As is my habit by now, I’m going to show you the first chapter of the next book that I’m bringing out.
Today it is the first chapter of “Who killed the clown?“, the first attempt I am making to writing a detective story.
A Pagan detective story even. I hope you enjoy it!
1. The tarot spoke.
It was an average day in an average street, and an average-looking man who wasn’t what he looked like entered an average looking building. Its front was covered in plaques that announced to the world what companies, large and small, were scattered all over the five floors behind the massive, concrete wall. The man moved through the building with ease; he had been here many times. Without any haste he walked up the stairs to the floor where the two small offices of his own agency were located. His business, although busy-ness was not exactly the word that sprung to mind as he mulled over his destination. After walking halfway through the hall, he stopped in front of a door. He glanced at the sign on it and grinned. “Lester Jones, private detective.” He pushed open the door and entered.
The office was originally designed to be average in shape and organisation. Lester, the current owner, had done everything he had in his power to make the place as non-average as possible without making people feel uncomfortable. The couch where clients could wait, the coffee table with magazines and a few forgotten, ancient newspapers, the pictures and paintings on the wall, the plants that were scattered throughout the room, everything was just the right amount of different. With a gesture that was meant to show flair, Lester threw his hat towards the coat rack in the corner as he said, “Hello, Tabbycat,” he greeted his secretary.
“Meow,” said Tabbycat, watching the hat sail towards the corner and miss its target. “You’ll never get that right, Lester,” his secretary continued, “it’s not in your wrist. And stop calling me Tabbycat. My name is Tabitha and I’m not a cat.”
“Whatever you wish, Tabbycat. Is there any mail for me?”, Lester asked, walking to the fallen hat that lay against a skilfully crafted lion’s paw, the foot of the coat rack. He brushed off whatever dust there might be on his hat and carefully placed it where he’d intended it to go.
“Yes, there is mail for you, Lester,” Tabitha said, pointing at the thin stack of paperwork. “Two bills and a picture postcard from your ex-wife. From Bermuda this time.”
“Hmmf,” Lester shared with her as he looked at the card. “So many people disappear there and somehow she manages to miss that triangle.” He turned the card over. “‘Glad you’re not here.'” As he carelessly dropped the card in the bin, he said, “Same here, Madeleine, same here. Now give me those bills, they’ll cheer me up even more.”
“Give?” Tabitha asked with a raised eyebrow. “They’re there. In front of you.”
Lester grinned, and before he picked up the envelopes, he stroked Tabitha’s hair. “Nice Tabbycat,” he said.
“Purrrrr,” Tabbycat said, not protesting this time. She watched Lester walk off to his own office; he was shaking his head about something he alone saw. Or knew. She knew that her boss wasn’t the average guy that he looked. That was why she’d jumped at working for him when she had the opportunity.
Before Lester entered his own office, he stopped with his hand on the doorknob. He turned back to Tabitha and asked, “How was the meeting last night? Did I miss much?”
“Not really, just that many people missed you. And I would not take that as a compliment, Lester,” Tabitha said with a grin.
“Hey, come on, that thing with the candle last time was just a stupid mishap. I really did not mean to set fire to Mary.”
“Actually Mary missed you for the right reason,” Tabitha enlightened Lester. “She asked me to say hi to you, so hi.”
“Oh, good.” Lester’s face lit up for a moment. “Thank you.” He then opened the door and disappeared from Tabitha’s view.
After sitting down and switching on the computer, Lester opened the first envelope. Its contents did not make him very happy; it was the bill for removing his car that had given up the ghost indefinitely a few days ago. “Should have known that there is no real traffic Goddess,” he muttered as he stuck the bill on top of the others that were waiting to be dealt with. The second bill was high also, but he had anticipated that. It was for the books on herbs he had ordered and gotten in. That paper ended up on the pile as well.
He frowned as he watched the pile. “Tomorrow,” he said. “Tomorrow I am going to make at least three people happy. I hope.” Then he turned to the computer and looked annoyed as each key he pressed on the keyboard evoked an angry, short beep come from the humming box under his desk instead of making letters appear on the screen. Lester got up, sighed and marched to the door. “Tabitha?” he asked after opening it.
“What’s wrong today, Lester?”
“Why should something be wrong?”
“You only call me by my name when you want something from me.” Tabitha grinned and got up. “It’s the computer again, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Lester said, “blasted box. Should I get a Mac? Julian said they are so much better.”
“Julian knows nothing of computers, so a Mac would suit him,” Tabitha said, as she did some magic to the keyboard. “Here, that should get you on the network. For all the fancy things you can do, you’re amazingly a-technical, boss.”
Lester slipped behind the desk and quickly typed his name before Tabitha had left. The words he had hoped for appeared on the screen. “You are fantastic, Tabitha,” he said with as great a smile as he could muster.
“I know,” the young woman said, tossing back her long brown hair and batting her dark eyes at him, “and I’m gorgeous too, so how I ended up here still is something the Goddess owes me an explanation for.” With that anda chuckle she walked out the door, closing it behind her with a soft click.
Lester stared at the door for a few seconds. Then he grinned and logged onto the network, checked his e-mail messages, and purposely avoided looking at the on-line news-sites. He knew he’d get lost in those again, leaving his job untouched for the better part of the day. The problem however was that there was not much of a job to do, as there was a staggering shortage of clientèle. After thinking about this and a number of other issues, Lester got up and walked into Tabitha’s office again. “Dear secretary, would you like a cup of tea?” he asked.
Tabitha looked up from the newspaper on her desk. “Sure, thank you. What do you reckon… will today be like yesterday again?”
“I certainly hope not,” Lester replied as he made his way to the improvised kitchen behind a large plant in the corner. “Too many days have been like yesterday already; our funding is beginning to run low-ish.”
“Low-ish…”, Tabitha repeated. “You are an incorrigible optimist, do you know that? Most businessmen in your situation would have taken drastic steps to get out of the mess.”
“Whoa, stop right there,” Lester interrupted Tabitha while he waited for the water to boil. “We are not in a mess. This is just a temporary phase of negativism that we have to deal with. You know, Mercury and a bunch of other planets being retrograde and all that. Mary explained that to me. Things will look up soon. I did tell you about the runes I laid out a few weeks ago, and they predicted that something good was coming up.”
“Yes, you told me so, but the dumb luck was that they did not say when this good thing was going to show, Lester.” Tabitha leaned back in her chair, pretending to check her nails. “If this good thing is showing up two days after you had to fold up the place then the runes were right and you’re still down the drain. And so will I be, come to think of it.” She snorted. “Blame Mercury, sure.”
Lester worked on the tea and walked over with two mugs. He put one in front of Tabitha. “Here you are, Tabbycat. What are you reading?” He leaned over her desk, scanning the newspaper. There were circles around several small text blocks. They were job openings. “Uhm, are you planning on leaving me?”
“Look, Lester, I am not planning on anything. But if we keep up with this – what did you call it – temporary phase of negativism, I may have to adjust my plans towards the positive accordingly, and it is a good thing to know where the opportunities are to get the negativism out of my way.” The last bit was added with a bit of a smirk. Tabitha then picked up her tea and took a careful sip. “Hmm. I have to hand it to you, Lester, you always know the right tea for the right time.” At that moment something happened that startled the both of them: the telephone rang.
Lester stared at the phone, then at Tabitha. “Who is that?”
“Let me wield my magic and find out,” Tabitha said with a dramatic touch and then answered the call. “Lester Jones Detective Agency, good morning. This is Tabitha Simmons, how may I help you?” Lester’s face jumped through hoops, trying to keep up with the emotions that were haunting him. He tried to figure out what the call was all about, but Tabitha’s vocabulary was limited to “yes”, “of course”, and “I understand” for a while. At the point where she concluded with “Thank you sir, yes, we’ll be here all day. Good bye”, Lester was frantic about a speed course in mind reading. Or a phone with a speaker, so he could listen in. Tabitha smiled a teasing smile as she slowly put down the phone. “That was interesting.” She knew how to torture Lester.
“What was? Come on, tell me. I have to know.”
“Yes, you do in fact have to know. That was a specimen of a rare breed called potential customer, and he said he’d be here later today.” Tabitha smiled at Lester as her eyes challenged him to bring up the runes again. He did not fall for her eyes this time.