The dame that stepped into my office that day was a knockout. Legs that went on for miles, more curves than a mountain road, and eyes that seemed to look through you. God knew I had a weakness for redheads, and He was obviously the Creator of this one. She was too perfect to be real otherwise. Outside the door I could see Millie giving her a serious dose of the stink-eye.
Millie’s a good girl, and her instincts are solid.
I should have listened to her.
“Mister Danner?” the redhead said. Her voice was thick and smoky, and made me think of bourbon poured across a single cube of ice. I could see her sipping at it in some downtown joint.
“That’s the name on the door.”
“I need your help.”
Just like that, she had me. That hint of defenselessness in her tone.
“What’s happening?” I asked her.
“I think my house is haunted.”
“Yes. There are strange noises at all hours of the night.”
I stood from the desk, walking over to drop a pinch of tiny food granules to Marky the gold fish. He snagged a couple on the way to the gravel floor of his fishbowl. The little castle at the bottom was more haunted than this dame’s house. Her old man was doing something and just couldn’t keep it quiet. It never pays to say something like that, though.
“So you think I’m the man to figure out what’s wrong with your haunted house?”
She opened her purse. The stack of hundreds she pulled out was thick enough to choke a horse.
“I have money.”
“I can see that.”
“I just need help.”
“What does your husband have to say about all this?”
“He never hears them, so he doesn’t believe me. You see, he has narcolepsy, and he’s always asleep when the noises start.”
Narcolepsy. Maybe it wasn’t the old man doing something after all.
“And bringing me in isn’t going to upset him? I mean, he doesn’t believe you have anything going on. What’s he going to think when I show up? I can tell you what he’s gonna think: He’s gonna think you’re stepping out on him and bringing home your trophy.”
I’d seen it before, and it was a result as sure as peeling the wax paper from a fresh deck of cards: it was gonna get noisy. On the other hand, it had been some time since I’d made any real noise. I’d seen her access to cash, and God knows I love redheads.
“Please, Mister Danner. I just need someone to tell me I’m not crazy.”
“Sweetheart, I’m no doctor, but I’ll take a listen for your ghosts. I can’t promise anything’ll come of it, but I’ll take the case.”
Elements: strange noises, wax paper, narcolepsy, gold fish, red head.