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How Green Was My Lovely Big Sleep - a Short Story by Colin Garrow
This is a story I wrote as a bit of fun - a sort of faux-Raymond Chandler fable. It's not the sort of thing I'd usually send off to a magazine, but it amused me, so maybe it'll amuse other folk..
How Green Was My Lovely Big Sleep
It was a classic pea-souper, thick with the stink of the Thames and as sticky as an athlete's armpit. I wanted to go home, relax, tune into Channel 69 and open a beer, but something caught my eye through the gloom. Ordinarily, I'd have told Pussy Hideaway to go and lose herself, but I was behind with the rent - if something didn't turn up soon, I'd be sleeping at the office like one of those sad fools you read about in cheap magazines.
She stood, silhouetted against the neon glow of the Chinese takeaway, like the lousy friend of the heroine in a bad B-movie - the one who gets plugged just before the end.
"Are you Fillip Marloh?" She stepped into the light, her eyes flashing.
I winced at her spelling, but figured I'd just hike up my rates to cover it. "How'd you know I was here?" I glanced around but the mist was thicker than a footballer's girlfriend.
She gave me a smile that could've melted my heart (if I were made of chocolate and she'd used a blowtorch). "Your secretary said you always come down to the river at night."
I frowned. "I don't have a secretary."
She shrugged. "But here you are."
As the fog wasn't lifting and my thirst could only get deeper, I suggested we go back to the agency. She followed me down the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, across the road to Perdition and on, until we reached the end of Lonely Street. I led her up to the broom cupboard I call an office.
"What can I do for you?" I sat down at the desk and took a good look at her. She was a blonde that thought she'd do better as a brunette. Her dress was a polite shade of vermillion with a curious touch of emerald green around the armpits. The dress was long and slender, which was a shame, since she wasn't. I didn't say this out loud, but maybe it showed in my face. One day I'll learn to keep my thoughts in my pockets.
She leaned against my desk with a pout I could've stuck to the wall. "Not much of a private detective, are you?" she drawled, in what she doubtless imagined was a ladylike tone.
"And you aren't much of a woman," I drawled back. I was trying to be smart but she knew I wasn't up to it. I offered her a cheap lager in a tall tin.
"You don't mince your words, soldier," she said, her voice dropping two and a half octaves to its natural growl. "A gal has to make a living."
It was only when she poured the lager down her throat, that I saw her Adam's apple bobbing up and down like a kid on a pogo stick. "Going to tell me why you're here?" I said, leaning back on my chair like I'd seen someone do in the movies.
She threw a handful of twenties across the desk. "That's all I have in the world."
I picked up the cash and stuffed it into my wallet before she changed her mind.
"Someone's trying to kill me," she said, parking her backside on my desk. "And I can't go to the police."
"Course not," I said. "Your type never can."
"Well if you're going to be like that..." and she turned towards the door.
"Don't get hot under the collar, toots," I snapped. "Tell me about it, then I'll decide." I poured her another drink while she thought about it - after all, it was a big decision.
Turned out she'd had a spat with an old pal of mine and got into a poker game that a girl like her was never going to get out of without sacrificing something, and from where I was sitting, she'd already given everything she had. Koko McGuiness was a small-time crook who'd been trying to go legit for years. He'd swung some pretty sharp deals lately, trading three of his gambling clubs for out-of-town garden centres. It's not what I'd aim for myself, but we all dig our own graves one way or another.
Ms Hideaway had a poker problem that went way beyond her gender issues. She was several grand short of what she needed for an operation that would carve out what she most wanted in life. Trouble is, bluffing a royal flush had tipped her over the edge and instead of doubling her money, she'd thrown it to the dogs. If she didn't get it back, she'd be turning tricks til she drew her pension, and that wasn't an image I wanted to file away for a rainy day.
I told her to buzz off while I went through my options. I added them up as I went along and crossed them off quicker than a mongrel shakes out flies. By morning, I knew I didn't have a Scooby and the gal in the red dress would end up with a hole where she didn't want one. But I also knew that things have a way of working themselves out, so I clung to that notion like a sailor on a life raft. A life raft in the middle of the ocean. With a storm on the way.
Koko's office was on the wrong side of town, but it was Tuesday and the cops wouldn't be around yet, so I double-parked and left a 'Doctor-on-Call' sign on the windscreen. I did a soft-shoe shuffle down the nearest alley and ducked into Koko's reception area. The goon on the desk threw me a facsimile smile so I gave him a sure bet for the four-thirty at Kempton Park. He waved me through while calculating his winnings on his fingers.
When I walked into Koko's office, he hugged me like a long lost case of dysentery. He's funny like that. We small-talked for a while, then he rustled up a couple of bacon butties while he chirruped about his empire, how he'd branched out into faux-Greek statues and not-so-authentic garden furniture. I didn't give a hoot about his plans, but I began to see a way of getting my client off the hook without anyone waking up dead.
"What can I do you for?" said Koko when I'd finished my pig sandwich.
As soon as I mentioned Pussy's name, my old pal turned a nice shade of purple.
"Know how much that dame owes me?" he snarled, coughing breadcrumbs over my second-best suit.
"Take it easy, Ko," I said. "I've got a proposition that could work for both of you. D'you ever hear of verdigris?"
- How the World Turns (and Other Stories) a book by Colin Garrow
He thinks that when he walks, his own feet propel the earth: that his movements keep the world going round. Literally. Each stride supplies the momentum for another motion forward, the ground shifting backwards beneath him, away into the distance. Ex
And that's how Pussy Hideaway and Koko McGuiness became partners.
When I'd seen how the chemical reaction under her armpits had turned her dress green, it didn't take me long to figure out that the same process might work as a way of treating garden furniture. Koko's prices went up and Pussy's debts went down.
I got my money and a six-pack of lager.
Things were looking up.