My memory gets a little hazy at times, but I remember this whole thing clearly. It was like any other Monday, really, except that it felt sort of like I was living in some sort of film noir from the late 1930’s to early 1950’s. You know, everything’s in black and white, and I’m wearing a plain, dark-colored trench coat, no tie, with a matching fedora hat. I talk in a scruffy, slightly toned down voice. I have an office, and the stick on letters that I put on the door when I first rented the place have deteriorated, and some have fallen off. My underpaid secretary sits outside. She gives me a lot of grief, brother, but I guess I deserve it. I haven’t found any solid detective work for months now. I’ve been just barely making it by calling up ex-girlfirends and charming them into granting me favors, and occasionally I’ll get a small detective job, usually for some kid trying to find Waldo. Well, I do it, but I ain’t proud.
It was already late afternoon, no calls all day as usual, and my secretary, Cybil, has been telling me she needs to go before too long, but I tell her to stay. “You don’t pay me enough to stay!” Alright, alright ya crazy dame, go ahead and take off.
But then she walks in. Or calls, rather, but let’s pretend she walks in. She’s got a long stride and a voice to match. Wait, I’m not sure that makes sense, but it sounds sensual. She sits down, and opens up her cigarette case, and puts one in her mouth. I strike a match and reach to light it, but then she tells me “It’s only candy, baby.”
So what’s your name, I ask her. “Monica. Monica Richman,” she tells me as she chomps down on her sugar stick. Already I know why she’s here. And she knows I know. Not long ago I was investigating The History Channel. I had suspected that they were going to change their name to the Hitler Channel. Problem is, A&E Television owns the History Channel, and I used the name of their executive vice president in the article. Let’s say he wasn’t too happy about it. To cut a long story short, Monica Richman here is a big time lawyer, representing A&E. She works for some law firm down town, I forget the name exactly but it sounds like “sunshine” when pronounced by an Italian immigrant with a thick accent.
I ask her, What are you doing in this part of town, in the docks? She tells me she was just in the neighborhood and wanted to stop by. Come to get me to change my story, I ask her. “You know that story’s not true,” she tells me. Well that’s a matter of opinion, isn’t it. “No it isn’t,” she says. She shifts her body language and tone of voice, and I can tell she’s trying to seduce me. Not gonna happen, lady, I tell her. The Onion breaks stories like these all the time, and I don’t see you going after them. “You’re not The Onion,” she tells me bluntly, licking her lips, chomping down on the last piece of her candy cigarette.
So there we were, deadlocked in a sexy sort of struggle. I tell her, I’ll take your VP’s name out of the article, but it’s getting published. She tells me she can handle that, but she keeps looking at me in that way. I get up to pour some whiskey. I set a glass down on my desk, open the bottle, and fill the glass half way. I turn around to put the bottle away and when I look back, she’s got the glass in her hands, and already there’s an imprint of lipstick left on it. You wanna a glass, I ask her. “Oh sorry, I just assumed we’d share.” Why would I want to share with somebody who’s come to coerce me into changing my story, I ask her.
She starts to get real different after I say that. She gets a little apologetic, saying she doesn’t want to hold me back. I ask her if she liked the article I wrote up. I can tell she does, but she tells me that because of her work, she preferred it hadn’t been written. She calls it “hurtful” among other things, but then she starts to talk crazy to me. She starts working me up as some sort of creative genius, and starts using big, sexy words like “defamation” and “fictitious”. I knew this doll wanted to get with me, but now I think she might be trying to suck me in long-term, see. I can’t handle that. Maybe my mother’s right, maybe I do need to settle down, but not right off the bat like this. I start to feel real uncomfortable, see, and start tugging at my shirt collar, even though I’m not wearing a tie as I’m sure you’ll recall.
She looks at me with big eyes and pouty lips, waiting for me to make a verbal response. Sorry babe, I say, it’s just not in the cards for you and me. She jumps across the desk, grabbing me by my shirt, yelling my name, telling me that we need to be together. I give her a slap on the face and tell her to sit down. She does, her hair a mess, and a look of shame draped on her face. I lie to her. Look dame, I’m married. “You’re not wearing a ring,” she points out. Yeah I know, I do detective work. You think I want the perps I investigate to know I got a wife at home? Not a chance in hell, lady, not a chance in hell. And that goes for you and me. I’ll change the name, but that’s all. Get outta here.
She grabs her coat and walks away, then pauses in the open door and looks back at me. She has this fierce look in her eyes, and it seems like she’s gonna say something, ‘cept she doesn’t. She just slams the door and walks out of my office. So I sit there and finish the glass of whiskey, grab my hat and coat, and head out the door. Sometimes I wonder just what it is that I’m doing in this town.