Story with No Name

Story with No Name

A Story by Nika Harper

A noir-style story written for the Wordplay vlog on seeeecret topics such as "Girl with No Name."

I see the parts of people that most aren't able to see: the top. My stature sets me above many, able to see their dandruff bald spots and finger-smudged felt crowns. I've been told to downplay it, but now it makes me who I am. Not "ungainly" anymore, but enterprising.

The door read "Kenneth Dodge, Private Investigator." Whoever that is. I kept my coat on for a while. It's one of Kenneth's signature looks, so I feel like I lose a part of him if I take it off. I tend to stay a bit overdressed for the office. Trench coats are part of the look, the hat on the desk is another. Mail is racking up, I see. Bills I've already paid, summons I've long since ignored, occasional meeting requests or threats. When you're good at what you do, you're bound to get targeted for it.
They never stand a chance.

I'm the most adept, secretive, successful investigator in the city. Everyone knows my name, but nobody knows my real name. Not unless they were a better investigator than me. So far, nobody has proven so. It isn't their fault. I'm an investigator. I keep my personal life quiet and riddled with traps. They make the choice to come knockin'.

Speaking of that.

"Mr. Dodge?" said a voice by the door, as they always do, as though I wouldn't be in there waiting for them when their fears take over.
A slim figure maneuvered into the room, hidden under a large brimmed hat. It was old. Her dress looked more expensive than it was. Her shoes were worn, and the only good pair she had. She was trying to impress me. She should know better.
"I'm Eileen Beckett," she said, though I didn't ask. It was probably a lie, so why would I bother? When this did not get a response, she jolted into conversation, "I witnessed a murder last night. I was in my penthouse and I saw Harold Clement die."
This part was true, Harold Clement was dead. The police had been all over the scene and had nothing but air up their sleeves. It was the talk of the town.
"You should tell the police," I said, making my voice sound a bit gravelly.
"It's more personal than that, Mr. Dodge. I am... Harold's lover. His mistress. I don't want to go to the police, they'll arrest the killer and our relationship will no longer be a secret. You see... the police couldn't find Harold's will."
This made me quirk an eyebrow. I shuffled my face back into a gruff shadow, saying nothing, not yet.
"I'm in the will, I know it, but my reputation is at stake. I do not need the money. I need you to find the killer, and destroy the will he stole." Her hands fidgeted with her gloves, the fingertips just a bit too long for her own, "Then, I need you to replace it."

She threw a folder on the desk, it fell with the weight of an elephant in a corner. She eyed me, but I did well to keep my face hidden. Only one of us had a real grip on how to keep mystery here.

My hand hesitated over the folder, "May I look at the contents?"
"I'd rather you didn't," she said, "It's mostly legal jargon anyway, with some minor changes to names."
"Is it similar to the actual will?"
"I don't know." She was telling the truth about that. "I haven't seen the original. He had spoken to me that I was involved in it, much as I begged him not to be."
"Sounds like grounds for murder."
"Why," Eileen leaned forward sharply, "would a woman kill a man who is giving her money?"
"Maybe she wanted to kill him because she wanted the money from the will."

She snorted, looking petulant. A far cry from her composed demeanor when she walked in, or the one she hoped she had. Eileen wasn't getting what she wanted.
"This is why I didn't go to the police. I saw a man in a coat kill Harold last night, and if I spoke up, it would somehow put me under suspicion! We need to exchange the wills, Mr. Dodge. It could ruin me."
"Or make you ruinously wealthy."
"At the price of my reputation? I'd think not."
"You saw the murder."
"With my own two eyes," she said, resting her hands on the corner of my dented desk. She lorded over the room now, fiercely defending her situation. The mark of an insecurity is to bluff it out.
"Tell me about this killer. What did he look like?"
Eileen took a moment to think, "He was of average height and wore a large coat, a bit like yours. There wasn't much of a struggle. He snuck up on Harold and killed him at his desk. I saw the silhouettes. Then he searched desk drawers and left."
"Where were you when you saw them?"
"I live across the way," and she glared at me as though I had asked too much. Of course she had a lot to hide. She shouldn't have brought this story to someone like me, someone who knows as much as I do.
"The building across the alley? Which floor?"
"I don't see why that's relevant."
"I need to know how much you saw. Were you directly across? Does the late Harold Clement like to keep an eye on his pets, Miss Beckett?"

Her eyes were needles contaminated with loathing, "Yes. Directly across. Will you do the job or not?"
"Miss Beckett, if I have my facts right, I think you have more to report to the police than that."
"What do you mean?"
My face never left half shadow, "Was this murder before or after the robbery to your home last evening?"

Just like that, she was a statue. Her body language betrayed nothing, guarded and stony.
I kept my voice deep and measured, "Jewels went missing in the adjacent apartment last night. Diamonds, three elegant strands. Pearls, singular. A jade brooch and antique tiara. The tiara will be hard to sell, they're out of fashion, for one thing."
Still no response.
"Miss Beckett, you look sharp in those heels but you're no good on your feet. I hope a jewel thief is much better with their hands. I'm not buying into this gambit of yours. I know it takes two. You're lucky that nobody cares about a theft that happened the same night as a major murder."
She was a hushed whisper, "I saw Harold Clement's killer." Her hand was on the folder she placed on my desk.
"Then you'd best report that to the police so they can track this fella down. But they won't believe a story about a jewel thief who puts her name in a dead man's missing will."
"I didn't take the will," the mysterious woman said, turning towards the door.
"No ma'am, but you're clever enough to see an opportunity when it knocks. A rich man dies, his legacy is up for grabs. A little part of that could be yours, along with those diamonds you're hiding."
She walked briskly towards the door.
"I won't turn you in. I'm not on the jewel case, miss. I turned it down. There's a lot more going on with those gems than even you could want to know. Get rid of them."
She glared over her shoulder, the hallway light illuminating her features. She was young and the world still felt within her grasp. I felt sorry for her. I'd been that, once.
"Mr. Dodge," she said carefully, "I hope we never speak again."

I don't think that will be a problem.
She wasn't the only one who hadn't gone to the police. She wasn't the only one who had something that didn't belong to her. She just happened to catch Kenneth Dodge on the last day of work as a private investigator and man-for-hire. At least, this name, this city.

In the suitcase is a thin folder containing things I was told not to know about. A small mess of clothing, a little dark makeup and concealer. Some sundries. A ticket to somewhere else.

All the trappings of a person who didn't want to be trapped.

I did my job, for as long as I could stomach it. Now I have a real stolen will to exchange and I'm off to try my luck with some fresh blood money in my pocket and a chance at living a normal life. Maybe try out my real name and an honest living for once... no, doesn't seem likely for long.

At the train station I'll ditch the coat, but I'm keeping the hat. I'd miss it. I'll miss these shoes too, heels never suited me. Makes hot pursuit a thing of the past.

The police are on the case. They're looking for a killer. A professional.
One thing they'll never look for is a lady.

© 2013 Nika Harper

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Great work.
Enjoyed reading.

Posted 5 Years Ago

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Added on June 17, 2013
Last Updated on June 17, 2013
Tags: story, no name, nika harper, nikaharper, wordplay, word play, noir, crime, short


Nika Harper
Nika Harper

Los Angeles, CA

Hello! Here I am, a writer, geek, video host and dinosaur, ready to hop into the deep end of the author pool and dragging you along with me. I host a creative writing challenge vlog called Wordplay, a.. more..