Mr Meyer

I heard the sound of a car engine revving up and of tyres on gravel as I made my way to the front door of Mrs Fredrickson’s house. I jogged down the hallway and was just in time to see a black Voisin C7 roaring out of the courtyard, kicking up plumes of dust before fading quickly out of sight. Eva’s goons maybe, or some crooked cops; the services of the local toy patrol could still be bought for a price.

I sauntered down the steps to the yard and strode over to my car. One of the tyres had been slashed with a knife but they’d left the others, maybe I’d spooked them and they didn’t have time for the rest which was a good thing because I only had the one spare. They’d slowed me down some though which was the last thing I needed, and the last thing Peter needed.

Two and a half hours later I was cajoling my elderly Cadillac into dragging its sorry carcass to a parking space outside Betty’s diner. I was damned if I was going to leave it outside my office where some mook might be waiting to bump me over the head again and I didn’t have enough money for a mechanic, not yet anyway. It was time to see Mrs Fredrickson’s lawyer.

Twenty minutes stroll brought me to the offices of Finklestein and Meyer, in the upmarket part of town naturally. The place was swanky, all granite and glass outside and marble and brass inside, the kind of building which would always stay outside of time, ageless. I made myself known to the receptionist, sat myself down in the waiting area and picked up a newspaper.

Horoscope said there was trouble ahead – go figure.

It wasn’t too long before I was woken from my musings by the sweet voice of a smartly dressed woman, hair imprisoned in a bun of steel, and led to an elevator which took us all the way to the top floor. Mrs Fredrickson had probably been their best client and no doubt had them on a retainer, the largesse of which they were clearly still feeding from like carrion.

The elevator went ‘ping’ and the cage door slid open on greased wheels at the porter’s merest touch. A plush red carpet absorbed the sound of the iron maiden’s stilettos as she marched down a hallway towards a pair of heavy wooden doors. She grabbed a fat brass handle on one of them and pulled the door open to reveal an office bigger than my apartment, with a near panoramic view over most of the city. Nice. A wide oak beast of a desk crouched in front of the window on curved legs. The elderly man who was sat behind it stopped writing with his expensive looking pen, looked up and smiled at me before nodding at the woman who promptly left and closed the doors behind her on her way out.

“Good afternoon Mr Devine I am Mr Meyer, so pleased to make your acquaintance. The police have just informed me of Mrs Fredrickson’s unfortunate demise so I know that you’ll be here to collect your payment. Do take a seat, would you like a cigar? Coffee will be brought in shortly.”

That was quick. How did the police know to contact Meyer? Who had tipped them off? Maybe it was their corrupt friends down at the precinct. If the police had informed Meyer this quickly then he had good connections, and the money to keep them.

“Don’t mind if I do” I replied, taking off my hat and lowering myself into the comfy leather of the chair opposite.

“Before she was murdered Mrs Fredrickson told us of her concerns regarding Peter and informed us that she had hired you to find him. Might I ask if you, at this moment, have him in your care?”

Damn. If he was asking me that then I wasn’t going to get paid, not the full fee anyway. I might be able to get expenses, but this thing wouldn’t be settled until I brought Peter to Meyer’s office.

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Headache

English: Margam Castle The imposing and repute...

English: Margam Castle The imposing and reputedly haunted Margam Castle, built between the years 1830 and 1840 for the Talbot family (Photo credit: Wikipedia).

So I grabbed Peter by the scruff of his neck, hauled him up and pushed him out of the bar with him whining and protesting all the while.

Sure we attracted a few glances, but nobody called out or interfered.

I manhandled him out through the front doors, practically flung him out onto the pavement.

That’s when something heavy hit me hard on the back of my head and I was suddenly on my hands and knees, vision blurred as I watched Peter running down the street and round a corner. Then I blacked out.

I was woken up by daylight filtering through my eyelids and my skull screaming blue murder at me as if a demented child were drumming on it with steel hammers. Gritting my teeth I forced open my eyes and pushed myself up onto all fours, tried to stand and immediately collapsed onto my ass. I felt the back of my head gently then looked at the palm of my hand; no blood, that was something at least.

What the fuck had Peter gotten himself into this time?

He’d recognised whoever it was who’d hit me over the back of the head, that was for sure. Maybe if I asked around I could find out who he was in trouble with, or maybe if I asked around enough they’d find me, only I’d be prepared this time.

First thing was first though, I needed a drink.

Salomon’s was closed at this hour of the morning so I headed back to my car, slumped into the driver’s seat and took out my hip flask from the glove compartment. I took a deep swig of fiery nectar, leaned back and closed my eyes.

I figured he’d managed to get away from whoever it was since he’d had a head start while I was getting clubbed. Maybe he’d gotten scared enough to leave town, found a car and driven to his auntie’s house out in the suburbs. Since Mrs Fredrickson didn’t believe in owning a telephone I’d have to drive out there again to find out.

Well whatever, I was entitled to collect an instalment anyway.

Couple of hours later my car dragged itself over her gravel driveway, growling and wheezing like a decrepit dog on its last legs. I choked the life out of it with a twist of the ignition key as I wrestled with the handbrake.

The front doors of her mansion were wide open. I looked around, saw no gardening tools lying about or any sign of her ageing butler. My gut tensed up, and I knew it wasn’t because of my choice of breakfast.

Something wasn’t right here.

I reached into my glove compartment once again, took out my six-shooter, pushed out the bullet chamber and spun it to check for ammo. Four shots; should be enough to fend off any intruders while I retreated to my car if I needed to.

The house was silent, but I was damned if I was going to call out to see if anybody was there. I crept through the corridors carefully, ears straining for the slightest sound. I raised my gun as I entered the parlour, swinging it round the room and then round the back of the door; nobody there. I went back into the corridors and into a study. Mrs Fredrickson was slumped face-down over a desk, head cocked at an odd angle. I checked the room then walked over to her to take a closer look.

Her head was propped up by pencils, one up each nostril. Dark blood and gunk had run down each pencil and onto the desk, congealing there like blackcurrant jelly. Her eyes were wide open and bulging from her skull, the blue lips on her pale face contorted as if she had screamed.

That was one severe case of graphite poisoning.

It also meant I was going to have to go through her lawyer to get paid; besides, I’d need to speak with that lawyer to find out who stood to inherit her money and her mansion. If it was Peter, then he might be in more danger than I thought. I needed to get back into town, fast.

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The Chosen

Not being able to see more than a few feet in front of her was unnerving, as was the silence; the only sound she heard was that of her shoes clicking loudly on the damp paving slabs underfoot. There were probably buildings nearby, she reasoned. If she just kept walking long enough in the same direction then she was bound to find something.

A shadowy figure emerged from the murk, and Sandra paused. “Hello?”

As if in answer to Sandra’s call, the figure stepped closer. It was a woman with silver hair and jet black eyes, even the sclera, which startled Sandra somewhat.

“You’re not from here are you? You shouldn’t be here, not now. It’s too dangerous.”

“Why? What’s happening?”

The woman’s skin began to fall from her face as if desiccated, revealing red raw flesh. “It’s the Abatement; some of us have been chosen early. We’re being consumed.”

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The Invaders

Berlijn Plantation, Commewijne, Suriname. Public domain photo by Brokopondo.

“They came from over there.”

“Where exactly?”

That gate there, across the river.”

Vuzoor squinted at the structure, a mere brickwork frame crowned with a wooden pediment. “You sure?”

Paaie sighed and rested her optical field device upon the grass, pushed her upper torso off the ground and glared at him. “Of course I’m sure. It was that bloody gate they came through.”

Vuzoor looked at her, clicked his jaw before directing his gaze back to the portal. “More of them huh? Just what we need. The pens are full already, and they keep trying to escape.”

“Well of course they would, this is their planet after all.”

“What I don’t get is where they all keep coming from. You’d think we’d have found all their bunkers and compounds by now. They’ve infested the place and burrowed into every nook and cranny. The harder we push them…”

“Yeah.”

“Damned humans.”

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Peter Fredrickson

Glass and reflection

Photo source: TejasB

“What? Eva’s back in town? Listen, I don’t want my nephew being taken in by that hussy again” Mrs Fredrickson said as she leaned forward, shaking her bony index finger at me.  “I want you to go to whatever club or dive that good-for-nothing is holed up in and then I want you to drag him out and bring him here. Got that?”

I didn’t need to talk about my fees or expenses; Mrs Fredrickson and I had an understanding.  She understood that I would hand her my bill and I understood she’d pay it.  That’s just how it was; money was no object for her as far as her nephew was concerned.

Which was good because I was getting a lot of letters marked ‘final notice’ and the men who’d been visiting my office looked like they’d had their faces and their fists stuffed full of walnuts.

Booze is like brain bleach; it washes away all the anxieties and considerations of the day and then, while you’re asleep, all memories of your immediate past as well.  It’s a placebo, a twenty-four hour pseudo-panacea at best, but it doesn’t stop a whole lot of people from thinking ‘hell with it’ and knocking back a glass.

There were a whole lot of people out drinking that night and there were more than a few places in town, legal and illegal, where a person could exchange their dignity for an empty wallet and some bruised ribs before being thrown into the gutter.  Places you didn’t return to if you knew what was good for you.

I had no choice, I needed to find Peter and collect the dough.

Found him eventually, hunched up over a shot glass down at Salomon’s, a seedy little place down by the docks on South-side.  I took off my hat and placed it on the bar as I sat down on a stool next to his. “Hey Peter. Feel like visiting your aunt?”

His eyes went wide as he sat up straight and looked at me. “Aunt Glenda?  Wait, I know you don’t I?  You’re that private detective…say, did she send you down here to find me?”

I smiled. “She certainly did, told me to take you straight to her.  So, what d’ya say Peter?  My car’s right around the corner.”

“Aw wait now, why don’t we relax huh?  We can have a drink, on me, and I’m sure she’ll ignore the delay.”

My gut churned.  I wanted the liquor as bad as he did, the smell of it was taking hold of me and I could taste it just by breathing…

“Nope, your aunt said to get you to her place as soon as possible; her words.” I stood up and placed my hat back on my head. “Come on Peter, let’s go”.

“Aw, come on, just one more drink…”

Fucking whiny bastard.  I felt anger welling up inside of me, felt my blood boil and surge to my face.  I took a deep breath, and with extreme concentration I forced the brimstone back down again.  “Listen Peter, I had to visit a whole lot of dives before I found you here; I’ve had a rough night.  I’m in no mood.  Now let’s go.”

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Eva Perot

A portrait of Lizabeth Scott

A portrait of Lizabeth Scott (photo credit: wikipedia).

Ah the first think of the morning, when the mind’s just emerging from the fog of booze and disjointed dreams and has started taking stock of reality.

Shell burn, that’s what I notice first. Some hired goon fired off a couple of rounds; I barely avoided the first one. Just managed to flit round a corner as the shell disintegrated some of the masonry but not before it lightly skipped across my thigh, leaving a red welt on my skin and a stink of burnt gunpowder which still hasn’t left my nostrils.

His trigger happy demeanour wasn’t the result of childhood emotional baggage; the dame he’d been escorting was somebody important. Now I came to think of it she was a dead ringer for some gangster’s moll I’d seen in the papers a while back, even down to the way she pouted while she sucked on the end of a candy nova cane.

Eva – that was her name. Eva Perot. A singer at the Kitty Kat Club down on South Side, voice that sounded like the only genuine orgasm your old lady ever had. She was beautiful too, those eyes, those lips, they could lead a man all the way to bed…

…or to his grave. Nick Moretti was the jealous type, and he’d put better men than me under the ground for less. There again Nick was dead, shot up in a gunfight two years ago with enough holes to turn him into Swiss cheese. She’d disappeared, left town so they said.

Why was she back, and what did her bodyguard care if I happened to be walking down the same back alley?

I needed to find out. Stupid I know; asking questions would alert any connections she had and I might end up with worse than a weal next time I met her friends, but that was the problem with me. I could never let go after I caught the scent, and I smelt something fishy about that broad.

I couldn’t just go after her like that though; I wasn’t a cop after all, only a PI. I needed some legitimacy, I needed a client. I decided to pay old Ms Frederickson a visit. She’d hired me two years ago and she’d probably hire me again.

Eva had made moves on Fredrickson’s nephew right before she’d left town, and since that nephew was her only living relative and heir to her fortune she’d taken an interest in Eva the singer, recognising her for the two-bit floosy that she was. Ms Fredrickson would be very interested to learn that Eva was back in town. Of course, this would necessitate about two hour’s car ride to her sprawling estate.

With herculean effort I raised the lead weight of my head off my pillow, swung my legs over the side of the mattress and sucked sour fuzz off my teeth, squinting at the bright sunlight shining through the slats of the window blinds.

Damn, this was going to be a long day.

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When you let me in

Keys in front door

Photo credit: Lyssa Medana

I knew you liked me.

The way you smiled at me,  your eyes lit up when you said hello to me in the street.

You were special, not like the other girls.

That’s why you invited me in wasn’t it?

That’s why you left your keys on the outside of the front door, to invite me in?

I took your keys for you, stepped into the hall and closed the door carefully, considerately. I heard music coming from the kitchen, heard you singing along; so happy, like always. Your sparkling eyes found mine…

…perfect…

…only why’d you have to scream?

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