The Client Who Took her Shot
a Story by Kellis
She was standing on the corner beside the lamp pole, not leaning on it, a buxom woman with broad hips and shoulders, wearing slacks, low-heeled shoes and a beige leather jacket of suede or a modern facsimile. I had exited the office half a block away and noticed her immediately, perhaps because no other pedestrian distracted me.
The businesses I passed along the sidewalk all displayed “Closed” signs in their doorways with a hopeful markered-in notation of the time they would reopen in the morning. Car tires hissed occasionally. Though the sun had set, puffy clouds above the buildings were still light enough to inhibit the automatic streetlights.
Her face turned toward me as I drew closer. It was square with a firm chin, full red lips and a button nose. Dark eyes returned my stare from under penciled brows. The full head of brunette hair, pulled back in a bun, framed the face perfectly. Suddenly the proportions all fell into place. Maybe no one else would have been affected, but the sight of her grabbed me by the scrotum. I actually stumbled.
Her eyebrows rose slightly at my misstep. She jerked her chin up and turned away to stare across the street, letting me admire her profile too.
I searched for something to say that would counter that implication of drunkenness, but when I had a couple steps to go, a city police car braked to a stop at the curb in front of her. Its passenger window was already down.
The uniformed shotgun rider looked up at the woman and said with a smirk, “You better move on, honey.”
I saw her stiffen. “I’m not your honey!” I liked her voice too. It was melodious even when snarling.
The cop blinked in pretended affront. “Ain’t you anybody’s honey that’s got the money?”
“Oh, god,” she sneered, “a poetic cop! What’s your problem anyway?”
“You been standing here since the last time we passed and it ain’t even a bus stop.”
“Is there a law against —” she began.
“She’s waiting for me,” I said, forcing my voice to a deeper register.
The cop’s face swung toward me. He looked me up and down and grinned nastily. “Oh, yeah? Then what’s her name?”
I sniffed and commanded, “Tell the man your name.”
Immediately she said, “Haley Fields.”
The cop blinked and drew back slightly. He shook his head. “You guys think you’re smart.” He glared up at me. “All right, dude, who the hell are you?”
In this jurisdiction licensed PIs have the honor to be unpaid sheriff’s deputies. I flipped my badge on its leather folder out of an inside coat pocket and flashed it at the cop. After a quick glance he said, “Sorry,” to me, turned around and said, “County,” to his partner. Immediately the car lurched ahead into the intersection, its window rising.
“God!” muttered the woman, visibly trembling. Her hand sought the lamp pole for support. I caught it instead to turn her towards me. It was cold.
“You look hungry,” I said. “Come on.”
She bit her lip. “I don’t have my purse.”
“I’m old fashioned. The man pays.”
“Your hand is so hot! Where are you taking me?”
“Right around the corner. This drugstore has a mean snackbar.”
Her eyes widened. She licked her lips. “You’re right. I am hungry.”
“So’m I. It’s my suppertime.”
She fell into step beside me, wide hips swinging freely as we rounded the corner of the buildings. She was only a few inches shorter than my five-ten.
She asked, “Do you often eat in this drugstore?”
“All the time. It’s even open for breakfast.”
“At eleven o’clock?”
Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. advised the sign by the door. “I believe in rising early, just not too early.”
“The early bird gets the worm,” she said off-handedly.
“Maybe I’m the worm.”
She laughed then frowned, not an unusual sequence in the women I know. I seated her across from me in one of the store’s three booths, farthest from the one which held other diners. Sally in her tiny white waitress’s apron appeared immediately with a steaming cup that she sat before me. “Coffee?” she said to Haley.
“A coke, please.”
“Large. Extra large in fact.”
“We got regular, queen and king.”
Haley rolled her eyes. “Queen.”
Sally turned away.
I said, “You can always order another if one isn’t enough.”
“Queen and king!” She sighed but regarded me with unusual interest, almost furtiveness. She licked her lips nervously. “What kind of cop are you?”
I extended my badge, holding it before her on the tabletop. Under my name and that of the county it proclaimed the bearer to be a private investigator as well as a deputy sheriff.
“Hutton?” she asked, looking up inquiringly.
“David Hutton, at your service. I’m pleased to meet you, Miss Fields.”
She didn’t correct me — a subject on which married women are usually sensitive — so maybe the message of the ringless third finger was valid. Of course she might have thought I said “Ms.”
Sally arrived with Haley’s coke and said to her, “Trying to impress you that he’s a cop? Well, he ain’t.”
Haley’s chin rose as I hid my badge. “Is that so?”
Sally sniffed. A few times when we were both in the mood she has admitted me to her room next door. I’ve noticed that women seem to feel possessive after such episodes. Now she demanded, “What you gonna eat?”
“Philly steak with extra cheese,” I said.
“Oh, I know what you want! What about you, dearie?”
Haley’s eyes flashed. “I’m not your —” she began then pulled up short, looking at me. “A Philly steak sounds good. The same as Mr. Hutton.”
Sally chuckled humorlessly. “‘Mr. Hutton!’ I bet that don’t last.” With a flounce of her hips she turned away.
Haley studied me. She saw a husky 38 year-old, with five-o’clock shadow, short dark hair and blue eyes. I wore a tweed jacket with leather elbows, actually a pretty good disguise for my purposes. I had loosened my necktie.
She said, “You’re a private detective?”
“Before seven p.m.” I tilted my head towards the big clock over the bar, showing 7:10. “Now I’m just a lucky guy buying supper for a looker.”
Her eyes widened slightly then narrowed. “Isn’t that a little unusual?”
“Well, yes. Lookers are unusual.”
That produced the first sign of a twinkle. “I mean, guys don’t usually buy food for … what that city cop thought I was.”
“You mean that rhymes with looker?”
The twinkle vanished. “You think so too, don’t you?”
“I don’t really care,” I said with a shrug. “Beauty is its own justification.”
“Beauty!” she said bitterly. “I’m fat.”
“Do you wear a corset?”
“Anyone with that slim waistline isn’t fat unless she’s in a corset.”
She grinned slightly. “You’ve got definite opinions, haven’t you?”
“I know what I like.”
“Big women are unfashionable.” Her mouth turned down. “I wonder they haven’t passed a law against us.”
“Big women have appetites that I appreciate. But that’s not it.”
“Your … face is what got my attention.”
“Do I remind you of someone?”
“No. But it grabbed me at first sight.”
“Did it! How?”
I took a deep breath. “I think it’s the prettiest one I ever saw.”
She blinked at me and took a deep breath of her own. “Thank you. Have you had your eyes checked?”
I grinned at her. “You ought to quit watching TV.”
“It’s such a put-down for women of your build. What it does to BBWs’ confidence is a crime.”
“Big, beautiful women.”
“BBW,” she repeated and shook her head. “Not just TV. Everywhere you turn.”
“You’re one man out of how many?”
“A great many. But a lot of men are sheep too, you know, unwilling to buck a trend.”
“Oh, yes, I do know,” she said with evident bitterness.
That was my cue to ask about her boyfriend, but I didn’t want to hear about him — or her pimp, if she was in fact a hooker.
She continued without prompting, “They act so loving in private but won’t take you out. That’s the part that hurts.”
“They’re sheep,” I repeated.
“But you’re not?” The twinkle had returned.
Pursuant of that objective, no doubt, she asked, “Are you married?”
“Not at the moment. You?”
“No.” She sighed. “I’ve always been … heavy.”
“Well, it’s about time you got away from the herd.”
She nodded vehemently. “I think I’m away from it all right!”
That was my cue to ask why she would stand so long on a corner, but Sally’s microwave had done its work. She arrived with our sandwiches. When they were distributed, along with the unnecessary rolls, she took out her little notebook. “Will that be separate checks?”
“My treat,” I said.
She tore off the ticket and left it facedown on the table edge. “Sing well, dearie,” she admonished as she flounced away.
Haley looked at me and blushed.
“Don’t mind Sally,” I suggested. “I come here so often she’s gotten possessive.”
“Is that the reason?”
I chuckled at the hit.
She added, “You must live near here.”
“Down the block.”
We bit into our sandwiches. She ate with mannerly relish, taking small bites and patting her lips with a napkin.
“You have good taste, Mr. Hutton. This sandwich is great.”
“Call me Dave, Miss Fields. May I say Haley?”
“Of course.” She smiled brightly, a first. My god, it was like a blow to the sternum. I’m sure my eyes popped.
She blinked. The smile weakened but held. “Did you see something you liked, Dave?”
“Your smile. It lights up the place.”
The smile vanished. “You’ll embarrass me, Mr. Hutton.”
“There! See how dark it’s gotten?”
She had the grace to chuckle, but a tinge of red showed on her cheeks, fading as we ate the rest of our supper.
When she had drunk the last of her coke, refused another and laid the folded napkin daintily in her plate, I dropped a pair of twenties atop the check — heavily over-tipping but meant to compensate Sally in case she … just in case. After all, you can’t reliably predict what you might need in the future. I pushed back my chair and got to my feet.
Haley stood also and looked around the drugstore. “There it is. Will you excuse me a moment?”
“Sure.” I watched her head for the ladies’. While she was gone I selected a couple items from the shelves and paid for them at the checkout.
Sally sniffed. “Didn’t know you liked big women.”
“More to like,” I responded.
“You’re a weirdo, you know.”
“So you’ve said before.”
She bit her lip. “Be careful, Dave. There’s something about this one …”
I turned to watch Haley wending down the aisle. She glanced at the bag in my hand but of course said nothing about it as she followed me to the sidewalk.
Outside I asked, “Can I drop you somewhere?”
She took a deep breath. “I guess …” Her eyes rose to mine. “Thanks for the supper. I guess I’m ready to sing.”
I had to grin. “Anyone ever comment on your refreshing directness?”
“I don’t believe in beating around the bush.”
“Oh, a few bushes are worth the trouble!”
“No, they aren’t.” Her eyes dropped.
“You didn’t answer me.”
“Didn’t I?” She sighed. “What if I’ve got no place to go?”
“You’ve got one. Come on.”
She hesitated but strode out beside me. We rounded the corner lit by the streetlamp under a sky now dark. Our footsteps were loud in the quiet block. A car passed, its headlights splashing us. She shivered.
“Cold?” I asked.
“No. Thinking of what might’ve happened if you hadn’t come along. You won’t hurt me, will you?”
“No, I won’t hurt you.”
She looked around. “I can’t believe how empty this street is.”
“None of the stores for several blocks are open after six. What happened to your purse, Haley?”
“I … left in a hurry.” She was staring straight ahead with her back to the light. I could make out only her glittering eyes. She added, “Where are we going?”
“A few doors further, 537.”
Suddenly she shrank against me as three men popped out of the alley just past my place. They were young, dressed in old punk clothing that was colorful under the midblock light. One of them was swinging a chain.
She wanted to stop but I slipped a hand behind her back and urged her onward. The chain swinger had seen her reaction. He and his pals waited, grinning. Then his eyes swung from Haley to me and he lost the grin.
“C’mon,” he called, spinning around. His fellows followed him, hurrying away down the street, glancing back over their shoulders.
Haley released her breath. Her eyes were wide on mine. “What did you do?”
“Nothing.” I smiled reassuringly. “I’ve, ah, met with that crew before.”
The number in tarnished brass was tacked on the solid wooden door. The next door along was glass, dark behind a pulled shade with the lettering, Hutton Detective Agency, below Number 535. I slipped my key into 537, opened the door, stepped in, turned on a light and motioned her to follow. “Come on in.”
She looked up and down the street, sighed and obeyed.
“Pull the door to,” I said, proceeding to the stairs.
“Does it lock?”
“Sort of. You can’t turn the outer knob without a key.”
She followed me up the stairs and into my den while I flipped light switches. I hung my sports jacket on the coat tree and turned to her. “Hang yours if you like.”
She was frozen, staring at my shoulder holster.
“It won’t hurt you either,” I said, slipping it off and hanging its strap over the jacket collar.
She shook her head. “I can’t believe this.”
“That my gun won’t hurt you?”
“That I’ve gone home with a cop.”
“A cop? Haley, believe me: this county doesn’t pay me a dime. I even had to buy the badge with my own funds.”
“Not a dime?” she repeated, considering me.
“To get the license around here, a P. I. has to be sworn in as a sheriff’s deputy. But what do you have against cops — aside from the one who wanted you to be a streetwalker?”
“I … I don’t really …”
“Do you object to them because your right hand smells like gunsmoke?”
In the light from the end table lamp her face turned white as chalk. She took a shaky breath and asked, “Is it so strong?”
“No. But you recall I took your hand to lead you into the drugstore, after which my hand had the odor.”
Her chin quivered but she stood silently, fearful eyes on mine. I gestured to the coat tree. “Hang up your jacket and come on. You’ll want to wash up. And I have something for you.”
“S-something for me?”
I took the toothbrush and toothpaste tube from the bag and put them into her hand when she turned back from hanging her jacket. I tilted my head toward the other door. “Bathroom’s down the hall. Use the strong hand soap then the lotion.”
She blinked at me. “I understand soap won’t wash it off.”
“Enough washings will. Removing the odor is good enough for now.”
She took a trembling breath and held up the tooth stuff. “How’d you know I’d go home with you?”
“You don’t have a purse.” I showed her a slight smile. “Sometimes a man gets lucky.”
“Or unlucky,” she said, sighing and proceeding to the bathroom.
She turned on the light and vanished inside, leaving the door open. I sat down on the couch and watched her shadow gyrate on the tiled wall. Her blouse came off over her head and she stooped, removing her slacks.
She reappeared in the doorway, wearing only an overflowing pink bra and full matching panties. “Dave, I …”
“I’ll stay right here.”
But that wasn’t her concern. She asked, “Can I take a shower?”
“Would you … show me how everything works?”
“It’s all pretty standard …” I began, standing up. Hands behind her released her bra and she swept it over her head. Though the lights over the bathroom mirror lit her brightly from behind, the den lamps were enough to show me a mouth-watering sight. Her breasts were redundant — more than a handful is — but so round and full with the slight droop of early maturity. The brown nipples were about silver-dollar size including crinkled areolas. Her eyes, which had been averted, sought mine as I hesitated. Her face reddened but she continued as she had begun, thumbs in the waistband forcing pink panties down her legs. She stepped out of them and stood straight before me, eyes still on mine. The flush descended her chest. Her pubes were trimmed, the same color as the bun on her head. Her legs were smooth and shapely.
She backed into the bright light, leaving me space to enter and to appreciate very white hips and legs, faintly underlain with a blue network of veins.
I said, “Haley, what you just did doesn’t square with that blush.”
She looked away. “It squares with taking a shower.”
“I’ve heard tales of women who could blush on demand but I never met one. I hope it squares with you not being accustomed to stripping naked for any guy who buys you supper.”
She lowered her eyes and said softly, “It does. I’m not.” The blush intensified.
“You need help that bad, Haley?”
“I …” Her chin rose. “Take a shower with me.” After a moment she actually managed a smile.
I shook my head and chuckled. “Some offers truly can’t be refused.”
“Go ahead and start the water — not too awfully hot, please. It’s a standard shower. You won’t have any trouble. I’ll join you in a moment.”
I gathered up the clothing she had stuffed atop the towel rack and slipped past her, taking it out the door into my bedroom, where I hung it on a hanger at the closet door. Behind me the shower began to hiss. My own clothing went over a chair back. Gayle, the housegirl, had been in sometime today and straightened up, which accounted for the made bed. I started to turn it down but stopped short, thinking I’d see what developed.
When I entered the bathroom, she was adjusting the water temperature. She saw my reflection in the tile and turned around. Her eyes widened. “Oh, wow!”
“Don’t make it too hot,” I cautioned.
“Test it,” she advised. “Do you plan to run for governor of California?”
“I don’t have Arnold’s dedication.”
“Well, you’ve got the rest!”
“Vat makes you zink so? This is about warm enough for me.” I snatched the gritty hand soap off the sink, followed her into the tub and shot the curtain closed. “Give me your hand.”
I lathered up her right hand and scrubbed it with a washcloth. That soap probably removes a layer of skin. Rinsing it off, I asked, “What am I destroying evidence of?”
She bit her lip. “Dave, I …” Facing me, she laid her hands on my pectorals. Her lips parted. “How hard you are!”
“In this business you have to work out.”
Cool arms slipped around my neck and soft tits impacted my chest. Her eyes were large and near. “Dave … thank you so much for your kindness.”
Her back was smooth as silk to my encircling hands. She raised her lips and I bent to kiss them. She accepted my tongue and pressed herself against me fully. She was panting when I finally raised my head.
“How much shower do you really want?” I asked.
She smiled. “Whatever you say.”
Because she stood at the far end of the tub, her body was wet but not her hair. I found a fresh towel and wiped her dry, then myself. Her eyes dropped to my hard-on. Letting the towel fall, I pulled her against me sideways, one hand fondling the big tits. She sighed heavily, eyelids closing.
“Come to the bed,” I said, releasing her and turning away.
When I threw back the bedclothes, she sat down on the bedside. Without a word her arms went around my hips and she bent forward to slurp up my hard cock.
I twitched with surprise. Women who’ll do this first off are rare in my experience. Beth, before she left me for good, had finally sucked me grudgingly a few times after getting her clit thoroughly licked. Jody, the one before that, had to be stoned. Sally, the skinny waitress at the drugstore, was willing, but only with her head sideways in my lap to watch TV.
Young women seldom come to P.I.s. Haley might be the youngest I’d enjoyed in a long time. Braggarts at the gym had claimed modern girls take cocks in the mouth readily as the hand. Another effect of the pill, extending to women the free attitudes of men? Or in this particular case something more calculated?
Her mouth felt good. Obviously not short of experience, she knew how to use a tongue. A hand crept around and cupped my balls.
My fingertips caressed her sunken cheeks. She tilted her head back to look up at me inquiringly but continued to suck, nostrils flaring for breath. Here was my cock, stuck into the prettiest face I’d ever known. I felt the surging response. But it was too soon.
“Lie back in the bed,” I told her.
She obeyed after transferring the cock from mouth to hand as if fearing it might escape, a nice touch. While I hovered over her, she lodged it in the precise slot. That initial slide into a wet pussy — god, there’s nothing like it!
She moaned a little and added, “Now I know why those punks went the other way.”
I chuckled. “You feel that in a cock?”
“In a wash-board belly. Oh, Dave!”
Plentiful and responsive female flesh! At such a moment what more could any man want? Arms, legs and sphincter gripped me while we kissed. Her hips rolled under my thrusts and she whimpered nasally.
After a few minutes I said warningly, “Hope you’re on the pill.”
Her response was to crush our bodies tighter, lifting her shoulders against me. She screamed as I came.
Afterwards we lay side by side, breathing hard, until she rolled a leg over me and rose on an elbow with a smirk. “Does that cover a Philly steak?”
“More than that, Haley. I’d call it a retainer.”
“Definitely. Tell me your problem.”
She sighed. “It would be better if I showed you.”
“Showed me what?”
“Dave …” She looked away. “It’s heavy.”
“I hope so, if it’s a fight with your boyfriend.”
She blinked. “Why do you say that?”
“Because I’m jealous of him.”
She heaved a sigh. “The position is open.”
“I can’t believe —”
“I killed him this afternoon.” Her eyes were anguished.
I rose up. “Let’s get dressed.”
She lurched after me, arms around my neck, and laid her cheek on mine. “Dave, I’m so scared!”
I returned her hug. My hand tilted her head back. “Haley, I want that boyfriend position.”
She bit her lip, worried eyes searching mine from inches away.
I said gently, “Let’s get dressed and go see what happened.”
She exhaled a drawn-out sigh and backed off me. We sponged ourselves and took turns at the toilet. I waited while she borrowed a comb and tucked a few straying strands of hair back into the bun. With no makeup to reapply she was quick before the mirror.
“How far?” I asked at the foot of the stairs in case I needed my car.
“About three blocks. It’s on Merryweather, where they’ve torn up the street.”
I nodded, having guessed she probably hadn’t wandered far on foot. She strode out onto the street willingly enough, but after a block her arm snaked around my back and her cheek nudged my shoulder.
“Tired?” I asked quietly, my arm circling her shoulder.
“No, not really.” She sighed. “Dave, you are … you’re …”
“What? Besides good strolling company?”
“I’m having trouble with the words. I never wanted to say them before.”
“You’re certainly making me curious!”
Her arm squeezed us tighter together. To synchronize our hips I fell into opposite step.
“When I was a kid …” she began. “You’re what I used to think all men would be.”
“Hard and cruel?”
“When they needed to be. Protective and tender otherwise.”
“Thank you, I think. I don’t remember another woman calling me tender.”
“But you are.”
I slipped a hand under her far armpit and squeezed the side of that big tit through jacket and bra. “In case you haven’t guessed, I’m very glad you grew up.”
She sighed again. “I was too, until today.”
She separated us as we arrived at the alley entrance before Merryweather. “In there, the fourth staircase.”
“Wait here,” I told her and walked alone to the intersection, craning my head around the corner to look for cops. Nothing. No one on the sidewalk, no cars on the street, one lane ripped up and marked off with orange traffic cones.
I returned to her at the alley. “I take it you didn’t call 911.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“How did you kill him?”
“With a gun.”
“And no one heard the shot because of air-hammers banging in the street, is that it? How did you make sure he was dead?”
She shrugged and turned into the alley. I followed. At the indicated staircase I caught her elbow. “Whose apartment is it?”
“Mine. I really hate to come back here.”
“No doubt. Give me your key.”
“It shouldn’t be locked.”
I took out my Glock and raised it in the trigger-guard safety grip. Keeping her behind me, I crept up the stairs. Her soft shoes made even less noise than my brogans.
The door was unlocked. I pushed it open to blackness.
She whispered, “The switch is just inside on the right.”
I flipped it on. Incandescent light flooded the room: a small kitchen, clean and tidy, with one other doorway. I light-footed across to it, flipped another switch and looked into a neat living room with couch, chairs, TV and miscellaneous small tables. This room had two other doors. The larger, near the far corner, gaped wide. A man’s body lay crumpled in the dark opening.
“I see him,” I murmured. “What’s beyond that front door?”
“A landing and stairs down to the main entrance.”
“This can’t be the only apartment in the building!”
“The only one upstairs, two more downstairs.”
“Everybody was gone to work this afternoon?”
“Everybody but me.”
“You were fighting with him?”
“No. I was watching TV.”
Now the TV screen was unlit. I entered the large room and crossed to the body, the woman following. Of average build, he lay on his left side, head in the room, knees on the landing. A small pool of blood had crusted on both sides under his chest. He looked fortyish, wearing a wrinkled suit and a five-o’clock shadow, going bald. No hat and no bullet wound was in evidence. No need to feel for a pulse.
I put my Glock away. A 1911 .45 lay on the carpet near the head, its hammer at full cock. I touched it with my toe. “Whose gun?”
“His. I shot him with it.”
Several feet away a brass cartridge case glittered. Holding the pistol in my handkerchief, I raised it and ejected the clip, which proved to contain only two cartridges. The barrel smelled strongly of gunsmoke. I restored the clip, returned the pistol to the same position and repocketed my handkerchief.
Haley stood behind me with an anxious look. I patted her shoulder reassuringly. “Tell me what happened.”
She heaved a sigh. “May I sit down?”
When I nodded, she fell into a plush chair in the corner in line with the open door. The switch beside the kitchen door controlled wall sockets and table lamps. One lamp sat on the table beside her chair arm, flinging a parabola of light on the wall above its shade. In that relative brightness I suddenly picked out three — four — bullet-sized holes in the painted sheetrock above her chair.
“Who shot at you?”
She shook her head. “I thought he did.”
“You thought?” I shook my head and sat on the nearby couch. “Start at the beginning.”
She sighed. “There’s not much to tell. I was sitting right here, watching TV, when I heard feet on the stairs and a key in the lock. It had to be Rick; nobody else has a key. He threw the door open and started shooting. I heard the bullets hitting the wall over my head, so I dived behind the chair and took the gun out of that drawer.” Indeed a drawer was still open in the table under the lamp.
She sighed again. “So I shot him. He fell down right where you see him.”
I stared at her. “But you only thought he was shooting at you?”
“Yeah. The air hammers were going strong outside, but I’m sure I heard feet running down the stairs after Rick fell over.”
“I hurried over and dropped the pistol to see how bad Rick was hurt. No breath and no pulse in the throat. And he didn’t have a gun. So it must have been someone else who shot at me.”
“Where’s the switch for the light on the stairs?”
“There, beside the door.”
I got up, turned on the stair light and walked down the stairs, looking for brass. Nothing. Of course they could have been using revolvers. Two cartridges remained in the .45 clip. That plus the one still presumably in the chamber, the bullet in Rick and the four bullet holes added up to eight rounds, the maximum in a .45’s clip plus the round that must have been in the chamber when she snatched the weapon out of the drawer. Had Haley fired four into the wall? If so where were the cases? Did she hide them in that flower pot across the room? I strolled over and examined it: artificial flowers.
She waited in the chair, looking up at me anxiously.
“When you picked up the pistol, what exactly did you do next?”
“Huh? I exactly pointed it at Rick and pulled the trigger.”
“You didn’t work the slide first?”
“The slide? What’s that?”
God, her face was innocent! Anyone who keeps a .45 loaded and ready to fire usually has an extra round in the chamber with the safety on or the hammer, in the case of a 1911, at half-cock. Any unattended pistol ready to fire with safety off and hammer back is an accident waiting to happen.
But four bullets of the expected eight were unaccounted for. Well, it was possible only four were in the weapon when she grabbed it.
She added, “I couldn’t believe how loud it was. My ears rang for the longest time!”
“I’m sure they did. Give me your right hand.” I sniffed it carefully. To my nose the evidence was gone, even if not to a gunpowder residue test.
I sat down near her on the couch. “Haley, I’ve got bad news for you. The law requires me to report a crime.”
“I was afraid of that.” She took a deep breath and raised her chin. “But the right thing is for me to do it.”
I grinned. “Yeah, about three hours ago.”
She sighed. “I panicked, turned off the TV and ran out of the place. I can’t believe I turned off the TV!”
“Not so good. No purse.”
“Where is your purse?”
“In the bedroom, I hope.”
“They’re going to notice the three hours.”
She shrugged. “I can’t get them back. Should I call 911?”
“One of us has to.”
“All right.” She heaved a great sigh and picked up a telephone receiver.
“Don’t tell them too much,” I advised out of native stinginess. “Give them your address. Say you got home and found a dead man in your doorway. Tell them they don’t need to rush. And hang up.”
“Rush! It always takes the cops at least 20 minutes to answer an emergency in this neighborhood.”
“Yeah, I’ve noticed.”
She pushed the buttons and put the receiver to her ear. After a moment she spoke into the mouthpiece in a calm, clear voice, the exact words I had dictated. She hung up and stared at me.
“Dave, I thought I was shooting in self-defense, but they’ll never believe me. I’ll have to go to jail, won’t I?”
“For a while.”
She took a deep breath and jumped to her feet. Off came the jacket, skirt, blouse and underclothing, almost as fast as I can tell of it. She kicked off her shoes and stood naked before me, tits still jiggling, a luscious sight. My cock had recovered enough to twitch.
She moaned, “Maybe I can stand the jail if you’ll love me one more time before the cops get here.”
That beautiful flesh in jail? Not on your life! “Maybe we can keep you out.”
I thought fast. “Remember, you just got home.”
She blinked. “Where’ve I been?”
“In conference with me. The waitress at the drugstore saw us together, along with that prowling cop.”
“Conference about what?”
“Is Rick married?”
“Lives with his wife?”
“More or less.”
“You wanted me to get evidence she was screwing around.”
Her eyes softened. “You’ll lie for me?”
“And with you. Hmm. You got a bedside trash can?”
“Go get it. Along with a pair of latex gloves. And step on it.”
While she was gone, I closed the drawer that had yielded the pistol. She returned with a small, plastic can, about a foot tall. Perfect. I slipped on both gloves.
Though rigor had fully seized Rick, he had fallen, fortunately for us, with his right arm lying along his side. I was able to force the .45 grip into the web between his hand and thumb. With the trash can covering his hand and my gloved one, I fired a round through the can bottom into the wall over the staircase, where he might have shot at his assailants — if any. The can muffled the harsh overtones of the shot so well that no one in the downstairs apartments would recognize the sound. I fished out the cartridge case and threw it negligently to the side.
My pocket knife smoothed the hole in the plastic bottom. I returned can and scrapings to Haley, who stood watching in naked fascination. “Flush these gloves down the toilet. Scrub this can good inside, put some tape over the hole and fill the can with crumpled Kleenex.”
“Okay.” She turned away through the room’s third door.
“And hurry up,” I called after her. “If the cops catch us at this, we’re both in the soup.”
For a minute I thought about details and yelled, “By the way, what was Rick’s full name?”
“Croffer. Henrick Jason Croffer.”
“Huh? Wait a minute! Doesn’t Croffer work for the county?”
Her answer was muffled. I followed her through the bedroom into the bath. “Is he — wasn’t he one of the building inspectors?”
“First Assistant.” She was working noisily in the can with a scrub brush.
“Well, then, finding someone who wanted him dead shouldn’t be too hard.”
“That’s a fact,” she declared positively.
“I’d help you with that, but I don’t want my fingerprints in your bathroom.”
“It’s okay.” Now she was drying it with a towel. After a moment she opened the medicine cabinet and displayed a wide Band-Aid. “How’s this?”
“Put it on.”
This girl was thorough. After pasting the bandage over the hole, she rubbed several sheets of Kleenex up her crotch before crumpling them into the trash can.
I chuckled. “Hope you washed out my traces.”
She glanced around at me. “Do you really care if they prove we were lovers?”
“Not if you don’t.”
“Huh! I do think that’s the least of my worries.”
“Then get dressed. They might pull up any second.”
“Not right in front they won’t!”
Back in the den she jerked up her panty-hose. The rest of her clothes went on as quickly.
She faced the kitchen and asked over her shoulder, “Would you like a drink?”
“Not now. Sit down and let’s go over the details.”
She dropped into the same seat across from the front door. I paced, thinking fast. “You saw my ad in the paper about getting free of a cheating spouse.”
“And thought it would be cute to reverse the action.”
“Do you work anywhere?”
“I did. For Devon Contracting.”
“Umm. Didn’t I hear they went bankrupt?”
“Yeah. They underbid on the Hawker building and then couldn’t pay what Rick demanded to pass it.”
I had to chuckle. “So it was true the inspectors were taking bribes?”
“Were!” She sniffed. “They’re government employees, aren’t they? Rick was already seeing me. When Devon went under, he picked up my tab here.”
“He was keeping you?”
“Yeah. He could afford it.”
“You don’t seem too worried about losing your meal ticket.”
She sighed. “It was over between us, though Rick hadn’t quite figured it out. I’ve been putting out job applications. And I’ve got a nest egg.”
“That won’t sound so good to the cops.”
She shrugged. “It’s the truth.”
“I mean it doesn’t square with hiring me to break up his marriage. Can you fail to mention the loss of affection?”
“I can, but …”
“You’re obviously just numb with grief.”
“Are you being sarcas— Oh. Okay.”
“Did Rick leave anything here with his address on it?”
She shrugged. “Not to my knowledge. Just his cell-phone number.”
“Good. You asked me to locate his wife.” I took out my notebook and wrote his full name on a blank page, along with the cell number when she told me.
“All right,” I said. “I came back with you to get a picture of him — that is, if you have one.”
“Yes. In my wallet.”
“Which you forgot to mention. That pretty well covers it. We both found him lying here, just as he is —”
Her eyes widened as I shut my mouth. We both heard the front door open downstairs. A male voice said, “There’s a light on.”
A different one responded, “Well, it’s dark, you know.”
“I mean in the room.”
I realized that from downstairs they could see the ceiling of Haley’s living room with the apartment door open. Would cops talk like that?
The stairs began to creak rhythmically. At least two sets of feet were mounting the steps as quietly as possible. Haley gripped the arms of her chair as if about to rise. I motioned her back and moved against the front wall, drawing my Glock.
Suddenly she went pale and her eyes grew even larger just as the stair creaking ceased.
The “it’s dark” voice declared, “Croffer’s gotta be dead.”
“Yeah, but she’s seen us!”
A gunshot crashed. Another hole, raying cracks, appeared in the plaster behind Haley’s head. In a flash she repeated her described act of the afternoon, rolling her body over the chair arm onto the floor between it and the damaged wall. Another shot sounded a moment too late. Cotton stuffing exploded from the back of the chair.
A man in a leather jacket burst through the door in a leap over Rick’s body, revolver extended and trailing thin gray smoke.
I shot him in the side of the head. He smashed against the quartering wall and slid to the floor, his weapon bouncing ahead of him.
Haley peered at me around the foot of the chair. I waited, Glock ready, for the second man. Above the ringing in my ears I heard footsteps thundering down the stairs.
“Are you hurt?” I shouted at Haley.
She shook her head negatively, mouth gaping. God, I loved that face, even in a rictus of horror! Cautiously I slipped around in front of the door. The stairs were empty.
I bent to the woman, grasped her hand and swept her from behind the chair onto her feet. “Stay in the kitchen!”
She hastened to obey, looking over her shoulder as if afraid to miss anything. In the kitchen she peered around the door facing.
I checked my victim. The heavy bullet had exited the far side of his head, spattering the wall with blood and flesh. Like Rick, he had made his last mistake.
Two weaker gunshots sounded together. They had to be outside. Faintly I heard shouting. Emerging on the landing, I saw the front door in the downstairs hall standing open. Anticipating the next event, I reholstered my Glock. Sure enough, a uniformed cop appeared in the doorway, pistol in hand. Seeing me, he crouched and aligned his weapon on my chest.
I raised my hands. “What you’re looking for is up here.”
* * *
After the horde of investigators were through with us, about midnight, Haley wanted to come home with me. Holding a scotch on the rocks each, we sat on the rumpled couch in my den. She leaned against me.
Her voice was tired. “Will our story stand up, Dave?”
“It has so far. No one suspects you of anything.”
“What about the bullet in Rick?”
“They’ll know it came from his pistol, which will be a puzzle. No powder burns.”
“What will they make of that?”
“Well, they think you were with me when the M. E. said he was shot.”
“I wondered about that. How did they tell when?”
“A body cools at a rate that’s easy to calculate if you know the ambient temperature. They’d still think one of those contractors got Croffer’s gun away from him somehow, shot him with it and dropped it beside the body, except …”
“Except I outsmarted myself. When they find the bullet I made Croffer fire, they’ll know he couldn’t have shot it after he was hit.”
“How will they know?”
“He lost too little blood. When he was hit, that bullet must have totally destroyed his heart. By the time they could’ve dropped a pistol on him, he had to be dead as hamburger.”
“What an awful simile!”
I grinned and shook my head. “Probably the worst thing you might’ve done was come home with me tonight.”
Her eyes widened on mine. “Why!”
“Because it suggests a motive for me to fudge the facts. In other words it suggests the truth.”
“Then why did you let me?”
I shrugged. “You asked.”
She declared, “You wanted me to.”
“I admit it.”
She raised her head to study me. “Why, Dave?”
I had to sigh. “Because I … think I love you, God help me.”
She must be 150 lbs of pure female, but she can move fast. In a blink she turned her torso around while snatching her feet up on the couch, slammed those big tits into my chest and caught my head in her arms. “Dave, damn it, how can you say such a silly thing?”
Her hot mouth covered mine. I opened to her tongue while my arms tightened on her back.
Shortly we were naked and jammed together on the bed, avidly swapping spit and other fluids. Ah, the appetite of a big woman! Nothing compares to it, though it does have one disadvantage. By the time she is sated, her man is likely to be a pussy-whipped limp sausage.
When I awoke in the late morning, I found her big brown eyes studying me again.
I accused, “You didn’t behave like it was such a silly thing to say!”
She smiled slowly. “God helped you just enough.”
* * *
The furniture in her old place belonged to the landlord, so in the next couple weeks Haley gradually moved clothing and notions, in addition to her sweet self, into my place. It was just as well, despite the snickers and snide remarks in the county offices, plus the speculative looks of the suspicious two or three, because we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. After the fifth or sixth time Sally, the waitress, served both of us in the drugstore, on my next arrival without Haley she asked plaintively, “Should I gain 40 pounds, Dave?”
That’s another one of those trick questions!
We were happily entering our third week when I got a call from Bill Warren, one of the few deputies who likes me and also admires Haley. After hanging up I went upstairs and found her sitting naked on the side of the bed.
She grinned at me and flopped on her back, legs open. “I was just thinking about you. Hurry up, lover.”
I chuckled and shook my head. “That’s the ultimate invitation! But this time I have to say no thanks. I’m going on that Dandridge stake-out in fifteen minutes.”
“Then what brings you up here in midmorning? What did you forget?”
“We both forgot it.”
“The bullet that killed Croffer.”
She frowned and looked away. “The one I fired. Do you like living with a killer, Dave?”
“I love living with you! But that’s just it. You didn’t kill him.”
“Huh?” Her eyes grew larger than I’d ever seen them. “What do you mean?”
“Bill Warren is working up the case against those contracting companies and the building inspectors. He came across the ballistics report. He thought I’d be interested to hear that the bullet in Croffer’s chest came from the gun belonging to the guy I shot when they came back to be sure Croffer was dead.”
“Good heavens!” She surged up from the bed and flung her arms around me — then froze. “But I did shoot him!”
“When bullets slam into brick walls, they seldom preserve usable striations. But you can tell caliber by weight. They found two .45 slugs in the outside wall. Croffer’s pistol was the only .45.”
“Then … then … You mean I missed him? I’m not a killer?”
“You missed Croffer but got me right in the balls.”
“What an awful metaphor!”
“Last time you called it a simile.”
But she was grinning. “Rick was prissy while you’re crude as they come. I never knew I was attracted to hard-boiled detectives.”
“Nor I to dissipated, beautiful heroines.”
“I’ll dissipate you!”
What a wonderful threat! I popped a shirt button getting it off. Dandridge would just have to wait.