Imagine this scene as a part of an old Humphrey Bogart movie or some Film Noir epic. Lots of shadows and sinister music. The only difference is that my detective is not the hard-boiled type. He is closer to “Poached.”
This was the first episode of a series called “The Henway Chronicles.”
The Coffee Shop
A steady drizzle was falling – giving the dark city streets a sugar glaze that hid the bitterness of the late night.
As I walked into the coffee shop the red plastic counter stools gleamed a promise of hot coffee and maybe something to fill the void inside me.
A flash of green caught the corner of my eye. Sitting in the last booth next to the aging Wurlitzer Jukebox was, perhaps, the best looking woman these eyes had ever seen. And these eyes have seen everything and not liked most of it. Dark red hair the color of Irish heartbreak fell to her shoulders, a cup of coffee, half gone, sat in front of the lady who was completely gone.
The flash of green was a crisp $100 bill that she was spinning on the Formica tabletop.
I told the guy behind the counter, an old friend I’d never met before, to give the lady a refill – on me. He just grunted. He’d played this scene a hundred times before.
Déjà Vu on a damp night.
“HI, Doll. My name’s Henway. I’m a Dick – head of the best P.I. outfit in town.”
She looked up at me with two green eyes that flashed more than the Century Note and gave me a look that said both, “Hold my hand,” and “Go hold your own.”
I sat down and waited until our cups were filled the hot inky coffee and my old pal went back to his station by the cake dish.
“Tell me about it,” I said. “Maybe I can help.”
Those two emerald colored eyes looked over at me and her two too red lips parted. “Raaazzz,” was all she said. I used a napkin to clean my glasses.
“I think I understand,” I said with a nod.
“Your guy’s been two-timing you and tonight he got a little too rough when you called him on it. You ran out of the house in tears and now you’re here at 3 in the AM, afraid to go home. All dressed up and no place to go – right? And the hundred? You keep that pinned to your slip for emergencies. It’s enough to get you bus fare back home, right? Your name is Lily, you’re a Taurus, and you think men in pointy shoes are a turn-off, right? You had fried clams and a Valium for dinner and you think Barry Manilow sucks like a Hoover. Right, Dollface?”
They don’t make paper napkins like they used to.
It was obvious that the lady had a problem staring her in the face. I got up from the booth.
“I guess I hit too close to home, huh kid? Well maybe you just need to be alone to work it all out, right?”
I tossed a dime onto the table and it rolled a lazy figure eight around two crumpled napkins and came to rest in a pile of sugar next to her spoon.
“Here, call a cab and go home,” I said. “It’s late and a swell looking dame like you shouldn’t be out alone on the streets in this neighborhood. Nothing but Freaks, Geeks, and Low-lifes out there this time of night.”
I turned to leave, my thoughts already focusing on the last piece of German chocolate Cake I’d seen sitting under the plastic dome on the counter.
“Hey, Mister?” I heard her say in a voice like white silk.
I stopped and turned.
Some people just ain’t got no class.