I went with Lisacle’s: Waking up next to a dead man will ruin your entire day.
And this is where I went with it.
The First Labour
Waking up next to a dead man will ruin your entire day. Still, I’m alive; guess I’m the lucky one. I sat up and gazed out the window at the puss coloured sky. I Looked over my shoulder, and wondered: ‘am I?’
I pulled a smoke from the packet on the side table. They weren’t mine, but I figured he wouldn’t mind. I took a few drags, and waited for the liquor haze to free me from its grasp, and the morning wood to subside. The cigarette only heightened the alcohol; giving it means by which to rush round my body, and the wood remained present.
I don’t know what bothered me more; the dead guy or that I was aroused. Truth be told, none of it bothered me, I’d been doing this too long, and the inappropriate firmness was just a morning ritual. I’m not sure how I got here, or where here was, and as for the stiff – the body I mean – fuck knows. I finished the cigarette just as it burns my fingers. I like to get my money’s worth, even if the money’s not mine. I stood up and took a deep breath. The room was a mixture of smells; blood, sweat, liquor, sex, and the faint hint of a broad.
I headed to the bathroom, hit the switch, and the light returned the favour; I saw stars like a caught a right hook. I took a leak, but seemed to be pissing sideways. I looked over my shoulder toward the bedroom and wondered ‘how drunk was I?’
I shook it off, the thought too, and headed back to the bedroom. I rooted around for my clothes. I’d been here too long, and the only thing that should linger around a body is the smell. I pulled my clothes on and straightened myself out the best I could, then I examined the stiff.
It was not a face I recognised; twisted with terror and pain. I riffled through his pockets. He’s holding nothing but a silenced .38 in a shoulder holster, and his wallet. Inside is nothing unusual, or rather, there’s nothing at all, which is unusual. I checked it over, and found a card: The Lion’s Den – a joint downtown. On the back is a name written in red ink: Nemean.
I put the card in my pocket, and walked back to the bathroom to make sure I didn’t look like the sort of person who wakes up next to dead people. A message was scrawled across the mirror, written in the same red lipstick that was smeared across my face. It said: Are You Ready For Your First Labour?
Back at my place I took a shower, trying to wash away the fog of last night. I got dressed, and made myself two eggs, two rashers of bacon, and two cups of coffee. After that I reached for the phone.
His voice came back through the phone, as gruff and irritable as ever.
‘Yeah, what do you want Herc?’
‘I need you to run a name for me’
‘The owner of the Lion’s Den?’
‘It’s on the back of their card, so I’d take a stab at that’
‘Yeah, what of him?’
‘Who is he, and how likely am I to be able to speak with him?’
‘Heck if I know, he’s a dirt bag, but we’ve never had anything on him’
‘How’d you know he’s a dirt bag then?’
‘I’ve got a nose for these things’
‘Alright, I’ll watch my step’
‘That’d be a first’
I hung up and headed for the door.
I made my way downtown to The Lion’s Den. I figured it’s the only place to start; quite what I was starting I had no idea. I walked in and spoke to the cute barmaid.
‘Hi’ I said
‘Hi, what can I get you?’
She looked perplexed, and after a survey of the bottles behind her, she said ‘No, we don’t have that’
I smiled ‘I’m looking for Nemean, the owner’
‘Oh’ she said, her cheeks turning a little red.
The doorman came over; he was as big, as she was pretty.
‘Can I help you?’
‘No’ I said ‘she’s doing just fine’
He grunted and gave her a look. She slunk off down the bar, and busied herself with the stock.
‘Can I help you?’ he asked again
‘Sure, why not’ I smiled ‘I’m looking for the owner’
‘I’m afraid the owner’s out of town’
‘That’s fine, I’ll wait’
‘You’ll wait for him to get back into town?’ he frowned
‘Sure, I figure he’s got to pass through here some time, and it’s kind of important’
He grunted, and then walked away, heading through a door beside the bar. I sat waiting. He returned a minute later and said ‘Mr Nemean has returned, he’ll see you in his office’
I smiled at him and walked through the door, following the long corridor. Coming toward me was a woman; she was loaded with sex, and walked like she wasn’t afraid to use it. We exchanged a look, she smiled; her eyes were hungry, and she looked like she’d devour me, but not in a way I’d like. She left a familiar scent in the air, but I was too distracted to remember it. I continued toward the door at the end. I knocked and entered.
Sat behind a big mahogany desk was a large man. He wore a gold suit that seemed to shimmer in the light, and had a mane of black hair that joined a large beard.
‘Nemean I presume?’
He nodded and gestured for me to sit down opposite him. I did. The chair was comfy.
‘And who might you be?’
‘My name is Mr Lees, I’m a private detective’
‘A detective?’ his eyebrow rose ‘and how can I help you Mr Lees?’
‘Well, I’m just making inquiries into a man I met this morning’
‘Oh really’ he said ‘what’s his name?’
‘I don’t know’
‘He didn’t say?’ he asked
‘We didn’t talk much’
‘Ah’ he said with a smile; he had a mouth full of teeth, each one of them looked like they’d hurt ‘then what makes you think I can help?’
I took out the card I had found on the stiff and slid it across the desk. He looked at it, and said
‘That’s a business card Mr Lees, they’re easily obtained’
I turned it over, showing the name scribbled on the back; his name.
He looked at the card, and then back to me.
‘Mr Lees, I’ll ask you again, what is it you think I can help you with?’
‘The man who had that on him, was a hired gun’
‘And this affects me how?’
‘I’m sure it affects you quite a bit, I’m sure right now you’d expect me to be a ghost’
He smiled broadly, each one of his large sharp teeth on display. His eyes were making promises; none of which I wanted them to keep. He’s a large man, so it took me aback when he vaulted over the desk like a domestic feline.
He pounced on me, and the chair tipped back, breaking under our weight. His hands wrapped round my throat. His eyes were manic, and he ran his tongue along his teeth. As I struggled to pry his hands from my throat, he leaned over me and spoke with the same calm as when he was sitting in his chair.
‘You’re right Mr Lees, you should be a ghost, let me help you with that’
I raised my knee into his crotch. He yelped and relinquished his grip as he keeled over in agony. I got to my feet. I knew I wouldn’t have long to compose myself; I took deep breaths trying to get as much air back into my lungs as possible.
He began to get to his feet, but he’d lost some of his swiftness; a knee in the nads will do that. He leered at me, furious, but still smirking like a mad man. He lunged at me. I ducked right, and he clattered into the wall. He turned quickly like a ball on the rebound, coming at me, all teeth and powerful arms. I picked up the first thing on his desk, and as I side stepped him, hit him hard on the back of the skull. Luckily it was a paper weight and not the stress ball sitting next to it. The blow stunned him, and he remained on all fours, panting, as a wet patch formed on the crown of his head.
‘You had enough?’ I asked
He continued to pant as he got slowly to his feet. I held the paperweight just in case; he was pretty quick for a big guy, and I knew if he caught me, I was fucked.
He walked to his desk and sat behind it, in his big chair. He continued to pant a little; his eyes had lost their craziness and were now vacant and dilated, like a night’s sky with no stars. He focused on me, and began to chuckle.
‘What’s so funny?’ I asked
‘It doesn’t matter what you do Mr Lees, your days are numbered’ he said smiling
‘Well, I was never good at math, so don’t be surprised if I get it wrong’
‘It doesn’t matter that you survived the man I sent, nor does it matter that I haven’t finished you. Something will get you Mr Lees; she will always get her way’
His smile broadened, and he began laughing again.
‘Who’s after me?’ I asked loudly
He continued to laugh. I walked over to him, placed the paperweight on the table, and grabbed him by the shirt.
‘Answer me dammit!’
His laughter continued, it increased, filling the room.
I began to shake him by the shirt, but he continued to laugh, louder and louder. I grabbed his red tie and pulled on it; the knot pressing against his tree trunk throat.
Still he continued to laugh.
I drew it tighter hoping the lack of air would subdue his laughter, and bring him back to reality.
He began turning red. He laughed still. I drew it further. He started to turn purple. His laughter began to dwindle as he struggled for air. He looked at me, his eyes bloodshot and bulging. Before I could come to my senses, his eyes closed, and he ceased to laugh. He was limp when I loosened his tie. The skin was pale where it bit into his neck. I checked his pulse; it was faint, but present. I stepped back from the desk, took a last look at this beast of a man in his golden suit, and headed for the door.
I walked up the corridor, straight past the doorman, and outside. I was grateful for the fresh air, so reached inside my pocket and pulled out a smoke. I lit it and took a long drag. As I walked off down the street, my hands were still shaking.