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The Mousetrap: Daryl Baldwin

Part One:

It wasn’t much of an office in those days. A flight of stairs from the street, leading led up to a thick wooden door with one pane of frosted glass; the pane was cracked where some unfortunate dolt accidentally tripped after a heated argument with my associate. On the glass, written in sans serif black and gold letters, was the name of my business:

THE MOUSE TRAP
Private Investigators

Inside the office was a battered-looking four draw filing cabinet, complete with foot dents near the bottom drawer and hand dents at the side. It was second-hand when I bought it and had always been a tricky customer to open. Apart from the filing cabinet, the only furniture was two cracked leather chairs with permanent ass imprints, a spare chair and a desk with a posh looking green leather top. A great big fan hung from the ceiling. The casement window was had been stuck together over years of painting. It was choice between, allowing neither the humid stinking heat of the city in or the dense smoke of Marlboro cigarettes to escape. As we both smoked we did not mind the latter.

The office was a renovated room in a run-down tenement block on the wrong side of town,. The area was a crime-ridden hole laced with filth and garbage strewn across the streets. Pimps and hookers lined the kerb side plying their trade for all those who couldn’t get the real deal. Crackheads and white liners walked the streets with a slow hunched gait, always rubbing their arms as though they had invisible itches. It looked like all the dregs of humanity had been poured out and dumped into one space. No double-crossed lover or cheat was going to come to this place to find us. It was beautiful.

My name is Marv. I am the boss. My associate is Squeezer. He has had other aliases that he has been called, most unmentionable and none long-lasting. He extracts information by one way – force. He likes to work out in Fat Joe’s Gym at the end of the block. Pumping iron with the meatheads is his idea of keeping in shape, both physically and mentally. People often think that brawn and brain don’t go together, but to their discomfort they discover how sharp and acute he is with both. For me, there isn’t a lot for you to know. I have Squeezer near to me twenty four seven and any lunkhead wishing to try his luck usually meets with an accident.

Most of the time we sit in the office just waiting for another customer. It’s a well-paid job so there’s no rush to look for work. There’s no shortage of disgruntled clients or cheated housewives who want to part with their cash in return for what they already know. Last summer … Yeah, what an unforgettable day that was. The presidential candidate was on the smart side of town, brown-nosing and baby-kissing, grinning and shaking hands for the cameras. But the action was just about to kick off. ………………………………………………….……………………………………………………

I was sat in my reclining leather chair, legs crossed and feet on the table. Squeezer always occupied himself in the corner, sat in his ever-expanding chair, reading a comic. He was always ready for work – a workaholic – and reading was one way to keep his mind active while he waited for duty. Getting paid to sit around for most of the day and then chase some villains – some jobs just have perks.

Anyway, that afternoon things were set to change. A slow rhythmic clack-clack like a metronome echoed on the stairwell. Squeezer sat up, buttoned the top of his shirt and rearranged his tie. Small particles of Parmesan rolled to the floor from his suit as he stood. He brushed himself down with the front of his paws and took his place by the door. Squeezer was ready for service: doorman, hardman and handyman, hands crossed in front of his groin, chest out and shoulders back. For anyone who had never met him before he was intimidating. The metronome stilettoes stopped at the top of the stairs. A silhouette moved outside the glass. A pause then its hand reaching upwards to apply make-up. I’d seen it so many times before. These broads always had to look their best. The silhouette knocked at the door. I could see from the silhouette that I was going to enjoy this one.

Squeezer opened the door and she waited to be offered invited in. I melted inside – and it wasn’t the heat of the city. This dame was hot stuff. I stood up and walked to the door. Squeezer stayed put and for the first time in his career he went unnoticed – she acted as though he wasn’t even there.

‘Won’t you come in?’ I watched from behind as she walked toward to the chair in front of my desk, swinging her hips as she walked, I watched from behind as she swung her hips. I winked at Squeezer and gyrated my hips in a gyrating kind.

She stopped at the desk and looked up at me. I pulled the unused chair away from the desk. She seated herself very demurely, keeping her stockinged legs together. I perched myself on the edge of the desk where the view was much better.

‘Okay if I smoke?’ The cigarette was already in her mouth before I answered. It wasn’t a question and she wasn’t looking for an answer. I nodded and flicked my lighter into action as she leaned forward to accept the light. Boy, what a view.

‘It’s hot in here’ I said as I loosened my tie. ‘The janitor was supposed to fix the fan last week.’ A little white lie which she passed over with a look of disinterest. I hadn’t seen a janitor in this building since the Wall Street crash. ‘My name’s Marv. This is Squeezer. How can we be of assistance?’ My voice was shaky. Why did she make me feel uncomfortable? This was my back yard and she was supposed to be intimidated. Her looks could melt ice.

She looked at Squeezer for the first time and he tipped his black fedora without a word. Then she looked at me, slowly, from under her lashes and … I wished the window would open.

‘We’re The Mouse Trap. How can we help you?’

She exhaled a slim line of smoke and stared at me. Boy, this was some tough dame.
‘I need your help. You guys have a reputation for getting your job done quick and with the minimum of fuss. I’ll come straight to the point and tell you that I wanna take over Razzo’s empire’ she said with cool determination.

Squeezer coughed. I showed no surprise but she was asking for a tall order. There were only a handful of close associates who knew what Razzo looked like. He was shrouded in mystery. Then there were the guys who he hired. She stared with piercing eyes as I deliberated in my mind exactly what I was going to get into. This could be the day of all pay days or I would end up swimming with the fishes. I’d always had an aversion to concrete boots. Thoughts raced through my mind. Why did she choose me?

‘Okay. You got my attention. What do you know?’

Part Two in next month’s Hardline.

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