I stepped into my office praying that I still had pain killers in my desk, hoping that no one would be in there and that the slump would end tomorrow. That way I could sleep for the rest of the day.
It wasn’t a large office, but it had everything a PI like me needs with a smaller office for my secretary to sit, type and answer the phone. From the door my desk was on the left with my chair beyond it and two more chairs on the door side for any clients who should walk through my door. On the right were my brown sleeper couch and the door to my office bathroom. On the walls hung a few Hokusai prints, some samurai masks and a katana or two.
But when you wake up with a hangover like mine, you know that nothing is really going to go your way. It’s the kind of hangover that wakes you up at 4 in the morning and keeps you awake no matter how many painkillers you take. These suspicions were confirmed when I realised that there was a woman in an ominous red dress in my office, and the gun she had pointed at my head didn’t make me feel any better, either.
I turned to face the woman. “Listen, lady, I don’t know why you are here. But if you don’t spend the next 2 seconds shooting me then spend them passing me the painkillers that should be in the top desk drawer.”
She stood up out off my chair and sat down on my desk. “You don’t know who I am, do you?”
There was a hint of seduction in her hips that I found a little too hard to ignore. “Listen love, in a few seconds I won’t care, because I would have shot myself. The painkillers, if you please.”
She looked thoroughly perplexed but leaned over and opened my top drawer and pulled out a small bottle of pills. I looked at the bottle and in that moment understood what it must feel like to believe in God. She threw them over to me and put her gun away. I put three in my mouth and swallowed as I walked over to my side of the desk and sat down.
“Right, love. So, who are you? What are you doing here? And how can I help you?”
I felt like the slump might be over. But then again, she was wearing a red dress, and that always spelt danger for a man in my business. She slid across to the other side of my desk, crossed her legs in a way that made me wish I was still standing at the door and then turned to look at me. “Well, you see, I think my husband is cheating on me and I want you to find out.” She looked me up and down, and leaned over in the way that only women in red dresses can. “They say you’re the best and I want it done fast, with no mistakes.”
I had always had a sixth sense about the way the life of a private detective works; things like which of the drunken hobs had the most accurate information, when to shoot and when to talk, and most importantly, when to duck. I also knew that every PI has a slump and the woman in the red dress that gets you out of it means trouble is coming and it’s coming fast.
“So this is just a simple, ‘husband looking for birds in other nests’ case, huh?” says I as I lean back in my chair.
She straightens herself up, “It’s just the end of my marriage.”
I sighed a knowing sigh and ask, “So why the red dress?”
She gives me a very confused look. “Because it’s laundry day? What does the colour of my clothes have to do with anything?”
That slump must have dulled my senses, either that or 5 days of heavy drinking with a pianist. (Which is not an easy word to say when drunk, with out being stuck.) “Oh, well, nothing I guess, but....” Then it came to me. “Then why did you point a gun at me when I arrived?”
“What? Oh that, well, (sigh). Alright, you got me. My husband is wrapped up in the Mob and they have put a contract out on his and my life. When I heard the glass on the door breaking, I though someone had followed me here. Look, I came to you because you’re the best, and I need your help. If you can find my husband maybe you can find out why they’re trying to kill us. Also, why did you have to break into your own office?”
I know I still had it. I got up from behind my desk and walked slowly to the coffee machine. (I wasn’t walking slowly for effect; I was just still waiting for the pain killers to kick in.) I poured myself a cup of coffee, took a sip so as to buy myself some time to think of something to say with out having to tell her that I lost my keys while drunk. But before I could say anything, she continued, “And come to think of it, the door wasn’t locked, or even closed when I got here.”
I looked around my office and realized that my mini safe was missing. I put a concerned look on my face. “Look, it’s a dangerous world and I do a dangerous job. The less you know about what I do, the safer it is for you. What I need to know about from you is- when you said this was going to be a simple case, you lied, didn’t you?”
She had a puzzled look on her face as she said in a bemused voice, “Basically...yes.”
I thought about saying things like, “How can I trust you when you’ve already pointed a gun and me and lied?” But I know that the only way to get out of the slump is to trust the woman in the red dress. Also it seems like taking those painkillers only made my hangover angry. “Alright, darling, I’ll take the case.”
She uncrossed her legs, and I tried to uncross my eyes. (Never mix tequila with tomato soup. Trust me. Just, just trust me.)
“Here’s my card if you find anything. I recommend you start looking at the dockside pub. He always hung out there.” She headed out the door.
“Oh, one more thing before you go. What’s your husband’s name?”
She turned to look at me, “James, James Woods.”
And with that she was gone, slamming the door behind her. But I knew I would see her again. She would arrive at an inopportune moment to give me some more vital information which would contradict what she’d already told me, and may lead to any number of people dying. My God, I love my job. This is the type of case I got into this business for- the woman in the red dress. And with that I lay down on the floor of my office and passed out.