Happy Thursday. To help keep my own feet to the fire, I'm using Thursday as my public accountability day. That means, posting a bit of coherently creative output for you to read and feedback on every week. If I perform according to my own intent, what I put here will be available as a whole elsewhere at the same time or shortly after appearing here.
Similarities to Persons Living or Dead is currently available as a part of The Official Private Eye Handbook, first book in the CITY OF MAGICK series. Please, feel free to take a look here, though, and at subsequent chapters. Let me know how you feel about it. For those of you finding your way here relatively late, no problem. The start of the story is just a click away.
SIMILARITIES TO PERSONS LIVING OR DEAD
I combed the hair, but gave up on the tie. I found my gun in its holster under the bed with underwear from at least two women. I didn’t try to make sense of it and finished dressing. In the kitchen, I found Harmony waiting…sort of.
“Wow, this is a nice kitchen,” I said, looking around the room. “So weird, though. Pulling out absolutely every single glass…cup…plate…and bowl…seems so…unlike me.”
“You’ll…thank me later?”
“I can’t imagine why,” I told her. “Is that something that happens to you on a regular basis when you show up in strangers’ homes and start moving things around?”
“I’m sorry,” she said, elbow-deep in soap suds and warm water with dishes covering the counter-tops to her left and right. “I get anxious sometimes. I tried to get a glass so I could maybe get some water or juice, but the glass had a spot and so I got out another one…and…”
“And you ended up trying to wash every glass,” I said, looking at all the open cabinet doors, “and ultimately getting every single dish from every cabinet. I assume the utensils are next? What‘s after that?”
“I…Well, if you like, I--”
“No, I wouldn’t like,” I said. “I wouldn’t like it at all. Everything was fine just the way it was.”
“I‘m sorry. I‘ll…get all this put away again,” she said sheepishly. “Hey, you clean up pretty well yourself. All you need now is a tie and--”
“No one needs a tie. You want my help or a dinner date?”
“Help, please, sir.”
“Fine, then stop all that crazy talk.”
“Sorry, Brick, I had no idea you felt so strongly about…ties.”
“Just don’t let it happen again,” I warned her. “Now, tell me what happened.”
“I’ve been working as a secretary for Lew Manning, private eye,” she began, “for the last year. A couple of weeks ago, a client hired Lew to follow his wife. She’d been acting suspiciously--”
“And was probably having an affair,” I said. “Routine stuff. What went wrong?”
“Well, it was a dark and stormy night--”
She really knew how to tell a story. At last, a bright spot. Harmony had my full attention.
“--and I was about to go into my apartment building, when Lew came staggering up to me, shoved a camera bag into my hand and then collapsed, dead.”
“Did he say anything before the big dirt nap?” I asked.
“Just that I didn’t have to come in to work the next day,” Harmony said, “and he wasn’t going to be able to pay what he owed me for the last few weeks.”
“Sounds like Lew, alright.”
“Then, these people started shooting at me,” she went on, “so I ran. I called the police but when we went back to my apartment building, Lew’s body was gone.”
“And the rain had washed away any clues. Forces of evil do love to operate under the cover of all-concealing shadows…and rain…and hail…Y’know, I guess, sometimes those evil forces are really diligent.”
“Well, the police didn’t want to believe me,” she said, getting more agitated. “They said I was just seeing things because of the storm and that I got panicked by thunder or a backfiring car or something.”
“The City’s finest,” I sneered. “They were just being lazy. When’s a murder not a homicide? When there’s no body.”
“So you do believe me, don’t you, Brick?” she asked, grabbing hold of my collar and pulling on it with crazed strength like it was a rope saving her from drowning. “I know what I saw! I know what happened!”
I pried her slender hands off of my collar. There was still a desperateness in her eyes, but I managed to stop the unpleasant choking sounds I’d started making. “What’d you do with the camera bag?”
“I hid it,” she said more calmly. “I didn’t want them to take it, if…if they caught up with me. I only saw them from a distance, but they all seemed so odd…something about their eyes.”
“The hungry gleam of evil in those eyes, no doubt. How many different people did you see coming after you?” I asked.
“Only two or three at a time, but different…teams, I guess. I don’t know how many there might be or what they want.”
“Well, I’m kind of in the middle of some other jobs, but I know a good place to go get some coffee and maybe a bite,” I said, fitting my private eye hat (standard issue) to its proper place, “and we can try to figure out what to do about your situation.”
“You’ll help? Oh, Brick, that’s great, but…there’s still something else you need to know,” Harmony said nervously.
“Why me?” I asked, bracing myself for more bad news. “What now?”
“I…I can’t afford to pay you,” she said. “Not right now. We might be able to work out something--”
“Is that all?” I asked, relieved to be able to breathe again.
“You don’t mind?”
“Oh, there was a time,” I said, remembering all the way back to last week, “when I might have hounded a deadbeat client for as far and as long as I had to to collect the money I’d earned, but I’m beyond that now.”
“You mean, you’ve reached some sort of inner peace and grown beyond your materialistic self?”
“No, I mean, I’ve reached the peace that comes with having a big, fat bank account and that my P.I. fees are chump change now.”
“Oh,” she said.
“Let’s roll,” I said, heading for the door. “Sharp outfit, by the way.”