Thursday, July 23, 2015

Walt Murphy – PI – 37

Endless Reads was busy. Not terribly surprising on a Sunday I figured. I knew Caiazzo was there because I'd called first. I hadn't spoken to him personally but one of the clerks said he always came in on the weekends. "He's that kind of boss. Hands-on," were the clerk's exact words.

There was an information desk on the ground floor. I waited until the woman manning it finished with a customer then asked her where I could find Caiazzo. She said she didn't know for certain but probably in his office or… She shrugged.

Big help. I headed up to the third floor and the employees' area I'd seen on my last visit. Ignoring the 'Employees Only' sign on the door, I went in. A man—obviously on his break since he was at a table eating a sandwich while he read—asked if he could help me. I told him I had an appointment with Caiazzo and a clerk downstairs had sent me up here. A lie, but he didn't know that. He pointed to a door at the rear of the room and went back to his book.

When I knocked, someone called out "It's open" so I went in.

I recognized Caiazzo, although his hair was a little grayer than it had been in the picture I'd seen of him. He obviously had no clue who I was and his look said as much.

"Can I help you?" he asked, viewing me warily. Given that I was still wearing the jeans and T-shirt I'd had on for my visit to Williams I wasn't too surprised at that.

"Perhaps." I introduced myself. "I have a problem."

"With an order or one of my people?"

"No. May I?" I nodded to the chair by his desk.

"Be my guest." I had the feeling he didn't really mean it, but I sat anyway. "Now tell me what your problem is," he said when I had.

"I'm looking for a book."

"Did you check at one of the information desks downstairs? I'm sure they could have helped you."

"It's a very rare book. One that someone told me you were interested in—although I've since found out they were lying."

That piqued his interest, as I'd meant it to. "Explain, please."

So I did, starting with the first attack and the goons dropping his name, and then going on from there. It was the CliffsNotes version but it covered the major details. At one point he asked me to describe the necklace. By the time I finished he was scowling angrily.

"I know who Mr Eber is," he said tightly. It was apparent he had no fond feelings for the man. "I can't say I'm surprised he wanted to get his hands on the Hammett. He's an avid collector. But to go to such extremes… Why didn't he just make a damned offer for it?"

"It's a bit expensive," I pointed out dryly.

"Not for a book like that. Still”—he paused, his lips quirking up in a malicious grin—”I have heard he's been having cash-flow problems." He tapped a finger on the desk then asked, "Why come to me with this? Other than that you thought for a while I was behind what's going on."

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