Gray Fedora: Private Eye, Doorway to the Past – Chapters 9 and 10

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Catch up on the continuing saga of Grey Fedora Private Eye

Chapter 9 – Once More… With Feeling

As bad luck would have it, the train was early.  They sat in silence.  Each dealing with the delay in their own way.  Sunny strained her eyes, watching down the track for the familiar sight of the caboose.  Joe made quiet, mental computations concerning how much he’d have to increase their speed to make up for lost time.  Finally, the caboose cleared the crossing and Joe slammed the car in gear, let out the clutch and laid rubber for at least fifty feet.  They were on their way but there was still no guarantee that they’d make it in time.  They reached Baltic Avenue and made a right.

“Three blocks to Kentucky,” Joe said, “what’s our time look like?”

“Joe, we’ve got one minute!” exclaimed Sunny, her voice shaking.

“Then hang on, Sunshine!” Joe said, slamming the gas pedal to the floor, “The best we can hope for now is to block him from pulling out.”

The old Ford sped on through the night.  Up ahead, they could faintly make out the familiar blue neon sign… Palesano’s.  They also saw something they were not expecting.  Flashing blue lights.

“Is that… Police lights?” asked Sunny, straining her eyes to make out the scene ahead.

“If it is,” said Joe, starting to panic, “something’s gone horribly wrong.”

“Horribly wrong is an understatement! Shouted Sunny, “Stop the car!”

One hour earlier…

                “Hey buddy,” said the bartender, reaching across the bar to tap Gray on the shoulder for the third time, “You gonna drink that scotch?”

Gray was startled back to the present. He turned back to the bar with a bleary grin. “Down the hatch!” he said, toasting the bartender. He slammed the drink fast and slid the empty glass back across the counter for a refill. “One more time, Maestro!” said Gray, waving both index fingers in the air as if conducting an orchestra, “This time with feeling!”

“That’s all the music I’m playin’ for you tonight, Fedora” said the bartender, unamused, “looks like you’ve had enough.”

Gray straightened his back and did his best to look and sound sober. “But your audience has called for an encore…” he slurred, tapping the rim of the empty glass like a baton tapping a music stand. He raised his index fingers to the air once more. “and a one, and a two, and a…”

The bartender took the glass away and dropped it into the wash water. “Always leave ’em wantin’ more…” said the bartender, “first rule of show business.”

“You have it wrong my friend…” Gray replied pedantically, “The FIRST rule of show business is The Show Must Go On!”

Gray felt himself being lifted off his feet and carried backward toward the door.  On either side of him, with a firm grip on his upper arms, were two of the biggest bouncers he’d ever seen.

They had only carried him a few steps when a loud BOOM stopped them and everyone else in their tracks.  Despite Gray’s immoderate level of intoxication, he knew the sound of a sawed-off, side-by-side 12 gauge, and he knew it well.  Everyone, including Gray, instinctively hit the floor.  Gray turned to look at the shooter and instantly recognized him.  “What the Hell!” he thought, “what’s HE doing holding up a night club?!”

The shooter, who was still pointing the shotgun heavenward, shouted a warning, “Everybody just stay on the ground and nobody gets hurt!”

“You gonna do somethin’ about this?” said Gray to the bouncer on his right.

“uhhh…” replied the not-so-intimidating-as-before bouncer”

Gray turned to the bouncer on his left, “What about you?”

The bouncer on the left just stared at the shooter and said nothing.  It was only then that Gray noticed the puddle of piss streaming away from the bouncer’s waist. “So, you two are in complete agreement,” said Gray, “good to know.”

The shooter pointed the shotgun directly at Gray and shouted, “YOU! On your feet!”

Gray stood and raised his hands above his head.  “Sorry,” Gray said, “you didn’t say we couldn’t talk to each other.”

The shooter pulled an empty pillow case from the pocket of his raincoat and threw it to Gray.  “Shut up that smart mouth and empty the cash register into that bag.”

“Coins too?” replied Gray.

It is a well-known fact that when someone has had too much to drink, it would be better for himself and everyone involved if he would use his better judgment and refrain from speaking.  Unfortunately, better judgment is the first thing to vacate the mind of someone who’s had too much to drink.  This is why Gray failed to heed the shooter’s warning to shut his smart mouth, earning himself a sharp blow to his forehead from the butt of the 12 gauge.

With some difficulty, Gray found his way to his feet and proceeded to empty the contents of the cash register into the pillow case.  He eyed the robber with curiosity.  His instincts as a detective were remarkably unimpeded by his intoxication.  Once again setting better judgment aside, he asked the robber a question.  “So, what’s the deal, Joe?  Whitmore not paying you enough?”

“That’s none of your concern. Just shut up and get the cash!”  snapped Joe, keeping his eyes and shotgun trained on the customers.

“But why here?” Gray persisted. “and why tonight? And for God’s sake, why on the very night I’M here? You could’ve had the courtesy to leave me the fuck out of this!”

Joe shot a look at Gray. A piercing, accusatory stare that seemed to say that this was all Gray’s fault.  That it had to happen THIS way, on THIS night for reasons that Gray would never be able to comprehend but were nonetheless, Gray’s fault.

Joe simply replied, “Do as you’re told and nobody gets hurt.”

Gray did as he was told.  His head was beginning to clear.  He recognized the look in Joe’s eyes.  If experience had taught him anything during his years on the police force, it was that you don’t force the hand of a man who appears to have nothing to lose.

In the distance, the familiar sound of police sirens could be heard.  They were closing in fast.  Obviously, Palesano had tripped the silent alarm.  Joe seemed unaffected by this.  He merely looked at his watch.  By Gray’s count, that was the fifth time he’d done so since he fired the first shot.  He dropped the last of the cash into the bag and offered it to Joe with his other hand in the air to assure Joe that he was making no false moves.  Joe took the bag and swiftly moved Gray in front of himself with the shotgun pointed at his head.  “Move toward the door,” Joe instructed.  Gray, with both hands in the air, began walking toward the door.  Two squad cars were now parked in the street in front of Palesano’s.  Four officers were standing behind their car doors with their guns pointed at the entrance.  Another squad car arrived and the two officers from that car began creating a perimeter around the increasingly tense crime scene.

Joe grabbed Gray’s shoulder, signaling him to stop short of the door.  He seemed to be waiting for something.

“THIS IS THE POLICE!” Came a shout from one of the officers outside, “YOU HAVE ONE MINUTE TO COME OUT PEACEFULLY!”

Joe looked at his watch again.  He seemed concerned.  Whatever he was waiting for seemed to be overdue.

He shouted back at the officers, “I have hostages! I’ll come out in due time! If you try to come in after me, I’ll start shooting them… Starting with Fedora!”

“Was that really necessary?” asked Gray, slightly betrayed.

“Maybe I just wanted to watch ’em think it over…” said Joe, slightly grinning, “shhh…” he continued, “There she is…finally.”

There was a slight commotion outside as one of the officers was trying to prevent Althea Moorehead from walking through the crime scene.  After a little difficulty and a lot of cajoling, they finally maneuvered her safely out of the line of fire, Joe called out to them.

“I’m coming out! Don’t shoot!” He pulled an envelope from his rain coat pocket and slipped it into Gray’s jacket pocket.  “Listen carefully Gray.  I don’t have time to explain this and you wouldn’t believe me anyway.  We’re about to go outside and I’m gonna to get what’s comin’ to me.  About a minute after that, you’re gonna to see my car approach the intersection.  In that car will be Sunny and a man who looks very much like me.  No matter what you see or what happens to me, you are to get into that car and tell them to get out of here as quickly and safely as possible.  They will have lots of questions which, frankly, you’re ill-equipped to answer.  Once you’re a safe distance away, hand this envelope to the man in the car and they’ll know what to do next.  Got it?”

Gray said nothing, but simply nodded.

“Above all,” continued Joe, “Do not, under any circumstances get into your own car! Do you got that?”

Gray nodded again…

“Say you got it!” insisted Joe, pressing the 12 gauge hard against Gray’s temple.

“I got it.” Gray parroted.

 

Meanwhile…

“Is that… Police lights?” asked Sunny, straining her eyes to make out the scene ahead.

“If it is,” said Joe, starting to panic, “something’s gone horribly wrong.”

“Horribly wrong is an understatement!” shouted Sunny, “Stop the car!”

Joe slammed on the breaks just short of the intersection.  From this vantage point they watched in disbelief as Gray exited Palesano’s with his hands in the air.  He was followed by a tall, black man in a raincoat who seemed to be pointing a gun at him.

“That looks like YOU, Joe!” Sunny exclaimed.

“That IS me!” he replied, “But what the hell am I up to?”

As they continued watching, the other Joe lowered his gun and Gray moved a few feet away.  They heard a policeman shout for the other Joe to drop his weapon.  The other Joe hesitated a moment and looked directly toward the car as if he expected to see them.  They looked on in horror as he raised his gun and pointed it directly at one of the officers.  An explosion of gunfire.  The other Joe lay dead on the sidewalk.  In the car, Joe and Sunny sat dumbfounded.

Chapter 10 – Setting Things Right

Joe and Sunny watched the gruesome scene unfolding before them, helpless to do anything about it.  Or were they?  Sunny impulsively threw open her car door and started to run toward the crime scene.  She wasn’t sure what she’d do when she got there, but she felt she had to do something.  Joe wasn’t far behind her and grabbed her.  He turned her around and just held her as she sobbed.

“Let me go!” she cried. “I have to help him… you…”

“Well, that’s just the point, ain’t it, Sunshine?” said Joe as calmly as he could manage.  “Sure, that’s me lyin’ dead over there.  But this is also me standin’ right here as alive as can be.  I don’t know what I was doin’ up there in the middle of that ruckus, but you can damn sure believe that if the two of us show our faces over there, there’s gonna be a whole lot of questions that we don’t have the answers to.”

“You’re right, Joe,” she said, sniffling.  “You’re always right.”

“Now let’s go on back to the car and just wait for the answers to come to us.”

Almost as soon as they shut their car doors and began trying to think of their next move, they heard a knock on Sunny’s car window.  Sunny rolled down her window and found herself staring into the eyes of an extremely ashen and grief-stricken Gray Fedora.

“I’m supposed to get in…” Gray ventured.

“According to who?” asked Joe.

“Well,” said Gray, pointing in the direction of the other Joe’s lifeless body, “According to you.”

“Get in!” exclaimed Sunny.

As Gray climbed into the back seat of Joe’s car he said, “Shouldn’t I just get my car and follow you?”

“NO!” exclaimed Sunny and Joe in unison.

Joe carefully eased the car away from the intersection, mindful not to attract the attention of the police and the gathering crowd.  About a mile away, he pulled into a vacant lot.  He killed the engine and turned to look at Gray in the back seat.  “Well?” he said to Gray as if waiting for something.

Gray’s mind was too occupied with the events of the past hour to even notice that the car had stopped.  Startled back to the present he replied, “Well what?”

“You have something for me?” Joe asked, impatiently.

Gray suddenly remembered the envelope the other Joe had given him in the night club.  He pulled it from his pocket and handed it to Joe.  “You mean this?” he asked.

“That’s the one,” said Joe, satisfied.

“Wait,” said Sunny, “How did you know he’d have that envelope?”

“I told you we just needed to wait for the answers to come to us,” he said as he opened the mysterious envelope.

“I didn’t think you were being literal!” Sunny said, now slightly amused.

“It’s standard practice.” Joe said, fumbling in his coat pocket for his reading glasses. His face went grim as he began reading the note to himself.

Joe,

                This is from your counterpart.  If you’re reading this then you just witnessed my death.  I deeply regret you and Sunny having to see that, but from my point of view, it was unavoidable.  You see, from your point of view, you set out this evening to re-write the past and prevent Gray from running over the old woman.  Things went horribly wrong.  You ended up in a head-on collision with Gray’s car and Sunny was thrown from our car and died on impact.  Call me selfish, but I couldn’t live with that outcome.  After Sunny’s death, I made another solo trip back to this night to prevent Gray from ever leaving the club.  It was planned to the last detail to keep yourselves and Gray out of harm’s way.  You see, as I sat and mourned and pondered Sunny’s death, I kept hearing my words coming back to me.  Warning Sunny that using the door always had a price.  Then I began to comprehend something that Hunter and I had missed altogether.  That was, that sometimes a death has to happen in a certain place, at a certain time.  You can change who it happens to, but you can’t change the fact that it’s going to happen.  It was supposed to happen to Althea Moorehead.  We prevented that, so it happened to Sunny.  I realized that in order to save the old woman and Sunny, I would have to let it happen to me.  So, I decided on suicide by police. 

                I don’t know what will happen to you Joe, now that your time-traveling counterpart is dead.  Hunter and I never explored those questions.  I knew when time-traveling Sunny died, the real-time Sunny was at home, sleeping safe in her bed.  I couldn’t know for sure if the death of her counterpart would soon mean her own death.  Again, that’s why I took it upon myself.

                I’ll leave you now with this thought.  You need to tell Gray Fedora everything.  He needs to know that this whole series of events started with his out-of-control drinking.  He needs to wrestle that demon to the ground.  He needs to know everything about The Whitmore Building and the nature of the revolving door.  He’s a clever detective and should be doing what he promised Sunny he’d do.  He needs to find Hunter.  I fear that Hunter may be in danger and that it’s connected in some way to his knowledge of time travel.  Unless Gray knows everything, he won’t know where to start.

                Joe… Please continue the good work that you and I started.  Watch over Sunny.

Farewell”

                Without a word, Joe solemnly folded the letter and put it in his jacket pocket.  He started the car and began driving back toward Whitmore Properties.  Gray and Sunny took their cue from Joe and said nothing.

…to be continued.

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About Author

Daryl Sykes

Daryl Sykes – Author Daryl studied Film Studies at OCCC in Oklahoma City and Screen Writing under Bart Gavigan (1A Productions). He currently resides in Bella Vista, Arkansas and has written several spec screenplays and has plans to develop Gray Fedora into a television series.

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