Dr. Anthony "Paladin" Cross
Narrator: Parlortown. A city that has more than its share of dirty secrets.
A city where crime pays better than work and the truth takes a back seat to
staying alive. The city where Stella Decker and Macy Hayes had become private
detectives, dividing their passion between the pursuit of justice and the
pleasures of each other. The Nichols case had degenerated into chaos, with
both client and victim dead, supposedly at Macy’s hands. With Macy on
the run, Stella turned to an old colleague, Julian McGuiness, and her loyal
secretary Tommy Potsdam. The two of them now searched through files at Green
Light Supplies, trying to find a pattern in some broken porcelain.
McGuiness: I can’t make head or tail of it, Tommy. Stickler broke plates,
these guys delivered new ones. Nothing sinister I can see about it.
Narrator: Stickler, owner of the Blue Diner and McGuiness’ former client,
had been shot and then died in the hospital under mysterious circumstances.
His plates getting broken had warranted the attention of a private detective.
Tommy: It seems strange though, doesn’t it Mr. McGuiness? All these
plates getting broken suddenly, then a shooting?
McGuiness: You’re a good kid, Tommy boy, but you won’t last long
in Parlortown thinking like that. Most folks around here would sell out their
grandma for a day’s pay. If their granny gets plugged, well, that’s
the way things go. Life is cheap in this town. (Moment’s hesitation)
Back then, I figured I could change it by being a detective.
Tommy: What happened?
McGuiness: (offhand) Johnny the Brick kidnapped my sister and slit her throat.
Tommy: Oh my God!
McGuiness: More or less my response.
Tommy: Then why do you still do it?
McGuiness: Well, I figured, don’t need to worry about my sister anymore,
Tommy: (Quiet, hesitant) Ms. Decker and Ms. Hayes always seem so confident.
Like it’s only a matter of time before they solve the case, and a little
while after that before they’ve cleaned up Parlortown for good. Even
when the client doesn’t pay and the rent’s due and the truck won’t
run, they don’t give up.
McGuiness: Stel’s a tough mother. First met her just before I left
the force. I’d been on the job maybe two, three weeks, and I had to
go with Lt. Wallace to break up some gang-bangers who were havin’ a
rumble down in South Tip. That’s Spider territory, and the Blades were
tryin’ to muscle in. Kids with chains, knives, crap like that.
Tommy: Ms. Decker was helping to take them down?
McGuiness: (laughs) You kidding? Stella was runnin’ with the Blades.
Tommy: (incredulous) Ms. Decker?!
McGuiness: (almost wistful) Yeah. Wailin’ the hell outta two Spiders
three times her size with a crowbar. Took four officers just to get her cuffed.
I saw that and thought to myself, Julian, maybe you should go private. Following
wives for paranoid husbands, tracking down lost pets, nice and quiet. (beat) Besides, nobody bribes a rookie much.
Tommy: (trying to put a good face on it) That’s an… interesting
McGuiness: Most of life is, kid.
Tommy: Hey, look at this.
McGuiness: What’s up?
Tommy: Mrs. Nichols said her husband borrowed money around the sixteenth…then
there’s this huge delivery to Stickler on the seventeenth. A day or
two later, the husband kicks it. Think there’s a connection?
McGuiness: Could be. Still, getting that much money to buy some plates? Not
much of a businessman, Old Nichols, huh?
Tommy: Apparently not. Look under payments received; a couple grand from "Jack
McGuiness: Jack Nichols, you think?
Tommy: I think so.
McGuiness: Sounds screwy, but then the whole thing is pretty twisted. Let’s
get back to Stella’s.
Narrator: Stella Decker had been released from the hospital a few hours before
to free up one more bed for some poor sap to die in. She was still a little
rocked from being shot – it had been a while since anybody shot at her,
and the first time she couldn’t tell immediately why. She’d sent
Tommy and Julian on some errand to keep them busy – they’d be
out of trouble for now. Meanwhile, acting on the only lead she had, she’d
tracked down the first listing in the phone book for "Cross." Apparently
Stickler had been shot by somebody named Tony Cross, and the only one she
could find was a consultant on Townsend Street. So, bandages still fresh,
she’d headed down to the financial district, where crime bosses ran
front businesses that explained their illicit gains to the IRS.
Stella: Nice digs for a guy who steals tableware. Wonder what he’s
got to do with all this?
Narrator: The offices of Wexler and Cross were wood-paneled and lushly carpeted,
the kind of place where men smoked cigars and played puppet masters. A young
receptionist greeted Stella as she walked in.
Receptionist: (canned friendly voice) Welcome to Wexler and Cross, ma’am.
Do you have an appointment?
Stella: I’m here to see Mr. Cross.
Receptionist: Oh, Dr. Cross won’t see anyone without an appointment.
Stella: Most whores won’t. Tell him that unless I see him in the next
two minutes he’ll have an appointment to appear in court for murder.
Receptionist: (shaken) Umm…I’ll see what I can do. Please take
Stella: (a little louder) Minute and a half, now, sugar-lips. Get going.
Narrator: Stella sat down in the lobby, sinking slightly into the upholstery
of the chair. There weren’t any magazines in sight, so she examined
two portraits on the wall. One was a man who looked strangely familiar, red-headed
and vaguely insecure. The other was of a much older man, skeletally thin with
tinted wire-frame glasses. Under the portrait was a quotation. Stella squinted
to read it from her chair.
Stella: (under her breath) "Justice is the advantage of the strongest." What
the hell does that mean?
Cross: (cold, unfriendly) It’s from Plato’s Republic, madam.
It’s a fancy way of saying might makes right.
Narrator: It was the older of the two men who addressed Stella. He was on
the other side of the room, crossing over to her with a look of quiet distaste.
His voice was raspy and dry, like a sandpaper massage. Stella stood up – the
man was less tall than he seemed, his thinness made him seem taller – and
offered a hand.
Stella: Dr. Cross, I presume.
Cross: Indeed you do, young lady. I’m a busy man, and you’re
throwing around some very serious allegations.
Stella: I just wanted to get your attention. My name is Stella Decker, and
Cross: (Interrupting, suddenly interested) Decker? The detective?
Stella: (Sarcastic) No, the plumber, I came to fix the pipes. Yeah, the detective.
Cross: (dry chuckle) Feisty. I like that. Come with me.
Narrator: Stella, resisting the urge to sock him for calling her ‘feisty’,
followed him to a boardroom that seemed straight out of the days of gentlemen’s
clubs and plutocrats – a relic of Parlortown’s prosperous days.
Photographs around the room seemed to confirm its age and distinction.
Stella: Nice office you’ve got, doc.
Cross: The spoils of a successful career, Ms. Decker. Now, if you’d
explain what all this is about?
Stella: Do you know a man named Stickler, runs the Blue Diner?
Cross: Ash? What about him?
Cross: His first name, Ashleigh.
Narrator: Stella understood instantly why the deceased had been such a caustic
jerk. His parents must have been truly cruel.
Stella: Well, he was shot a couple nights back. Before he died he mentioned
Cross: (feigning shock) My God, shot? Why would anyone shoot Ash?
Stella: Couldn’t say. Why’d you do it?
Cross: I assure you, Ms. Decker, this news comes as a complete shock to me.
I’ve known Ash for years. A good man, if a little caustic. The idea
that someone would kill him is absolutely horrible.
Stella: Save the tears, Cross. Answer my questions and maybe the judge will
go easy on you. How’d you know him?
Cross: We worked together for several years. Before he opened the Blue Diner.
A skilled business mind. Helped keep several of Parlortown’s larger
Stella: You come to the Blue Diner much?
Cross: Sometimes. I’ve something of a weak stomach, greasy food upsets
Stella: Where were you two nights ago around midnight?
Cross: At home, reading. The city council’s new regulations make life
difficult for some of my clients, so I try my best to keep informed.
Narrator: Stella was losing patience. She knew she was missing something,
but she couldn’t put her finger on what. On a whim, she switched tactics.
Stella: Dr. Cross, what do you know about Jack Nichols?
Narrator: Only the briefest twitch gave Cross away. Stella knew she’d
hit a nerve. His expression vanished as quickly as it came.
Cross: Only what I’ve seen on the news. Apparently he has a talent
for being found dead.
Stella: And before that? Any contact?
Cross: (after a pause, dropping all pretense, cold and
deliberate: see Macy in ep.4. Enunciating) Now look here, you nosy little dyke. You’ve barged
into my office, accused me of murder and treated me like an errant schoolboy.
I’ve lost my patience for your inane little games. Leave now or I’ll
call the police, who I’m sure are eager to question you regarding your
partner’s disappearance. I’ve got better things to do than be
spoken down to by an obnoxious little chit of a girl with no respect for her
Narrator: Cross stood and left the room. Stella followed, walking out of
the lobby toward the elevator. As the doors closed she looked back on the
portraits and realized where she’d seen a face like the red-headed man’s.
Stella: (under her breath, pleased with herself) Well well well, Dr. Cross.
Funny that you’ve never met Jack Nichols when your partner’s his
Narrator: Tommy had made photocopies of the records he felt were most useful.
Speaking to the foremen had revealed nothing about the payment, which McGuiness
had said was a good sign of illegal business. Tommy hoped Stella would have
a better idea of how to handle the situation. As the two of them walked out
to the car, Tommy ran possibilities through his head.
McGuiness: Hey, snap out of it, Tommy boy. You look like somebody ran over
Tommy: Sorry, Mr. McGuiness –
McGuiness: Julian, please.
Tommy: - Julian, I’m just tired. This all seems so complicated.
McGuiness: Same here, Tommy. We opened up a big can of worms with this one.
Tommy: (after a pause) Mr McGuiness…Julian…I’ve been wondering…
McGuiness: What’s up, Tommy?
Tommy: (clearly embarrassed to ask) Well, when Ms. Decker talks about you,
she implies that you…well…
McGuiness: (kinda fucking with him) Are dashingly handsome?
Tommy: No, it’s more that you…
McGuiness: (Totally fucking with him) Should get more cases?
Tommy: Well, frankly Julian, Ms. Decker thinks that you’re gay.
McGuiness: (Clearly expecting more) And…?
Tommy: Well, is it true?
McGuiness: Who’s that?
Narrator: McGuiness pointed to a woman standing in front of their car. Tall
and curvy, she stood out against the grey snow of Parlortown in her black
leather jacket and pants. The ensemble was accessorized by a mean-looking
McGuiness: You know her?
Tommy: She’s my girlfriend.
McGuiness: Man, what did you DO?!
Rhiannon: Shut up and get in the car, both of you. We’re going on a
Narrator: The mystery deepens, a kidnapping adding to the murder and deceit
we’ve seen already. What’s the connection between Stickler’s
plates and Nichols’ murder? Where are Tommy and McGuiness being taken?
Can Stella solve the mystery alone? Where has Macy gone? Our story will continue
next week in "Decker & Hayes: Love and Death."