It was 7:30 pm on a Saturday night when Pierce Hale was escorted to Club Dahlia. Pierce sat at a mahogany table, poured from a narrow green bottle, and occasionally leaned back to blow smoke rings. He waited patiently for his dinner. It was 1945 in Miami South Beach. Tropical plants adorned the room opposite the large open archways leading to a ballroom on the roof. A blue-white light from the hotel sign across the street bounced off the wall, cigarette smoke filled the room, and sirens howled down the street. They were screaming, but not nearly as often as Pierce was used to when he worked as a detective on the Boston Police Homicide.
Police chief Davin Laport tried unsuccessfully to persuade him to stay, and it had been only a few months since Pierce had resigned from his job in Boston, where he had served scot-free for twenty years. He enjoyed the dark nights in a harsh city and missed the days he hunted down the bad guys without having to do all the paperwork. Lengthy paperwork. That was a big difference between his work in Boston and his own investigative agency in downtown Miami. The paperwork never seemed to end. Yes, there were times when he could take to the streets next to Johnny Batinni, the mid-twenties investigator, but most of the time he was sitting in the old brick office he rented on the second floor of a rundown building in downtown Miami ,
He had not retired early to fulfill the dream of having his own investigative office, though he had often convinced himself that was the reason. Pierce Hale had retired to be closer to the woman who had just been led in by the porter. She wore a black felt hat, a long black skirt with a red floral print blouse, a shiny red lipstick, and black high-heeled peep toe shoes. Pierce's jaw dropped. He had known her for five years and his jaw was always falling.
"Elizabeth!" Exclaimed Pierce, waving his fedora above his head. "I'm over here!"
Elizabeth Booth was the most beautiful and intelligent woman he had ever met, and she did not look like most of the 53-year-old women of the time. Somehow, the stress that went along with those years did not age them like most women did. She had no wrinkles under her eyes and looked 15 or even 20 years younger by her complexion. She stood about six feet and weighed a buck fifteen.
Elizabeth sauntered over to Pierce, her heels moving near the percussion on the heavy wooden floor as she approached.
"I do not think I've been here since 1942, and it's falling apart somehow," exclaimed Elizabeth as she set aside a half-empty beer glass.
"Do not be silly, Elizabeth, we drank here less than 6 months ago when I told you I was retiring," Pierce replied.
"That's probably true, but I still do not understand how it is that these places were still not taken care of in 1945," she said as she leaned forward and kissed Pierce on the cheek. "How are you, Pierce?"
"Oh, I'm feeling a lot better than a few minutes since you showed up," Pierce said, trying not to be excited to see her.
The truth was that Pierce had a lot in mind today. A problematic case had been brought up by Johnny Batinni, who seemed overwhelmed with all the work on his desk.
"Actually," Pierce continued, "I'm struggling with a case my lucky assistant thinks is too much, and two women were killed near Winter Beach in the last two weeks, and it's interesting that both were killed. " they were on their honeymoon and their husbands do not seem to be connected at all. "
Elizabeth could tell when Pierce was having a conversation and when he actually had a case. The salt and pepper mustache he wore still seemed a bit twitchy when he had problems with work.
"It reminds me of a case I had in Boston in 1940, when three teenagers all drowned in exactly the same spot in the Boston harbor, and none of the boys was connected in any way other than their age, their parents were not involved and no one could find any clues, and eventually the guy himself was so guilty for the feeling that it turned out he had been kidnapped about his childhood and had to get it out to someone who actually enjoyed his youth. "
Pierce paused for a moment, hoping Elizabeth would give her some encouragement, which she always did.
"So, do you think that could be some sort of arbitrary force directed against newlyweds?" She answered.
"Exactly, the only problem is that I have no idea where to start looking for this guy, in both cases the husbands left their hotel for a few minutes, and when they came back their wives were in the back of their minds Shot with a caliber of .22. No evidence left behind, no fingerprints, no ID, no nothing, "Pierce informed her.
"Where did all this happen, Pierce?" Elizabeth asked curiously.
Pierce took a minute to remember the names of the two hotels where the killings had taken place. This was mainly because Pierce had fixed himself on the long, windy, dark strand of hair that was out of place, dangling perfectly over Elizabeth's glowing, hazel eyes. It brought him back to the day they met at the end of the 1930s on a passenger ship from New York Harbor.
"One was at the Mangrove Inn and the other was at the Hurricane Hotel," Pierce answered the question after remembering the conversation. "Why do you ask that?" he continued.
"I know the owners of most of the hotels in Winter Beach," Elizabeth replied. "In fact, Lisa Porter is the owner of the two hotels you just mentioned, have you talked to her?"
Pierce shook his head. He had not been able to get in touch with Mrs. Porter, even if he lacked trial. Every time he turned the dial on the phone to call her, he heard nothing but a ringing on the other end.
"She does not seem to be in town, and I have no way to contact her," Pierce said. "Why is it that you own two hotels that have committed two different murders and are unavailable to the local police?"
"Well, maybe you just will not try it, Pierce," Elizabeth said with a sly grin on her face. "Come to my office tomorrow at half past one and I'll have you on the phone for you."
Pierce was not the kind of person who trusted others to do what they promised, but he always knew they could count on Elizabeth. She also had contacts with almost all of South Florida.
After the conversation ended, Pierce and Elizabeth spent the rest of the evening learning all about their favorite movies, some post-war politics, and news.
The next day, at 1:20, Pierce Hall arrived at the local college where Elizabeth Booth was an English professor. When Pierce entered Elizabeth's office, he realized how easy it was for him to get through security and find her office. This was unlike the first time he visited Elizabeth in her apartment. Safety in South Beach was impossible to achieve during the war, especially where Elizabeth lived. Not only policemen were on the streets, but military uniforms were found in most corners near their neighborhood.
When Pierce entered Elizabeth's office, he started to say something, but noticed that she was on the phone.
"Here it is Lisa, he just came in. I'll hand over the phone to him and I'm sure he has some questions for you," Elizabeth said into the phone. She continued and gave Pierce the phone. "It's Lisa Porter, the owner of the hotels you told me last night. She was in her beach house in Carolina, but I could find her phone number from a colleague of mine. "
"Hello Mrs. Porter, how are you?"
"Well, Mr. Hale, I would do much better if I had known my investments were the scene of two murders, and when I heard that the police showed up and searched my hotel, I just could not imagine what it will look like this when I come back! "cried the voice on the other end of the phone. Pierce could hardly bear to hear the high, whining voice of Mrs. Porter.
"I'm sorry about all the excitement, Mrs. Porter, but I was wondering if you could help us, do you have any idea who that might be, someone who has access to the rooms in your two hotels?"
"The only person who has access to my two hotels is the cleaning lady," Lisa replied. "Well, he's not a real boy, Skip Daniels is his name, he's 35 years old and terribly weird, but he's leaving." these rooms are lit up. "
After several more minutes of conversation, Pierce collected contact information for Skip Daniels and thanked Mrs. Porter for her help. Pierce then thanked Elizabeth and told her that he was looking for the cleaning boy. Pierce and Elizabeth argued in the next few minutes because Elizabeth thought she was needed for this mission and Pierce never liked to endanger women, especially Elizabeth. As always, Elizabeth won the fight and they went in Pierce's Dodge Coupe from 1938 to Skip Daniel's downtown apartment.
When they reached the run-down complex that looked like part of the bombing in Nazi Germany, Pierce and Elizabeth went to door 5, the apartment where Skip Daniels lived.
Pierce knocked hard on the old wooden door for several minutes without receiving an answer.
"Just break it, Pierce," Elizabeth said emphatically. And so she kicked as hard as she could against the door and knocked her off her hinges.
"I think that's the way to go," Pierce said, a little surprised by her strength.
As they walked through the apartment, Pierce made sure his .38 Police Special pistol was within easy reach. He had not noticed, but Elizabeth took another path through the kitchen as Pierce went to the bedroom.
The apartment seemed to be empty until Pierce entered the crowded bedroom. Black and white images of beautiful women adorned the cracked walls of the bedroom. Pierce was almost disgusted by the number of posters. On each of them was written a note that seemed to be the love messages of a disturbed man. As Pierce continued his way through the bedroom, he heard someone breathe out of the closet. Pierce opened the cupboard and saw a man wearing only his boxer shorts huddled in the corner.
"Skip Daniels, I suppose?" Pierce asked.
"You have nothing of me!" The man cried. "You do not know me, you do not know what I went through! These men do not deserve to have these women in their lives!"
And then Skip Daniels jumped to Pierce Hall without warning and grabbed his gun from the holster. A fight followed, in which the weapon was released. Pierce had always been able to handle criminals in the past, but his body began to age. He took a right hook to his left eye and immediately felt the cracking of his bones.
At that moment, he heard Elizabeth yell, "Get away from him, get away from him, you slime, go away or I'll shoot!"
Pierce had never seen Elizabeth with a gun, but she seemed to know how to use it. Apparently she had seen the fight and had run in to help Pierce. When she saw the gun lying on the ground, she picked it up and took control of the situation.
When the local police brought Skip Daniels to court to bring him to justice, Pierce was able to collect a wealth of information about the man's story in his apartment. It seemed as if Skip had recently made a proposal to his longtime girlfriend, but it was to be rejected. She had apparently cheated on him with another man and Skip felt that he had lost what he rightly owned.
"I think he will go away for a long time," Pierce said, exhausted from the excitement of the day.
"Yes, and you have to thank me for being alive," Elizabeth informed him in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Do you know, Elizabeth Booth, you would make a pretty good private eye and your resistance is in vain!"
And with that, Pierce accompanied Elizabeth to his car and brought her home. He did not know that this would be the first of many cases in which he would rely on Elizabeth Booth to bring criminals to justice.