I’m still in the planning stages of my next book — holy crap is this going to take a lot of research and plotting! — so I don’t have any new words for today’s Wednesday’s Words. Instead, I’m going to share the first page of a story I was toying with several years ago; it’s an urban fantasy/film noir/hard-boiled detective story that I ultimately trunked because I know absolutely nothing about film noir/hard-boiled detective stories. I do love the title I came up for it, though — Forever and a Dame. Maybe one day I’ll come back to it.
It was midnight. My Bloody Mary had gone warm and the trail of my current case had gone cold.
I was just about to get up for a fresh drink when the too strong scent of expensive perfume slithered its way under my office door. A moment later, the door swung open and a gorgeous blonde stalked inside.
She was a cougar, and not one of the ones who went after younger men. Her hundred dollar an ounce perfume might hide the scent of her dual-nature from me, but everything else about her made it plain as day.
Her entire demeanor screamed predator, and the way she moved, with a slinky, almost snake-like grace, could only mean she was a large cat of some variety.
“You are Cornelius Malone, the private investigator?” Even her voice gave her away – a throaty purr with just a hint of a growl.
“Yes, ma’am, I am.” It wasn’t my given name, just the one I was going by in this century. “How may I help you this evening?”
I roved my eyes over her, tallying up how much my assistance was going to cost her. The black linen pantsuit she wore and the rock on her finger that was the size of my knuckle pushed my fee over a grand an hour.
“I need you to find my husband.” Before I had the chance to officially invite her in, she settled herself into the only other chair in my office. Haughty yet right to the point. I liked her.
“I’m certainly the best man for the job, but before I agree to take this case, I need to know a bit more information.” Lesson one of the supernatural private investigation gig – never take a case before learning all the particulars. Contracts are more than just legally binding with us and not being able to live up to my end of the contract, no matter what the reason, would not end well for me.
“Yes, of course. What sort of information do you need?”
“Well, ma’am, the first thing I need to know is your name.”
She sniffed her perfect little nose at me and I swear I saw her ear twitch in annoyance. Like I shouldn’t even have had to ask. Well, sorry lady. Telepathy isn’t one of my gifts.
“My name is Roxanne DuBois.” Make that two grand an hour.
“And your husband would be Maxwell DuBois, the real estate developer.” And leader of the area’s shapeshifter community.
“Of course.” She snapped open her dainty black and white purse. I tensed, not sure what to expect, but she merely pulled out a white handkerchief. An honest-to-goodness handkerchief. I hadn’t seen a woman use one of them in more than fifty years.
She dabbed at her eyes with the square of silk. Eyes that were as dry as my own. I didn’t know who she thought she was fooling, but I wasn’t buying her distraught wife act.
“Tell me how and when your husband disappeared, Mrs. DuBois.”
“I have no idea. I haven’t seen my husband in over a month.”
I raised my eyebrow and took a swig of my very warm Bloody Mary. The blasted thing wasn’t nearly as good as the real deal, but until my current case was over I couldn’t touch the real stuff.
“Are you telling me that your husband has been missing for a month and you’re just now starting to look for him?” I was about to tell this crazy woman to forget it. I wasn’t going to take on a case that was a month old.
“Of course not.” Those three words carried such scorn and ridicule, a lesser man would have cringed before her. I was not a lesser man.