THE CASE OF THE WRONG DICKNESS


“You - you believe me?” Dickness’ eyes opened wide. Lance thought: even when they’re wide, they’re beady.

“Sure. It’s obvious she’s lying. Question is, why?”

Dickness turned away. “Ahhh, dames. Who knows.” He pulled out a pack of cigarettes, patted his pockets. “Go figure why. Thanks for being straight on this one, Lawson. Mighty white a’ ya.” He frowned and reached in his shirt pocket: no matches.

Lawson leaned against his desk. He wanted a cigarette himself. Bad. But that would mean getting out his Zippo. He enjoyed watching Dickness fidget.

“So I’m being straight on this one?” Lawson said, grinning. “You get a clean bill of health from an unreliable witness, and that means I’m being straight? Dickness, every time I’ve run you in you’ve been good for the beef. I’d never put a man away for something he didn’t do. Otherwise it doesn’t mean anything when I do win one. I’m not crooked. I’m always straight. And you know that. Right?”

Rick Dickness stared warily at Lawson. “Yeah,” he said. “That’s you. Always straight.”

“Except this time.” Lawson grinned again. “I put you in a lineup consisting of exactly one guy. And she fingers you. And when I cut you loose ‘cause her story’s bullshit, you think I’m being straight. Jesus, Dickness, I set you up tonight. Of all the times you’d think you’d squawk bloody murder, tonight would have the night - how come you just stood there alone under the lights?”

“Aw, nuts to you.” Dickness looked around the room: any matches on the table? Any matchbooks by the ashtrays? “What am I gonna do, ask for a supporting cast? This is your turf, not mine. I ain’t complaining about the ground rules.”

“No. But your lawyer would if I’d booked you on her say-so. And you knew that. You’re free as the breeze on this one, and that’s why it just has to be killing you.”

“Yeah. I’m dying here. You gotta -”

“What’s his name?”

“Huh - who?”

“Lover boy.”

“I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, Lawson. You want to help me, make with the match, okay, ‘cause I -”

“See, you were planning the heist with her. Inside job and all that. But she had another guy on the side. He pulled the job. She fingers you. She’s so anxious to finger you that when I drag one guy out in the lineup, she says that’s the man. No doubt. And you’d love to turn her in, wouldn’t you? But you can’t. You can’t squeal. Maybe you still love her. Can’t blame you. Hard face, not my kind of tune, frankly, but choice pins. And you’re in a pin man, aren’t you?

Dickness stared at Lawson, impassive.

“You bet you are. So’m I. Nothing like a matching set of finely turned out gams, I always say. So: what’s the plan? Forget about it, chalk it up to the whims of Venus, move on? Or drop by her place tonight and spoil her pretty nose?’’

Dickness stared, unblinking.

“What was his name, Rick? Who’d she dump you for?”

Dickness’ jaw worked; his hands clenched.

“Go fuck yourself, copper,” he said.

He put his cigarette to his lips. But he’d crushed it, and it hung broken in his fingers.

Lawson brought his Zippo out of his pocket, clanked it open, conjured the flame.

“Need a light?” he said, smiling. This was fun. They already had the thief downstairs in the cells. Neither Dickness or the dame knew it. Lance was convinced that everytime they lied to the cops, it took something out of them. A small piece of themselves that was good and honest evaporated with every lie to a cop.

And it just made him feel stronger. They were wrong. He was right.

Some days you just needed to arrange things to point that out to everyone.

“No? Okay. You can go. And Rick?”

“Richard.”

“We’ll be watching you. And her. And Jack.”

Dickness stopped, with his hand on the door. His shoulders sagged. Lance was surprised: he hadn’t known. He hadn’t know at all.

When Dickness had left the room, Lance thought a while, then called the Crypt. Sandpaper Sal answered.

“Jail.”

“Sal? Listen. You got Jack Manners in the tank, right?”

“That I do.”

“Let him go. But give him a lovetap on the eyes with the knucks first. Send him out worried. Send him out blind.”

“I’m on the job,” Sal chuckled.

Lance almost wished he was riding with Dickness tonight. Unseen. Invisible. Just to see it happen. Just to hear what was said. Just to learn what there was to learn. Just to see it end.

SOLUTION: The Girl could not have seen the man in the car because of the glare of the headlights.