“Would-ya-go-fifty-fifty-dollars-do-I-see-a-sixty-sixty-dollars-do-I-hear a seventy seventy dollars-seventy? Going once seventy going twice” A solid walnut gavel banged down on the auctioneer’s stand. “Sold! For sixty dollars to 197.”
The old man in a Stetson hat with a long handle bar mustache scribbled on his auction sheet.
“Next up, we have an antique gun. A well-kept 1873 Colt .45, affectionately known as The Peacemaker.”
The auctioneer smiled as a chuckled roiled through the crowd.
He continued, “You can find the description on this wonderfully preserved piece of Americana on page 70 of your auction guide. We’ll start the bidding at $2500.”
The auctioneer looked around. The item had not made its way to the table.
Instead, a gunshot echoed through the auction hall. As the sound faded, a silence filled the empty space. No one spoke. Eyes widened, the whites clearly visible.
The silent moment hung in the air over the crowd. Then, the screams began. The initial shock melted away and chairs scraped against the concrete as the audience stampeded toward the door.
Me, I ran toward the gunshot.
I pushed through the crowd and reached the room. The loud boom came from a room where they stored the items during the auction.
A security guard, who stood outside the room to keep an eye on the items as they moved from the room to the stage and back, held a Taser poised at the ready. Nothing more than a consumer handheld piece, which made him cheap private security. The young guy’s surfer cut was tucked up under a Phelps Security Associates hat, but some of it strayed out and hung in his surprised face. The dirty blond strands stuck to his sweat as he swung his Taser wildly around the room.
“Who did it?” I said.
“I don’t...I don’t know.” His voice trembled with nerves. “I was outside the room. A girl went in to bring out the next item. Then, the shot.”
“Did anyone leave the room after the shot?”
“No.” He blinked hard and wiped the sweat from his forehead. “Wait, who are you?”
“What’s your name, kid?”
I pulled out my badge. It didn’t matter anymore since I retired, but I kept it on me as a good luck charm. I spent twenty five on the force, and I made it home alive every night. And, it got me out of tickets.
“Clive, I’m a detective.”
I put my hand on his and pushed the Taser down. “You’re gonna hurt somebody.”
I looked in through the door to where they kept the auction items. Clive stared over my shoulder. A girl’s body lay prone on the floor, blood pooling under her body, an entrance wound in the center of her chest. He turned a shade of mint.
I placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “Look away. Deep breaths.”
He followed directions.
I turned back to the auctioneer, now lording over an empty room. For the first time, he seemed unsure of himself. “Call the police.”
I pulled the guard inside the room and closed the door behind us.
The room looked like my grandmother’s garage, full of knick-knacks and relics of a past life.
When I was a kid, I pretended to be an archaeologist out in the garage, rooting through the strata of old cardboard boxes and seeing life through black and white photographs. I got the whole history of American cars in that garage through pictures of my grandparents next to every Ford and Chevy they ever owned.
The auction room stretched back a good thirty feet with no other exits. Only one way in and one way out. Paths formed a labyrinth through the auction items. There was one small air duct above us blowing out cool air. Large enough for a child to fit through, but no one else.
The murder weapon lay next to the girl. It was the antique Colt .45 that was up for auction. A beautiful weapon with dark brown metal and a worn wooden grip, the tree’s rings still visible through the lacquer. It’s a wonder it fired, which made it even more valuable. I thought about bidding on it, but seeing it here, I knew it would have blown out of my price range in less than two bids.
So, I had one dead girl, young and pretty. She wore a dark blue dress, probably one she wore to a prom a few years back.
I also had one nervous, and inexperienced, security guard.