Life is funny. Sometimes you go out to get your paper, find nothing, then close the door only to hear the slap of the news on your stoop. Other times, you find love for only one warm spring night, only to lose her number to the laundry machine. And finally, sometimes you go on a routine case to find a ring and end up being shot at in a strange warehouse. Today was one of those last ones. Why could it never be the warm spring night?
I pressed my head up to the concrete wall in an effort to stay away from the bullets that were continuing to fly through the doorway. Unfortunately, my hat tipped off my head and rolled at the perfect angle to land straight in the open frame. The shots had stopped, presumably for reloading. I didn’t want to go without my lucky hat, and stuck out a quick hand.
One more bullet struck straight through my brown fedora and sent it skidding across the room, weightless against the force of the slug. I had to believe the shooter was just toying with me at this point.
Boogerface, still behind the heavy wooden desk, occasionally screamed at each slap of bullet on wood. I had honestly forgotten he was there, and I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the desk wasn’t exactly bulletproof. Instead, back still to the concrete, I gazed across the room. I didn’t see any other exits, which confused me. What- did Boogerface live here or something? It wasn’t exactly cozy, and I should know something about threadbare living conditions. I thought having a couch to sleep on qualified my apartment for the walking tour.
Finally the firing of the hand cannon stopped. I couldn’t believe we had a couple Mexican banditos out there, crossed with bandoliers of ammo, so I felt a little safe in sticking my head out of the door. I didn’t see anything. It was troubling.
Boogerface had fallen silent behind his desk. I scuttled behind the heavy mahogany and found him in a fetal position, quietly comforting himself. I grabbed him roughly by the collar and tried to shake some sense into him.
“Where’s the ring?” I asked in my loudest whisper. Whoever was outside, I didn’t want them knowing why I was here. His stare remained as blank as a college student’s essay three days before it’s due. I didn’t have time for this shell shock business, so I dropped his collar, and he fell roughly back onto the concrete. I began opening desk drawers at random, occasionally peeking above the desk to make sure the shooters stayed hidden.
On the third drawer I tried was a small manila envelope with a suspicious bump in the paper. Ripping it open, I poured the ring I had been looking for into my hand. I stopped to look at the giant rock, somehow even more impressive in real life. I could practically feel the weight of it in my hand. I went to put the ring in the envelope, but noticed a piece of folded paper. Deciding that could wait for later, I put the envelope into my coat pocket, and peeked above the desk again.
In front of me stood a man I recognized, and wasn’t too crazy about. He was an alright person and a pretty good detective, but you just don’t forgive a man for some things. Like punching you in the face. Eddy held his sliver plated pistol in his right hand, pointing at the ground. He didn’t think he had anything to worry about, and he was probably right. My revolver was in my coat pocket, right next to me, but I couldn’t use it. It was more frustrating than the full roll of toilet paper in the stall next to yours.
I stood fully up, finally removing my hand from the inside of my coat. Eddy stood, one eyebrow raised. “I didn’t expect to see you here,” he said. I couldn’t believe that, the way he had started shooting. Plus, he had always hated my hat.
“You gave me the name and address, Eddy,” I said, “So why didn’t you expect me to come here?”
“You’re just a little early,” he said mysteriously, then pointed to the desk. “Everett. I know you’re there. You need to give me those papers.”
I kept my face blank, but inside was a torrent of suspicion. Could those papers be the ones I found in the envelope? They had looked important, all embossed and stamped. But either way, Eddy didn’t know I was in possession of them and the ring. All I needed was Everett to keep his mouth shut, and I would make it out with both.
“He has them,” Everett said, not bothering to raise above the desk, only pointing a finger in my general direction.
“Honestly, man?” I asked him.
Eddy trained his vision back on me. “Give me those papers, Detective Mick. This is much bigger than you.”
He was probably right. Whatever Eddy was involved with was way deeper than I felt comfortable in, like a beanbag chair. The best thing I could do was clear the curiosity from my head and just hand over whatever was in that envelope. All I needed was the ring. I had convinced myself. I reached into my side coat pocket, on my hip.
And promptly shot Eddy with the revolver that lay within. It was a shame. I really liked that coat.
His face erupted into a look of magnificent surprise as he stumbled back through the door for a couple of steps, then tripped over a loose 2x4. Eddy collapsed onto his back, never having made a sound. I suppose he could have been as loud as a mourning dove at 5 am when you’re trying to sleep, but the blast from my revolver in the small space blotted out all other noise.
“No hard feelings,” I said, fully aware there was plenty of malice.
Boogerface, or Everett, as I suppose I should start calling him, simply looked at me once, then went back to coddling himself like a self-regulating toddler. I slid the revolver back into my coat pocket and stepped over him. I was sure he wouldn’t say anything to anyone when I had just saved his life. I walked out of the study with the envelope in my pocket like a seven of hearts in a pack of cards, and continued out into my car. I met no resistance or opposition, and it seemed that Eddy was the only one sent to kill or possibly frame me.
Driving back to my apartment, I could feel those mysterious papers burning against my chest like a hot dog against a bun. I quickly spread the ketchup of keeping my mind on driving against the warmth of curiosity, and continued driving against the rain. I had a feeling that it would never stop, not even when the clouds parted and blue skies reigned. Although even then there would be reign, I suppose, but blue skies were a much nicer tyrant to bow before.
I pulled up in front of the brick building that served as my office. The windows stretched high before me like the exact opposite of my hopes, now that I had these papers in my pocket. I had made a huge mistake, but damnit, I was going to make that mistake all the way through. I parked in the same spot I always did, and had no sooner stepped out of my car than a door opened in the limousine across the street. A man in a suit held the handle of the door in one hand, and an umbrella in the other. Out of the limo stepped the long and luxurious leg of my esteemed client, Catherine Von Werner. Damn. I was going to wait three more days to contact her. Thanks to her lack of any day to day activities keeping her busy, I was out six hundred dollars. The driver was careful to keep her dryer than her attitude.
“You’re back,” she said, as obvious as the line of her bustier under another starched shirt, although this one was a light blue. The shirt, that is. I didn’t know the color of the bustier, unfortunately. At least not yet, although I don’t think I stood a chance of ever knowing.
“Yeah, it’s been a long day,” I sighed, which was semi-true. I had set out around three in the afternoon, and it was around seven at night, so the hours weren’t that heavy. But in those four hours I had intimidated a small, bearded mountain, been punched in the face and knocked out for who knows how long, driven to the Lowlands alone, shoved a gun up a nose full of boogers, been shot at, insulted, and gotten some revenge for that punch to the face. Even I’ll admit, that last one was pretty satisfying, but I was about ready to collapse.
“So how’s the case coming along?” she asked. I still had a chance to gain my six hundred dollars, it seemed, but unfortunately my honest mouth went off running before my looser morals could rein it in.
“I finished it,” it said. I was running on autopilot more heavily than a flight with drunk air captains. I was tired enough to pass out and crash, but I was at a loss cause I didn’t have the pretty stewardesses. “I have your ring right here.”
Her eyes widened heavily, although I’m not sure if it was out of surprise, pride, or being scared of what I was going to pull out of my coat pocket. The world was at least learning from my tricks. I’m not sure I liked it. I didn’t have that many.
I pulled out the letter-sized manila envelope I had shot Eddy over, and poured the ring into my hand. I didn’t know what the papers were yet, and that meant Catherine wasn’t going to get a look either. Catherine covered her mouth with her hands, expensive-looking gloves and all.
“I’m surprised a lady as fine as you can carry this around, with how heavy the rock is,” I said, tiredly trying to be at my most coy. She decided not to respond, and instead took the ring out of my hand. Catherine removed one long glove and slipped the ring around the correct finger. She would have been content to stare at it from every angle all day, but I interrupted with a cough that a lifelong smoker would think intrusive.
“I think you owe me a certain $700,” I said, privately giggling at the large sum I was about to inherit. Catherine reached into her purse, not interested in such trivialities, and pulled out a large wad of bills, handing them over roughly. She continued looking at the ring while I counted them, and agreed with her that $800 was indeed a fairer price.
“Well, uh, thanks for your business, I suppose,” I said. I may be a better detective than your average Clue player, but I’m worse at customer service than a postal office worker with a migraine. I walked back across the street, shoes splashing small puddles that had gathered in the rain. I heard her get back into the limo, and drive away. I didn’t turn back. I couldn’t risk seeing those legs again, lest I catch flies in my slack jaw.
I reached the door that had my name on it, and opened it. I didn’t bother turning on the light. I hung up my coat, took off my suspenders, then threw the envelope on the desk. My hat, I placed on the desk, reminding myself to get it stitched up. Sitting with a heavy sigh, I crossed my feet on the desk, opened the envelope, and removed the papers.
I read them.
I read them again.
I put them back on the desk and picked up my phone. While I waited for someone to pick up on the other, I opened a desk drawer and removed a large bottle of tequila, and the biggest glass I had. I heard the click of a phone coming off the rack.
“Hi, Teresa? Want to go out tonight? We’ll have to make it one to remember. I just learned I won’t be having many more nights on this world.”
I was in trouble. The Von Werners weren’t going to let me last now, and I intended on going down happy.