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Where do I hatch my tale? I suppose where most start, the beginning. The name’s Sloan. Daniel Sloan, private eye. Being in the shamus business puts a man behind the eight-ball a lot. And almost every time the reason is one of them affluent dames. Yeah, I got caught with my trousers down.
All my troubles began with one of those lookers. Don’t most? One of them curvaceous blondes, with legs up to here, blood red lips, and the most chilling blue eyes I’d ever seen.
Rule number one in this business: never get mixed up with one of them. It’s a cocktail for disaster. I guess I had never been one to follow the rules. I remember I had been perched near my office window. The dim streetlights licked the foul sidewalks of L.A. Dusty clouds blanketed the dark starry sky. Droplets of water tumbled down, dampening the entire city surroundings. My plan had been to finish packing my briefcase, and meander over to Jimmy’s. That good man had a Jack with my name on it.
Well the first part I got down. That’s when she walked in. The demon disguised as an angel. And I was ready to be fooled.
As I said before, a cocktail for disaster. I knew my rule better than any other fella. Yet the sway of her hips hypnotized me like no other. Subconsciously I licked my suddenly dry lips. Despite the miserable autumn weather outside, my body was burning.
Finally as if on cue, the skirt opened those sensuous lips, revealing the most melodic sound my city ears had ever heard.
“You Sloan?” Quicker than a drunk drinking brandy, I collected my thoughts. Rule number two, never reveal what’s on your mind. I could follow that rule.
“Detective Sloan,” I emphasized my title, giving the woman a grin which she interpreted as cocky. Her blue eyes narrowed and met mine. Standing I extended my hand towards the chair opposite of me. I watched her sit down, and chanced a look at her.
The golden locks of her hair were carefully hidden away in a tight bun. She wore a tan trench coat concealing all her curves, but succeeding on leaving lots to the imagination. Water droplets occasionally trailed from her hair down her neck, and lower to a hidden valley my eyes had yet to explore.
“Sloan,” she continued ignoring my earlier comment. “I’d like to hire you,” Sitting down in my chair, I laced my fingers together and rested my elbows on my cluttered desk.
“What can I do for you Ms…?” Her cobalt blue eyes met mine.
“Iris Gabel. You see I am in a bit of a jam…” Her lips curled back revealing a small section of teeth. She looked treacherous, sitting right there, so damn smug. I knew right then, she was no ordinary skirt.
“Right. Ms. Gabel, how can I assist you?” My breath hitched as she removed her trench coat. There she sat clad in a red dress, which accentuated all the right areas. Clearing my throat, I pulled out a pack of Reynolds and lit a butt.
“Someone has been ripping me off.”
“Do you have any leads?”
“It must be an inside job, but I don’t know who’d be mug enough to heist from me.” The dame sat quietly and contemplated. “All I know is that I want the bastard to pay,” her words escaped her lips almost like a whisper. I noticed the anger rippling off her body. Who the hell was I to turn her down?
“Alright Slim, I’ll see what I can do. I charge twenty-five dollars a day plus expenses. Think you can afford?” She gave me her dangerous smile, and I tugged at my collar trying to circulate some air.
“Find me my crook, and you’ll get your reward.” Slowly Ms. Gable rose from her seat. I clumsily fumbled from behind my desk, reaching her coat. A subtle nod replied her neck, and I proceeded to hold open her overcoat. Briefly our fingers grazed each other. I swear on my pop’s grave, I heard a choir of church angels sing. Once she was cozy I reached for the door and let her out. She smirked as her legs drifted out my door. Releasing a breath I’d been holding in, I collapsed against my closed door.
“What kind of mess have you agree to this time Sloan?” I muttered and grabbed my own coat. The kind company of Jimmy and Jack would have to be postponed, to another evening.
Three days had gone by since the fateful night Ms. Gable hired me. I’d been working day and night. I followed every lead I could. With only a million people in our small city, one would think information came as easy as a cheap hooker.
Sleep was a virtue a private dick like me seldom enjoyed. Fortunately luck had been on my side. My hired weasel, Lenny, gave me a tip. Thursday night, Seven o’clock at some old dive. Rick and a bunch of his droppers had a “meeting” with the Mayor. This left me all of Wednesday to plot my next move. At the time I didn’t realize I’d traveled to stand outside my apartment building. An exasperated sigh escaped my chapped lips. Water continued to bombard my soaked body, and rain droplets occasionally dripped from my fedora, skidding down my face.
I stretched a water soaked hand to the slick faded door handle. Grasping it firmly I yanked the old door open. Back in the day I am sure the building had a nice shine to the faded bricks and chipped paint.
Sluggishly I dragged my feet on the creaky wooden floor. The stairs looked dark and dank, but I’d always preferred the steps to the elevator. One by one I clambered the worn wooden ramp, till I reached my floor. My surroundings looked the same; to the right there were row of doors, to the left another row of doors. A light above me sang it’s final song before flickering out, leaving the windows at both ends of the hall to illuminate the dark corridors.
By this time exhaustion had taken its toll. Turning right, I found the faded turquoise numbers 203 staring back at me. Picking up the day old bottles of milk, I unlocked my brown door. My feet stepped casually into the shadowy threshold. I paused on the grubby mat, wiping my shoes to rid them of excess dirt. Once inside with the door properly shut behind me, my eyes finally adjust.
My apartment’s no place for a lady. When a bo opens my door, a slovenly living room greets them. To the left lays the kitchen. For some reason the galley is the only unsoiled room in my flat. To the right of my living room is the bedroom, in shambles of course; wrinkled shirts and pants carelessly strewn about, and cigarettes everywhere. The only bull in a heard of cows is the futon. Crisp sheets, stretched blankets, puffed pillows, what can I say, I always tried to do what my Ma told me.
I heard a soft purring sound after my shoes had been swept clean. A black and white kitten came trotting over to where I stood by the door. Its left ear had a nasty chew mark and its pink nose sported a long gash. My knees dropped down to its level. A few weeks prior, I had seen the little stray holding it’s own in an alley against a pack of tough looking pups. Don’t misunderstand me, I am no animal activist. Them strays need to defend themselves. However kittens are different. I am a big softy for kittens.
“Hey Tot,” The top of his head felt greasy against my hand, but he refused to get within an inch of a bathtub. Tot’s little body moved closer to my trousers. I had to stop him before my pant leg reached the point of no return. Pushing myself up to stand on both feet, I maneuvered around the little fuzz ball to my bedroom, closing the door. The insistent scratching of Tot’s paws met my ear. The bugger sure knew how to make a joe feel guilty.
My silver wristwatch caught a small glint of light. As if by habit, I checked the time. A groan escaped my haggard throat. Time could really be pertinacious.
Sullenly I moved to stand by my dresser, which supported a large mirror. I stared at the chump that glared right back at me. Tall son of a bitch, six foot, with eyes as brown as mud, high cheek bones, strong chin, and the whole lot covered in stubble.
Careful not to disrupt the cluttered wooden surface I pressed my palms down firmly. Hanging on the edge of my mirror rested a photograph.
On the paper resided a pretty girl, next to younger, happier version of me. A small smile danced on her soft lips, and she looked so content her soft fingers intertwined with my rough digits. Her hair looked and felt just like silk. I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic. Laura. Her name still haunted me. Even just thinking of her cause my heart to tighten. Oh, Laura had been quite the dame.
The sight of my bed in the reflection, and seeing my once love, caused my knees to buckle; only I couldn’t go to bed. My stomach gnarled, my cat purred and I still wore my dapper shirt complete with frayed sleeves and loose buttons. And there was also the mystery of Iris. The woman who appeared as a doppelganger of a seraphic being.
The cause, her eyes. Her dark azure eyes had me enthralled. I don’t consider myself a lady killer; however her surreptitious attitude got me like bear catching salmon. Easy. Always watch out for the risky broads, that’s all my old man asked. Maybe that’s why my mother wanted so desperately for me to stay with Laura. If only she knew.
I brushed a hand through my dark brown hair, and cringed at the similarity of how it felt a lot like Tot.
“Time for a shower,” my thoughts drifted towards Iris. “Better make that a cold one.” Fortunately my bathroom had been built connected to my room. Pealing off my shirt I made my way into the cold tub.
The tar covered streets remained silent. I killed the engine in my old boiler. Iris’ apartment lights turned off. Slowly in my head I counted the seconds till she came down. About thirty minutes ago she’d called my residence and invited me to dinner. I know, the bells were ringing, but the skirt with legs refused to keep walking.
A few days prior I’d been sitting in this very car, a bottle of rye on hand and eyes on the look out. Broads are fine to chase, but never to keep. So what did I find so compelling about this doll? A soft tapping ended that train, only a brief look up sent me down on a new set of tracks
“Is this seat taken?” Her goddess voice entangled itself in my memory.
“Never,” I managed to breathe out. She smiled. I’d never seen her smile, every time we’d met, her eyes would narrow and a frown had etched its way across her lips. Occasionally when I shared news of possible leads, her lips curled leaving her looking quite the temptress. Still she never seemed more gripping, that is until she bestowed me her smile. That’s when my eyes set off trailing down her evening gown clad body, cloaked in an expensive tailored jacket. Elegantly she bent her knees, holding the door handle for support she slipped into the seat next to me.
With all the rustling of clothes her upper thigh had exposed itself. All the moisture in my mouth went south for the winter. Quickly I diverted my eyes upward only to meet hers. Rather than anger, amusement greeted me.
“Lead the way Miss Gable.” I hoped her ears did not notice the slight gruff toned I used. Lucky for me she made no mention of my voice change. Only she also disregarded her divulged skin.
“I made reservations at the club. Hope you don’t mind? Tonight seemed perfect for us to chat. “
“Certainly, I’d be more than happy to oblige.” Quickly I revved my old bucket to life and followed her directions. All the while my mind wondered back to the expanse of her perfect pearl skin. If only Shakespeare were alive. He could write a million and one sonets just on the perfection of her tantalizing thigh.
My trousers felt unusually tight. Iris kept her promise, dinner had been quite exceptional. After our meal, we took a stroll down Main Street, her small hand clutching the material of my coat. I felt a strong sense of exhilaration. The duration of our meal we’d spent sharing past and present history. Turned out Iris used to work at the District Attorneys Office, and now she runs a reclusive business. That girl had both brains and charm. I may also have been mistaken, but when I gave her a brief overview of my life, something shifted in eyes. Some blurry emotions when Laura’s named popped up. Than again her eyes could have easily lied that night.
“Daniel?” her tentative voice diverted my thoughts.
“Iris,” I turned my head in her direction. In the dark there’d been no way for her eyes to meet mine. The obscure lights and my low hat remedied that malady for certain. I am confident if her sapphire eyes looked into my mud eyes, she’d be taken back by the emotion swirling around.
Again she used her hushed tone, “I think we’re being shadowed,” wheels turned, and levers cranked in my head. A swift glance backwards confirmed her indictment. This button man must have been a real pro. He’d probably been shadowing me for a few days, working different angles to find a crack in my wall. Well the bo succeeded. With my six round revolver half empty laying under my heart and a skirt at my side, I wasn’t sure I could get us out of this hard jam.
Instantly the back of my neck collected condensation. I felt cold, yet hot. My heart contracted so violently my gut growled in pain. Slowly I wiggled my fingers, stretching them. Every muscle in my right hand swelled, ready to react. One wrong move could have potentially landed both Iris and me in bed with the big sleep.
I am not sure what angels had my back that night, and I am not sure if I really want to know. All I am positive about is lady luck played for me. A plan spurred from my skull. In order for me to play my bluff, I needed the button man to think I only had a pair, but in reality I held a full house.
“Iris,” I murmured. We’d stopped walking—so did our shadow—fortunately he maintained his distance.
“What’s the plan?” she muttered keeping an eye on our visitor. A skirt ahead of the game…? Time was working against me; I didn’t have a second to spare on her plucky attitude. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the lad, pull a cigarette out of his pocket with his right hand and set the paper to his lips.
“Do you trust me?”
“Afraid I don’t have much of a choice.”
“No, I guess not.”
“Are you going to kill him?”
“If I have to,” she looked up at me briefly, trying to smile, and instead grimaced.
“Tell me what to do.” I moved closer to her, watching her red lips tremble; as did the rest of her perfect body. I noticed our friend fumbling around with is right hand to light his cigs.
“Stand still…” With my back to our “friend” I’d exposed myself. One quick draw and I’d finally meet the big one. Iris inhaled sharply, with fear or excitement is undeterminable. I leaned my nose close to her neck she smelled faintly of roses mixed with tobacco and wine. “Can you burn powder?” I mumbled.
“Excuse me?” She craned her neck around, her eyes clouded with confusion.
“Can you shoot a gun?” I growled out breathing on her neck, causing a light shudder.
“When appropriate.” I chuckled.
“Well doll, now is defiantly the time.” Her neck twisted around glancing quickly at the goon.
“He’s about fifty-yards out.”
“Is that a problem?” I’d forgotten distance is an essential factor when shooting someone.
“No. As long as the bo stands perfectly still, I can get him.”
“Good. I want you to aim for his right shoulder. Can you mark?” I felt her smirk against the material of my coat.
"Sloan my fingers have been itching for a chance at this guy since I noticed him.” I heard the mirth in her voice. “Hand over your piece.”
“You’re going to have to get it; I am busy playing armor.”
“How many rounds does it have?”
“Good thing we weren’t planning a heist we’d be bopped before going anywhere.” I furrowed my brow together as she felt along my chest to the holster. Slowly she unclipped the revolver and positioned the barrel.
“Let the bastard have it.” I waited as she cocked the pistol.
“With pleasure,” she grinned.
Hearing a pistol shot is not the sound anyone can get used too. And after Iris shot the bo, I could still feel the heat emanating from the barrel. The poor fool didn’t see a damn thing coming. The force from the lead ball crumpled our shadow to the ground. His left hand instinctively reaching for his right shoulder. Craning my neck around behind me, I could see the he wasn’t going anywhere.
“Stay here,” I ordered to Iris, slowly prying her fingers off my piece.
“Do I need a reason?”
“I am capable of holding my own.” The defiance in her eyes burned more heatedly than an oil lamp.
I chuckled, “I have no doubt, it’s him I am worried about. “ She gave me her angel sweet smile, as I ambled over to our friend.
Crouching down I held my gat down to his head, and frisked him. Inside his left breast rested a little colt. Standing I quickly tossed the metal towards Iris, who picked it up carefully. The shadow’s face matted with a thick layer of blood, looked nothing like a button man. He had baby brown curls, soaked in red, attached to an angel face. A round face, still riding itself of its last bits of baby fat. But his eyes, his eyes were that of a killer. Emotionless. The glass brown stones ripping inside me weren’t those of a boy.
“Who hired you?” Suddenly his face changed. A grin spread across his lips like wild fire.
“Who said I was hired?” He began howling with laughter, I watched as a stray drop of crimson liquid skidded down his innocent face.
“Don’t ride me boy, I don’t have time for your game! Who hired you?” The words escaped my lips, echoing like a growl. His laughter stopped, but his smirk remained.
“I got rights, and I don’t have to tell you a damn thing. You ain’t even a copper. Cool it bud, why don’t you wait till the big boys arrive.” Anger rolled off me. Kneeling down, I dropped my piece, grabbed his collar and dug my other hand into his shoulder. Liquid thick red goo squelched from the bullet wound. His eyes grew big, and his face contorted with pain. He tried hitting me away, but his efforts were futile.
“You’re damn right I am no copper, so that means I am under the radar of the law.” I applied more pressure to his shoulder. His breath became more and more labored. “Alright bo, I am gonna ask you some simple questions and you’re gonna answer them. Sound fair?” His humor from earlier returned to his eyes, and he gave me his homicidal grin.
“Try me.” Without warning I released my hold on his shoulder and connected my fist with his jaw. And when he looked back at me, the coil in my arm sprang back to his face. This time I watched as little pearls sputtered across the cement of the sidewalk. When his eyes dared look into mine he just gave me his grin. This time I could see salvia rolling around on his tongue, and his blood dripping down his whites reminding me of wet paint.
“Just give me a name son. Any name!” I tried pleading with the lad; the damage I’d caused him seemed to hurt me more than him.
“You want a name? I’ll give you, your damn name! Try Jesus Christ! Cause after tonight his is the only name that will leave your lips!”
And before I could stop him his hand wrapped around my metal, pointed the barrel at his own head and pulled the trigger. His insides spurted everywhere, clinging to every tangible object insight.
“Are you alright?” I turned to see Iris standing back with a smirk tugging at the corners of her dangerous lips.
“Do all your dates always end this messy?” Standing from my spot near the once bo, I moved towards Iris. Her elegant hand offered a handkerchief. Promptly I took the silk material into my hands, and began wiping my face.
“My dates usually end at the restaurant. I was doing you a charity by taking you for a stroll.” All humor drained from her eyes, and she looked directly into my dirty eyes.
“Did he say anything useful?”
“Who he worked for? What his game was? Why he…” An amused smile appeared on my face.
“Look doll, I don’t know if you saw the show from earlier but the bo blew his pretty little head all over the walking space. He was our first and only lead, and looks like all the kings horses and all the kings men, won’t be able to put humpty together again.” I shook my head disapprovingly.
“Frisk him. We need a name! Any name, I’ll take his for start!” Agitation filled Iris normally cool voice.
“This has just become a crime scene. To the cops it’s gonna look like we bopped junior off. We need to leave as much as we can, and appear innocent.”
“Did we do anything illegal?” I turned my head towards Iris, who arched an questioning eye brow in my direction.
“You tell me,” she sighed and pulled her coat closer around her body. Her mouth opened ready to reply when shouts in the distance were made.
“So you’re telling me a private dick, and a skirt were out on a stroll at nine-thirty at night, on main street which is usually busy, with only one man,” the cop paused and nodded towards the stiff, “who happened to try and kill you both?” He looked skeptical. Can’t blame him, the story didn’t seem to add up in my head either.
“Yep, that ‘bout sums it up.”
“Don’t be a bunny Sloan, you said you didn’t do it, but how can I be sure you both are telling me the truth? There was only one other person here, and now he’s bumped off or dripping from your coat. I am just trying to sort out what happened.”
I pulled some butts from my coat and set one to my lips. Lighting the slim stick, I took a long drag and tried to defuse my racing mind. Iris stood over by one of the police buckets, chatting up a young officer, getting a bit too friendly with the kid.
“Look officer, I don’t know what else to tell you. This is what happened and you don’t seem to believe me.” The man before me wiped his brow with the forearm of his coat.
“Like I said, it don’t make sense. He just shadowed you, and then suddenly tried to pump you both with metal? Just don’t add up.”
“I agree officer, I agree.” Iris continued to play nice with the rookie; a couple times I caught her looking at me through the corner of her eyes. She looked so damn smug. Her lips curled at the edges. My blood started to boil. I didn’t like how the rookie had been eying her. “Do you have any more questions?”
The officer stood dumbly, his calloused fingers rubbing circles around his sweating temples.
“I guess you and the bird can walk. There’s nothing else keeping you both here, but before you two bounce, leave your name and addresses with that young lad over there.”
I nodded and carefully approached Iris. Before I reached her and the rookie, I heard her voice waft through the air; her laughter lingered in my eardrums. The young man resembled a skinny growing tree, nothing copper about him. He had soft, light brown eyes, and a young juvenile face. I really didn’t like how the young man had been talking so casual with my client.
“Iris, its time to tail out of here,” my voice had been a lot rougher than I meant it to sound. The no name rookie puffed out his scrawny looking chest when he heard my voice. Iris smiled sweetly, but her eyes gleam with trouble.
“Just a minute, Sloan. Officer Clutch was telling me a story of his charming little dog.” The still no name rookie, flushed red with realization on how girly he sounded. Squaring my chest up, I managed to look more menacing than the young man before me. My teeth shined through my grin as I crossed my arms over my chest.
“Well in that case, please continue son.” The young officer fiddled with his cap, embarrassment covering his body.
“Aww miss, he’s not as quaint as I made him sound. It had been only for your own sake. In reality he’s ferocious, a real killer!” He eagerly explained how one night, after making his rounds he came home; in his kitchen stood his pup, teeth dripping with blood. Inwardly I smirked as I watched Iris. Her eyes widen in mock horror, and she covered her soft looking lips with well maintained fingers.
“And then what happened?” she asked as if her life depended on his story, it surprised me how good she sounded
“Well ‘mam than the little tramp…”
“What’s the breed?” Milk chocolate orbs stared dumbly at me.
“Pa…pardon?” Inwardly I felt jubilant at making the boy stutter.
“Such a ferocious animal must have a breed. What’s the breed?” His face darkened from tinged pink to cherry red, a color which traveled visibly down his neck.
“Um…well…it’s…a…” he stopped and took a deep breath, shame brightly showing on his face, contrasting to the dark night. “It’s a Boston Terrier, sir.” I nodded sagely and lit a cigarette to my lips.
“Oh he’s a Boston Terrier?” I emphasized the last part before stopping to greedily drink the tobacco smoke into my mouth, “yeah those hounds are deadly.” The boy’s shoulders slumped in defeat. Triumph gleamed in my eyes, but Iris didn’t seem too happy. Her eyes bore into me, but I ignored them. “Well officer, it’s getting late. The lady needs to go home. I was instructed by your senior to give you our information.” Pulling out a little, leather bound notebook from my pocket, I produced names and numbers.
“Thanks, Officer Clutch, for keeping an eye on Ms. Gable, while the big boys worked.” Gruffly I wrapped my rough hands around the soft material of Iris’ coat, and dragged her towards my boiler. Once a safe distance away from the ruckus, I turned to Iris. Somewhere along the line, I’d lost my hat. No longer did I have cover. My emotions sat naked to seeking sapphire eyes. In my entire life, I’d never felt more exposed than I did in that moment.
“I apologize. I am not sure what came over me,” I said, only pausing to carefully word my next sentences. “That..that damn boy, kept looking at you. I didn’t like it. I know that’s no excuse for my behavior, but it’s the truth.”
Iris kept silent. Her lips looked as if they wanted to say something, but couldn’t. To end my babble, I opened the car door and escorted her inside. Inhaling the cool night air, I walked to the driver side and opened the door. Carefully I moved in and revved the engine to life.
We drove to Iris’ building in silence. I kept glancing at her huddled form against the door. There goes another client, and skirt. My inner turmoil continued as I pulled up next to her apartment.
Even though we had been parked for a few minutes, neither of us had made a move. I swear it was so quiet that I could hear Iris’ steady heart, beating swiftly in the seat next to me. The distressing silence became to unnerving. I pulled a small flask from my pocked and slowly drank its contents. The hard alcohol burned my rasped throat, and I felt even worse for drinking in the presence of a skirt.
“What made you so angry?” Iris’ voice drifted towards me. I looked in the direction of her questioning eyes. Those eyes. My only real weakness in this purgatory life.
“I am not sure. The way Officer Clutch,” I said his name with a sneer, “contained your attention…I didn’t like it. I didn’t mean to play tough, it just came out so natural. I…I am sorry.” The muscles in my jaw clenched visible through my cheek.
“So… you were jealous?”
“Look, doll, I wasn’t jealous!” My expression hardened and I crossed my arms across my chest and looked out my window. Iris laughed at my childish attitude. Her genuine laugh softened my face. I couldn’t deny it; I really did like her laugh.
“I was.” I turned my head to see her face. She had a huge smile framing her soft lips.
“Of who?” The quizzical tone in my voice gave away my whole front.
“This girl you’d met. I wish it could have been us. I wish we could have met under different circumstances. I wish I could have been her.” My hand moved on it’s own to the seat next to hers. She ignored my calloused digits.
“She isn’t here though.” I pointed out the obvious to her.
“Sloan, you don’t have to do anything or say anything. Not with me.” Her fingers slowly touched mine. I’d never felt anything so soft, so euphoric in my entire existence. Her long luxurious fingers felt like rare silk from the exotic counties, something so rare that it only existed in fairy tales. Squeezing her fingers in acknowledgement I smiled.
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Her lips curled into that dangerous grin I began to adore.
“Good night Sloan.” And just like that, heaven disappeared, hurling me back into a reality. Me sitting next to an angel in my boiler. The car door opened and I watched as the skirt with legs walked, but never left. I watched as her legs walked her strong, lithe body to her apartment entrance where, they continued to disappear inside.
“Good night Angel.” I whispered and started my bucket to life. I drove, too lost in thought of the angel who disguised herself in the form of an ordinary skirt. But maybe I over thought the situation. Perhaps Iris Gable wasn’t a skirt or an angel. Perhaps I’d actually fallen for a demon playing all of the above.