Narr: The South Tip of Parlortown had seen some down and dirty times.
Some had thought that would end, once the Spiders were eliminated. They
Tasha: She's taking over the South Tip. Her operation is crushing us. I don't
know who this "Widow" is, but she's destroying our business.
Narr: Tasha was supposed to be the new Queen of the South Tip. Things weren't
exactly going as planned. Macy Hayes and Stella Decker, partners in the Decker & Hayes
Detective Agency, sat in the Madame's office, the cold of the city air creeping
in through the sides of the windows, creeping up their spines. They also had
something of a stake in "Mama Wang's", ever since the place's original
owner willed it to Stella on her deathbed.
Stella: What are you talking about? I thought we had the South Tip wrapped
up? You told me we were set.
Tasha: That seems to have been a little premature.
Narr: Stella Decker had certainly done her part in cleaning up the neighborhood,
what with personally murdering the place's worse elements with her own hands.
She wasn't exactly proud of the act, but she'd hoped something good could
have come out of it. It was, after all, the reason she was sitting in a cold
metal wheelchair instead on standing up and getting in Tasha's face.
Stella: What exactly was the problem here, Tash? I told you exactly what
you needed to do, I mapped the whole God Damned thing out for you!
Tasha: It's not that simple-
Stella: What could be simpler? I told you- with Mama dead and the Spiders
out of the picture, we created a power vacuum. I said, all you've got to do
is walk in like you own the place, and it's yours!
Stella: I handed you Mama's business intact, we even got the Blades keeping
the Mafia out of the tip. What do I have to do, gift-wrap the thing for you?
Tasha: Look, I've kept up my part. The Widow moved in about two months ago,
and suddenly my girls have been drifting over to her stable.
Stella: What's she been offering them?
Tasha: I got no idea! But this last week, I've had so few girls I’ve
had to start turning down clients, and they aren't calling back.
Stella: So, why is this the first I'm hearing about it?
Tasha: At first I figured me and the Blades could take care of it, but I
told you, I've been calling for days! I thought that's why you were here!
Stella: Dammit, Tasha, you're supposed to come to me at the first sign-
Macy: (shouting) Stella!
Stella: Jeeze, Mace... what?
Macy: (terse) Can I speak to you for a moment please?
Stella: (exhasperated sigh) Fine. Tasha?
Narr: Without a word, Tasha let herself out of the office, leaving the pair
alone together. Stella struggled with her wheels for a moment and turned to
face her partner.
Stella: What is it, hon?
Macy: I'm the reason Tasha didn't contact you.
Macy: You know I've never been comfortable with you business arrangement
here, and Tasha and I don't exactly get along. I told her to keep as much
of the operations here away from you as possible. Only I didn't say it so
nice as that.
Stella: Jesus Christ, Macy! What are you trying to do?
Macy: We're supposed to be detectives, baby, not criminals-
Stella: Says a former CIA defector. That's treason, right?
Macy: Emphasis on former. And when we started the agency, you were a former
gang member. What are you now, Stella?
Stella: Obviously, I'm not much of anything! What the hell can I be, when
I'm stuck in this damned chair, and the only person I thought I could trust
keeping phone calls from me?
Macy: It's not like that, baby, and I didn't keep her phone calls from you!
You'll have to ask Jane about that, I just- We came here on a case, Stella.
Remember those? Someone has a problem that we help to set right?
Stella: And it so happens, it dovetails with something in our business.
Macy: It's not our business, Stell. I'm in the detective business. I'm going
to go check into Ellsinore, like you said. I assume one of your other partners
can give you a ride home.
Narr: But Macy wasn't interested in being stopped. She was out the office
door before Stella could even turn herself around properly. Stella grabbed
the back of the chair Macy had been sitting in and threw it against the wall.
Tasha strode back into the room and closed the door.
Tasha: Why do you stay with that bitch?
Stella: Shut up, Tasha.
Narr: Macy brushed past the bouncer and out of her lover's house of ill repute,
stalking her way back to Stella's pickup. She still thought of it as Stella's
pickup even though it was likely she'd kiss Tasha before Stella ever drove
it again. Since the paralysis, she'd taken to driving Stella around in the
beat up thing, whereas Stella used to drive her. Now, it was all Stella could
do to drive Macy crazy. As she started the car, Macy realized that this would
be the first time anyone else had driven Stella around since she'd gotten
out of the hospital. The trek out to the Ellsinore Mental Care Facility was
a long one, as it sat in the hills about forty minutes outside of Parlortown
proper. She knew that once there, the long reach of Parlortown's omnipresent
corruption would come in useful, as a palmed fifty would gain Miss Hayes unfettered
access to the record room in the basement of the facility. The lonely drive
was not one she looked forward to, however. After a few minutes rolling along
the freeway stewing in her thoughts, she reluctantly pulled out her cell phone,
searched through the caller list, and placed a call.
Macy: Hi. …. I know what I said, but I... I just need to talk, and
I didn’t know who else to call. …. Yes, just talk.
Narr: Back at Mama's, Stella had finished reaming out Tasha only to find
that she really didn't know much about The Widow. She left the Madame with
explicit orders to report everything to her directly, no matter how small,
and was carried back down the stairs by Sally Slash's pride and joy.
Stella: Hey, step a little lighter, Tap Shoes. It's a staircase, not a thrill
Bouncer: Sorry, Ma'am. Here we go.
Stella: Yeah, very nice. Did you have someone bring down my chair?
Bouncer: Uh... well, I can, uh, yell for 'em.
Stella: Oh, for Pete's... just put me on the ground and go get it, would
Narr: The bouncer sat Stella down on the sidewalk and bustled back through
Stella: And get the lead out, would you, Tap Shoes?
McG: You’ll need an empty coffee cup if you expect to get any change
Stella: Very frickin’ funny. Thanks for coming, Jules.
Narr: Julian McGuiness used to be the top dick in Parlortown, but after losing
one too many friends, he decided to head back to the practicing law. He was
all decked out in the new suit he’d bought when he rejoined the DA’s
office. It wasn’t the way to make the big bucks, but in Parlortown,
it was the only side of the legal profession that could make you feel good
about yourself once in a while.
McG: Even Parlortown lawyers get dinner breaks nowadays. You own me a burger,
though. Can’t prosecute on an empty stomach.
Bouncer: Here’s your chair, Miss- Who the hell is this bitch?
McG: We met, big guy?
Stella: Easy, Tap Shoes, he’s a friend of mine. Just get me into his
Bouncer: Yes, ma’am.
Narr: A few minutes, a drive-thru, and a quick bite later, and Julian was
wheeling Stella back into the Decker & Hayes offices.
Stella: Hey, Jane, I’ll speak to you in a minute.
Jane: Yes, Miss Decker.
Stella: Step into my office, Julie. Have a seat.
Narr: Stella maneuvered her chair into place behind the desk, picked up a
pen, and began tapping it while Parlortown’s newest DA made himself
McG: So this wasn’t just a friend giving a friend a ride? This is a
business call, eh?
Stella: What do you know about the Widow?
Stella: It’s what she calls herself. She’s the new Queen of South
Tip. Stealing the place right out from under Tasha.
McG: Sounds like you know more than I do.
Stella: Nobody’s even mentioned her? No busted girls?
McG: South Tip’s been off our radar since you ladies took the place.
I figured you were just running a tight ship.
Stella: Not me. Macy saw to that.
McG: Let me ask you a question, Stell… why was it me whirling you around
the town today instead of the vivacious Miss Macy Hayes?
Stella: We got in a fight. It’ll be fine. She’ll blow of steam
and be back before you know it.
McG: I hope you’re right. What’s the hubbub?
Stella: She’s not hot on the whole South End situation.
McG: Stella the Crime Boss doesn’t light her fire like Stella the do-gooder?
Stella: What does she want from me, anyway? I’m doing what I can.
McG: You’re doing one thing you can. But it takes more energy to turn
a light on than to turn it off.
Stella: What the hell is that supposed to mean?
McG: Just think about it. I’ve got to head back into the office.
Stella: Thanks for being there.
McG: Anytime. Only…
McG: You need a ride, no problem. You’ve got a case, I’ll do
what I can. As for your other business… I’m trying to be the DA
that’s not dirty.
Narr: Stella’s eyes narrowed, but she didn’t say anything else
as her good friend slipped out the door. She heard him say goodbye to Jane,
and leave the offices. She didn’t move for a moment, just sat there
frowning, glaring at the entire situation from the outside. Eventually, she
pulled the Sudoku book from where it had been rolled up in her pocket. She
turned her fiery gaze on the empty squares, but the numbers were going in
one eye and out the other. She started penciling in numbers randomly, but
quickly came to a dead end, and was forced to erase the entire puzzle.
Jane: Is everything all right, Miss Decker?
Stella: Yeah, Jane, everything is perfect. Why do you ask?
Jane: It’s just that Miss Hayes isn’t with you, and-
Stella: She’s not my nurse-maid, Jane! (pause) Hey, come in here for
Narr: The secretary came into the office, notepad and pen in hand, ready
to take dictation.
Jane: How can I help you, Miss Decker?
Stella: Any messages for me, Jane?
Jane: Nothing new today, no.
Jane: No, Ma’am.
Stella: Nothing from Tasha then?
Narr: It was barely perceptible. If Stella hadn’t been looking, she
wouldn’t have seen it, but there it was: the slightest blush in Jane’s
cheeks. Her expression betrayed nothing, but the blood in her face belied
Jane: No, Miss Decker.
Stella: Funny, I saw her today. She said she’d been calling for days,
trying to get in touch with me.
Jane: Perhaps she has the wrong number.
Stella: That’s enough, Jane. Did Macy tell you to just throw away the
messages, or have you been passing them on to her?
Jane: Miss Hayes never said any-
Stella: I said that’s enough! Go. Take the rest of the day off.
Narr: As the pair locked eyes, the phone rang. Jane’s eyebrows rose.
Stella: I’ll get it. Go home.
Narr: The secretary’s eyes fell to the floor, and she shuffled out
of the office. Finally, Stella picked up the phone.
Stella: Decker and-
Macy: Stella! Listen-
Stella: Look, Macy, I don’t know of you’re expecting an apology,
or what, but-
Macy: Shut up and listen to me, Stella, that can wait!
Stella: What is it?
Macy: I’m at Ellsinore. I’ve been looking at all the patients
released in the last six months. I found a couple of leads at first, but this
one… do you know the name Janet Shtier?
Stella: No, should I?
Macy: Well, I… I think you might have killed her husband.
Narr: Who is Janet Shtier? Is this the lead the pair has been waiting for?
Will it bring them back onto the same page, or tear the book in half? Tune
in for the next chapter of Decker & Hayes: The Darker Path.