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A New Beginning MAG
I silently walked up behindthe scruffy figure and lightly lit my hand upon his left shoulder. The manrecoiled from my touch and whirled, hands up and ready to strike. The startledexpression on his bearded face made a smile spread across my clean-shavenone.
"Hey! Take it easy, Sam! It's just me," I said. Sam backed away acouple of steps and frowned at me, shoving his hands into the pockets of hisshabby trench coat. He'd had that coat ever since I'd known him. When I first methim he was already in the snitch business; me, I was just getting into privateinvestigation. Through the years the coat had come to reflect its owner - dirty,reeking of cheap booze, and a little frayed around the edges. But, for all that,I could depend on Sam to give me reliable information.
"I'll get right tothe point," I began. "I'm investigating the death of a Michael Kingsley, whoturned up a month ago along the shore of Porter Lake wearing an electrical cordfor a necktie. You hear about that?"
"Yeah," Sam replied glancingnervously around. "What about it?"
I stared at Sam curiously. He met mygaze then dropped his eyes to the broken pavement. He knew about Kingsley'smurder, all right. And if his manner was any indication, he knew a lot. I got alittle too excited and pressed him too hard. "Out with it, Sam. What do you know?You must know something because you're acting real suspicious. Is it a clue tothe identity of the murderer?"
"I don't know nuthin'!"
"What is it?You've got to tell me!"
"Like I said, I don't know nuthin'! Now lay off,Stover!" With that he turned and walked away.
I made no attempt to pursuehim. I just leaned against the brick building and tried to puzzle out what couldhave made Sam so nervous.
Blackmail came to mind first, but bribery seemedmore likely. Everyone had his price, and it had happened before with Sam, yearsago. But he had still come through for me eventually,
I got in my car anddrove around for a while, knowing there were too many possibilities to considerand I was running out of time. This morning my client, Mrs. Michael Kingsley,threatened to take her business elsewhere if I didn't come up with something moreconcrete soon. I finally decided on a course of action. First stop, Corey'sBar.
Corey's was a dirty, little hole-in-the-wall frequented by Sam andseveral of his cronies. The bartender, fondly referred to as "Bud" by his drunkenpatrons, said he hadn't seen Sam since closing time yesterday. I thanked him andquickly made my way out of the foul-smelling place and into the light rain thathad started falling.
It was the same everywhere I went - Sam wasn't there,and no one had seen him that day. I drove home in what was now a considerabledownpour, feeling angry with myself and let down by Sam. I was waiting for thelight to change at the intersection of Savannah and Lincoln when I saw it. "It"was what appeared to be a tan trench coat, partially covering a storm drain. Thelight changed so I parked a few feet from the drain and got out of my car toinvestigate.
I crouched down and plucked the sodden garment from itsresting place. It was Sam's. I knew it was his by the numerous cigarette burnsdown the front and the smell of alcohol that no amount of washing would ever getout. What I didn't know was why the coat was here instead of on its owner. Ibegan a search of the immediate area and thankfully didn't find what I hadhalf-expected - Sam, unconscious or dead, in an alley nearby. When I returned tomy car I threw the coat into the trunk and resumed driving home to a smallapartment no more than a few blocks away on Locust Street.
I had asurprise waiting for me when I opened my door. A piece of paper had been shovedunderneath it and was now lying at my feet. I picked it up, unfolded it, and sawit was written in Sam's distinctive handwriting. It was on a sheet of stationeryfrom a bar I hadn't thought to check. Gracie's was a bit more upscale than theplaces Sam usually went.
"Stover," the note read, "I'm sorry I couldn'ttell you about that Kingsley fella. The truth is, someone paid me a whole lot ofmoney not to. I've decided to change my life with this money, the first stepbeing to quit the snitch business and disappear. But I'm still gonna tell youwhat I know." The information that followed fit in quite nicely with what I haduncovered so far. Though I had lost a great informer, I was happy for Samnonetheless. Not everyone can change their life as easily as casting off theircoat.