WEDDING RECEPTION NOIR
fiction by Andy Oerman
I was sitting in my office, downing the last swallow of a glass of bourbon so cheap the clerk had paid me to take it, when some dizzy blonde dame stuck her left foot through my open doorway.
Not that I was complaining; it had been a boring day, it seemed like a nice foot (in a shiny black high heel) and its owner was stacked like a shelf full of anatomy textbooks. But then, just as quickly, she pulled it out.
“Put your left foot in, put your left foot out, open up a fruit stand on Sepulveda Boulevard; I don’t care,” I said. “Just do it today, baby. Shake a leg, I mean.”
She frowned slightly, bit a full pink lower lip that looked like it had just eaten strawberries and cream, and stuck her left foot back in over the threshold. Then the crazy broad stood there and started wiggling her gam all around like it was covered in fire ants.
I had no idea what kind of hocus-pocus she was trying to pull, and as I watched, she began to turn herself around. But as a hard-boiled private Richard with most of his bills paid and no personal attachments, I knew this much – Blondie was in some serious trouble.
I smelled a big payoff for this case, if I could get her to calm down long enough to explain.
I rose and arranged the chair across from my desk for her to sit. “Come on in, Dollface, and tell me what it’s all about.”
Part 2: The Long Electric Slide Into Night
After a drink, she spilled her sob story. Good girl moves out west to be a star, gets in with the wrong crowd. Some smooth talker goes too far one night, there’s a struggle, a gun goes off … I’d heard it a hundred times before.
She turned on the waterworks then, said there had to be some way I could help her get rid of his body. When she looked at me with those dark eyes and batted those long lashes, something happened.
You can’t see it. You gotta feel it. It’s electric. At that point, I’d have done anything for her. “Let’s go check it out,” I said.
In a few minutes we were standing over the corpse of some small-time operator in a cheap seersucker suit. He was face down in a pool of dusky blood on his kitchen floor. I looked over at her; she looked scared and … something else. Something false.
“We’ve got to move,” I said. “Here, grab his ankles.” She couldn’t hold back. She threw herself at me and started planting her lips all over my kisser.
“This is wrong,” I said.
“Some say it’s mystic,” she replied. “You can’t resist it. You can’t do without it.”
“Have you lost it?” I asked. “You gotta face the music for what you did here tonight. You just can’t hide.”
“Wanna bet?” she whispered into my ear, soft as angel’s breath. Then she took a sap from somewhere I hadn’t seen and clubbed me. Shocking pain coursed through my brainpan.
“I didn’t choose this,” she said, before I sank into a moat of inky black oblivion.
Part 3: Boot-Scootin’ Boogie All the Way to the Hoosegow
I woke up with a splitting headache made worse by approaching police sirens. Choking back nausea, I staggered out to my jalopy and sped off.
I’d felt something I hadn’t in a while. I was going to make her feel it, too. She wouldn’t play me for a patsy. I’d teach her, teach her, teach her, teach her to do the electric slide … in Old Sparky up at the women’s prison in Tehachapi.
I knew the first place she’d hole up. Out in the desert past the city limits sign, there was a honky tonk near the borderline. The joint started jumpin’ every night when the sun went down.
I told myself it might be the last sunset she ever saw.
They got whiskey, women, music, and smoke. But I was only lookin’ for one woman in particular.
I work hard for my money. So what if I wasn’t gettin’ paid for this case? Sometimes justice is worth dispensing for free.
I went flyin’ down the highway to that hideaway. The bartender asked me, “Hey pal, what’ll it be?”
I spotted my prey across the dance floor full of outlaws, inlaws, crooks, and straights, all out makin’ it shake. They scattered when I took out my gat and pointed it at her. “I want a shot at the blonde over yonder lookin’ at me.”
Her face drooped like melting wax, or maybe it was just that it was hotter than the 4th of July in there.
“Turn around and get down on the ground,” I told her, dangling a pair of iron bracelets from a finger. “We’re scootin’ our boots back to the cops.”
Part 4: Maltese Macarena and the Marble Orchard
A dull orange glow seeped in through a small skylight in the precinct’s interrogation room. It cast a beam across her features like a candle burning behind the windows to her soul.
She hadn’t spoken since we left the road house, but the homicide dicks were letting me have a run at getting her to open up.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“No hablo,” she said.
“Knock it off, sister! The jig is up! Now, what’s your name?”
A far-off expression drifted across her face like a soft breeze turning a pinwheel. “When I dance,” she said, “they call me Macarena. And the boys, they say that I’m buena. They all want me, but they can’t have me, so they all come and dance beside me. They move with me, chat with me … but if I could I’d take you home with me.”
“Nix,” I said. “That ship done sailed. I like my conquests a bit less incarcerated. Now spill it. Who was the stiff? You know him better than you let on, don’t you? Was he your boyfriend?”
“Don’t you worry about my boyfriend. Name’s Vitorino,” she said. “I don’t want him, couldn’t stand him. He was no good, so I…”
“Don’t stop now,” I said. “The jury might go easier on you if you come clean.”
“Now come on, what was I supposed to do?” she asked with a sneer. “I stabbed him with a scissors. Accidentally. Nine times. Then I shot him with his own gun and went to see you.”
The homicide detective nodded, got up from his stool in the corner and wordlessly beckoned her to stand.
“Wait,” I said, as two uniformed bulls that had been waiting outside led Macarena away to her 6×8 concrete hole. “One more question. How come I was the lucky P.I.? Of all the two-bit gumshoes out there, what made you come to me?”
“Because your office was easy to find,” she said. “It’s right next to the YMCA.”