(( OOC: I took some liberties here, some creative and some due to poor memory. I hope you guys don’t mind. I tried to stay pretty true to the actual details when I could. ))
Months have passed since the incident at the Corbitt house. Walking Bear was released from the hospital after a few weeks, and was currently occupying his regular seat at the end of the bar at Fat Charlie’s speakeasy. Billy sat not far away, legs crossed with a snifter of brandy in one hand and a cigarette hanging loosely from his lips, thumbing through that morning’s New York Times as Charlie welcomed the first of this evening’s patrons.
Friends greeted each other, and toasts were made to the completion of another successful work week. Amidst all of this, one of the articles caught Billy’s eye, and he pulled the paper closer, reading more carefully. “Hey… hey, I know this guy.” he said to anyone that would listen.
Charlie strutted his way over, exchanging quick pleasantries with a few of the regulars on his way by. “What’s that, now?” He asked, peering curiously around the edges of the paper. Walking Bear didn’t seem to give a shit.
Billy laid the paper on the table and pointed to the photo. “This guy, Paul LeMond. I seen him perform. Lotta talent, that one. Looks like he up and went missing. And says here there’s a… Hey. You fellas wanna make some dough?”
Walking Bear made a face and shook his head, but didn’t bother to look over. “Not hungry.”
“Not bread, chief. Money. Wampum. Capisce?” Fat Charlie replied with practiced patience. Walking Bear only grunted back as he took another swig of his drink.
Billy excused himself and called the number in the paper on the pay phone in the back. After a while, both Walking Bear and Fat Charlie succumbed to curiosity and joined him, doing their best to pick up bits of the conversation and offer up their own input. Billy glowered and shoved a finger in his open ear. Just before he hung up, he asked Fat Charlie how much money he had, to which Charlie smugly replied “Enough”. The next thing he heard Billy say was, “We’ll be staying at the Ritz.” Charlie turned red and started to sputter something, but Billy held up a finger as he jotted the last of his notes on a small pad of paper.
“All right, so here’s the deal. We’ve got Paul’s address, and his manager’s. I say we leave tomorrow, bright and early.” Billy started laying out the plan with determination.
Just then, two girls came up and flanked Charlie. A few quick whispers before he smiled and backed away. “Maybe not not that early, eh boss?” He winked and melted away into the crowd that was much larger now, a young woman on each of his thick arms.
The next morning – well, it was before noon, anyway – they drove down to New York, arriving fairly late in the evening. Happy to be free from the confines of the vehicle where the only thing worse than Walking Bear’s ceaseless questions and constant shifting was the smell of the animals he insisted on bringing for any shows Billy managed to book (despite Billy expressly telling him not to bring any animals), they decided to spend the evening enjoying themselves and doing some sightseeing before beginning their investigation.
Paul’s mother, Irene, had told Billy that his psychic ‘powers’ emerged after being hospitalized and plagued with nightmares. This was also shortly after some big fights with his girlfriend, Velma. During his stay at the hospital, Paul apparently befriended a Mr. Rogers.
There was a lot to look into, but they decided to start with the manager, Herb Whitfield.
They hailed a cab to the address Paul’s mother had given them. As they approached, Billy stopped them. “You let me do the talking, okay?” He spoke to both of them, but looked hard at Walking Bear.
The office was small, just two desks and a few filing cabinets. Behind one was a sweaty, balding man. At the other desk was a tired-looking woman with short cropped hair.
They both looked up, but only the man spoke. “Can I help you?”
Billy quickly stepped forward. “Yes, we’re looking for Mr. Whitfield.”
“That’s me.” He replied suspiciously, “Who are you?”
“Billy. Billy Bates.” Billy stepped forward and extended a hand, wearing his best stage smile.
“Should I know you?” The manager replied.
Billy frowned. “I hope so. I’m filling in for LeMond.”
Now it was the manager’s turn to frown. “Never heard of you.”
“Veronica didn’t call you?” Billy gave him no time to think, but followed up immediately.
“Uh, oh yeah. Uh, right. You’re doing the show tomorrow night? At the Regency?”
“That’s the one.” Billy replied confidently. “What’s the schedule?”
“You’re on at seven, but you can start setting up at 3.”
“Perfect.” By this point, Fat Charlie had begun brazenly hitting on the secretary. They covered a few more details of the show, dodging the issue of Walking Bear and his role in the show. “So what happened to Paul? Wander off without telling anyone?” Billy tried to add casually.
Whitfield’s eyes narrowed. “What’s it to you?”
“Oh, I knew him from way back. Worked with him a few times. Bit of an odd bird, that one. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was still in his apartment, hiding from reality.”
Whitfield wasn’t buying it. “I’m on to you. You’re looking for the reward. Well I already told the cops, I don’t know anything, now get outta here and leave me alone!”
Billy made a quick argument to keep his slot covering LeMond’s show, and then they left.
Next stop was Paul’s apartment. Along the way, they all agreed that LeMond was hiding something. But nobody knew what or why.
Billy attempted to use his meager escape artist skills to pick the lock to the apartment, but they ended up relying on Walking Bear’s cat-like ability to climb buildings to grant them access.
Inside they found a rambling letter from Paul to his mother. It was clear he was suffering from some kind of hallucination or delusion. He described large ferns outside of his window, but there was nothing but brick. Not even a houseplant that could have cast a shadow.
But Walking Bear was not deterred. He insisted on performing a spirit walk ritual, involving a steam bath and a peace pipe, after which he passed out – not surprisingly. But he did have a vision. There was a forbidden mountain, and evil plant people. Sounded like a bunch of hokum to Billy, but he couldn’t quench the hope that maybe there was something deeper to all of this.
The only other information they gleaned was the girlfriend’s address.
They paid her a visit, and she seemed genuinely concerned (despite looking like she was on her way to a party). That was, until they started to quest deeper into Paul’s disappearance. She started to doubt the group’s credibility. Billy took a chance with a bit of theatrics.
She was in the middle of yelling at them, and Billy stared blankly, looking through her to some point behind her head. “Why did you fight?”
“’Scuse me?” She virtually hissed.
“You and Paul. Just before he left, you had a fight. Just like before he got sick.”
“How… How do you know that?”
Billy shuddered. “I see things. A lot like Paul, but not as gifted.”
It wasn’t enough. She glared at him. “Well, it ain’t none o’ your bees wax, so get lost.” And she slammed the door on them.
“Excuse me.” came a voice from behind them. They all turned to see a tall man, well over 6 feet, looking down on them through a pair of round glasses. “I’m sorry to have done this, but I followed you from the office. My name is John Dervon. I’m wth Klein Mutual, and we’re investigating the disappearance of Paul LeMond. You see, there was a hefty policy taken out on him by his manager shortly before he disappeared, and we suspect foul play. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to prove anything.”
Billy spoke up. “Sorry, pal. We haven’t turned up anything either. But the policy only pays if Paul dies, right? So someone would need to turn up a body…” Billy had begun to think out loud and his voice trailed off.
“Well, if he’s not found after 30 days he will be declared legally dead, and the policy will be enacted. If you fellas learn anything, please let me know, okay?” He handed Fat Charlie a card.
Before the tall man left, Billy asked him to also share information with them, explaining that they were friends of Paul’s and were concerned about him. He gave the stranger their hotel and room number before he left.
“Whatcha do that for?” Fat Charlie reprimanded him as soon as the insurance agent was out of earshot. “Givin’ out our info to anyone on the street! I’ll be surprised if all our stuff is still there when we get back!”
Disheartened, but not defeated, they decided to split up. Fat Charlie would follow the manager, Billy would follow Velma, and Walking Bear would go back to the hotel to make sure nobody was checking up on them or trying to break into their hotel room.
Of course, Walking Bear never made it past the bar. Billy lost Velma, and Charlie was only able to tail the secretary, and only for part of the way.
But as luck would have it, she was headed to the hotel bar, and Walking Bear had been talking with her for a while by the time the others arrived.
They learned that an extremely tall gentleman identifying himself as Rogers had left a card for Whitfield, but he threw it away. They all looked at each other, coming to the same realization.
She implored that they find Paul, perhaps a little more emphatically than even his girlfriend had, but they were all too focused on the latest epiphany to pay her much mind. Her concern did, however, yield the key to the office, and they resolved to go straight there and gather any other information they could.
Breaking into the office was no problem. The lone security guard was easily monitored by the doeskin-clad native, while Billy took one more shot at his lock-picking skill. They used the key, and he admitted that he was no escape artist, though he hoped to one day add it to his repertoire.
Inside the office, they found Rogers’ card in the wastebasket with an address. There was also a locked drawer in Whitfield’s desk. The filing cabinets were locked, too.
With tremendous concentration, Billy worked the locked desk drawer open. Inside they found a note from someone named Wexler about services and payment due. The note ordered Whitfield to meet Wexler at an address earlier that day.
The pocketed the note, as well as as many of the files as they could carry after Charlie less eloquently broke the filing cabinets open.
“What?” he replied to his comrade’s dark looks. “She said to make it look like a robbery?”
Still feeling very cloak and dagger, and worried that their hotel room might not be the safest place, they decided to press on and look into this business with Wexler.
The address was a warehouse in the shipping district. Before they could make any progress on the lock, the door opened and two big palookas stepped out, guns drawn.
“Who the fuck are yous?” One said in greeting from behind a chipped tooth.
The party threw their hands up defensively. “Hey, we’re just here to see Wexler.” Billy piped up.
“Oh, Okay.” They grabbed each of the group roughly in turn, patted them down and shoved them through the door. “Let’s go see Wexla’”.
They led the group up the stairs to what would be the foreman’s office. An even larger Italian sat behind a desk, and stood as they entered. “Can I help you, gentlemen?”
“We’re not looking for any trouble.” Fat Charlie parlayed. “Just wonderin’ if you guys knew anything about a missing kid by the name of Paul LeMond.”
Instantly the thugs all raised their guns, Wexler producing one from within his jacket. “Sorry, but he ain’t here.” Wexler looked to his goons, “Kill ’em. Dump the bodies in the bay.”
This time Billy spoke up. “Look. Honestly? Whitfield paid us to come snoop around-”
Before he could finish, Wexler stepped around his desk and cut him off. “Whitfield sent you?”
Billy lost his composure, but tried to rectify the situation anyway. “Look, I don’t know what’s goin’ on here, but you can have what he paid us and we’ll forget we were ever here.”
Wexler rounded on Billy and punched him in the head. “Whitfield paid you?” He paced back and forth, gesturing wildly with his pistol. “Son of a bitch owes me money, and he pays you? And then you come here? Non ci credo!” Wexler trailed off, muttering rapid-fire Italian before suddenly stopping in front of Billy, gun raised. “Goodbye, asshole.” Wexler said with subdued anger.
Billy’s eyes went wide. If ever there was a time to piss yourself, this was it. But instead Billy reacted instantly. He spun and dove for the door.
The bullet caught Billy in the back of the head. He was dead before he hit the ground.
The room exploded. One of the thugs’ gun jammed, and the other shot wide. Fat Charlie yanked the concealed blade from his cane and disarmed one of the thugs. Walking Bear had a knife that they missed when the patted him down, which he used to disarm Wexler.
It was over in seconds. Billy’s lifeless body lay in the doorway, the gaping hole in his forehead oozed a thick blend of blood and grey matter.
Fat Charlie was saying something, but Walking Bear didn’t hear. He calmly collected the discarded pistols and stepped in front of one of the kneeling thugs. “Where Paul?” He asked.
“I- I don’t know.” he stuttered.
Walking bear shot him in the head without remorse or hesitation. The other two cringed.
Fat Charlie was still talking. Louder now. Walking bear stopped in front of the other thug and just held the gun to his head. The thug said something. Walking Bear didn’t like it.
Walking Bear now stood in front of a cowering Wexler. He was pretty sure Wexler was offering him something. Money?
Fat Charlie was being very emphatic now. Walking Bear glared at him as he retrieved his tomahawk from the thugs, and proceeded to scalp them.
Fat Charlie had had enough. Not only was he sick to his stomach watching this, but the cops would be showing up any time now. In a panic, he fled back to the hotel.
Walking bear returned some time later, complete with his gruesome trophies, which he proceeded to clean and prepare with some attempt to explain the process to Charlie.
Not long after, the police raided the hotel room and arrested both of them.
And for all of that, poor Paul LeMond remains missing, his whereabouts a mystery and the intriguing story of his disappearance forever untold.