Chapter One: Serenity will have to wait

Have you ever had the sneaky feeling that cartoon physics make more sense than real-life physics?

For instance, if you haven’t noticed that you’ve just run off a cliff, shouldn’t you be able to continue running in a straight line for a while until looking down to see nothing underfoot?

Or in my particular case, if you’re running from a real live Demon From Hell — which, I might remind the reader, is not supposed to exist — and you really, really need to make a 90-degree Road-Runneresque turn into another corridor to escape — shouldn’t you be able to do that without smashing into the wall and lying in a crumpled heap on the floor?

You should, I say. You should.

I, on the other hand, didn’t.  Make the turn, that is. The smashing and crumpling part I accomplished like an expert.

Struggling into a sitting position and bracing my back against the wall, I looked up just as the demon came to a stop in front of me. Easily eight feet tall, he had wings covered in peacock feathers, two large horns on either side of his forehead and a strong odour of brimstone. After briefly looking behind him, he stooped down in front of me and held out a singed parchment with a lot of writing on it.

“I just need you to sign this, please.”

***

As had been true in all my previous experience, there had been no mention of any Demons From Hell when I first took this case. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t even supposed to be on this case. Or rather I was supposed to be on this case, but that was before I wasn’t supposed to be on this case, which had changed a very short while ago when suddenly I was supposed to be…

It’s complicated.

You see, I’m a private detective — or private investigator, as we’re more properly known. Not sure what happened to the old “private detective” designation. Maybe it was never all that official. I’m not sure. My profession, much like this case itself, was something I more or less stumbled into.

I’d previously been working as a reporter on a small newspaper in Toronto, but the publisher listened to his advertising manager once too often and the whole paper went bankrupt, thereby putting me out of a job.

Anyway, I saw this ad for an investigator and thought, “Hey! That’s pretty much what I do,” and decided to apply. After all, during the course of my five-year career I’d broken a number of stories, such as the misappropriation of funds by the treasurer of the Lawn Darts Bowling Club.

Well, not so much “stories” as “story,” and that was the one. “Bowling club treasurer caught stealing club funds,” read the uninspired headline. Not my idea. My slug had been, “Alley Oops: Bowling funds in the gutter.” It was vetoed, however.

The advertising manager didn’t like it.

I’d been covering the local bowling tournaments when I saw the treasurer of the Lawn Darts Bowling Club slip the members’ dues in one envelope, and then put a different envelope into the club’s official money box. I pointed out what I thought was an error (I can be somewhat naive at times). He might have managed to cover it up, except one of the other members, who apparently had suspicions of his own, overheard and made a big deal of it.

So that’s how I cracked my one and only big story.

I never did find out why they called their club “Lawn Darts,” though.

The point is, investigation was in my blood — as long as it didn’t involve too much in the way of poking into other people’s business. I’ve never felt comfortable asking questions.

I figured I’d check out the private investigator thing for a lark and went to the address, an office above Pinocchio Ristorante at the corner of Dundas and Islington. There I met the owner of the agency, Doris Sanchez, a tall, willowy brunette who wore a tight and very short dress. We talked for a while and before long the reasoned arguments being expressed by her legs convinced me that the thing I most wanted in the world was to be a private investigator.

When not in her influence I had second thoughts, but since I had to go back each day for training I was never out of her influence long enough to really come to my senses. A few months later I had my licence and was spying on men and women who were supplementing their marriage with a little freelance marriage on the side.

Although the work was rather tacky, I found it far easier than covering beats on the newspaper. I never had to talk to the people I was following, nor did I have to get their names and signatures on permission forms after taking their photos. They didn’t even know I was taking their photos. Which was kind of the point.

Eventually, after about a year working for Ms. Sanchez I branched out and started my own agency where I could pick and choose my clients. This, combined with my innate business sense meant that I was perpetually broke.

Still, I was my own boss, and as time went by I started gaining a reputation as someone who was fairly reliable for quick, uncomplicated jobs.

liked quick, uncomplicated jobs.

What I didn’t like, as I was presently discovering, were any jobs, complicated or not, that involved a massive Demon From Hell looming over me. Especially not on a Friday night when I’d been looking forward to a nice Saturday watching a Firefly marathon with a couple of friends.

Oddly enough, however, my week had actually started with a massive Demon From Hell looming over me. So there was a certain symmetry to it all — if you cared for that kind of thing. Which I didn’t.

Not at the  moment, anyway.

———————————

This is my first entry in the February writing challenge, “30 Minus 2 Days of Writing: III,” issued by We Work for Cheese, the rules for which, such as they are, I am completely ignoring — except the attempt to post each day during the month.

I’ve set up a page that explains the background on the story and will contain notes on each chapter — or at least some of the chapters. A bit hard to know when I’m not even sure what’s going to be in most of the chapters. If you want, you can check out: Story Notes: No spoilers. Notes for each chapter will be added on the day the chapter is published, so read the chapter first, otherwise there may be an inadvertent spoiler.

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23 thoughts on “Chapter One: Serenity will have to wait

  1. Reblogged this on I don't give a damn and commented:

    This is day one of the February challenge set up by We Work for Cheese. The rules, they said, were that there were no rules other than a list of prompts and an attempt to post each day. So I’ve ignored their list of prompts entirely and decided to finally write a story that has been in mind for some time. Each day will add a new chapter — I hope.
    So meet Robert Fielding, the world’s most mediocre detective, Adramelech, a Demon From Hell, and Toronto as it is and was.

  2. Fabulous, Frank! I’m not surprised that newspaper went bust, what with the advertising manager nixing such an inspired headline as “Alley Oops: Bowling funds in the gutter.” I hope that looming Demon goes after him for that one! (Since this entry into the 30M2DoW challenge has me wanting to get some gouda and wine and settle in for the next 27 installments, I think you’ve met the requirements of the first prompt quite admirably!)

    • Thanks Boom Boom. And about that ad manager — I know, right? (And by the way, it should be remembered that the portrayal of the fictional ad manager and fictional publisher of this fictional newspaper are in no way meant to reflect anything about any specific real ad manager or publisher with whom I happened to work a short while ago. The ones in the story are much, much nicer and more newspaper savvy.

  3. You are an inspiration. I loved this. It’s original, it draws you in, and it’s full of funny lines. I can’t wait to read the next chapter. And I cannot tell you how happy I am that you didn’t write about cheese.

    • Cheese! That word whispers in my head. “Cheese.” I have to do something else — think something else. I know! I’ll shovel snow!

      No, really. I have to shovel snow. We’ve had another foot or so.

      Really, really wish I had some cheese.

  4. What? The Demon From Hell couldn’t be carrying a ham and Gouda sandwich while chasing you? 🙂
    Wonderful beginning, Frank. I’m looking forward to seeing how you ignore the rest of our prompts going forward. Unless of course you don’t ignore all of them. Then I’ll be happy to read how you’ve incorporated some of them. Whichever.

  5. An nonconformist in this group? Surprise surprise. Not. Loving your story line. Interesting that you are working your story in the great deep freeze north of the USA while I am creating mine in the hotter than hell regions of Texas.

  6. This chapter is rich with style and wit. I’m really impressed. You have a strong writing voice, Frank. I look forward to seeing what you have in store for us for the rest of the month.

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