Stories, poems and other musings from the mind of a writer who suffers from World Builder's Disease
Chapter One of You Can’t Live Forever
This is the first draft and obviously is in need of editing.
The tall dame framed herself in the threshold of my office, unannounced, as if she was a torrid actress in some steamy picture show. I leveled a cool glare, snuffed out my Morley, exhaled a lungful of smoke in place of the string of curses on my mind, then tugged out the notes I’d been hammering away at from my typewriter. I hate being interrupted. Moreover, I hate crap cases like hers. My sour gut agreed.
Hayley Riggs, my mousy secretary, rushed behind the client, peering under the lanky broad’s arm, which and found a perch against the door frame. The kid didn’t even have to stoop. “I’m sorry, Mr. Swage,” she squeaked. “She just barged past…”
“It’s okay, kid,” I said, “I can handle it from here.” Then to the dame, “Please, Mrs. Winchester, won’t you have a seat?” If she didn’t catch my sarcasm, I’d be sure to add another dollop later.
Hayley gave a timid smile. “Can I get you both some coffee?”
“I’m good for now, sweetie, but you can bring Mrs. Winchester a cup.” I looked at the broad, who now loomed over my desk like a vulture waiting for the jackels to finish up. “You need sugar to soften the bitterness, Ernestine? Or a splash of cream?”
“I’m fine dear,” she told Hayley, almost sweetly. Then the vulture returned to her carrion. Apparently I was for dinner.
“Raymond Swage,” she said, her gloss-red upper lip sneering like she’d just taken a bite out of a turd cookie. “I’ve not heard from you in over a week. I’m paying you good money and don’t appreciate being kept in the dark. Do you, or do you not, have evidence of my husband’s infidelity?”
“Please, take a seat.” I offered, and she did–like a predator closing in, testing the safety of her new perch.
Ernestine Winchester was a fiercely handsome woman. Handsomely dressed in a handsome pale green suit copied no doubt from some men’s magazine from my era. Her handsome, thoroughly-dyed, dark brown hair was handsomely pulled into a perfectly handsome bun. Hell, even the crows feet at the corners of her handsome steel-grey eyes were handsomely prominent. Or should I say, ‘vultures-feet’? But all in all, as far as maturing dames go, she had a certain allure… This generation’s boys would likely refer to her as a MILF.
Her posture remained arrow erect, perched on the corner of a chair which was never designed for edge-sitting. Her handsomely-manly hands, strong long digits that could easily throttle the life out of a person, had polished nails a matching hue to her shiny lip-paint. Presently, she measuredly tapped a funeral dirge on the polished ebony of my desk.
“In the three days since you were last here–” I began.
“Yes. Or No. Do you have the proof? I am paying you good money, you louse.”
Her and her ‘good’ money. I’d never known anybody’s money to be bad. Uncashed checks, sure. But money, never.
Her tidy brows furrowed, giving away her battle plans of another eminent salvo of derision. It was plain that whatever response she heard would be the wrong one.
So I stood, giving her my best, most patient smile. “Look, doll, you hired me to find hard evidence of your husband’s perfidy.”
“And… as of right now I have nothing conclusive.”
“Of course you don’t.”
Then her eyes shifted tone, softened. The corners of her rosy lips raised in a knowing smile, then parted, flashing me a glimpse of her pristine, and yes, handsome teeth. “Is there some other way, Ray, that I might persuade you to fast track your investigation, on proving that my husband is a cheating, lying sack of shit?” Her whole posture softened, and swear to Jesus, she batted her big, fake lashes at me.
“Raymond,” I corrected. If this dame thought she could play me that easily, she’d have another thing coming. “You call me Raymond.”
I returned both her smile and my keister to my seat. I could play this game, too. This doll may be rich, but it was her husband’s dough. He’s an exec in a music production company. The joe’s also loosely related to the old batty Winchester broad who built that crazy house down south. They made a picture about her a year or so back, not that I saw it. No, Ernestine Winchester’s cash came from her old man, and dollars to doughnuts she’s tapped out and needs the divorce for the settlement dough. Which means she needs me to dig up the dirt.
“I see,” she said. “Raymond…” She softened even further, and arched her back, seductively raising her ample, and–you guessed it–handsome bosom.
I rose, a very bad thought flashing through my mind. There’s business ethics, then there’s business ethics. Hell, if the worst came of it, I might have some proof of her infidelity to sell to her mister. Her soon to be ex-mister.
I went to the door and flipped closed the latch, and when I turned back to Mrs. Winchester, I found her sitting on my desk doing her best Basic Instinct impression. She was no Sharon Stone, but I give her an A for effort. Extra credit for premeditation in her plan of action. This was proof that she was the genuine artilcle, despite her otherwise angular and handsome features.
And of course, this is exactly when Roz chose to show up.
For pete’s sake.
Across my office behind my desk and out of the client’s view (not that it mattered), Roz appeared in that thin hippie dress, sitting atop the big metal filing cabinet with the very look an addict has when they’ve scored big. She smiled at me sardonically with those big, sexy eyes. Her always-bare legs dangled over the front of the cabinet like a little girl’s, kicking in and out. Only, when her pale pink feet went ‘in,’ they passed right through the front of cabinet. Roz, you see, is a ghost. She’s my ghost.
Next, Roz taunted me with gestures: first, a circle made of thumb and forefinger on one hand, the other thrusting a finger through it with that unmistakable meaning. She then made a Vee with the first two fingers on her right hand and flicked her tongue between them, laughing uproariously–but of course neither of us could not hear her, Roz being a spirit and all. Then, she mouthed something to me, like “Fuck her, bad boy. Fuck her hard!”
Needless to say, the rising story of the action in my pants went straight to denouement without the satisfying climax. One thing about Roz, she sure knows how to ruin a moment.
Just then, the buzzer on the desk phone sounded, and Hayley’s voice filled the room, tinny and thin. Technology had made little progress on the intercom.
“I’m sorry to interrupt your meeting, Mr. Swage, but a Ms. Knight is on line one. She says she is in town and that it is urgent she speak with you.”
Roz lifted an elbow high, then brought her arm down, soundlessly snapping her fingers in one of those ‘damn the bad luck’ motions. She flashed mock disappointment by way of a pouty frown, then hopped down and walked through the wall into the reception area.
I pressed the com button and said, “Get her number, sweets. Tell her I’ll return the call presently.”
Mrs. Winchester leapt from the desk. “Mr. Swage, if you don’t bring me proof so I can sue my husband for divorce,” her voice was petulant, whiny even, “I will be forced to employ someone who will!”
I smiled. “Last I saw, America’s a free country like that.” Extra dollop, free of charge.
If CJ Knight needed my help, I wouldn’t need this lousy Winchester job. This day was suddenly looking up.