Jocelyn Beauregard, Private Eye (part two)

Having completed NaNoWriMo ’10, I’m going to share one section of my story here every Friday until you’ve read the whole thing. Hooray for easy update days! Enjoy.

Danny was none too happy. Danny was never none too happy, but today he was quite a bit less too happy than usual.

“When Rita told me you had a case, I dropped my fare right there at Park and Whitman. Let me tell you, dame like that? She’d have tipped sixty cents. Maybe seventy. But I left here there at Whitman, twenty-six blocks away from where she was goin’, and for what? ‘Cause you heard some noises?”

“Loud noises, though, Danny. Like… like an airplane crash! And I’m real sorry you lost your fare. That wasn’t my intention.”

“Yeah, well, a promise is a promise. You helped me out that time at the docks, an’ I told you I’d come runnin’ anytime you called. I regret sayin’ that every day of my life, but my word’s my bond.”

“Danny, that was…” The words trailed off. Jocelyn hated being reminded about the docks, and hated even more having to constantly call in the same favor. “I mean, maybe I have a couple dimes here, to make up for it.”

As Jocelyn started fishing around for her coin purse, Danny softened up. “Nah, put that away. I wouldn’t think of it. Listen, I’m just crabby because the Gents didn’t cover the spread last night. You know I’m out two bucks on those bums? You put that away, an’ enjoy the ride.”

That made Jocelyn feel better. She didn’t have two dimes any more than she had two oil derricks.

Jocelyn had memorized all of Danny’s details a long, long time ago. He had a squat, pudgy face that looked modeled out of wet clay. The kind of face where, if you were to reach over and re-arrange it a bit, it couldn’t be bothered to fall back down into its natural position. Everything below his nose was just a mess of grey stubble. If he had hair, Jocelyn had never seen it, on account of the faded plaid cap that lived on his head.

Jocelyn liked Danny because, though he was rough and rigid and did nothing but complain, he was always rock solid. Danny was the only person in the entire city Jocelyn could rely on for anything, anytime. Usually it was just cab rides around town, but Danny was also a capable handyman for those little things that needed done around the office, or for use as a test dummy for one of her infrequent culinary experiments.

Danny liked Jocelyn because she never seemed to notice how terrible a driver he was.

“So what’d you hear, exactly?” asked Danny, paying only about half as much attention to the pedestrians diving from the crosswalk as he should have been. “I mean, like, gunshots? Place get shot up by gangsters? Bomb go off or somethin’?”

“No, nothing like that. At least, I don’t think so.” Jocelyn fished out her notepad. “Ted and I were talking about whether or not he had any leftovers for me. He had just got through telling me, ‘You’re never gonna make it in this town, kid, as long as you’re living in someone else’s shadow. Understand?’ And I told him that yes, I understood, then he said, ‘I think I had someone come in yesterday, guy who’d been fleeced by some card huckster. Let me—‘ Danny, why are you laughing?”

She hadn’t heard Danny laugh, so much as felt it. When he laughed, the whole cab shook under the weight of him. “I’m sorry, Joss. I am. It just tickles me pink how you always do the voices.”

She didn’t even realize she’d been doing it. “I don’t know,” she said, “it just helps me keep the details straight.” She flipped a page of her notepad back and forth, and wrinkled up her nose. “Now I’ve lost my place.”

“’Fleeced by some card huckster,’” said Danny helpfully, in the best Jocelyn-as-Ted-Holdren voice he could muster.

“Ah. Yes. Well, he said, ‘Let me see if I still have his—‘ then he stopped, real abrupt-like. I heard some twinkling right there… like a bell. Maybe someone came through the front door. And then some voices from the other room. A man, I think or maybe two men, plus his secretary.”

Danny whistled. “Tammy. Yeah, she’s a hot tamale, all right.”

The mention of food just reminded Jocelyn of how many lunches she’d be skipping this month. “Then he said, ‘Will you hold on a sec? I have to go handle something.’ And I told him sure, go ahead.” She flipped over to the next page. “And then there was a very loud sound. A crash, I think. Like… heavy furniture being toppled over, you know?”

“Yeah, or a cab colliding with some slowpoke’s old jalopy,” Danny agreed. He laid on the car’s horn for a few moments, then leaned out the window to holler, “Come on, buddy! Would ya move that thing?”

“ And then the line went stone dead,” continued Jocelyn. “Not like someone had hung up; I would have heard that. It just… went off. And the operator couldn’t get the connection back.”

“Well, whatever happened, there ain’t gonna be any parking around here this time of day. I’ll circle the block, park just outside that old garage, and walk you up.”

“That’s okay, Danny. Just drop me off on the curb. You’ve put yourself through enough trouble on my account today.”

Danny smirked. “Yeah, and let a young dame walk headlong into somethin’ like that all by her lonesome. I don’t think so. What would people think? I’d never live it down.”

“Danny, it’s just Ted Holdren’s office. I’ve been there on my own lots of times.”

“That’s the trouble with you, Joss. Head’s only ever screwed on partway straight.”

Jocelyn got the distinct impression Danny was picking on her again. Danny was always picking on her. “Now what in the world does that mean?”

“Joss, there was a really loud crash. And then the phone goes dead. You don’t think somethin’ dangerous might have caused that? I mean, think about it. Ted’s one of the biggest private eyes in the city. He’s crossed paths with a lot of right scary people.”

“Golly,” said Jocelyn, “I didn’t think of it that way.” She began scratching this new information into her notebook.

“Anyway, here we are. Two blocks away, not a bad walk if I say so myself.”

Jocelyn tucked her notebook and coinpurse away into one of her coat pockets, and stepped lightly out of the car. “Danny, I think you’re parked in a flower bed.”

“Yeah, well, just let ‘em try and ticket me. Horticulture’s overrated anyway. They should try baseball.”

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