A Head By Nature Has an Eye
It was a bleak day and it was looking rather like it would be a bleak night. Or maybe nights are bleak by definition. Unless you're near the poles. I wasn't near the poles. I was downtown. I was in my office. I was a private eye.
The day had started off bad, but it had spun off enough compounded random detours that it was clearly being redirected from Detroit to Cleveland. I had already had to turn down three clients. Their proposed work was far too high-profile, too public. And I had done it too many times before. I wasn't interested.
But my fourth client was different. He was an ordinary working-class Joe, a guy who looked like he lived in a bad part of town but not really as bad a part of town as my office. My office tends to be the worst part of town. I like it that way. I'm a private eye.
"Do you... uh..." he started. I stopped him right there.
"Look, you've never seen me before," I snapped. "I just have a common-looking face, see."
"No, it's not that..." he said, and laughed nervously. "Do you do assassinations?"
Working-class Joes tend to stay working-class Joes in my experience. I gave him the old rabbit eye.
"Look, you're making me nervous," he said, trying to follow my eye with his. "Maybe I should go to someone else."
I jumped in front of him and slammed my hand to the door, holding it shut. "Yeah, I can pull a hit," I quipped. "That's right up my alley."
He shuffled his feet. "I don't know aboat thi--", he got out, and that's when I put it together. I slammed my hand to the desk triumphantly. It was an uncomfortable stretch.
"You're Canadian!" I shouted. "I charge Canadians three times extra."
"That's okay," he said, uncomfortably. "Now let me tell you who I want, um..."
"Yeah, yeah, stopped in the ticker," I poffed. "Drained of the salts of cognition. Given a one-way ticket to Cleveland."
"I really want to go to someone else."
But I waived the fee completely and took the job. It wasn't going to be easy, but that's how I like it. Tricky, like shaving the tops off the cobbles in the dark, bleak road. Because I'm a private eye.
"So..." I turned toward Bob. He was busy adjusting his suit and sunglasses.
"Look, man," Bob said. "I don't care how we do this. I'm tired of this nutjob. Let's just throw a dang net over him and call it."
Bob was old for an agent, and Canadian to boat, heh heh. He'd had an extremely distinguished career; it's a wonder we even got him to work on this much of *this* mission.
So I bit my tongue and called up Alex.
I decided to open the folder the client gave me. But no, that wouldn't do. I'd have to intuit the contents, like a gypsy who owned her own antique shop, but in another antique shop, looking for deals she could mark up.
"John... Trotson," I decided. So I got out my phone book. The only Trotson had a first name of Alex. I paused to consider this, like a kewpie doll a neighborhood punk carefully etches room for and inserts into an icicle in February.
I couldn't be expected to do any better. I wasn't a seer. I was a private eye.
"Let's go pay this Trotson a visit," I quipped to nobody in particular.
Alex answered his phone cheerfully. "You got a job for me?" he immediately asked.
"Look, Alex..." I sighed. "Yeah, we could use your help. The turkey is leaving the coop, man."
"I could fix the door," he offered. I closed my eyes and waited.
"Oh... but turkey? That's not the bird we usually... yeah, okay. I'll be right there."
I was outside Alex's door. I was going to have to use some subterfuge here. Fortunately, I can handle trickiness. I'm a wooden nickel. I'm a seal covered in loaded dice and hotglue. I'm a private eye.
Alex opened the door before I knocked. He was wearing a suit and sunglasses. His eyes lit up.
"Say, there," I said in a posher voice than usual. "I'm trying to find a nice preppy school I can send my precocious children to. You look like you know the area. Nice house you have. Uh, I mean, elegant abode." I cursed in my head like a bluetooth.
Alex nodded, beaming. "That would be an honor, sir. They didn't tell me I got to do this!"
So he gave me some addresses. I nodded and cleverly looked like I was paying attention. Then I read the first one and headed off for it. "Anytime, sir!" Alex called after me.
"You did WHAT?"
While talking to a teacher-looking type standing outside the third school, I realized that that tricky weasel had given me the slip. I had been fooled like a pilot whose copilot rigged up an artificial artificial horizon. I had been bamboozled like a country boy told that jumping off skyscrapers was the New York activity. I really felt like I was crashing into the ground, here.
So I headed back to my office. That's when the bleakness really set in. I was just about out of leads. But I still had one. I opened the folder.
Hmmm. This really wasn't going to be an easy assignment. And it was even more high-profile than the jobs I had turned down. But at least I wouldn't be around for all that.
"Bob, I just found the folder you were supposed to give him. What did you give him exactly? I'm sending Alex."
Pain wasn't something I feared. I'm as hard and cold as a complex solid in a six-drink McDonald's dispenser. So while I didn't have to worry about that constraint, I still needed to think of an job-appropriate method. I couldn't let down the long and storied traditions of private eyes.
Then that Trotson lad burst into my office. "Sorry, sir, I need to take you back now," he insisted.
"Oh, no, you're one of--dang, I should've known before from the suit. Look, why don't you all just find another President? I'm done with that scene. I'm a private eye."
But he talked sense for a while and I decided they needed me after all. "Look, just let me finish this one jo--b," I got out past a choked cough. "Sure, okay, if it means that much to you, sir," he said. "But come back before 8. You've got a meeting with the Secretary of the Treasury."
And he left. So I was free to do the assassination. I started considering the myriad uses of fedoras.
I knew sending Alex was a bad idea since right after I did it. But I couldn't reach him for some reason, so I took off for the "office" myself. I ran into the building, flashed my badge at the front desk and stepped past bellboys and waitstaff, into the elevator. Into the hall and into the room.
He was sitting in a chair with his head back and a hat on his neck. "I don't think I really get mass," he said.
So I helped him up and walked with him back to the elevator. "I'm not finished with my job," he protested. "You're being as annoying as a feather sock."
"What job?" I straightened up. He gave me a folder, sighing.
Bob was in a world of trouble.