Lily and the Girl

I scan the room while she scans me with her leg muscles tense, ready to bolt for the fire escape. She’s got one arm reaching toward a chipped kitchen knife on the chair nearby. Hopefully I won’t give her a reason.

There’s a guy passed out on the remains of a couch in the corner. He’s feeling no pain and might have even worked a steady job some time in the distant past. I wonder if she’s ever told herself she loves him. He snorts and whines in his sleep, scratching at blotchy skin.

The scattered pile of money on the coffee table gives off a bad vibe. Some hapless clerk in a convenience store got shot for that money, or maybe a little old lady in an alley got smacked with a wrench a little too hard so somebody could grab her purse. Or a junkie injected drugs cut with a little too much rat poison. Or all of the above.

“Your mom wanted to know where you were,” I explain. She relaxes a little when I mention her mom, so I try a little more of that. “She’s worried about you. She thought maybe I could talk you into going home.” I smile just a little. “I bet I can’t.”

She sneers. “You’re right. I’m never going back.”

Never is a long time, I think. “This glamorous life everything you dreamed of? I can see why you couldn’t give it up.” I watch a rat dart across the floor from one pile of garbage to another.

“You can judge me all you want, but you don’t know anything about what I’m going through.” Sure. You love it here.

Then she makes up her mind about the situation, turns half away from me, and starts stuffing clothes into a backpack. “You running again then?”

“If you found me, someone else can. I need to keep moving. That’s what I do now. You wouldn’t understand.” Maybe not. Running was never really my thing.

I decide to try one more trick, and take a couple of steps forward, snagging a quarter off the coffee table. She whirls and stiffens, reaching toward the knife again.

“You tryn’ to steal my money or what?” she asks, stretching out her free hand.

“You know somebody died for this, right?” I try, holding the quarter up in our mutual line of sight.

Her hand stays steady. “Whatever. It’s mine now and that shit’s not my problem.” Shocking.

Holding her gaze, I rub George’s head with my thumb, then flip it and rub the architecture on the tails side. Somebody got killed for the bills, too, but I just fix the quarter. I’ve always found coins are easier to work with.

“Knock yourself out,” I say as I flip it back at her. She catches it out of the air and glares for a second before stuffing it into her pocket.

She turns and resumes rummaging in her rat nest. I lean back against the doorframe with my arms crossed and shape words with my lips without speaking, trying to hold not so much an image as an emotional state in my mind – betrayal, desperation, pain, regret. It takes her a minute to notice the warm dampness spreading down her leg.

“What the fuck?” she cries when she notices, grasping and slapping at her pocket. She slides a hand in and pulls it back out sticky with blood. Her eyes widen and she begins to hyperventilate, which makes accusing me difficult.

“Wha…you…you…d…did…”

“I told you it was blood money. I thought you didn’t care?” I fake a smile before I turn and walk away, a little too fast. She screams a bit and then I hear her crash into something. Melodramatic.

By the time she gets her pants off the blood’s going to be gone, but I think I made an impression. It might change her path. Probably not.

I’m a real hero.

Lily and the Girl

101 Gumshoe

As she sashayed away I contemplated her … case. Hubby was worried about arson with that fire burning under his nose? Half a bottle later, I sauntered down to the warehouse – only to find his smoking ashes.

I comforted the grieving widow on his leather couch, twice. Later, I did some snooping – and thinking. Insurance fraud? It seemed too obvious, until I found the paperwork. Then something heavy found my head.

Woke up tied down, smelling smoke. This can’t be good. Hubby’s blood and hair was mixed with mine on her hammer. “Sorry detective … those weren’t the papers I hired you to find.”

101 Gumshoe

All I Wanna Do, 1

“It’s like you’re going out of your way to call attention to yourself,” I said, taking a clipboard full of papers from the cop on the other side of the scarred desk.

She stood haughtily in her borrowed sweat pants and too-large “I Hate Mondays!” T-shirt. “I have no idea what you’re referring to.”  Her expression reminded me of the time we’d spent learning to play Space Poker in some distant future.

I started ticking scandals off on my fingers. “You rigged the Lottery and then wasted all your winnings to build the biggest, ugliest statue I’ve ever seen, right where half of London has to witness it on their way to work.”

“I’ve seen uglier. It was a disappointment, really.”

“You filmed yourself paying politicians for sex and then released all the videos on Youtube under the pseudonym ‘Jerkhumper’.”

“Not very inventive, I know. I was kind of super stoned for that one.”

“You spiked the communion wine at a church in Texas with LSD, then dressed up as an angel and jumped down from the rafters in the middle of the children’s sermon to proclaim that Jesus had been reborn in San Francisco as a gay black woman.”

“Your tone of voice implies you think that’s a bad thing.”

“And now this, riding a bull naked through Wall Street with a bear on a chain behind you, screaming about how Lady Godiva stole all of your best ideas?”

“Ah-HA!” she yelled, slapping the wall with one hand. “But did she really, or was that just a clever ruse?”

“I’m guessing she didn’t really,” I admitted. “Because that doesn’t make any damned sense.”

“Sense, smensh,” she said as I signed the last page of the forms. “Oh, sorry. Forgot who I was talking to.”

“The nice guy who’s bailing you out of jail again?” I tried.

“My Anchor! My John! My boringest of borings!” she cried with outstretched arms. I saw the hug coming and managed to dodge, so she settled for embracing a large plastic ficus.

As we hit the street outside, a grimy old man lumbered over to us. “We don’t have any money,” I tried, wondering how it is these guys can stand wearing four winter coats at the same time in weather that left me dripping sweat in my t-shirt. He ignored me and reached shaking mismatched gloves out to my companion, who held her own white knuckles out as though expecting a kiss. I groaned and wondered what new nonsense was about to unfold.

“Is it done?” she asked, hopping in place a little as he grabbed her hand.

“Yaargh,” he said, or something like that. “Dankee.” Then he stumbled away to wherever.

“Friend of yours?” I asked as we walked off.

“Partner in crime,” she replied, holding up a memory stick that presumably hadn’t been in her possession a minute ago. “You have to admit, I make a pretty good distraction.”

I shook my head. “I don’t even want to know what’s on that.”

“Nope,” she agreed, hiding it away somewhere with a twist of her wrist. “You really don’t. And neither does the CEO of – ”

“La la la I can’t hear you,” I yelled with my fingers in my ears.

As we pulled away from the curb in my hybrid, I wondered aloud, “Where’d the police put your zoo animals, anyway?”

“Right,” she said. “I was wondering when we’d get to that.  Let me answer your question with a question: how does your landlord feel about pets?”

All I Wanna Do, 1