The sun was hanging over the small office in a shadowy alley in Gearford, slowly cooking the inhabitants. The door had a lopsided sign hanging from one ring attached to the door, the faded image of an eye printed on the plaque with barely legible script printed below the insignia. If you stared at it long enough, it would read, “Nicholas Bennet, Private Eye.” The rest was worn off from the wind of this seemingly spotless city. Only those who knew the truth knew how dirty the city really was.
A dark haired lady walked down, the auburn hair that had escaped its bun rustled in the wind, exposing her face to the elements. Her amber eyes were concealed behind thickly rimmed glasses; her clothes, surprisingly plain, trying to mask the beauty beneath. She calmly approached the old door, reaching into her pocket to pull out a key. Sliding it gingerly into the lock, she slowly turned the key until she heard a click, the dead bolt sliding open. The woman opened the door and entered the office. The aroma of cheap cigarettes and even cheaper whiskey filled the room, assaulting her senses. With a quick stride over to the window, she pulled open the curtain, the small whisks of light like little streams turning into a rushing flood of light, drowning the room like a sinking ship in the Fimbrian Ocean. She put her bag down on the desk, turning around to see the familiar shadow slumped over the desk, his head resting on his left arm. His other hand was clutching a bottle and a half-finished cigarette was smoldering in the Skuttlekovy shell ash tray.
"Another late night, Mr. Bennet?" she asked as she pried the bottle from his deathly grip. He groaned as he began to stir.
"Tamara, it's too early for this. Gimmie the bottle back."
"You're not gonna be able to pay me if you don't get some work," she frowned.
“You're right, but that’s why I’m drinking the cheap shit," Nicholas replied, trying to sit up straight, picking up the cigarette and taking a deep drag of it. He slowly exhaled the smoke from his lungs. "Tamara, why are you here? I haven’t had a case in weeks," he said, rubbing his eyes as they adjusted to the surroundings of his dingy office.
"I was making sure you weren't dead, Nicholas," she added as she tried to make the room look presentable for potential clients.
The sun started to set in the Antiford skyline. It was looking like it was going to be another uneventful day. Ms. Hart had left for the day and Nicholas picked up the bottle Tamara had moved from his desk when she woke him up. He walked back to his desk, sitting down and rummaging through the left drawer for a glass. The amber liquid poured from the source to the dingy-looking glass, filling it up three fingers. He leaned forward over his desk as he pulled out a plain manila-colored folder from an old case. Only he knew what the contents were. He rubbed both eyes. He was tired, the short nap he had gotten this morning keeping him awake. He didn’t sleep much anymore, especially without the help of a night cap. But he needed to keep pushing. This case was all he had left.Nicholas walked home from the precinct after a late night on one case, sipping his whiskey along the way. There had been a murder of a wealthy businessman who fell in league with organized crime. His family was executed from the looks of the crime scene. The case so far was full of dead ends left and right. It was driving Nicholas up the wall.
The morning sun was hot in sky as he walked to his house at the end of the street. It was small but it was built in a nice neighborhood in Gearford. As he got near his house, something seemed off. The door was ajar and the window was broken. Nicholas unsnapped the clasp of his shoulder holster, slowly withdrawing his pistol. As he crept closer to his door, he slowly pushed it open. It was deathly silent when he moved into the house, stepping over the broken glass. He called out his wife's name, a hint of bleak desperation clinging to his words. The kitchen was the last room in the house and his heart sank as he entered the room. Lying on the floor, gasping for air in a pool of her own blood, was his wife, the crimson fluids of her life flooding out. He rushed over to her, trying to put pressure on the mortal wound. Tears streamed down his face as his attempts to stem the tide of blood failed miserably. His voice was weak as he tried to speak to his wife. He felt helpless; he couldn't do anything. He leaned down and whispered something in her ear, causing her to smile. She tried to form syllables for words, but the last of her strength drained from her face as her spirit left her mortal coil.
Nicholas was woken up abruptly as a loud knock echoed through the office, someone waiting at the front door.
Nicholas placed his elbows on the table, moving his hands to his tired face and rubbing his eyes. "I don't know which is crueler, my dreams or this gloomy reality?" he silently spoke as another loud knock came from the door. It sounded like quiet desperation as it echoed thru the office. He decided he should answer the door as he pushed away from his desk, the floor boards creaking as the chair slid back. With a deep breath, he pushed himself upright, trying to steady himself. The cheap whiskey coursed through his veins, causing him to stumble ever so slightly as walked. There was a silhouette of a female with long hair and a big bust line that played across the clouded colored glass.
Nicholas reached for the knob slowly, the old oak door moved with small creaks and squeaks, revealing the mysterious visitor. She was a beauty with hair of golden wheat, fair-colored skin, and eyes of deep ocean blue you could drown in. She wore a dress of the deepest scarlet hanging from her shoulders by a thin strap as it ran down her slender frame, slitting just below legs that went on forever.
Nicholas thought to himself, "This woman is going to be trouble," as he ushered her in. "Welcome to my office, Ms..." Nicholas trailed off, since he didn’t know her name, and walked back to his chair. He closed the folder on the desk and put it back into its resting place.
She smiled. "It's not a healthy thing to drink alone, Mr. Bennet," she replied, gracefully taking a seat. Nicholas gave a bitter smile.
"We came into this world alone. We're always alone, it’s just the matter of who we want to be alone with, and I choose to just be alone," he said, staring at the half empty glass as he reached for the bottle to fill his glass up.
"Well, do you want to be alone with me, miss? I never got your name," he stated as he pulled out another dusty glass.
"My name is Natalia Parker, and I’m sorry to say, I don’t need a drink," she replied with a wave of her hand as she politely declined.
"Alright, can we get the Moon-Faced Cave Bear sized question out of the room now?" Nicholas decided to ask.
"Well, I want you to find my sister, Alice. I believe she is mixed up in something and disappeared last week," Natalia answered with longing in her eyes.
He thought about what to say. "A missing person seems like something to ask the bobbies."
"I did and they said she'll turn up; that it happens all the time," she muttered with hesitation in her voice.
"You do know my fees aren't cheap. The bobbies would do it for free," he insisted, just wanting to go back to his drinking. This lady was just going to be trouble. A pouty look crossed her face. She wasn't going to take no for an answer, those big doe eyes of hers locking straight on him. "I'll pay you half now, and the other half when you complete the job." She opened her purse and pulled out a small coin pouch from the shadowy recesses of the bag, tossing it on the table. The weight made a clanking sound as it landed on the disheveled desk.
Nicholas wiped his face grumpily, but he reached for the pouch. He felt the weight of the bag and undid its binding, letting its contents spill onto the table like an avalanche coming down the Hoganmar mountain range. He stared at the money. He wasn't one to pass up money, but he had to pay the bills and Ms. Hart’s salary. He gritted his teeth. He wasn’t going to like this. "Alright, Ms. Parker, you have a deal. I'll see what I can do for you, but I don't promise anything, do you hear me?"