Cliche´ Noir

It was a slow day. Not many people stop by the office of a private detective on a Sunday. Or maybe it’s just that not many people go and get murdered on Sundays. But this particular rainy November night was different, and I knew it as soon as the dame walked in.

She was a brunette, and brunettes are always trouble. She had eyes as brown as a steak from Big Tony’s diner.

“Sorry Miss, but I’m closing shop. You’ll have to come back tomorrow.”

Crasher - Meredith Hoffman

She blew smoke in my face while sliding a wad of cash across my desk, right past an open bottle of whiskey and my trusty .44

“Will this change your mind?”

“No, I’m hungry. Come back tomorrow.”

The seduction tactic hadn’t worked since I lost my old girl in a shootout with the cops. I stood up, and noticed a heater pointed right at my left breast pocket.

“How about now? I can’t afford for you to turn this one down.”

“Look kid, if you shoot me I’m afraid I won’t be around to solve any case at all.”

    After she calmed down, she told me some kingpin named Red had pumped her man full of lead. She wanted Red at the bottom of the Hudson. I couldn’t see why she was so upset; it seemed like just your average murder. This Jane Doe was trying to cheat me out of my greasy diner food, and on a Sunday. I was mad. Real mad. So mad I could taste the royal with cheese I’d be missing just to crack this one.

    The first place to look for information in this part of the city was Big Tony’s diner. Tony and I went way back; he was the one who saved my skin in the shootout two years ago. I walked in to the smell of sizzling meat and cigarette smoke. Tony Two-Times caught my eye from behind the bar, and stopped flipping burgers to sit down at my table.

“How’s life treatin’ you, kid?”

The voice of Tony Two-Times was like the rumble of the thunder outside. They called him “Two-Times” because he did everything two times. If you ordered an espresso, you’d get a double shot, and he’d charge you twice.

“Doing well, Tony. Doing well. Look, I was wondering if you had any info on one Mr. Red.”

“Big Red? The mob boss? You’re in deep, pal. What’s the deal today?”

“Some dame waltzed in today looking for revenge. She said he was the culprit.”

Tony lit two cigars and puffed on them thoughtfully.

“Last I heard of him was when he iced old Officer Herring. Haven’t seen him since. I’d check the old train station, where he used to play cards. Watch out for the fuzz, though. That place shut down cause of unstable tunnels. They catch you, and you’ll end up incarcerated. If you’re ever in need of assistance just whistle. Twice.”

“A royal with cheese to go, Tony. Thanks for the help.”

The old rail station on the edge of the city was foreboding as hell. It was cold inside, and the quiet was unnatural. If anyone was down there, they would have heard the echo of my shoes on the cement floor. The station was either empty, or I was walking right into a trap.

“I thought you were better than this, detective.”

I whipped around at the sudden raspy voice behind me.

“Surely you would have known it was a setup. The dame, the murder, it was all too cliché.”

There was a man leaning against a wall between two of his gorillas, who had tommy’s trained on me. I recognized his voice, which sounded like a steam locomotive grinding to a desperate halt. The wide brim of his fedora hid his face; he was wearing a wrinkled grey suit that matched his complexion. He smiled as he adjusted his pink carnation.

“But alas, the bait was too tempting for you. I guess it’s true what they say about tough characters like you. You only see what you’re paid to see.”

    I’ve heard the whole speech before. He was about to explain his whole scheme, but I wasn’t in the mood.

“Go ahead and shoot me already so I don’t have to listen to you talk.”

    He continued, pretending he didn’t hear me. As he rambled on about his master plan like they always do, I ate my second burger. I could’ve sworn I’d seen this man before; his crooked nose was familiar. It was just like the one I gave the cop, two years ago.

“With you stuck in this train station, no one can stop the brunette from sabotaging the radio transmitter-”

“Officer Herring!”

    It was the copper who killed my partner in a shootout two years ago, right before he disappeared. I was about to make him disappear for good.

“So you finally-”

“You’re the one who killed my girl. I’m gonna do a hell of a lot worse than break your nose this time, you corrupt pig!”

    I shot him twice, right on the spot. As his body hit the cold cement, I dove behind a pillar as bullets whizzed past my ears. The thugs both looked like they could take 5 shots from my .44 and live to tell the tale. I didn’t see myself getting outa here in one piece without help. I whistled. Then, I whistled again.

    Tony Two-Times burst out from behind a pillar, two guns blazing.

“You didn’t think I’d let you waltz in without backup again, did you?”

    We were sprinting towards the stairs when the ceiling started to crumble. Tony stopped, turning towards the pursuing henchmen.

“Go on, kid. Pour me two glasses of whiskey when you get home.”

    I heard gunshots echo as the station caved in, when suddenly a bullet slammed into my back. The last thing I saw before I hit the ground were those brown eyes, like a steak from Big Tony’s Diner.