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THE MARTONZA CASE CHAPTER 3
For most souls, the dark and quiet atmosphere in Blue Casket was something soothing that made them forget their problems for a moment. In the club one didn't have to think about who he was, but he could concentrate in merely sitting and enjoying himself.
Nick had always felt that the place was harrowing in its own way and he had never dared to completely relax there -- until he got to Olivia's private rooms, that is. After Lola had taken a picture of him and Olivia in a rather awkward situation he had just become more careful.
And something told him that he would have to be even more careful on that night.
"So how has the night been, sugar?" he asked Olivia as he walked to her. The woman stood on her usual place and kept an eye on the almost nonexistent events in her club.
"I suppose you had a hard day," she stated not turning to even glance in Nick's direction.
"You don't want to know."
"No, I don't. Maximino spent the entire day telling me how the murder of that woman -- what was her name again -- is not good for his business."
"Just what Maximino would do; always complaining about matters he knows have no meaning," Nick stated.
Olivia merely snorted as a response.
At that point Nick usually would have touched the woman softly or otherwise told her what he wanted, and Olivia would have allowed that. They would have withdrawn in her private rooms and Nick would have left and returned to his own apartment in the last moments of the night. Things had always been like that between then, nothing more, nothing less.
At that night the lawyer did nothing, merely stood behind her and watched her while her eye sockets were fixed on the club. He was more than aware of the way she had treated him lately.
Glances cast away, short conversations and quiet moments. No more amusing insults or short moments when neither of them had to be something bigger than death.
Yes, it was more than obvious that she was trying to avoid him. Nick knew that he had been -- or would be soon enough -- replaced. It made a bitter taste rise in his mouth and he had to wonder when Maximino would be told that Olivia was planning to move into bigger circles.
"You are awfully quiet tonight," he said. He knew, and Olivia knew that he did, but he wanted to make the woman say it. It was ridiculous and childish and he was sure that Olivia would laugh and tell about him to her new boyfriend -- Nick was sure he knew who that soul was --, but he didn't really care.
He had been with her for over two years. The least he deserved was to make her say something to him without tricks or lies. It would be the first time.
"Must be my headache. I have suffered from it since yesterday afternoon. This weather causes it, I can't stand rain," the woman said and still didn't look at him. Nick was starting to feel like a fool talking to her back like that.
"I see," he said and shoved his hands in his pockets.
"I have slept more than usually because of it," Olivia said. Nick knew that it was her way of telling him that she wanted him to leave. She always used headache as her excuse when she didn't want to be with someone, usually Maximino.
"That's it?" he asked. Now Olivia turned around as if she was surprised to hear his question. "Is that enough to drive you away from the big cat's pocket?" Nick added and a small amused smile appeared on Olivia's face.
"Sometimes that is quite enough," she said.
They didn't talk in another while and Nick decided to leave. It was clear that he had nothing to stay for. He had the chance of taking his first step when Olivia spoke again.
"You know Nick," she started and the lawyer stopped. "If your little... company is going to honour the secretary's loved ones somehow... I think you would be the best to deliver the message. You and Santino must have so much in common."
"What? Who is Santino?" Nick was sure that there was a meaning behind the woman's words, but he had no idea what it was.
"Don't tell me you don't know the poor soul's fiancé. I am surprised. You worked in the same place," Olivia said.
"I thought she had something to do with Bogan," Nick said.
"So you knew that. Let's say I am not the only one with a secret in this town."
Nick didn't have to hear more. At that moment a whole new picture appeared in his mind and he realised he could understand the situation a bit after all.
"I am not interested in the matters of meaningless souls. You should know that," he said before starting to leave, barely able to hide his excitement. Maybe Olivia noticed it, maybe not. He couldn't tell what she thought of him after she no longer considered him worth of her time.
In a way Nick was slightly disappointed in how things had ended. He had known that it would happen, and he had also known that he would never get an explanation from her. Their small relationship had started under everyone's noses without many people noticing anything. It had now ended that way, and no one would ever have to know.
His steps took him closer to the docks that had awoken with the night. In daytime he could have walked around as much as he wanted, but now he had no intention of doing that. Ones like him were not popular among sailors and he wouldn't have wanted to chit chat with them anyway.
"You there," he called from the shadows to a young boy. He stopped and looked at Nick with a slightly nervous expression, and the lawyer suspected he was a mere inexperienced lad.
"What do you want, sir?" the boy asked trying to make his voice sound polite.
"Find Chowchilla Charlie and tell him that someone is waiting for him here." As he spoke Nick slipped his hand in his pocket and drew out a coin. He threw it at the boy who caught it from the air and hid it in his clothes.
"Right away sir!" he exclaimed sounding much more enthusiastic, and ran off. Nick watched him go for a moment, and took a cigarette from his other pocket.
The place he had chosen was quiet and away from the night life. Wind blew from the sea and made the almost empty pier a cold place. Nick stood right on the edge and stared at the black water with the cigarette in his fingers. Doing that always made him feel uncomfortable inside.
He had to stand alone for at least twenty minutes before anything happened. He didn't turn around when he heard steps.
"You are late," he stated.
"But we never agreed to meet. Come on Nick, you can't expect that such an important man as me will follow your every word," Chowchilla Charlie said, not stepping too close. While Nick stood on the edge of the pier the con artist preferred the street.
"I am an impatient man and I have no time to lose. I found out that you didn't tell me everything about Margarita's relationship with Bogan. I don't like that."
"What? Are you threatening me? I never thought you'd sink that low, Nick." Charlie's voice was no longer amused, only annoyed.
"Take my words as you wish to. Right now I suggest you to tell me everything you know about Margarita, Santino and Bogan," Nick said. As he spoke he turned around to be able to look at Charlie.
"I am terribly sorry, Nick. I thought you'd know the basics of the people you work with. I should have remembered that you couldn't be less interested in people other than yourself," Charlie said and raised his hands in front of himself as he saw Nick's not so pleasant expression. "Fine, fine. But as you know, information costs."
"I do know, and I promise to say something good about you to Maximino. Just tell me something worth my time," Nick said. It would be difficult to come up with something positive about a small crook whose existence was of no use to anyone, but...
"And I want to know what is going on and why you are suddenly so interested in this sprouted woman," Charlie added.
"I don't have to tell you anything," Nick said sharply. He knew that Charlie could keep a secret if one paid him enough, but it was more a matter of principles. The lawyer was used to taking care of awkward business all by himself.
"No, but if I know what you are trying to accomplish I can find better information for you. Maybe there is something you want to know, but it means nothing to me and I therefore don't even mention it. It's good for the both of us if we solve your problem -- whatever it is. You can forget it, and I walk back in the Cat Track with you," the con artist explained and tilted his head hopefully. He reminded Nick of a begging dog.
"I don't know how much I can trust you, so be careful. One wrong move or word and you are out of my plans."
"Naturally, Nick, naturally. I know well enough how things are in these circles," Charlie assured and seemed to be feeling much better. "Margarita and Santino... you must know who he is?" When Nick shook his head Charlie continued: "Well, you are aware of the new guy who took over Calavera's place after Bogan closed it? Good. Santino works there as a waiter. I have met him only once; he's a big and strong man. One who looks like he always gets what he wants."
"And he wanted Margarita?"
"Oh, absolutely. Don't ask me why. The two of them were engaged when they arrived in Rubacava and started to work to earn enough money to go on. One rarely saw them together anywhere, they were out only a couple of times. Or so I've heard. Angel told me that she would love to be with such a strong willed man."
Nick nodded gesturing Charlie to continue. He suspected that the sly con artist hadn't told it all to him during their previous meeting just because he wanted to be in the picture. Nick knew that he wouldn't have agreed to accept the con artist's help before.
"At some point Margarita got to know Bogan, and they learned to know each other very well. I think Bogan quite liked her if he bothered to come and see the murder scene himself," Charlie said. "I am curious to know why you are so interested in this. Maybe you too had a place in your heart for that woman, and want to find her murderer?"
"How amusing," Nick snorted. "I do want to know who murdered her, but it's purely because of business. I left some very important papers to Margarita and they can't be found anywhere anymore. All copies of them were stolen on the night she was sprouted."
"Ah, that is interesting. I suppose that you will be in hot water if the papers are not found in time, right?" Charlie didn't have to wait for Nick's reply to understand. "Interesting indeed. What papers were they?"
Nick thought for a while before replying. If Charlie really wanted to help him he would have to tell the man everything possible. In a way he wanted the con artist's advice, the man knew much more about Rubacava than he did. Nick had to admit that he had never been interested in anything that didn't happen in the better parts of Rubacava.
"The Martonza case. It's the biggest contract Maximino has had in a long while. I should take care of the paper work within a week, but that is quite difficult since there isn’t any."
Charlie sighed. "Oh, you have got yourself in quite a mess, Nick. You suppose that by finding Margarita's murderer you will find the papers too?"
"Of course, I don't think another option exists."
For a while they just stood there. Nick turned his gaze to the sea and listened if Charlie would leave. He knew that after finding out what he wanted the con artist could just do it.
"You know Nick," the shorter man started.
"Yes? Already decided what to think about this?"
"Not exactly, but I have decided to help you. There are many reason, the main one of course that doing this is a straight way back to Maximino's favour. And I am terribly frustrated. Lately I have done nothing but fake money, small amounts. That is so... boring and lacks all imagination."
"I can imagine. But I am not here to listen to your complaints. Someone wants to ruin Maximino's business and I have to find out who it is," Nick said.
"Not that easy, you know. There are many in this town who would be happy to take his place."
"Unfortunately true. Any of them could be behind this." Despite that his thoughts had circled around the case the whole day, Nick hadn't been able to name anyone who could have been more likely the guilty than someone else.
He eyed the sea in thought. "I usually don't want to have anything to do with them, but now might be the time of paying a visit to some of Maximino's competitors," he muttered.
To be continued...
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