“Whur uu srrrrs?”
“Try it again,” the woman said. “Without the towel over your face.”
“I asked, were you serious.” I put the towel and ice back on my face. The left eye and left side of my lip were like golf balls.
“Yes,” she said.
I moved the towel slightly. “I don’t do contract killings, or killings at all for that matter. Spiders rule my apartment. I think mice use a closet for a time share in the winter.”
“I really just need you to find him, and I’ll do the rest.”
I put the towel ice pack on my desk. “Accessory is the same as doing it myself. Can’t help you. But thanks for getting me back here.” I stood to escort her to the door. Or at least I tried.
“Listen to the situation first before you turn me down. Besides you can’t even stand up.” Well she was right there and I had nothing else to do but suffer at home in bed. I might as well suffer here with a beautiful and somewhat exotic looking woman who wanted me to help kill someone.
“Go for it,” I said and kicked my feet up on the desk. Mistake. Don’t try to look nonchalant and tough when the woman you are trying to impress has seen you lying in the middle of the street like a ragdoll. She’s knows there is no tough in you.
“First, are you going to do what that woman said?” She asked.
“First, what’s your name?”
“Monika…,” I prompted.
“Ghun,” she said.
“Almost like gun,” I smiled, winced, and almost blessed out the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but I held back. I couldn’t afford a nickel for the swear jar.
“I know Mr. Rose. I get the joke, guns and roses.”
“Was afraid younger people might not get it,” I said. I couldn’t tell her exact age. He dark skin was toned and her slightly almond shaped eyes had no wrinkles. Chinese and African American. I wonder why we always think African American, why not just African, or Black? Focus, Trevor. She wants to kill someone and you are working what exotic blend she is. Think about that later.
“We do. Now for your answer.”
I looked at her a few seconds wondering why I was going to trust her. Then I realized I was trusting her and there was no reason to be hesitating. Maybe I was just being a guy who didn’t care as long as they face was pretty. “There is really nothing to be done. Cornelia and her men don’t exactly listen,” I said. “The fire that burned down the warehouse was arson, no doubt, but there isn’t anything linking her to it. They have the guy that did it, a homeless guy. He said a man gave him some money to do it. Since it was abandoned, he saw no harm in it.” I moved slowly to a better position.
“Then why the worry from the swinger?”
I smiled at the name. “She is just covering her bases.”
“And you are just going to let her get away with this?” She asked looking at my face.
“Private detectives have to walk a different line than other people. I know Cornelia and her motivations,” I said. “If she had wanted me dead or in the hospital, I would have been. This was more of a message sent around the city to everyone else.”
“Tell her to take out a sign next time.”
There was silence for several moments. She just watched me trying not to show pain while I watched her trying not to notice that she was not my normal client. I usually received men or women wanting proof of adultery or some other sleazy kind of case, and they usually had little money. Monika Ghun wasn’t one of them.
For one, no one would adultery on her. I thought about the Ten Commandments and what Jesus had said about one’s thoughts and realized that she probably had been the cause of plenty of it in her life. Pardon me while my mind wanders. Getting hit in the head a lot does that to me.
“So are you going to help me or not?” She asked.
“Tell me about it,” I said. I leaned back and closed my eyes. If I looked at her I might just fall into a trap.
“Ever heard of Miles Stratford?”
I was glad my face was covered or my reaction would have been a give-away of interest. “I take your sister was the one he hit that night.”
“Yes. He’s out on bail and he’s run.”
I sat back up properly. “Skipped bail?”
“And his family says they don’t know where he is.”
“Not likely. Tight family and he’s the heir to it all,” I said. Wheels were turning. I glanced at her and there was a slight smile. She knew she had me.
“So you’ll take it?”
“Not to kill him, but to bring him back.”
“I just want justice done,” she said.
I stared into her eyes and didn’t flinch. There was a lot of confusion there. Taking the case might have been the best idea I had for the night. She needed someone to watch out for her.
“Okay, I’ll do it.”
“Start first thing in the morning,” I said.
The knock at my office door at that time of night made both of us jump. I found relief only in the fact that at least her reaction proved she was human. Then there was the look on her face.
“Who is it?”
“Yeah,” I said, not moving.
“I’m Carl Stratford. I have a job for you.”
When I looked back at Monika she was gone. The only other way out of my office was the window and we were three stories up. And I didn’t have a fire escape. Maybe I had been wrong.