Because I don’t think I’ve posted it before here is what the second version of the story posted last week eventually became. There are some similarities to the original to be sure but the tone is rather different. After this opening scene the plots diverge even further. Back to “Hornets’ next week.
Foxtail (Version 2)
by Desmond Manny
There are only two things more dangerous to a shamus than beautiful women and rich men in trouble; very beautiful women and very rich men in trouble. Whatever had brought the woman sitting in the best chair in my office, facing the window where the light did good work on her, was probably bad. Beautiful women have options before they have to call on private detectives, rich men less so.
Her dress was purple, the color of royalty, and her brown hair was tucked beneath a little round number garnished with a sprig of lilac, faux. She had crossed her legs as she sat but it wasn’t the conscious, practiced effort designed to draw a man’s eye. It was not without effect all the same.
“Mr. Poe, I’ve never had to hire a private detective before so I don’t really know if you can help with a problem like mine. This isn’t something for the police. Not yet. I would much rather have things taken care of before it’s a problem for the police. Can you help me?”
I had an idea that not many had ever said no when she asked that question. A little more detail would have to be forthcoming before I could know if I’d be parting with the tradition.
“Possibly.” I leaned back in my chair and looked disinterested because I was. It was a Friday and the week hadn’t been busy but it had been productive. I had a full wallet and a bank account with breathing room, for this month at least. “I would have to know what exactly it is I’m helping with.”
I had a hunch. “I prefer not to handle divorce work unless there are unique circumstances. What concerns is your fiancée causing you, Miss Oso?”
Violet Oso gave me a look, not mad, just curious and serious. “I haven’t said anything about Peter.”
“I can see your engagement ring from here. When a engaged woman goes to a private detective alone it’s not a stretch to say it’s about her fiancée.”
“I see. I wasn’t going to be coy about it. I dislike coy women.”
She stopped talking and I waited. Some clients you give a push and some you give their head and let them start in their own time. Nothing about her indicated she was the sort of woman who could be pushed. It pained her to need my help. So I waited and after a minute of deciding she started.
“I love my fiancée. He loves me too. Understand there’s no doubt in that. He’s still a man though. A good man. With all a good man’s weaknesses.”
“What is her name?”
She wasn’t amused but gave me a wry smile anyway. Just to show there were no hard feelings.
“It’s not what you think. Her name is Lana Peugeot. Miss Peugeot is my cousin, though we often refer to ourselves as sisters. Two months ago she arrived here in Seattle from France. With a man she acquired somewhere along the way. She’s been staying with me. If I were being honest I would have to admit I don’t like her much. She is family, however. One makes allowances.”
“I’ve heard it said.”
“Lana was always a bit of a wild one. Enjoys a rough crowd and they enjoy her. She has a way of making most anything seem reasonable to people. The man she showed up with is a good example, thoroughly handsome and thoroughly rotten that Mr. Karl Ash. I wonder if he’ll understand what he’s got in Lana before it’s too late for him.”
“That all sounds like this Ash’s problem. How is it yours?”
Violet Oso drew a lungful of breath and released it slow. Tension stayed in her shoulders.
“My Peter, Peter Camden, is a very good man. He was born poor and was poor when I met him and we fell in love a year ago. It changed everything for both of us. Peter had some luck professionally, and is set to become a very rich man. He asked me to marry him because he says I’m his good luck charm. Maybe I am. Peter is a good honest man, Mr. Poe.”
“I think I see. It’s not just this cousin who followed the family line, is it?”
Miss Oso eyes were wet but I knew the tears wouldn’t come, not yet. “I gave all that up ages ago. Honestly. You realize at a point that you have a choice about who you want to be.” She had turned to look out of my office window were the sun was just setting and the buildings and streets were bathed in burnt oranges and reds. “It’s easier for men though. They can cavort and debauch and then still become pillars of society and it’s taken for granted. You don’t hold people’s childish indiscretions against them do you Mr. Poe.”
I didn’t answer because she wasn’t really looking for one.