W. Slammer, Private Eye
February 3, 2013
Eating one piece of pizza is like eating one potato chip. Someone’s gotta be lying. But I don’t like to make a mess in my car, so I content myself with nibbling while following the Chamberlain dame to what she calls “home”. Playing it smart, I make a quick stop at my digs, park the Healy and take the MGA. If they’re still following her, this should confuse the guys with guns in the SUV. Ya know, I need a nap. Instead, I head for her home. She’s got a lead on me now, but you can’t throw Slammer a curve he can’t catch. She’s got plenty of them and they’re easy on the eye.
Home. That’s like calling Hearst Castle a cottage. There’s a real live uniformed guard at the gated entrance to the driveway. Heavy black iron gates are set into a thick stone arched wall. I get the feeling that no one drops by the Chamberlains. I check my fuel gage as she talks with the guard and remember, I gotta fill the tank before taking more long drives. The guard gives me a look over before giving me the nod to follow her up the drive. I get the picture. Some people aren’t used to seeing a classic like my Iris Blue MGA being driven by a handsome warthog. Anonymity is almost as good as pizza.
The gates close behind me. Still in the car, instead of parking in one of the attached garages to the left of the main house, she’s pulled the limo close to curb in front of the mansion. The drive through portico is like something you’d see in Rome – but this is Small Town USA. A uniformed attendant hustles down the wide front steps and opens her car door as I drive past. I’m sure the guy doesn’t miss the view as she swings out those long shapely gams.
Maybe it’s an intended distraction. It’s almost working on me.
“Thank you, Eddie,” she says. “Leave the car here. I may be going back out soon. The gentleman may park his roadster besides father’s Rolls. Give my Lincoln a quick cleaning, please. ”
I do a circle around the fountain and park next to a big black Rolls. My car makes the Rolls look even better.
The Chamberlains run a real tight ship for a place that’s never gonna go to sea. Stone and stained glass don’t float, unless there’s more to the castle than I can see. So far I’ve had a lot to see. We climb the stairs. Well, she walks and I climb. Why do people have to make stairs? Ask me. A nice curved ramp way would be just swell.
An elderly gentleman in formal wear, probably the butler, is holding the huge front doors open for her. He stands back as we walk past into the ‘marble everywhere’ entry.
“Good morning Miss Chamberlain. So nice to see you this morning. You didn’t mention going out. Is there anything I can do?”
“Good morning Charles. Has anyone called? My brother? Anyone?”
“No miss. No calls.”
“Thank you, Charles. If anyone calls with an important message for me, take it and call me at once on my cell. Of course do not give that number to anyone – except for Mr. Slammer, here. He’s working with me on a very important matter.”
“And Charles – if my brother does call, or even tries to inter the property, do not allow him in. Call the guard at the gate with my instructions. Understand? I have a restraining order against dear brother.”
“Yes, miss.” Charles almost bows before turning to leave us alone.
“Come with me to our library, Mr. Slammer. I’ll get some cash for you – your retainer.”
In the wood paneled library, I park myself in a comfortable leather chair. “Come on, Miss Chamberlain, what’s goin’ on? Spill it.” I’m wishing I’d eaten the last piece of pizza before coming in. “What is it? Why aren’t you headed for that bank, where ever that is. You know, and your brother knows, too. There’s more in the Will than you’ve told me. I wanna see it.”
“Yes, the Will,” she says,” going to the wall of books and removing a book. The bookcased wall slides open and there’s a bank-like safe. She presses a series keys on the safe and opens the door. Haven’t I seen this in a James Bond movie?
“I changed the combination code after the attorney read the Will. My brother would steal anything he could get his hands on. No one knows the combination except my attorney and Charles. He’s been a savior to me since father died. There’s also a CD father gave me. My dear brother hasn’t heard it, but he needs it even more badly than the map or that letter he stole - and that’s what’s keeping him in town. He doesn’t have the password to give the banker. Without it, the bank manager, who was a close friend of my father, will not allow him access to the safety deposit box.”
I was never good in school, but I’m not dense as a Brazilian rain forest. Things are making a little more sense. I knew the Chamberlain dame was holding back something important.
“Look Miss Chamberlain, I’m trying to put two and two together, like Ms Polanski taught us in second grade, but I’m getting three instead of four. Two keys are required to open a safety deposit box. The banker has one - the renter has the other. Where’s your key?”
She gives me the look. “I knew you were smart, Mr. Slammer. That’s why I hired you. Right here,” she says, lifting a long platinum chain around her movie star neck. Dangling from the end is a safety deposit box key. “I keep it close to my heart.” She gives me that look again and smiles.
I bet that key is warm. She hands me a large tan envelope. “The Will,” she says, then sits across the room from me and crosses her legs. It’s a view no one can ignore. I’m doing my best to not let the looker distract me.
Anyway, now I’m getting four. But is this going to tie a ribbon around this family caper: the map, the letter, the key and the password? The old man wasn’t taking any chances with his dough, thinks me. The one with all the pieces has the golden key to his gold, or whatever’s in that bank safety deposit box. And If I don’t get myself shot and killed, yours truly is gonna have a few more dead presidents in his pocket than I got myself now!