“A Different League” by Carrie Cuinn
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, Carrie Cuinn tells us the story of a private eye hired to trail a suspect fiancé in Ithaca, NY. In the next Mondays Are Murder, Heather Dune Macadam (author of The Weeping Buddha) talks of a wife’s desire to use some duct tape on her talkative husband.
A Different League
by Carrie Cuinn
Downtown, Ithaca, NY
Two a.m. at The State Diner came with a refill on my half-drunk coffee and an impatient smile on the lips of the waitress who’d been hovering nearby. My appointment was late, but my wallet was empty, so I couldn’t afford to leave. A week of poor sleep, too much caffeine, and more than one drive-thru meal meant my stomach was churning like the Buttermilk Falls after a storm, but I glanced over the menu anyway.
“Turkey club, side of fries,” I said. She smiled for real this time, her eyes sparkling. If my taste ran to tired bottle-blondes with swollen feet, I might have chatted her up, but just then the bar crowd stumbled in. Carefully-trimmed beards, pastel plaids, and skinny jeans . . . hipsters from Felicia’s Atomic Lounge, drunk on Black Cherry Old Fashioneds and Fig Manhattans, the upscale cocktail-revival staples.
A petite beauty in a yellow dress disentangled herself from the pack. Naomi Le’s three-inch heels clicked against the tile floor until she paused at my booth, looked back over one shoulder, and quickly sat down. I wanted to tell her she was late, that she was a liar, but too much truth at once and she’d bolt. She had that look about her, as if she was only half-girl sitting on a black bench seat. Her sparrow half was already fluttering away.
“Are you hungry?” I asked instead.
“No,” she replied. “I couldn’t get away sooner. Derek got an internship in DC, and we were celebrating.” She tucked a strand of night-black hair behind one ear, revealing a diamond bigger than a pea.
“That’s a nice dress,” I said. “Vintage?”
She smiled, now on familiar ground. “It’s from Petrune, on the Commons. Have you been?”
“Sure, loads of times,” I lied. The waitress sidled up and set my order in front of me. I waved her away with, “We’re sharing, thanks.” She sighed, but left us alone.
I couldn’t afford to dress out of Petrune’s closet. $250 for a new jacket constructed in a vintage style made the shop popular; only a certain kind of rich could drop that amount of cash on a casual wardrobe. Cornell University had plenty of those, playing out college party fantasies on their absentee father’s dime, and I was just another day-player in Naomi’s life. But I was going to get paid before my scene ended.
I took a bite of my sandwich, enjoying the crispy bacon and the crunch of cool lettuce, before I said, “You were right. Your fiancé is having an affair.”
She gasped, her brown eyes going wide. It was almost believable.
“Are you sure?”
I pulled an envelope, fat with glossy photos, out of my pocket. “I tailed Derek for a week. During the day it was business as usual: classes on the Hill, studying at Olin. But Tuesday night he had a visit from a woman with red hair. She didn’t leave until after midnight.” I pulled one photo from the bunch and slid it across the Formica table. “Do you know her?”
She shook her head. “Was . . . was that the only time?”
“No. There was an overnight stay at The Statler Hotel, too.” I concentrated on my fries while she studied the woman in the photo.
“Do you have any that show her face?”
“Sorry. They were discreet. I only got what I did because I’m very good at my job.”
That line usually does the trick. She handed over a platinum card with a little nod. I scanned the numbers with my bank’s app, and authorized the payment. “I’ll email you a receipt,” I said as I handed the card back. She stuffed it and the photos into her pocketbook and stood up to go.
“What are you going to do?” I asked, staying seated.
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Our families are old friends. Our fathers golf together. I can’t just leave.”
“Of course. Good luck.”
She strolled back to her friends and nestled under Derek’s arm as if she’d never left. I pulled up an image on my phone, one I hadn’t had printed out: Naomi Le in a red wig, checking into The Statler with her fiancé.
They weren’t the first couple to play bad boyfriend/naughty mistress, though not many could afford a private eye to heighten the drama. But what did I care? Mr. Le’s allowance would be paying my rent this month, and tonight I didn’t have to stiff the waitress on the tip.
And that ain’t nothing.
CARRIE CUINN is an author, editor, bibliophile, modernist, and geek. In her spare time she reads, draws, makes things, takes other things apart, and sometimes publishes books. Learn more at http://carriecuinn.com
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected] Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Aug 26, 2013
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