"The Littlest Client" drabbles by Christopher

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 105

The Littlest Client #105

Barbara and Harrigan got up from the sofas and started toward us.

"Katie," Barbara said in a stern voice, "you know you shouldn't be out of bed. Miss Lewis won't be happy if she finds out."

"I just wanted to see what was going on and then I heard Mr. Randolph's voice," she said in defense.

"How about you call me Jake, huh?"

She smiled, "Okay, Jake!"

She looked at Harrigan, "I don't believe I know you, sir. I'm Katie Dolan."

Harrigan looked at me and smiled.

"How do you do, Miss Dolan? I'm Jim Harrigan, a friend of Jake's."

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 104

The Littlest Client #104

It was Katie standing bleary-eyed in the doorway of the study in her little white pajamas. She was holding a stuffed bear.

"Hey, Katie!" I said as I got up from the couch and went to her. I knelt down in front of her.

"Did you find Daddy?" she asked.

"Well, I'm very close, Katie. Hopefully I can find him tomorrow."

Her eyes got wide and I realized I shouldn't have said that. She threw her arms around me and hugged me.

"Well," I said as I hugged her back, "we'll have to wait and see though, Katie. Okay?"

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 103

The Littlest Client #103

Barbara knew she had no choice.

"He has a friend, the only one he has left in Los Angeles. His name is Pete. I think his last name is Nelson. He's been helping Max."

Harrigan asked, "Do you know where this Pete Nelson lives?"

Barbara shook her head, "No, but I know where he works. A warehouse on South Figueroa. Titan Tire Co."

Harrigan nodded, "Alright, Miss Bennett. Thank you for your help. If you see or talk to your brother I suggest you convince him to turn himself in."

Barbara nodded as I heard a voice say, "Mr. Randolph?"

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 102

The Littlest Client #102

"Was that it, Barbara," I asked, "or was it that he wanted them to get rid of Gallagher for himself?"

"It was both. It would help everyone. Gallagher is horrible from what I've heard about him," she said.

"Well, you're not wrong there," I said. "But listen, we have to find Max. Do you know where he's staying? Or any other allies he trusts that are in town?"

She looked down and Harrigan said, "Look, Miss Bennett. If you try to interfere in any way with this investigation or withhold evidence I won't hesitate to put you under arrest. Understand?"

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 101

The Littlest Client #101

"Since he came back to Los Angeles he's only contacted me twice. Once the day he got back and then once the day I met Jake."

"And did you tell him that Katie hired me to find him?" I asked.

She nodded.

"What did he say?" Harrigan asked.

"He just swore and said it would only interfere with his plans."

"His plans for what?" I asked.

"For trying to convince David, Michael and Ricky to help him take down Gallagher. Max knew what Gallagher had done to them all because of him and he wanted to help them get revenge."

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 100

The Littlest Client #100

"A week ago," Barbara said as she looked at me. "That's why I didn't want you to work for Katie, Jake. With Max back in town I figured you'd actually find him."

"Well," I said, "we have to find him now, Barbara. He's wanted for murder."

"But he didn't do it!" she screamed.

"Maybe not, but he still has to be brought in. If he didn't do it he can prove it. But he can't wiggle out of shooting at me, Barbara."

She started crying.

Harrigan stepped in, "Miss Bennett, how have you been getting in contact with your brother?"

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 99

The Littlest Client #99

"Sounds like a real mess," I said.

"Oh, it gets worse," she said. "He ran into some old friends up there and before long they were pulling an armed robbery. He got caught and did five years in the Oregon State Penitentiary."

"Good grief," I said as Harrigan shook his head. He couldn't understand any more than I could how someone could make such a colossal screw-up of their life.

"And this past year he's been trying to figure out a way to get Gallagher off his back," she said.

"So...when did he come back to town?" Harrigan asked...

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 98

The Littlest Client #98

Something just occurred to me.

"Barbara, if Katie was two when she was dropped here how come she didn't know you were her aunt?"

"I hadn't seen her since she was a baby. Max cleaned up his act after Katie was born but it wasn't long before he was slipping back into a life of crime. I couldn't be in his life with that going on."

"Who took care of Katie while he was living this life of crime?" Harrigan asked.

"He lived in a boarding house. The lady who ran it loved Katie and helped take care of her."

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 97

The Littlest Client #97

"No," Barbara said, "and Gallagher was planning on using the money from those jewels to expand his operation and crush the other organization. He told Max he had 24 hours to get those jewels to him or he'd kill Max and everyone he loved."

"And that's when he dropped his daughter off here?" Harrigan asked.

She nodded, "He said he had to flee town and that that was no life for a two-year-old. He told me just as soon as he got set up somewhere he would let me know and I could bring Katie out to him."

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 96

The Littlest Client #96

"He saw an opportunity with the jewels, since the other three had to go to the hospital. He knew a fence who would pay him enough for the jewels to pay his debt with the sharks."

I said, "Was he stupid enough to think that double-crossing a lunatic like Gallagher was a good idea?"

She shook her head, "He was a lot closer with Gallagher than the other guys were. There was a rival operation muscling in on Gallagher at the time. Max told Gallagher they jumped him and took the jewels."

"Obviously Gallagher didn't believe him," I said...

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 95

The Littlest Client #95

She sighed heavily and continued, "Max had been trying to get enough money to be able to provide Katie with a good life. He started gambling with what little bit he had and before long he was in deep with the loan sharks."

Instead of working and providing a meager life for Katie while still being in her life, he wanted to take the easy way out and botched it all up and she wound up living seven of her nine years without him.

That's what I was thinking but I didn't say it. Max was her brother, after all...

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 94

The Littlest Client #94

Barbara shook her head, "He wasn't going there to kill them, Jake. He was going there to see if they would help him take down Duncan Gallagher."

"So," Harrigan said, "you have had contact with him?"

"Just over the phone," she said.

"We need to know the whole thing, Barbara," I said. "From the moment Max dropped off Katie."

She leaned back, rubbing the tears from her eyes.

"Max dropped Katie off that night because...something...bad...went down," she said.

"We know about the jewelry job for Gallagher, Miss Bennett," Harrigan said.

She frowned. She knew she had to tell it all...

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 93

The Littlest Client #93

"Barbara, I hate to tell you this, but Max killed two men earlier this evening. And he tried to kill me."

"No!" she yelled. "That's not possible! Who do you think he killed?"

Harrigan said, "Ricky Rucksack and David Donovan."

"No, Ricky and Davy were his friends!"

I shook my head, "I was there, Barbara."

"You saw my brother kill them?"

"No, we got there right after. He was still in Rucksack's apartment when Harrigan and me got there. He climbed out the fire escape and I followed and he took some shots at me, damn near hit me too."

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 92

The Littlest Client #92

Harrigan looked confused, "You said your surname was Bennett."

She nodded, "I was married very young. It only lasted a few years but I never went back to my maiden name."

I said, "That means that Katie is..."

"My niece. You don't know how many times I wanted to tell her so she knew she had family with her but Max thought it was too dangerous. It was bad enough we were still in the same city as Duncan Gallagher. But we had no place to go...and at least the orphanage provided us some kind of shelter against that monster."

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 91

The Littlest Client #91

"I can't tell you what's going on. I promised I wouldn't. It's too dangerous," she said through her tears.

Harrigan stepped in, "Miss Bennett, I'm afraid you don't have a choice. This is no longer a matter of a little girl looking for her father. People have been murdered. It's a police matter now."

She looked at me with tears in her eyes. I wiped them away and said, "It's out of my hands now, unfortunately."

"Tell us what's going on, Miss Bennett."

"Max...," she said, "...Max is my brother."

Okay, I have to admit I didn't see that coming...

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 90

The Littlest Client #90

"No, this is all getting out of hand," she said as she stood up and started sobbing. I got up and went to her, taking her in my arms. She put her head on my shoulder and let the tears start flowing.

"Hey, it's okay, kid. Everything'll be okay, but you have to tell us everything right from the beginning. Two men have been killed tonight...a third one would be dead if he wasn't already in police custody."

I sat down beside her on the sofa with Harrigan across from us staring at me.

I wondered what he was thinking...

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 89

The Littlest Client #89

"What?" she yelled. "M-m-max Dolan? I...I...I told you I haven't seen him since he dropped Katie off seven years ago."

"I didn't ask if you'd seen him, Barbara. I asked if you'd been in contact with him."

She was visibly shaken. I could tell she was parsing her words, that she was an honest woman and she didn't want to lie. But I didn't have time for semantics. People were dying.

"Barbara, you want to know who has seen Max Dolan? I did, tonight. And he shot at me," I said.

She brought her hand to her mouth...

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 88

The Littlest Client #88

"Where were you earlier this evening?" Harrigan asked.

"I was here," she said in a defensive tone.

"Can anyone verify that?" he asked.

"Yes, at least 20 of our children and Miss Lewis."

"Did you leave the home at any point today or this evening?"

"No!" she yelled. "What is this about, Jake?"

I looked at Harrigan as if to say "Can I speak now?"

He nodded.

"Barbara, I have to ask you something very important and I need you to be honest with me."

She looked very nervous.

"Barbara," I continued, "have you been in contact with Max Dolan?"

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 87

The Littlest Client #87

"May I have your full name, Miss?" Harrigan asked as he pulled the same pad on which he'd written down the address of Dolan's car that I yelled to him.

"Barbara Louise Bennett," she said. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail and she didn't have any make up on and I was starting to think that she wasn't so plain after all.

"Well, Miss Bennett, I need to ask you a few questions. It shouldn't take long," Harrigan said. She looked at me as if she needed my permission so I just nodded at her.

"Okay," she said...

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Jake Randolph in "The Littlest Client" Pt. 86

The Littlest Client #86

The room was all in rich, stained wood, with one wall completely taken up with shelves full of books. It looked like a library. They even had the little ladder on wheels you could slide back and forth in order to access the books on the higher shelves. These kids may not have had any parents but they certainly didn't lack for literature to read.

Barbara pointed us to a red velvet sofa and she sat across the coffee table from us on another sofa. Matching, of course.

"Now, what in blazes is so important it couldn't wait until morning?"