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About the Author: Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (My Favorite Year; Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), Dennis Palumbo is a licensed psychotherapist and author. His mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand and elsewhere, and is collected in From Crime to Crime (Tallfellow Press). His series of mystery thrillers (Mirror Image, Fever Dream, Night Terrors, Phantom Limb, and the latest, Head Wounds, was named SUSPENSE MAGAZINE’s “Best of 2018”).

Ervin Biggs was the best-dressed killer I’d ever seen.

I ought to know. After all, most Italian-Americans of a certain age had at least one tailor in the family. In my case, it was Uncle Salvatore, who to a boy of six or seven seemed about a hundred years old. The son of an immigrant who’d arrived in the States at Ellis Island, Sal ran a small tailor’s shop in downtown. Whenever I’d be taken there by one of my aunts for a visit, the tiny, elderly man always had fresh pizzelles or anisette cookies to offer me. Then he’d give me a lecture on the different types of fabrics and modes of stitching, most of which I forgot by the end of the drive home.

However, over the years I’ve retained just enough of his sartorial wisdom to recognize the hand-sewn quality of Ervin Biggs’s suit. When we’d shaken hands in the lobby of the Burgoyne Plaza, I noted how crisp and fresh it looked on his wiry, compact body. Even at this late hour, after a long day’s toil in his law office.

As did the man himself. Probably nearing sixty, he had shrewd, steady eyes, closely trimmed hair and severe, dark-framed glasses.

We found a quiet corner booth in the bar and ordered drinks from our pretty, solemn-faced waitress. I hadn’t been in the Burgoyne for a while, but knew it well from earlier visits. The trendy hotel was one of those places where political bigwigs and Hollywood celebrities stayed when in town. Where campaign fund-raisers were held. Where the wealthy celebrated their children’s birthdays and bar mitzvahs.

And where, despite my college degree, I felt very much the product of my blue-collar background. But, if things went as planned, I wouldn’t feel that way for much longer.

After our waitress returned with our bourbons, we wasted little time getting down to business. Though, like me, Biggs carefully nursed his drink. There was no way he was going to allow alcohol to loosen his tongue.

“Do you have it?” He kept his voice even.

“Do you have the money?”

“Yes. But I’ve been thinking. Maybe I didn’t need to bring it. As I said on the phone, I have an alibi.”

“And I have an eight-point print. Perfect match.”

He considered this. “How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

“Because you know who I am and how I got it.”

He took another swallow of his drink, warily watching me over the rim of his glass as I reached beside me and placed a small, latched box on the table. The kind that fancy rings come in.  

Erv Biggs scowled. “Cute.”

I smiled. “I try. But I still don’t understand how you could’ve been so careless. Especially after all you did to make it look like a burglary.”

Biggs put down his glass and eyed the ornate box as though it were a ticking bomb. Which, in a way, it was.

“Cops bought it,” he said evenly. “Perp breaks into Larry’s townhouse to rob the place. Larry surprises the guy, who panics and empties his gun into the victim. Then runs like hell. Police have seen it go down like that all the time.”

“That’s a lot of bullets. A whole chamber.”

“Like I said, the burglar panicked.”

“Or else he killed Larry Walker in a blind rage. For personal reasons.”

“Pure speculation.”

“Maybe, counsellor, but my gut says otherwise. Though I am impressed with how well you staged the crime scene, Erv. To make it look like a burglary. Mind if I call you Erv?”   

“What do I call you?”

My name’s Andy, Andy Petrello, but I wasn’t about to tell him that.

“We’re talking about you, not me. A junior partner in a big uptown law firm. Well, you used to be. With Larry Montane. Now that he’s gone, you’re the sole owner. Looks like that burglary and homicide worked out pretty well for you.”

A bitter smile. “So? Larry spent years sitting on his ass while I did all the heavy lifting. I made that firm what it is today.”

“I could see another way to look at it. Larry Montane took you on as an associate right after you passed the bar. Helped you work your way up to a corner office, company car, the whole thing.”

I placed my own now-empty glass down across from his. “A lot of guys would’ve been grateful.”

This story appears in our MAY 2019 Issue
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Awesone! I LOVE the double twist! Thank you for this wonderful story!
By Tatiana Claudy

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