The Robin Hood of Private Detectives
Georgia Garside. Foul-mouthed Private Investigator. Ex-contortionist.
Out of her depth. In over her head.
Caught up in the war between a wealthy industrialist and the ex-sugar babe who can’t take a hint.
A laugh-out-loud tripartite battle of wits, winner takes all.
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The story of how I came to find myself wedged under a desk, mere millimetres from its owner’s legs is kind of funny in a kind of pathetically sad way.
It’s because of a pretty lady (of course).
Or more particularly a seemingly rich damsel in dis-tress.
Blackmailed by some cad without a conscience.
It was a pretty nice room as far as places to hide in go. And in my line of work, licensed Private Investigator for the poor and homeless, I’ve hidden in some pretty repul-sive places.
For a start, it was a nice apartment on a high floor. Not the penthouse, but not far off it.
Nice luxurious hardwood floors laid over the concrete. But done on the cheap without levelling it before the insu-lating blanket went down.
Which is how I had enough warning to hide before the owner of said nice apartment and desk opened the study door.
Despite the nice deep burgundy paisley hall runner laid over it, the floor boards still creaked.
Then again, maybe they were going for aged authen-ticity.
I had about ten seconds to assess the mahogany desk, locked filing cabinet from which I had just retrieved an envelope, and a floor to ceiling bookshelf stacked with what looked like valuable first editions.
I ignored the burgundy velvet Victorian chaise longue and went for the desk.
Curled myself up like a pretzel and hid underneath it just as he opened the door.
Up until that moment I hadn’t known who owned the cigar scented study, so hearing His voice was almost enough to make me lose my grip and fall out of my hiding place.
As his legs slid underneath me, and I smelled his herbal cologne and looked at his blue pinstriped crotch, I was sorely tempted to hang a little lower.
To brush against greatness.
So to speak.
Of course, it would’ve been curtains for me if He’d dis-covered me.
Might still be curtains, you never know.
I do know that if I’d known He was going to be in there so long, I’d’ve hidden in the narrow gap between the chaise and the wall.
As it was, I hung there for a couple a hundred years while He made a couple of calls.
And if the word got out He was betting black market on the horses…
Or that He maintained an apartment for a demanding young sugar baby…
In the same building of all places.
Well, I ask you.
Keeping the tramp in the same building had to be the dumbest idea ever. I mean when it came time to turf her out, she’d be no end of trouble.
Goes to show that however smart the big brain looks, the little brain between the legs is still in control.
You’d have to pay her good money or…
Take a more permanent solution.
I didn’t want to think about how I’d never heard a whiff of scandal about him.
And I read the tabloids.
When He’d finally been called away by a man I as-sumed was the head of his security detachment, it took me a minute or two to drop to the floor.
While contortionism was my college party trick, it’d been a long while. And just like college football, contor-tionists can have career-ending injuries.
Enough said. It still haunts me.
I patted the envelope, safe in the internal pocket of my black top wondering what was inside it.
And how that pretty lady had known exactly where to find it.
But more importantly, how I was going to get out of the apartment when there were more people than South-ern Cross Station out there.
So much for no one home.
I listened at the door, and hearing no sound, cracked it open a fraction.
Hugged the wall as I crept down the corridor.
Avoided the creaky boards I’d tripped on my way in.
Ducked back into a doorway as a couple of guys stopped at the other end of the corridor to chat.
About their plans for the coming weekend when it was only Monday for fuck’s sake.
I could barely think I was so hot with the jitters.
Just wanted to run screaming from the place.
Took all my hard-earned discipline to stay still and qui-et until they moved on.
Step by slow step, back burning as it anticipated a bul-let, I crossed the entry and made it out.
Easing the door closed behind me with the smallest of snicks as the lock engaged.
Sprinted down the corridor to the emergency stairs.
Bounded down two or three at a time for a couple of floors.
Paused to pull my hair back into a ponytail and straighten my clothes.
Picking up the apron and drinks tray I’d hidden in the fire hose cabinet, and walking back into the party I’d left to go rob the place upstairs.
No one seemed to notice my absence, and why would they?
Just the hired help.
And of course, my eyes widening, He was the first per-son I saw.
I hadn’t realised he was so tall.
And much more attractive in person.
It took all my strength to lower my eyes and not touch the envelope resting against my belly.
I ferried drinks back and forth for a couple more hours.
Skin crawling the whole time, knowing he was there.
Picked up my coat, tucked my cash payment into my bag and left the building.
Paid twice for the same gig.
Well played if I do say so myself.
Right out the back door in the early hours of the morn-ing like any good employee.
Paused to adjust my hair and powder my nose, and of course, look for suspicious characters in a tiny compact before leaving the staff entrance.
Seemed clear, but took the long way back to my office anyway.
When it comes to people, I reckon you’ve got the do-gooder Robin Hood types, and the go-getter Sheriff of Nottinghams.
I like to think I fall somewhere near the Robin Hood end of the spectrum.
Ethical, caring, working for the poor.
I even put cat food out for the strays in the alley behind my office, and when the big black fluffy one got sick, I took him to the vet.
Tried to keep him safe inside that first night, but he got out somehow, so I put a box out there for him to sleep in.
Now the Big Black Kitty is living like a king in a box castle right outside my door.
Now and again, he leaves a rat on the door mat (so to speak because there is no door mat) for me too.
I ain’t complaining about that.
Though not yet desperate enough to eat one myself.
He still gets in and out.
Sits on my desk as I pretend to work.
That’s not to say that the Sheriff wasn’t doing his level best for King and country, trying to keep the peace as best he could against Robin of Lancaster, the criminal master-mind.
And failing dismally.
Or at least, having an inexperienced, and frankly use-less public relations team.
He, on the other hand, was at the Sheriff of Notting-ham end of the spectrum.
Captain of industry with political designs, spotless rep-utation, campaigning on law and order and family values.
Clearly with an experienced and reliable public rela-tions team.
And presumably, a ruthlessly effective clean-up crew.
On the other side, a poor, but now I think about it, in-credibly well-dressed pretty lady with a blackmail sob sto-ry.
A Goliath meets Goliath pro-wrestling prize fight.
My office (which I also sleep in because rents are ex-pensive) is on the ground floor of a three-story building.
The rest of the building is leased out as offices for peo-ple walking the thin grey line between legit and not so legit.
Like the travel agent on the second floor who may or may not help fugitives escape justice by smuggling them out to other countries.
Or the beautician on the first, who administers cosmet-ic injectables when she’s not licensed. Or insured.
And it’s lucky I’m a minimalist because I sure as shit can’t afford to be a maximalist.
My office is sparsely furnished, mainly from street dumps. My desk has three and a half legs, held up by a stack of old phone books.
So old you’d think they were yellow pages.
And a filing cabinet that takes a complicated one-two hip-shoulder movement to get it open and closed.
I got a particularly nice armchair, and the cat caught all the rats out of it one by one.
Way to go BBK.
I didn’t turn the lights on case anyone was watching, but settled comfortably in the armchair.
Beer in one hand, homemade baccie (if you get my meaning) in the other, BBK licking his arse as he sat on the envelope on my desk.
I considered my options.
The Inland Taipan (AKA rich dude campaigning for a seat in the House of Reps) v the Eastern Brown (sob story pretty lady).
The point of the snake fight being, that it doesn’t mat-ter which one gets you, you’re still dead.
Quicker by Taipan but probably more likely by Brown.
I balanced the beer on the floor; harder than you think after half a joint.
The good stuff because I’d done a good job.
And pulled the envelope out from under the cat.
Swaying under the influence as I opened it.
Realising I was so far up shit creek I didn’t have a ca-noe.
Brown had come to me wearing a forest green felted beaver fedora with a feather in it. Pulled down at a rakish angle to conceal her face, but showing her blonde curls at the back.
Kind of like the German spies in the old war movies.
It was a perfect shade match for her forest green pencil skirt suit. And patent leather handbag…
I’d totted up the cost of her clothes, and been blinded by the dollar signs in my eyes.
Thinking Brown was desperate enough to cough up a couple of months’ rent on my rat-infested office at any rate.
She was crying. Wouldn’t look me in the eye. Twisted her wedding ring around her finger.
“It was a one-time thing,” she sobbed. “I was drunk and angry just didn’t think.
“We went up to his hotel room, and we… we… made love.”
I doubt she made sweet, sweet love and I have no idea why that kind of woman can’t call a fuck a fuck and get on with it.
Then again, maybe they don’t fuck. Maybe that’s what the sugar babes are for.
Anyhow, to cut the long, tear-stained story short, Tai-pan was blackmailing her and she wanted the negatives. Here was his address, probably in the filing cabinet.
I hadn’t rolled my eyes when she was there, but I did now.
She’d turned out to be a bloody good actress.
I couldn’t believe I’d been so gullible.
Turns out women can be led astray by the little brain between their legs too.
Worse, the pretty woman who’d bamboozled me with flattery, flirtation, and a blackmail story, (or her represent-atives) were coming the next day to collect the “pictures.”
Assuming they didn’t turn up early.
The one single brain cell still synapsing in my head told me to get the hell out.
I grabbed the cat and slipped out the back.
Halfway down the alley when the building blew.
The blast sent me flying in one direction, and BBK cartwheeling in another.
I lay on the ground, looking up at the flames, and real-ised I still had the envelope and the joint.
But no wallet, no cash, no phone no identification.
In the battle of Taipan v Brown, Taipan was down by one.
I couldn’t lie about waiting for one or other of them to finish me off.
I had to move.
I’d’ve liked to think there were people I could rely on.
But I was in over my head.
To look for help would probably bring an even bigger mess of trouble down on their heads.
So, I was on my own.
I knew who Taipan was, but I had no idea who Brown might be.
Or whether she was behind the sting or just a bloody good actress hired to play the part.
In which case, I really hoped she was okay.
So, what the fuck was I to do with the envelope?
I couldn’t exactly rock up and say, “hey mate, sorry, took this by mistake when I broke into your apartment. And by the way, you should really sack your security guy, he’s seriously crap at his job.”
I got up and staggered away, hoping no one had seen me.
Though even if someone local recognised me, they’d have thought I was working late.
And I couldn’t tell whether that was a good thing or not.
I kept some stuff at the local gym, so I headed there to get cleaned up and put some fresh clothes on.
And wondered whether the security guy was in on it.
Maybe Taipan wasn’t a bad man.
But I’d listened to those conversations.
Was it possible Brown was his sugar baby?
Had she decided to get her own back on him now her time was up?
Whichever way I looked at it, I couldn’t settle.
Brown was clearly not the good guy if she’d tried to kill me.
And Taipan was not a good guy if he was the legitimate owner of the envelope.
Half my hair was burned off, so I hacked all the rest of the burnt bits off with some nail scissors.
It looked ridiculous, so I hacked some more to even it up.
So pissed off; it had taken years to get it that long.
Still, the pixie looked kind of cute for a home done job.
I considered burning the envelope as intended (though setting a bomb to dispose of it did seem overkill) but thought I might need it to guarantee my safe continuing existence.
But, then again, would I be safer without it?
I decided to turn the envelope in at the police station.
They’d open it and could decide what to do with it.
I begged an almond croissant and a latte from a friend of a friend at a local café and walked to the cop shop.
Took a seat as I waited my turn.
Watched one of them put up a wanted poster with my name on it.
For arson of all things.
I expect that’d be the Landlord’s fault.
It wasn’t that I never paid the rent, I just very rarely paid anything off the overdue.
Which I’d happily imagined doing when the building blew up.
Paid in full. I could see the red stamp pad ink of it draining away from me like a watercolour wash.
I waited a couple of moments then casually walked out.
Leaving the envelope behind on the seat.
Moseyed down the street, looking in the windows at the reflections of the people behind me.
Noticed a couple of guys tailing me.
Ducked into the twenty-four-hour supermarket.
Looked longingly at the racks of chips as I ran by.
And out the other side.
Cut across the railway tracks.
Saw a buck lying on the street.
Left it for someone who needed it more.
Pretty funny for someone who pretty much just lost everything they owned.
Full pelt out into the street beyond.
Down the street.
Into the rear entrance of a five-story apartment build-ing.
Up to the exclusive roof-top garden with its excellent views of the surrounding local streets.
Accessible only to a very few non-residents who knew how to get into it.
Knowledge I’d come by on a previous job.
Paused to catch my breath as I stood under a tree look-ing out.
No sign of pursuit.
But no time to be complacent.
I had to come up with a plan.
But just for a moment, I let myself breathe.
Ugly deep gasping breaths.
Looking up and allowing myself to be distracted by tiny birds flitting from tree to tree, listening to them chirp.
Pretending everything was tickety-boo.
That I wasn’t running in fear for my life.
Imagining I’d come to buy one of the apartments on the top floor. The closest I’d ever get to luxury.