The room is cheap furniture in a cheap office in a cheap part of town. A blinking neon light fills the dark space with intermittent color. Cigarette smoke hangs in the air refusing to escape to the humid atmosphere in the dark alley outside the window. A siren wails in the distance and a low-ball glass sits patiently on the dented metal desk. A notepad is its coaster.
Amber liquid fills the glass from a long necked bottle held in my calloused hand. I take a drink and wipe three day old stubble with my sleeve. It burns as it goes down, but I like it that way. I figure it’s what I deserve. I’m just a man with a past, trying to do good in a world filled with liars, cheats and thieves.
“Takes one to know one,” I say as I raise a toast to the empty room.
I lean back in my chair hearing it creak and groan. I hear footsteps in the hall and a familiar feeling creeps up my spine. I see her silhouette through the distorted frosted glass before she raps on the door.
I check my watch, a gift from my second ex-wife, and note the time. Two a.m..
Nothing good ever happens after two a.m., especially when you’re a private dick in this sewer of a town.
“This dame’s gonna be trouble,” I think as I open the door.
She strides in without a word and pours herself into the wooden chair across the desk. She crosses her legs and lifts the veil from her face. A hint of delicious perfume washes over me in head-swimming waves.
She’s Helen of Troy, The Girl Next Door, The Woman of My Dreams, The Venus de Whatever. Her lipstick is fire-engine red, a cautionary color, the color of blood or the color of a candy apple, just aching to be tasted.
Her only blight is a streak of mascara, too perfect in its imperfection to be made by anything but fear. She’s seen too much and she has nowhere else to turn.
I know I should turn her away, but I’m too far in. It’s only been fifteen seconds.
“How can I help you?”
She holds my gaze for an eternity. She disguises the quiver of her lip by reaching into a long black quilted clutch with a golden clasp. She pulls out a cigarette and places it between her perfect white teeth, and waits.
I light the tip with a wooden match from my top drawer. The flare illuminates her face for a second and a jolt of electricity arcs through my body. I clink the match into an empty glass ashtray and lean back, waiting for my next case to reveal itself.
“I need to find the Meaning of Life.”
Yup. Two a.m.
Keep your eyes and ears open for the next chapter of … She knocks at Two!
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