I saw the shadow pass across the frosted window in my door three times before it finally stopped outside. I heard a knock.
‘Come in!’ I shouted, and got up, closing the lid of my lap top and sliding it in to a drawer of my desk.
I met my visitor at the door and looked her up and down. Tall, long red curls. A looker too. I didn’t recognise her, wondered how she’d found me. She’d been crying, her green eyes were blood shot. I offered her a seat, and a drink.
‘You got any scotch?’ She asked. She looked at me, looked round my office and added, ‘or, based on the look of this place maybe I should ask for bourbon? What is this, a film set?’
I smiled, pouring us each a Black Jack. ‘I often got asked that question or a variation of it when people came to visit me for the first time.’
‘You’ve got this place done out like a cliché of a 1930’s New York private detective. Come to think of it, you’re dressed like one too. You for real?’
I handed her a bourbon, took a drink of mine.
‘I like it. I find it helps me to concentrate, Miss?’
I left it hanging. So did she.
‘Does this impress clients, or scare them off?’
‘Yeah, whatever, I’ve got a job for you and I need someone below the radar. You took some finding, I had to ask around, so I suspect you’re not well known? And no doubt you’re either very cheap or very expensive?’
‘Sorry, I didn’t catch your name and I have no idea what it is that you want? Can we rewind a little?’
‘You can call me Scarlett. It’s close enough. I need a detective.’
‘I don’t care how busy you are, or how expensive you are, I haven’t got time to find anyone else.’
‘Haven’t got time?’
‘I have to get this pen drive,’ she pulled a USB stick out of her bag and placed it in my hand, ‘to the right people within the next 24 hours. They’ll pay me well for it.’
‘So what’s on it?’
‘Some files that I stole from work.’
‘I’m not getting involved in anything illegal!’
‘Call it whistle blowing then. I need you to find the right people, deliver this and bring back the money. Simple.’
‘Scarlett, you need a courier not a detective, and certainly not…’
She banged her glass down on my antique desk.
‘I don’t have a name and address you idiot, just a place and time to meet with someone. I don’t know if I can trust them so I want to send someone who can help, maybe follow them if need’s be. I need a private detective. That’s you.’
‘You don’t seem to understand, or you don’t want to hear…’
‘I understand, you’re a bit odd with all this ‘30’s noir stuff, but you’re it. I haven’t got time to go looking for anyone else.’
‘Please listen to me. This 30’s noir stuff is a movie set. Well, set dressing anyway. I’m not a detective, I’m a writer. I write detective novels set in 30’s New York. This stuff helps me write. If you need help, call the police. Or a real private detective. I’m not who you’re looking for.’
She burst into tears again.
(C) Chris Johnson 2013