Chapter 1 : Hardboiled
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It was hot that day. Hotter than most, even for summertime. Muggy, with stagnant air. Even the windows were sweating. I rolled up my sleeves and loosened my tie. But I didn’t take my hat off. The hat stayed. I liked the hat.
The sun was going down, but I wasn’t excited about it like most working men were. I didn’t have anything to get home to. I would probably order bad Chinese takeout and stay in the office until midnight. That’s how it was most days. I didn’t mind. Sure, the place was dingy and the view was terrible. But home wasn’t any different.
So I made myself comfortable. I put my feet up and opened the paper, catching up on the sports scores.
That’s when she walked in.
The prettiest dame I’d ever laid eyes on. And I’d seen a lot of dames.
I didn’t look at her right away, though. Like I said, I was reading the sports page.
I heard her knock, then I heard the door open. Why people even bother to knock, I’ll never know.
“Excuse me,” she said. She had a nice voice. “Are you Detective Weasley?”
“That’s what it says on my desk, ain’t it?” I tapped my nameplate with my foot. Ronald Weasley, Private Eye. That’s me. “So how about you? You have a name?”
“Does it matter?”
“No.” A lot of my clients were confidential. As long as they paid up, I didn’t care about their names.
I lowered the paper and pushed my hat up to get a gander at the mystery girl. The first thing that caught me was her figure. She wasn’t the curvy type. That was okay. The curvy types were trouble. This girl had a small waist, small hips, small hands. Everything about her was tiny. She showed it off, too. She was wearing one of those skirts that make me wonder how women breathe while wearing them. Women wear funny things. She hadn’t buttoned her shirt up all the way either. I wondered whether I should mention it – but I didn’t. It’s my policy not to comment on a woman’s appearance. It only gets you into trouble.
She was wearing gloves, too. So she was a classy dame.
“Have a seat, ma’am,” I said.
“Oh, don’t call me ‘ma’am.’ It’s so…formal.”
I didn’t know what to think of that. So I took my feet off my desk, leaned forward, and lowered my voice. “Then have a seat, sweetheart.”
She sat down. I looked at her for a minute, trying to figure her out. She had big, brown doe eyes that were the same color as her hair. It was thick and curly and a little bit frizzy, probably from the weather. Like I said, she was a looker.
“I hope I’m not keeping you from anything,” she said. “I’ll be quick – you probably want to get home to your wife.”
“No wife. At home it’s just me and my sofa.” And a pot of stale coffee.
“That sounds so lonely.” She leaned closer and put her elbows on my desk.
“I like lonely. Don’t touch the desk, kitten. So, what can I do for you?”
She sighed and wiped her eyes with a handkerchief. “It’s my husband…he’s missing. Can you help me?”
So this was what I had been reduced to – finding missing husbands. Sometimes I think I shoulda never left the force.
But I didn’t like to see such a pretty girl so sad. Call me a sucker for pair of brown eyes. It nearly broke my heart to ask the question I had to ask any woman whose man mysteriously went missing.
“I have to ask you…do you know if he had a girlfriend?” Wrong question to ask this girl. I could tell she was offended. For a second or two, I thought she was going to slap me.
But all she did was stare at me for a minute. Then she stood up slowly and sat on the edge of my desk, still looking at me the whole time. She was smiling like she had some kind of secret.
“If you were married to me, would you have a girlfriend?” She whispered it so low that I had to lean forward to hear. She was good.
“I’m not the right person to ask. I’m not the marrying type.”
She pushed her lips forward in a little pout. It was getting uncomfortable. I wasn’t the type to get dizzy over a dame. And I wasn’t about to start now. I thought maybe I should refer her to Sam before I got in over my head.
“I’m not sure how much I can do to help you, kid.” I started to lean back, but she grabbed my tie before I could go anywhere.
“Please, Detective Weasley.” She was so close I felt her breath on my cheek. “I don’t know what I’ll do if you don’t help me. I was told you were the best.”
“Whoever told you that was selling you something. There’s other gumshoes in this town better than me.” I could smell her perfume and I knew it would be sticking to my shirt the next day.
“But I want you to help me. You will, won’t you? You don’t know how awful this has been.” She bit her lip. And, stupid me, I took the bait. She reeled me in.
“It normally costs six large for this kinda job,” I told her.
“I…I don’t have that kind of money.”
“What can you give me?”
“I’ll give you anything.”
“I think we can work it out.” My mouth was dry. I needed a drink. I figured so did she. I knew a good gin mill down the street. “Whaddya say we blow this joint?”
I just needed this chick off my desk before I went jingle-brained. I stood up and went to straighten my tie, but she grabbed my hand. Before I could say a word, everything went black around me.
* * * * * * * * * *
We were standing in a bedroom. Her bedroom, apparently. When I asked what we were doing there, she told me it was the last place she’d seen her missing man. She said she hadn’t seen him since yesterday morning.
I started combing the scene, and I saw a photograph of her and a guy that must have been her husband. He had a handsome mug. Figures, a guy like that would get a dish like her. Then I saw her sit down in a chair, looking all teary-eyed. Part of me hoped this guy had been popped or landed himself in the big house, because no man in his right mind would walk out on a girl like this one.
“Hey, look, kid.” I knelt down next to her. “We’ll figure it out, you and me, together.” She sighed the saddest sigh this man had ever heard, and she looked at me with her big brown eyes. Brother, I hoped she wasn’t playing me for a sap.
“Look,” I said, “where was he when you saw him in here?” She pointed to the bed. “Okay…and, uh, where were you?” She pointed to the bed again.
“I fell back asleep before he left for work,” she said.
“Did he say anything? What was the last thing he said to you?”
Her face turned pink, and she made like she wanted me to move closer, like she was embarrassed to say it out loud. I didn’t know why, since there was nobody else around. She didn’t seem like the shy type. Her lips were almost touching my ear. Then she whispered the answer to me.
What an indecent thing to say to a lady.
She had her arms around my neck. She looked helpless, like she didn’t have a friend in the world. I was thinking about doing something really stupid, when I heard a knock at the front door. I told her to let me answer it. I didn’t know what kind of goon might be waiting there. Could have been some thug who had something to do with the missing husband.
I opened the door and saw a guy with black hair. He was the tall, skinny type. He looked like an average Joe at first. Then I noticed a big scar right in the middle of his forehead. So figured he must be some kinda tough guy.
He looked at me funny, but he seemed to recognize me, because he rolled his eyes and said, “Ron, what are you doing?”
“Do I know you?” I asked.
“Yes, although sometimes I wish you didn’t.” He tried to grab my hat. “What’s with the stupid fedora?”
I grabbed his fist and looked him in the eye. “Don’t touch the hat.”
“What the hell are you doing?”
“I’ll ask the questions around here,” I said. “Do you know a pretty girl who lives here?”
“Um, yeah, I guess.”
“What do you know about her husband?”
“That he’s standing right in front of me and he’s an idiot. Why are you wearing that hat, and why are you talking in that weird voice? Look, I came to ask you about – ”
“Detective Weasley?” I heard her in the hallway behind me, purring my name like a kitten.
The tough guy at the door made a face. “Detective Weasley?? What in the name of Merlin are you – bloody hell, Hermione! What are you wearing??” He covered his eyes with his hand. “You know, Ron, it would be really helpful if you would stick a sign on your door that says, Hello, I’m playing one of my freakish games with my wife right now. Please come back later.”
I had to laugh. This goon was funny.
“Look, I’m going to go home and…have Ginny modify my memory or something. Just…Floo me when you’re…when you’re done, okay? Ugh, for the love of Merlin…”
He walked away with his trap still flapping. But I wasn’t listening anymore. I slammed the door and turned around. She was right there behind me, twirling a piece of her hair around her finger.
“Hermione. Is that your name, duchess?”
“I wanted to be mysterious.”
I laughed. “You are, kid, you are.” I brushed her hair out of her eyes and put my arm around her waist. She undid my tie and gave me the kind of look that says it all. I realized she probably knew more about her husband’s disappearance than she was letting on. I realized she’d been playing me like a piano. I also realized I didn’t care.
I took the hat off and tossed it on the floor. “Now, where were we?”
A/N: Loved it? Hated it? That's what reviews are for! Anyone else here have Auror/ detective daydreams about Ronald Weasley? No? Just me, then. :-)
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