From the Files of Buck Wilmington, PI
Parts: One (eight pages total, I think, TNR 11 pt.)
Rating: um...well...depends on how prudish you are...I'd say PG-13.
AU: NYC AU. For those who don't know, in this AU, Buck and Chris are detectives, Ezra and Josiah are lawyers, and the other three work for them. But, well, only Buck really matters here. It's an all Buck story, and you can blame a Red Dwarf episode for this (of all things), as that is where I got the idea (from an episode that begins with Lister having a "good" time in an AR machine). Oh, and the great writer Glen Cook. And Days of Our Lives.
Characters: Would you believe, there is no Ezra in this story? I know! I can't believe it either. But, like I said, this one is all Buck...though I guess Chris does pop up at one point.
Notes: Response to the September CZ Challenge...offered by Libby, I think. Basically, to write a story in the style of a dime store novel, or, in the more modern age, a pulp novel.
Note 2: Though this is similar to Setcheti's response, meaning I used the same genre, it's also a pretty different -- for one thing, this ends up somewhere very, very silly. You'll soon see what I mean.
Note 3: I will never write from a man's perspective again. And never, never, from Buck's. It's just way too weird in that head. I had to steal from Glen Cook to even get close.
Okay, enough prologue.
Description: It's August in NYC, and Buck's, well, feeling the heat....
It was hot.
No, not your usual hot.
New York City in August hot.
The steam rose steadily from the packed streets, as thick as the perfume in a Queens bingo hall, even if it wasn't clearly visible to the naked eye. It came from the millions of people, from the thousands of car and bus fumes, from the sewers and the subway trains, from the very island itself. Staring out of the window on a day like this was like looking at the world through the bottom of beer bottle. It was distorted, thick and, worse, moved.
People fainted on the subway, dropped like flies in the Park, even risked jumping into the harbor from the Staten Island ferry in an attempt to cool down.
I hate this City.
Now don't get me wrong. Truth is, I say that every year. Three weeks from now, when Labor Day weekend rolls round, I'll be in love with it again. Hell, if it were December, April, October or June, I'd be singing its praises. Even when the wind whips down the streets in January, crisping your toes and freezing the eyeballs inside your head, this City is beautiful. But in August...when it's 103 degrees in the shade and the people are thicker than flies on an open jar of strawberry jam...it is the most horrible place on earth.
In short, It's ugly; it smells; everyone hates everyone else and being rude becomes the city's favorite past time.
I pressed my sweat covered forehead against the cool glass of my office window, staring at the hula dancing Chrysler building out of the corner of the frame. The unrelenting sun glittered and heated the diamond marked building; its tip wavered and rippled with the roiling heat. Days like this, there was just no sense to even opening your eyes in the morning. Hell most of the City was on vacation anyway. The only people stupid enough to be here now were either masochists, the tourists who didn't know better, or, and here's where I fit in, the poor schleps who can't leave because they've got to work for a living.
With a disgusting sucking noise, I released my head from the pane and looked around my office. The black, ancient oscillating fan they'd found in the basement stood in one corner, doing little more than blowing the hot air around in circles. Pieces of tape that someone had attached to it a hundred years ago waved mockingly at me as it shifted from side to side. The low pitched, irritating whine it emitted was just another bonus.
Moving over to the straight backed chair, I dumped my six foot four frame onto the hard wood and propped my cowboy boots on the empty desk. I arched a disdainful eyebrow at my usual chair, the oily black leather looking about as inviting as snorkeling in the Love Canal over in Jersey.
I sighed heavily and stared up at the pock marked ceiling tiles. And I realized for perhaps the hundredth time that the fluorescent light was flickering. The landlord would probably be up to fix that about the same time that he came to fix the A/C, which was probably about the same time that my partner would start wearing bright red silk pajamas into work, and the lawyer down the hall, Ezra Standish, came to work in a white polyester zoot suit.
The clock ticked. Another minute of my life...gone.
Business was slow. It always was at this time of year.
August sapped the strength out of New York City. It killed the desire to commit crimes, to sleep with your mistress, hell, even to get up in the morning. Why I even had was still something of a mystery to me. If Chris hadn't told me to sit and wait for him here, I would have already been down at Jones Beach, enjoying the view of all the lovely ladies...out in their tiny bikinis....
A smile crept over my face.
I rubbed at the wet moustache under my noise, thinking again that maybe shaving it off in summer was a smart idea, when the knock came at my door.
Always a smart response when someone knocks. Shaking off the lethargy, I peered at the silhouette visible through the frosted glass, trying to recognize the frame.
All I saw was curves. Nice curves. Howl at the moon curves.
Which, considering my own personal favorite past time, wasn't all that helpful.
"Yeah?" I yelled this time, and took my feet off the desk. The door opened.
"Mister Wilmington?" The voice was low, sexy, husky.
It matched the body that came with it.
I blinked; I drooled; I wanted to beg her to marry me, just so that she would say my name again in the same way. Long red hair topped a frame that most women would kill to have -- five foot six and not a single thing out of place. If she was over twenty-five, her plastic surgeon deserved a medal. She smiled, her green eyes clearly aware of the effect she was having. It was obviously one she had often.
"Are you Buck Wilmington, PI?" she asked again, lowering her voice even more. Oh sweet heaven.
"Guilty," I swooned, leaning forward on the desk.
The smile grew as she pulled herself past my door and shut it slowly behind her. When neither of us spoke for a moment, she pulled out a small cigarette case and clicked it open. Drawing out one of the long cigarettes, she arched an eyebrow at me....I loved women who could do that.
"Mind if I smoke?" she asked. Wasn't she already? Nodding, I simply waved a hand as if to say, go ahead. Tapping the cigarette on the case, she soon put it in her mouth and then waited.
Oh, oh, right. I bounded out of the hard chair, nearly tripped over my own tongue in the process, and somehow succeeded in getting out my lighter and placing the flame at the end of the cigarette without completely falling at her feet. She smiled, drew in a single breath, then released the smoke into the air to the side of my face. I felt the heat of the smoke on my cheek, even in the inferno that was my office.
"It's not polite to stare," she whispered at me as she leaned forward, her lips inches from my ear, "Didn't your daddy teach you that?"
"Huh? Oh...yes...right...." Rapier wit Wilmington, that's me. "Have a seat Miss...."
"Missus," she corrected...not that such corrections ever bothered me much. She slid past me in order to settle herself in the same leather chair I had earlier disdained. Lucky chair. "My name is Mrs. Emily Knight," she said. "Most people just call me Emmy."
"Well, Mrs. Knight," I moseyed over to my own chair, and arched my own eyebrow, "What can I do for you?" Other than the obvious, I thought. Hoo boy.
She took another draw on the cigarette, crossed her legs which, of course, hitched up the short skirt she was wearing even higher, and titled her head at me.
"I need your help, Mr. Wilmington."
"Please, call me Buck," I replied.
"Okay...Buck," she said the name slowly, accentuating the "ck" at the end.
You have to be kidding me. Woman was a witch. No doubt about it.
In which case, tell me where to sign...my soul was hers for the asking....
"I need your help," she repeated. "Have you perhaps heard of me before?"
Both my eyebrows rose. No, was the simple answer. Instead, I opted for the old stand-by:
"Why don't you just tell me what your story is," I replied smoothly, "rather than what I may have read or seen."
Her smile twitched. She smelled the dodge but, classy broad she was, she didn't call me out.
"Well then," she said, lowering her eyes to her lap, "you will have heard that my husband, Maxwell Knight, was murdered a few days ago."
Now the light bulb flashed. Maxwell Knight...80 years old if a day...had been found in the den of his hundred and twenty room "county house" up in Westchester suffering from an ill case of knife through the back. His young wife, who apparently had a less than stellar background and had been early on marked as a gold-digger, was the prime suspect in the crime, and for good reason. She had been found by the maid standing over the body, hand still on the bloody handle. The wife, having been discovered, apparently fled the scene....
And was currently settling her lovely behind down on my leather chair.
Well, that put a damper on things. She looked up again, her eyes meeting mine. She saw the realization, and desperately tried to rekindle the heat that had been snuffed so effectively by grim reality.
"Please," she said, her lower lip twitching fetchingly, "I know what you must be thinking, Buck, but I'm innocent. I swear...please, just hear me out. Please."
Oh hell. What can I say. I'm a sucker for the damsel in distress. They're my blind side, my Achilles heel, my soft spot....
My huge, enormous, red and white target sign painted on my chest....
So I listened to her story.
We were both silent, the only sound coming from the fan as it continued its useless efforts to bring a breeze to the stifling eight by eight square room. Sweat pooled down my shirt, while she still managed to look as fresh as a daisy. She batted her eyes, pulling on the fourth cigarette she'd smoked since arriving. The other three were stubs squished into the little mother of pearl half-shell I had on my desk. I hadn't the heart to tell her it wasn't an ashtray. I had a lighter, but I didn't smoke myself. I wondered if she'd figured that out yet. Probably not.
"Well?" she asked. "Will you help me?"
I looked down at the notes I'd been taking...and grunted.
"So let me get this straight," I said, glancing up at her. "It wasn't you who killed your husband, but your identical twin sister...."
"Who used to be your fraternal twin brother, Edward...."
"Whom everyone, including you, had thought was dead. Killed in a boat explosion off of Cape Cod fifteen years ago...."
"But who was, in fact, rescued by a Icelandic whaling ship before he drowned...."
"But, because of the explosion, he lost his memory, and so, grew up thinking he was, actually, Icelandic."
"Until two years ago, when a wealthy Swedish magnate fell in love with him, and insisted he have a sex change operation so that the old man wouldn't be found out as being homosexual."
I wiped my hand over my eyes. Right, indeed.
"Now, after the operation he...."
"She, your brother...."
"Sister," could she tell my teeth were clenched? "Your sister..."
"She goes by Edwina now...."
"Of course she does. Now, she looked exactly like you, after the operation."
"But still didn't know who she was until she saw a picture of you in a paper, when you were visiting Sweden last year with your late husband...."
"Oh, poor Maxwell..." Emma had at some point pulled a lace handkerchief out of her purse, and was currently using it to dab her eyes. Forget my teeth, my whole body was clenched now.
"Yes, your...poor Maxwell...." I coughed into my hand, "Now your sister...."
your brother saw this photo, and her memories...."
"HIS...memories came swirling back, and he...she... contacted you."
"Then, leaving his/her wealthy Swedish magnate in the lurch, he/she moved here to be closer to you and learn more about where he/she came from...."
"But...the only one she actually contacted directly was you?"
"He was afraid what people would say, if they found out he had had this operation. Plus, well, Eddy was still trying to come to terms with the loss of his leg after that alligator attack. Anyone who tells you that the idea that there are alligators living in the sewers of New York is just a myth should really see the prosthetic leg that Eddy now has....Poor Eddy..."
"Ah...right...the alligator attack...slipped my mind that...."
"Understandable," she sighed, "It's a lot to take in. Think of how Eddy must have felt...." She shook her head. It was still a very pretty head.
"Ahem, yes," I looked down at my notes, "Meanwhile, as she was learning what it was like to be an American again, and coming to terms with having lost a limb, she became steadily jealous of your life...."
"And fell in love with my Maxwell as well," Emma blinked up at the ceiling. "After all, I had both my legs, all that money, and a loving husband who had never asked me to have a sex-change operation...."
"Yes, right, and fell in love with your husband. Then, last week, when Edwina finally realized that she would never have him, she killed your husband in a jealous rage. And it was she who was discovered with the knife handle in hand by the maid...."
"Yes," Emma dabbed at her eyes again. "Poor Maxwell. Eddy probably tried to seduce him, but when he found the peg-leg, it must have just given the whole charade away...."
"Uh huh. And you really don't think the cops would believe you, huh?"
She blinked at me, eyes welling with tears. She'd heard the mocking tone, even hidden behind all the satire and sarcasm. Didn't miss much, this girl.
"Do you?" she demanded. "Do you believe me?"
About as much as I believed Clinton when he said he'd never had "relations" with "that woman."
"Sure," I said. "So...you want me to find this...brother...."
"Sister of yours. Is that right? To search for the one-legged woman?"
She nodded her head. Like I said, it was still a pretty head. Admittedly, an obviously psychotic, self-deluded, too many Days of Your Lives reruns filled head, but still very pretty. After all, she hadn't mentioned any demonic possessions yet. There was still hope. And with a head like that...I could probably start believing I was a woman, given enough time in her power.
And she knew it, too.
She stood up slowly and rounded my desk. She pulled down at the little Chanel jacket she wore over the short Christian Dior skirt and sat on the edge of my desk.
If it was possible on a day like this, she turned up the heat. She did it just by breathing.
Definitely a witch.
"So...," she asked, her eyes traveling down the length of my body then back up again to my head, "Will you help me...Buck?"
I smiled, "Maybe...."
That was not the word she wanted to hear. She leaned over, her face inches from mine.
"Please?" she asked.
I couldn't help myself. I grabbed her. She fell into my lap like it was born to it. Her lips pressed themselves to mine, hard. She no longer seemed to need to breathe...and neither did I.....
"Buck!" A man's voice. Loud. Gruff. From outside my closed door.
She broke away, her breathing now trying to catch up with what it had been missing the last five minutes.
"Ignore him," I whispered huskily. "It's just my partner." She gave me a feral smile, and leaned in close again.
And suddenly I was shoved out of my chair.
I blinked, stared up at my partner staring at me half in amusement, half in anger.
"What the hell happened to you?!" Chris growled.
"Huh?" I really was as sharp as a tack today. I looked around...where had Emmy gone?
"I tried calling, but the machine just picked up. And when I get here, I find you dead asleep in your chair, feet up on the desk, snoring like a buzz-saw. Can't you even stay awake for one morning?"
I was still too disoriented. Asleep?
No murdered 80 year old rich guy?
No Icelandic identical sex-changed one-legged twin back from the dead?
Well...crap. Don't that beat all.
One thing was still true though.
It was still hot.
Have I mentioned how much I hate the City in August?
Sometimes, I wonder about my sanity. Let's just say, after the last two weeks, I really needed to write something completely...well....off the wall.
Oh, another note, I think the alligator attack may be my little homage to Heather F.'s last little fic. Honestly, no story is complete without a decent alligator attack.
Back to my Fanfic Page