The political fracas at Speaker's Park continued on throughout the afternoon, but mostly it was the same old routine: some asshole in a suit would take the stage and spout the same rhetoric as the asshole before him who'd just been booed offstage. Carmell watched them all, noted here and there on his smart phone, things to follow up. He also watched the crowd, mostly because they were far more interesting than the stiffs on-stage. There was a life, a vitality to them, beaten down to the point of submission, sure, but still present, murmuring under the veil of conformity. He especially liked the three old ladies sitting five rows back, who vociferously badmouthed every candidate who took the stage with his fake-ass smile and perfect teeth. He used the CAMERA function on his phone to quickly snap their picture and denote them with a smiley face. Then the event droned on.

He wasn't even sure it was over until the three old ladies rose and sauntered off about three minutes before the last speaker was about to finish. Before anyone could say anything, the woman in a purple cardigan, perhaps the leader of the “Gang,” waved a hanky and shouted, “Don't worry, he hasn't any more to say. Trust me, folks!”

The crowd chuckled. Interesting. Carmell decided to follow them; they would be a good source of intel. Gossip, mostly, but that was as good as one was to get in this town, he supposed. He watched them choose a place to eat, a tiny cafe with exactly three tables out front, each with a dingy checkered tablecloth with frayed edges covering it. He let them sit down and get comfortable before he approached and introduced himself.

It was Elsie who spoke first, “So what can we do ya for, Mr. Carmell?”

I watched the proceedings from over there,” he nodded behind him.

Uh-huh. So?”

A smile touched his lips. He appreciated their bluntness. He removed his coat and cleared his throat, “Well, from what I could tell, you three knew every candidate.”

That's right,” all three of the women nodded.

And you had opinions about each.”

Doris, the tallest of the trio, retorted, “They're scoundrels, the lot of them!”

So if an outsider, such as myself, needed to know the inner workings of this town, the people in it, the dirty little secrets, I should think you three ladies might be just the people I'd need to talk to.”

Don't bother sweet-talkin' us, mister, there ain't nothin' you can do to us that would impress us.”

So get your ass back on the bus that dropped you off, eh?” Doris did her best to look intimidating.

Carmell held back a smirk and offered, seriously, “I was friends with Josh Gavin. Want to see his murder solved.”

Elsie softened a bit, “He was a good man, Josh was. I'd like to see a bit of Justice dealt with that one, too.”

Doris nodded behind him, toward the now empty stage, “You think one of them dopes is behind it? Someone political?”

Carmell smiled and stood, “I don't want to disturb your lunch, ladies.”

He pulled a card from inside his shirt pocket and gave it to Elsie. He explained, “This is my mobile number. Call me if you want to get together sometime and talk about old times.”

Elsie nodded and pocketed the card. She looked up at Carmell and he noticed her eyes were dark steel points darting into his skull. She added, “Or new times.”

The End

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