[This is in response to the June 3rd Writing Challenge. See if you can figure out who I’m channeling as I write this!]
Cue slow, bluesy jazz. A single spot slowly brightens in the middle of an otherwise black stage. Cue sexy female narrator: ‘A city sleeps the sleep of the innocent, but there in the dark one man stands alone, knowing where the bodies are buried, and why they should stay that way: James Patton, Private Investigator.’ Music swells.
It all sounded good, but the reality seemed lacking somehow. For one thing, I was missing the theme music. The first song that came to mind was the theme to Perry Mason, but that didn’t really suit me all that well. I stood there racking my brain for an alternative while I waited for my contact to arrive.
Brian Setzer’s Hollywood Nocturne. That’s better!
It was a hot August night, the sweltering darkness so thick that even the crickets were suffering from heat stroke. I was stuck here in a small parking lot next to the Irondequoit Bay outlet bridge with only a single street light to keep me company. Seabreeze Amusement Park had closed hours ago, and I watched the lights go out as the remaining workers finished hosing upchucked ice cream off the rides and headed home.
I didn’t know why my contact wanted to meet here. It was another little mystery to ponder as flies came in off the still waters of the bay and decided I made the perfect midnight snack. Swatting the little buggers made me feel better, but ruined the tough guy private eye image I was working on. At least I was wearing the right hat!
I supposed I could be sitting in the car in the official stake-out manner, but gas was too expensive to be running the engine just for the air conditioning, and by standing up I could at least catch whatever breeze happened to drift in off the lake. Besides, I was feeling too antsy to simply sit. Another strike against that P.I. image.
That expectant feel of a thunderstorm looming over the horizon was building in the darkness when she finally appeared, the headlights of her car revealing the beginning wisps of fog as she crossed to bridge and turned onto the gravel. She didn’t bother to get out of the car — she just pulled up to me and rolled down her window. A refreshing burst of refrigerated air poured out.
“Sorry I’m so late, Scotty, but one thing led to another, and you know how it goes!”
“I could have met you at your house.”
“Oh, no, the place is such a mess! And beside, I’ve been in and out all evening. This is a much better meeting place.”
“What’s so important that we had to meet here, and in the middle of the night? Couldn’t it have at least waited until morning?”
“Oh, no! I’ve got to leave town! I’m on my way out right now. I just needed you to do this one thing for me.”
“Oh? What’s that?”
She picked a large Public Radio tote bag off the passenger seat and thrust it into my hands. “Could you watch Floozy while I’m away?” At hearing his name a furry rat stuck his nose out the top of the bag and started yapping. It was a Pekinese or long haired Chihuahua or something. The only types of dogs I know come smothered in mustard or chili sauce.
“Floozy? Your dog? You want me to watch your dog? I don’t know anything about dogs! I’m a cat person!”
“Oh, you’re a dear! He won’t be any trouble! Just feed him and walk him twice a day. I left written instructions in the bag with him, unless he’s chewed them up, of course.”
“But I live in an apartment! They don’t allow pets!”
“Oh, don’t worry about that! He’s always such a good boy! His bark is so quiet your neighbors won’t even know he’s there!”
To prove he was a good boy the varmint stopped yapping and started growling at me.
“What nasty little teeth you have. I can’t take care of him! I don’t even have any dog food! Will he sleep in the tote bag?”
“No, silly! He’ll sleep on the bed with you! I know he’ll sleep soundly next to a big, strong, handsome man like you. It always worked for me!” The dashboard lights revealed she was batting her eyes at me, suggesting promises she’d never been able to keep.
“But that was a long time ago, and you know there were reasons why we split up.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that! The past is the past, I always say.” She pulled an envelope out of her purse and gave it to me. “That should cover his dog food expenses.” She turned to the mutt. “You be a good boy, Floozy! I love you!” The beast stopped growling for a moment as she gave it a pet, then resumed when she pulled her hand back in the car.
“But how long are you going to be away?”
The car started to move. “I’ll call you! Bye! And thank you!” she hollered as, gravel flying, she pulled out of the parking lot and hurled off past the amusement park. The resulting silence was quickly broken as the pampered pooch resumed yapping.
“I know what you’re going through,” I said to the pup. “That feeling of abandonment won’t ever go away.” Knowing I’d once again been played for a sap, I opened the car door and climbed in with the tote.
Cue sexy female narrator: ‘In the sleepy burg know as Smugtown, U.S.A. one man is left holding the bag: Patton, P.I.’ Cue ending music.