One day, not that long ago, my friend John jumped onto Slack to announce “I found Reese’s Pieces.” I joked that it sounded like a tragedy until I saw the title case, but “I found Reese’s pieces” would be a great opening line for Neil Gaiman. He countered that is sounded more noir, and I accepted the challenge (that he didn’t actually make) to write a hard-boiled detective story about Reese’s pieces.
I found Reese’s pieces. I shouldn’t have been down that way anyhow, but I was, and I found him, and now I was involved.
Johnny Reese was new blood with old money, and he had been throwing it all over town. I didn’t know the kid all that well, but we knew some of the same people. Specifically, we both knew Charlie Dunbar, who had asked me to meet him down at the pier that night. He said he had a friend who was scared, and he needed me to try to calm him down and maybe set some things right.
I never saw Charlie that night, but I did see Johnny Reese for about two seconds before his car exploded and pieces of dear Reese and his beautiful imported convertible were spread all over the wharf. I hadn’t been on the force since the mayor personally had me blacklisted, and I didn’t think this would be the best way to run into my old chums, so I took off.
I didn’t know much about about Johnny, besides what every one knew about his old money and taste in young blondes, but I knew my buddy Charlie. With roughly the shape and size of a gorilla, and none of the agility, he couldn’t have fit in that little import and he couldn’t have been there and run away without me seeing.
So, he wasn’t there, which meant I needed to head to Leo’s to see if he had been in that night. Dollars to donuts, the big ape had forgotten about the meeting completely or was too drunk to get off the stool.
Leo’s was just a block away from the wharf and looked like the kinda place that might have been nice if it hadn’t been a block away from the wharf, and if it wasn’t filled with the kinda folks who drink at the wharf. Leo had dressed up the outside with a nice sign and a new paint job on the bricks, but the inside was dark and the smoke got into your pores the moment you hit the door. A long row of stools lined the bar, but Charlie wasn’t on any of them.
“You seen Charlie?” I asked as soon as Leo looked my way. My voice should have been shaking or something after what I just saw, but I didn’t know Johnny, like I said. He was just another mook in a fancy car that shouldn’t have been down this way either.
“Not in three nights. I figured he shacked up with another widow, and we wouldn’t see him until he got kicked out. You know something?”
“No. He called me about a gig, but it doesn’t matter much now. I think that one dried up before I got there.”
“I seen him,” said a voice dripping with so much Southern sweetness that I almost couldn’t stand it.
What little light Leo’s provided seemed to find her alone at the bar, blonde hair fell over her face and onto her shoulder, where it met up with a red dress that couldn’t have looked more out of place here if it was on fire. She moved the blonde strands away, and I saw the face of an angel looking back at me.
“Okay, Doll, since you seem to be in our conversation, can you help me out? I think I better find him tonight, the way things are going.”
“Well, he just happened to tell me to be looking out for a guy that looked like a copper on a bad beat with a three-day beard, so you’re in luck. He’s uptown. You got a ride?”
This night was either getting better or worse, and I couldn’t figure out which. I could stick around here, but the cops would be making there way up here soon enough to either fill up the drunk tank or look into the explosion at the pier. I might as well choose the broad, and maybe I’d find Charlie after all.
Even though I’m sure Leo wasn’t planning on charging her a dime, I settled her tab on my account and we walked over to my old beater, which I had parked a few blocks further away in case things went sour at the docks. I still didn’t see the cops running to the pier, which didn’t make much sense, but I breathed easier.
The dame — I didn’t even ask her name — gave me directions as we raced my old Ford through the dark streets until we started to reach the well-lit side of town. Manicured lawns and lawn jockeys replaced the dirty sidewalks and overturned trash cans as we wound our way into the fancy neighborhoods. The deeper we drove into the luxurious area, the more the dame seemed to fit in and the more my car seemed not to. I was almost relieved when she directed me into the the big circular driveway; at least I wouldn’t get pulled over by an overeager patrol car once I got this thing off the road.
“Charlie’s not your friend, Sam.”
“How’d you know my name?”
“Charlie told me all about you and how he’s the one that got you drummed off the force. Said you wouldn’t cover something up, and he went to the mayor about it. Said you never knew a thing.”
“Alright. I’m not sure why I would believe you, but what else did he say?”
“He said he was gonna kill my brother, Johnny, and frame you up for it.”
“That’s a lot of talkin’ for the big ape. Why do you suppose he would say all that to a dame like you?”
We were walking towards the big house as she kept chatting me up about Charlie. I couldn’t figure our her game until she turned around, and I saw the gun in her hand. Little Saturday night special. Not that accurate, but it wouldn’t be hard to hit a big guy like me from a few steps away.
“He was talking because he thought I would run away with him, and we would split my brother’s share of the inheritance, I s’pose. The thing he couldn’t get was that I really did love my brother, even if he was frittering away my money, too. Although, I guess he figured that out when I shot him at the docks tonight. I was too late to save Johnny, though, and now they’re going to be looking for whoever set that bomb.”
“Then they can find Charlie, I'm sure.”
“That would be true, but I tried to weigh him down before I threw him in. And if they did find him, then I’d be under suspicion, and that doesn’t seem fair.”
“So, who’re they gonna find, you suppose?”
“I’ll bet that they’ll find the ex-cop who was stalking me and even came up to the house I shared with my brother, don’t you?”
“My name is Lenora.”
She fired the gun at my gut, and I watched it jump in her hand. She fired two more times just to make sure the job was done, and hurried in to call the police about the man who she thought was trying to break into the house. She was going to let them know that she was scared for her life and might have to defend herself.