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Authors: John Goldbach

Tags: #Suspense

The Devil and the Detective

copyright © John Goldbach, 2013

first edition

Published with the generous assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. Coach House Books also acknowledges the support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Book Publishing Tax Credit.


Goldbach, John, 1978-

The devil and the detective / John Goldbach.

Issued also in a printed format.
ISBN 978-1-77056-335-3

I. Title.

PS8613.O432D49 2013 C813'.6 C2013-900218-9

The Devil and the Detective
is available in a print edition:
ISBN 978 1 55245 269 1.

Purchase of the print version of this book entitles you to a free digital copy. To claim your ebook, please email
[email protected]
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Private detective Robert James is more interested in chronicling his cases than solving them, receives a phone call in the middle of the night from Elaine Andrews, a young woman who has just found her much older husband dead on their living room couch, a knife protruding from his chest. Or at least that's probably what happened . . .

Murder, corruption and betrayal ensue as hapless Bob is drawn into both the dark underworld of Elaine and Gerald Andrews – and the tangled web woven by his own mind. Along the way, he befriends a young grad student/flower-delivery driver, Darren, who inadvertently becomes his sidekick: a Watson to his Holmes, or maybe more like a Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote. Or is it the other way around? Either way, Bob and Darren can't stop drinking, smoking and philosophizing long enough to keep up with the story.

The Devil and the Detective
is a noir novel about the biggest mystery of all – that of consciousness. It's an unorthodox meditation on writing, love, violence and ideology – imagine
The Big Sleep
via Fernando Pessoa, with a side of Buster Keaton.

‘Le grotesque des événements de tous les jours vous cache le vrai malheur des passions.'

– Antoine Barnave

‘By the next day the mastermind had completely solved the mystery – with the exception of locating the pearls and finding the thief.'

– from Buster Keaton's
Sherlock Jr.


Late-evening phone call – A corpse on a couch –

Shower – Taxicab – Elaine Andrews and the

plainclothesman on the front porch – O'Meara –

BMW – Narrowish bar – Whiskies – Couch

Waking up – Regret – Falling asleep – Waking up –

Regret – Showering – Phonebook – Florist –

Recording Device

Phone call – Call transcript

Placing an order – Darren the delivery driver –

A Discourse on Love, as related by Darren the delivery

driver – A brief visit from the Devil – The Andrewses'

house – The kitchen – The living room – The

backyard – Mou Gui Fang – O'Meara and flunky –

Another man

Food – Adam – Tears

Vodka – Ice water – Bed

Hirsute men vs. hairless men – Newts – Magnum

Exes – 222s – Sleep

A plan of sorts – Murder on the mind – Eyelashes –


Waking up – The search – The basement – The

garage – An explosion

O'Meara – Nausea – Breathing – Attempted escape

– Cuffs – Den – Books – Epiphany, encore, &c.

A lit cigarette –
The Art of War
– Business card –

O'Meara – Darren the delivery driver – Gargoyles –

Chimeras – Curbside – Bouvert Adamson – Reception –

Office – Curbside – Smoking – Home – Drink

Long sleep – Long dream

Spitting whisky – Unwelcome houseguests –

The back of an unmarked car – Listening to reason

Pacing – Complaint – Shoes-off pacing – Chain-

smoking in the dark – Call to Darren

Girl problems – A bar brawl – Phantom pains

Staring out the apt. window – Working on

case notes

Black Coffee – Blue Gatorade – Boutique de fleurs –

Julie le fleuriste – Office bldg. – Notebook – A

hospital – A chopper – The man in the cast –

Graveyard – Everett Family Funeral Home Ltd.

Morgue – Leonard P. Tate,

REPORT 91-06160

Lawyers', ho! –
Corpus quaestio

Leather chairs – Michelle – Interlaced fingers –

The plan

Hôtel Athènes– Le Charon,
the bar – The

surreptitious stenographer

Discussion of the notebook transcript – On the take –

Call to Michelle – Drinks at Chez Carlos – The Diavolo

Cucina plan – Louisville Slugger and nail gun –

50,000 V.

Back of a squad car – The good ol' academy days and

Oleoresin Capsicum
– Interrogation room – Phonebook –

Pistol-whip – The offer of an escort out of town

Officer McLaughlin – Steam-filled washroom – Back

alleys – The shop – A glow-in-the-dark Hasbro Ouija

Board and planchette

Vieux-Port – Safety – Wharf – Binoculars – Container

ships – Victorian-style streetlamps – Viewfinder –

Blinders – No sound – Gym bag, &c.

Handgun – The grand litigator – Chianti and

calamari – Up against the wall – Giancarlo –

A deal

Six-pack – Julie, encore –
Leb wohl

Metro – Newsstand –
The Examiner
– Train – Taxi –

Inn – Ocean – Moon –


rime is law. Law is crime. That much is obvious. Interpret it however you like but it still holds.

Enough abstraction. Time for the case.

The phone call came in the late evening and the woman on the other end of the line was crying.

‘Mr. James,' she said.

‘Yes,' I said.

‘I need your help,' she said. ‘My husband. He's been murdered.'

‘How did you get my number?'

‘Martin Bouvert. My lawyer. He gave it to me.' She started weeping. ‘Mr. James, please. I need your help. He's been stabbed in the chest. Gerald's been stabbed in the chest!'

‘Calm down, ma'am. I don't even know your name.'

‘Elaine,' she said. ‘Elaine Andrews.'

Although it was late I was awake, or somewhat awake. I'd been reading a book on the couch and drinking whiskies. I was tired and groggy but still awake.

‘Have you called the police, Mrs. Andrews? Where's your husband?'

‘Yes … I've called the police … and my husband's in the living room, with a knife in his chest … He's soaked in blood … '

‘When did you find him?'

‘Just now, when I woke up. When I saw he wasn't in bed I called out to him and there wasn't an answer so I went to go look for him and when I found him he was downstairs in the living room, laid out on the couch, with a knife in his chest!'

‘Where do you live?'

‘Tower Street, 19 Tower Street. Please, come soon.'

‘I will, Mrs. Andrews, but I'd like to ask you one more ­question … '

‘Yes … '

‘Why have you asked me to come so quickly? I mean, you haven't even talked to the police, or at least they haven't shown up at your home yet … So why call me immediately?'

‘I called the police first, and then my lawyer, and he told me to call a private detective. He gave me your number. He said you'd be discreet.'

‘Are there things we need to be discreet about?'

‘He just seemed to think it was a good idea. That's the doorbell,' she said. ‘Probably the police. Come soon please … '

After she hung up her phone I stood with mine still in my hand, listening to the dead line. I put the phone back on its mount and sat down on the couch and drank my drink. I wasn't sure why she was calling me, a private detective, before the police – although useless for anything other than exerting unnecessary force – even had a crack at the case. Something's fishy, I thought, without a doubt. Her lawyer was overly cautious, I thought, sitting on the couch, whisky in hand, contemplating the case. The case of Mr. Gerald Andrews. Gerald Andrews, with his wife, Elaine Andrews, and a knife in his chest. Their names were so boring, so commonplace as to seem improbable. At the very least, I thought, groggy from the drink, Mr. Gerald Andrews's death, whether caused by murder or suicide or some freak accident, would bring considerable excitement to Mrs. Elaine Andrews's life. Elaine Andrews, who is this woman? I wondered, while sitting on the couch, shortly after she called me, shortly after the expiration of her husband, Gerald Andrews. They both had old people's names, but Elaine Andrews's voice sounded young, or at least not old. Under forty, I suspected, but I'm often wrong when it comes to guessing people's ages, especially over the telephone. There are a lot of things I get wrong when it comes to guesswork. I observe, and then I come to a conclusion, if there's a conclusion to come to, which more often than not there isn't. A lot remains unknown. Things change while you look at them. I better get dressed, I thought, sitting on the couch, so I finished my drink and took a shower.

The water was hot, as always in my building, and the bathroom filled with steam. I stood in the shower, under the hot water, trying to sober up a little, thinking of Elaine Andrews. There was something strange about her voice. She sounded young, and maybe didn't sound sad, though she was crying, crying considerably, and she sounded scared. Of course she sounded scared, I thought, she'd just found her husband with a knife protruding from his chest on their chesterfield. Usually I would've thought
, I thought, and wasn't that the word Mrs. Andrews, Elaine Andrews, used when she called? Didn't she say
couch, I found my husband on the couch with a knife in his chest?
I'm sure that's what she said, I thought, standing in the shower, in the steam-filled washroom, under extremely hot water. Her voice sounded strange. Young, quite young, under forty, but perhaps under thirty, though I wasn't sure. Perhaps her voice sounded young because she was crying. Crying tends to be something young people do, or at least hysterical crying – older people don't cry hysterically, I thought. Babies cry hysterically, of course, because they are babies and not yet resigned to this world. Teenage girls, too, cry hysterically, though older people don't, I thought, or at least that's what I'd observed over the years, the years of my life, which aren't many, when considering the history of human life, so perhaps I'm just inexperienced when it comes to the hysterical tears of old people. Old people, the ones with dementia, them I could see crying hysterically, I thought, standing in the hot water of the shower. Mrs. Andrews, however, didn't sound old; on the contrary, she sounded young – she sounded young and sexy. Why sexy? What led me to believe she was sexy? Perhaps she wasn't, though something in her voice sounded sexy. Desperation? Was desperation sexy? Usually not, I thought. When a man seems desperate, desperate to get laid, for instance, that's when it never happens, unless of course he's willing to pay, but that's different. To be fair, it's not that sexy when a woman is desperate, or overly desperate, either – but Mrs. Andrews's desperation was different. She was desperate for me to help her. She was desperate for my services. She sounded like perhaps I could help her, that perhaps I was the only one who could, and maybe that's what I found sexy. Maybe she was still in her nightgown, I thought, or maybe that's what made me think she was so sexy sounding, that is to say, the possibility that she was still in her nightgown when she called. Or a silk robe, with nothing on underneath. But the police were on their way. She'd dress for the police, I thought. But when she found the body, the dead body of her husband, after she'd called out to him from their bed in the night, she was most likely scantily clad, perhaps even totally nude. This young woman was perhaps totally nude, I thought while showering, when she found her husband laid out on the couch with a knife protruding from his chest. Or at least she was probably totally nude before finding him, when she was alone in bed. I thought about this for a few more minutes while I finished my shower.

When my cab pulled up near Mrs. Elaine Andrews's house – formerly Mr. Gerald Andrews's house, too – there were two police cars in the driveway: one a black-and-white squad car, the other a dark blue unmarked car of the same make and model. Mrs. Elaine Andrews, Elaine Andrews, Elaine, was standing on the porch, crying, dressed, wearing a tan raincoat. It looked like she was giving a uniformed officer her statement. She didn't see me right away, which was for the best. It gave me an opportunity to appraise the situation, to get a good look at the scene and observe everything before the knowledge of my presence corrupted things as they were. Elaine sniffled into a handkerchief while looking down at her shoes. The uniformed officer took notes in his notepad – something I never do till afterward – while she stood there crying; it didn't look like she was saying much. Nevertheless, he kept scribbling away, taking notes in situ. Perhaps, I thought, he wasn't only recording what she was saying; perhaps he was writing about what he was thinking about what she was saying, or speculating on why she wasn't saying anything when she wasn't saying anything, and when she was talking perhaps he was writing that down, too:
Why isn't she talking?
, he wrote, perhaps, I thought.
Is it because of her tears? Mr. Gerald Andrews, he wrote, perhaps, though unlucky to have been stabbed to death, was lucky to have been with such a sexy woman while alive
– and she was, that is to say, sexy.

There seemed to be movement in the house. The other officers, a couple of plainclothesmen, were stomping all over the crime scene. They were inside, examining the body, examining the wounds, dusting for fingerprints, and so on, I figured. I don't like that stuff. That's one of the reasons I'm a private detective. There are many reasons, actually. That's definitely one, though. I hate all that bullshit. Regardless. No one had seen me and the uniformed officer didn't seem to be getting anywhere with Elaine, so I decided it was time for me to make my presence known.

‘Good evening, Mrs. Andrews,' I said, then, ‘Good evening, officer.'

‘Mr. James,' she said. ‘I'm glad you've made it.'

‘Is this a friend of yours, ma'am?' asked the officer.

‘He's a private detective I've asked for assistance.'

Just then a police detective, Detective Michael O'Meara, a man I'm familiar with, came out the front door and joined us on the front porch.

‘Well, well,' he said. ‘Rick, to what do we owe the pleasure?'

‘Mrs. Andrews called me and asked for my services.'

‘You don't have faith in the police, Mrs. Andrews?'

‘With all due respect, Detective O'Meara, my husband's just been murdered and I'm anxious that we get to the bottom of this as soon as possible. And, yes,' she said, like a pro, ‘I have faith in the police but realize that you are underfunded and understaffed and thought that you'd appreciate all the help you can get. Besides, Mr. James has a very good reputation. Can we really say the same about the police department, Detective O'Meara?'

He stood speechless, as did the uniformed officer, who didn't write anything in his notepad, and I blushed from the ­compliment. O'Meara's a pain in the ass, if the truth be known, and deserved to be put in his place.

‘If we're through for now, officers,' Mrs. Andrews continued, ‘I'd like to talk to Mr. James in private. So if you'll please excuse us. Thank you for your help.'

‘We can't leave the scene yet, Mrs. Andrews,' said O'Meara.

‘Yes, though I can – can't I?'

‘I don't see why not. We have your cell number.'

‘Thank you, officers. Mr. James,' she said, ‘let's go someplace else.'

‘Sure,' I said. ‘But I don't have a car.'

‘That's all right. I do.'

‘Have we searched her car yet?' said O'Meara to the uniformed officer.


‘Then we're done for now,' said Mrs. Andrews. She turned to me and said, ‘Let's go.'

‘First, if you don't mind, I'd like to inspect the body.'

‘You're not going in there, Rick,' said O'Meara. ‘My men are working right now.'

‘Right, so you're not going to let me see the body.'

‘That's right, Rick.'

‘Let's just leave,' said Mrs. Andrews.

‘Listen to the lady, Rick – beat it.'

‘All right, O'Meara. This is low, though.'

‘Bye, Rick.'

I sat shotgun beside Elaine Andrews as she drove her black bmw fast. The dashboard looked like it belonged in the cockpit of an airplane. The seats were black leather. They were comfortable, the car was comfortable. For a moment I wondered why I don't drive. Is it because my mind wanders? Is it because I know that if I drove that's how I'd die, behind the wheel of a car? This car, though, made me rethink my driver's licence, or rather my lack thereof. The night was dark. It was a little after midnight. The bare tree branches, too, were darker than the night. They hung over the road and looked like they were going to sweep the windshield like the brushes at the carwash, I thought, while we drove fast along the dark road to a destination unknown. I hadn't asked where we were going. It didn't seem to matter, as she drove her bmw fast along the dark road with the black branches. Mrs. Andrews looked at me, then back at the road ahead. She was younger than forty, I thought, though it didn't matter. She might even be younger than thirty. What I knew for certain was that Gerald Andrews was older than her, significantly older – sixty, at least, I thought – and very wealthy, and I could tell that simply by their possessions, what little of them that I'd seen, and by the way they lived in general: the house, the cars, the furniture, the front porch. The voice on the phone, when she first called, though altered by tears, still didn't match the person sitting beside me, not hysterically crying but driving. The voice, the woman, they didn't match up, I thought, though I'd hardly heard her talk, except for over the phone. She broke the silence.

‘Will it affect your solving the case, not having seen the body?'

‘I don't know.'

‘It was terrible,' she said.

‘Where are we going?'

‘For a drink. I need a drink.'

‘Okay, but where?'

‘A small bar, not far from here.'

The talking stopped.

The bar was small indeed, and long like a railway car, though it was wider. It was dark, too, except for a small yellow electric candle with a red plastic shade on the tabletop and dim white Christmas lights surrounding the bar. I ordered a double Scotch, neat, and Elaine said, ‘
La même chose, s'il vous plaît,
' for the waitress was French. Elaine was truly beautiful, I thought, looking at Elaine. She looked like a film actress, one from the sixties, a brunette, though I couldn't remember her name. We drank for a few minutes without saying anything, though Elaine didn't seem uncomfortable. Elaine seemed okay – happy, most likely, to be out of her home, where her husband's dead body still lay, I thought, or at least it was still there when we left her house. The Scotch was good and it was strong, not watered down in the slightest. No one gave any indication of recognizing Elaine Andrews but I suspected she frequented the bar. It seemed like she found this dark bar, with its few patrons, a relaxing atmosphere, which I found it to be, too. The music was soft and hard to make out but sounded good nonetheless. The drinks smelled strong and warm. Despite the fact that I was on the job, I was having a good time. It'd been a while, as long as I could remember, since I'd sat across from a beautiful woman, one who looked like a foreign film star from the sixties (she was foreign, the film star I was thinking of), drinking fine single malt Scotch neat. The drinks smelled good and the music was nice and Elaine looked radiant and it felt good to have company, for I hadn't been on a case in a while, and I'd just been drinking, reading and working on my old case notes at home for weeks, maybe even months – for as long as I could remember. We were both hesitant to speak. Eventually, she spoke first.

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