“Don’t play silly with me, Georgy.” He pushed me back into the chair. “Reggie had written home about his friend George Blake. Unusual for Reggie to even have a friend, come to think of it. Now years later when I’d heard that George Blake had moved into this town from the city, I wondered if you could be the same George that Reggie had been so fond of. I started asking questions.” He stopped and smiled down at me. In the distance I could hear Sue and Leyton’s wife talking and laughing.
“Peggy and I introduced ourselves to Sue and then one day she just happened to mention your antique revolver collection. Well that got me thinking . . ..”
He took a gulp of his drink.
“You see, Georgy, the police said my brother was shot by a Valentin Christoph Schilling, a very rare revolver.”
He smiled again.
“That Sue is certainly a sweetheart,” he said. “When you went down to the city, she was such a bonny lass, cleaning your place so that when you came back it was all neat and shiny. So we got friendly with her and I’d pop by and borrow sugar or bring some homemade biscuits that the missus made for her. It wasn’t hard to find a moment to pick up your Valentin Christoph Schilling. If you ask me, I think you’re a bit sick, to have kept that old German pinfire all these years.”
I tried to stop myself from shaking. This was a game of control—a mind game. I had to play it cool: “You’ve done a great job. Very, very good. The stuff of an Agatha Christie novel. But you know as well as I do that a court wouldn’t listen to this bullshit for five minutes.”
He poured himself another drink.
“Let us not get into any unnecessary details involving courts just yet.” He took a long breath. “I don’t hate you for killing him. I’m not out for revenge. Wouldn’t do me any good if you went to prison. But I do need something from you.”
“You can’t prove any of this,” I said, and got up to leave.
“If that’s how you want to be about it mate, all the better for me. I was trying to do you a good turn. I could probably make a killing if I went to the police and then secured a book deal—‘distraught man brings brother’s killer to justice,’” he laughed. “And just to show you how serious I am …” He walked over to the side table near the wall and picked up the phone. “Yes, dear, may I have the police please?”
I panicked. “Wait,” I said. I realized it was futile to deny it. If I had to, I could always rid the world of one more pushy Australian, but I had to buy time. “What do you want?”
“What do I want? Security, Georgy, security. The Leyton boys were born chancers. It’s been moving from one place to another and always finding myself up to my ass in debt. I had to leave my country and go to Kuwait—that didn’t work out, so Canada, and now here.”
“I’m not a blackmailer, in the classic sense of the word, Georgy, so I am going to show you my bank statement and you can make an offer and I’ll either nod yes or no.”
“I don’t want to look at your bank statement. Tell me how much and I’ll speak to my broker in the morning.”
“Ata boy, I knew I’d grow on you,” he smiled. “You tell him to sell, you tell him to sell, Georgy.”
I sat up late that night thinking. I couldn’t kill him myself. There was motive there. The police would be onto me in an instant. There went all my planning on Jane Masterson—couldn’t do her in anymore. Forget her, Leyton was the priority.
After a restless night, I sat in my kitchen slumped over a cup of coffee. I had to find someone who could do away with Leyton. Then it came to me. We had the Black Widow herself living just a few miles away. If anybody could help me it was she.
I spent the rest of the day planning. There wasn’t a trace of dread from the night before. I had my path ahead of me and I knew what I was going to do.
As part of my planning for “Operation Jane Masterson,” I had discretely been tailing her for a few weeks. It turned out she was a creature of habit. She’d drop the little monster off at school everyday, then stop at Reds for breakfast.
The next day I got up earlier than usual. I was waiting for her with a cup of coffee when she came in. I put up a hand and waved, got up, introduced myself and asked her to join me. She laughed and said, “Well I’ve had breakfast with uglier guys.”
I smiled and said, “I hope you’re not fond of heavy breakfasts.” I didn’t want her to throw up when I gave her the news.
The waitress took our order. It turned out she had a huge breakfast every morning.
“Weren’t you the guy talking to Maggie at the store the other day. You look familiar to me.”
“Yes, that was me. You may not know this but I’ve been waiting for years for a chance to meet you.”
Her eyes narrowed. “What are you talking about?”
“Phoenix, 1983, gun goes off at your home and you’re minus a husband but you inherit a lot of wealth. Miami, 1990, your second husband chokes on a medicine bottle cap, another dead wealthy husband. Need I go on?”
She stared at me coldly. “Why are you bringing this up? What the hell do you want?”
“If you want to cut to the chase, it’s not money I’m after.”
“Is this some sick joke?” She asked.
“I need a favor from you. I want Stanley Leyton.”
“Huh? What are you some kind of a weirdo? You want Stanley Leyton—what have I got to do with that?”
“I want you to do to Stanley Leyton what you did to your three husbands.” I couldn’t bring myself to use the actual words.
“You’re crazy. First of all, I’m not admitting to anything. For all I know you may be a cop trying to set me up.”
“I’m not with the police.” I smiled.
“Then stop harassing me, or …”
“Or you’ll call the police?” Suddenly I started to relish the role of blackmailer. “Call them. They’d be very interested in the information I have about the role you played in your husbands’ deaths.”
The Black Widow stared at me coldly. “What’s Leyton to you?”
“Let’s just say he’s being a bit un-neighborly,” I replied.
Our breakfast arrived. To my surprise she picked up her fork and knife and attacked the plate. Between mouthfuls she asked, “If I do this, what guarantee do I have that you’re not going to be hounding me till I die?”