October 30th, 1931. 05:55 a.m.
I wake up from what seemed to be a very short sleep. Nightmares haunted me again. I don’t think I can get used to it. In the nightmares, I always see shadows lurking behind me. I try to get away from them, but they move so fast. Every time I blink, they’re there… behind me, watching. They don’t do anything else, they just stare at me. And I only know that I need to get away. I always end up at the precinct… but I don’t dare enter. Not after what I saw last night. Not after what I see every night. But yesterday… it was different. What I saw last night… it was a horror. Now, I need to drink something. Anything but water. I haven’t had a single sip of liquor for a long time. Goddamn prohibition. It’s driving the city insane. It’s driving me insane as well. But… is it? Or was I always insane?
“Beep beep beep beep beep” – The sound of the alarm interrupts what I’m thinking. Its 06:00 a.m. already, time to get up. And work. I don’t want to go back to the precinct. But I have to.
I quickly dress myself and start to prepare some coffee. Right now, coffee is probably the only thing keeping me sane. I miss whisky, but I have to comply with the law. I have to give an example. Or that’s what I cared for when I was younger. More inexperienced too. Now I don’t care that much. But it’s forbidden, so I don’t have a choice. Of course, I could go to a speakeasy, but then I could be followed. Or recognized as a police detective. I would have to report it, and it would probably be closed. And I sure don’t want that to happen.
After finishing my coffee, I take my keys and exit the apartment. Outside, the city seems normal. It’s not. Despite people coming and going all around as usual, the city is in chaos. A week ago, Al Capone was sentenced to eleven years in prison. Now, every gang in Chicago is fighting amongst each other for the control of the city. The department is the only line of defense against the mob war. Nobody in the precinct knows it yet, but everybody does. We could be looking at full-blown anarchy in the streets for the remainder of the year. Speakeasies will burn, gangs will shoot each other in the streets, crime will go on the rise. No-one’s safe. And it’s not the liquor, or the shooting, or not even crime itself what’s going to destroy the city. It’s the ambition. The city is in the hand of a few powerful people. And they’re not nice ones, that’s for sure.
I finally get to my precinct when I see my partner running out in a hurry. He doesn’t seem to notice me at first, as he’s mumbling under his teeth about this job. I know what he feels. This job is hard. He finally recognizes me among the crowd, and then approaches without hesitation.
“You’re in an awful shape, Richard. What happened to you?” – His voice is hoarse and his tone is reproachful. Detective Andrew Lawrence stops in front me and extends his hand saluting me. I shake it while instinctively covering the back of my sleeve. Luckily, he didn’t seem to notice it. Hmmm. He looks worried. And he’s definitely in a hurry.
“Yeah, hard night yesterday.” – I answer back at him. – “You know… this job.” – He nods. As I said, he knows the feeling.
“Well, you better get in shape for what’s next. There’s been a gruesome murder in Beverly and the 103rd.” – When he stops, my face turned white. No. It can’t be. That’s Il Magro’s territory. I… I can’t be assigned to this. Meanwhile, Andrew is looking at me without a clue of what is going on with me. – “Hey, you sure you’re okay? You look like shit Richard.”
He’s right. I do look like shit. But that’s because Il Magro is one of the most powerful crime lords in Chicago. We can’t be pissing him off, he could get us killed with a twist of his hand. I have a past with him. He doesn’t want to kill me, not yet at least. But he could if we dig in with this murder. I need to be cautious.
“I’m fine Andrew. Let’s go.” – The words unexpectedly come out of my mouth with a resolve that no-one could have expected from me if they had seen how I was. My partner nods in agreement and we get moving to Beverly Street. I’m still covering my sleeve while we walk the streets of Chicago. The gun at my side gives me a profound relief while we approach our destiny. It also sickens me. It reminds me of her. When I showed her my gun, I knew that she had to go. At first, she was scared, but then she knew too. I was a man of the law. A man of honor. She knew I had to do what I had to do. And that there was no happily ever after for the two of us. We were not meant to be. Am I insane for thinking that? Perhaps I am. I used to think that perhaps when all of this is over, I would leave the force, and we might run off together. Away from Chicago. Away from the ambitious crime lords like Il Magro. Now… I’m not so certain.
When we get to Wilson Apartments, the color of my face has recovered. I look slightly better than before, and I’ve recovered some of my composure. But I feel something’s wrong… this place… it seems familiar. I don’t have time to analyze it because Andrew quickly presses the doorbell. After a minute, a man comes out of the building. He’s fat, wears a grey suit and looks tired. He’s also very nervous, but still he offers us a warm smile despite what he saw.
“You must be Detectives Richard Moore and Andrew Lawrence. Welcome.” – He first offers me his hand and I shake him. Andrew does the same. – “Please, come inside. I called as fast as I could after… I found her.” – He says while we enter. I couldn’t look at his face, but he’s nauseated about that. Who wouldn’t be?
“When did you find her, Mr. Wilson?” – My colleague sharply asks.
“I… received some complaints around 05:00 a.m. about a really disgusting smell. Some of my tenants also complained about strong noises coming from Miss Bullettini’s apartment during the night. I went to check there… and there I found her. Beaten. Bleeding. Shot in the head.” – His face turns pale as he describes the situation. He directs us to her room, apartment 103, and then unlocks the door.
The scene laid in front of our eyes was… not what I expected. The room was very clean and tidy. Only a pool of dry blood besides the bed of the victim was out of tune. The pool was wide and the blood looked dense. This is where she dropped after getting shot in the head. She must have been left there for quite some time for the amount of blood that’s on the floor.
On the bed, the corpse of a woman rested very peacefully. But she was not at peace. Her face had swollen after receiving one hell of a beating. It was all purple, but her lips… her lips were still red. Crimson lipstick.
One big hole looked at me between her eyes. In my head, it screamed at me. It was screaming about the violence in the streets, about the anarchy in the city, about the impotence I was feeling for letting her go. For letting my love go.
Looking down, her body had also been beaten before being shot. Little drops of blood stained her white dress. She looked so pure in it. Her arms were crossed on top of her chest, like that mummy found by Howard Carter. She looked so peaceful like that. But as I said before… she wasn’t.
I step back from her corpse while my partner kneels to get a better look from her. Then I turn to Mr. Wilson. “Did you find her body lying on the bed like that?” – I ask.
He’s so nervous he stutters when he answers. – “I… yes, I found her like that.” – His face rapidly turns red in anger before continuing. – “His killer must have placed her there in… in that pose. It must all be a sick joke to him!”
“No… I don’t think so.” – I instinctively replied and then turned to my partner. – “What do you think Detective Lawrence?”
Andrew is still on his knees looking very profoundly at the victim’s sleeves. Then he suddenly rises and looks at Mr. Wilson and me. – “I think the killer must have had deep feelings for her. He indeed placed her in that pose as you say, Mr. Wilson. It looks like she’s sleeping. Maybe the killer wanted to caress her one last time in bed, or maybe he regretted for what he did. And look at her dress. White, the color of purity. He may have asked her to wear that before killing her. It was premeditated, that’s certain.”
Andrew is a great detective. He has a quick, sharp mind. But he still doesn’t see the connection with Il Magro. It’s clear to me though. If the other tenants complained against strong noises, then why didn’t any of them come in to see what was going on? I know the city is going out the rails and the people is scared, but… this was happening inside their own building. No… they didn’t come looking because she was under the protection of Il Magro. And this is his territory after all.
A heavy silence fills the room. I feel the urgency to break it. But I restrain myself. I don’t want to piss off Il Magro. He would have my head for it. I just hope Andrew doesn’t screw it up either. As I said, he’s a great detective.
But, doing as he does best, my partner has to go and ask his questions. – “Mr. Wilson, what can you tell us about the victim?”
The owner of this building turns nervously towards Andrew. – “Her name was Sandra Bullettini. A sweet girl she was, always paid me on time. I think I never heard a complaint against her. Until tonight of course.” – He marked his last words with an emphasis. He’s trying not to show any gaps in his story. Hmmm. He’s clearly nervous about this. I think he might be on Il Magro’s payroll. Or I might be getting too paranoid.
No… Andrew noticed it too. He exchanges a quick glance with me, his eyes telling me what he knows. The good news is I’m not paranoid. The bad news, Andrew’s going to fuck it all up. – “So, she never received any complaint… and yesterday no-one came to see what was going on with the victim. Is there something you’re not telling us, Mr. Wilson?”
Wilson is starting to crack. He’s no criminal, he’s just a businessman. But someone must have threatened him to hide some information about Miss Bullettini. I’m certain it doesn’t take a detective to notice who. If Andrew pushes him just a little bit more, he’s going to spill the beans about her. He’s also going to get us killed. I can’t have that. Any of that.
“Mr. Wilson, you’re not looking alright. Do you want to come out for a little bit and let us do some detective work?” – The owner sighs relieved. Andrew on the other hand, isn’t too happy about that.
“Y-yes. Thank you.” – Wilson stutters and gives me a smile of gratitude while he exits.
“Why did you do that? He’s clearly hiding something.” – The accusation comes from my partner as fast as the owner leaves. He’s looking angrily at me. And a little suspiciously. In response, I only offer him a mischievous smile. He frowns at me and then gets back to the corpse. – “Well, I’m going to interview him later then. But I still think there’s something we’re missing with the victim.”
The detective meticulously looks at the crossed arms. He gets a sight of something. Something he shouldn’t have. There’s blood coming out from her wrists. She had been cut. Or she cut herself. I instinctively cover my sleeve again. Andrew’s too focused on the victim’s wrists to notice it.
“She has a cut on her wrists, Richard. I think this might have happened before she got shot. But then why did the killer shoot her? Was he trying to put her out of her misery?” – Those are some good questions. Too good. I think he’s getting close. How am I going to get out of this one?
“Hey Andrew… do you think this might be involved with Il Magro? This is his territory after all.” – I hope this scares him off. I really hope so.
“Then this could be how we take him down. We could even go down in history, Richard!” – There’s a shine of hope in his voice. And ambition. Disappointing. I better think of a plan b. And fast.
“Hey, for now just focus on the case. Listen, maybe we can go and interview some of the residents? They may know something.” – I reply with confidence, and with a hidden objective of luring Andrew away from the crime scene.
“I don’t know, Richard. Something… something feels off, you know? Like there’s more to this case than what we can see. I’m going to figure it out, my friend. Even if it’s the last thing I do in my life.” – He jokes and laughs between his teeth. I stay deadly serious in response. When he notices, he directs an inquisitive look to me. – “What’s wrong, Richard?”
“An innocent woman has been killed, Andrew. That’s what’s wrong.” – My response is as sharp as a blade. Andrew shrugs and directs his focus again to the victim on the bed, and then onto the pool of blood. He steps towards it, carefully as to not alter the integrity of the scene. He then looks at the wall. I feel an immense terror. My hands start shaking and I quickly, instinctively reach out to my gun. He knows. This is the end. No, no, no, no… this can’t be happening.
A hole is in the wall. A bullet hole. And inside… the bullet. From the murder weapon. The one that ended Sandra’s life. The one that ended Sandra’s suffering.
Andrew extends his hand to the hole, trying to get the bullet out, while I enter into full alert. After struggling for a few seconds, he manages to pull it from the wall. There’s a heavy silence in the air; tension’s in the atmosphere too.
“How strange… this… this is a police bullet… how did the killer…?” – He mutters. He doesn’t get it yet. I relax a little, but I leave my hand on the gun… just in case. – “Richard, what do you think?” – He turns around and looks at me. Still, he’s clueless.
I’m about to respond when he looks down on me. He notices I have my hand on the gun. But that’s not the only thing he notices. No, he’s also seen my sleeve. It’s covered in blood. Dry blood. Like the drops of blood on the victim’s dress.
Before he had time to process the situation, I draw my gun and shoot. Andrew falls back. I hit him in his chest; he’s bleeding out on the floor now. I keep my gun pointed at him while tears start dropping on my face. He still doesn’t understand. And then he does.
“H-how… y-you…?” – He manages to ask even with blood coming out of his mouth.
“I’m so sorry Andrew… so, so sorry. I didn’t kill her. I only ended her suffering. I loved her, you know? But she was Il Magro’s girlfriend… and he found out about our affair. He cut her wrists, and… and gave me the chance to shoot her. I just…” – My voice cracks; my face is filled with tears. Andrew doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t blink. He’s dead. I killed him. As I killed Sandra.
I need to get out. I need to get away, fast. I quickly exit the room and start running into the stairs. Mr. Wilson’s there, but I don’t care anymore. I pass right next to him and start going down. I need to get out… right now. Before Wilson realizes what happened and calls the police. I finally reach the end of the stairs and rapidly head to the exit. Alas, I’m out. But I’m not safe. I need to get away. Away from Chicago. Away from the ambitious crime lords like Il Magro. Away from her. Now I know… now I know for certain I can’t get back to her. Never again.
. . .
In a luxurious apartment, the crime lord know as Il Magro is enjoying a delicious bottle of whisky, as his right-hand man approaches.
“They finally caught him, signore. He killed his partner three days ago, and now he’s also confessing to the murder of your fidanzata.” – He sounds surprised. Il Magro starts smiling. – “I don’t know how you knew this was going to happen… but it did. He also said nothing about our… involvement. But I must ask: why taking all this effort?”
“Amico, sometimes a well-planned, meticulous vendetta is much more enjoyable than just blowing someone’s brains off.” – He says with a wide and sinister smile. His eyes are shining with joy. That’s because he won. His traitorous girlfriend is dead; the detective who mocked him is going to jail. And now, he’s going to take control of Chicago. He’s going to establish… an Empire of Sin.