Time for the latest terribleminds challenge. This one is called Fairy Tales Remixed. You take a fairy tale and a random sub-genre and 1000 words later, voila! In my case I chose The Billy Goats Gruff with a detective sub-genre.
I was fumbling in my bottom desk drawer for my bottle of corn when I felt a presence. I looked up and there she stood. She was tall with a knockout body but with a face that had been knocked around with an ugly stick. She gazed coolly at me and waited for my move.
“May I help you?” I asked. Damn Phyllis must have stepped out to buy a deck of Luckies or else I wouldn’t have been caught with my hand in the cookie jar.
“I’m looking for Frank Sweetwater,” she said.
“Yeah, lady, I’m Frank. And who might you be?”
“My name is Lillian LaTrolle. My friends call me Lillie,” she looked at me, seeing the stubble on my cheeks and the network of broken capillaries marching across my nose. Her nostrils flared as the stale air of my office reached them. Traces of old bourbon and desperation make a potent mix. “You may call me Mrs. LaTrolle.”
“What can I do for you, Mrs. LaTrolle?” I didn’t like her or her ugly mug but I hadn’t had a client walk through the door in weeks.
“I would like you to find my three brothers. They’re missing, and everyone tells me don’t worry,” she said. “But it’s not like them, Mr. Sweetwater. They know I worry but I haven’t heard a thing in weeks and I’m so frightened that something has happened.” Her eyes welled up, magnified by unshed tears and I noticed how beautiful they were. Large and dark and fringed with thick black lashes…
I shook my head. I had been in danger of drowning in those eyes. Get your head back in business, Frank.
“What can you tell me about them?” I motioned to a chair and she sat down slowly, giving me an eyeful of some amazing getaway sticks.
“Their name is Gruff.” She gave me details about their descriptions, last known whereabouts, usual haunts. We agreed on terms (a 10% surcharge added to my fee for that ‘Mrs. LaTrolle’ business) and shook hands. Phyllis could type the contract later.
Lillie rose, giving me another look at those legs. She walked to the doorway and paused.
“Mr. Sweetwater… could you please keep my name out of this? If you find the boys and they’ve just been out for a lark they’d be furious that I’d hired you.”
“Mum’s the word,” I said.
It had been too long and I was ready to hit the streets. This job should be duck soup and I’d be paying my rent in no time.
I grabbed my hat, took a swig from my bottle, and walked into the outer office. Phyllis was back and was behind her desk with a gasper hanging from her mouth.
“Phyllis, I got a job,” I said. “Spare me a Lucky for the road.”
“Mr. Sweetwater, you’re always telling me not to smoke so much and now you’re wanting butts off me.”
“And you tell me not to drink so much but you know where my corn is kept don’t you.”
She blushed and handed over the cigarette.
As I made my rounds around the hangouts of the brothers Gruff, the picture cleared. Innocent lambs they were not. Their haunts were dives, the cheap ones where pro skirts hung out with hoods and redhots.
I got my break when a little birdie told me those boys had pulled a major flimflam involving a fancy nightclub called Bridge to Heaven. The brothers weren’t lost, they were laying low.
The job was tough- I wasn’t looking for lost sheep, I was looking for the didn’t want to be found. But I wasn’t born yesterday and I had been working these streets for longer than those Gruff boys had been alive. Damn right I found them.
I met Lillie at my office to tell her the good news. Her frosty air thawed when I gave her the address of the boys’ hideout, a flophouse where they were registered under the name Caprine.
“Oh, thank you, Mr. Sweetwater!” she said. “I was out of my mind.”
“It’s my job, Mrs. LaTrolle. I’m good at what I do,” I said.
“Quite,” she said, looking around the dingy office. “I’m sorry I doubted you. How much do I owe?”
I told her the final bill and she wrote out a check, saying she was giving me a bonus for my quick work.
“Thank you again, Mr. Sweetwater,” she said.
“Thank you, Mrs. LaTrolle, let me know if you need anything else.”
“I’ll do that, Mr. Sweetwater,“ she said as she walked to the door. “You really don’t know how grateful I am.”
The next morning I was in my apartment, drinking my joe, and shaking out the morning paper.
“TRIPLE HOMICIDE IN SEEDY HOTEL!”
“Police have reported the shooting deaths of three men in the Bowery Hotel on the lower south side. Buck Gruff, 28, Billy Gruff, 24, and Charles “Kid” Gruff, 19, were found in their hotel room shot execution style in the back of the head. There are no known suspects at this time.”
I made it to my office in record time. I needed to find that check. When Lillie had handed it to me yesterday I only had eyes for all the zeroes. The bank had been closed so I left the check in my desk until morning.
When I found it I looked at the upper left corner. “Lillian LaTrolle,” it read. Underneath was “Proprietor, Bridge to Heaven Nightclub.” Distracted by those legs and eyes and my empty wallet, I had not paid enough attention to her, only her green.
She had set me up. If I went to the cops, she would tell them I was in on it, that’s what the bonus was for. If I accused her of murder, she would say I was the paid hitman. She knew my reputation, knew that I had been a loser down on his luck for a while. A drunk versus a high class lady, no contest. And, after all, what business was it of mine? Those boys were no-goods, they had ripped her off with that nightclub job. I could cash that check and be set for a while. And let a murderer go free.
My stomach churned.
I opened my bottom desk drawer, pulled out my bottle, drank, and waited for the bank to open.