Sunday, April 24, 2011

BAD CASE, Chapter 1


John Smith was sitting in his office with his feet up on his cluttered desk when he thought he heard footsteps.

Footsteps were no problem, and no real concern for Smith, who was used to hearing people walk past his office on their way to bigger, better places. There were two dentists, one pediatrician, a gynecologist, a realtor and an Army recruitment office in the building. Most people were on their way to those places and none of them on their merry way to John Smith Investigations.

A few months ago he had given up on the notion that nobody liked him. Now he would sometimes wonder if people even noticed that there was a private detective’s office that they walked by every day.

“Hmpfh,” Smith said to the paper he was reading.

No one in this entire county needs a private dick anymore. Do people even know that private detectives actually exist in the real world? Probably not. I should be spending my retirement on a boat somewhere, not trying to make ends meet by being some stupid detective.

He thought about his chosen profession for a minute. “Mostly, I guess I’m just a dick,” he said to the walls and grinned.

John Smith was living the life right out of what he thought the old fifties crime novels glorified. He had a small office, with a part-time secretary who worked Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. She was a real firecracker, and Smith had yet to meet one single person who liked her. He grinned again when he thought that he was probably going to have to fire her because he didn’t make enough money. Such is the life of a private detective, he thought. To tell the truth, he was kind of hoping she would resist when he fired her so he could shoot her. He figured that would be a lot of fun.

His desk was cluttered with papers, his feet were up on the desk, and the he was looking through was the want ads. The big detective business had pretty much turned out to be a bust, but it had been an interesting two years. He started the business shortly after he retired from the Clark County Sheriff’s Department. He retired at the ripe old age of forty-two, after twenty long years on the force.

There was no way in hell he was going to keep on being a cop, he had never gotten along with the management. Twenty years of having to listen to other people telling him what to do had finally just about driven him crazy. When he put his twenty years in and was eligible for retirement he didn’t hesitate. His wife said he seemed like a happier person.

So he started John Smith Investigations within six months of retiring, thinking that he could still protect and serve a small portion of the public, and maybe make better money. He could be happy solving a case here and there, taking some pictures of some asshole screwing around on his wife, maybe even helping some poor family finding a missing kid. Yeah, he could manage to do that. Hell, maybe he could even help find a lost puppy or two.

It was too bad that no one seemed to need a detective anymore. Everyone just up and ran to the cops, now the cops could handle every damned thing. He made a grunting sound and silently cursed everyone who went to the cops when they could make his life a whole hell of a lot more exciting by coming straight to him. Didn’t they know that he was forced to look for a real job, while they could be helping him while he was a little down on his luck? Good thing he had a good pension from the sheriff’s department.

Good thing he wasn’t bitter.

So there he was, at his desk, looking for a job. Maybe driving a truck, something part time, so he could spend some more time on the boat. He was thinking about how he really wanted the business to succeed, how he needed some money, thinking about how someone really needed to come in that door when he heard those footsteps in the hall.

Probably just someone going to get their teeth cleaned, some poor schmuck who all of a sudden feels the need to join the army.

He went back to his paper and imagined a beautiful, sultry woman walking in and sitting down without saying a word. He imagined her reaching into her purse and flopping a wad of bills – hundreds of course – on his desk. Then she would pull out one of those extra long, thin cigarettes made just for women and light it with a tiny, gold plated lighter. She’d stare him right dead in the eyes as she slowly lit her cigarette, and he’d be in heaven.

What happened instead, the footsteps stopped at his door, which was enough to get his attention up, but not his hopes. It could be someone who was lost. He got that a few times a week, and was frankly sick of it.

When the pretty girl in the blue dress walked in, John Smith almost fell right out of his chair.

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