The Conversation Cover

The Conversation

A James Cartwright Hard-Boiled Noir Short Mystery

By Oliver Dean Spencer

The Conversation Cover

The Conversation (Excerpt)


“If the cards are stacked against you, reshuffle the deck.”
― John D. MacDonald

SHE KEPT STARING AT ME from across the diner. I had been working my way through a couple of eggs—over easy, bacon, home fries, and a dried-out tomato slice. I was famished after a night of chasing down a missing orangutan from a local zoo. I gulped down the last of my coffee and made my way towards her.

“Excuse me miss, but do we know each other?” She looked up giving me this look of utter disbelief as if such a possibility was absurd. And then she told me as much.

“I’ve never laid eyes on you in my life.”

“Well. I’m sorry to have bothered you.” I made to turn, to head back to the remnant of my morning chow, when she reached out, grabbing hold of my arm.

“Are you James Cartwright, the private detective?”


“On what?” She seemed to have a low tolerance for being ignored.

“On why you’re looking for him.” She considered this obvious fact for a moment.

“Please forgive my manners. I’m Julia. Mrs. Julia Martin. We spoke earlier on the phone,” offering up a smile with her words that could stop dead—a crash of rhinoceroses. She then extended her perfectly manicured hand, one that had probably never seen a day’s work. I shook it. It felt as soft as lamb’s skin.

“So, what is it that you think I could do for you, Mrs. Martin?”

“A friend of a friend told me you could help.”

“With what, exactly?”

“A missing person. My husband to be exact.”

“Have you been to the cops?”

“That’s just it. I haven’t. I figure they would suspect me right off.”

“Suspect you of what?”

“Of murder.”

“Why is that? You said he was missing. So, either he’s missing, or he’s dead?’

“I’d have to say both.”

I took this last detail in and chewed on it for a few seconds. But it was leaving a bad taste in my mouth, similar to the dried-out tomato slice I had tackled moments earlier.

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