Just a Scratch

by Hailey Piper

    Name’s Lester Davenport, friends call me Lucky Dee, and I’m a private eye.

    This city. Lot of bums, lot of stories, but you ain’t keen to hear just any case, are you? You want to hear about the dame who gave me this scar. Heartbreak and bloodshed, the dinner and drink that makes life worth living.

    Was a dull day of gutting Past Due envelopes with my letter opener when Felicia Masterson walked in. Young, timid thing, peepers big as globes under that sunny blond hair, poor excuse for a femme fatale, but we make do. Marcy, my secretary, showed her to my desk.

    I offered a smile and a handshake. “Pleased to meet you. How can I help?”

    Felicia patted my phone instead. “Is this a hundred years old? And that outfit. You’re a private investigator?”

    “Private Eye Dee, that’s me.”

    “Like, a real investigator?”

    Odd question. Anybody looks at me, they can tell my trade. Wear a tan trench coat and a dark fedora. Got funny pages strips pinned to the wall, filing cabinet, and an army of ashtrays. “Mrs. Masterson, I do better as gumshoe than flapping gums. Can I help you or not?”

    Face wrinkling, she handed me papers and explained the situation. I’d seen the type before. Cheating husband, backstabbing best friend, but all spec, no proof. Hardly a mystery, but I took the case. Marcy says we need scratch to pay the bills. Can’t swear I understand, but her brains and my doing keep this joint running. Couldn’t tie my shoes without Marcy.

    “You have my cell number,” Felicia said. “Make sure I know as soon as you have something concrete.” Couldn’t tell you what a cell phone was, but I promised she would know, had Marcy escort her out, and got right down to business.

    First, I combed my office for evidence, found it, and put it in a plastic case for safekeeping.

    The rest was easy. Felicia’s papers told her address, friend’s address, and places the lovers might hang their hats. Took a week of trailing for them to intersect. After that, it was a matter of being at the friend’s house one Friday night when she brought Mr. Masterson home.

    They didn’t notice me, never do. Quiet as a fox—whatever a fox is—that’s me. The lovers stumbled in giggling, drunk off their skulls, and hopped into bed for the sideways tango. A couple good shots was all Felicia needed, but that’s expensive, and like Marcy’s always saying, we got bills.

    I crept naked into the bedroom with the friend’s biggest steak knife, my clothes, shoes, and fedora hidden under the kitchen table. Couldn’t risk getting blood on them. Cheating hubby didn’t know what hit him. The friend did, but only for a second.

    Made it quick. Same as Felicia would’ve done.

    When they were dead as doornails, I got dressed and opened my plastic case, where I kept four of Felicia’s blond hairs. Laid each on the bed, bodies, floor, and at the front door, places they might have come off naturally. Then I went back to the office, gave Marcy the next day off, and waited.

    Felicia showed up around 2:00 a.m. the following night, harried and razzing me. “You killed them, you psychopath! They think I did it!”

   Oh, it was perfect. Would’ve been a shame had the boys downtown arrested her too early, but she kept inconspicuous and came to me. More cunning than she looked. Not cunning enough to see my finger dialing round and round the rotary phone until it was too late.

    She swept everything off my desk onto the floor. “Say something!”

    I slid around the desk and put my hands on her arms. “Listen, Felicia. Sweetie, odds are you can plea a crime of passion. This doesn’t have to be forever. Mind your manners, and we’ll be seeing each other again. I’ll wait for you. Promise.”

    She wrested out of my grip and turned to one side. “What the hell are you talking about?” Started saying something else, and I was too distracted by her sassy mouth to spot that not everything she swept off my desk had hit the floor.

    Her arm swung around with my letter opener and slashed across my cheek. I stumbled backward, nothing to defend myself with, and she might’ve kept coming except for seeing what she wasn’t supposed to.

   The letter opener dropped, too heavy for her shaky mitts. “What the hell are you?”

    I prodded my cheeks, trying to merge flesh, but she’d really done a number, so I gave up and reached for her again.

    She backed away, peepers wild, teeth chattering. “You’re not human!”

    “Kid, don’t say things like that. They’ll toss you in the loony bin, and that messes up the whole gig. Ain’t the same as waiting for a murder conviction to time out. Just ain’t the same.”

    She started screaming and ran out of my office. Police arrested her downstairs, stark raving mad. “It wasn’t me! That thing upstairs killed them!” Waiving her right to remain silent, it seemed.

    Next morning, Marcy found me at the bathroom mirror, trying to squeeze my face back together. She fetched the first-aid and sutured the flesh shut. There’ll always be a scar, but that’s just part of my story, this little conversation piece. At least no one can see the bioluminescent stew underneath.

    Good old Marcy. Couldn’t tie my shoes without her.

    I’ll be bummed when the case comes that she has to be murdered, so I can say, “This time, it’s personal” to the snake that does it. Maybe it’ll be Felicia, whenever she gets out. Whosoever the culprit, I’ll try to put it off long as I can. Lots of cases before then, mysteries to solve. I’ll need Marcy’s help, keep this joint running.

   Name’s Lester Davenport, friends call me Lucky Dee, and I’m a private eye. Aren’t I? Yes, a private eye. How can I help?