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Christmas Noir: Day 17

I can never remember the name of any one Chinese restaurant, I have no idea why. The names simply go through one ear and flutter out the other without ever so much as landing in my memory. I can tell them apart by seeing them, so it’s not like they all look alike to me, it’s just their names all sound alike to me. It is for this reason that I cannot tell you the name of the restaurant that I was in, besides the very basic fact that they serve Chinese cuisine, and do it more or less for the local Asian population. This being only the second restaurant I’ve seen in my life that actually serves frog, I must assume they do not have the pallets of the honkey population in mind. They are, however, wonderful cooks of magnificent food.

Noonan sat across from me and we passed a few words of greeting before the waitress took our order. When she had gone we began to actually talk about things that mattered.

“So what have you found?” He asked as he sipped his water.

“Well, it’s only partially what I’ve found.” I said. “And partly it’s what I didn’t find.”

“Okay.” He said shrugging his shoulders. “I’ll bite, what didn’t you find?”

“I didn’t find Christmas’s ring.” I said.

“Which ring?” He asked as the soup came.

“The gold ring she wore on her right hand.” I said, watching his movements. “Gold, two emeralds and a ruby.”

“I’m sure it was just left off a record or something.” He said taking a spoon full of the soup.

“No.” I said shaking my head. “Smith said the ring wasn’t in property, and it wasn’t on her finger in the hospital.”

“Someone stole it?”

“Only if they could cut it off or manage to carry a lot of lubricant with them. That ring never came off. Maybe it got stuck one day, or she just never took it off and her hand grew around it, but that ring just wouldn’t come off that finger.” I leaned back in my chair and looked at the worried face he made for a slight moment.

Maybe he didn’t know he’d made it, or maybe I extended a tiny micro-expression out several seconds, but something in him knew he was caught. I wasn’t sure of what he thought he’d been caught at, but he thought he’d been caught at something alright. I decided to see how much of it I could get him to admit to by just being quite for a while.

“You think Smith might be mistaken?” He asked.

“Do you?”

“No, probably not.” He just sat there and looked at his soup for a while, finishing it as the waitress brought our meals.

I decided that if he was going to suddenly go nuts and shoot me, he probably would wait until I’d finished my meal. It is for this reason that I decided to spoon out some of the white rice and a healthy portion of the pepper steak over it. If I was going to be shot to death, let me at least waste a lot of food while dying. It might seem noble to let a man die on a full stomach, but I can’t help but feel that you’re wasting good food.

“So if the ring is missing.” I said, “Where is it?”

That guilty look crossed Noonan’s face again, and I knew we were going to come to it pretty soon. He set his fork down and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand before taking a drink again.

“I don’t suppose she took it off a day or two before, maybe to get it cleaned or something?” He asked.

It was beyond pathetic, he wasn’t even really trying. He was just trying to stall me now, I let my face show my reaction to his suggestion. It was clear from his look that he had expected me to react in that way, if not more negatively than I actually had. I think he was relieved that I didn’t stab him in the hand with my fork or anything.

“No.” I said shaking my head.

“No,” He said with a smile. “I didn’t think you’d allow that.”

“You were right.”

“I don’t know.” He said.

“Did you find the wallet on her?” I asked.

“No.” He said, looking down at the plate of food. “One of the patrol guys who first got there found it.”

“I see.” I said, training my gaze on him like a laser, or as close to one as I could come without actually transmitting anything from my eyes, which gather light instead of transmitting it.

“They must have made a mistake or something, maybe it was a card case or something.”

“You sure it wasn’t a second wallet or anything?” I asked sliding my hand into my pocket.

“Huh?” He asked too quickly.

“Nothing, just trying to figure things out.” I said tossing the subject aside with my right hand while slipping an object up my sleeve with my left. “Do we have any leads at all? Even a single suspect worth talking about?”

“Church.” He said with a shrug. “We’ve got a whole bunch of stuff we want to talk to him about.”

“Yeah.” I nodded, realizing for the first time that there was a railroad with Church’s name on it. “I’ll bet.”

“You done then?” He asked, and I knew he was talking about more than food.

“Yeah.” I said, deciding that if I was going to go down I didn’t want to waste any more food than this.

He pulled a hundred dollar bill out of his wallet and stuck it under the little soy sauce carafe that sat on the table. That was a nice little incentive for anyone to make sure that they didn’t see anything. I got up from the table slowly, and I knew that he wasn’t going to let me get behind him. We walked out of the restaurant nodding to the wait staff as we walked out into the newly snow covered parking lot. The tracks my car had made driving in here were gone, covered by the new fallen snow.

Everything was so very quite, as it always is during fresh snow fall. I’ve heard that new snow absorbs sound, and I wondered how much sound it could absorb. How far would the shot that Noonan was getting ready to put in my back travel. I heard the sound of a hammer being pulled back and stopped in my tracks. I knew that it was just about time. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get to use the fancy trick up my sleeve or not.

“Turn around.” Noonan’s voice was as cold as the snow that was currently building a tiny drift around my shoes. “C’mon. I don’t want to shoot you in the back.”

“Should I put my hands above my head?” I asked. “Or would that make it look more like you’re shooting a man in the act of surrendering?”

“I don’t want to shoot you at all.” He said as I turned. “I just want you to lay off the ring. Just help me pin it on Church.”

“Church didn’t do it though.” I said placing my hands on top of my head anyway.

“Does that matter?” He shrugged as if to say that it would just be another naughty deed done to a naughty man in a naughty world. “He’s done plenty.”

“How do you intend to make half of this stick in court?” I asked and then realized that was a very dumb question. “You’re not going to let him get that far.”

“Come on Jack.” Noonan said looking slightly embarrassed. “Put your hands down.”

My right hand took the end of the strap poking out of my left sleeve as left hand pulled away from my head. There is a way of looking like you’re not moving very fast while moving very fast indeed. Mostly it’s all about keeping your face completely calm and not looking at your target. I had to trust that his gun hand was where it was when I last glanced at it.

Fortunately the gun was where I thought and as my left hand slapped it away my right hand swung down with all the speed I could muster to bring the sap across the side of Noonan’s head. The lead weight connected and Noonan spun in a circle as he fell to the snow covered ground. He collapsed flat out on his face, splayed in such a way as if he was expecting to make a face down snow angel. I grabbed his gun and slipped it into my coat pocket, I decided that any persuasion I was going to do would be done with the sap.

It only took him a moment to come back from the depths of unconsciousness, and he started to get up with a groan. I let him stand up, which he did by leaning against an old Chevy’s bumper and pushing himself up. He was standing after a moment and looked around for his gun, figuring out where it must be after he saw that I was still there. He looked confused for a long moment, trying to figure out why I didn’t just flee after assaulting a police officer. I must admit I wasn’t completely clear on this point myself, but I figured the best way to figure it out was to stick around a while.

“What’d you hit me for?” He asked gingerly touching the growing bruise on the side of his head. “I wasn’t gonna hurt you.”

“Yeah.” I said, trying not to swing the sap again. “I of course know that I am in no danger every time some one points a gun at me. Sure sign of a balanced mind, aiming firearms at people.”

“I was just making sure that we understood each other.” He said swaying slightly.

“I think we understand each other.” I told him, pulling his gun out of my pocket and wiping it off with my handkerchief. I wasn’t sure why exactly, but I didn’t want my prints on the gun.

“Yeah, well.” He said panting heavily as he tried to stand strait.

“Yeah.” I said Tossing the gun back to him. “Now let’s talk about why rings and wallets get you to pull guns.”

He looked at the gun in his hand and then the shots started to ring out. I thought at first it was Noonan shooting at me, which explains why I dove to one side and lay down between two cars. It wasn’t cowardice, just a mistake in who was shooting. Five shots cracked across the parking lot, proving that you could hear shots even in fresh snow. Noonan fell to his knees and then collapsed in a heap on the ground, face down on the ground again. I pulled the Marley out of its holster, but I when I tried to figure out where the shots came from I was sort of at a loss. I looked at Noonan, decided on a direction and then looked that way, but there was no one there.

It’s fairly likely that whoever had shot Noonan had done what they’d come to do and faded away into the night. I got up and ran towards the back of the building, five spent shells sat in the snow near the curb and there was a smell of gunpowder, but no shooter. The snow showed some large boot tracks, but the prints looked like some one shuffling, as if they were wearing boots too large for them and were trying hard not to let them fall off.

I looked around the ground, and saw the place where a car had driven away, but the tire tracks were meaningless to me. All I saw was that a car had driven the shooter away while the cracks of the gunshots still hung in the air. I pulled out my cell phone and dialed a number, holding the phone up to my ear.

“Smith?” I asked and waited for a confirming voice. “Noonan’s been shot, I think we need to talk. I do believe I have found a clue.”

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