A James Cartwright Hard-Boiled Noir Short Mystery
By Oliver Dean Spencer
The Polka Dot Affair (Excerpt)
I once knew a man who stole a Ferris-wheel.
— Dashiell Hammett
I’D BEEN WORKING LATE killing off a bottle of my favourite eighty proof, sour mash bourbon—the night she came through the door. She stood some five foot six—five eight if one counted the heels. Her fishnet stockings had been torn in several places along the knees. A tight-fitting, red leather dress, clung hungrily to her body, cloaked under a white mink coat—worth a working stiff’s yearly salary.
Tears had been pushing down hard across her face, smearing her coal black mascara into some sort of coded message. Her emerald eyes—speckled brown, had me pegged—like some wild deer caught by oncoming headlights, on a cold winter’s night.
Out of breath and scared, she still hadn’t given up any clues as to why she was standing there. But I figured she was in shock— either from whatever it was she was running from. Or, what she had run into—me.
At six feet two, two hundred and twenty-two pounds and a bottle of bourbon in hand, I didn’t fit the poster child for a hard-working, get-the-job-done, private dick. My favourite black felt Fedora, was slipping sideways off my head. My matching black cotton double breasted suit looked slept in—which in fact it had been. Perhaps it was my snub nose and the chiselled face that gave her cause for alarm. But I was betting on my chestnut hazel blue eyes that I’d inherited on my mother’s side—would work its magic.
I was about to ask why she was here when I saw her lips part. “Are you—” but cut herself off, suddenly turning a pale shade of yellow.
I realized then that she had a date with the floor, so I made a move towards her. I caught her, guiding her onto the wooden chair that fronted my desk. I then grabbed the bourbon I’d been nursing, poured two fingers worth into a shot glass and passed it to her. She downed it willingly, so I poured her a second. Then I drew some for myself—straight from the bottle. Her pale and milky white face was once again showing signs of life—hints of red returning to her cheeks and lips. She decided to give me another try. “Are you Cartwright, the private investigator?”
“Last time I checked,” I answered, hoping some humour would lighten things up. But it seemed to have missed the mark. She was more confused than ever. But she still pushed on.
“Well, if you are who you say you are, I need your help. Someone is trying to kill me.”
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