DCM Knights
Detective Comics

Seduction of the Past: Part I
by Chip Caroon

The mid afternoon sun shone in through the window, casting the shadow of their names on the floor: Murphy and Miles. Steve Murphy was sitting at his desk, going over some paperwork regarding their most recent case. He had taken his black coat off, and his white shirt sleeves were rolled up to his elbows. He looked over to his partner, Nick Miles, who was sitting at his own desk, perpendicular to Murphy’s. Nick was leaning back, his feet propped up on the desk, reading.

The door to the office opened, and Steve heard the sounds of the latest Glenn Miller tune drifting in from the main lobby. Grimacing, he looked up to see a woman about his own age standing in the doorway. Nick quickly shut his book, and sat up in his chair.

"Mr. Murphy, there is a lady here to see you," she said.

Steve reluctantly put the papers down and sighed. "Thanks, Ellie," he replied in a monotone, uninspired voice. "Send her in."

Ellie closed the door. A moment later, it reopened. Out of the corner of his eye, Steve saw his partner readjust himself in his chair. Steve sat perfectly still and calm, although he felt his heart skip a beat. The lady Ellie was talking about was a stunning blonde in a red dress.

"Mr. Murphy?" she asked cautiously.

"That’s me," Steve replied, standing up at his desk, acting friendlier to this potential client than he did to his secretary. "Please, take a seat." He motioned to the chair facing his desk.

"Thank you," the lady said, sitting and taking her hat off.

"So, what can we do you for, miss . . . ?" Steve asked, trailing off, hoping to catch a name.

"Ward," the girl finished. "Mary Ward. I was referred to you by the hotel I’m staying at. They say you’re very reputable."

"That’s what some people call us. But telling us how you got here won’t help you with whatever you need."

"Oh, yes, yes, of course. It’s my brother, Mr. Murphy."

"Please, call me Steve. What about your brother?"

"He’s been kidnapped."

"Shouldn’t you go to the police for that?" Nick asked. "They’re better suited for missing persons cases."

Steve glared at Nick. "What my partner is trying to say is . . . why did you come to us instead of going to the police?"

"I did think of the police, except there are . . . issues," Mary replied. "You see, my brother was - is - involved in a few matters that we’d rather not have the police involved in."

"Uh hum," Steve muttered. "I think I understand."

"You require the services only a private investigation firm can provide," Nick explained. "And you don’t want the police involved yet."

Steve glared at him again.

Mary nodded. She pulled a picture from her purse and held it up to Steve. "Here’s the most recent photo I have of him."

Steve took the photo and laid it on his desk. "I guess I need to know is his name and the last place he was seen."

"His name is Robert. I last saw him yesterday morning. I had gone over to his apartment to discuss some . . . family issues before he went to work."

"And how do you know he’s been kidnapped?" Nick asked. "There could be a million reasons why he never came home last night."

"I thought of that, too," Mary replied, "when I went over again this morning. He works at a bank, only a block away from his apartment. So, I walked to the bank. On the way, I found this." She placed a watch on Steve’s desk. Steve took the watch and examined it.

"Looks like a regular watch to me," Nick commented. "I’ve seen plenty of joes wear ones like that."

Steve flipped the watch inside out and looked at the engraving on the back of the watch. He read it aloud. "To my dearest brother Robert. Love, Mary."

"Oh," Nick muttered, leaning back in his chair, opening his book again.

"I’m going to have to hold on to this," Steve told Mary. "For investigative purposes."

"Of course," Mary replied.

Steve stood up and walked around his desk. Mary stood up as well, and straightened her dress. Steve gently escorted her to the door. "We’ll do our best to find your brother. Just leave your address and phone number with Ellie, who will instruct you on payment. We’ll get back to you within the next day or so with something."

"Thank you," Mary said, reaching up and kissing Steve on the cheek. Slowly, she pulled back, turned, and walked out, swaying her hips. It was almost mesmerizing. Steve let the door shut.

"Ya got some . . . " Nick said, pointing to the side of his mouth.

Steve pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his face. He looked down to see the crimson smear.

"So, whaddya think?" Nick asked.

Steve turned to return to his desk. "She’s lying about something. Family issues, not wanting the cops? She’s not even trying to pretend she’s not a crook."

"I was talking about her. Not the case."

Steve shrugged, sitting down.

"I think she’s quite the dame."

"You say that about anything that has two legs and wears a dress."

"Well, not exactly anything . . . "

Steve sighed and looked at the picture of Robert Ward. "There’s just something strangely familiar about her."

Ellie came in. "Steve?" she asked.

Steve glanced up. "Yes?"

"Miss Ward is gone. She left her number and an extra hundred dollar tip."

Steve put his hand in front of his mouth, contemplating. "They only pay that much if they have something to hide."

Steve walked into Martini’s bar, looking for his favorite bartender.

"Hey, Murphy!" the bartender called out, wiping down the counter. "What can I getcha?"

Steve walked over to the bar, and sat down. "Cut the crap, Benny. I need some information."

"What’s new?" Benny asked.

Steve pulled the picture of Robert Ward from his pocket and held it up for Benny to see. "Guy’s name is Robert Ward. What do you know?"

"Uh . . . nuttin’."

Steve just looked at Benny. He watched Benny’s facial muscles relax, as the color began to fade. In one quick motion, he grabbed the back of Benny’s head and slammed it into the bar. "Benny, when are you gonna learn? It’s so much less painful for you if you just tell me outright."

"All right, all right," Benny said, really fast. His speech was affected by his face being flattened again the bar. "I seen him. He comes in a lot, at least twice a week."

"When was the last time you saw him?"

"Day before yesterday. He came in, talking with a bunch of guys."

"And what did he say?"

"I dunno! Really!"

Steve pulled Benny’s head and slammed it down on the bar again.

"Ow!" Benny yelled as Steve tugged on his hair once more. "Okay, okay, wait!"

"What did he say?"

"Something about a bank . . . "

"He worked at a bank. I need something more."

"Uh, robbery?"

Steve paused for a moment. He still had the feeling that Benny was holding some information back. For good measure, he slammed Benny’s head against the bar again and held it down with added pressure.

"Ow!" Benny exclaimed. "That freakin’ hurts, you son of a bitch!"

"That’s why it’s so effective. What are you not telling me?"

Benny took a deep breath. "Doublecross. They said something about a doublecross."

"Is that all?"

"Yeah! Lemme up!"

Steve let go of Benny, who stood back up and rotated his head around, making sure everything was still intact. The bartender then starting rubbing the right side of his face.

"Are you sure?"

"Maybe. I couldn’t really hear. They were sitting at a table, and I had a few customers here. Nice little redhead. Dynamite little thing. I bet she – "

"Thanks," Steve said, getting up.

"You know, one of these days, you can feel free to show me your gratitude by buying a drink!" Benny shouted as Steve walked out.

Steve flipped a quarter over his shoulder and it landed on the bar. "Here. Go buy yourself some aspirin."

"Worst customer I ever seen," Benny muttered, picking up the quarter. "Always coming in, never buying a drink, or even food, and the only tip I get is a migraine."

"Find anything?" Nick asked as Steve hung his hand on the coatrack.

"Not a lot. Benny the snitch was not very forthcoming today."

"Ooh. How many bruises is he gonna have this time?"

Steve thought for a moment, counting up as he took a seat behind his desk. "Three."

"Only three? He must have been talkative."

"They’re large bruises. He didn’t know much. Something about a bank robbery and a doublecross."

"That’s interesting," Nick said, sitting up in his chair. "I did some research on our client. Apparently, her parents were killed about fifteen years ago."

Steve stopped for a second. He tried not to appear spooked in front of his partner. "Killed? How?"

"Dunno. Working on it."

Steve looked at his watch. "It’s getting late," he said, standing back up from his desk. "We’ll continue this in the morning."

"Uh . . . sure," Nick replied, noticing Steve’s nervous attitude.

Steve relaxed in the oversized chair in his parlor. He leaned back and let his arms hang over the side, but was careful not to let the scotch spill out of the glass he held in his right hand. His sleeves were slightly rolled, and his collar was loosened, free of his necktie.

He picked up the small book laying on the floor beside his chair. He opened it on his lap to the all too familiar page. It had tormented him all night. An evil memory bringing back another life, one that he had been working for fifteen years to find redemption for.

A lot had happened in the last decade and a half. Steve had almost forgotten exactly what he had done to who, but then the wrong person walked through his office door, requiring his services. He felt the rage building up inside of him again. It was a mix of guilt, anger, betrayal, and doubt. Taking a deep breath, he sat the glass down on the floor and picked up the book with both hands. The handwriting taunted him. Finally, he could not hold it in any longer. With just a grunt, he heaved the book across the room. Pages fluttered, and a few came loose before it hit the wall and bounced to the ground. Steve finished off the scotch.

Steve’s guilt trip was interrupted by the doorbell. He turned his head to glance at the door, at first wishing whoever would just leave. But then, he had a sudden urge to find out who it was. He quickly stood up and hobbled to the door.

Mary Ward stood on the other side, this time wearing a much more modest outfit, of a white blouse and a simple dark green skirt.

"Mary," Steve said, simply.

"Steve," Mary replied, almost out of breath as she grabbed his chest. "Please, help me, I think they’re after me!"


"Whoever got Robert!"

With one arm, Steve pulled Mary into the house, and then peeked out, looking in both direction. Closing the door, he let go, and Mary leaned her back against the door. Steve looked at her, staring hard.

"How did you get here?" he asked.

"I ran," Mary replied.

"Obviously, but how did you know where I lived?"

Mary grabbed her head, and lurched forward. Steve grabbed her, and prevented her fall. She went limp in his arms.

"I don’t think I’m feeling so well . . . "

Steve helped Mary up the stairs to his bedroom and let her fall onto the bed. "Stay here," he said. "I’ll be back in a minute."

Returning downstairs, he filled his glass to the brim with scotch and drank it in one quick gulp. Taking a deep breath, he looked down at the glass, and then threw it against the wall.

Continued next issue . . .