Death of Freedom
by Christopher W Gamsby
Joe stood in Madam Mary Jane's with all eyes fixed on him. Mary Jane, William, and Scarlet sat on chairs in the center of the dance floor. Junior detectives and uniformed officers lined the walls. Joe reached around the counter into the display case and removed a skull branded lollipop.
"It's hard to imagine that all this trouble is over something so small."
Scarlet and Mary Jane exchanged glances between looking at Joe. Their gazes never lingered on Joe for long before breaking eye contact. MJ tapped her foot on the ground and crossed her arms. William stared at Joe the whole time with a dumbfounded expression.
"It's pretty clear to me why Madam Mary Jane's ended up so popular so fast. While the other dens were scrambling for product, you laundered marijuana through Legit before large scale legal options were available. Though this begs the question, would keeping this a secret be worth killing Temperance and Legit?"
Mary Jane gasped and rolled her eyes.
"No ma'am I suppose you're right, it's not but I'm still turning over my findings to the regulatory board."
Mary Jane hunched over with a defeated posture.
"William helped to smuggle the goods from Cranston."
Shock crept over William's face and he shook his hands in the air.
"I didn't do anything."
"Did Temperance or Scarlet ask you to pick up packages sometimes, ones that weren't in the system, ones that came from Cranston."
Wow, this guy is daft.
"Don't worry, I don't think you're the mastermind or anything like that."
Joe walked in front of Scarlet.
"And what about you Scarlet? You're the only one of the three that knew everyone."
Scarlet's jaw dropped and her gaze darted around the room.
Joe's crooked grin confused Scarlet.
"I wasn't completely sure you knew Legit, but now I am."
Scarlet's faced darkened red.
"So what! That doesn't prove anything!"
"That doesn't prove anything? No ma'am I suppose you are right, it doesn't. It gives us a pretty clear theory on why both Legit and Temperance were murdered. If only Temperance were murdered, I'd say it's personal and either William or you committed the crime. If only Legit were dead, I'd say it was business and either you, Temperance or Mary Jane committed the murder."
Joe walked to the carpeted section of the den's main floor and tapped his foot on the ground. He slid his foot across the rug. He stepped to his left and continued his sweep. Scarlet and Mary Jane were loosing patience.
"You see it's clear to me that Scarlet used her connections in Cranston and connections at the Transworld Porters to start sending marijuana en mass. William took the drugs and gave them to Temperance who brought them to her dealer, Legit, who sold them to Madam Mary Jane's. Or at least that's how it started out."
Joe pressed his foot into a fresh piece of carpet and kept moving until he arrived at a red velvet couch. He patted the couch up and down.
"Marijuana was profitable, but the margins shrunk as legal alternatives became widespread and you needed another way to make money, to maintain that lifestyle you wanted to pretend you had. So you started to import heroin. I guess you never thought she'd get hooked on that stuff?"
"I had nothing to do with her life! She always lived it so perfectly, that she didn't need me! How could I know she was going to get hooked..."
Joe moved on from patting the couch and began patting the ground with his foot again.
"So what happened? Temperance began demanding a cut of the money in order to feed her habit? She was selfishly taking your one chance! Of course you had to stop her!"
Scarlet's eyes watered from the brow beating and she clammed up. Joe moved to a new section of the carpet and patted his foot. Mary Jane watched his movements with increasing incredulity.
"Not going to say anything? I'm sure it's you who killed Temperance. If she tried to blackmail MJ, she might have been killed, but not like she was. You don't stab someone that many times unless you really love them and MJ didn't love Tempie, not like family. There was a lot of anger and pain in those strikes. Still nothing? That's fine MJ will tell me what happened."
Joe stepped on a new piece of carpet and stopped when he felt a squish.
"What? What are you talking about?"
Joe turned to Mary Jane.
"What do you think that Legit just fell on a knife outside of Greasy Sae's? No, he was murdered somewhere else and brought to the dumpster. You'll tell me what happened to avoid going to jail yourself."
Joe bent down and felt the carpet at his feet.
"Stop! Just stop with the carpet! What are you talking about?!"
"Well, you see Legit was murdered here and dumped outside of Greasy Sae's. I'm guessing once he was discovered he fled here to extort enough money to flee the city. I'm not sure if that is from you or from Scarlet, but you will tell me, in order to save yourself."
Scarlet was surprised by the threat and Mary Jane glanced around the room, trying to gauge everyone's reaction.
"Hey Lou, what do you think she'll get? I'm guessing the death penalty, especially since all the evidence points to her, even if that's not what happened."
A uniformed officer left the den's back room carrying a clear plastic container with a knife resting in a cloudy liquid.
"You see the bleach does get rid of your fingerprints and destroys the DNA but there will be enough traces left to determine that human blood was on the knife. Once the lab report comes back, I'm sure this will be a perfect match with the knife that killed Legit."
Joe stood tall.
"Cut up this part of the carpet."
Joe turned back to Mary Jane.
“You see criminals sometimes get caught not because they were careless, but because they were too careful. You thought that if two knives were missing from your collection, that we'd suspect you, so you tried to keep the second one around but now we have the murder weapon. There is going to be blood left under the carpet, it's surprisingly hard to clean up a murder scene and evidence is always left behind..."
Mary Jane lost her composure.
"This wasn't me, I didn't do any of this. I found Scarlet crazed over Tempie's body, just covered in blood. I asked her what happened and she said she turned us in to Legit for a smack of heroin."
"Turned you in?"
"Yeah, we were going to cut him out of the business. He was taking a cut but we didn't need him any more, once Scarlet met me. I didn't even know about the Heroin until after the investigation started. Legit threatened Scarlet's new buyer, so she'd be stuck with him, and that's how she found out about Temperance. All I did was help arrange her alibi, sent her home, and she hid some of the evidence while I waited for the police."
“What about Legit? Was that self defense?”
“Yes!! You're right, he came here to extort me for money to flee. He said I'd take the fall for the heroin, even though I had nothing to do with it. He pulled that gun on me and Scarlet stabbed him in the back. It's self defense, it's not my fault. It's all her fault!”
Scarlet blew her top.
"Why did you say something you cow! We could have gone free if you didn't say anything! Tempie was ruining everything. EVERYTHING! You didn't care, and you didn't care! How could you two just sit back and accept it like you did!"
The patrolmen jumped into action and arrested Scarlet before she could attack Mary Jane. They dragged her from the den's main room. Joe put his hand on Mary Jane's shoulder.
"I'm sorry, but you're coming with me."
If you liked this short story, you should consider reading the Shift World novel.
Please do not reproduce this short story without my explicit permission.