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LSS: The Last Word



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Mon Apr 25, 2022 3:30 am
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looseleaf says...



Aloysius wasn't particularly happy about interviewing Sullivan. He was rude and uncaring, the exact two characteristics Aloysius hated most when dealing with people. This meant he had to approach questioning Sullivan carefully. If Aloysius scared him off, he wouldn't answer any more questions the group had again.

So, as soon as Aloysius arrived home that evening, he pulled out a small, yellow padfolio and began writing down questions. Simple ones like Were you and Grant close?, Did Grant talk to anyone especially?, and Did you ever see Grant do anything suspicious? Yet, every simple question led Aloysius to think of another one and, soon enough, he had two and a half pieces of paper filled with potential questions. Aloysius knew he couldn't pull out the notepad while he was talking to Sullivan. That would give away the purpose of the conversation. But, it helped him get his thoughts together, and that was better than nothing.

Aloysius was already up and going early in the morning. He wanted to get this over with. Aloysius called Raymond before he left to update him on the case so far. They agreed to meet at some bowling lanes later in the weekend. Then, Aloysius grabbed the small notepad and left his apartment.

"Busy day ahead, Mr. Mills?" Mr. Thompson asked on the way down the elevator.

"Pardon?"

"You seem nervous. Do you have a busy day ahead of you?" Mr. Thompsons repeated himself.

"No, not busy. I have something I'm probably more worried about than I need to be," Aloysius shrugged, "But, hey, I've got to do it."

"Well, I wish you luck," Mr. Thompson said as the elevator doors opened in front of them.

Aloysius thanked him before exiting the elevator and making his way to his car. He drove to the nearest subway station and parked before riding down to the speakeasy. Aloysius greeted Madeleine.

"Sullivan here today?" he asked her as she opened the door.

"Yes, I believe he's manning the bar."

"Thanks."

Sure enough, Sullivan was sitting behind the bar, newspaper in hands. A few early risers were sprinkled throughout the speakeasy, sadly sipping on strong drinks. Aloysius walked over to the bar and sat on the opposite side as Sullivan.

"Hey, Sullivan, my man. How are you?"

Sullivan just grunted in response.

"Great.. well, I'll have a Bass Ale. Do you want something? You can probably drink because there's not many people here."

"Why are you being so nice, Louis?"

"It's how my mother raised me," Aloysius retorted.

Sullivan scoffed and poured their drinks, picking the most expensive one for himself. This time, a dollar hardly covered the whole bill.

"Say, how much do they pay you here anyways?"

"What's it to ya?" Sullivan almost yelled.

"I was thinking about your old accountant. Grant, was it?" Aloysius asked.

It looked like the gears were turning in Sullivan's head. That's why Aloysius was being so nice to him. He wanted answers to questions.

"Yeah, Grant. Nice kid. Went to college.. somewhere."

"It's too bad what happened to him. Did he have a family?" Aloysius further questioned.

"Everyone does."

Aloysius rolled my eyes, "I guess so, but some people are closer to their families than others."

"Grant didn't talk anything about his family. He had some sort of relationship with that Madeleine girl at the front desk, but I don't know much about it."

Aloysius nodded and sipped his drink. This was fascinating. How come the Priest didn't mention Madeleine?, "Did she come here recently?"

"I don't know, a while," Sullivan said. Aloysius opened his mouth to ask another question, but Sullivan continued, "Look, Louis, that's basically all I know. Doyle and him seemed to talk a lot. I think Grant had some gambling problems or, at least, he was always looking for more cash. Wanted to be famous, but don't we all?"

"I suppose so, yes," Aloysius drank the rest of his beer, then held out his hand. Sullivan hesitated before shaking it, "Thank you for this. I know Grant's death isn't easy to recall."

"Believe me, it was easier than you think," Sullivan said, "I wasn't close to the guy."

Aloysius nodded and excused himself. Before he left, Aloysius stopped at the front door and turned to Madeleine.

"I'm sorry about your fiance," he said. The girl seemed surprised and didn't respond. Aloysius smiled awkwardly before leaving. He was going to head home and call Raymond (or Raymond's neighbor) immediately. Hopefully, he was free for bowling today.

751 Words





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Sat Apr 30, 2022 8:49 am
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MailicedeNamedy says...



Sophie wasn't sure how long she would have to wait until she met the others again. Actually, she knew. It was still a few days, but it was more the time she had to bridge until then. What could she do? Sure she had a lot of unfinished business she could do, from cleaning to going to visit her sister, but any thought of doing anything unrelated to Grant gave her a thread of distaste, so for the first day after Melvin's interview she just sat there in her flat, staring out the window.

She felt more like a supporting character in a far too large play in the meantime, watching all the beautiful and optimistic people going outside, enjoying the sun and the rain that fell as the day progressed. She felt a creeping coldness wrap itself around her body the longer she remained in her rigidity on the chair, her thoughts like a ball of wool not coming apart but the thread straying deeper than she would have liked. And then, at some point, when she awoke from her cryostasis for a brief moment, she didn't even realise what exactly she had been thinking to fall into this kind of melancholy.

It wasn't until the next day that Sophie ventured outside and tried to enjoy the brief shiver that came over her as she crossed the streets, deeper into Chicago, not knowing exactly where her feet were taking her. Again, she was guided by her subconscious and she didn't realise how biased it made her seem, crossing street after street like a puppet, not knowing where she was going.

In those hours that day, she was a little clearer in her mind, continuing to be lost in a fog, but that fog became clearer with each minute she recalled what life had been like before Grant and the others. It helped her for brief moments to return to her old life and her attempt to paint something.

In the evenings she began to draw some sketches and come to terms with the fact that she wanted to paint something new. The soft strokes, combined with the short blobs, made the sketch a wondrous jumble, where Sophie recognised a mysterious, fairy-like forest a few times, and thought it gave her a scene she wanted to draw.

As the first mixtures of colours began to infest the canvas, she was sure in her mind that she was going to paint something that no one else had done before her. Beyond the night, already almost late afternoon the next day, Sophie had created a background that she liked. But she couldn't be happy about it for long, because a little later she collapsed in her bed and slept soundly.

***

She had written a letter. At first, she wasn't sure if it would be too impersonal, but in retrospect, she was convinced it was the right thing to do for now. She had really wanted to visit her sister, but the dream that night had taken away that desire, almost like a kind of prophecy. Her dream, or rather nightmare, had surrounded her like a snake and almost devoured her as she watched Luise being shot by Liam before her eyes and she stood alone with her nephew while Liam continued to grow, like a parasite, thinking he was a boss of a city-wide crime ring.

When Sophie woke up - it was before dawn - she felt as if this had all happened and it gave her the fear as if she could be the next to be killed. It was nothing new for her to see some kind of future in dreams, so she spent the morning thinking about how she could barricade her flat door so that no one could get in. She even thought that it would be useful to make a small crane using a basket and rope to get food out of the window.

But she quickly forgot about this when she got the idea to write a letter to her sister. She spent almost three hours composing the few lines, explaining to Luise that she would not be able to visit her sister for the next few days, but that she had often intended to do so, but that her life was taking up too much of her time. Sophie wished her sister all the best for the future (which Sophie paraphrased several times so as not to sound too ominous) and hoped to see her again soon. As she wrote, it occurred to her to see her sister as a kind of Rapunzel, trapped in her tower, but free. Luise just didn't see the freedom she possessed. At least that was Sophie's view.

A short walk to the post office gave her the fresh air and clarity that she didn't have long to wait until she could meet the others and was also already prepared that her questioning hadn't yielded many results.

Sophie just had to hope that Liam wouldn't directly recognise Sophie's handwriting and thus suspect something. At the same time, she didn't really know who went to fetch the mail every day and wished for the optimistic side. After a long walk, Sophie returned to her flat, where she could admire her new painting for the first time, sober and well-rested. But then suddenly she wondered whether it was right to paint a forest of metal trees, robotic-looking people without emotions and dead-looking skyscrapers, because it seemed a bit too dystopian and would probably also look a bit threatening and frightening.

In the end, Sophie was sure that this painting would be a masterpiece, even if it would probably only be noticed when she was long gone.

(957 words)
Reality is a prison and time is its guard

I´m just a random girl with gentle manners

Every bad voice in your head was once outside

Under supervision of Lehmanf, Swan Keeper, since 2022





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Mon May 02, 2022 2:07 am
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Plume says...



Julian didn't have time Saturday night to check the books, and he ended up back home late. It was one of those unusual Saturdays where Doyle had him at the keys for most of the evening. He churned out a few slower pieces as the activity wound down, finally leaving the speakeasy around one in the morning.

He pondered the books as he walked home. While he normally would have been glad to have the extra playing time, if he'd been stationed at the door, he could've snuck away and gotten a peek at the books (and maybe even taken them with him, to pass the hours between customers).

His thinking took him all the way through the walk back to his apartment. He entered as silently as ever, though right as he was about to enter the room he shared with his siblings, a whisper cut through the silence.

"Julian."

Julian gasped, letting out a muttered Jezus! and grasping his chest. "You surprised me."

The grim face of Filip Latkowski was silhouetted by the faint light from a streetlamp outside. His mouth was downturned, and though it might have been the low lighting, Julian thought he looked more disappointed than normal.

"You are quite late, Julian," his father whispered in Polish. "I do not understand it. Surely your job ends much sooner?"

"I'm late every night, tata," Julian replied in English. "Or most nights, at least."

"Your mother doesn't like seeing you so little."

He shrugged. "I'm sorry. I can try and talk to my boss, but I don't know." He paused. "You know we need the money."

Filip nodded. "I do, Julian. I—and your mother—only wish it didn't come at this cost."

Julian moved closer to his father, sitting down. "How are the kids?"

"Fine. They miss you, though."

"I miss them more." Julian glanced at the closed door behind which they were all sleeping. "I'll see them in the morning, I promise."

"Aleksander misses his older brother a lot," Filip continued. "He looks up to you, you know."

He shouldn't, Julian wanted to say. He knew his father was probably thinking it, too. Instead, he asked, "how is school coming along for him?"

"He enjoys math," his father said. "And Morela says the teachers adore him."

Julian smiled. He could picture his brother's sandy hair and freckles, his quirked smile and upturned nose. "An engineer in the making, perhaps. Or a politician?"

His father chuckled. "Perhaps. I only thank God he chose not to follow your footsteps with the piano. I remember how much he loved hearing you play." He turned to Julian. "I am so glad you have a job at a pharmacy. We'll make a hardworking man of you yet."

Julian smiled weakly. It hurt to hear his father talk about him like he was proud. He hated lying to his father, but how else was he to balance his family loyalty with his love of piano? He loved both too much to give either up, but it felt like tug-of-war sometimes.

"You have the pharmacy. There is still hope," his father continued. He muttered it like a proverb, like he had to convince himself his eldest son still could be formed to his liking. Julian could barely make out his father's smile in the dim light, but he could hear it in his voice. He bit his lip, standing up.

"It's late. I'm tired. Dobranoc, tata," Julian said. "I'll see you tomorrow."

584 words
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Mon May 02, 2022 3:21 am
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Elinor says...



Caroline walked home that night thinking about how strange the conversation with Madeleine had been. It was a warm night, exactly the kind that you imagine when you think of a perfect summer night, exactly the kind that would make you forget that autumn would soon descend over the northern parts of the country, winter following close behind.

She had a weird feeling about Madeleine, about how standoffish she was, and how someone so beautiful could be so bitter. Caroline was almost certain that something more might be going on, but then again, if her fiancé had just been murdered in strange, unclear circumstances, and no one seemed to care, Caroline wasn't sure she'd want to discuss it with a stranger either.

Still, if someone had come to Caroline and said they wanted to find the truth about what had happened to Julian, she would have taken them up on the offer, and not cast them aside. Either way, it was worth bringing up to the others when they met again on Tuesday.

***

When she entered the boarding house, Emma, of all people was sitting in the living area. She was in her nightgown and drinking a cup of tea. Caroline sighed. She wasn't exactly in the mood to talk to Emma right now, but she supposed it would be inevitable if their friendship was worth holding onto.

"Hello," Emma said. "What have you been up to?"

"Not much," Caroline replied.

"It's a warm night. Thought I'd enjoy it while it lasts," Emma continued, clearly trying to keep the conversation going and avoid any awkwardness that had run so strong between them of late.

Caroline resolved that she was going to change into her nightgown, make a cup of tea for herself, and would join Emma in the living room. They were in the midst of quiet hours at the boarding house, so they could continue to talk as long as they kept their voices low.

Shortly thereafter, Caroline upheld her promise and joined Emma in the living room with a cup of tea. The drink was comforting, relaxing and a welcome change from the alcohol she'd consumed more frequently as of late.

"Listen," Emma said. "Things have been different ever since I picked you up... well, before that, really. Ever since I ended things with Ray, you haven't been the same."

Caroline nodded. "That's true."

"What is it? I'd like to help," Emma said in a kind, sincere tone.

Caroline composed herself and took a long sip of her tea, needing to find the strength for this moment. First, her past. "You're right, things haven't been the same. To tell you the truth, Emma, I didn't just move to Chicago. I ran away from my family. They don't know where I am or if I'm even alive, probably."

Emma gave her a look.

"Do you want to know the reason why?" Something inside of her, a gut feeling, Caroline supposed, trusted Emma enough to tell her about Julian.

"If you want to share," Emma said.

"Two summers ago, I fell in love with a colored boy. My mother and father found out, and they told me that he... had taken advantage of me, you know. That wasn't true. That's what they told everyone. And they lynched him. He was our age."

"Oh my god..." Emma said quietly.

"Do you remember the first time we went to the Vanderbilt, when I had trouble catching my breath and you had to get me water?"

"Yes."

"He worked at the pharmacy in town. I was reminded of him," Caroline said flatly. "Then, we went in, and I forgot about all of that. But now I feel my past catching up to me. I can't forget it anymore, not when I feel just as miserable in some ways."

"Caroline," Emma started.

"It's not wrong to love a colored boy, is it? He was the kindest, sweetest... if he'd been white, my mother and father would have said he was a perfect match for me. His color doesn't say anything about the kind of person he is. That might be a radical thing to believe, but-"

"Caroline," Emma repeated. "No, it's not wrong. Thank you for telling me."

"The world is a cruel place, I'm realizing that more and more with each passing day. I think the idea that any of us can be happy, that we can have the life we want, it's a pied piper. It's not true."

"I wouldn't put it that way," Emma said reassuringly.

Caroline finished her tea. "I'm going to bed. Thank you for understanding."

She still hadn't said anything about Grant, but that would be a conversation for another night. She embraced her friend. It was nice, reassuring. The world may have been a cruel place, but she was supposed it was worth sticking around for the others in it.

While it took her over an hour of tossing and turning before she fell asleep, eventually, she did sleep soundly.

805 words

All our dreams can come true — if we have the courage to pursue them.

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Mon May 02, 2022 4:18 am
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looseleaf says...



"Woo!" Raymond's raised his arms in celebration. He had gotten another spare, meaning Aloysius was down 78 to 23 and they had only been bowling for twenty minutes.

Aloysius left the Golden Vanderbilt a couple of hours ago. First, he stopped at his apartment and called Raymond. Raymond jumped on the chance to go bowling today instead of tomorrow. He said it was because he wanted to avoid chores around the house, but it was mostly because Aloysius offered to drive him to their baseball game afterward.

"I wouldn't have invited you bowling had I known you were so good," Aloysius said, taking a swig of his Hires root beer. He would have prepared a beer or some sort of alcohol, but Raymond never drank. Frankly, Aloysius wasn't even sure if Raymond knew what a speakeasy was. Maybe it was for the best. Drinking as much as he did was ruining Aloysius's liver and mood when he wasn't at a speakeasy.

"You are just a sore loser."

Raymond walked back to the couch in front of their lane and sat down as Aloysius grabbed his bowling ball and stood.

There were three lanes in the bowling alley. It was on the first floor of a two-story building that had an apartment on top. Raymond had discussed moving into the apartment one day, but it was outside of his budget. Aloysius couldn't understand why he would want to move on top of a bowling alley where music was constantly playing and pins were constantly falling over.

The walls on the inside were brick and the lighting was a dim yellow. A bar that used to carry alcohol had been refitted to serve sodas and hand out shoes, but was still decorated like an old pub. Brown couches sat at each lane, each with a couple of bowling balls and a table to place things on.

"So," Raymond stuck a cigarette in his mouth and fished around for a match, "Do you have any updates on the case? Your acquaintance's murder, I mean."

Aloysius shushed his friend. A woman walking by their lane looked at them weirdly.

"I'd rather not make the fact I'm involved with a murder public knowledge," Aloysius said. After Raymond nodded, he turned around and haphazardly threw the ball down the lane. One pin. One pin, "You have to be kidding me."

"It's not so bad," Raymond said before Aloysius flung the ball down the lane again. Two pins, "You've got to be kidding me."

Aloysius laughed at himself and sat back down on the couch. After drinking a little more root beer, he turned to his friend and started explaining the developments made on Grant's case. They talked in a whisper, which may have looked strange to the other people in the building, but Aloysius refused to take any chances.

"..turns out Grant was the fiance of the girl who works at the front desk. Julian, who also works there, w-"

"Jesus Christ, Lou, how many folks work at this pharmacy?" Raymond asked.

"Quite a bit. Ten, maybe?"

"Ten people? You are describing this place as a quaint, family-owned pharmacy. No small pharmacy has ten people working there. Besides, you have not even mentioned an actual pharmacist."

"Well-" Aloysius started, but Raymond interrupted.

"Aloysius, be honest with me," Raymond said, "You're not really going to a pharmacy every week, are you? You smelled like booze when you walked in."

So he did know what a speakeasy was.

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Mon May 09, 2022 3:57 am
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looseleaf says...



Scattered applause sounded as Julian let the last note of a jazzy tune linger. Giving a slight smile to the middling crowd, he tried to fan himself surreptitiously. Even though the speakeasy wasn't as crowded as it had been, the weather outside had been sunny, and, as a result, the room felt about ten degrees hotter than normal.

He scanned the crowd, searching for Aloysius, Caroline, or Sophie. There wasn't any sign of them yet, but hopefully, they'd come soon. He was curious as to what they'd discovered. Hopefully, it would be more interesting than what he'd gleaned from Doyle.

After dabbing his damp forehead with a handkerchief, he turned back to his sheet music and began to play once more.

***

Sophie was prepared for Tuesday. She didn´t yet know exactly how she wanted to report her sober success, especially because it was so optimistic of her to even consider her interrogation a success. At the same time, she was ready to hear what the others could tell. Compared to last time, it was far too hot, but at least Sophie remained dry until she got to the speakeasy. At least that was her intention, but she hurried so much that she arrived partly sweaty and cursed herself for being in such an exaggerated hurry. And that was only because she didn´t want to take the train.

She stopped in front of the pharmacy and thought about what was to come. Then she remembered that there was no correct time and that she was only there by chance. But Sophie hoped that she was not the last one like last time...

Hamilton was standing behind the counter and seemed to be taking inventory. It looked as if he was scribbling something on a sheet of paper, counting the many round glasses and containers that stood behind him. He almost didn´t notice Sophie. Only after clearing her throat a few times, getting louder and louder with each time, did he notice her and she gave the code. She was finally able to enter.

Sophie looked around, but she didn´t see anyone yet, except Julian, who was still playing. And of course, all the other people, of whom she had no names. Sophie strolled to the bar, where Melvin was already greeting her.

"Another interview today, Sophie?" he asked.

"No. Not today. Just a drink, please."

"The usual?"

"Yes, please," Sophie replied.

For Caroline, the entire day had moved at a glacial pace. Her first day back at work the day before had moved along surprisingly without a hitch. She'd moved through the day barely thinking about the Golden Vanderbilt, Madeleine, Grant, or her past at all. After work, she and Emma had even gone to a movie. That night, she'd gotten her first good night's sleep that she had in a long time.

Still, Tuesday, she's woke up with an anxious feeling in the pit of her stomach, and everything soon came rushing back. But she showed up, punched in, and did her work. She found herself Before long, it was time to go to the Vanderbilt to meet the others. She wasn't sure why she was nervous.

As she walked in, she went to the bar to get a glass of wine, where she saw a familiar face.
Sophie, who'd just been handed a drink. She was looking in another direction and didn't see Caroline, so there was a part of her that hoped she'd say hello first.

In the meantime, Caroline got Melvin's attention and ordered a glass of red wine. Her eyes drifted over the piano, where she saw this Julian. She figured his shift must be ending soon and he'd join them.

Sophie, looking at a painting, did not notice how Caroline had joined the bar. When she glanced past in the mirror for a moment, she caught Caroline and inevitably had to turn around to at least not appear rude.

"Hi," Sophie whispered, raising her glass, "How are you?"

"I'm alright," Caroline responded. By then, Melvin had given her the glass of wine and she took a long sip. "Long day at work."

"That sounds exhausting. Does that happen often?" Sophie asked.

"Every day," Caroline said with a shrug. "It's the nature of my work."

"Where do you actually work?"

"Frederickson Textiles. I operate one of their looms," Caroline said flatly. "It's not very exciting."

Sophie was sure she had heard of the company before or at least read about it. But there wasn´t much she could do with it and she couldn´t give any advice either, so she remained in a stupor and thought hard about what else she could say to keep the dialogue alive.

"How... how would you try to make your work exciting then?" Sophie asked.

"I'd do something else."

Sophie couldn´t imagine doing anything else, even if she didn´t always know what exactly she was doing, but it left her wondering if it was right to pursue her dream, or was the dream chasing her?

"What would you like to do?"

It took Caroline a moment to process the question that she had just been asked. It had thrown her off guard because no one had ever really asked what she wanted before. Maybe that was why she'd been so unhappy.

"Oh..." Caroline started to trail off. "I suppose I'd have to think about it."

The truth was that she had thought about it, but she hadn't shared it with many other people. Really, she hadn't shared with anyone. Still, she didn't know what harm it would do, and she thought Sophie might understand, since she was a painter. "I sometimes dream of owning a clothing shop," she said quietly. "Just a small shop. I imagine it on a street corner somewhere."

Her eyes got misty as she thought about a hypothetical future where that dream was a reality. It was better than what she, what they all were currently dealing with, that was for certain.

At that point, Aloysius entered a while after Caroline. The subway was horribly hot. While he didn't mind the heat when he was playing baseball or swimming, he hated walking around in high temperatures in normal clothes. Aloysius had taken off his jacket, which was now slung over his shoulder, but he was still sweating profusely. Hoover immediately noticed Aloysius when he walked into the pharmacy and seemed to latch onto him. Hamilton tried to scare Hoover away by yelling at him, but Aloysius assured him the dog wasn't a problem. With that, Aloysius hung his jacket on the rack near the door and made his way to the bar.

After he met with Raymond, the weekend had been a blur. Raymond was extremely disappointed in him for drinking. He came from a family with strong morals and who actually cared about obeying the law. Aloysius, on the other hand, absolutely did not. He tried his best to smooth things over with Raymond. He didn't want to lose another person who was important to him.

Caroline and Sophie were gone by then (although he spotted them across the room), so Aloysius quickly ordered a beer without talking to anyone. He scratched Hoover's head while he waited.

Julian glanced up once more after he finished playing. Thankfully, he caught sight of Aloysius at the bar, and Caroline and Sophie appeared to be chatting not to far from him. Shrugging off his jacket, he slid off the piano bench and went to go join them. As he grew closer, he noticed that there were actually four there. Hoover had found a way in, and seemed to be circling Aloysius' feet.

"Hello," he said as he approached, motioning to Melvin to make his usual. "Shall we find a table?"

Caroline had been lost in thought, and as such had taken a moment to process that they were all there. She picked her glass of wine up and held it in her hand. "Yes, I think that would be good."

Sophie agreed after greeting Julian to find a table.

Julian waved to Aloysius, motioning to a table, and the five of them (Hoover included) made their way there.

"How were your weekends?" Aloysius asked as he sat down.

"Mostly uneventful," Julian replied.

"It was alright. Not too exciting," Caroline said.

"Too warm," Sophie complained, "I couldn´t sleep."

Julian murmured in agreement. After a few beats of silence, he glanced around the table, almost reluctant to bring up the whole reason why they were meeting. "So... how did the... uh... interviews go? I don't think I got much good information from mine, but Doyle did give me permission to look through the books. I haven't yet, but I will soon, just to see if Grant might have left any clues."

Caroline spoke first. "Um... Madeleine didn't talk to me too much. She tensed up. Got really tense and awkward. I guess I came across kind of suspiciously."

Only hesitantly did Sophie try to put her words together and express her opinion with a brave flair. Meanwhile, Hoover just snuggled up to her legs, where Sophie was about to show off her anti-Hoover facial expression, but then remembered that she still had to say something.

"I only learned that Melvin believed Grant had a family. So not much, because we know otherwise," Sophie explained nervously, "Sorry, no luck..."

Sophie had started speaking before Caroline had a chance to say the main thing that she'd learned from Madeleine. "She did say, however, that she and Grant were engaged. Uh, that was a shock. But I don't know what it helps."

Julian, who had been taking a sip of a drink, sputtered. "What? Engaged?"

It cheered Sophie up a little to hear that at least Caroline had some information and the visit had been worthwhile. Still, it was a bit unbelievable.

Caroline felt her heart race as she recalled the moment. "I asked if she knew Grant, and she just said..." Caroline trailed off and mimicked Madeleine's soft-spoken, but cold voice. "Know him? He was my fiancé.." She reverted back to her normal voice. "That was when she told me I needed to go. So, that's all. The interview didn't last very long."

"Sullivan told me the same thing," Aloysius shrugged and took a sip of his beer.

Julian frowned. "Weird. I just... I mean. I guess I didn't know Grant that well, but I thought I knew Madeleine. I had no idea they were so close." He mouthed engaged? again like he just couldn't believe it. "They would have certainly made an odd couple."

"So, why did he proposition me if he was engaged?" Caroline wondered out loud to no one in particular.

Julian shrugged. "Don't know. Not very righteous of him."

"I got the impression she was telling the truth," Caroline said. "The thing is, what if I hadn't turned him down? What then. I feel so foolish."

"Don't dwell on it. You couldn't have known." Aloysius said, smiling at her briefly. He felt bad for her: she had obviously been torn up about the encounter for a while. It wasn't right that Grant propositioned her and it wasn't Caroline's fault that he wound up dead behind the speakeasy later. Yet, she was still living with the guilt of seeing him beforehand. Aloysius knew from experience living with that much guilt was a horrible experience.

"But you did turn him down," Julian said, trying to make Caroline feel better. "I wouldn't dwell on it. If anything, this information is useful. We now know of someone who probably knew Grant better than everyone else we've talked to."

"Honestly, she was very cold to me, but I don't know what to make of that," Caroline explained. "As soon as she said the word fiancé, a moment later she was rushing me out."

Julian's brows furrowed. "That's strange." The description Caroline was giving was at odds with the interactions he'd usually had with Madeleine, but he supposed grief could change people. Or perhaps she was unfriendly because Caroline was essentially a stranger to her. "If I have time, I can talk to her some more. Maybe I can learn something else."

Sophie spoke up briefly, having so far only followed the dialogue.

"So we only have one piece of infromation, but a good piece of information that will certainly help us."

Julian nodded. "Right." He paused, thinking. "Say... Grant's apartment should be empty now, right? His parents left, what, a few days ago?"

Aloysius nodded, "I believe so. Even if they were here, I doubt they would mind if we looked around a little bit. The mom seemed generous enough and I bet she wants to know what happened to her son."

Caroline shrugged. "Yes, they didn't seem like the type of people who would make much of a fuss if we... went in and looked around."

The rest of the group voiced their agreement. It would be best they snoop around Grant's apartment to see if he had anything relating to Madeleine. Aloysius had to admit, they didn't have much to go by. Even if Madeleine was Grant's fiancee, it hardly did anything to benefit their case. Someone had been out to get Grant, whether it be for his gambling or unfriendly nature.

"When should we meet?" Aloysius asked, "I've got to work the rest of the week since I was out of the office for too long last week. I can meet in the evenings, though."

Aloysius took a drink of his beer and didn't notice who suggested six the next day. It would be a tight squeeze, traveling between the speakeasy and work, but he could make it work. Lillian would have to explain to his coworkers why he was missing work if looking through Grant's apartment went overtime, but that was a sacrifice Aloysius was willing to take. That's what she was paid for, anyways.

"6 o'clock is fine," Sophie replied.

"Works for me, too," Julian said. "See you all then, I suppose!"

"See you then," Aloysius agreed. He finished his beer and enjoyed the rest of the conversation. It didn't take long before they were walking out of the Golden Vanderbilt to say their goodbyes for the evening.

The evening had been worthwhile and it seemed that Grant was not quite such a calm and innocent man as he had shown himself to be here in the speakeasy. After they had already experienced a lot when they were in the flat, this now gave them something to think about, because it seemed as if a big hole was opening up that had once been closed. It triggered a curiosity in Sophie, but also a worry about what was still to come because it seemed as if they were plunging into the depths of many secrets that would probably not let Sophie sleep again this night.

As the group said their goodbyes outside the speakeasy, Sophie knew that something was probably in store for them tomorrow. Especially because now they would return to Grant´s flat and could watch out for a clue now that they had found out a little more and knew what to look for. That should definitely narrow the search down a bit.

2,537 words. By @Plume, @MailicedeNamedy, @Elinor, and @looseleaf





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Mon May 16, 2022 4:19 am
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looseleaf says...



Sophie was at the meeting point outside the building where Grant's flat was, as arranged. She had spent the night thinking about what else they might find and believed that some kind of breakthrough would come today. She had no idea what she was actually thinking about because she had no idea how the police actually worked. Her interest in it ended with reading two Sherlock Holmes books she had read as a child and a disinterest in opening a newspaper further than the first page.

Lost in her thoughts, she didn't notice that various people passed her by, not addressing her, but always full of expectation of being addressed. But Sophie did not react. On the one hand, she was annoyed to be the first, but at the same time, she never wanted to be the last at anything. What she found worse, she imagined, was not noticing the next person from her group.

When Caroline arrived, Sophie was already there, and seemed lost in thought.

“Hi,” Sophie said unspectacular.

"Hello," Caroline said quietly. It appeared she wasn't much in a mood to talk, which was evident from the serious look on her face. Caroline started to fidget, and then looked down at her feet.

At that moment, Julian approached, spouting apologies about being late and how he'd had to get Hamilton to cover for him, since Doyle wouldn't let him go. A few steps behind him trailed Hoover, jowls hard at work chewing... something.

Aloysius could be seen walking in the distance. His jacket was bunched up in his hands and his sleeves were rolled up. He sped up his pace when he realized the rest of the group was there already.

“Why is Hoover here?” Sophie asked confused, “Is he going to help? How? Eating all pieces of evidence?”

Julian laughed, craning his neck behind him to see Hoover, currently sniffing the sidewalk. "Aw, I'll make sure he doesn't. And I didn't have much of a choice in bringing him here. I tried to get him to stop following me for the first few blocks, but"—he turned back, shrugging—"you see how well that went."

Caroline looked over and saw Hoover. She smiled at him and knelt down to scratch him behind his ears. "Hi sweetheart," she said. Hoover seemed to smile at her in return and panted in the August heat.

At that moment, Hoover reminder her of Mary, the Cocker Spaniel her family had for the first fifteen years of Caroline's life. When she was a girl, Mary used to lay on her lap on the sofa. When she'd had a bad day, Mary would come into Caroline's bedroom, jump on her bed and lick her face. It never ceased to make her feel better, no matter how difficult things had been.

Then, Mary had died of old age, leaving Caroline and her sisters devastated. Still, Alice and Grace were already beginning their own families by then. They had something to escape to. Caroline did not. She'd begged her parents to get a new dog but they refused, saying that Mary was irreplacable.

She wasn't sure why she was only making the connection with Hoover now, but she supposed it had been a while since Mary had actively been in her thoughts. But now that she was, the emotions were hitting hard.

Caroline realized at that moment that she had spaced out. Then, she looked up and saw the others all regarding her, and considered it probably wasn't the most sanitary thing to kneel on the city sidewalk. Still, she didn't particularly care. Still, she stood up, preparing herself to enter Grant's apartment.

“Anyway, let´s go inside,” said Sophie mumbling.

They entered one by one. The apartment was eerily quiet, small slivers of evening light peeking through heavy curtains. Julian glanced around, letting his eyes linger on dust-covered surfaces. Before, when they had come, the apartment had seemed normal, if not a little gloomy given the circumstances. But now that Grant's parents and sister had gone, it was downright tomblike.

He turned to look at the rest of the group. "How do we want to do this? Room by room? Each of us taking a portion?"

"That works just fine," Caroline said. She gestured to the room they were in, the living room, she supposed, though it wasn't much of a living space.

"I can look in the kitchen," Julian volunteered.

Aloysius joined it, "I'll search the office."

***

The kitchen was fairly clean; cleaner than Julian had been expected, at least. It was tiny, but nicer than a lot of other Chicago apartments he'd been to. Even though the paint was peeling slightly, it had a sink and plenty of cabinet space. If Julian had to guess, Grant didn't cook a lot— for one, he didn't seem like the type, and the kitchen didn't feel used, not like his own. There was always the scent of heat and spices in his kitchen that lingered long after his mother was finished cooking dinner, and Grant's kitchen smelled like soap and plaster.

"Guess we'd better get started investigating," he said, looking down at Hoover. Hoover sniffed the tile floor, and, upon finding it satisfactory, began to lick it. Julian sighed.

He looked in each cabinet. There was simply air in many, and Julian suspected they'd either been cleared by Grant's family or never full in the first place. Some still had lingering pieces of cutlery or a broken dish. There was even a nearly full one with ancient cans of food behind a door that stuck when he tried to open it. But overall, each was bare and empty inside. In a way, it made him sad; it was such a difference from the semblance of a cluttered home they'd witnessed last time they'd been there.

Some picture frames still hung over the wallpaper, but their contents were either faded or removed completely. A pity, Julian realized. They might have been clues. He wondered if they'd been family photos reclaimed by Grant's parents, or simply pieces of art that they thought were nice. Regardless, they were gone, and the empty frames gave him no information, their blank glass like ghostly eyes staring back at him.

He gave the kitchen a once-over before leaving, letting his eyes rest on the wallpapered walls, empty cabinets all closed, counters dusty.

Brushing his hands on his jacket, he gave one final look before pivoting on his heel and walking out of the kitchen, beckoning Hoover, who followed reluctantly. He figured he'd go and wait by the door, since he didn't discover anything. Hopefully the rest would have more success.

***

It seemed dustier than when she first visited. The bedroom lay plunged in a penumbra, made into a room by the old curtains that felt cold and dead. Almost like a passage from a novel where they had begun to describe that a murder had taken place here.

Sophie felt uncomfortable and at the same time safe to remain in this small place and not know what to do. There were drawers and some shelves she could search, but at the same time she was embarrassed to be rummaging around in a dead man's underwear. Too confused about falling back into rigidity, she tried to settle on a compromise she set for herself; while searching she wanted to remain in positive and other thoughts.

So she started looking for something at the first corner right next to the bedside table. There was nothing that seemed personal in any way. Even the bed had an individual charm, but it seemed like the bed from a hotel, without that special character of an owner. While Sophie opened the drawers of the bedside table, she found a novel and an alarm clock, as well as some tissues she didn't want to touch. The bottom one was empty and only visited by a few dead flies.

Behind the curtains, Sophie found a dead plant and a lively, fat, black spider that had taken up residence. In shock, she landed on the bed and tried to pull herself together. She didn't know if she had squeaked or given a little cry of shock and tried to get back to the point as quickly as possible, before the gruesome find. The spider, however, would not be disturbed and remained in its web.

It seemed as if no one had noticed anything about her, so she moved on to the cupboard. It was a beautiful but partly used cupboard. Traces of frequent moves or previous owners were visible. As powerful as the thing was, there was very little inside. The same clothes, some on hangers, others on the floor, but there was nothing to suggest a possible motive. Nowhere were there clothes of gold or treasure or anything else that could be justified for murder.

After rummaging through the wardrobe, Sophie lingered by the shelves, where there were only a few smaller items that never had anything to do with his life or anything else. There were no clues in his bedroom…

Sophie didn't know how long she stayed there and again she didn't want to be the first, especially because she hadn't found anything. Just when she thought she should go out and show her findings, someone called to her from the others. It seemed that something had appeared.

***

As the others dispersed into the various rooms, Caroline stayed in the living room, alone. Everyone else immediately got to work without another word. She heard the others looking around in each individual room.

She remembered all of this from when they'd went to his apartment the first time, of course, but that meeting had been such a blur that it felt like some sort of dream. The clutter was still there, and it seemed like there was even more of a layer of dust then there had been before.

Whatever his family had done when they'd paid their visit, they hadn't gone through much of his stuff. She wondered why that was.

At first, she hesitated to touch much, but she had to remind herself that they were on a mission to uncover what had happened.

She made her way to a drawer that looked like it could possibly have some secrets within. There were four sections, and she decided she would start from the highest one and work her way down. Opening the first section caused a cloud of dust to release into the room, which triggered a brief coughing fit. But there was nothing, mostly old tools, loose packaging for random things he'd bought for his house.

She was similarly out of luck with the third and second sections. Maybe it was just the nature of living in a boarding house, but she'd always been a tidy person, and she didn't understand how someone could keep so much junk around. The fourth section had something different. An ornate wooden box. Caroline curiously took it out. There was a latch, but it opened.

More junk. But then her eye caught something. A folded piece of paper. It was a letter, dated June 1928.

"My darling... I am lost without you. At all hours of the day I think of lying with you, being with you some place far away from here..."

Caroline had to skip over most of the letter because it was sexual nature, and it felt like prying even though Grant was dead and couldn't protest.

She skimmed over most of it and saw that it was signed. "Yours Truly, Madeleine."

Caroline took a breath. So it was true. She had a feeling it might be. Holding the letter in one hand, she waited for the others to finish looking. She was curious if they would have found anything too.

***

The first thing Aloysius noticed when he walked into the apartment was that the flower on the kitchen table was gone. Now that he thought about it, the flower was probably meant for Madeleine, but never made it to its final destination. Maybe one day he would tell her Grant was planning to give it to her.

Aloysius wandered down the hallway and stepped into the office. It was technically a bedroom judging by the closet door in the corner, but the desk in the center of the room said otherwise. A small, wooden desk that looked like Mrs. Mills' desk in the family home in Pittsburg sat in the middle of the room. It was scratched and discolored in some places and had stain marks from coffee cups being placed on it.

The chair was missing from behind the desk, presumably taken by his parents. Nothing was on top of the desk except for a leather-bound planner and an out of place lamp. A couple of boxes were on the floor, but they looked empty.

Aloysius quickly sorted through the boxes. One of them had old books and memorabilia in it. A college pennant was carefully folded inside and was laden in dust. His old yearbook, which seemed to be the only connection to his family and old life, was also inside. The other boxes just contained documents and office supplies.

He stood up and walked over to the desk. The planner was worn and notes were sticking outside of it. As Aloysius flipped through it, something stood out to him.

"What the hell..?" Aloysius mumbled. Internally, he apologized to his parents for his poor language.

June 26th - doctor's appointment, 722

July 3th - get off work early, 722

July 11th - 722

The dates marked with "722" started even earlier than that and the most recent one was only a few days before Grant's death. Aloysius snapped the planner shut and carried it out of the room with him. Whatever 722 stood for, it seemed to be an important and frequent part of Grant's life. Maybe finding out what it stood for would lead to a breakthrough in the case. The possibilities ran through Aloysius's head.

Aloysius stepped out into the hallways and walked back into the living room to find Caroline looking through some papers.

"Find anything?" She asked.

Aloysius held the planner up triumphantly in his hand, "Grant wrote down 722 on a ton of days. I wonder what it means."

"Huh," Caroline remarked, not sure what else to say. Then, she handed him the letter. "What do you make of this? It's, um, quite explicit. Just a warning."

Aloysius scanned the letter and immediately felt uncomfortable reading such a private letter, "Well, this certainly verifies their relationship. Is this the only one?"

"That I saw. Who knows if there's more somewhere else. I don't know how Grant lived like this. So messy. But who knows what the letter means. If anything at all."

Just then, Julian returned from the kitchen, apparently unsuccessful in his searching.

"Find anything?" Aloysius asked.

Julian shook is head in response.

Sophie returned shortly thereafter, similarly unsuccessful. Caroline informed both about the letter, and told them she wasn't sure to make of it, but it was something. She looked to Aloysius. "Do you want to explain the number?" She asked him. "Since you found the planner?"

"There is really not much to explain. Grant wrote down the number 722 maybe forty times since the beginning of the year, maybe more. I don't know what it means and the letter doesn't seem to mention it."

“So, we are now looking on our own for a hint of this mysterious number? And then we are meeting again a week later in the speakeasy?” Sophie asked.

"The speakeasy worked before, so it'd make sense to meet there," Julian reasoned. "And I know I'll certainly ponder the number, though I haven't a clue what it means now."

2,631 words by @Elinor, @Plume, @MailicedeNamedy, @looseleaf





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MailicedeNamedy says...



722...

722...

Sophie wasn't sure what to do with it. It was only three digits... or was it a number? It wasn't completely irrelevant. As Sophie walked home, she puzzled over what it could be in a mathematical format. She calculated the sum of the digits, she multiplied the digits, and she sought to find an esoteric background after passing a dubious bookshop and seeing what appeared to be a magical book by Aleister Crowley.

***

"What could it possibly be?"

Digressing and dreaming, she wandered around her flat with a paper of 722 in front of her, written in different sizes and with different levels of elegance to create letters out of it.

"If it's letters, it could be G, B and B. Any initials? Gilbert Bob Blueford? Hmm, or maybe G and V. Gustave Vogel?"

Sophie laughed at her own low imagination.

"The others will probably have come up with that simple solution too... and Grant won't be so easy to figure out, will he?"

Sophie made her way to the kitchen and drank a glass of water. She then remained in front of the screen and scribbled 722 on it a few times. With each new time, she tried to think of something specific that would be connected to it. At one point she thought that the solution might be in the Bible, but she didn't have one at home so she had no idea if she could check.

While she tried to paint a little, new ideas came to her several times, one more abstruse than the other. She had imagined herself too much in a novel, where the solution could lead to an adventure, but it seemed that this would not really happen.

In the circle where she was spinning, she tried to focus on getting back to her original idea, in that it might be about a name. But was it GBB or GV? And was it a woman's name? Sophie wasn't sure, but this much was certain, that it would have to be something secret or forbidden for it to be marked that way.

"What did the writing look like again?"

Sophie was convinced she could read out the sentiment from the writing, but she didn't remember the pressure and passion with which 722 was written. If only she had thought more and paid better attention…

"Crap..."

***

Her canvas meanwhile had changed. Instead of having a beautiful painting, there was always another name next to the frequent appearance of 722. From Georgia B. Birmingham to Gladys Vanhouten, she had listed everything. At least almost everything...

"Vanderbilt... Vanderbilt. Could it be? G. Vanderbilt?"

Sophie was surprised at her own ignorance but at the same time arrived in a slight rush of joy when she realised that the V could be a Vanderbilt. It had to be. At least it was now a clue.

She thought to get to the speakeasy as soon as possible to check if Grant was there every time, as the number was registered. But there again she had to admit to herself that she didn't remember when the data had been entered, so she was again sitting at a blank spot…

"I guess it doesn't help, but Vanderbilt might be the answer..."

Sophie lay down later, her thoughts still connected to what else might be found when she woke up tomorrow.

***

The next morning, the world already looked different. The solution from the day before was still there, but it didn't feel as right as it had a few hours before. It couldn't be that simple, otherwise, everyone would come across it...

So Sophie sat back in front of the screen and crossed out the names she had. She couldn't remember how she found such exotic names and wrote them down. Clearing her head, she sat down in front of the door and set off to discover Chicago.

While her legs took her across the streets, she tried not to think too hard about 722, to come up with the solution by a flash of inspiration. She passed the dubious bookstore again and ventured in for a short while, coming out looking haunted after fifteen minutes.

She knew she wouldn't sleep that night after reading about paranormal things in a few books or looking to various occult cult victim portrayals for a solution. Then the thought briefly crossed her mind to look for a Bible again, to maybe find something there.

Sophie looked in a bookshop, which was more normal and certainly had some Bibles for sale, and quickly found what she was looking for. At Jefferson Street she was quickly taken to the books by the friendly shop assistant, but then Sophie's great search began and she flicked through the many pages without any thought of buying the Bible and looking it up at home.

She searched for almost an hour and found Matthew 7:22 and Jeremiah 7:22 but it didn't help her because it wasn't in context at all. Besides, Grant didn't seem to be that drawn to religion. Sophie had reached the end of her search when she was asked by the shop assistant what exactly she was looking for. Sophie did not answer the question and bought the Bible. She then set out to return home to perhaps find other details to come up with a solution.

892 words
Reality is a prison and time is its guard

I´m just a random girl with gentle manners

Every bad voice in your head was once outside

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Plume says...



Julian slid off the piano bench as soon as his fingers hit the final note. Sparse applause sounded as he gave quick smiles to the patrons of the Golden Vanderbilt before ducking into the pharmacy.

He'd been pondering the clue they found at the apartment, if you could call it that— all it was was a three-digit number. They'd all agreed to think on it over the week and then meet again to see if anyone had made any headway, but given the minimal context other than the calendar, it was hard to see anyone having a breakthrough. Julian knew it wouldn't be him with the revelation at any rate. He'd never been good with puzzles.

Doyle found him and followed him with his eyes as he entered the pharmacy. They were short Hamilton that day, so Doyle had to man the counter.

Doyle's mouth thinned as Julian approached him. "Shouldn't you be behind the piano?" he asked. "Go tickle some ivory."

"I've been playing for a good half hour, sir," Julian said. "I was wondering if I could check the books now. You said I could, if I remember correctly?"

He held his breath as Doyle considered. Finally, he sighed, reaching under the counter and withdrawing a thick book. "Don't spend more than five minutes."

Julian grinned, sweeping it in his arms. "Thank you."

After grabbing a drink from the bar, he went to a quiet corner of the speakeasy, settling in a semi-comfortable chair and cracking open the book.

The books were surprisingly disorganized. Pharmacy costs blended with speakeasy expenses and revenue, and some things were reported under false names or in poor penmanship that Julian suspected only Grant himself could decipher. In a way, it protected their business in case any cops came sniffing around, but it made Julian's job a whole lot harder. Occasionally there would be a small note jotted down in the margins, but it didn't get more meaningful than remember to tally later or check calculations. There was no mention of 722 either; Julian thought it might have been an expense, either $7.22 or $722, but he didn't find anything in the books matching that cost.

He flipped through the pages until he came to the most recent entries. It was from a little before Grant's death. He found his paycheck, and Grant's, and scoffed at the discrepancy between the two. He'd given a lot to the pharmacy and the speakeasy, and he was still paid less than the half-rate bookkeeper. He'd have been angrier if Grant had still been living.

Julian skimmed over the costs, kept in shaky columns. Everything appeared to be in place, though why it had taken Grant that long to do it was past him. It seemed relatively straightforward. Speakeasy revenue, pharmacy revenue, the expenses, the paychecks of ten individuals—

Wait. Ten? Julian counted again. Even including the clerks that occasionally found employment there, there should have only been eight or nine regular entries. So what was the extra one?

Julian squinted, but he couldn't make out what exactly the cost was labeled. It was about comparable to Doyle's income, the most out of all the salaries. He flipped back to see if he could find it repeated anywhere. After a few moments, he determined that it hadn't always been there. The cost appeared randomly some weeks and not others. It fluctuated, as well, some weeks being more or less than it was before. It seemed to be added on as an afterthought, too— like the person doing the books remembered to include it only because the final amount didn't total what it was supposed to. So what was the extra cost?

A thought occurred to Julian. Had Grant been embezzling from the pharmacy? It would make sense with what everyone had told him about Grant's monetary habits; it seemed like he could never have enough money. And since Grant was one of the only people who could access, much less mess with, these records it looked like the most likely conclusion to Julian.

So Grant had been taking money from the pharmacy. Julian smiled grimly, appalled at his dishonesty but also not surprised, given all the information they'd learned about him the past week. As he shut the book and finished his drink, a new question bubbled up in his mind.

Why had Grant taken the money? Sure, he probably needed some extra cash, but the random nature of the costs didn't sit well with Julian. There was some reason behind them, Julian thought. He just needed to find out what it was.

771 words





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looseleaf says...



The more Aloysius learned about Grant, the more he wished he had known the mysterious bookkeeper while he was alive.

Aloysius thought about the number as he rode the subway home, but he didn't think that hard. It would be easier to figure out what 722 meant when he had a paper to scribble possibilities on. Instead, Aloysius stared at a malted milk advertisement on the wall as he lit himself a cigarette.

Horlick's
The Original Malted Milk
Substitutes cost YOU same price


He could have puked. Just the thought of malted milk, mixed with the movement of the subway car and intermittent thoughts of Grant's dead body, was enough to make him nauseous. The stagnant air and crampiness were not helping either. The child next to him was talking too loud. Aloysius dropped his cigarette on the floor and stomped it out: it usually calmed him, but it was doing anything but helping right now.

Aloysius stood as the train came to a stop and exited as fast as possible. He pushed the hoards of people and eventually surfaced above ground. His red Packard was shining in the light, which reflected right off the paint into his eyes. He groaned- what was at first a good day was only worsening.

On the short drive home, he tried to think about 722, but his mind wandered. His couple of trips to Grant's neighborhood had shown him it wasn't as dangerous as he previously thought. While the speakeasy area still scared him, maybe next time he would drive instead of wasting time by taking the subway.

Aloysius hardly spoke to Mr. Thompson on the elevator except to say hello. He immediately went to his bedroom when he entered his home and pulled out the pair of pants he had worn while interviewing Sullivan. He grabbed the notepad from its pocket and walked to his office.

He practically collapsed into his chair. Aloysius picked up a pen and tapped it against the table as he thought.

722... it could be July 22nd had it not been marked so many times in his planner. Maybe it was a time, but why so specific? Perhaps on some select days, Grant woke up at 7:22 am or went out at 7:22 pm. No, that was too weird. Too bizarre.

It briefly occurred to Aloysius that it may be a Bible passage, but he didn't have a Bible and the library was too far of a walk to check one out. He also didn't feel like checking chapter 7, verse 22, in every single book of the Bible, so he threw that idea in the trash.

After a while of thinking, Aloysius poured himself some water and resigned to his living room to read the book he was currently on. The Great Gatsby was pretty good so far, but he couldn't focus on it. His water tasted like malted milk.

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Elinor says...



The next day at work, Caroline sat at her bench, mindlessly weaving together the various fabrics that had been assigned to her for that day.

In spite of what her boss had told her on the day she fainted, which seemed like an entirety ago Caroline had never felt like she belonged at Frederickson Textiles, Inc. She knew that she didn't have a place there, or room to grow.

Ever since she'd become embroiled in this murder investigation, work felt like an even more foreign place to her. She'd quit in a heartbeat if if she didn't rely on it as her only source of income.

The letter from Madeleine to Grant, as well as the number 722, kept spinning through her mind. Had it really only been a few short weeks, not even a month, since all of this began? Grant had not only been engaged, but it seemed as though he and Madeline were very involved, very intense and passionate about their relationship. Of course, she'd only seen one side of the story, Grant wasn't around to tell his.

She felt as though the puzzle pieces were all there on the table, but Caroline wasn't sure how they all fit at this point in time. She wondered if the others had uncovered any more information since they'd been to his apartment, of they'd pieced anything together.

Caroline kept at her work as she mulled it over, and the number 722 kept running through her mind, about how it was constantly in his schedule.

722 and Madeleine.

What if...

722 was Madeleine? She wasn't sure why or how, but it was the only thing that made any sense. Maybe July 22nd was Madeleine's birthday or the day they met, or the day they'd gotten engaged. There had to have been some kind of sentimental meaning to the number.

Caroline was very eager to tell the others of this thought the next time that they all met. She had a feeling that she was onto something. Additionally, she was interested in talking to Madeleine again if the opportunity presented itself. It wouldn't hurt to try and find out more.

361 words

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looseleaf says...



Aloysius's car screeched to a halt in front of the speakeasy. He wasn't used to arriving from that direction, so he nearly missed it. He parked alongside the sidewalk and closed the convertible roof. It had started as a nice morning but, during his drive, it became unusually cold. Aloysius locked and unlocked the car several times, paranoid of what may happen to it. Eventually, he locked it for good and made his way to the Golden Vanderbilt.

As he entered the speakeasy, Aloysius noticed another man walking toward him. He seemed strange, out of place, and Aloysius could not recognize him. Aloysius shrugged. Maybe he was a newbie. Maybe he wasn't even coming to the speakeasy.

Hoover greeted Aloysius as he entered the building jumping upon him and nearly pushing him to the ground. Madeleine hardly acknowledged him, except to open the door to the speakeasy without hearing the password. Aloysius scanned the room: no one else was there yet. So, he wandered over to the bar and ordered a beer from Sullivan.

"Keep the change," Aloysius said as he handed him two quarters.

Sullivan shook his head and pulled out two dimes, "Not this time."

Aloysius thanked him and made his way to one of many empty tables, smiling to himself. He was probably wrong, but he assumed Sullivan had given his change back as a thank you for trying to solve Grant's case. It made him feel nice inside.


Sophie sneezed as she left the flat. She had slept with an open window all night and the cool wind got her out of bed early. She could neither fall asleep nor work, so she stayed in her bed and tried to bring her dream world into reality. Until she got reminded about the day and the meeting in the speakeasy in the evening.

When she arrived at the Golden Vanderbilt, it had become even colder and in her head, Sophie was already worrying that she would soon be lying in bed with a cold. Then she would be nagging and yelling at the canvas again... Sophie was so engrossed in her thoughts that she didn´t even remember coming into the pharmacy at all and was now back in the old-fashioned glow of adult evening activity.

The speakeasy was busy and there were also some faces that were new to Sophie, but she didn´t let that bother her as she asked for a cocktail at the bar and then leaned against the counter to see any of her friends. Of course, she found Julian quite quickly, playing the piano, but she couldn´t go there. At least not now. The longer Sophie searched, the more uncomfortable she felt, almost as if she were a helpless child, but fortunately, she was soon able to find Aloysius already sitting alone at the table.

The hours flew by when Julian played piano, and when he glanced at the clock, he could hardly believe the time. Since it was his day off from the pharmacy, he'd gone to his downstairs neighbor's apartment. Mr. Kasperski owned a piano and was all too enthusiastic at letting him practice on it. He'd been so lost in the keyboard that he hadn't noticed the minutes inching closer to when he had to be at the speakeasy. Muttering a hasty goodbye to Mr. Kasperski, who in turn praised his playing in Polish, Julian rushed out of his building.

The air was cooler today, and Julian was thankful for it. Still, he was sweating by the time he reached the pharmacy. He gave Hoover a pat on the head before going inside. Madeleine waved at him cheerfully. He managed a smile, but the newfound information he'd learned from the others about her and Grant tainted what would otherwise be innocent enthusiasm to see her. She was more complex than Julian had originally thought. Now wasn't the time to address her about it, though, not when he was already late to work, but still. He felt that at some point, he'd have to talk to her about it. It still shocked him how they were able to keep it a secret.

Doyle looked at him rather judgingly as he slid onto the piano bench. He glanced back with what he hoped was an apologetic expression and began plunking out a ragtime-y tune. In between phrases, he looked out over the speakeasy crowd. He gave Sophie an acknowledging nod as she entered, and watched her meet up with Aloysius, who was sitting at a table. He would have liked to join them, but given the glowering look on Doyle's face, he figured he'd better play at least two more songs before he slipped away.

"Good evening. How are you?" Sophie asked, sitting down to face Aloysius and sipping her cocktail.

"Cold, but, in all honesty, I'm doing rather well. I drove here instead of taking the subway, so that's nice, but I did feel a little sick last night," Aloysius answered, "How are you?"

"The weather has changed so much, I´m feeling miserable, but I´m trying to cover it with a smile, "Sophie said quietly, trying to get rid of a cough, "I wish the weather was a bit better and warmer, but I think I´d have to go south for that. Anyway, how was your week?"

Sophie probably already had a cold after that fake cough, because she couldn´t imagine getting into conversation with the others so easily. She even thought it was the first time she felt comfortable, or was she already drunk, or was it because Hoover was far and away out of her sight? Sophie didn´t know.

"It was.. interesting. I went bowling with a friend who found out I patronized a speakeasy, so I don't know what is going to happen to that friendship. I saw him both of our baseball games this weekend, but he hardly spoke to me," Aloysius explained. He felt like a child complaining about rude classmates to his mother, "How did you spend your weekend?"

Sophie made a "hm" and tried to think of an answer, but she couldn´t come up with anything quickly. The fruity taste of her cocktail took her over completely.

"I spend my time painting. I hope one day that I will not only be allowed to paint my works for private buyers but the society if my works can be exhibited in a museum. I think that is also my goal here in Chicago."

"Hello, you two," Julian said, approaching the table. "My apologies for not joining you sooner, but duty calls."

"Hello, Julian," greeted Sophie with a smile.

By the time Caroline arrived at the speakeasy, everyone else was already seated. It had been a tedious, tiresome day. Strangely, she had been looking forward to meeting with the people that, through a strange twist of fate, she now considered her friends.

She was acutely aware of the fact that she hadn't had a chance to bathe that morning, and while she had to reason that realistically, no one noticed, she couldn't feel uncomfortable. It had been a busy day at work, and because it had been hot, she'd broken a sweat and she could feel how grimy her skin and particularly her scalp were. Besides, the late summer heat certainly didn't help matters.

She felt dirty and acutely aware of how she inhabited a different social class than the other three. Even if she knew that she'd feel better once she went home and was able to bathe and have cle

"Hello," Caroline said, greeting all of them. They all acknowledged her, but she didn't sit down since she wanted to use what little spare change she had to buy a drink.

"Did anyone deduce what 722 could mean? Or have any hunches?" Julian looked at the group expectantly, hoping someone had made more progress than he had.

As Julian spoke, Caroline made eye contact with Aloysius and motioned to the bar. "I'll be right back," she mouthed. She figured the others would see her at the bar or Aloysius would tell them she wouldn't be gone long.

"I thought it may be a date or a time, but that would be strange since it was labeled on so many days," Aloysius took a sip of his beer."

"I thought about it for a long time and tried to find any connections. I´ve looked in the phone book and also leafed through a bible to find something, but in the end, I don´t think I´ve come up with a good result, "Sophie explained, "Now that I think about it, I suppose I could have looked a bit in the street register to see if there was maybe somehow a street with this specific number, or maybe even a house number? Or even go to the harbour and find something there?"

Caroline had walked over to the bar with the full intention of ordering her normal glass of red wine. But she realized she didn't feel like it. Wine was for feeling refined. Lately, she felt anything but.

"Pint of Miller, please."

It was served to her a moment later, and by the time she rejoined the others at the table, they were all turning to her, expecting her to explain what she felt 722 meant. She perhaps expected someone to say something about the fact that she'd ordered beer instead of wine, but no one did.

"Um," Caroline said. "What if 722 was somehow code for Madeleine? For whatever reason, they had to keep their relationship of a secret. It's the only thing I can think of that makes sense. But I'm not entirely certain."

Julian frowned. "I see. I didn't get anywhere with it either. Some fantastic ideas, though," he added, looking around at everyone. "We can keep trying." He paused. "I did go through the speakeasy and pharmacy books and found out that Grant was taking money from the business. Doesn't surprise me, but I wish I knew what for, though. I did look to see if there was a cost amounting to $7.22, but couldn't find one. It might be worth it to see if Grant had any personal budgets written down anywhere."

Sophie hadn´t even noticed that they were no longer just four at the table, but that Hamilton had now joined them. Why Sophie hadn´t noticed, she didn´t know, but it probably had something to do with the cocktail. She also noticed that Hamilton seemed quite nervous and even his pronunciation was a bit stuttery.

"I´m sorry to bother you four, but I´m afraid you have to go," he explained calmly but with some words that couldn´t really be heard.

"What? Why?" Julian asked, hands open, ready for an explanation. "What's going on, Hamilton?"

"Well... there are... you have to leave because there are some important guests who need your table. This is coming from the very top, " he added.

Sophie wanted to go first, but it seemed that the others were not yet ready.

Caroline looked around the room. "There's plenty of open tables..."

Hamilton pulled a face for a moment and tried to be calm.

"Doyle said you were talking about something that wasn´t good for business. You should leave, please. It´s not a ban, Doyle said. He thinks you can come back when you´re not talking about anything... what you are talking about..."

It seemed that the others also understood that there was something that made someone uncomfortable. It also seemed like everyone had the same thought now, that this mysterious 722 had something to do with the Golden Vanderbilt, but no one wanted to talk about it. At least not until they were standing outside the pharmacy.

Julian's face fell. Of course this was Doyle's doing. "You can go back there and tell Doyle—"

Hamilton shook his head. "I'd let it go, Latkowski. I wouldn't put it past Doyle to fire you."

Julian's mouth stayed open for a few seconds like he was debating what to say, before he ultimately closed it, turning back to the group. "Well. You heard the man."

It was a strange exit as Hamilton escorted the four outside. They were stared at from some tables and Sophie even thought she heard murmurs, but she tried to pretend she was an important person. It should have been quieter outside, but there seemed to be at least a volume in the street, that made Hamilton sit up and tell them to get out in front of the pharmacy.

Obeying Hamilton, the group walked out the door and nearly collided with a man. Hoover was, as it seemed, playing tug-of-war with the man's wallet. Change littered the sidewalk as the man muttered expletives under his breath. Julian was about to sidestep them and find a new place to discuss what they should do, when, with a light clinking noise, something else fell on the pavement, larger than a coin. A police badge.

Julian looked up, finally focusing on the man's face. "Hey!" he exclaimed. "I know you. You're that detective. Davis?"

The man frowned. "Donaldson. Would you please call off your dog?"

Julian knelt, working Hoover's jowls off of the leather wallet. He stood back up and handed it back to Donaldson, trying his best to shake off the slobber.

Sophie was amazed to see that Hoover was finally showing the face he covered up for everyone else; that of a monstrous nuisance. And Sophie was happy that it didn´t affect her. Until she heard the word "detective". She would have preferred to vanish into thin air immediately, for fear of making herself liable to prosecution because they were near the speakeasy. So she went some steps behind the others.

Julian turned to the half-inquisite, half-anxious faces of his friends. "This is Detective Donaldson. He was working on the Grant case. Though what he's doing here now, I do not know."

"I'd be interested to see what you have discovered," Aloysius said to Donaldson, who was picking up the spilled change from the floor.

Detective Donaldson groaned unusually loud for a younger man as he stood up. Aloysius had back pain, sure, but he wasn't that obnoxious when he got up off the floor.

"Is that so?" Detective Donaldson asked and Aloysius nodded. The detective continued, "Did you know Mr. Grant well?"

"When I... refill prescriptions, yes. He was Johnson and Co.'s bookkeeper," Aloysius said. When the detective looked at him disapprovingly, he mumbled, "but you probably already knew that."

"I did." the detective replied. He then spoke to the entire group, "Have any of you collected any information that may help my case?"

One of the main complaints Aloysius's mother always said about him was that he didn't think before he talked. And, at that moment, he did just that.

"Well, we saw his obituary and talked to the priest who printed it. Nice man, kind of strange. Grant's parents were at the funeral as well and-," Aloysius only stopped ranting when he noticed the others glaring at him.

After a moment of horrible silence and Detective Donaldson thinking, someone spoke.

"Are we under suspicion in any way?" Sophie asked frightened.

Donaldson didn't answer the question, merely stared, squinting, at all of them. "So, what you're saying is that you've been looking into Grant's death too?" Donaldson looked at them questioningly. After hearing their confirmation, his mouth hardened into a serious line.

"Come with me," he said. "I'm taking you in for questioning." After hearing some protests and confusion, Donaldson flashed his badge, reminding them all who was in charge. "Come on."

2,600 words. By @Elinor, @Plume, @MailicedeNamedy, and @looseleaf





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Sat Jun 04, 2022 1:52 pm
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MailicedeNamedy says...



Sophie wasn't sure what she had let herself in for, but now she was sitting here and there was no escape. The door was only frosted glass and wood, but it was no use. There were armed police everywhere and Sophie was sure that if she tried to escape, they would throw the handcuffs right after her. It would probably be taken as a confession, so Sophie remained in the semi-dark room, waiting for Donaldson to return.

There was nothing unfriendly about him, he even offered Sophie something to drink, which she accidentally named her favourite cocktail and immediately blushed when Donaldson inquired what exactly she meant. Only by making a purposeful excuse about her years in the UK was she able to talk her way out of it, and continued to smile at Donaldson as his eyes never left hers.

Donaldson returned and closed the door carefully behind him as Sophie's mind was already elsewhere, far from the United States, hidden in the deepest pampas in Argentina.

"You don't have to worry, everything will be fine," he explained, "It's just a little questioning."

"Yes," Sophie whispered.

"Let's just start, your name is Sophie Cox?"

"Yes," Sophie replied without elaborating on the rest of her name.

"You're British?"

"Yes."

"It's easy to answer yes to everything, isn't it, Miss Cox?"

"Yes - I mean no, there are bound to be questions that are harder to answer already," Sophie gushed.

"What questions then?" Donaldson wanted to know, looking interested.

"Hm... well questions like that at school were always hard and whether you wanted to marry someone. I find that quite hard to answer because a lot of it is going to change your life in a big way, " Sophie explained, "And of course questions that you're asked where you don't know whether the truth or the lie is better."

"Interesting. I wouldn't have expected that from you now."

Donaldson, who had brought himself a glass of water earlier, looked tired and exhausted. Sophie could see some circles under his eyes, as distinctly different from the rest of his complexion. Donaldson paused for a moment and continued.

"How do you know Grant?"

Sophie thought and wanted to gather her words carefully. She had to come up with a lie as soon as possible or burst everything that had happened in the last few days and weeks.

"Well, I'm an artist," Sophie spoke in a matter-of-fact tone, "And that means I deal a lot with other people, people I see more often and people I see less often. Mister Grant was an acquaintance, that's all I'd call it. He came to my atelier a few times, hoping I'd paint him something for his flat."

"Did he buy anything?"

"Yes. A small painting of Lake Michigan in the evening sun."

"I didn't see that in his flat, "Donaldson noted, "Did he pick it up? How much did he pay?"

"He didn't come to pick it up. He already had another painting he liked so I didn't sell anything."

"Is the painting still in your atelier?"

"No. I painted over it with another landscape and sold it afterwards."

"To whom?"

"I don't like to call my clients by name."

"Do you have a bill?"

Sophie began to sweat.

"No, I just have an outline that I wrote down."

"That seems a bit like you're evading taxes."

Sophie had reached a point where she didn't know how to proceed to get out of here successfully. She was a little caught up in her thoughts and Donaldson had started to walk away from Grant, now entering her own private life. Sophie remained silent. For quite a while she watched the wooden table in front of her and then her hands, wondering if it was polite to return the policeman to the main subject.

"Can we get back to Mister Grant?"

Donaldson didn't respond immediately but focused his gaze on the wall behind Sophie. Was he probably lost in thought, as Sophie was, he actually realised he had moved onto a wrong track.

"Of course. Excuse me, I'm just a little interested in how you make your money. So you only know Grant from these visits?"

"Right."

"And yet you attended his funeral?"

"Wouldn't you go to the funeral of a convict you captured?" Replied Sophie, "Sorry, I meant I'm a believer, and I think people should be paid their last respects."

"Not very believable, but well, let's get on with it," Donaldson agreed, "But you visited his flat with three other people. It does seem odd that Grant was shot where the four of you were staying. Coincidentally, in a quiet side street. That's odd."

"Why?"

"I think it's weird that after that you four set out to find out more about Grant, like what his real name is, search his flat and meet and talk about it. It seems a bit dubious in my opinion, almost like a bad detective story. How do you know your friends, Miss Cox? Also interested in the fine arts?"

"Yes, something like that. We have a common hobby that we enjoy."

Donaldson smiled. Sophie knew somehow that Donaldson knew about the speakeasy, but she didn't want to delve deeper into the questioning.

"You're accusing me of murder?"

"No, absolutely not, " Donaldson said calmly, "You know, what interests me more is why nobody cares about this murder anymore. It's seen as a victim being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's strange to me, though. The victim was employed at the pharmacy and is shot in a back alley. It seems to me like it's missing a piece of the puzzle because it's so far removed from the actual scenes of murder and manslaughter that I can't believe Grant is just an innocent victim."

"So?"

"I think you're free to go, Miss Cox, but please keep in touch with me. There's just something I can't get out of my head, where I'm pondering a little whether the solution isn't hiding out with you or with one of your friends."

Donaldson rose from his chair and opened the door for Sophie, who was still sitting there.

"Goodbye, Miss Cox."

"Goodbye," she replied and left the room.

1038 words
Reality is a prison and time is its guard

I´m just a random girl with gentle manners

Every bad voice in your head was once outside

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Sun Jun 05, 2022 12:31 am
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looseleaf says...



Of course the one day Aloysius drove his car to the Golden Vanderbilt, he had to leave it parked on the street while he was taken to another place. It was just his luck.

The group was ushered into the back of Detective Donaldson's Ford Paddy Wagon, which was parked the next block over, but they were not handcuffed. The interior of the criminal area was falling apart everywhere: the benches were rotting, the metal grate acting as the window was almost fully rusted, and bugs were crawling out of nearly every corner. Either the police department refused to treat its criminals humanly, which Aloysius didn't doubt, or they were wildly underfunded.

The police station was situated in one of the most dangerous parts of the neighborhood, an area Aloysius never dared to step foot in. Well, there's a first time for everything.

Detective Donaldson pulled into the back of the police station, waving hello to some older officers. They did not respond. Once he parked, the group was practically pushed into the hallway that the interrogation rooms branched off of. The group sat on the wooden bench under a corkboard, but Sophie was quickly pulled away. She was the first to be interrogated.

"Alright, you next," Detective Donaldson said, motioning towards Aloysius after Sophie left the room.

"Me?" Aloysius clarified and the detective nodded.

Aloysius walked into the room and shuddered when the door slammed behind him. He sat down on one side of the table and unintentionally started bouncing his foot. He had never been in a prison before, much less questioned by an actual officer. The most trouble he was ever in was when he made four errors in one baseball game for Princeton and his coach suspended him for the rest of the week. It felt like the end of the world.

"So," Detective Donaldson said as he sat down on the other side of the table, "What's your name?"

"Aloysius Mills."

"Do you ever go by Louis?"

"What's it to you?" Aloysius responded. When the detective glared at him for a moment, he tacked on, "If someone wants to call me Louis, I won't correct them."

Detective Donaldson scribbled notes on a worn, yellow notepad as Aloysius spoke.

"Date and location of birth?" the officer continued.

"February 23, 1902, in Pittsburg."

"My sister was born on the 23rd.. 1905, though," Detective Donaldson said, trying to put Aloysius at ease. It wasn't working.

Aloysius answered several more questions, such as his job and current address. There was then silence as the detective wrote down his final notes. Despite the room being grey and dark, Aloysius couldn't help but feel hot and almost like he was suffocating. What would his parents think if they ever found out he was questioned by the police? The detective said he wasn't in trouble, but they were taken from a speakeasy. How safe could he be?

Detective Donaldson cleared his throat, "Alright, Mr. Mills. Why don't we start the night the body was found?"

"Ok. We found him," Aloysius said bluntly.

The detective stared at him for a moment before exiting the room. He returned with a very small folder of papers. "Henry Oliver Grant" was written on it in bold. Detective Donaldson took out the two pieces of paper in the folder and scanned over them briefly.

"I guess it would have been smart to have these with me in the first place," the officer chuckled, "What did you do afterward?"

"I returned home, read the newspapers looking for an obituary and found the one Father Samuel Lennard printed."

"So you attended the funeral?"

"Yes."

"Did you see family members at the funeral?"

"Ye- well," Aloysius caught himself, realizing the detective probably didn't know about the family, but it was too late, "Yes, yes we did."

Detective Donaldson smiled crookedly. He had hit the jackpot of information now.

"What were their names?"

Aloysius shrugged, "They lived in Seattle and their names were vaguely Greek. You'd have to ask Fr. Lennard for more information."

"But Henry Oliver Grant is in no way Greek."

"I don't know what to tell you."

It was an obvious lie, but the detective knew Aloysius wouldn't budge. So, with a groan and a few more questions that led to nowhere, Aloysius was allowed to leave the room.

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Plume says...



Julian was already sweating by the time Donaldson returned with Aloysius. The waiting was torturous; first he'd taken Sophie, and by the look on her face, she'd dreaded it as much as he was in this moment. Aloysius had been next—now, it seemed it was Julian's turn.

He was led into the room by Donaldson, who, throughout the entire process, maintained a suspiciously flat air of professionality with them. It felt odd—surely both of them shoudl be on the same side—they all wanted to find out what exactly happened to Grant, and all believed it was more than just a simple case of wrong place, wrong time. But Julian got the feeling that Donaldson was one of those people who led his life strictly by society's spoken and unspoken rules, and a group of non-policemen trying to solve a homicide probably broke at least three of them.

"Name, please."

Julian glanced around the room before answering. It was painfully nondescript, all grays and blacks and no windows or natural light anywhere. "Julian Latkowski."

Donaldson asked him a few more by-the-book questions, and then dove right into grilling him about Grant.

"Mr. Latkowski, you work at the pharmacy, correct?"

Julian nodded.

"I'd like a verbal answer, Mr. Latkowski."

"Yes."

Donaldson kept looking at him expectantly, so Julian launched into a brief job description.

"I man the counter and help fill prescriptions."

Donaldson looked satisfied and jotted down some notes.

"And you knew Grant?" he continued.

"We were both in the pharmacy's employment. I saw him every so often."

"Would you say you got along well with Grant?"

Julian shrugged. "We weren't friends. We weren't on a first-name basis. We were colleagues."

Donaldson's lips thinned. "Would you describe the nature of your relationship as unpleasant?"

"No," Julian said. "He and I, we just... didn't get along well. It wasn't unpleasant, so much as nonexistent."

"I see." Donaldson wrote some things down on his notepad. "What urged you to look further into his death?"

"I felt bad for not knowing him in life," Julian answered simply. It wasn't entirely true and it wasn't entirely false, but Julian hoped it'd be good enough for Donaldson.

"And you attended his funeral services?"

Julian replied "yes" again. He wasn't sure how much Sophie or Aloysius had told Donaldson, which made him hesitant to reply with too many words and details. Curse him for questioning them separately.

During an especially long period when Donaldson was writing notes down, Julian decided to ask him a question of his own.

"Say, Detective. You came by the pharmacy about a week ago. Why haven't you come since then? Did the chief deny your hunches?"

Donaldson remained cool, but Julian thought he saw a ghost of a flinch. "To let you know, Mr. Latkowski, I did attempt to follow up at Johnson and Company, but I was turned away by Angus Doyle, who I believe is the proprietor. He wouldn't let me speak to his staff."

"And you didn't pull your badge out on him?" Julian grinned, imagining the scenario. Rough Doyle against this uppity, rule-abiding police officer used to having compliance from everyone he touched would be a true comedy, one Julian wished he'd been around to see.

Donaldson frowned. "I've the authority here, Mr. Latkowski. If you could please refrain from asking me questions."

"Of course." Julian settled back in his chair. Donaldson looked slightly ruffled, and Julian was pleased he'd gained a bit of power back in an otherwise unfortunate circumstance.

"And you've been working since the funeral with Miss Cox, Mr. Mills, and Miss Craig to try and solve the murder yourselves?"

Julian hesitated. "Not... solve, per se," he started. "We were just curious. We sought closure after stumbling on his body. It felt wrong not to do anything."

Donaldson nodded, his pen scratching all the while. "And have you found anything interesting or of use?"

The question struck Julian as odd— why would he be asking that? It sounded more desperate than anything, like Donaldson wanted to copy their notes for his case. Like he, too, was taking as many shots in the dark as they were. It was then that Julian realized that perhaps they knew more about Grant than he did.

Julian looked away. "Not much, Detective," he lied. "Not much at all."

725 words
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