The Smoker and the dame who wore red shoes
The detective stood on the side of the street, smoking underneath a tall lantern, its light turning his tall body into a strong silhouette as he smoked, inhaling the acrid fumes into his lungs and leaning from side to side like a snake as he watched the lady cross the street from across the way by the old book shop. Steam was rising from the old sewer entrances that were scattered along the road. Car horns were violently honked in the distance as their drivers cursed violently at one another muttering threats of violence under their breaths. The city was an incestuous pool of filth and slime and there was always ugliness around the corner. That's why the detective was so surprised to see the beautiful sight of the lady in red shoes as she crossed the wet street. It wasn't every day that you got to catch a glimpse of heaven in the slums of hell. The detective wondered what it could mean, because experience had taught him that sights like this always walked hand in hand in hand with a price. Something was going down and he couldn't help but wonder what it was, even though he knew that curiosity would always kill the cat, besides he had never been an animal lover anyway and these days death was always around the corner and any thing might kill you at any second. He smoked the last of his cigarette and walked across the street, embracing what ever fate may have in store for him.
The detective scaled across the street quite quickly in long strides like a panther gaining on its prey. The lady was looking from left to right consistently as she walked anyway, so she quickly noticed him coming. There was no resistance. She was expecting him. She smiled as the detective grabbed her by the wrist, her red lipstick glistening underneath the street lamps. The detective looked down at her shoes. He always did this when he wanted to know what the person was really like. Shoes always tell the truth. The dame seemed to know what he was doing. She smiled and stepped slightly closer into his space. The detective looked at her shoes. They were red and made from a rich leather he had never seen before. They seemed to shimmer. Where ever the fabric came from it wasn't from this city. They had come from a long way away. Probably imported. He looked at the lady's face. She was a real heart stopper. Her face was classic and sculpted looking. Very elegant. Maybe she had been imported too. The detective smiled. No matter how much he drank or smoked he would always have his charm and wits. Thats what kept him alive. The lady smiled back. "I've been looking for you," she said. The detective hadn't been expecting this. It knocked him back slightly. "You have?" he said. The lady nodded, revealing a very long and regal neck. "Yes," she said, "I went to your office, but they said you weren't there any more......" She paused, noticing that the detective seemed confused, "You are the one I'm looking for aren't you?" she asked. The detective looked at her. She was too pretty for him to refuse, no matter what danger came with her. He took out two cigarettes and handed one to her. She took it and glanced at him mysteriously as she placed it within her lips, parting them gently. "Yes," said the detective, "I'm the one you're looking for." The lady with the red shoes smiled and leaned over whispering gently in his ear. "Good," she said, "Now give me a light and lets go somewhere where we can talk." The detective looked around. The coast was clear. He lit her cigarette and nodded for her to follow him. They began to walk.
He brought her to the safest place he knew. "THE RUN DOWN SPEAK-EASY." It was considered by many to be the most dangerous place in town, a refuge for criminals, killers and crazies. As far as the detective saw it, this meant it was the safest place on earth. Here talk was cheep and everyone stayed out of everyone else's business, because they knew bullets were even cheaper. This was the place he took the lady in red shoes to talk. In the background all the lizards and drop-outs guzzled their liquids and ate their pills whilst they discussed what the lady had seen and what she wanted the detective to do.
He listened intently, happy that he was the only pair of ears listening to what she had to say. "It happened one night," she said, smoking deeply and sipping at her Gin whilst she whispered softly to the detective, "My father had been missing for several weeks now and we were all very worried. I remember it as if it were yesterday." She lit another cigarette. The nerves were getting to her. These were not memories she wished to keep. "I remember hearing this horrendous howling in the middle of the night and a smashing sound. I looked up and I saw that all the windows had been broken and that my beige curtains were on fire." She smoked, terror in her eyes as she relived the past. "I went out into the garden and there, standing where the swimming pool should have been was a giant steel door. It glistened in the moon and a strange sound came from within it. There was no frame around it and the structure seemed to be floating slightly off the ground. I was too afraid to look inside it and began to cry because I knew that was where my Father was. I knew that he was inside that door, where ever it led. I also knew that it was not a place I wanted to see with my own eyes." The lady began to cry. The detective tried to dry her eyes but she quickly pulled away and drank her Gin and filled her mouth with smoke. "I've been seeing them ever since, every night, all over the city, strange doors in strange places. I'm starting to wonder if I have finally gone crazy. I hear things at night now, every night, wailing and screaming, opening and shutting, closing and banging. Sometimes I hear my father's voice singing a strange and unearthly tone. The doors keep appearing and I keep wailing in my sleep." She was crying uncontrollably now. "You have to help me." She said in-between sobbing, "You have to find out where those doors go and save my Father. I think his soul may depend upon it." The detective took a long drink of whiskey and looked around the bar. He really did hate the people that drank there.
She handed him a book. He didn't like the look of it. It was black and battered, probably centuries old. There was a strange symbol on the front. A shiver went down his spine. He knew the occult when he saw it and this whole tale the lady was spinning stank of it. She slid the book along the table towards him. "This will tell you everything you need to know." she said, "It belonged to my Father. He was reading it the night before he disappeared." The detective looked at the book. He was afraid to open it. He knew what was inside it. He had heard this story before, many years ago. Another case he had been investigating. It had almost killed him and turned him to the bottle, which he had quickly made his new home. Those doors she spoke of existed, he knew all about them. He also knew what was on the other side of those strange unearthly doors and it wasn't pretty. It was not a place he was keen to go back to in a hurry. He drank some more Whiskey. The dame was looking at him expectantly. She really needed some help. He really did hate moments like this. She was so frightened looking and helpless. Why did this all have to catch up with him again? Destiny was a real son of a bitch, making him return to the place he had been running from for all these years. He looked at the dame. She was looking back at him. Before he had time to make up his mind he suddenly heard the unmistakable sound of a gunshot sending a bullet flying through the air. Instinct took over and he jumped over the table, grabbing the girl by the hair and pulling her down with him below. The bar was pandemonium. People were screaming and running. Blind panic. No one knew what was going on or who had fired the shot or what for or where it was coming from. All they knew was that they had to get out. The detective let his instincts take over. "Follow me," he said, grabbing her hand as he slowly slid across the floor, under the tables keeping close to the wall. The dame hung on tight as they quietly slid through the panic stricken bar. All around them feet were running here and there. The detective made for the back door. He knew it well. A short campaign in the French Foreign Legion had taught him to always know where the back entrances were in any place you visited and to always sit with your back to the wall, just in case there were any unwelcome guests. This knowledge had kept him alive for years. Eventually, they reached the fire escape entrance at the back and were greeted with the safety of the city night. "All right," said the detective, "Looks like you got yourself a deal." The lady smiled and hugged him tight. The detective looked around tensely, suspecting death around every corner. "We got to get across town now before midnight and see the Chinaman. Looks like I got to do something I've been putting off for a long time." The detective smiled, knowing she didn't know what he was talking about. "Don't worry," he said, "I'll find your Father." He muttered something else under his breath, but only the wind heard it. They walked into the night.