. About five eight and a half. Dark hair with shots of gray above the ears.

Gomez stood against an iron rafting that went up the steps. He waited until the M.E. had finished and cocked an eye at him. Then he went down on the concrete with the dead man again.

"A little messy, whoever did it," commented the M.E. "Through the left eye. There's a swell term for it, if you care to listen."

Gomez eyed the doctor, said, "No," briefly, and went to work. There was a wallet, and in it a little money. Identification in the form of a little packet of business cards. Driver's license made out to the same man.

Gomez stood again. A couple of cops were shoving along late pedestrian traffic. Wooden- faced, businesslike, as though this thing happened everyday on their beats. Some of the more curious—or avid—of the passersby suddenly remembered they hadn't lit up a cigarette for days. One asked detailed directions about reaching a street in a distant part of town. And then didn't listen. Secondhand thrill seekers. Gomez sighed and went up the steps of the house, knuckled the doorknob and entered.

The room had a wall-to-wall rug of undertaker gray. Against the back wall was a small bar. The other walls were ringed by long sofas, the kind you separate and make corner chairs with. Small wall fluorescents here and there. Long coffee tables in front of each and on them arty magazines. Six or seven big ash receivers.

"You're wanting me, I suppose," somebody said.

Gomez turned. The woman facing him was in her late forties. She was large and tall at the same time. Her hair was a blond compliment to the shop that had rinsed it last. Her skin was getting to the point where it needed tucking here and there. She wore gold-decorated glasses.

"Madame," said Gomez. His lip curled. The woman ignored it. "A break for the papers," she grunted. "Nine juicy days of scandal. And the usual pain in the abdomen for us. Okay, come along. The girls are all up back."

Gomez stared at the woman. Just like that? A man is murdered outside on the steps and we treat it just like that? He ran his tongue over dry lips and remembered Capta...

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