The dame walked in looking like a million bucks, but she had a desperation to her that made me think she was going to cause me nothing but trouble. The click-clack of her high heels echoed through the office, as precise steps kicked at the agonizingly sunny skirt, but she didn’t say a word until she sat down in front of my desk.
She leaned forward, cleavage lifting to the top of the dark blue blouse. “Can you help me?” she squeaked. It was enough to break crystal. There was nothing I could do to shut the noise out of my head, but I somehow managed a brief nod.
“What can I do for you, Miss?”
“I think someone is trying to kill me.” Her voice lost its squeak, gaining a lilting, musical quality as the relief flooded through her.
“What makes you think that?”
For answer, she fidgeted, struggling to open her small purse. She shakily handed over a folded letter.
The creases were well-worn, as if it had been opened and re-folded time and again. I flattened it out on my desk, seeing cut out letters glued to the page.
“Leave town or else.”
“Pithy,” I said. “Where’d you get it?”
“I was at—at a performance,” she rushed the words. “An . . . usher brought it to me, saying someone had left it for me.”
I busied myself rolling a cigarette, thinking it over and watching her. She still fidgeted, and looked like a scared rabbit or maybe a deer, ready to bolt. As I touched the match to my cigarette, her eyes met mine, deep and dark enough for a man to lose himself, like sinking into tar.
“Why not go to the police?” I asked.
“I need protection, not an investigation.”
“So hire a few men to stand around you. What I do is investigate.”
She looked down, cheeks becoming even rosier with embarrassment. “I mean, yes I need someone to investigate, but the police, I don’t know.”
I understood what she meant, but she shouldn’t have, not if she was as innocent as she was pretending to be, but it was okay. Most people coming to hire a dick didn’t want the cops poking into things, either.
“It’s not my usual thing, but I’ll see what I can do.” Business was slow, and I needed to remain liquid, especially in bourbon.