“She’s gonna be great.” He took a long drag on his cigarette and looked over at Harold. The wind had tousled his black hair and the smoke from his cigarette was snatched away almost immediately.
Harold smiled, flicking an ash off the end of his cigarette into an ornate ashtray. He stared at his little girl as her nimble fingers picked an assortment of locks he had set in front of her. Some had gotten dirt in them as she tossed them around before setting to work with the small case of tools he had given her a few weeks before. She enjoyed the extra challenge.
“She’s gonna be the best,” he replied. He leaned back in his chair and stuck his feet up on the patio table. Moira would chew him out if she saw this, but she was out for the afternoon, running errands.
“When do you think she’ll be ready to go on jobs? Completely safe, I promise,” he said, crossing his heart with his finger.
“Asena is never going on jobs. I’m not teaching her to take my spot, I’m just making sure she can take care of herself. It’s the only thing I can teach her after all my experience.”
“We could use some of that experience tonight,” the man suggested, flicking his own cigarette ash off into a flower pot.
“Hey, watch it,” Harold snapped. “Moira loves those.” The whole back porch was covered in flower pots. Some had herbs while others had tomato plants and a few sprouted bright, beautiful flowers.
“Sorry,” he said with an annoyed sigh. “C’mon, Jonny isn’t nearly as quick as you are. Last time, he nearly tripped the alarm before he got that thing open.”
“That’s because Jonny is a moron,” Harold answered. “You know I’m out, man. Advice, that’s all I’m gonna do. I’m not going to get them in trouble. Not again.”
“Moira would get over it,” he said but it was obvious he had no fight left in him. This was an old conversation. “She can’t stay mad forever.”
“You’ve met Moira. Yes, she could.” That made both of them chuckle and the sound made Asena look up.
“Daddy, look!” She grabbed a handful of the locks, all popped open, and thrust them up in the air, grinning.
“Great job, sweetheart. Now, put them in the gardening shed before mommy gets home,” he said, blowing a kiss to his daughter.
“Okay,” she said, bounding off towards the white and blue shed in the back corner of their yard.
“Hey, honey,” Moira’s voice floated in from the open patio door and the front door closed behind her. Harold let out a sigh of relief on Asena’s timing and slipped his feet off the table before his wife noticed.
Asena ran up to the deck, empty-handed, as Moira stepped outside. She was a gorgeous woman, strong and proud with golden hair and startling blue eyes. She scooped her daughter up easily and smiled at her husband.
“What have you guys been up to? What were you doing in the shed?” she asked Asena, tickling her chin.
The cigarettes both disappeared as well and Harold tried to think of something his wife would believe.
“I wanted to dig in the yard,” Asena said, “but daddy said I had to put your gardening tools back.” The lie was smooth and Moira accepted it without hesitation, playfully chiding her daughter for trying to dig up the yard.
Harold stared at them both, a twinge of guilt settling in his stomach like soured milk. He knew that as a con man, he should be very proud of his protege. But as a father and husband, he felt terrible that his daughter was willing and completely able to treat her mom like that. He knew that was definitely his fault.
Moira looked up and caught the slight frown. She was one of the few people that seemed to read him well and she raised an eyebrow.
He smiled, trying to reassure her. Her returning smile was enough to strengthen his resolve. When the girls had walked back inside to wash Asena’s hands, he looked over.
“You guys be safe, but there’s no way I’m going back out there.”
“Just you wait. There’s going to be a day you call me up, asking to get back in. And if you bring the girl, I might just let you.” Harold shook his head and hoped fervently that that would never happen.
“Tell me again why she’s here?” Danny asked me. He was in his uniform and was taking notes in a tiny notebook. Similarly dressed cops were swirling around the hotel room. Forensics techs were dusting for fingerprints and detectives were theorizing with each other.
“I didn’t expect there to be a body,” I snapped. “I figured it might shock him to see her, or at the least, she’s got some great observational skills. Plus, she begged and since she’s the one paying me, I couldn’t exactly say no.”
I crossed my arms and leaned on the couch. Marlene was sitting in an easy chair near the fireplace, a shock blanket around her shoulder. She had only said a few words to the cops and I jumped every time her hand went near her pocket. Tampering with a crime scene was a serious offense.
She stared intently at the fireplace but I was pretty sure her mind was far away. I had tried to convince her to at least let me hold on to the ruby, but she wouldn’t part with it. She had barely wanted to call the cops, but I think some of the shock was truly starting to set in.
“And you didn’t see anyone? Nothing suspicious?” Danny pressed. I had already given my statement to a different cop, but Danny had demanded to be allowed to question me again.
“Besides the fact that your apparent overdose victim felt the need to tape his door handle open?”
“Asena, all signs point to an overdose. He probably invited people over, maybe a drug dealer or someone else celebrating, and just left the door open for them so he wouldn’t have to stop midway. Stupid, yes, but not that strange. He made a large score, spent the money on drugs, and overdid it, simple as that.” Danny seemed to think I was under some delusion after I had scoffed loudly at the overdose diagnosis the coroner had given. The coroner had shot white-hot glares at me after the officer in charge wouldn’t allow him to throw me out.
It just wasn’t sitting right, even if Danny made good points. “He hadn’t sold the jewels yet, though. Where’d he get the money?” I gestured to the guy bagging all the jewelry who was standing partially in the doorway.
“He probably spent every penny he already had, plus cash he lifted from the Pembrooks, expecting a big payday the moment he sold those.”
It wasn’t a terrible idea, but I wasn’t buying it. I rolled my eyes and took a deep breath.
“I don’t care. The Pembrooks hired me, the jewels are there. This whole dead body business is for you guys. If you don’t think there was any foul play, I’ll leave it be.”
“Seriously?” Danny asked and his voice was hopeful.
“In my books, this case is closed for me. I have no reason to poke around.” I wasn’t getting paid, I was just getting back into Danny’s good graces, and last thing I needed was to get involved in a homicide, if that was even what had happened. At the very least, I wasn’t going to do anything while Marlene was still here, with a stolen ruby hidden in her pocket. My best option was to let it rest, see if the cops came up with anything more after their investigation and go from there.
“I cannot tell you what a relief that is,” Danny said and his shoulders sagged as he closed his notebook. “I’ll admit, I was a bit freaked when I was told Asena Patterson phoned in a dead body. I know,” he said, raising his hands defensively as I frowned, “you can take care of yourself. But if someone was killing over this, it’s nice knowing you’re not about to go piss them off.”
“Ha-ha,” I said dryly. “Your worrying is all over, I’m just fine. But do you have any more questions? I need to get Ms. Princess back soon before her bodyguard does kill me.”
Danny laughed and waved me off. Marlene’s bodyguard had been steps behind the police when they arrived and it took two officers to convince him to wait outside, and that was only after Marlene had assured him she was fine. The police weren’t going to have us standing around uselessly when both her guard and the Pembrooks were anxious to see their daughter. And I was anxious to have that stolen jewel a little further from prying police eyes. I could see the bulge in her pocket and despite lying flawlessly that she touched nothing, I was still wound tight.
I walked up to Marlene and stood, clutching the blanket tightly around her shoulders. It made her hair stand up, static flinging it every which way. She turned big, wide eyes on me.
“Asena,” she whispered, looking around to see if anyone was close enough to hear. We had been all but forgotten at this point. “What’s our next step?” I blinked at her. I had been expecting shock but this looked a lot more like an adrenaline high.
“Our next step,” I replied, mocking her whisper, “is to get out of here, get you home, and spend the rest of the night faxing over your invoice.”
“C’mon,” she whined. “What are we going to do about the murder?”
“One,” I stuck one finger up. “We don’t even know if there was a murder. The police are calling it an overdose.” I lifted another finger. “Two. You’ve got your job completed. We have no reason to investigate.”
She flung the blanket on the chair and glared at me. “One. It was a murder. Two. I want to know who stole it, not just get it returned.”
“I believe the man in the body bag stole it,” I snapped. I really just wanted to go home and wash off the smell of this room.
“You know as well as I do that he wasn’t the mastermind behind all of this.”
“Mastermind?” I scoffed. “Marlene, this isn’t some spy movie. You aren’t a Bond girl who helps save the day and everything turns out alright. This is dangerous and not something you can just play around with.”
“Don’t patronize me,” she snarled and it was the first time I had seen her truly angry. Her face was flushed and her teeth bared. “Someone targeted my family, and it wasn’t this idiot. There was a smear from another line of coke on the dresser but it was wiped off, not snorted. Somebody else was here who decided not to join in on the fun. Almost like that someone knew the coke was messed up. Plus, Francis already had money to pay for this hotel, but didn’t sell a single jewel. And his door was left open so someone would find him quickly. None of this screams accidental OD.”
Her voice had steadily gotten louder and I glanced around. Danny was in the other room, but was staring with an eyebrow raised. I was pretty sure he hadn’t heard, but Marlene’s face was giving him pause.
“Quiet,” I hissed, turning back to her. “I don’t disagree with you.” I hated admitting it, but I had just been saying the same things to Danny. “But you’re sitting there with a hot piece of jewelry, you have no training in this type of thing, and if you’re right, we’re facing someone dangerous who doesn’t hesitate to get rid of pawns.”
“So you’re telling me this isn’t over?” she pushed. “You’ll keep investigating? And you’ll take me with you?” She stressed the last question, folding her arms.
“Marlene,” I started and my tone must have tipped her off.
“I’ll do it myself. If you think I’m so inexperienced, will you really let me run off by myself? How much more dangerous is that?”
I frowned. She would get herself killed in minutes if she poked the wrong person the wrong way. I couldn’t just let that happen.
“You’re going to pay a fortune for sidekick privilege. I’m gonna bill you for all of this,” I grumbled. Danny was going to kill me when he found out.
“Yay,” she squeaked. I could see her straining not to jump up in glee but thankfully she realized a crime scene was not the place for happy outbursts. “But, we’re partners in this, I’m not a sidekick.”
I frowned. Partner was way beyond her role but it wasn’t worth an argument now. “How sure are you that was coke on the desk?”
“I’ve seen it before. The one line was definitely snorted. It had to be pretty concentrated or else he already had a ton of other stuff in him,” she answered, rocking on her heels as she thought.
“Well, it sounds like we need someone who knows how to get a hold of something like that,” I answered, crossing my arms.
“Hey, don’t look at me. I never used it, I’ve just been at parties. What about you?” she asked.
“I might know someone. Be prepared to buy some expensive, hot coffee, he hates meeting in the cold.”
Curious to learn more about Asena’s backstory? Meet Danny, a friend with insight into her family! Remember to comment to add your own ideas, character names, and thoughts to the story! You might just see them pop up in the next chapter!
I stared at Danny as he turned away and started to bark out orders to the onlookers. People started to dwindle out the door or sit back down, laughing at all the ruckus. Peter came out from around the bar and walked over to Bruce, who waved a hand at him, saying he was fine. He had a split lip, but besides that seemed unhurt.
Danny looked good in his police uniform. He had loved being in a uniform ever since his boy scout days when he used to show off his wilderness skills to my mom in our large backyard. His chestnut colored hair was no longer greasy and lanky, but instead was short and styled nicely. His nose was slightly crooked from the time he had run into a tree playing cops and robbers. He had decided that he needed to be blindfolded to make the game harder. The stupid boy had always loved a challenge.
I stepped away from Berny, who was struggling to get to his feet , and sat back down on a stool. My drink surprisingly hadn’t spilled so I reached down the bar and pulled it close. I sipped it as I watched Peter tell Berny that he wasn’t welcome anymore and that next time he would press charges. He pointed at the door and Danny marched him out with a hand on his shoulder. Berny glanced back at me and I stared him down, my mouth a firm line.
Danny came back in and his eyes fell on me. He walked over, his grin growing with each step he took.
“Asena,” he said as he took a seat next to me.
Peter walked around the bar and leaned towards us.
“Thanks for coming in Danny,” he said. “Next drink is on the house.”
“You already owe me for last time. Bruce is your bouncer, don’t forget that,” Danny said. He couldn’t hold a straight face for long though and Peter just laughed at him.
“Kid, you’re lucky I even let you in here.That uniform is bad for my business.”
I shook my glass, the ice tinkling loudly. “Peter,” I said, happy that I now had his attention. “You were talking about that guy, remember?”
“I don’t know much,” he answered. “Danny is the one who walked him out. He’d probably know better than I do.” He walked away as another customer flagged him down at the the other end of the bar.
“So you’re searching for a guy?” Danny asked. “You know, there’s these things called dating apps now. Way simpler than asking the local barkeep.” He grinned as if he had said something hilarious and I rolled my eyes.
“It’s work,” I replied. I took a deep breath, loathe to ask his help after not speaking in so long. “His name is Francis. You apparently kicked him out last week.”
“Yup, the really drunk one, right?” He pulled a bowl of peanuts closer and popped a few in his mouth. “What about him?”
“Any idea where he might be?” I tried to keep a straight face, but even though he was smiling, I could feel the elephant in the room and it was killing me.
“How about you answer some of my questions and I’ll give you some answers,” he countered. He ran his fingers through his hair.
“Don’t you need to go back on duty?” I asked, squirming in my chair.
“Nope, it’s the end of my shift. I was headed home when Peter called,” he answered. He leaned on his palm and squinted as if trying to figure me out.
“Where have you been?”
“Right here in Silver City,” I answered and took another drink. I knew that wasn’t the real question.
“No, where have you been? I haven’t heard from you in months.” The joking tone was gone, replaced with undisguised pain.
I squeezed my glass tightly, the cold helping center my thoughts. “I just needed some space. After the Lowell case…,” I trailed off. I had followed a wife who was cheating, a pretty routine case. After I showed the photos to the husband, she ended up at the hospital the next night, a broken arm and bruises everywhere else, having barely escaped her house with her life.
I was always careful on accepting cases like those to avoid anything like that. Danny had done his best to persuade me against it, sure that the husband was bad news. But I trusted my gut feeling that he was a good guy and I still had a hard time sleeping over it. After I testified in court to put the husband away, I had avoided Danny like the plague. He had never said I told you so, but every time I saw him, I felt that guilt all over again. And then at some point, I just didn’t know how I could call up after all that time had gone by.
“I don’t hold that against you. Everyone makes mistakes,” he said softly. He put a hand on my arm, but I shook it off.
“I hold it against me. I should have known better. A woman ended up in the hospital thanks to me. I’m not just gonna let that go.”
“But you’re willing to let a life-long friend go?” His words stung and I bit my lip.
“I didn’t let you go,” I answered slowly. “I just couldn’t…,” I didn’t know how to finish so I just let the words dangle. I couldn’t deny it and I hated that.
There was a beat while neither of us said anything and the noises of the bar washed over us. Glasses clinked together, people laughed loudly, the jukebox played an old rock song, and the billiard balls kept thwaping each other.
“I’m sorry,” I said quietly. Danny swallowed and nodded and I knew he was forgiving me. I wished I could wipe away the hurt still on his face.
“Well what was that about?” Danny said, forcing a smile. “He looked furious.”
“Oh, that one wasn’t actually my fault.” He raised his eyebrow at me in disbelief. Usually it was my fault. “Seriously.” I smiled and felt the tension ease.
“Well what did he do to get tased?”
“He thought I was my mom,” I said. My smile slipped a little.
“You do look a lot like her,” he said. “So he knew her back then. And he got tased for that?”
“Not surprisingly, it was thanks to my dad. He apparently was in Silver City a few years ago and pulled a job. Berny got cut out, I think, and just wanted to get even. His wife, or rather his daughter, seemed like a good place to start.”
“Hmm, I might be on Berny’s side a bit,” Danny teased. “Your dad conned me out of my Halloween candy five years in a row.”
“He was always good at spotting an easy mark,” I joked back. I took another sip and swirled my ice cubes. It was almost gone and I debated on ordering another one. I bit my lip, enjoying the familiar banter.
“So you’re looking for the drunk from last week? Why?” he asked. He put a few more peanuts in his mouth and frowned. He stuck his tongue out and pulled a shell off from it.
“Gross,” I said. “Francis is for a case I’m working on. He didn’t tell you where he was going, did he?” I asked.
“Yes, the drunk guy I was kicking out of the bar told me his life story and exactly where he was going.” He stared at me for a beat and then rolled his eyes dramatically.
“C’mon, he didn’t spew out anything useful?” I said doubtfully..
“Not really,” he shrugged. “He seemed like he had some money to burn. I think he had tried to buy a lap dance from Hannah. And he offered me a couple hundred not to arrest him.”
“Which of course you didn’t take, you boy scout,” I answered.
“I could lose my badge over that,” he retorted.
“You were going to let him go anyways.”
“Not the point,” he said, laughing. “But I dropped him off at a hotel. The Carson, I think? It was down on Williams Street somewhere.”
“You couldn’t have led with that?” I asked.
“No way! You would have disappeared in a hurry.” I rolled my eyes at him. “This time when you pull your Cinderella act, can you leave a shoe? Or just call me back?” His voice was teasing, but mouth was in a tight line and I knew he was serious. I hated the pain I saw in his eyes and silently promised to be a better friend.
“I’ll call, I promise,” I swore to him. I had lived next to Danny for ten years and been friends with him even after I had moved with my dad when I was fourteen. I had never seen him this hurt before though and my stomach rolled at the thought.
Danny was one of the only people still in my life who had known my mom and knew my dad before he relapsed into his old criminal ways. He loved to joke that his best friend was a con man’s daughter and despite the uniform, I had told him about every con my dad and I had pulled together during those three years on the road. Danny had been the first contact on every burner phone I bought and the first person I called when I got back to Silver City. He had helped me finish my GED and then helped with my college essays.
There were times where we hadn’t talked for three months before this, especially when I was on the road. But, since I had gotten my PI license, he had been my best police contact and we talked a few times a week. This silent streak had been sudden and, I could see now, painful for both of us.
“I’m sorry,” I said again. “I know you must have been worried about me.”
“Well,” he started with a sheepish smile. “I did check up on you.”
“What?” I asked sharply.
“I had Jeggerson knock on your door,” he answered and leaned back in case I tried to swat him.
“The stupid noise complaint cop? He woke me up in the middle of the night. I had spent the whole night before tailing a guy and the rest of the day helping the wife file a restraining order and move. That was sleep of the dead he woke me from,” I said and huffed as I crossed my arms. I wasn’t really upset, though. I had missed him and his meddling ways.
“Oh, c’mon, I needed to know you were okay. And I wasn’t sure you’d answer the door for me.”
I shrugged, not sure if I would have. He just shook his head at me.
“So,” I said with a smile, “Ellison told me you were on the Burgens case. How did you get caught up in all that mess?” He laughed and asked Peter to refill the peanuts.
I ordered another drink, slumping my shoulders, and leaned forward as he began his retelling of the last front page case.
The Blue Benjo liked neon, cheap liquor, and, despite its logo looking like the dog from Blues Clues, was known for housing Silver City’s lowlife. With a population of 400,000 and a top ten university in the heart of the city, Silver City had quite a few places like this. It was easy to see as I walked into the dimly lit but crowded bar who was a college student braving the place and who belonged here. With my leather jacket, ripped jeans, and messy bun, I could have been either. But the taser in my pocket and the fact that the bar keeper smiled when he saw me definitely put me in the category of belonging.
“Asena.” Peter, the Benjo bartender, had always reminded me of a duckling, with his fine, bleach blonde hair sticking up and his gangly limbs always making him look uncoordinated despite the fact that I had never seen him so much as spill a drop of alcohol. He couldn’t have been much younger than thirty, but I was sure he was carded every time he bought a drink.
“Hey Peter,” I said and leaned against the bar.
“Haven’t seen you here in awhile,” he remarked as he poured a cranberry and vodka.
“Awe, did you miss me?” I asked, dropping down on a stool, dragging my usual drink towards me.
“Last time you knocked out one of my customer’s with that taser that’s probably in your pocket right now. The break’s been nice.” His voice was hard but a smile played at the corner of his lip.
“C’mon, he grabbed her. What could I do?” I smiled a big toothy grin.
“Let Bruce take care of it,” he replied. I knew bouncer, a mountain of a man, would have squashed that guy but not soon enough for my taste.
“I promise I won’t taser anyone who doesn’t really deserve it,” I said and crossed my heart with my finger.
“Are you here to reminisce or harass more of my customers?” he asked wryly, wiping the bar down with a stained rag.
“Just one. Some guy named Francis?”
“That hot shot? Hannah broke his hand for something stupid and I told him next time Bruce will break more than that. That was,” he leaned against the bar, thinking, “last Saturday?”
“Great,” I groaned and took another sip. “You haven’t heard anything about this guy he’s working for, have you?”
“Hey,” a man plopped down on the stool on my left. The bloodshot eyes, the stench of whiskey, and the mussed hair made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I leaned away, my eyes staying on the slightly melted ice cube in the middle of my bright red drink.
“Moira?” I stiffened at the sound of my mother’s name but refused to look over.
“C’mon Moira, you ‘member me. Berny? That rat you call a husband screwed me over ‘bout five years ago. C’mon, I’m sure he told ya ‘bout it.” The words were slurred together but the meaning was clear enough.
“I’m sorry, I’m not Moira,” I answered, my voice biting. I straightened up as I turned and stared him down with as much authority as I could muster. I hoped his blurry eyes could make out the difference between us and just leave me alone.
“Naw, you’re a young little thing,” he said and his shoulders slumped. He leaned against the bar, pushing himself up from his stool. He stopped though and looked at me through narrowed eyes. His chest puffed up as an idea seemed to take hold. “But he did have a kid.” He sat back down, ordering another whiskey. Peter didn’t move and instead glared, but Berny didn’t seem to notice.
“You talked with ya old man? I can’t seem to find him,” he said. He reached out and twirled my pony tail slightly. I yanked my head away from his sticky fingers.
“I don’t talk to him,” I answered through gritted teeth. I slipped my hand into my pocket and grabbed hold of my taser.
“Every daddy’s got a soft spot for his girly.” He leaned back, looking me up and down, and rubbed his bushy mustache. “Wonder what he’d do to get you back?”
Bruce seemed to materialize from nowhere and set a large beefy hand on the guy’s shoulder.
“I think you should be moving on, friend,” he said. His voice came out in a low deep growl and any sane man would have run away. Or at least any sober one.
“I think you should butt the hell out, pal,” Berny said and pushed the hand off his shoulder. “Me and the lady got some business.”
“Actually we don’t,” I said and stood up. I took a step back and he reached out faster than I expected, clasping my right arm in a surprising tight grip. Unfortunately that was the arm that was holding my taser, which was now pinned to my side.
“Sir, you don’t want to do that,” Bruce said as he stepped as far between us as he could, our arms almost wrapped around him.
“I said, this ain’t your business,” he growled and shoved Bruce as hard as he could, in the process releasing me. I skipped away and the movement caught his eye. “Come back here,” he roared, lunging over the stool towards me.
Bruce, who regained his balance quickly, reached him before his grasping fingers reached me. I backed up even further, knocking into a wooden, round table.
“Hey!” I looked back and I had spilled a bit of beer on one of the three guys sitting at the table.
‘Sorry,” I offered, swiveling back. Bruce had Berny in a tight head lock, with his cheeks turning a reddish purple, and was dragging him towards the door. I exhaled, loosening my fingers from the taser.
Berny thrashed his legs as he struggled against Bruce but the choke hold almost effectively incapacitated him. I started to turn back, ready to make a real apology. Before I had though, I watched as Berny make a connection with a table top. The four guys crowded around it had been laughing at Berny’s misfortune, but started spewing profanities as their pitcher of beer went flying and splattered them all.
Bruce was only steps from the door and chucking Berny out of it, but the soaked men sprang up, red faced with hands in fists. They reached the struggling pair and the first of the four punched Berny in the side. Berny gasped and Bruce was forced to let go as the other three started circling them. Bruce pushed the first guy back while Berny struggled to regain his breath. Before I could blink, the other guys were reacting and pouncing on Bruce. I watched the brawl unfold, speechless. The guy whose beer I spilled stood up slowly, looking between the two sides, unsure of who to join.
“Sit down,” I snapped. To my surprise, he sank back down and heeded my death glare. His tensed and his eyes darted behind me. I turned in time to dodge a tackle from Berny. I banged my hip on their table and felt a hot burst of pain.
I focused back on Berny who had stumbled into a bar stool and was attempting to disentangle himself. I gritted my teeth as I yanked my taser out, doing my best to ignore the steady throbbing on my hip. Berny lunged again and I sidestepped his drunken stumble, able to stick the taser into his side. I pressed down till my finger hurt. He jolted hard as the electrodes spewed out a charge and crashed to the ground. The now exposed end of the taser continued to spark for a moment until I let go of the button. The table guy was standing now, his eyes wide as he looked at my taser. He wasn’t the only one, but most eyes were still watching Bruce struggle with the others. Two were on the floor, either unconscious or staying down.
I debated jumping in with my taser, though I was slightly worried I might hit Bruce. Before I had time to decide, the door banged open.
“Police, break it up,” the blue shirted officer yelled. He quickly took in the ruckus and yanked a guy off Bruce. The last guy stopped and backed away with his arms up. I froze, the taser still in my hand. My lips twisted into a frown as I stared at the cop.
A grin spread over his face.
“Asena, why are you always in the middle of a bar brawl?”
Welcome to Sunday Segment. Each week, I will post another chapter from the ongoing novel. If you have an idea, story prompt, question, or direction you’d love to see the story go, either comment or send me a message using my contact page and I’ll see what I can do.
Today you’ll meet Asena, a 23 year old PI. Let me know what you think.
The snow was cold, the wind biting, and the frostbite a little too close for comfort. I wiggled my fingers deeper into my pockets as I scanned the sidewalks around me. I desperately wanted to enter the coffee shop just a block away, heat and steam rushing out the door every time someone entered. But, I knew that for a meeting to be clandestine, it couldn’t have a dozen nosy college students listening in to every word in a desperate attempt to avoid studying. Instead, I waited on the bench which opened into Milmones Park, a small patch of land in the middle of the city. I hated winter in this business. Anyone who wanted to talk to you would want to meet outside where the wind would rip the words away before anyone might overhear. Or being forced to hunker down in a dozen blankets in the front seat of your car because you needed that photo but turning your car on would send up a literal smoke signal to the guy you were tailing. The guy I was meeting was an informant for the most part, though he’d call himself a friend. He had sold pot to afford his schooling when I was at college and after I tipped him off that the cops were on to him, he’s owed me ever since. You’d think with studying Criminal Justice for four years, my morals would stop me from helping the criminal, but unfortunately, my dad’s lessons ran too deep. I saw him long before he saw me. He had his head down, avoiding the light snow that was blowing. He walked down the street, busy with cars but barely another person in sight. His jacket was thick and reminded me of a gray Michelin Man. His face wasn’t covered, which I thought was ridiculous. My face was covered with a scarf all the way up to my eyeballs and a hat shoved down so nothing was exposed but my eyes, which I had covered with a pair of bulbous sunglasses to stop the glare coming off the snow. He was handsome, stupid, and annoyingly good with information. People tended to tell him things, which he took to be part of his charm and I took to be part of the job. It’s a lot easier to get info from someone who’s stoned than someone who’s on their guard. He stopped at the corner and looked around, his shaggy brown hair standing up as the wind got a hold of it. He saw me and I raised my mittened hand for just a second before he started hustling over. “Damn, couldn’t we have met in there?” he said, gesturing with his head to the coffee shop. “You really wanna talk about your clients in there?” I asked, pulling my scarf down to reveal my lips. “Hey, the government’s making it so things are legal, Asena. I won’t need your protection much longer,” he said, rubbing his face. “Well, Emmett,” I replied, “when you start telling the government about your business, we’ll talk. Until then, you should be a lot nicer to me.” He laughed and his dimples showed. I gritted my teeth. “You sure are one feisty lady,” he said. “Bad guys don’t know what to think when you show up, do they?” His teasing annoyed me, since I knew that he was right. As a five foot four woman, most criminals didn’t think twice when I pulled up and explained they would be going to jail. It was beyond obvious I wasn’t a cop, from the ease which I picked locks to the way I had no problem breaking a guy’s finger if he tried to get fresh. But, I had a degree and a PI license which meant I was a problem, even if they didn’t know it yet. “Shut up,” I snapped. “I need to know about the robbery on thirtieth street two days ago. Have you heard anything?” “Well isn’t that vague.” “C’mon, the Pembrook case. Thieves stole a couple hundred in cash, some family jewelry, it’s been all over the news,” I answered. I crossed my arms over my chest, but I knew it simply made me look cold rather than intimidating. “Oh that one,” he said. “So what? Pretty straight forward, shouldn’t the cops be able to handle this without you?” “One of those jewels was stolen fifteen years ago from an antiques dealer,” I replied. “Whoever took it seems to know a lot about my client.” His eyes widened. “Well, I may have heard something,” he drawled. He stuck out his lip, giving me that perfected puppy dog pout. “The cops have been watching eighth and Broadway, they think there’s been somebody making deals there,” I offered the information I had overheard last time I had been at the precinct. My dealing with the cops put Emmett in a precarious situation. He knew that the moment someone overdosed or got hurt from his dealings, I would become his worst nightmare. But until then, I was his best chance of staying out of jail. So he kept meeting me and letting me know what was going on in our city’s seedy underworld. “I don’t think you want to get involved in this one,” he said, shrugging. “I’m already hired,” I retorted. He gave a deep sigh as if to say ‘I warned you.’ “The guy’s name is Francis, I don’t know the last name. But he hangs around the Blue Benjo.” I narrowed my eyes at him. This was specific and very helpful, neither of which Emmett tended to be. “Someone hired him and he made a good chunk of change off this. He’s tight-lipped about the who, but he showed up at the Benjo a few days ago, talking about this job he pulled and how he’s got a stack of unmarked bills now burning a hole in his pocket. Bit of a creep though, he kept feeling up his waitress. She finally smashed his hand with an empty bottle. Nothing broken, just some bruising but should help you spot him.” He smiled wolfishly and I could tell he was happy the guy had got what was coming to him. I knew he had a little sister and tended to get protective, a feeling I had for years done my best to dodge every time it was focused on me. “But, this guy he’s working for, he’s bad news. Francis won’t say a word. I thought he was just trying to keep the cash cow for himself, but he’s scared. And he’s too stupid to be scared by anything small.” “So someone is pulling the strings?” I mused. “I hope Francis is as stupid as you say. I’d love to get this wrapped up before the holidays.” “Asena, this isn’t a joke. This guy is dangerous,” he said, staring at me with a seriousness I hadn’t seen before. “I’ll be fine,” I answered, smiling and patting his arm. “I’ve dealt with worse, trust me.” “I’m not so sure. I’ve seen some scum around this city, but nothing that could scare someone like Francis this much. He was drunk and not saying a word.” He stood up, rubbing the tips of his ears to regain some warmth. “That’s all I know. Stay safe out there, Asena.” He gave me a roguish grin, but I could still see the edge of worry. I watched him walk away, giving him a few minutes before I decided to walk into the coffee shop to unthaw and figure out how to best to become friends with Francis.