Chapter One – Sinking Ships

(Keywords: ship, satellite, high/hi, written as the first chapter of a book)

My life is like a sinking ship. There is a big hole in it and all who cared for the vessel have jumped overboard to save their own lives. Now the liquid is pouring in and all there is to do is wait.

The door opened and Sally walked into my office. She put a telephone transcript on my desk. I knew it was a telephone transcript as she always wrote those on yellow paper. In a continuous motion, she took the bottle of Southern Comfort out of my hand, screwed the lid back on, and dropped the bottle in the bottom drawer of my desk.

“We’ve got a case. Give the woman a call,” she said and left.

As she pulled the door shut behind her, the image of her curving hips lingered on my retinas. Sally was my secretary, hovering around me like a satellite around earth. She was the connection between me and the rest of the world. I was lost without her. Although how long she’d stay, I had no idea. We hadn’t had a case for over a month and I hadn’t figured out how to pay her yet. There was only so much a girl could take. I figured that one out the hard way.

I picked up the yellow paper and read Sally’s writing. The message was short. A name, Lexie Dexter, and a phone number. What would the woman want from me? Find out if her husband had an affair? Find her long-lost relative? All depressing outcomes, no matter how much you prepared them for it. People should leave the past behind them. Nothing good would come from digging it up.

I dialed the number and heard the phone ring on the other end of the line. After the second ring, it was answered.

“Yes,” was the only thing she said.

The voice was low, without emotion. A shiver ran down my spine.

“It’s Matto, private investigator. You called.”

There was silence for a moment. Was she thinking of backing out? Did she all of a sudden figure it wasn’t worth the hassle anymore? Didn’t she like the tone of my voice? Women could be so fickle sometimes.

“We need to talk,” she said.

“I thought we were.”

“I need to show you something,” her voice now irritated.

“You know where my office is,” I said. It wasn’t a question. If she got the phone number, she very likely found it next to the address.

“No, not there. I can’t be seen going into your office. Meet me at the Crazy Horse bar. Half an hour.” The line went dead.

I stared at the phone. It had been a strange conversation. Normally, the women who were asking for my help would follow my instructions, not the other way around. Why couldn’t she be seen coming here? Was it below her ranking? Was it too dangerous? It was not my habit to get involved in any mafia business, but the woman had peaked my interest and wild horses couldn’t keep me away from this one, mafia or not. Grabbing my coat, I told Sally I was going out.

“When will you be back?” she asked.

“When I’m thirsty,” I replied as I went down the stairs.

The Crazy Horse was an Italian bar. Mafia territory. Why did the broad pick this bar? It was an ill omen. My eyes had to adjust to the darkness inside. One man behind the bar, three at a table at the door, and a few couples scattered around the place. Apart from the entrance, there was one escape exit at the back of the joint. I ordered an Alabama Slamma and took a seat with my back to the wall. I didn’t like surprises. It wasn’t long before my new client showed up. When she entered, I immediately knew it was her. She was tall, even without the high heels, and had a figure to die for. Marilyn Monroe curves. A faux-fur was slung over her shoulders. In her hands, she clasped a precious stone studded purse. Why the hell did she pick this louche bar when dressed like this? So much for keeping a low profile. She went straight to my table and sat down. One of the customers must have talked. The woman had connections. And money.

She stuck her hand out and said, “Hi, I’m Lexie Dexter.”

I shook her hand and noted the scent of her hand cream. It was stronger than the perfume she was wearing. Her nails were well manicured and there were several rings studded with diamonds on her fingers. ‘Loaded is more like it,’ I thought about the financial status of the woman and the positive prospects of mine.

“Mike Matto,” I said. “You wanted to show me something.”

The woman looked around her. She took a gun out of her purse and put it on the table. I stared at it. This was not exactly what I had expected. When I looked around, nobody seemed phased by the fact there was a weapon on the table.

“This is the gun that killed my husband an hour ago,” she said.

“You shouldn’t have touched it and have gone to the police, lady,” I said. I downed my Alabama Slamma and made a move to get out of my seat.

The woman put her hand on my arm. I noticed the skin of her hand was tanned, which didn’t match the paleness of her face. The tan nor the blush the woman had applied on her cheeks could hide the ghostly complexion of her face. She didn’t say anything. It was the pleading in her eyes which made me sit back down. They were so much like my Melody’s eyes.

There was a contradiction to the woman I couldn’t pinpoint. She seemed strong, but I wondered if it was all a façade. I figured it couldn’t hurt to hear her out.

“My fingerprints are all over it anyway,” she continued. “There was even gunpowder on my hands, but I didn’t do it. It was the other person inside me.”

 

Copyrighted (c) by Jacky Dahlhaus

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