I’ve asked myself a thousand times why I do this.
Here’s the dead body; it’s inevitable.
No matter who pays the paycheck she’s always damn good looking in that tight, red silk or black satin or ultramarine blue number with the stiletto heels that defy gravity, heels sharp enough to pierce your heart. And the silk stockings always have that seam up the back of the leg that gives away the subtle curve of the calf. So I’m suckered in by this blonde/brunette/redhead and her wide/narrow blue/black/brown/green and innocent/all too well initiated into the ways of the world/sly/unsure eyes and her creamy white/warm tan/cocoa brown/dark espresso skin. She speaks softly/with assurance/commandingly/hesitantly through thick/thin/ crimson/candy red/pink-as-a-sunset lips: “Can you help me? I’m looking for a detective – there’s… well, it’s a long story.”
“Tell me,” I say sipping coffee. “I’m not real busy right now.”
And I’m not because it never is, except when all hell breaks loose, but that’s later on. Right now it’s her tears or warmth or confusion or icy distaste for the situation, and the timbre of her voice always reflects that; I usually pick up on things, unspoken hints and forebodings, but usually the import is lost until somewhere later in the tale. Whatever’s her story, the answer’s the same: “$200.00 a day plus expenses.” Thank God there’s never any inflation here; on the other hand, I’m always broke and there’s a hole in my scuffed, black Florsheim wingtips, so what do I care? I’m not a banker or a trade unionist; I’m not a Republican or Democrat or Socialist or Communist or Facist or Anarchist. I’m a detective, a P.I., a gumshoe, a dick and the license didn’t say anything about any economics or politics – it just came with a gun license I’m always in danger of losing and the directions to Godwin’s Liquor Store down on 14th Street. I’ve got a job to do – when I have a client. And when I have a client, well, it’s always this woman.
So why do I do this? That’s a thousand and one.
She lies. The story she tells is not true, or half-true, or misleading, or based on bad information, or calculated to get me to look into something she knows that I’d never go for. She’s omniscient there at the beginning sometimes, almost as if she has a line on what’s going to happen like someone at the track getting tips from the jockeys. But she’s always wrong in the end because I find angles on things even she doesn’t know anything about. Sometimes she deserves everything she gets, a broken heart or jail time or a good reason to commit suicide once I walk off. Sometimes she gets killed. Sometimes she doesn’t deserve it all – it’s tough luck, street luck, the kind you drown in gin and cigarettes and pointless sex if you’re alive at the end of the day.
But first, there’s the corpse. This corpse.
Richard Van Ingram
Copyright © 2007, All Rights Reserved