Have I Really Been Planning This Entry All Along?
The room is unnaturally still. It smells like a lot of things: sawdust, stale oil, humidity, spoiled carnival food, against-rules cigarettes, and just enough incense so you can tell they tried to cover up all the other stuff, but not very hard. It’s hot and stuffy and I wish I could leave.
I can’t. Because I just picked up another smell.
Ahhh, you wish your fortune told, yes?
I… I don’t… I’m not sure… I got a message, I mean… yes, I suppose so.
Ok, this next bit is going to be tricky. I’ll have a few seconds before he catches on, IF I time this right. If I don’t… best case scenario is I’m out of a job, worst case scenario my extended family finally finds out that I really did mean it when I said I wasn’t ever gonna see them again.
It is a thing one must be sure of. Come, cross my palm with silver!
There’s a long pause, but he sits down. The entire situation must just be itching, but he hasn’t got a clue whether to try to scratch, or run. It’s always these Chessmaster types that don’t know what to do when the shoe is on the other foot.
Careful. Don’t get foxy, detective.
That was a joke.
I want to know about this.
Hmm… This? Tell me more about… this…
…It’s a pizza box. The top of a pizza box. It… says that you’ve got answers for me?
Myes… Madame Carmalita has all the answers, but I must know more… who gave you this message?
That’s right. Play him, get him busy looking at you. I know you can.
There is a- person. He’s been trying to get around me for quite a while. And I was winning, too, until he just vanished. I haven’t been able to find a trace of him anywhere for weeks. And then just the other day, someone left this pizza box outside my front door.
Hmmm, yes. Let Carmelita see… ‘Let’s Settle This,’ and then it has my address! How melodramatic!
Everyone’s a critic.
You don’t seem surprised.
She grins. I am a fortune teller.
Or you’re in on this. Why else would he tell me to come to you?
She just grins again. I’m hoping he can’t see the ‘Hurry Up And Do Something I Can’t Stall Him Forever’ she pasted all over the grin for my benefit.
I don’t understand. If you’re in on… on the message, why don’t you tell me what it is. If you’re not, why aren’t you-
“Cause she’s just the distraction. I’ve got the message, and you’ll find it on your wrists. It’s called handcuffs.”
“Looks like I win.”
Finally, I can take this ridiculous gettup off! Cassie gasps.
“Thought it suited you.”
You’ll never get away with this! He fumes, I’ve cut you off from the force, DETECTIVE! You’re a fugitive! You don’t have anywhere to go!
“Good. Cause nobody’s goin anywhere.” And I shove him in the trunk. “I’ll have you know I was hiding in that thing for three hours waiting for you to get the nerve to show up! So enjoy.”
Cassie is wiping off some of the extra makeup. So now what?
“Now you can tell my fortune.”
She shoots me a look like she’d rather I got back in the trunk with the skunk. I foresee you owe me a drink.
“Really? You don’t foresee a little guy with a silly hat barging in and ruining the mood?”
“S’okay, nobody can win ’em all.”
What are ya, how didja, Why didja-
“Max calm down!”
Calm down?! Ya go missin fer weeks wit no explanation! You drive off wit her! Cassie glares at him. An you send me some kinda cryptic message written on da bottom of a pizza box!
“Well, it was what I had.”
An ya tells me ta CALM DOWN?!
“I’m glad to see you too, then. I got you a present, though. It’s in the chest.”
Watchu talkin bout – gah!
“What’s the matter? Don’t like kidnappers?”
Get me out of here right now you barbarians or so help me I’ll spray everyone!
I close the trunk. “You do that.”
But, but… this don’t make no sense! You… ran off to get dis guy? Why couldn’t you just, like, arrest him? And what was this even all about?
I hate to admit it, Foxy, but the lollipop guild has a point. Why was he even after you?
I smirk. This is the fun part. “He wasn’t.”
They both just look at me. Apparently that’s not going to be enough of an explanation.
“He wasn’t after me, he just wanted to make it look like he was so he’d have me out of the way. He worked this whole duel of intellects to get me out of the office and take my eyes off every other case. It was all a big red herring.”
So… what did he want?
“Show him what you picked up yesterday, Cass.”
And she pulls out this deep green rock from a paper bag, size of my fist. The candlelight splinters and coats the whole inside of the room with shimmering emerald light.
It was in a safe house, she explains, one of the best. In a box marked ‘to be taken to client.’
“It wouldn’t be the first time he’d tried. Most recently he tried hiring some middlemen with good reputations for getting out from under the law. But they also had reputations for double-crossing, and then I had to show up in the middle of everything, so that was no good. But it wasn’t the first time I’d thrown a wrench in his plans to get this.”
Whatta ya mean?
“Remember that dead baker?”
“And we assumed it was loose change in that loaf, I know! Well, that about wraps up everything, if Madame Carmel-whatever aint gonna read my palm-”
Cassie has her purse open and is making disgusted faces in her compact. The sooner I get out of all this fur dye the better. I’m going to find a bathroom.
“Then Max, take this beauty pack to evidence. The rock, I mean. See if they’ll take my picture with it.”
So how’d it go with you an–I mean, you, did ya… ya know?
Shit, I only just realized, how DID it go with me and…? Hell. What is this gonna do to me afterward? What if I have to bust her tomorrow? What if I never bust her again? What if I never SEE her again? Is there any way to go back to normal?
Max has hoisted the bag over his shoulder. Dis’s loitah den I ‘spected.
“Really?” I absentmindedly take the bag. “Funny, does feel light, it’s-” Crap, look inside, quick! “-it’s a compact.”
I guess things do go back to normal.
“Nice try,” I say. She stops halfway out of the lady’s room window, sighs, and drops to the ground.
May I was just trying to keep you on your toes. Keep you honest, after your taste of the wild side.
“Uh huh. And this rock,” I stuff it in my pocket, “is magic and will give me superpowers.”
Then I’ll hope you get some better manners with em, She sniffs, then smiles a little. Thanks for bringing back my compact, Foxy. Can’t think how I forgot it.
“Well, accidents happen.”
I guess they do. She winks and turns away. See you next accident, Foxy.
Max and that dog are stuffing the trunk in the back of the squad car. Ya get her?
“I didn’t know the rock was a her,” I quip settling in behind the wheel.
Uh… Sly? While ya wuz gone, I wuz kinda… dey let me drive, nd I wuz really good, so can I mebee-
“Shut up Max.”
It’s good to be back.