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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The House at the Frontier

Forgotten Illinois

Forgotten Illinois (Photo credit: JMD Pix)

It squatted by a leafless copse at the end of the country road, a silent hulk, deathly still in the moonlight of the cloudless sky.

I had no desire to gaze upon its grim countenance again, but I’d made a promise.

No-one had told us what to expect when we reached the last of the battle lines – the final frontier – all those years ago, but then again why would they? Ours was a secret organisation; rarely did we receive any missive more complex than a time stamp.

So we’d made our way across the blasted heath on foot having landed some way from our designated base of operations, a dreary farmhouse far from the vagaries of civilisation and the window lizards of the city we’d left behind. Upon entering, we secured the area and scoured the grounds for ordinance and resources. We found some ammunition as well as food rations and some water. There were no enemy bugs or transmission equipment of any kind.

We dug in and settled down, waiting for the next message. Now and then we’d scout the perimeter.

Some days passed.

One or two of the men got sick, complaining of stomach ache and sweating like pigs despite the winter climate. We put it down to a touch of flu, thought nothing of it.

A week later, the first two men had died and the others were suffering from the same symptoms. It was decided that I, still relatively healthy, would leave the base and return to the city to request medical help from our superiors.

I had to make my way on foot to the nearest highway; there was no means of communication with the rest of our group.

It was another week before I made it back to the city.

I headed for one of our safe houses, got cleaned up and sent a missive by the usual means. Some hours later I was arrested by a number of our fellow agents and taken to an unknown location. Once the bag had been removed from my head I was subjected to rigorous interrogation; standard practice.

After the usual protocols had been observed I was examined by one of our medical officers, and was informed that I was suffering from a moderate amount of mercury poisoning.

I was also informed that the time stamp we had found weeks ago had not been issued by our organisation.

It was with a heavy heart that I returned to that dismal farmhouse. I did not hope to find any survivors; for how would they know that the mission was a trap, the time stamp planted by double-agents, and that the food and water had been tainted?

Yet I’d made a promise.

Taking a deep breath, I knocked upon the door using the code we’d agreed upon.

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Integration

Should have kept my mouth shut.

Everything’s changed now, too late for things to return to the way they were. I just had to do it didn’t I? Had to take that chance and vent my spleen.

It’s true what they say, you pays your money and you takes your choice.

So then I was taken to the Angel Yard to undergo age integration as part of the humanisation process; which for an angel amounts to super atrophy and a substantial degree of instilled muscle amnesia.

That’s right; they’re making me mortal, just like you.

The right thing for me they said, given the circumstances.

What would they know? It’s me strung up here in the tank, seemingly unfit to be tied to whatever plans they might have.

Whatever; thing is, heaven and purgatory are one and the same to us. It’s all one big bureaucracy, all one big machine running on recycled spiritual energy. We’re told that there’s a reason why we’re keeping this vast system running, a reason for the perpetual banality of our lot in life as cogs in this artifice; that there’ll be a light at the end of the tunnel.

After countless millennia of toil I’d decided I’d had enough, and I told them that I wanted to see that light. You know what they did? They showed me what that light was.

Of course, they had to put me in the tunnel first.

I can hardly remember anything now though. My memories are fading, merging into half-forgotten dreams. Somewhere deep inside, I know that this is all part of the process.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

The last of my previous self is slipping away in the darkness now as I approach that light, as I see a human slowly reaching out to me with gloved hands, a surgical mask covering their face.

I scream.

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Admin

I’m best at being mediocre, sitting in this drab air-conditioned office, in a dead end job.

Going nowhere, sitting at my desk with a can of Red Bull and a pot of toffee-chocolate mousse; a dessert oasis in the never-ending storm of my existence, the pit of mass darkness that spreads from dawn till dusk despite the bright sunlight and the foetid warmth outside of this air-conditioned building.

What can I do but dream…and while away the time by using the key to the universe, the search engine, to look for the appropriate category of porn.

What would my boss say? That I’m an errant star?

She wouldn’t even notice me, though I’m in awe of her; just look at how much she’s achieved.

Go hellz bitches. Fucking girl power.

So here I am, sat at my desk, fucking damp patch of sweat spreading from my panties to the base of my spine. I doubt that she so much as glows. Meantime the air-con is literally a con, a broken promise which leaves me sweating out of every orifice.

I bet she wouldn’t let it show though.

Fucking bitch whore cougar, with her perfect fucking nails.

She’s probably got varicose veins, that fucking ancient prostitute. Hair in a steel bun; yeah, and I bet she only let’s that fucker down at Christmas.

Never mind.

I’ll fix her wagon.

…and now for that memo to appear, the one that you never saw but cannot blame on anybody else…

 

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The thing on the carpet

I don’t know what it is used for, though I daresay it would take some rubbing to get it out of the carpet.

It’s right by your foot. See? Right there.

Yes well I don’t know what it is. Looks like somebody left it there and forgot about it; damned liberty if you ask me.

No, I’ve no intention of nudging it with my shoe; I only bought them recently and I don’t want to get them dirty; you nudge it. I say, is that somebody knocking on the door? Well never mind, the maid will see to it.

Did it move? Quivered a bit did it? Dashed strange thing to leave on a person’s carpet, a person could be forgiven for thinking this was some sort of elaborate jape.

Fire poker, capital idea! Yes, give it a go with that; give it a good old poke. No, no, that won’t do; give it some thrust for goodness sakes! Give it here, I’ll do it. Got to twist all the way through with your hips and shoulders, like this, do you see?

Heavens preserve us, what on earth is that smell? Was that you? Well it certainly wasn’t me; must’ve been this thing. Give it another poke and see if it does it again, only open the window first perhaps.

There’s that infernal knocking again; will somebody get the door? I swear the staff in this house are taking more and more liberties…

…what’s that you say? Smoking? Good grief, you’re right! It’s eating right through the shag pile! Blasted thing! Quick, get my shotgun off that wall there; I’ll soon get rid of it. Where are my bloody shells?

That knocking’s getting louder; I SAY, WILL SOMEBODY GET THE BLOODY DOOR? All this noise is giving me a headache. Dashed impertinence is what it is. As if I didn’t have enough to deal with. You wait until the wife sees this carpet, she’ll go spare.

What do you mean it isn’t the door? Of course it’s the door, it’s not as if I’ve commissioned any work to be done and none of the neighbours have been at it, although I wouldn’t put it past them. No sense of propriety.

Gah! Damned knocking’s getting even louder!

I say, good grief, pull yourself together will you? Take your hands off of your ears and get your handkerchief, your nose is bleeding! Quick, don’t get it on the carpet! Bad enough as it is. What’s that? No, it’s no good, I can’t hear you. Knocking’s too loud. TOO LOUD I SAID.

Bloody thing! Let me get a bead on it, that’s it. Soon blast you to kingdom come my erstwhile little friend…

Well. That’s torn it.

Carpet’s buggered.

Got the bloody thing though, it’s gone.

Wait, what’s that sound coming from down there?

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