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THE MARTONZA CASE CHAPTER 8
It was the fourth night since Margarita's murder. Nick had wasted half of the time he had, but it wasn't really making him nervous. He still had some time to find the guilty perhaps it would happen this very night.
This time he had prepared for the cool night and wore a dark coat. It reached his knees and he thought that if he had had a hat he might have looked a little like the actor who had started to get popular around the time he had died.
The night was clear and he had no trouble seeing where he was going. He still couldn’t hurry as he would have liked, because he didn't know the docks and was afraid of causing too much noise by rushing wherever his feet were taking him.
He took Alberto's note from his pocket. At pier 3 at midnight. Nick didn't usually have a watch on him, but this time he had bothered to bring along a real pocket watch a bribe he had once received from some miserable soul. It ticked loudly and told him that there was still good ten minutes before midnight.
Nick arrived at the right pier within a few minutes. The place was completely deserted and if waves hadn't licked the pier, everything would have been quiet. Nick had been afraid of not getting close enough to hear the conversation between Alberto and the mysterious H, but thankfully a small boat was tied to the pier. It was covered by old blankets and the lawyer quickly dove under them.
He was quite curious to find out what Alberto was up to. Whatever it was, it couldn't be meant for Maximino's ears. The mere thought of soon having a weapon against his hated colleague brought Nick in a good mood.
When a few minutes had passed, he heard steps. Nick didn't dare to lift the blankets to see who was coming, but concentrated entirely on listening. He felt excited. Spying on someone in the middle of the night and getting dirty was not like him at all. Had he known someone trustworthy he would have sent him to do the work.
It didn't take long before a new pair of steps was heard. Two actually, as he noted when they got closer. He guessed the first person to come had been Alberto.
"Do you have what we agreed on?" a voice asked. It sounded familiar to Nick and he hoped he could have seen the talker. Surely he had seen him somewhere recently!
"Everything is here," Alberto replied. There was a soft click when a suitcase was opened. It was followed by a silence of a minute or two, and Nick suspected the other person was going through whatever was in the case. Oh, if he only could have taken one look at what was going on. He didn't dare to even more to avoid rocking the boat.
Thankfully the owner of the familiar voice became more than clear only seconds later.
"Excellent work," was said and it was followed by several phrases of German that Nick understood nothing about.
"Thank you. It has been a pleasure working for you, Mr. Himmel," Alberto said. The hiding lawyer was startled and scolded himself for not recognising the German's voice sooner. He had spoken with him only two days earlier!
"But it is a pity that you weren't able to bring the Martonza papers for me," Himmel said and Nick had trouble holding still. Had he been right? Had Alberto really had something to do with the murder? And Himmel? Nick had been almost sure of the man's innocence.
"True," Alberto said, sounding annoyed. "Whoever killed her was faster than us."
What? What was going on now? Someone else was stealing from Maximino as well? How many conspiracies were there against the man?
"I would pay to know who that crook was. Virago stopped by to ask me about it. I don't think he knows the guilty party either. I only hope this newcomer doesn't start competing with us," he heard Himmel say.
Alberto exchanged a couple of more words with the German before he and the third man accompanying him Nick guessed him to be a bodyguard left. A few minutes later he heard Alberto go too.
Nick waited for several more minutes before climbing out of the boat. The pier was completely deserted and he could hear nothing. He didn't stay there, but headed straight home. His steps were loud against the road and he wanted nothing more than to get out of there.
He had a lot to think about.
Nick slammed the door to his apartment shut and fell in a heap on his arm chair. He didn't bother to take his coat off or move the old newspapers away.
He didn't know what he had expected to find out that night, but he didn't feel very surprised. Alberto had never shown any signs of selling information to anyone, but it was something Nick could have easily thought of the man.
It was a pity he hadn't solved the Martonza case yet. He was now sure that Alberto and Himmel were innocent. So who was left?
Santino was an option and Nick didn't want to give up on Toto either, even though Charlie had been sure that the man had nothing to do with the mess. He also had to take some of Maximino's lesser enemies into count, but they were the scum of Rubacava. Nick didn't honestly think they had the courage to do anything.
So who could be the murderer? Where were the Martonza papers?
The next morning Nick faced another surprise this one being much more shocking and it made him froze for a couple of seconds.
He had spent most of the night on the chair and trying to come up with a solution. Early in the morning he had slept an hour or two, but he still felt tired enough to be able to sleep an entire week.
He had to admit that he hadn't got that much rest lately. Who could have blamed him?
When he arrived at work an hour late the first thing he did was to make sure if Alberto was there. And he was. The man stood talking to a nice looking secretary and didn't even glance at Nick when the lawyer walked past.
Nick would have liked to wish good morning to the man, but stopped himself. Who knew how suspicious Alberto would have got because of such a friendly gesture even if it was meant as an insult. So Nick headed towards his office, his intention being to concentrate on some light work and form a new plan.
However, he was stopped before he got that far.
"Mr. Virago, this arrived this morning," a small woman with a high pitched voice said and handed him a piece of paper. Nick barely looked at her as he took it, but he guessed she was the new woman who had come to replace Margarita on the previous day.
He growled a thank you and continued to his office. He didn't read the paper until he had safely closed the door behind himself. And then he hoped he had never found out what the paper said.
I am surprised that you contact me like this. I don't know what has happened over there, but everything is well here. A very fine gentleman contacted me a few days ago and told me that Maximino would not be able to keep his part of our deal. So I took the liberty to do business with the man I mentioned. He was most generous and I no longer feel the need to buy Maximino's services.
Yours, Emmanuel Martonza
Nick read the letter more than once to convince himself that the lines actually said what he thought. Shaking with anger he ripped the paper apart and threw the pieces away as he walked to sit behind his desk.
"A fine gentleman indeed..." he muttered to himself. At least he knew that the one behind it all was a man. Someone who had now finished his plan and stolen the Martonza case.
For a moment he considered writing back to Puerto Zapato and asking who Martonza's new comrade was. It would be no use though, that deal was lost to them. Now he could only walk to Maximino and tell him everything Nick believed he could twitch things around so that he couldn't be blamed or pack his bags and get lost before anyone noticed anything.
Now he would have to come up with what to do next. The only sensible option was going to Maximino, of course. His employer would learn the truth sooner or later anyway.
But Nick didn't like that particular option. He knew that Maximino wouldn't be pleased with that he hadn't been told at once about the fate of the Martonza papers. Doing that in the beginning would have been the wisest thing to do, but pride had stopped Nick from admitting that something was wrong.
What else could he do? Leave the town in silence and move to Puerto Zapato or even farther away? Nick almost laughed aloud at the stupidity of it. He could imagine how the entire town would react to a trick like that. Maximino would be disappointed and insulted, most of the people happy to see him go and Olivia... she would laugh like no tomorrow and talk about how he had had to flee like a dog.
He felt sudden hatred for the woman. He thought about how she, at that very moment, could be planning her afterlife with her new boyfriend or even worse writing dark poetry about pain and coldness. It was so infuriating and yet it fascinated him.
And suddenly he felt like he had been hit by a thunderbolt. Why hadn't he thought of it sooner?
Now Nick knew what had made him feel so restless after talking with Charlie on the previous day. His mind had tried to tell him that the solution to the mystery had been revealed to him he had just been too ignorant to listen!
"Maximino said he has seen Olivia only once during the week the day before yesterday and yet Angel claimed she was visiting him the night Margarita was murdered," he muttered to himself. Maximino wouldn't have lied so if Olivia hadn't been with him or in Blue Casket, where then?
He had a feeling he knew exactly with whom Martonza had made his deal. He just didn't want to think about it. He felt oddly defeated and very angry; there was nothing he could do. Maximino would never hear a bad word about his love. And even if he did there was nothing they could do to improve the situation.
No, he thought in a sudden fit of determination. I won't give up that easily. He would at least have to see the proof. Before that he wouldn't say or do anything else.
Nick formed a working plan quickly. He'd break into Blue Casket late at night when the club was already closed and go through Olivia's belongings. She would most likely spend the night with Maximino; perhaps it would even be the last together for the couple. The lawyer would have enough time to find out the details of the case.
He'd also get Charlie to help. The little man could keep guard and make sure nothing went wrong.
"Are you insane, Nick? You can't break into Blue Casket like that!" Charlie snapped after hearing the lawyer's daring plan. "What if you are caught? Maximino will break your bones and that's nothing compared to what Olivia will do."
"I won't, when you are there," Nick stated. After seeing Charlie's suspicious glare he could only growl angrily. He was in a tight mood and had no patience for fools or non-believers.
"I don't like this. I think that what you are about to do is a big mistake," the con artist said.
"Then it is. You shouldn't care," Nick pointed out.
"But I do. I have wasted an almost entire week helping you and I haven't got anything in return yet. I am starting to get impatient," Charlie said and the lawyer remembered the conversation they had had on the previous day. Charlie had been really mad and he had to admit that he was surprised that the little man had bothered to listen to him this time.
He searched his pockets until he found a handful of old coins.
"Here. Have some in advance," he snapped and offered the money to Charlie who in return looked at him in contempt.
"Now I am insulted," he said and didn't make a move to take the money. Nick put them back with a shrug.
"Are you with me, then?" he asked. The con artist considered it and looked like he was thinking about something really hard. Then, to Nick's slight surprise, he nodded.
"Why not? Better finish this," he said.
And so the duo crept near Blue Casket at the end of the night. The club was dark now, the last of the beatniks had left and no one was in the building. Nick had seen Olivia and Maximino together that night so didn't fear or hope meeting her.
"Stay here and keep guard. If someone comes, fire your gun or give me another warning," he said to Charlie and pushed the man deeper into shadows.
"You do realise that it will reveal me and I will be in danger myself?" the con artist asked.
"Then come up with something that pleases you better!" Nick snapped. He didn't like doing this and would have preferred going home and forgetting the entire thing, but now he wouldn't turn back. Firstly, it would be embarrassing in front of Charlie and he had to know if he had guessed right.
After making sure that Charlie really knew what to do, Nick stepped into the dark Blue Casket. When Olivia had got a hold of the club the first thing she had done was getting rid of the door. Nick and Maximino had told her that it was a financial suicide in a place like Rubacava, but she had been stubborn. She had said that no one wanted to steal anything from her.
Now he was thankful for her sometimes ridiculous stubbornness. He didn't have to feel his way inside because he knew the club as well as his own pockets. In fact, he surprised himself by remembering exactly where the tables where and how to avoid crashing into the stage. He hadn't thought he had ever paid that much attention to the furniture. His thoughts had been way somewhere else.
When he had got to the other end of the club, the easy part was over. Olivia was too trusting when it came to her club, but she always locked the door to her private chambers when she wasn’t there. Nick knelt and felt the wall until he found the almost invisible hole where Olivia had used to hide a key for him. The lawyer didn't know if there was anything anymore and so he felt relieved when he felt a small metal key in his fingers.
Apparently Olivia used the same place when she left a key for her new boyfriend. Nick wasn't surprised.
He opened the door, slipped inside closing it and turned the light on. He had done the same so many times that he didn't even have to think about it. He pushed the desire to stay and look at the room out of his mind.
Right next to the door was a small desk and he started going through the drawers. They were filled with papers with poems, aphorisms and such. They didn't interest Nick so he put them aside. He didn't know what he was looking for, but he believed he would recognise it if he saw something.
The next drawer was also full of papers and he didn't even bother glancing at them. He turned to the next one, only to find out that it was empty. With an angry sigh he slammed it shut and turned his attention to the desk.
Nothing special on it; only an ashtray, some book and an empty glass.
"If she had any proof here, where would she put it?" he asked himself. He was starting to feel ridiculous. Olivia wasn't stupid and probably wouldn't keep the Martonza papers or the murder weapon at her home.
He walked to the paper bin next and knelt to give it a look. It was half empty and he didn't find anything interesting.
Suddenly he heard the door open.
"Charlie?" he asked, not turning to look. That cursed, impatient little
"No, it's me," Olivia's soft voice said and Nick whirled around. What was she doing there? Why hadn't Charlie warned him?
"You were supposed to be with Maximino this night," he said darkly and stood up. Olivia only snorted and placed her hand on her hip.
"With him? When something exciting is happening here? Come on, Nick," she said. Then she tilted her head. "And may I ask what you are doing here?"
"I need to know something," Nick said.
"Well, ask away. I have nothing to hide."
"Did you have anything to do with Margarita's death and the disappearance of the Martonza papers?"
The lawyer expected her to laugh at him and say that it was not like her to get involved with Maximino's business, or ask him what he was talking about. However, she merely shrugged. "And if I had?"
That was quite enough for Nick.
"I wouldn't have thought of you," he said with an almost despising voice. "Hector LeMans has had a bad influence on you."
"Why do you care about what I do? He wanted to have a new nail in Maximino's coffin and I wanted money!" Olivia snapped sharply. Perhaps a little too sharply, but Nick didn't bother to think about it.
"So I was right. You killed her and gave the papers to your boyfriend. I must take my hat off to Hector. It was about time someone tamed you," he said. The expression on Olivia's face turned dangerously angry.
"Don't talk about things you don't understand. Get out!"
Nick had no reason to disobey so he walked past the woman to the club. He stopped again there.
"What happened to Charlie?" he asked. Olivia snorted dryly.
"He must be packing his bags," she said.
"Oh, you didn't know? He is moving to Nuevo Marrow. He said he might find some respect there."
Now the lawyer realised why he hadn't got a warning and how Olivia had known to come. Charlie had probably warned her beforehand and run off the moment Nick had stepped inside the club. He felt angry, but mostly at himself. It had been stupid to trust that dog.
As he stood there he realised that the entire thing was over now. He knew what had happened and why. The outcome didn't actually surprise him and he wondered why he hadn't thought of it before. He should have realised that Hector LeMans was in everything.
"It will be difficult to explain this to Maximino..." he muttered as he started leaving. Olivia had turned on the light earlier and the club bathed in familiar blue.
"I don't think he cares at the moment," she said and Nick stopped.
"So you left him," he stated. Olivia said nothing, but disappeared in her room, closing the door after her. The smile on her face was the last thing Nick ever saw of her.
He thought about it as he walked home. Charlie had left the dying Rubacava.
Perhaps he should too.
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