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October 6, 2008 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Henry Ball in Lost and Found

I knew I was in for trouble when she walked into the office. Why? Because she was a dame, that’s why. Dames are always trouble.

“I need your help,” she said. “That’s what I’m here for,” I replied. I eyed the dame up; she was well worth the look. Tall, blonde, blue eyes, fine figure and a snappy dresser. Just what I liked in a dame.

“It’s… well I’ve lost a cat,” she said. I did a double take. What did she think I was, an animal control guy? She continued her story hurriedly when she saw the look of disgust on my face. “It’s my friend Ruth’s. I was looking after it for her while she was on holiday. Brii is very valuable.”

“Right,” I said. “I’ll take it.” I needed the money, really really needed it. “Write down the details about the cat for me. Stuff like what it looks like, when you last saw it, et cetera. It’ll be $100 a day plus expenses. By the way lady, what should I call you?” “My name,” she said, “is Virginia.”

“Hey kid,” I screamed into the outer office after Virginia had left. “How can I help you, sir?” he said. “Well, we’ve got a missing person case… Only it’s a cat. A very valuable and expensive cat,” I replied. “Here are the details, get on to it,” I said barking out the imperative.

I knew that the kid would soon find the damn cat. That boy is good at looking up stuff. Not that it’d take any effort on his part to find the cat, it was probably just stuck up a tree, or he’d just call it and it’d come running.

While the kid looked for the cat I decided to have a couple of drinks at the bar down the road. At the bar I had my usual – whatever would get me the drunkest, quickest for the cheapest. After the fourth double whiskey I started to moan to the barman Walter about my life. Poor bloke, it must be tough being a barman and only ever hearing the down on their luck stories.

I woke up on the couch in my cramped apartment. Couldn’t remember how I got there. Even the hum of the fan hurt. I dragged myself to the sink and cleaned myself up a bit. I then walked to the window and left the building by the fire escape. I used the fire escape because if I used the stairs it was likely I might be seen by my landlord, whom I owed about five months’ rent.

When I got to the office the kid was waiting for me. He started by telling me that the cops had finally busted the gigolo who worked down the hall. Then he told me how the cat case was going. He’d found nothing. He’d followed up all the leads – searched high and low, checked out the cat clubs and talked to the plumbers who were working in the house when the cat went walkabout. He’d even spoken to the neighborhood know it all Flo. All in vain; there wasn’t a peep about the cat anywhere.

“Oh, and your wife called.” the kid said after telling me about his failure to find the damn cat. “Ex-wife,” I interjected. “She says for me to tell that two-timing good for nothing drunken jerk (I think she means you sir) that it’s Lizzy’s sixth birthday today, and you’d better be there.”

Poor Patricia, thinking she had to remind me of Lizzy’s birthday. It was one of the few things I would never forget. I adored that girl. And for good reason: she was smart, fun and a looker. Gee, she’s going to break a lot of hearts when she’s older. And I’m going to have to break a lot of noses if those suitors don’t behave themselves. I’d even got her present already – a rabbit. Don’t know why she wanted one, but what my little girl wants, she gets.

Suddenly it hit me. I ran out of the office and down the hall. As I was running I told myself how stupid I’d been. I knew where the cat was, had known the whole time. The kid was running behind me, confused as to what was happening. Silly boy, not checking the pet shops as part of his investigations! It was things like that which made it obvious that he’d never be a good PI. Not that the boy wanted to be a PI, he was just working for me till he saved up enough to go to college.

I ran out of the building and down the street. Ran all of the way to the pet shop. All three damn blocks of it. Chicago is too big. I stopped outside the pet shop, completely out of breath. I stood looking in the window at the man who’d sold me the rabbit for Lizzy. He’d also tried to sell me a rare and expensive cat. Obviously thought from my looks that I was the sort of person who dealt in hot goods. He had a smile on his face; I’d soon wipe it off. He had a mustache; I should have known… Never trust a man with a mustache. What had that guys name been? Ah yes, he was George.

“George!” I yelled, as I went into the pet shop. “I know about the cat!”

George looked petrified and tried to run away. I jumped over the counter, to block his escape. He threw a punch. I blocked him. Then I threw my own. The punches started to flow freely. I don’t know how it happened, though maybe I’m not as young and fit as I used to be, but soon George had the upper hand. I was on the floor with him on top of me, punching constantly. But behind George I saw the kid raising an aquarium.

I awoke in hospital. Damn George knocked me out. He then got a fish tank on the head care of the kid. Weird boy was actually upset about the fish in the thing dying. The police were called – there was a fuss, especially when it was found out that George hadn’t taken the cat. He was trying to sell his own cat, and tried to get away from me when I entered the pet shop as I seemed “insane.” Sergeant Murphy from my old squad was very blunt. That man swears more than I do. It was back to square one with finding the damn cat.

I got out of hospital quickly (without any of the nurses’ numbers, sadly). I went straight to the office; it was empty. Completely empty. Stripped of everything. Except for a note: “I found the cat, while you got drunk. I and Virginia agreed to sell the cat then skip the country. I hocked your stuff to finally get some wages.”

It was in the kid’s handwriting. Damn, damn, damn boy. I’d track him down one day and make him pay for this. But why did Virginia choose to go off with him? What could the boy offer her? But then you can’t account for the tastes of a dame.


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Comments (2)

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  1. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    Cool story. You’ve got a knack for realistic dialogue and characterisation. I look forward to reading more.

  2. Helen says:

    Why thank you. Its very nice of you to say so.

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