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Darkness in the Afternoon - Part One



I was sitting in my office cleaning my handgun when it accidentally fired narrowly missing a flea on the head of Mr Alfred Rukelhaus who was having his hair cut in “The Hair’s Progress” across the street—a business run by a man with large black eyes that squinted intensely called Stravinsky. I immediately leapt from my chair, closed the venetian blinds and crawled on my knees back to my desk. I was on the floor when someone entered my office.

"That sounded like a shot?"

"It was my new coffee percolator. Buying a 'twenty cup' was a blunder. It flew out the window. Probably in Shoreditch Park by now."

"Are you a private eye?"

I slipped back into my chair and shuffled the one piece of paper on my desk. When I glanced at the source of the voice, I saw a beautiful woman with fine black hair and piercing dark eyes. Normally I stand to greet clients, but decided—for her modesty, and mine—to remain seated. I gestured to the lady to take a seat.

"My name is Elina."

"Sounds Greek?"

"I’m from Tooting."

She looked at me with a mixture of intensity and pride.

"Are you an investigator, or not?!"—Elina glanced at her watch—"I’ve no time to waste!"

After checking I was breathing my two eyes met her two eyes. "You have a face that cries – NO, SHOUTS (I leapt from my chair) MELANCHOLY!" Then softly, "And just a little anxious, no?"

Peculiar sounds emanated from my body. I made a mental note to modify my diet. "I’m—an explorer—a prober—a sleuth." I started to ramble.

"What was your most recent case and the outcome?"

"A kidnapped halibut. It belonged to a dentist who performed a shoddy deep-root filling. The kidnapper sent a ransom note to its owner with a photograph of the fish holding the Hackney Post. The fish was returned unharmed. I’m sorry to say the dentist was later found dead—battered to death with a haddock."

"How did you recover this fish—this hellibute?"

"Halibut! Basic, professional detective work. I’m sworn to secrecy about the details—" I made a note to obtain analgesics; my gums were still markedly sensitive.

"What’s the book?" she asked, pointing to my desk.

"Gustave Flaubert by Madame Bovary. I’m not usually a fan of female writers, however this is exceptional."

Elina had lost her husband and was fearful he was in danger. I stayed quiet hoping she would volunteer information.

Finally, I asked, "Did you murder your husband?"

She half-closed her beautiful eyes with a weary grace.

"I said—"

"—I know what you said. Why would I?"

"Money, pleasure, the excitement of amorous adventures—?"

"NO! You're insane." A perceptive and intelligent lady.

My instinct told me she was telling the truth. "OK. I believe you. Tell me about your husband. How you met him—" As I listened I looked at her face. I could sense uncertainty beneath her enticing self-confidence.

End of Part One (to be continued during bright daylight)