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
There was no helping my head, so I let Harmony drive my car. I noticed that Harmony talked a lot. I guessed that that was something she had missed out on--having someone to talk at--while being on the run for the last few days from the evil minion tag teams. She told me about how the people chasing her blah blah blah, hiding out at the late Lew Manning’s apartment. That explained her stylish wardrobe and where she’d found info on me, Brick Stone, P.I. and blah blah blah…
“So you knew Lew?”
“Just…resting my eyes,” I said.
“OK…I was asking how you knew Lew.”
“Manning and I met years ago,” I said. “We talked now and then to throw each other extra work, but he and I had different styles.”
“Yeah, Lew did like to do things his own way.”
“He was a loose cannon,” I said, “with very little regard for the standard issue Official Private Eye Handbook.”
It was a Tuesday, I had a headache that would drop a…really big animal and another case had thrown itself into my lap. At least, I didn’t have to worry about dying. No way could I have gotten that lucky.
Joe’s Diner looked just like the picture on the postcard. There were booths along the big window along the sidewalk with all of three people in them and the long red counter with spinning stools every couple of feet. The cash register was at the end of the counter near the door. There was a blonde working the register, talking to customers as they entered and left. She had her hair in a tight bun and a cute little mole on her left cheek. She must’ve liked it: she wore a lot of make-up to try to cover how tired she really looked, but she didn’t try to hide the mole. She probably called it a beauty mark. Her uniform was too tight, probably from denial over a weight gain. She was still attractive, though. She had a good smile. She probably kept stuffed animals in her bedroom, too, but that didn’t really matter. None of it did, unless she somehow ended up becoming part of the case. Breakfast was more important to me at that particular moment, though.
“Hey, sweetie,” the cashier/waitress said to me as someone else walked out past me and Harmony, “you two wanna have a seat at the counter?”
“We’re here to meet Jack Morgan,” I told her. “He said if he was running late, we should just wait at his usual booth.”
“Oh, Jackie’s comin’ back in?” she asked with a beaming smile. “Good. We ain’t seen him in days. Here’s a couple a menus,” she said, handing over the folded laminates. “Last booth, all the ways down. Get comfy and I’ll be down t’take care a you in just a minute.”
I took the menus, saying, “Thanks…”
“Carol,” I repeated. “Shoulda known. Prettiest lady here, just like Jack said.”
She blushed as we walked off to the booth.
“You’re dangerous,” Harmony told me.
“Wait’ll I get some food in me,” I said.
“Who’s this Jack Morgan we’re meeting?” Harmony asked me.
“Husband of a client,” I told her. Taking the late Jack Morgan for a cautious man, I sat with my back to the wall and afforded myself of a view of the entire diner, just like he probably made a habit of doing.
“And he’s coming here to meet you?” Harmony asked as she slid out of her private eye trench coat (standard issue) into the booth to sit across the table from me.
“No, of course not,” I told her, getting an eyeful of her in a clingy green dress that still hung every bit of just right on her even though she‘d obviously had to sleep in it. “He’s dead.” I pushed my hat back on my head as she took hers off and dropped it to the seat beside her.
“Dead? Did I miss something?” she asked, obviously a bit shaken.
“Nothing you need to worry about right now,” I said. “You know what you’re having yet?”
“Oh, no,” she said, fumbling for her menu. “Sorry, give me a minute.”
“Hi, again,” Carol said cheerily, swooping in on us with a hot pot of coffee. “Who wants coffee?”
“She does,” I said. “It’ll keep her on her toes.”
“Bottomless cup, hon,” Carol told her. “Hot and tasty. You sure you’re not havin’ any, handsome?”
“What I need, beautiful, is a big, tall glass of grape juice,” I told her, sliding my menu her way.
“Oh, that sounds great,” Harmony chimed in. “Could I get orange juice?”
“Sure, hon,” Carol said. “You two ready for some breakfast?”
“Always,” I assured her. “I have big appetites.”
“I could tell that,” Carol said, laughing as she readied her pen and pad. “I like a man with big appetites.”
“Carol, if you can hit me up with a four-egg, steak omelette,” I said, “you will make me a very happy man.”
“Who’s in need of an angioplasty,” Harmony mocked.
“Chop up some peppers and onions,” I added, “and melt in at least three kinds of cheese.”
“Happy tummy makes a happy man, hon,” Carol sang to Harmony. “You want the pancakes with that?”
“Buttermilk, real butter and real maple syrup,” I said, “as long as you’re asking.”
“Wow. Just a breakfast salad for me, thanks,” Harmony said, handing Carol her menu.
“I can’t take you anywhere,” I said. She’d been on the run for days and was still more worried about her figure than her belly. “You are aware that Carol has choices available that will provide you far more caloric energy to aid in your survival when danger bares its hungry fangs?”
“Consider my food choice a testament to how safe I feel with you,” Harmony replied. “I don’t expect to have to do any more running. If I do, you’re eating enough for both of us.”
“I do my best to avoid running and I’m not carrying you,” I told her. “That’s a service for paying customers.”
“Stay strong, handsome,” Carol said, taking my menu. “I’ll be back in ten.”
“Alright,” Harmony said, running a hand through her long dark hair, “catch me up, at least.”
“Let’s see, you want details…on a case where two dangerous clients have paid me in advance,” I said, leaning left to look under the table, “one of them is dead, along with at least five others and I’m not sure that number’s done climbing yet.” I sat back up as I groped at the underside of the table.
“Oh, now I’ve got to know,” she told me. “What great mystery is threatening the populace?”
“Nothing mysterious about greed and ambition, doll,” I said. “They’re part of the human condition. Some people try to rise above that sort of thing, but most never do.”
“Of course not, Brick,” she said. “They’re the stuff dreams are made of.”
My fingers clawed at the corner of the piece of tape I’d found stuck to the underside of the table. I pulled it toward me as I told her, “Right now, all they’re doing is keeping the gravediggers busy.” The tape came free from the table and I brought my hands back to the tabletop.
“What’s that?” Harmony asked me.
I looked at the tape and the piece of paper stuck to it. I smiled as I replied, “The stuff dreams are made of, doll. Or at least another step closer to grabbing the prize and clearing up this mystery ride.”
“Looks like a pawn ticket,” she said, “but you don’t know what it’s for?”
“A box, I’m guessing, or another clue to finding it,” I told her. “I still have no idea what’s inside it. I’m not sure that anyone still breathing really does.”
“Interesting enough for people to get themselves killed over,” I said. “I should probably find my way to this Treasure Island Pawn sooner than later before anyone else ends up with a crowd around them.”
“No rush,” Harmony said. “They’re closed.”
“Familiar with them, are you?”
“Just in passing,” she chuckled weakly, taking another sip of her coffee.
She looked at me with an odd smile, then rolled her eyes and gestured at the diner’s front window with her thumb as though she was hitching a ride. I looked to my right and saw, almost immediately, through all the passing people and cars and across the street a large sign with tall, gold letters that read “Treasure Island Pawn” as sure as the weed of evil bore bitter fruit…or something like that. “Good eye,” I said. “Double-word score on the postcard clue.”
“What?” Harmony asked, grabbing a napkin from the dispenser and starting to tear it into tiny squares. “I’m sorry. I’m so tired after the last few days that my banter isn’t at its best. I’m two-days broke and running on coffee and cigarettes. In fact, if you’ve got a pack.”
“I don’t smoke,” I told her, “and you’re not ruining my breakfast making me breathe it.”
“We’ll have breakfast and wait for them to open,” I said. “Till then, we can pass some time on the plan for getting our hands on your camera bag.”
“Fair enough,” Harmony said.