[Editors’ note: Originally published April 22, 2009; last in a three-part series chronicling a PI squirrel’s day off.
This is all we got for now, folks. As usual, the story is as true as you make it. If there’s a case you need this Nut to crack, and you’ve saved up your acorns, you too can hire him. Ask at the big oak tree, third knot from the old tire swing. Just look out for Grace.]
There was a time when I used to fix things. Or try, anyway. I liked nothing better than to come flying in and make everything better when a friend was down. It didn’t hurt if the friend was female, a little Lois Lane action.
But that was a long time ago. I learned something since then. Something about the coldness that most people are capable of. Heroes are suckers.
I flicked my cigarette butt into the road. I saw sparks as it bounced off the glass of a little Honda. I liked that. I didn’t even smoke. I just liked sharing the ambivalent morality of jerks that toss burning butts into the urban wild.
One of these days I gotta look up what “ambivalent morality” means.
The day was not going well. I don’t get many days off, running my own detective shop, and I had wanted to take it easy on this one. No such luck. I’d already been dumfounded by a pair of mixed up dames. Real doozies, both of ‘em. Now I was steering my motorized roller skate into the parking lot of a club. A music club, with plenty of cold beer.
This was a casual place, but I knew people here. Decent people, if a little off. I wasn’t really dressed for a night on the town anyway, wearing nothing but a baseball cap.
I didn’t know who was playing, and I didn’t care. Anything to drown out the echoes of insanity from the past week would be a relief.
The first band hadn’t started yet. I pattered in and headed for the bar. I saw an open seat, and it was next to a lithe little redhead lady. (You probably already guessed it was gonna be a female). Before I got there, I saw it coming. This was going to be bad.
“Plastic? A plastic cup?? You pulled me a pint of Guinness into a PLASTIC CUP?!?” The young bartender looked worried, and she had very good reason.
“Hey there, miss! I’m sorry about that. Look, my gal here is new – she didn’t know!” The senior bar man jumped in, hoping to avoid the coming blood bath.
It didn’t work. My Guinness loving barmate was a blur of dark red hair and little black dress, diving across the bar. I remember getting a shot of some cute frilly panties under a too-short skirt. After that, I don’t remember much. There was a short struggle, some gruesome snapping and gurgling sounds, and it was over.
“Aww, geeze. That’s the third one this year.” The now-solo barkeeper sighed. “I guess we need to put a note on that tap handle. I don’t know why the young ones never know any better.”
This girl had my attention. She sat down again, got a fresh glass-pinted Guinness, and got back to being cute. I was sure by now that she was a real redhead, not a fake job.
I wasn’t sure where to go from here. I don’t chat up chicks very often. It usually gets me hurt. And I don’t mean heartache, I mean bruises and broken bones. Being a foot tall with a big mouth is a dangerous way to live.
I sipped my whisky while thinking about what to do next. The band had started and the song was catchy. I hummed along a bit, then started tapping my fingers on the bar. I was keeping time pretty well, snapping along with the tight trap set.
Suddenly her hand was in my lap! “You’re not a drummer, are you?!?”
Her face was flushed with excitement, and her eyes were absolutely on fire. I saw a deep burning passion in her face, and saw down her dress as she leaned over to get closer to me. I could see where this was leading.
An unfamiliar feeling of conflict unsettled me. She’d asked me a question, and the answer mattered. I had to choose between pretending to live up to this dame’s fantasies or showing some integrity and hoping she respected that.
“Uh, no.” Integrity won. Crap. I need to work on that.
She spun around and walked off without a word. There must have been better options on stage. Or in the kitchen. Who knows.
It took me a second to realize that there was still a hand in my lap. I looked the other way down the bar and saw the her this one belonged to.
She was younger than me, but that’s not too hard to do any more. More importantly, she was a beauty queen. Tall, blonde, big deep eyes… I was sold. Again.
“I heard your baritone humming earlier. You like a tight bottom end?”
I may have a brain the size of a lead singer’s modesty, but I can figure out a single-entendre. I suddenly thought the evening might wind up back at my pad after all.
“I like ‘em all ways, but especially tight.”
“Good. I… hoped you might deliver a package for me.”
She was getting express overnight service, for sure. I ordered drinks to help keep the conversation going. “I’ve got a package for you, don’t you worry about that.”
“Just one thing though…” She leaned in, her thick eyelashes brushing my ears as they fluttered.
“Ask me anything, chickie-pie!”
“You are a bass player, right?”
“Well no, I just…” Aw crap. Did it again.
“Oh. Well, I was just on my way to meet the boys back stage. Maybe I’ll see you out next time they play.”
The last swig of bourbon burned a little more than usual as she walked away. I would’ve ordered another, and ten more after that, but I had to get up in the morning. Tomorrow was time to go back to work.
My work was nothing but following losers and creeps and scum and lowlifes, documenting their wickedness for whoever might hate them enough to pay. After a day like today, I could hardly wait.