A Perfect Night for Murder – Chapter 1

Thought I would share a little taste of my first work.

It was a cold night in the big city. A fog as thick as Mom’s clam chowder rolled in off the bay, flowing into the hidden nooks and crannies of San Francisco. A perfect night for murder. Pulling my collar up in a futile attempt to keep out the cold, I closed the door to my apartment building, walked down the four grimy steps and turned left on Green Street. Head down and half asleep, I trudged up the hill towards Taylor. I should have told the dick at the other end of the line to stick it, but I could tell by her tone of voice that the invitation to join her at the “scene of the crime” was not an RSVP. Five blocks later I felt the sidewalk beneath my cheap shoes change from the smooth concrete of Green to the old stone of Taylor. Without looking up, I turned right towards Valparaiso.

The fog grew thicker as I approached the waterfront. By the time I reached Valparaiso, it reminded me of Aunt May’s Sunday oatmeal except there were no raisins. The muffled murmur of voices told me I’d reached my destination. Glancing up, I saw the dirty yellow glow of lights to my left. At one o’clock in the morning that could mean only be one thing, the scene of the crime. As I approached the lights, I found my way blocked by the large hand of one of The City’s finest.

“Nuttin’ to see here Bub. Move along” The voice had all the quality of a half-empty concrete truck.

“I’d be more than happy to return to my nice warm bed, Flatfoot…” I said without lifting my head. “But your Lieutenant Barbie sent me a nickel-plated invitation to this little party.” The big hand grabbed my coat and lifted my feet off the pavement. Perhaps I had been a bit rash.

“Set her down, Officer Stone.” A familiar voice called from the lights. “She’s with me.”

“Just in the nick of time as always Barbie.” I said, settling my well-worn coat back into place. “I was about to show your flatfoot a thing or two.”

“From my point of view, it looked as if Officer Stone was going to show you your liver and spleen.” Barbie’s sharp finger hit me in the center of my chest. “And its Lieutenant Barbarella to you, DuBois”

“Yes Dear,” I replied, taking my life in my hands. “What’s so important that you interrupted my beauty sleep and made me drag my butt out to this delightful location on such lovely night.”

Rolling her deep-set eyes, Lt. Leigh Barbarella ignored my witty repartee. “This way.” Turning, she made her way up Valparaiso with me in tow. As we entered the circle of lights I could see a form in the center of the street covered with a dingy gray sheet. Just as I thought, a good night for a murder.

Lt. Barbarella knelt down and pulled the sheet aside to reveal the naked body of a young man. “Recognize him?”

He was young, twenty-three, maybe twenty-five at the most. He had the body of an athlete, muscular but not overly so, more like a gymnast than a bodybuilder. Even in death, his figure was stunning. Kneeling next to his face to get a closer look, I saw he had equally striking looks. Except for the small caliber bullet hole in his forehead, his features were nearly perfect. He could easily be a professional model or actor.

“Sorry LT,” I said, rising to my feet. “Never saw him before.

“You’re dead sure?”

“Trust me, Lieutenant,” I said, nodding towards the slim figure at my feet. “From the looks of him, he’s not the type of man I’d soon forget.”

“Then how do you account for this?” Barbie handed me an evidence bag with a small card inside: ‘Josephine DuBois – Private Investigator’ my business card.

“So what. I’ve passed out hundreds of these over the past year. Proves nothin.’”

“Turn it over.”

Flipping the bag over I saw the time 1:30 pm and today’s, check that, yesterday’s date had been scribbled on the back of the card. The handwriting was mine.

“Would you like to reconsider your answer?” By Barbarella’s tone of voice I could tell she thought she had me.

“Yeah, I had a one-thirty appointment, but it was a dame. Met her at Sam Chun’s. Must have been Tuesday night. That was it. I’d had a long day, so I stopped to pick up an order of pork-fried rice and a couple egg rolls. Said her name was Anderson… Janet…Joyce…” I scrambled to remember the first name. “No, Julie… Julie Anderson, classy type, auburn hair, maybe five foot seven. Said she needed help finding her brother. We made an appointment. I jotted down the time and gave her my card. She never showed.”

Barbarella looked at her thumb as if she was studying a hangnail. I knew from long experience she was considering her next move. There was nothing I could do but stand there with a blank look on my face and hope that she bought my story.

“Ok, DuBois, one more time for the record.” Her tone of voice told me I was skating on thin ice. “You don’t know the stiff from Adam, and you gave the card we found on his otherwise naked body to some dame you met in a two-bit take-out joint. A dame who conveniently never showed up for the appointment.”

“It’s God’s awful truth, Lieutenant. And for the record Sam Chun’s is no two-bit takeout joint, he makes a killer moo goo gai pan.”

Barbarella stood there and shook her head. “Cuff her Officer Stone.” She said, turning on her heal. “She’s goin’ down town.”

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