It was a dark night in the city in the mountains. I had been hitting the bottle pretty hard at the Five Spot, my favorite watering hole. I dragged my bleary eyes up towards the clock behind the bar. At first, the clock on the wall read half passed[sic] a monkey's ass, a quarter 'til his balls, but after I rubbed my eyes, I realized that I was still mildly drunk and the clock really read 1:17a.m. Okay, I was more than mildly drunk. I was well on my way to being plastered... or beyond.
Jimmy wasn't there that night, and Ellen, the substitute bartender, could see the mood I was in and was setting down a fresh drink for me before I could even ask.
The rain was coming down outside like the flow of Niagara over the falls, and the frequent lightning showed the deserted late night streets of the "metropolis" of AsheVegas. Even the cabbies were laying low.
I told Ellen to not make me any more drinks, as I had an early appointment the next morning with a potential client. It was a simple check on a business partner who was thought to be skimming profits, but it promised to pay well - and I needed the bucks, as the rent on my office was past due.
All of us left in the bar turned to look as lightning struck a lamppost outside, the thunder loud enough to rattle the bottles of premium liquor on the top shelf behind the bar. The sound of the thunder echoed off the buildings of the city as I put on my raincoat and fedora.
Ellen asked me if I wanted her to call me a cab, but I told her the walk back to the office would be good for me - and that I was a private investigator, not a mode of transportation. As I stood there, wobbling slightly due to the alcohol and waiting in vain for her to laugh at my joke, I noticed it was silent outside. The rumble had subsided and I went outside at last.
I turned right to head down the street toward my office and the rumpled sofa I called my bed, and there she was. Tall and slim, with her long, curly red hair plastered to her head from the rain, she was wearing a white raincoat that looked like the repellent had worn out long ago. She was barefoot, and carrying one high-heeled shoe in her porcelain-skinned, long-fingered hand.
"Excuse me, sir," she said in a throaty voice that would warm an Iditarod racer who had been on the go all day in a blizzard. Do you know the famous detective, Guy Noir? The doorman at his building said he hangs out in the bar you just left."
"I not only know him, I am him," I replied.
"Wow," she said. "That's some kind of coincidence."
"I'm in no position to believe in coincidence." She grabbed hold of me as another bolt of lightning struck nearby, wrapping her slim arms around my neck and holding on tight. I could feel her heart beating against my chest as she sobbed quietly.
She looked at me sheepishly as she released me and said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Noir. I'm a bit afraid of thunderstorms. I didn't hurt you, did I?"
"My neck hurts," I replied, still feeling the warmth of her being pressed against me, "but that's an old injury and not your fault. Why don't we go to my office and out of this storm, and you can tell me why you were looking for me?"
A part of me hoped another lightning bolt would cause her to grab hold of me again, as it had been some time since a beautiful woman had been that close to me, but we made it to the Acme Building without any of them. We went up the elevator to my floor and into my office. I went into my bathroom to get her a towel so she could dry her hair and face, and when I came back out I stood stunned for a moment.
She had taken off her raincoat, and stood there wearing a rain-soaked peasant blouse and a skirt so short I could see the bottom of the word "Saturday" embroidered on the back of her panties.
I handed her the towel and went to the closet to get her one of my spare shirts.
"Here," I said, handing her the shirt, "you can go into the bathroom and put this on. We can hang your blouse over the radiator to dry."
Her pale face turned red as she looked down at her blouse that was stuck to her like a second skin. "Thank you. I'm not leaving much to the imagination right now, am I?"
"I don't mind," I said quietly to her back as she walked into the bathroom and closed the door.
When she came out of the bathroom and laid her blouse and skirt on the top of the radiator, she told me why she had been looking for me. Her name was Arianne Campbell. She owned a small bake shop and cafe on the other side of town, and was having problems with the lawyer's office next door. There were all sorts of loud and strange noises coming from over there all day long, and it was scaring her patrons off.
While she told her story, I stood at the window watching the rain fall. I had heard of the shop she owned. It was one of those sketchy places, but the food was great. I had never been there myself, as I was the type that preferred street vendor hot dogs to gluten-free carob chip muffins.
When she fell silent, I turned to tell her my standard rates and saw that she had fallen asleep on the sofa. I sighed, pulled my tattered blanket over her, and sat down at my desk. I put my feet up on the desk and settled back to nap a bit myself, somewhat glad that we didn't negotiate my fee while I was drunk. That had never worked out well for me in the past....
The sound of the garbage truck backing into the alley outside my window woke me. The sun was low on the eastern horizon and just beginning to send its golden rays into my office. I looked over at the sofa and wasn't surprised to see it empty. I brewed a pot of coffee and washed my face, then decided, since my appointment wasn't for another two hours, to head over to her place - make sure she was okay and to return her clothes that she had left on the now cold radiator.
As the cab pulled up to her address, I could see her standing on the sidewalk in front of her shop. She sighed as she watched the hand-painted sign flapping loosely above her little bakery: 'Pie Dough and Trends'. Once, it had been the favorite haunt of the "in" crowd. Now, she was in jeopardy of losing it.
"Good morning, Miss Campbell," I said as I stepped up beside her and held out her blouse and skirt. "You left these at my office."
She flashed a brilliant smile at me and said "I hope I didn't wake you when I left. I needed to get over here and open up ... in case anyone shows up wanting food, that is." Her large blue eyes began welling with tears as she turned and unlocked the front door of the shop. "Let me repay your generosity from last night by fixing you some breakfast."
The strong coffee laying in my stomach lurched at the thought of a seven grain bagel joining it, and I graciously declined.
"Well," I said, "I might as well look in on your neighbor while I'm here." A large man with long curly hair had just unlocked and entered the lawyer's office and it appeared they were now open for the day.
"Oh, thank you, Mr. Noir!" she cried, hugging me tightly. I gave her a brief hug in return and then stepped through the door and into the law office. I was not prepared for the sight that greeted me.
The large man had taken off his overcoat, and was standing in front of a picture of a tropical beach, wearing only a long print Polynesian skirt.
"The Fucking Bees! Oh, Jesus God. Mother-kripes-fucker! What the poop!" he screamed at the picture. The picture on the wall just stared back at him. Never saying anything.
He noticed me then and spun around shouting something that sounded like .... Mommadaddy smelled like trees. Burnt trees on a sultry Sunday morning. But I couldn't understand him because there was a disgusting fluid bubbling out of his mouth as he tried to speak. He lurched toward me and, before I could completely react, puked on me. My hand was covered in sticky, putrid goo, and there wasn't a sink to be found. He grabbed a coffee mug off the desk and swatted at the air around his head. He then turned his crazed gaze on me again and held the mug out in front of me like a gun.
"Don't you point that coffee mug at me, young man!" I shouted at him, backing slowly toward the door.
"I'm from Samoa!!!" he gibbered. "The Devil not only made me do it, but he changed the mug from a .357 Magnum into what you now see." His eyes suddenly rolled back in his head, and I thought he was going to pass out.
Then he looked at me and said - in a calm voice, "Good morning, sir. May I help you? Let's go next door and get a bagel, okay?"
I followed him into Pie Dough and Trends, somewhat taken aback by his sudden change of demeanor, and looked over at Arianne as the Samoan lawyer went into the bathroom to wash up. I started to ask her if he was the only person next door when a scream from the bathroom echoed through the shop.
The door burst open and the Samoan stood there, drool dribbling from his chin and the crazed look back in his eyes. The so-called "luxury soap" left a nasty rash that crept up his forearms as he slowly advanced toward us, wielding a large sliver of broken mirror. Arianne screamed as he stabbed at me, and.....
Look for the new request post on Monday!!