1; My name’s Matt Spector, and I hear voices in my head…
It isn’t often that the voices in my head agree on much. Most of the time they’re split fairly neatly into two camps; one who wants to try and do good by everyone, and one who wants to beat the living hell out of anyone who looks at me wrong. The few times they did agree, though, it was usually a good idea to listen. And right now they were all telling me that this guy was trouble. Unfortunately for me, he looked like the kind of trouble who could pay, which meant he was the kind that I couldn’t afford to turn away.
He was tall, only a couple of inches off me, although he was slimmer, leaner. Couldn’t have been much above 20. He had short black hair, slicked back with a tankers worth of grease, although a thin comma of hair hd managed to escape and fallen down beside his cheekbone, giving him a slightly unhinged look. He had a square jaw, the kind most boxers would kill to have, and there was a predatory glint in his eyes. His mouth was drawn into a tight sneer, the type that didn’t like you and didn’t care who knew it. He wore a white shirt and skinny black tie, underneath a navy blue blazer with upturned lapels. His shoes probably cost more than my entire outfit, although there were a few blemishes on the black leather which suggested he didn’t take as much care of them as he should have done. He looked like he might be one of The Wonder Who?, or at least one of their younger brothers. Two of my voices already wanted to punch him in the face. If we’d been somewhere else, like a bar or a daycare centre, I might have done. Instead, I stayed sat down and gestured towards the chair on the other side of my desk.
“What can I do for you, Mr…?” The question was left hanging, like a dead body in the middle of a crowded Victorian square.
It was eventually answered by a small, distinctly feminine voice emanating from behind Frankie Valli. It was my secretary, Jane Wendell. She peered round him, eager to avoid coming too close. I didn’t blame her. She was small, with light brown hair and intelligent eyes that she hid behind thick rimmed glasses. I’d always said she’d be a looker if she ever took them off. She’d told me that was sexist. She was probably right.
“He, uhhhh, he wouldn’t say his name,” she said, almost apologetically.
“Course he wouldn’t,” I responded rolling my eyes. He seemed to take offence at that.
“That gonna be a problem?” he snarled. His voice, as rough as being dragged over sharp gravel, clashed with his youthful appearance.
“You willing to pay?” I asked. “It’s $25 per hour, plus expenses.”
He laughed again. He sounded like a damn hyena.
“There’s a bonus if you actually find him.” Somehow I didn’t think he was confident of my chances.
“Oh yeah? How much?”
“$5000.” I heard the collective whistle which signalled my voices were sufficiently impressed.
“Then no, it’s not gonna be a problem.” He chuckled humourlessly, and didn’t sit down. There was another pause. “Who do you want me to find?” He flicked his head towards Jane.
“Not with her in the room.” She began to slip out of the doorway and back to her desk, just outside. For a second I considered telling him how stupid that was, considering she already knew he was looking for someone and she could always just ask me afterwards, but then I remembered how much I wanted a proper breakfast again. I let her leave.
“Now, what can I do for you?” He began fishing for something in his pocket. One of the voices began to yell, louder than the other, telling me to run at him and pin his hands down before headbutting his face into warm mush. That was Sarge. He got nervous around guns. Or even people who might have guns. I tried to stay cool. Good old Frankie still had his nose, so I guess I succeeded.
What he actually pulled out was a photograph, in colour, which he handed to me. It was of another twenty something, similar looking to the man in front of me, but better looking, with a gigawatt smile as wide as the Grand Canyon. He had longer hair, too, lighter, almost reaching his shoulders. His eyes were a piercing blue, the same colour as the expensive looking tie clipped neatly to his pressed white shirt, over which he wore a pinstriped waistcoat. As a man who appreciated a good waistcoat, I could tell it was a damn fine one. By the looks of it, the photograph was an old family one, taken in front of an elaborate painting of a pastoral scene, hanging on a rich wood panelled wall.
“He got a name?” I asked. “Or are you not gonna tell me that either?” Reluctantly, he answered.
“His name’s Richie Malone.” He didn’t bother to elaborate.
“Well, good thing that’s all the information I could possibly need.” He didn’t seem to find that as funny as I did.
“What do you want to know?” The growl had become more pronounced.
“Friends, associates, hobbies, favourite joints, favourite hookers…”
“He didn’t tend to need prostitutes.” For the first time since I’d met him, he actually smiled a little bit. Either that or the lighting had changed slightly. It was hard to tell.
Two of the voices snorted. The third, Billy, took considerably longer to work it out. He was young. When he did work it out, he emitted a quiet “Ohhhhhh…” of understanding. I continued. “So he’s a bit of a ladies man, is he?”
“You worked that one out huh?” He didn’t sound too impressed. Billy tried to console me by deciding ol’ Frankie just didn’t appreciate the intricacies of proper detective work. I wasn’t convinced.
“Yeah, I did.” I may have sounded a little petulant.
“Congratulations detective.” I couldn’t tell which of us wanted to punch the other more. I tried to move on.
“Any regular broads?” He looked perplexed.
“Who even talks like that anymore?” I didn’t have time to explain.
“Answer the damn question,” I retorted wearily.
“No, he doesn’t have any regular ‘broads.’ Not that I know of, anyway.”
“Great. What about joints?”
“Nobody says that anymore either.” I was about to tell him to quit being a smartass when he decided to give it up of his own volition. “There are a few places. Scarlett’s, down on Mitchum’s Avenue. An old Irish place, centre of the city. And some posh place on the waterfront, Cary’s something or other.” I nodded. I knew the first two. Wasn’t sure about the third.
“Can you be any more specific about Cary’s?”
“I don’t tend to…frequent the same establishments as him.” I wasn’t too surprised. I was beginning to get the impression that he wasn’t particularly friendly with the guy he supposedly wanted me to find. Which begged the question why he was bothering to hire me.
“Any friends?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Everybody liked Richie.” Well that was helpful.
“Okay.” He turned to go. “One last thing.” He turned back. “Why me?” At that, he actually snorted. I had to check I wasn’t hearing things now.
“You think you’re the only dick we hired?” He laughed. “Heh. That’s made my day.” I could hear the quiet voice, the boxer, telling me I should just deck him. I called him the Spectre. Normally he didn’t weigh in much. I tried to ignore him. Luckily for me, Billy was still staying calm. He had his uses sometimes.
“Who else you got?” I asked.
“Half of the PIs in state.” He was less gruff and more smug now.
“Good to know you’ve got such faith in me.”
“Hurt your feelings did I?”
“Yeah, I’m crying inside.” He smirked again.
“Yuhuh.” I answered.
“Great.” I stood up to watch him leave. He exited fast, blazer flapping behind him. Asshole.
I sat back down again, picking my hat up off the desk and pulling it low over my brow so I couldn’t see past its brim. It helped me to think. That’s what I told myself anyway. So…we had a mystery client, a missing person, and a considerable financial incentive. Plus a boatload of other, presumably more competent Private Investigators on the same case. The first thing I wanted to know was who my employer was. If I had to guess, I’d assume the guy who’d come into my office wasn’t whoever wanted Mr Malone found. He didn’t seem to particularly like him, for one thing, and he seemed way too young to have that kind of money to chuck around. I considered trying to follow Frankie, but chances were he’d already gone. Also, I was crap at tailing. I guessed I’d have to solve that mystery later. First, trying to get a sense of who this Richie was, beyond an apparently popular womaniser.
“Jane,” I called out into the hallway. “You know of this Cary’s Club place?” I could hear her fumbling to tidy her papers before she appeared in the doorway.
“Uhhhh, yeah.” I silently asked her if she’d care to elaborate on that. “It’s a real posh place. Some of the students at Stanford kept on going on about it, like it was this hallowed ground.” Thank god. Sometimes I don’t think I’d get anywhere without Jane. No doubt about it, she’d make a better detective than me. Luckily, she didn’t know it.
“So what the hell’s a young rabble rouser doing at a club for stuffy law students?”
“Law students aren’t stuffy!” she protested. I raised my eyebrow. “Maybe a little.” She continued. “Still, I don’t think it’s a law place. More a high society convention. Getting in there as a lawyer means you’ve made the big leagues.” I looked down at my bedraggled suit and tie.
“Great, so I gotta find a way to sneak into a fancy party dressed like a homeless guy stole the clothes of a slightly better dressed homeless guy.”
“Yeah…?” was her distinctly uncertain reply. I sighed, shifted my hat back up to the crown of my head, and stood up.
“Time to get to work then.”
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