The rain beat against the window of my office harder than usual. If I knew anything about days like this, I knew that something bad was headed my way. Bad things never happen on sunny days. She was already there when I walked in the room. A barely there dress revealing more than it concealed, cigarette in hand, eyes blue enough to be used on a government form. I’ve never been good at metaphors. That damned jazz music was playing. I should get that radio of mine fixed. She didn’t seem like the girl singers sing songs about. Not these days. These days the songs are about that party you didn’t get invited to, backed by beats so sick they need hospitalisation. Her stare told me that I had something she wanted. Her words told me the same.
‘Mr Dawson, you have something I want.’
‘If it’s about the electricity bill, I can pass on the information to Mr Dawson.’
‘Are you not Jack Dawson?’
‘Are you not from the electric company?’
‘I am not.’
‘Then I am Mr Dawson. How can I help, Miss…?’
‘Mrs. actually,’ it figures. ‘Mrs. Mann. Anita Mann.’
‘Do you now?’
The smoke from her cigarette danced behind her lips before leaving in a chaotic rush, like students at the end of a long school day. Again, I’ve never been good at metaphors.
I took a seat at my desk and waited for her to continue. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a particularly busy man, in fact this would be my first real case in fifteen years.
‘It’s my husband.’
‘What’s your husband?’
‘A very wealthy man.’
‘In what business?’
‘So you’re a bonds girl?’
‘Only if I forget to put them on in the morning.’
Her frankness caught me off guard. Most would gift a cheap laugh at such a cheap joke. Not her. I caught a whiff of her perfume. Strong, crisp, full of bite. It reminded me of a girl I once knew. She took her seat on my desk, long legs folded delicately.
‘Tell me something Anita. Do you mind if I call you Anita?’ she didn’t. ‘Did you forget this morning?’
‘I’ll answer that if you answer me this: Why are you a dick?’
‘I like the truth. A private eye’s whole gig is to get to the truth.’
‘Why not be a reporter than?’
‘You obviously haven’t read the news lately. The world’s turning to crap and all Mr. and Mrs. Smith are on the front page. Reporters are selling lies dressed in truth’s clothing. Only a dick can get the truth.’
‘I knew you were the man I was after. I could use a man with your skills.’
It was true. I did have skills. Although I wondered how my ability of cooking a two minute mug cake in one minute fifty-eight seconds would be to her benefit. She hadn’t brought any mugs. Or flour. And worse still, the electricity had been cut off.
‘I need you to find my husband. I believe he has something that we both want.’
‘And that is?’
‘The truth, Mr Dawson.’
She was hiding something. What she was hiding, I wasn’t sure. Not five minutes ago we were old friends catching up at a bar. Now she was treating me like a creep she wanted to get rid of. In my experience when a client tries to hide details off a case, they’re trying to put me off. They think that hiding it shields themselves from the truth. Most often the things we don’t say say the most about us. That truth is why I got into this line of work.
‘Anita, this would be a lot easier if you gave me more to work with.’
‘But then what would I be paying you for?’
‘How much are we talking?’
‘Twenty thousand. Fifty if you can do it before the end of the month.’
‘What’s the end of the month?’
‘Nothing. I just thought a time frame would provide good motivation. Being married to a businessman has taught me a few things.’
Her eyes had glazed over, her smile now long gone. In the low light, I could see the years had taken their toll. This wasn’t a young woman, fighting back against a husband that had wronged her. No, this was a woman, emotionally scarred to the point that it left two lines across her face. Her forehead bared the scar of worry, a jagged mountain pass told in tales of adventurers long passed. The line on her chin was the one that intrigued me. Was it built from smiling too often? Or was I looking at a sarcasm chasm? Was this line born from too much happiness, or the lie of happiness? As she left my office I wondered what I had gotten myself into. It felt strangely calm in that office. For the first time in years that damned jazz music had stopped. Maybe I could actually close this case.