The sunlight was weak and gray through the curtains, struggling to illuminate the den of vice within. I was stood in the doorway, my piece in my hand and holes in my pockets. I'd left the leather gun-holster behind at a pawn-store twenty minutes earlier, so I had no choice but to hold the gun. It had given the bus-driver a bit of a turn, more because I could tell he wanted to throw me off the bus for they way I smelled. But he relented and the rest of the passengers just resented me in silence until I got off at my stop and they broke out in spontaneous applause. I hate bad winners. I put a bullet in the bus's back wheel and walked off.
I looked around the room. This was the last known address for Little Boy Blue, one-time jazz musician and trumpeter, now a little down on his luck, scraping the edges of the barrel, and pushing little bits of this and that for Mad Frankie and his Anger Management. It was no kind of life for a real person, but Blue was a lowlife, the kind of scum that apologises for its existence when you stumbled across it behind the garbage cans. He'd even offer to slit his own throat to save you having to get your own knife dirty. He wasn't here now, all I had were two dead sheep, enough blood to bathe in, and a pathetic collection of paperback pulp novels. Looked like Blue liked to read in his quiet time.
"MacArthur?" The voice behind me actually sounded surprised, which in turn surprised me. I turned, and found myself looking at the Head of Organised Crime Prevention, Miss Natasha Monkeybutt.
"Monkeybutt," I said, nodded with professional calm. My hat slipped down over my eyes, and I had to push it back up onto my forehead with the barrel of the gun.
"You know it's not pronounced like that," she said, equally calmly. "Thinking of committing suicide Mac? We'd miss you."
"Sarcasm ill becomes a lady," I said, forcing a smile. She recoiled a little, my teeth are on the black side of black.
"And murder ill becomes a private eye," she said. "If that's still what you're pretending to be. You don't fool me for an instant, you know, Mac. You don't. You like to think you're independent, but you still jump when Mad Frankie sneezes. I know he's got a handler for you, and it's just a matter of time before we have a name. And when we pin you down, we'll make you talk like a nun released from a seven year vow of silence standing in the House of Gigolos."
"I thought they closed that place down?" I looked around the room again while she was talking. Something weird had gone on here. Who had brought two sheep up six flights of steep, narrow stairs and then slaughtered them in Blue's little studio flat?
"I," she said, with emphasis. "I closed it down Mac, just like I track down and close down all other kinds of Organised Crime in this city. Batman's got nothing on me."
"Both your parents dead now, then?" I said innocently. I wanted her to leave so I could get to finding out why the sheep had had to die. Her face turned purple, and I thought for a moment that she was going to hit me.
"I think you'd know if my father had died," she said, tightly. I nodded, he was the Pensioneer General, running the funds for pretty much every pension in the city. His death would send shockwaves through the financial markets and probably start a run on the banks. Didn't bother me though, my money was stashed away in a dirty sock under a filthy mattress in a small... well, that's probably all you really need to know about where I keep my cash. It's pretty safe.
"This is a crime scene, Mac, you need to leave. Now." I could hear footsteps and the laboured breathing of the police department's finest officers coming up to smother the room in plastic and pull it apart, fibre by fibre, hunting for the answer in the details. I nodded again, cursing inwardly that I'd not got there sooner.
"Yeah," I said. "Looks like Blue's already skipped the joint, probably taking my money with him. Little rat."
"You know who lived here?" Suddenly Natasha Monkeybutt was focusing on me, her eyes wide and glistening like a little girl who's just been told her parents have sold her for a trip to Antigua.
"Maybe," I said, edging past her. She put out her hand, then thought better of touching me and pulled it back again.
"I think you should stay for a while, Mac," she said. "It seems like you might have evidence on you after all."