The knuckles rapping on glass were like Tommy gun bullets in my head. Pounding me awake. My mouth tasted sour like old whiskey and grim reminders. They were delicate knuckles though, and the shape of the shadow in front of my office door was curvy as a bad road on a rainy night. A dame: a classy one. I swept the empty bottle off my desktop into the waste bin and called: "Come in!"
And come in she did, and in. The way she shimmied through that doorway, I thought sure she had to be part liquid. She crossed her long legs as she sat across from me, the only proof I had they ever stopped. My tongue would have been hanging out if it hadn't been so dry it was glued to my mouth.
"I got a job, Mr. Finnegan," the dame purred. "I hear you handle that kind of thing."
I leaned back in my chair, crossing my arms behind my head, and tried not to let her see me nearly fall over when the wave of nausea hit. I needed to be smooth.
"I handle a lot of jobs, doll. I'm the best."
Too bad the jazz band that must have been playing all night in my head left the place such a mess. I couldn't think straight and I needed to. There was something familiar about this dame. Real familiar. I needed to know if someone was playing me for a patsy.
"It's my husband, Mr. Finnegan." She took a long, thin cigarette out of a gold case and lit it. "He's missing."
I tried to remember to listen to her instead of just stare at her lips as she blew out the smoke. The doll wasn't making things easy. Luckily, blood rush started my head pounding painfully again and brought me to my senses.
"My fee is twenty bucks a day, plus expenses," I said, "no matter what the case is. But still, tell me about your husband."
She licked her lips, those luscious lips. "My Tommy isn't a bad man," she sighed. "He likes to think he's tough…but he's really just a big old teddy bear. I need to watch out for him, and I'm worried."
The wheels in my head were spinning with the possibilities, grinding from the lack of oil. I really wished she'd dropped by after I'd located myself a little dog hair. I needed to lubricate up a bit before I could function right.
But then it hit me like a gorilla with an attitude problem—my name was Tommy. I looked at her good.
"Doll," I said, "I found your husband…he's sitting right here."
She leaned over the desk and gave me a peck on the cheek. "Good job, you big lug. Here's your twenty." She slipped me a bill before she got up to stroll out again.
"What about the expenses?" I asked.
"Guess you worked too fast to rack up any," she replied, turning back briefly to smirk, "but do remember to at least get something to eat today. Maybe even come home sometime instead of just sleeping in that chair."
David S. Atkinson is the author of Apocalypse All the Time, Not Quite so Stories, The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes (2015 National Indie Excellence Awards finalist in humor) and "Bones Buried in the Dirt" (2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist, First Novel <80K). His writing appears in Bartleby Snopes, Grey Sparrow Journal, Atticus Review and others.
Street Artist unknown.
Photo by Adam Lawrence.
This is the title track to Austin-based singer/songwriter Adam Torres’ latest EP which was released by Fat Possum back in February 2017.