detective inspector oleg nikolayevich platonov turned red fuller’s hat over in his hands.
“sturdy material. very sturdy material,” he remarked.
“yes,” red agreed. they were in chicago jimmy kelly’s dressing room in the vyacheslav molotov memorial colosseum in stalingrad.
a couple of other detectives - a man and a woman - were examining chicago jimmy’s body, which was laid out on the rubdown table.
charlie “the cowboy” callahan and “doc” polanski and red’s other cronies were being interviewed separately in some other rooms.
“almost like iron,” the inspector continued. “but a bit lighter.”
“almost,” red nodded.
“i could have used a hat like this at kursk. better than a helmet.”
“if you say so.”
“not that the glorious red army did not provide its heroes with fine helmets from the fine factories of the motherland. do you mind telling me where you got it?”
“i bought it.”
“no doubt, but where exactly did you buy it.”
“from a fellow in the street last night. i was out for a walk and - “
“look here,” the female detective suddenly exclaimed.
the inspector turned. “yes, ludmilla ivavovna, what have you found that is so important that you are pleased to interrupt me?”
“look.” ludmilla ivanovna pointed to chicago jimmy’s trunks. “look at the slight bulge. there seems to be something sewn into it. like a piece of paper.”
“well then, cut it out - if that is what it is. and let us see what it is.”
ludmilla ivavnova took a swiss army knife from her pocket and carefully cut away the section of chicago jimmy’s trunks and extracted a folded piece of yellow notepaper. she held it out to the inspector, who glanced at and handed it back to her.
“you can read english better than i, detective. read to us what it says.”
"it says -" ludmilla ivavnova cleared her throat -
i, james cornelius kelly, known as chicago jimmy kelly, being of sound mind and all that, hereby wish to declare, in the event i come to grief under questionable circumstances , that it was i who rubbed out packy miller, under orders from red fuller, on the night of december 4, and not the bookmaker stanley murphy, who is an innocent man who stands wrongfully accused.
“nice and cool out here, isn’t it? “ lily , in the driver’s seat of her cadillac, rolled down the window. “especially after that stuffy club.”
“yes, it is,” jerry agreed. he sat beside her in the front seat. he wished she would just get on with it, but waited while she lit another cigarette.
“we might as well discuss our little matter here,” lily said.
“that sounds good to me.”
“you probably thought i was slinging you a load of malarkey back in there, about how we could save your friend - “
“ - your uncle, even though we might not save him tonight.” lily took a drag of her cigarette. “listen, you’re a spaceman, right?”
“yes.” i’m wearing a spaceman uniform, jerry thought, but did not say so.
“so you must know that there are things in the universe that no one really understands. things beyond ordinary human understanding.”
“i guess so.”
“space has been conquered. more or less. but there is one more frontier to conquer. one more frontier they don’t want you to know about. you know where i am heading with this?”
“um - how about time. the frontier of time.”
“exactly. now you don’t read about it in the papers, but if you know the right people -“ lily paused, to flick some ashes out the window.
terry was standing outside the car.
“you!” lily exclaimed. “what do you want?”
“you know what i want.”
“jimmy’s dead. isn’t that enough for you?”
“not nearly.” terry produced a pistol and aimed it at lily’s face.
“but - “
“no buts. and no ifs or ands.” terry pulled the trigger. lily’s brains splattered all over the windshield.
terry pointed the pistol at jerry. “sorry it has to end this way, kid.”
“but - what is this?”
“the end of the line.”
“i thought - i thought you liked me.”
“i did. but what has to be done has to be done.”
“but,“ jerry protested. “ i don’t know what this is all about. i don’t know anything - “
“you do now,” terry answered. she said something else, but jerry couldn’t hear it -
over the sound of hot lead ripping through his guts…
two weeks later.
it was almost closing time. stan and gus were the only customers left in mickey’s pub.
“you know, stan,” gus was saying, “i don’t want to take anything away from him, but in the end the kid didn’t really help you out at all. it was just the lucky bullet hitting chicago jimmy kelly.”
“i know that, “ stan replied. “but he tried. and that ought to count for something. maybe his trying affected the atoms in the universe or something. and that’’s why the bullet hit chicago jimmy.”
“yeah,” gus agreed. “life is funny. and fate is even funnier.”
stan nodded. “i’ll say a prayer for him the next time i go to church.”
“that would be nice.”
stan finished his beer. “come on, let’s get out of here.”
stan stumbled a bit as they went out the door into the night air.
“you’re a little unsteady there, old timer,” gus told him. “maybe we should get a cab.”