Murder, or Just an Honest Mistake?
by William Arthur "Bill" Holmes. © Copyright 1990
[The following story is rated PG. You figure it out.]
Madison Ripley Smith was sitting at his desk with his feet propped up when she walked in. Long legs, hourglass shape, luxurious jet-black hair, and matching jet-black eyes.
"What's with the black eyes," Smith asked.
"Oh! Is my mascara running again?" And she dabbed at the black splotches.
Then the phone rang. After the third ring, Smith shouted, "Where's that damned receptionist?!"
"There was no receptionist when I walked in," the long-legged woman said.
"That would explain why you just walked in unannounced, then."
"Yes, that would explain it."
Meanwhile, the phone was still ringing.
"Aren't you going to answer it?" the black-eyed woman asked.
"No," Smith said bitterly. "That's why I hired a receptionist. I guess now I'll have to fire her. Too bad, too. I was starting to like, uh, what's-her-name. Wanna be my new receptionist?"
"No," she said. "I want to be your new client."
"Yes, client. You know, I give you money, tell you what I need, and you go out and do it?" she spoke slowly and deliberately. "A client."
"I know what a client is, lady. What's your husband's name?"
"What does that matter?"
"Let's just say I like to know who I'm getting mixed up with."
"My name is Amalia Maria Rodriguez Sanchez Delgado, wife of Juan Carlos Julia Delgado," she answered proudly. "And I have a problem."
"I guess so," Smith replied. "With a name like that, it must take forever to sign your name."
She ignored the comment. "I have a case that needs to be solved."
"Yes, a case. You know ..."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Smith snapped.
"Well?" she asked. "Do you want the case, or not?"
"Sure, I want the case."
Of course I want the case, he thought. I need the money. Besides, I wouldn't mind seeing this woman's face on a regular basis. Women and money have been pretty scarce lately.
"What are you thinking?" Mrs. Delgado asked, not liking the looks flashing across Smith's face.
"What kind of case is it?" he growled, playing the part of the tough-as-nails private dick.
"My husband's been murdered."
"Murdered?!" Smith was worried now. He tried to stay away from murder cases. "Why don't you go to the police?"
"I did," she said. "They think it was suicide, but I don't believe them. It was murder."
"What makes you say that?"
"He was shot through the heart with a bow and arrow."
"That is suspicious," he agreed.
"And I won't be satisfied," she continued, "until you find the woman who killed my husband."
"Woman? How do you know it was a woman?"
Amalia Maria Rodriguez Sanchez Delgado looked Madison Ripley Smith in the eye and nodded sagely. "A woman knows these things. So, will you take the case?"
"Yeah, I'll take it," he tried to sound reluctant. "My rate is $200 a day, plus expenses."
Mrs. Delgado tossed a stack of bills onto his desk. Smith counted it.
"Thirteen dollars?" he asked.
"Oh, sorry," she said, "wrong stack."
She plopped down another stack of bills. Again, Smith counted it. This stack was nothing but 50's and 100's.
"Nine hundred," he said, again trying to sound casual, even though he could not recall the last time he held that much money in his hand. "This'll do ... for now."
With a triumphant pout - if that's possible - Mrs. Delgado nodded and sashayed her way out the door. Smith's eyes escorted her out.
Later that day, as Smith was looking for clues at the bottom of his desk drawer, he got a call. He was forced to answer it himself since his receptionist still hadn't shown up. It was a wrong number. The caller mumbled "Rosebud" into the phone before Smith slammed it down in disgust. He wished his receptionist would come back. He didn't have time to be talking to every whacko who called.
His thoughts then wandered to Mrs. Delgado. What kind of a man had Mr. Delgado been? And why did Mrs. Delgado kill him?
"Why did you say that?" he asked himself aloud. There was no one else in the room, and he could think more clearly aloud.
"She's the grieving widow, remember?" he answered himself.
"Of course she is. After all, she's the one who hired you to find his murderer."
"Oh, shut up."
It was then that he realized he was Cracking up. Not only was he talking to himself, he was having complete conversations.
Several hours later, the phone rang again. It was Mrs. Delgado. She wanted to know how the murder investigation was coming along.
"I'm laying the ground work now," Smith said as he rolled a semi-hard gob of rubber cement along the top of his desk until it formed into neat little ball. "Don't expect too much for another few days," he warned. "These things take time."
When Mrs. Delgado hung up, Smith picked up the sticky rubber-cement ball and threw it against the wall. It stuck.
"Who am I fooling?" he asked himself. "I don't have the slightest idea how to handle a case like this."
The only reason he had taken it was because Mrs. Delgado was so damned beautiful. He was such a sap. He would have sucked his thumb and walked like a monkey if she told him to. He knew that. She knew that. And he hated himself for it.
"God, you're stupid!" he scolded himself. "Never fall in love with a client! You only get what you deserve!"
Forcing his face into an expression of hard-bitten nonchalance - a look he'd picked up from Robert Mitchum movies and practiced for hours in front of the mirror - Smith grabbed his jacket and left the office.
Walking down the street, he kept the hard-bitten nonchalant look on his face. Robert Mitchum would have been proud. His father would have been proud, too; assuming he had a father. Well, of course, he had a father. Everybody had a father. It was just that Smith had yet to find any proof that he did. He knew he wouldn't rest until he found that proof. But that was another case. Right now, he had this Delgado thing to figure out.
He strolled down the street, Mrs. Delgado ever-present on his mind. An image of her on a brass bed with her wrists tied to the headboard was the most compelling image. But that would have to wait. Right now he had to find her husband's murderer.
As he walked down the street, he realized it might be better to use the sidewalk. On the sidewalk, he tripped over a small dog, sending it yelping off into the distance. It brought a smile to his face. That dog looked a lot like the one he used to trip over as a kid.
But he steeled himself against such sentimental thoughts and concentrated on Mrs. Delgado. A couple of blocks down the street he realized he would probably reach her house more quickly if he drove. So, he turned around and headed back to his car.
Turning the key, the engine roared to life before settling to a smooth purr. After all these years, it still ran like a dream. "Good old American know-how," he said as he patted the steering wheel.
He pulled out into the street in the wrong direction. Without checking for traffic, he made a U-turn. The unsuspecting driver of the car behind him swerved and crashed into a telephone pole. The phone lines snapped and the pole collapsed into the street, barely missing Smith's car. Smith was oblivious.
When he arrived at the gated Delgado Estate, Smith was surprised to find Mrs. Delgado at the front gate waiting for him. Wearing only a nightgown, she stood clutching the iron bars from inside the property. She reminded him of a scene from one of his favorite movies, "Biker Chicks Behind Bars," except that Mrs. Delgado didn't have as many tattoos.
"Hello Señor Smith," she replied provocatively. Everything she did was provocative.
"Hello, Mrs. Delgado," Smith replied. "What are you doing out here in your underwear?"
"It's a nightgown. And I'm waiting for you, Señor Smith."
"Well, how did you know I'd be showing up?"
She smiled just a hint of a smile. "A woman knows these things, Señor Smith." And she did that knowing nod again. "May I call you Madison, or perhaps, Ripley?"
"Call me anything you want, Mrs. Delgado."
"Please, call me 'honey,'" she purred.
"... uh, yeah, okay ... honey ... my friends call me M.R."
"Ooh, initials! I like that in a man. It makes you sound very important, eh, M.R.?"
"Sure, I guess so, Mrs... . uh, honey. Are you sure you want me to call you 'honey'?"
"Yes, please. My husband used to call me that."
"I'm sure he did," he said, thinking to himself, I wonder if I get to do anything else your husband did.
[To be continued (just as soon as I can figure out where to go next with this story)]
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