Sunday, April 29, 2012

Untitled Short Story

I'm asleep at my desk with my hat down and my feet up when she walks in. My assistant likes to let clients through unannounced. He says it's to remind me that he's not a secretary. I remind him that I don't need an assistant either, but we both know that's a lie.

I try to right myself a little too quickly and end up on my back behind the desk. I hear her stifle a laugh, but, to give her credit, by the time I'm on my feet, she has her serious face on again. Pity. I imagine she looks much nicer smiling. I imagine a lot of things in that first second.

She's got a trenchcoat on, soaked through from the afternoon rain. The curves of her body are mostly hidden, but the hints at what sits out of sight makes my mind, and other things, run wild. The hat covers most of her hair, but a few red strands lie on her shoulder, stuck to the coat.

I hit her with my best opening line.

"How can I help, ma'am?" Hey, this is a business, not a bar.

"It's my husband..." (My heart sinks) "He's missing." (That's better).

I offer Curves a chair and some water.

"Got anything stronger?" she asks.

I shake my head. "I run a legitimate business here. I uphold the law, not break it."

"That's okay. We don't have time for drinks. We need to get to my husbands office, where he was last seen." Curves turns from the desk and heads for the door, holding it open while I grab my coat. We step out into the gloom of the afternoon. I look up at the glow of traffic, shielding my eyes from the unending rain, popping my collar against the wind. Far above I can make out the murky shape of the dome, sickly rays of sunlight bleeding through.

"My car is this way," I say as I point her toward the garage. "Tell me about your husband."

"He runs the xenogenetics division for BioDiversity, developing new strains of XNA for clients. His office is at Maginus Base. That's where we're heading, Mr. Walsh."

"Wait." I grab her by the arm and spin her around. "Maginus Base? Isn't that...?"

"On the moon. Yes. I have two tickets to Jansen Base, the nearest civilian habitat, leaving in six hours. Can I count on your assistance? As you can imagine, I can pay you for your services, and expenses. I hear you're the best, Mr. Walsh. I need you."

My heart skips a beat before my brain reminds me that she's a married woman. I unlock my beat-up old Ford and yank the door open. It's not pretty, but it gets me places.

"Thank god you got those tickets, ma'am. I don't think this thing could handle the mileage."

She cracks a smile, and I'm lost in the movie theater of my imagination all over again.

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