Crashing full-tilt into the alleyway, the trench-coated figure stumbled a moment against the dank brick wall, wincing at the cacophony of the metal trash cans spilling their contents onto the damp ground. With a sharp intake of breath, Rue Dobbs grinned darkly into the yawning doorway from which he’d emerged and, bracing himself, took off at a reckless sprint, careening around the corner as shots rang out in the night, the spark of the bullets hitting the brickwork by his head, showing how close a call he’d had. Faint, ugly shouts behind him signaled pursuit beyond the clumsy hail of bullets. Another sharp turn took him out into the fitful late night traffic of the street. Glancing up, Rue saw the Blue Line advancing down the track – Too late for that one, then, he looked around wildly before stepping out into the street. A passing bus obscured him from view… and then he was gone.
From his vantage point in the back of his cab, Rue watched with satisfaction as his pursuers skidded out into the street, quickly pocketing weapons and searching fruitlessly for their quarry.
Alighting from the cab, Rue Dobbs, private eye, straightened his tie, adjusted his hat, and shrugged his shoulders, settling his trench into a more comfortable position. Reaching inside the lapel he withdrew a small, black, velvet box and opened it under the soft gleam of the street lamp. Another smile graced his handsome face, this one softer than before. Shutting the case with a business-like snap, Rue gave the empty street one confident sweep with his eyes then skipped up the four steps to the door of his rather affluent client, the lovely Mrs. Ruby Capone.
In spite of the late hour, he gave the doorbell a hearty push, the merry tinkling within the rich quarters signaling his triumph. Several tense moments passed and again Rue scanned the street anxiously, turning when the door opened to reveal the beautiful Mrs. Capone herself, wrapped in a silken robe that shone sheer against the lighted backdrop of the interior. Wordlessly she turned and allowed Rue to follow, which he did, gently shutting the door behind him.
“Mrs. Capone, I’m sorry for the late hour but I-“ Rue tried to keep his eyes from the shifting silk that only served to accentuate the lady’s enticing curves and failed miserably.
“Ruby, please,” her husky voice stopped him as surely as if she’d laid an elegant finger with its bright red polish across his lips, “I take it that you’ve found my necklace.”
In answer, Rue brought out the velvet case and held it out. With eager, clutching hands the woman grasped the box and opened it, her eyes dancing in the myriad of diamonds that met her sight.
“You, Mr. Dobbs, are a remarkable man…”
“Well,” Rue shrugged off the compliment. All in a day’s work, really.
“Such a waste…” Ruby’s eyes suddenly glinted hard and she turned to reveal a pistol, her rich, throaty voice never altering its seductive tone.
“What’s – what’s this?” Rue opened wide his hands, slowly backing away. No chance getting to his own glock now. He stared down the gleaming metal barrel debating his options.
“Your reward, Mr. Rue Dobbs,” Ruby’s voice glinted cold as the steel in her hand. “I really am sorry, you know.” Wide, limpid eyes radiated cruel cunning.
The gun went off.
Waking with a start, Rue looked around for the source of the sound. In the alley below his window, the garbage truck banged away, more evidence of the city stirring to life around him. Squinting, Rue peered at the clock above the door, casually wiping his cheek, not really ashamed at once more having woken up facedown on his desk, an empty bottle at hand, a puddle of drool accumulating in the ocean of papers that littered his work place.
Just past six. Not bad.
He blinked and leaned back in his chair, the furnishing giving an ominous creak as he forced it just past its limit. Glancing dully around his dismal office, Rue shoved off the desk edge to propel himself to the window. Flicking the yellowed plastic slats with his fingers, Rue ascertained that it might be sunny today. Hard to tell, really, wedged between two tall buildings as he was.
Wheeling back, he scanned the computer screen in the corner of his desk, noting nothing much of interest in his Inbox. Apparently he’d won the lottery six times today, needed extra girth to please the ladies, and there were about a dozen soon-to-be-single suspicious woman who’d wanted him to see if their significant others were cheating on them. These last had come through the form submissions space on his website but he was tempted to delete the lot of them on principle.
While he knew the fallacy of judging a book by its cover, the shortening of “you” to “U” and other grammatical leniencies told him that he didn’t want their babysitting money just to do a quick online search that any monkey could perform. What he needed was a real challenge, real investigative work. His thoughts turned back to his fast-fading dream, cynically muttering to himself, “Your era has passed, Rue. The private eye is dead and not by Ruby’s hand.” Again he clicked through his emails, reaching over to the bottle at his side before remembering it was empty. In moving the bottle he again saw the red-stamped envelope: Final Notice.
A jangling noise assaulted his ears and irritably, Rue shuffled through the mound of papers in search of his telephone. Unearthing the heavy black monolith that was his phone, he cleared his throat and adjusted his face into a businesslike smile, for he’d heard you could hear a smile through a telephone and liked to improve his meager odds as best he could.
“Rue Dobbs, Private Investigator. How may I assist you today?” he stifled a yawn. Here was the promise of real work. An early morning phone call – no 3 a.m. drunk email from a frat boy looking for a lost car (always inevitably found where he’d parked it) or angsty teen wondering about her boyfriend (same answer, similar principle.)
“…and so I was wondering if you could, you know, tail him or something. Get one of those magnetized thingies like they’e got on those cop shows to track him – a GPS unit,” the woman’s voice droned into his ear.
He doodled notes on his sketch pad, seeing dollar signs. Then she added –
“I wouldn’t have even been suspicious ‘cept for him delinking his Facebook page from mine last week. I went in and – you know that little heart symbol by your status? – Yeah, I was apparently ‘no longer in a relationship’.”
“Mmmm…” Rue had already entered the man’s name and was scrolling through increasingly intimate and gag-inducing shots of a puppy-eyed couple (thank you Facebook timeline). “You say this is a distance thing?” he interjected.
“Have you even looked at his page?”
“Oh, I … I hadn’t thought to try that. I wanted to, ya know, give him space and … Can I even look at Jerry’s profile page now that we’re not linked?”
“Ma’am, this man has the lousiest security for his profile that I’ve seen in a long time. I can tell you what he ate for dinner last night without getting out of my chair. GPS? Hell, we’ve photographic evidence he’s clearly started seeing someone new in the last… two months. Secondly, if you’re that concerned with his privacy, don’t hire a PI.” He hung up, disgusted and annoyed.
He had to get out of here. He thumbed through a box marked “evidence” and with a triumphant ‘ah-hah’ dug out a filled coffee punch card. “Thank you, Mr. Langley,” he muttered, shoving the bankers box back into its corner, snapping shut his laptop and unplugging it from the extra monitor on his desk.
Donning hat and coat, he swung shut the door behind him and walked out.
Using the filled punch card to ‘purchase’ a large latte, Rue asked for the store’s Wi-Fi password and settled in at a sidewalk table. Here he gutted his email, rejecting and/or solving all but a few promising “cases” in the time it took to down his drink.
Broke and still a little hung over, Rue returned to his office, finding another eviction notice shoved partly under his door. Stepping over it, Rue tiredly entered his office and hung up coat and hat, settling down into his chair – A quick nap before I pack it all up, he justified, kicking up his heels and leaning back into his chair.