The sound of rain against the windows of my office seemed to fade as she entered. She was beautiful, of course, with great legs and a fragile confidence ready to crumble. The fragile confidence wasn’t visible (not like the legs), but my clients were always beautiful, with great legs and a fragile confidence ready to crumble.
And they always came in when it was raining.
She sat in the chair, crossed her legs, but not being Superman, I couldn’t see them through my desk. She asked if it was OK to smoke, and before I could turn on the ionic air purifier with electrostatically charged plates that produce positively charged gas ions that attract the smoke particles and collect it with the HEPA filter, she stuck an e-cig in her mouth, the tip glowing blue.
“How can I help you, Miss Sullivan?” I asked. I knew her name, because she had told me during the leg-noticing. I had thought the legs were more important for you to know three paragraphs ago, but now that I think about it, her name would be at least as important.
“Mrs. Sullivan,” she corrected, “and my husband is the reason I’m here, Mr. Pimm.”
“How so, Mrs. Sullivan?” I asked. Notice I didn’t say, “Please call me “Elston”, Mr. Pimm is my father”? That’s because I’m not an ass. Also, my first name is “Elston”. I’ll stick with Mr. Pimm.
“He’s missing, Mr. Pimm.” You’ll notice people use my name an awful lot. I’m a Private Eye, it comes with the territory.
“Missing Persons is a job for the police, Mrs. Sullivan,” I replied. “In fact, they have a whole division for it.” She rolled her eyes. Did I mention her eyes? No, just her legs. Fine… Eyes, blue, five foot seven, brunette, no visible scars. Happy now?
“I went to the police, but they’ve done nothing,” she said, becoming more agitated.
“Give it time,” I said, spreading my hands reassuringly. Maybe she had failed to notice my reassuring hand spread, or my ability of hand spreading reassurance wasn’t up to snuff, either way she flung herself up from the chair.
“It’s been a year!” She stepped over to the window, looking out through the rain. I didn’t say anything. The client looking out at the rain move meant a follow up was coming. “He went to Vegas. Security cameras show him entering the casino, walking behind a bank slot machines and, poof, gone. The casino is fully covered, no blindspots. The tapes are original, no doctoring. The police are baffled.”
“They have a division for that, too.” She spun on her heels.
“Is this a joke to you, Mr. Pimm?” Yes, yes it was.
“No, not at all, Mrs. Sullivan.”
“You come highly recommended, Mr. Pimm, but perhaps you’re not the right man for the job.”
“On the contrary, Mrs. Sullivan, I’m the only man for the job. I’m better than Philip Marlow, Sam Spade, Mike Hammer, Jim Rockford, Columbo, Peroit, all those losers.” I leaned back in my chair and laced my fingers behind my head. I mean, the fingers on my hands which I placed behind my head. I do not have fingers growing out of the back of my head. She crossed her arms across her chest and stared at me hard.
“Those are all fictional characters, Mr. Pimm,” she replied, not unreasonably.
“But so are we, Mrs. Sullivan. I am and you are.” She looked at me, frozen. They always freeze when I tell them the truth.
“Before you came through that door, you didn’t exist,” I continued. “You’re a character in a book, as am I. I’m going to solve your case, because that’s what the book is about, even if you decide not to hire me, I’m still going to solve the case. I’m going to investigate, track down clues, but they won’t really be clues, it’ll be colorful characters who hesitate to provide me information until they relent, not by any special skill on my part, but because our conversation has filled the requisite number of pages. I’ll get into scrapes, suffer at least one concussion, probably be drugged, accused of a crime, and finally, I’ll solve the case after suffering from multiple gunshots that should kill me. That’s how it happens, that’s how it always happens. I’ve been the same age for I don’t know how long. I know when I started, I used a rotary phone, now I have a cell, but I’m always 33. I was in the Army, somehow I’ve served in Korea and in Afghanistan. I know when I started out, I had blonde hair, and now it’s black, which I suspect was altered to make my appearance align with an actor who portrayed me in either an movie or a television program, whichever’s the case, it was popular enough to permanently alter my face. For the better, I might add, he was handsome, if a little bland. Oh, and one other thing, you and I going going to have sex with one another. Unfortunately, the scene will not be graphic.”
She stared at me. She should have run out the door and sent the men with the butterfly nets to catch me.
“You’re an odd man, Mr. Pimm,” she said, pulling out a checkbook. “A thousand dollar retainer?” I sighed. I was stuck in the story, nothing I said mattered,and nothing I could say would get me out of it. The case was mine whether I wanted it or not.