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Exceptional
This work has reached the exceptional level
a noir detective story
Sucker Punch by RodG
 Category:  Mystery and Crime Fiction
  Posted: March 2, 2014      Views: 76

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 ABOUT
RODG 
I taught English for 40 years on the high school and college level. Since retiring, I have written a poetry collection titled "Reflections of a Dog Walker," and five novels, all unpublished. I mostly post poems and short stories.
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When I awoke, my head throbbed as if Krupa was finishing a solo inside. It wobbled on my shoulders like one of those teetering boulders I'd seen in a Randolph Scott western more nights ago than I could remember. As the dizziness worsened, I assumed it would topple. I managed to crack open an eyelid to discover my other body parts couldn't move. I was tied to my chair.

Hours before, I'd been drinking Canadian rye in my office. Friday night, no plans, and nothin' to go home to. And the bum leg wasn't letting me forget what happened a few months earlier when I was a beat cop. My partner and I were checking out a B & E, and I failed to duck. I'd caught a bullet in the upper thigh; he caught one in the chest. The shooter got away. Long story short, I took a disability severance and opened my own detective agency in a semi-furnished single room upstairs in a dilapidated building three blocks from where I was shot.

Although I'd been sipping the booze slowly, I had a slight buzz when she walked in. Don't remember her knocking, but I'd been too focused on drinking and trying to forget that night I'd been shot. My partner was hit first, and died in my arms. I drink so I won't sleep. When I do, there's always nightmares of his blood spilling out of him onto my hands.

"Are you Mr. Athens, the P. I.?" she asked.

The question roused me from my stupor. I aimed my face in her direction.

I smelled her before I saw her. A heavy scent of perfume wafted toward me and punched my sinuses awake. My eyelids followed. When I saw her face, they banged open like a broken window shade.

"Whoo--ee! If I'm dreamin', Doll, don't wake me up."

The face came closer, and I might have drooled.

Then it retreated. I heard sharp heels cross my bare floor. Then water running. Moments later they returned and that face was smiling into mine.

"I wet a rag with cold water, Mr. Athens. If you place it on your eyes a few moments, you'll feel much better."

I blotted my eyes, then lowered the rag. She was correct. I felt better, but not because of the water. The woman staring at me was a knock-out!

I leered. She frowned and backed away.

"Do either of those windows open?" she asked. "Your office is so stuffy fresh air might help you . . . recover."

"Nope. Painted shut. But there's a small fan on the file cabinet. It works."

When she hoofed over to turn it on, my gaze was glued. She was Bacall and Hayworth rolled into one. A pale blue dress clung to every inch of her. A firm ass wiggled away from me; two ripe melons bobbed when she returned. My eyes worked their way back up to that face. It was small, but not those brown doe eyes and full red lips. Honey-colored tresses stroked pale cheeks and hung to her shoulders. Everything about the way she moved said she'd be very comfortable posing for the kind of calendar horny mechanics tack to the back walls of their shops.

The office had one other chair. She found it, placed it before my desk, and sat with her gams crossed and lots of thigh exposed.

I was sobering quickly.

"I need you to find someone for me," she said. Her lips barely moved.

"All right. Who?"

She told me. A man. We talked about him awhile.

"When can you start?" she asked.

"Tomorrow. I don't mind working weekends."

"Good. How much do you charge?"

I told her.

"Do you really need that much of a retainer?"

"Yup. It covers expenses. When I find him, I'll send you a bill for the rest."

"I--I didn't bring that much cash with me."

"I'll take a check."

"I didn't bring my checkbook. Will you accept any other kind of payment?"

"What do you have in mind?"

Her sultry smile would light a Cuban cigar and keep it burning. Then she rose and sashayed around my desk. Moments later she was perched in my lap and reaching for my bottle.

"Mind sharing?" she purred.

"Not at all, Doll. There's another glass in that drawer by your knee."

We drank, then kissed, and drank some more. Soon we both were amiably incandescent. She laughed as we petted. Then we were naked on the floor far away from the windows. When we finished making love, we drank some more by my desk. I remember vaguely her dragging me back to our "love nest" on the floor.

And now, hours after our nocturnal tryst, I sat tied to my chair. At least I wasn't naked, but had I somehow dressed myself or had she? And why would she?

My head had stopped wobbling, but I was nauseous, and couldn't think clearly. I blinked a few times to clear my vision. Then I felt my bonds. My wrists were wrapped behind the chair, tied with strips of cloth.

"Probably the one she used to wipe my face," I muttered.

My ankles were bound to the legs of the chair. But why hadn't she gagged me, too?

Another question crept into my head. How had she gotten me onto that chair? I'm six-two, two-ten. She wasn't that strong as I'd easily flipped her from one position to another while we romped.

Then I saw the open left drawer of my desk. I rocked forward until I could see into it.

"That's why she really came," I groaned. My gun was gone.

Guns were easy to buy if you had money. She had none. She needed to steal one, but why mine? Likely because she knew any gumshoe had one. But did she intend to use it? On who, the man she claimed she wanted me to find?

I stared at the empty bottle until pieces of the puzzle started coming together.

"She had a plan before she walked in here," I muttered. "She needed a gun, got it, and will use it . . . soon. And when she's done, she'll toss it where the cops can find it. They'll trace it to me, Johnny Athens, and what will I tell 'em? She'll have vanished, and I don't even recall her name."

I'd been played. Real good. And now I was angry. I yanked at the bonds now biting into my wrists. No give. I tried my ankles. Even less.

I quit fussing for a bit to think.

"Has she already shot him? If so, how soon before the cops get here? They'll walk in, laugh their fool heads off, and grill me without untying me. Especially if that jerk Saban's with them."

Then I smelled it. Not my foul breath or her lingering perfume. Possibly cigarette smoke, but I didn't smoke. I'd also heard no footsteps clamoring up the stairs.

I sniffed. Repeatedly.

"Yeah, it's smoke, but from where--?"

I cocked my head to the right and saw it. Wisps of grayish-white smoke seeped under my glass door. I squinted. What was that dancing orange glow?

"Cripes! The building's on fire!" I yelped.

Suddenly understanding, not fear, hit me like a sucker punch to the gut.

"Doll-face didn't set it 'cause she's not in this alone. She had help. A guy. Probably lurking outside until I passed out. Then she got him to lift me into this chair and tie these knots. I wonder if he or she insisted there be no witnesses. Oh, Johnny, they want you dead!"

That's when I started screaming my fool head off.




The Detective is Caught! writing prompt entry

Writing Prompt
You are a clever detective. You are in your room. When you wake up, you're tied to a chair. What happens next?
Any form of literature is allowed: poems, novels, etc.
Length 500 ~ 2000 words.

Author Notes
I want to thank Google images for the photo I used to illustrate this story.

Krupa--Gene Krupa, the famous drummer, known for his flashy style.
Randolph Scott--starred in dozens of westerns in the 40s and 50s.
Hayworth and Bacall--Rita Hayworth and Lauren Bacall were two of Hollywood's biggest stars in the 40s, the time this story takes place.
gumshoe--a slang term even then for a private eye.

I introduced Johnny Athens not long ago in "Night Hawks." I chose "noir" for this contest because it seemed perfect considering the prompt.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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