“And then what happened, Mr Feldman,” the lawyer asked, walking away from Dale his arms folded behind his back. His black leather shoes, shined to a mirror, clicked on the floor sending up echoes in the still court.
“Then it all went to hell,” Dale said.
There was nervous laughter in the gallery.
“Language, Mr Feldman,” the judge murmured.
“Sorry, your honor, then I called the police,” Dale corrected.
“You called the police from the home of Mr Edwin Sullivan. Whom you at that time did not report missing?” the lawyer continued.
“No, I didn’t know he was missing. I thought he was around, you know, up to something but, I don’t know. I thought that I’d find him,” Dale said, fidgeting with a lose strand of cotton fraying from his shirt.
“You thought, you would, find him.” he dragged out. “You didn’t, did you Mr Feldman,” the lawyer probed.
“No,” Dale answered, he yanked at the thread which ran up the side of his shirt.
“Instead you found a parcel, is that not the case Mr Feldman.”
“What’s that in your hands?”
“Just a box,” Dale said.
“What’s in it?”
“Why does that matter?” Dale said.
“Because my dog keeps sniffing it,” the policeman said.
“Well make him stop.” Dale said trying to subtly push the dog away with his foot. It growled at the approaching foot.
“Sure. Now back to those questions,” he said flipping open his notepad.
They were standing in the entrance hall of Sully’s house the front door was wide open, and Dale noticed a brown car parked outside. Inside the car were two men, one was taking photos.
“Yeah sure,” Dale said absently, his attention divided between the still growling dog and the man taking photos. The dog sat in front of him, eyeing his crotch. The man outside started the car’s engine.
“Did you see anyone else in the property when you entered, sir?” the policemen asked pulling his dog back a few steps with a sharp tug.
“No. It was like I said, when I got here the place was empty. I called for Sully, um Mr Sullivan, but there was no answer. So I had a look around and that’s when I saw that someone had broken in,” Dale said.
Dale kept watching the two men in the car outside.
“Go on,” the policeman said nodding as he took notes.
“Oh, yes – they had been in his office, and his papers were everywhere,” Dale said, “they broke into his file cabinet by the looks of it. Although I doubt they ran off with his vintage Playboy collection. He’s got Marilyn you know.”
The policemen raised an eyebrow.
“So anyway I kept looking through the house for Sully to see if he was maybe hurt or something but he wasn’t here,” Dale said, “that’s about the time I called you guys.”
Dale looked around the house at the TV and other electronics, “They must be first timers because they left a lot of expensive stuff.”
“Yes sir. They must be inexperienced thieves,” the policeman looked up at his partner who came in from the other room, “we’ll make a note of it.”
Dale nodded his eyes drifting out the door again to the two men, “Um, do you know those guys?” he said pointing out the door. Both of them turn to look.
“Who?” the policeman said.
“The two guys outside in the brown car, one’s taking photos of the house,” Dale said.
“Sir, there’s no one there,” the second policemen said.
Dale looked out the door again, and the brown car was gone.
The first policemen shrugged and rolled his eyes.
“Thank you for your time. We’ll dust for some fingerprints and take a few more photos and be on our way. When did you say the owner of the property is likely to be back home?” the cop asked putting his notepad away.
“I didn’t. I don’t know, I’ve been looking for him myself. That’s why… oh never mind,” Dale said. He held the parcel firmly to his chest, and glared at the police dog who growled softly in return.
Dale walked out the door transfixed by the empty spot where the brown car had been just a minute before. He left the police to their task, as he glanced up and down the street for a trace of them. After a moment he sat down on the curb with a sigh.
Dale sat outside hefting the parcel from hand to hand for twenty minutes, before the idea to deliver it came to him. He was working out where the house was before he’d even made up his mind. His common sense never really caught up.
“Well, they might know where Sully is,” Dale said.
Dale stood and walked into his rundown house, his garden gate was never locked either although Dale had three Yale locks on his front door and a security gate. He juggled the keys and the parcel with practiced efficiency. Moments later he was driving out in the direction of Hout Bay. He hadn’t noticed that he was being followed.
“Left turn ahead,” a woman’s voice crackled in a British accent.
“No,” Dale said.
“Turn left now,” she repeated firmly.
“No, there’s lunch hour traffic down there. Honestly, Cybill you should know better by now.” Dale said turning right down a small side street.
“Recalculating.” She said with an almost perceptible air of frustration to her tone.
“Whatever.” Dale mumbled.
She knew nothing.
He muted her and drove his own route. He only kept the thing because it reminded him of his wife. Rest her soul. After thirty-two years of marriage he just liked to be nagged every now and again. He weaved his way through the suburbs to avoid the traffic. There was an accident on Main, so he back tracked cursing the whole way. He had to do that a a few more times until he arrived red-faced and muttering at the place the parcel was meant to be.
Pulling up outside the house with a whining screech of his breaks, his stomach sank, and his pulse started to climb back up to it previous heights. This did not have the look of a well-to-do establishment. The house itself was not so bad and the street was fine in a way. It was the massive man sweating in his double breasted suit that stood outside, with the look of serious intent to do bodily harm to those he deemed unfit to enter. Dale was seriously reconsidering his decision to be a good Samaritan, but the man was already waving him closer.
Dale got out of his car, and tried to gently shut the door. He had to slam it with his hip to close it properly. He held up the parcel towards the man and jiggled it. He felt like the time he went on a game walk in the Kruger and he suddenly realized just how big a Rhino is. Except this Rhino was smiling. At least Dale hoped he was smiling.
The sentinel towered over Dale, who was short by anyone’s measure – shorter than Sully even, but this man was huge. He waved Dale inside with a grunt and curt wave of his hand which had fingers like German sausages. He pulled the tall wrought iron gate closed behind Dale with a very final clang. Dale jumped at the sound, he nodded, half bowing as he passed. Entering the house with the parcel held in front of him like a shield against the unknown.
It was a palatial house, Dale’s neck craned to the ceiling in the entrance hall, although it had definitely seen better days. There was paint peeling on some of the walls, and that was definitely a damp problem in the corner over there.
“You’re late,” man said behind Dale with the lisping voice of a snake, he spun to meet the newcomer holding out the parcel.
“I know, but…” Dale replied.
“No buts, you were not meant to be late.” The blade of a man barked, holding up his hand, instantly silencing Dale. “Hand it over.”
Dale took a small step forward, handing the parcel over at arms length.
“Did you open it?” the man demanded.
“No, listen I’m…” Dale tried to protest.
“Shut up!” he said. He didn’t even raise his voice such was his conviction that Dale would swallow his words. Dale did, and almost his tongue with them. The man looked over the parcel, turning it in his hands. Then he held it to his ear and shook it slightly.
“Give me that you idiot,” said the boss. The boss styled himself after a Cuban drug lord, in his neatly trimmed linen suit, and Panama hat. It was the scar that went from his left eye to the corner of his mouth, keeping it in a half smile that completed the look. The snake man jumped and handed the parcel over.
“I was just asking him some questions,” the snake said, slithering to the side.
“Did Rocco send you?” the boss asked.
Dale shook his head. Sweated started to bead on his forehead. A voice in the back of his head cursed Sully right then.
“Who gave it to you?”
“I found it.”
“Where did you find this?” he asked.
Whack! The side of Dale’s head burned from his chin to his ear.
“You call the boss, Sir, when you’re speaking to him,” the snake snapped.
The boss glared at the snake for the interruption but nodded at Dale.
”In my neighbor’s car, on the side of the street,” Dale said.
“Don’t lie to me.”
“I’m not lying.”
Whack! Dale’s ears rang with that last blow. They were definitely getting harder, and he had the gnawing feeling he might just wet himself before he fainted.
“I’m not lying, Sir,” Dale corrected.
The sausage fingered man lifted by the collar Dale off the ground with one hand.
“The boss isn’t gonna ask you thrice,” he grumbled like a distant earthquake.
“I found it, in my neighbor’s car. I’m looking for him. I thought you might know where he was. I can’t seem to find him. Do you know where Sully is? Sir?” Dale said the worlds tumbling out of him, as he cringed in on himself expecting another blow.
“Who?” the boss asked.
They dropped Dale off outside his house, throwing Sully’s hat at him. His hands were tied behind his back so it hit him square in the face. They drove off in his car, pausing halfway down the road a moment to throw the GPS out the window. There was a loud crunch that made Dale sigh.
He looked down at Sully’s hat as it rolled to rest at his feet. He noticed a little bit of white poking out of the lining. It was a small piece of paper.
Dale curious, sat down and brought his hands around underneath him so he could pull the paper out.
As he reached for it he was yanked off the ground.
“What the hell?” he croaked.
A shaven head, with a 27 tattooed on his neck looked up at Dale. “Where is the fucking parcel?” the tough said.
“You with Rocco?” Dale asked.
The tough punched him in the stomach, winding him.
“Shhh. Why do you want to know about Rocco?” The tough asked.
“I delivered the parcel. It was from Rocco wasn’t it,” Dale wheezed.
“Shut up about Rocco,” the thug said punching Dale again.
Dale was dropped on the floor, as the thug spat on him, and kicked him.
“Well at least you don’t have to go for a swim then,” he said.
Dale looked up at the thug, with sun glaring from behind his head. He looked like he was going to kick Dale again.
Suddenly the thug disappeared. The sun blinded Dale, but he heard a scuffle followed by the sound of the thug being subdued. With force. He smiled as he blinked his eyes clear.
He was lifted off the ground again, more gently, but firmly still.
“Dale Feldman?” a stern voice asked.
“Yes,” said Dale blinking, “Hey! You’re the guy in the car taking photos!”
“We’re taking you in for questioning regarding the murder of Mr Edwin Sullivan.”
Dale sagged at hearing this, and saw Sully’s hat lying on the floor. He reached for it, pulling against the policeman’s hold on him.
“What do you want?” the detective asked.
“My hat, please can you pick it up for me.”
“Thank you Mr Feldman, thank you for your time. You may step down now,” the lawyer said the faintest hint of compassion on his face.
“That’s okay.” Dale said. He limped down from the dock, his arm in a sling and walked slowly out the court his steps ringing like a knell. He didn’t look at the thugs glaring daggers at him.
As Dale started down the stairs outside, a voice called to him. “Mr Feldman, aren’t you forgetting something?”
Dale lost it.
“What!? What the fuck am I forgetting? What!?” Dale screamed turning on the voice behind him.
“Your hat, sir,” the detective with the camera said, offering it to him. Dale snatched it from him, his temper evaporating instantly.
“Thanks,” he murmured, nodding to the man, as he continued down the stairs in the bright morning sun.
Dale turned the hat around to put it on his head when he noticed the white paper again sticking out of the lining. He sat down on the stairs to prop it on his legs so he could pull it out.
It was a lottery ticket. For this past Saturday.
Dale remembered now.
“Enough about your hat Sully, are you going to buy a ticket, or can I buy mine?” Dale said.
“Yes give me a second, I have to think of a number,” Sully said imperiously
“You mean six.” Dale said impatiently.
“No. I’ve got my five lucky numbers, I just need another one.” Sully’ retorted tapping his pencil against the counter.
“Pick seven, seven’s always a good one,” Dale said.
Dale looked at the ticket in his hands. He stared at it a moment before shoving it into his pocket and stumbling to find a paper. He called to a street seller who dogged through traffic to take Dale’s change.
Dale looked at the numbers printed on the front page.
Fifteen minutes later Dale woke up in the court again, with an ice-pack on his head.
“What happened, was I dreaming?” Dale asked.
“I don’t know about dreaming but you fell over and knocked your pip. Sit here for a bit, until I can get someone to come look at you,” the detective said.
Dale was in an uncomfortable wooden chair, propped up against the wall.
“Oh, your paper is on the floor next to you,” said the detective. “And whatever’s in your hand that you refused to let go of – even while out cold.”
Dale looked down at his hand, a crumpled piece of paper poked out.
All six numbers.
One and half million each.