A Hard Boiled Reworking

She wasn’t a local.

But she was a looker.

Her look was plucked from a movie, the kind that you would expect on the cover of a magazine: big lips, eyes hidden behind voluminous bangs, a bust that refused to hide behind her blouse. She carried her petite frame in a subservient manner, but held her chin defiantly high. Her outfit of dark wools was out of place in the middle of July and beads of perspiration were detectable on her forehead. As she bit her lower lip timidly, her teeth seemed unusually white against her lipstick.

Andrew Litmus stood as she entered his office. He was underdressed compared to the woman. His coat hung from the back of his chair and his shirt’s top buttons were undone. His tie was loosened and his sleeves rolled to the elbows. He looked the woman up and down and then returned to his seat behind the desk. “I’m closed,” he said.

The woman’s voice was quiet, but assertive, “I saw the light on, and the door was unlocked, so I just thought that—”

“I’m closed.”

“But maybe if you heard me out, heard my story, maybe you’d be inclined to help.”

“Listen ma’am, I gotta stick to my principles. Now, regardless of how much peril you might be in, if I help you after I’m closed… then I gotta help every Joe and Jane off of the street. You see where I’m coming from, right? Try back tomorrow morning, at eight. I’ll help you then.”

“But I won’t make it through the night. They’re after me, Mr. Litmus. And I’m surprised that I’ve made it this long. I just thought that if I could make it here, to Bay City, that maybe the famous Andrew Litmus could help me. Could protect me,” Her eyes glowed despite the dim light.

Litmus gave no indication that the appeal to his ego had worked other than a motion towards the wooden chair that sat before his desk. The woman nodded and moved quickly to the chair. She sat on the edge of the seat, her whole body tensed and ready to spring up again.

“Thank you,” her voice was louder now.

Litmus kicked back in his chair and threw his feet up on the desk. He pulled a cigarette from a pack of Lucky Strikes on his desk. He paused before lighting: “You smoke?”

“Thanks,” she smiled. Litmus lit the cigarette and handed it across the desk to the woman. Then he lit one for himself. Their smoke drifted together to hang above the room in a bluish haze.

It had started raining since the woman had entered. The air in Litmus’s office, previously pregnant with humidity, cooled slightly as a breeze curled under the door. The raindrops tapped a steady rhythm against the windows of the office. Litmus took the cigarette from his mouth and set it, half-smoked, on the lip of an ashtray filled with grey ashes and curled ends of cigarettes. He coughed into his hand.

The woman smoked her cigarette in short, nervous puffs. She glanced around the room and back towards Litmus. Her legs bounced slightly and her hands tightened around the purse that sat in her lap.

Litmus broke the silence, his tone flat, “Look, I’m not making any promises. And I don’t want you to think that I’m taking the case. But why don’t you go ahead and tell me your tale. No guarantees, but maybe I can do something. And by something, I’m thinking like give you some advice, or point you in the direction of someone who would really help. Of course, there will be a consulting fee for the listen.”

The woman was startled and she sputtered through the smoke in her mouth and lungs, “Well I—I—it’s that this means so much— Oh thank you. I’m not sure what’s important—what to tell and what—” She dropped her eyes to the floor, embarrassed.

Litmus chuckled under his breath. He nodded to her noncommittally, and held up his right hand, “I find that it usually helps to start from the beginning. That way we don’t lose anything that might be significant.”

She sat up straight in her chair. She swept the hair from her face and took a long, calm drag on her cigarette. She leaned forward again, through the haze of her exhale, and placed her hands on her knees. “I work nights over in Mainville.”

“That’s a start,” he said.

“At a joint called Vic’s Roadhouse? Nothing sleazy or illegal, just bartending and waiting. I dance occasionally too, for the tips, but that’s not the bulk of my job.”

“I’m not the Morality Patrol, don’t worry about justifying anything.”

“Oh. Of course.”

“So, Vic’s Roadhouse.”

“Anyway, about two weeks ago some gentlemen came into Vic’s. I use gentlemen in the loosest of terms, because the only things gentle about them were their silk ties. There were five men, each fitting the most generic of descriptions: Big, broad, balding, ugly. And they were rude, the gentlemen, and they drank far too much. They would arrive each night around eleven and depart with the rising sun, leaving the Roadhouse in shambles. Never paid their tab either, which is where the trouble started.”

Litmus lifted his smoldering cigarette to his mouth. He smiled at the woman across the desk from him, “Trouble. Thank God for that. Without it, I’d be out of work.”

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One Response to “A Hard Boiled Reworking”

  1. Some dude in DC Says:

    Trouble leads to more trouble….sounds like the start of crazy set of circumstances.

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