Friday, June 14, 2013

Mamie Barlowe, Psychic Detective, "The Case of the Misplaced Husband." Episode 1

Her name is Roxy Clumper. She has short satiny blonde hair; the kind of hair you see on a mannequin before it slides right off; the kind of hair I could shoot a bullet at, and it would boomerang. Her cheekbones are angled so sharply, a mountain climber would stake her. Take the eyes. They are spaced far apart. It's a wonder she can look at me straight. Her nose and mouth practically kiss each other. With harlot red lipstick that's a no no. Makes me to want to reach for my Glock 22 .40 caliber pistol. Click the safety off.

In short, Roxy resembles a dime-store hooker holding up a lamppost after a rainstorm. But her clothes scream designer with a capital D. How do I know? You don't have to be Holmes, see. Take the rain coat: silk-lined pockets, with lapel flaps that stand at attention like two stiffs hanging from a meat hook. A single price tag dangles from her arm pit; the kind of tag I see on Modeo drive.  I shouldn't be looking at it.  There's a belt, loosely tied around her waist, but wider than a leather strap used to beat the snot out of people. A white-lace bodice peeps out at me between buttons lined up like soldiers in a drill. I think she's wearing a dress. I don't know. I'm starting to get bored.

My name is Mamie Barlowe. I'm a psychic. A real, honest to God psychic. In my line of work, that's a plus. I'm a private investigator, see. I work solo. I charge by the job: $10,000 minimum, cash upfront. I can afford to name my price. I work in the ritzy part of town where rents are high, and tastes run from caviar to champagne to gold bars to roadsters. The type of clothes I wear depend on the occasion. Today, I'm wearing basic widow black: jeans, button-down silk shirt, and shoes with heels considered to be weapons of mass destruction by law-enforcement. The bulls pick up a lot of ball sacks before I'm done with a case, see. Then they come tell me about it. Then they laugh. My thick, unruly hair, more blackish-blonde than red, is the length of a twelve-inch ruler, you know, the kind of ruler a nun carries for protection. I saucily sport a grey beret as a reminder to keep my wild hair in check. Otherwise, it's one pull and I'm flat on my tookus—advantage criminal. Oh yeah, I'm mostly always in a soldier-standing-at-attention kind of mood, too, with the patience of a doberman humping a sea turtle.

My wannabe client misplaced her husband. Those are her words. These are my thoughts. I lose things: a car on occasion, a cellphone, a wallet, a coffee machine, just to name a few.  I don't misplace them. Particularly a man.

"So, will you be able to find my Bertie, or not?" Roxy's sneer ends in a whine. Her thin eyebrows fold together like twin points of a star scratching its back. That's when I notice a one inch scar right above the corner of the left eye. Like she took a header out a plate glass window. I wish I had a plate glass window.

"Wrong question. Try again." I flap my lips on occasion. When I'm annoyed. And I'm beyond annoyed.

Roxy can pout with the best of French poodles. "I mean, will you take my case?" She can yap, too. "A simple yes or no would be appreciated. There are other Private Investigators, you know."

"They're dicks. I'm a psychic." Good thing I'm sitting on the softest leather chair imaginable. Keeps me calm. Picture a pillow floating by on a cloud of toilet tissue. My clients sit on rickety wooden, straight-back chairs I bought at a rummage sale for a buck each.  I don't want them comfortable.  My office walls are bare; no movie posters, clock, bass, fake moose heads, or photograph's. No fish tanks, nude sculptures, or knick knacks in the office, either. I don't want them distracted. It's just me, my chair, laptop, and desk, see. The desk is carved out of the finest mahogany, you know, the kind of desk that says all work and no play makes Mamie a menace to society. I don't like purses. Where I carry a gun is where I carry my valuables: wallet, cellphone, tissue, taser, and mint gum. The gum comes in handy. Like a torpedo in close quarters—sometimes dangerous, sometimes sexy. Don't ask."Ok, I'll find your Bertie. Be $10,000 cash. Upfront." This case is a cinch. With a name like Bertie Clumper, the man's sniffing his wife's mules, or he's dead. Either way, I get paid.

"B-but that's ridiculous," she sputters. "I don't carry that kind of cash." Her black eyes spawn twin tornadoes. Lethal. I'm sensing she's trouble. Trouble with a capital T!

I pull out the machine. "Or credit. A 3% surcharge will be tacked on." She stares at me like I got leeches coming out of my eyes. I steam toward Niagara Falls carrying a barrel. And it doesn't have my name on it. "Look lady, this isn't Value Mart. Are you telling me your husband's life isn't worth a plugged corpse with gold teeth and diamond-studded eyelids?"

"Of course, not. I love my Bertie. I'll do anything . . . pay anything . . . I just want to see him again." She pulls out a black Diva card.

Whoa! Exclusive club; the kind where people jet to the moon and back for dinner. If they could. I swipe it and hand it back over, but not without feeling the card up, the tops of my gold-painted fingernails flicking across the gold-embossed letters like it's a fine cowboy action .357 Magnum Ruger Vaquero, with an extra-long Bisley hammer. "Ok, so when's the last time you saw Bertie?"

"Yesterday. We went parachuting. Bertie likes to live on the edge, you know? Anyway, I landed, but he didn't. I mean, I never saw him land."

Either her eyes are misting, or mine are. I can't see through the fog of boredom. "And yesterday, birds were chirping. Today, it's raining. I would've gone bird-watching yesterday, capiche?"

"Well . . . Bertie does really odd things at times. I wasn't too worried. Until this morning, when he didn't return my frantic calls. That's not like Bertie."

"So, quick question, who let go of who first?"

"I-I'm not quite sure what you're asking . . . I mean, at some point we might've been together, but—"

"Together, you mean as in jumping out the plane together, or rolling out the plane together, or accidentally falling out the plane together?"

The color red is not a good one on this tomato. She takes blushing to an art form. If you like art. I don't.

"Is that question really relevant, Ms. Barlowe?"

"Yeah. I wasn't conceived in a parachute accident, Mrs. Clumper. My mom and pop did it right. You two, on the other hand, did it wrong."

"How dare you suggest what it is I think you're suggesting! I don't have to sit here and—"

"No you don't, but here's what you're gonna do. You're gonna leave now. But on your way out, you're gonna talk to my secretary, and sell her the whole salami sandwich. Don't lie. Don't leave anything out.  She'll give you a receipt for the ten grand, plus the 3% surcharge. Oh, and leave her something that Bertie touched recently." Roxy glances down at her chest quicker than I can slap her. I throw up my hands instead. "Those don't count." I stand up. "I'll be in touch."

If she were a chair, she'd have fallen over barreling out of the office like that. Instead, she knocks over my rummage sale special without so much as a goodbye!

People. Gotta love 'em. Or shoot 'em.

I'm good at both.