That’s hopin’ and not hoppin’, as in frogs and toads. But, in truth, we’ve been doing a lot of that throughout the “Forever Poi” case. Er, I should say, oodles of suspects have kept us hoppin’. And all over the map!
Rey here. The Boss requested a break. Given Linda’s surfing on the North Shore and JJ’s volunteering at the animal shelter, that leaves l’il ol’ me to post. That’s okay. Between you and me, I’m really starting to enjoy it.
Instead of providing snippets of potentially useful info, I decided to share one of our more hairy “Forever Poi” moments. Just to give you some quick background, the case starts with a double homicide that occurs when two Chinatown art galleries are torched. The two murders lead to a few more . . . with a whack of wacky persons and incidents along the way.
I don’t have JJ’s voice, but here’s my account of an excitement-filled evening when a possible witness bites the dust, uh, table . . . .
Dim Donald’s was a long, narrow bar on a side street not far from the Triple Threat Investigation Agency. We’d only gone there once, when we first settled in the office but, as Linda had said, it wasn’t our cup of tea. The inside was dark and drab, the drink selection limited, and the evening crowd looked like a perfect fit for the biker-like place
It was just after midnight and the bar—or watering hole, as I called it on the walk over—held two dozen heavy-duty bikers, uh, drinkers. Seated on cheap ladder-back chairs at a window table, we ordered a round of beers for ourselves and glass of red wine for Timmy-Tom.
“You hungry?” I asked, unable to stop staring at Timmy-Tom’s milk-pod fuzzy eyebrows.
Cousin Jilly, or JJ as you know her, kicked me under the table.
He waved to a scruffy-looking middle-aged couple wearing jeans and jean jackets over black Ts with flaming skulls. “I could go for a basket of wings and fries. They’re pretty good here.”
I got the attention of the only waitperson, an old dude named Ched, who looked like a grinning leprechaun.
“What can I do for you?” Timmy-Tom asked. He sampled the wine and nodded, and leaned back with a loud sigh.
“Where you around when the fire broke out?” JJ asked and took a sip of watery beer. The weird expression on her face suggested it tasted about as good as it looked.
“I was at the rear of the first gallery, eating dinner, when the trucks arrived.”
“Was that long after the fire broke out?”
“Not long, no.” He scanned the bar and shrugged. “I hung around for a while, thinking they’d get it under control, but they didn’t seem to be having much luck that night.”
Linda sniffed her beer and scrunched up her nose.
“Do you know Carlos or James-Henri, the gallery owners?” I asked on a whim.
“I’m guessing you didn’t see much that night, if you were at the back,” Gail stated, studying him closely.
“I walked around some after dinner.” He eyed her curiously, as if he might know her, chewed his bottom lip, and finally continued. “I saw people go in and out of the galleries. Some were really pie-eyed leaving. Must have been a helluva party.”
JJ pulled out her cell phone and showed him a photo of Lolita/Mary-Louise. “Ever seen her?”
He studied it for almost a minute. “Yeah. A couple of times. The first time was maybe a week before the fire. The lady all but bolted from the back of the gallery, looking fit to be tied. The second was the night of the fire. She looked different—all fancy, with her hair in an updo.”
“Tell us about that night. What did you see?” she asked, leaning forward eagerly.
He smiled sheepishly. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but to get to the side street, I needed to walk past her and the person she was with. I didn’t want to scare them or anything, so I waited in the shadows, figuring they wouldn’t stick around long.”
“Person she was with?” I asked, getting excited re a possible lead.
“She was chatting with someone—actually, they were talking under their breaths, like they didn’t want to be heard. But there was this urgency about the way they talked and moved their hands and arms.”
“As if they were angry?” Linda asked.
“Angry or worried, or maybe both.” He nodded to Ched when he placed cheap cutlery and paper napkins on the scarred table. “How’s the family, my friend?”
“Awesome. Always good to see you, Timmy-Tom.” With a wink, Ched saluted and hurried off.
“Can you tell us who she was—”
I never got to finish the question. Like a melon thrown from an overpass, Timmy-Tom’s smashed-mashed head dropped to the table with a clunk-thump.
JJ and I gazed from the awful mess to each other and back again, looking like we got hit with a stun gun.
Gail, on the other hand, dashed out the door after Tommy-Tom’s killer.