Detective Story

by Steve

Detective Short Stories magazine coverContinuing my blog post idea challenge, here’s a little piece of fiction, following Mr Pizza Cottontail’s suggestion that I write a short story (slash, detective, Southern gothic, etc.) about my blog’s commenters. It is very much tongue-in-cheek, I went for a detective story (I guess you worked that out from the title of this post, eh?) and I assure you I intend to cause no offense! Here goes…

The rain outside hit my window like a line drive from a wiseguy. Darkness outside, shot by woozy neon. A broad walks into my office. Hot as hell, and twice as deadly. She asks me if I’m still in the detective business. I tell her. “Lady, that’s what it says on my door.”

She throws a brown envelope on my desk. “What do you want?” I ask. She says, “What do you do for ten thousand?” I tell her, “For ten thousand fast little bucks I’ll do anything short of kill a man.” Looking at her curves I thought to myself that I might make an exception for her.

“Oh, I don’t want anyone killed,” she says. “I just want to you to check out this joint, Steve’s Bar. Find out why so few people go there these days.” I open the envelope, check the cash. “You’re willing to pay me ten Gs for that? Why?”

She lowers her sunglasses, gives me a long, good look.

“And why do you need to know?”

“Well, honey, it helps me with my job to know what I’m getting into.”

“Oh, you’re getting into nothing yet, mister.”

“How about a name?”

“The name’s MacGuffin. I look forward to hearing from you.”

So, I head to Steve’s Bar, an old dive joint by the docks. If you’re a student of law you might remember Old Mad Eyes Kowalski getting clipped there by the Colombo Gang way back when. You wouldn’t know it now to look at it.

I step inside. I see the barman. Zac they call him. I ask for a beer. He starts rapping about hops and malt and IPAs and Imperial Stouts. I ask him for a Bud. Just to mess with him a little. Then I order a scotch. Straight.

He tells me things have been quiet around here a while. He says this is not on account of the beer. I drink my scotch, I look around the room.

“So, you got a musician here, huh?” Zac nods. The guitarist finishes his song, and sits back in his place. Zac turns on the stereo. I don’t know what it is, but I don’t like it.

I walk over to the guitarist.

His name is Steven. Been playing years. Writes too. Some kind of beatnik. He’s not happy that he’s playing to this empty room each and every night. He may be some great observer of life, I don’t know, but he’s got no answers for me.

I turn to the other side of the bar. Two guys watching the TV. Watching cycling, it looks like. Zac tells me that’s Tim and MDS. They just sit and watch the cycling, day after day. That’s not the entertainment the men from the docks want, I bet. But that couldn’t explain it all.

Then I cast my eye on the last guy in the bar. Sitting alone. I head over.

“What’s that you drinking, stranger?”

“Hot tea.” I don’t offer to buy him a fresh one.

I ask him his name.

“Cottontail. Pizza Cottontail”

“A likely name, stranger.”

“It’s the only one I got. And what can I do for you?”

“I’m just a regular guy wondering why this regular bar is so empty.”

“Maybe there’s not many regular guys anymore.”

I look him up and down. “Maybe.”

He looks up at me. Glint in his eye.

“Or maybe the regulars didn’t like it when I’d follow them out, follow them from a fair distance, for a few hours. I’d take note of their behaviours: did they sigh heavily when trapped in the back of a long Starbucks line? Did they think to use the restroom before they ordered that coffee, or did they have to navigate the men’s room with a Venti black in hand? That book they were reading on the bus–was it one they understood and enjoyed, or did they keep looking up from it, as if to see if anyone would make conversation with them? Did they tip well?” He took a breath.  “At the end of the day, I’d introduce myself and tell the stranger what I’d learned about the experience.”

“I see. And who set you up to that?”

“Oh, nobody set me up. Just somebody gave me the idea.”

“And who might that be?”

“You might know her. Mrs MacGuffin.”

Image from newhousedesign, via Flickr