This is the second chapter of a novel-length story I am working on. I’ve barely edited it once and is therefore incredibly rough. Chapter 1, which is even rougher, is here. Title will be changing, as will a significant portion of both chapters. About 50,000 words so far.
Marley sat across from me, her body hunched over and forehead pressed against her upturned palms. Her husband had stormed out, not even so much as a word from him after our quick little make-out session, save for several small threats against my life.
She had been crying now for exactly 25 minutes. It wasn’t that I had been timing her necessarily, but I had definitely taken note of when she had begun. 12:55pm—right when I’d been planning to go out for lunch. I figured our meeting would be pretty cut-and-dry and that I’d be out by 1:00pm at the latest. I was really looking forward to a hamburger for lunch. It had been a few weeks since I’d gotten one. A cheeseburger would’ve been ideal, but I didn’t want to accidentally aim too high and then miss. A bit of cautious optimism always went a long way. I had even considered asking if she’d like to go along, but realized a lunch-date might be too forward at this point. It didn’t matter now, though, as I no longer had enough time. I needed to go to the station soon.
“I just don’t understand,” Marley murmured. “How could he cheat on me? Are you sure he cheated on me?” She was beautiful, her ivory skin illuminated under the artificial light of my office, gorgeous even when she cried. Although the streaking mascara did make her look a little bit like a clown that had a very difficult time following her job requirements.
“Yeah, I’m sure. He was pretty clear about it.” I scooted my chair closer to her side, the fragrance of her perfume growing stronger. I tried to recall if I’d remembered to wear cologne that morning. I was pretty sure I didn’t actually own any.
“But how do you know for sure? You just kissed him, that’s it.”
“That’s all I need to do,” I said. “I kiss them, I hear the truth. Usually in pretty unnecessary detail, too.” It was irritating how many times I had to explain how this worked. They found me, specifically asked to speak with me, and then walked into my office—did they all just ignore the slogan I had on all my ads? “You distrust ‘em? My lips bust ‘em.” I thought it was pretty self-explanatory. That said, I did occasionally get unsolicited calls from pornographers who misunderstood the “lip bust” part.
“I don’t understand how that’s possible,” she said.
“Me neither, and I wish it wasn’t, but it is. Your husband has definitely been cheating on you. Hell, he could be cheating on you now,” I said, glancing out the window of the office to check on Tina, my secretary. She was still at her desk, still as much of a lesbian as she had been this morning—at least as far as I could tell at a glance.
“Cheating on me now? Why do you say that?” Marley said, her voice quivering.
“Just going off what I heard,” I said. I couldn’t blame her for having such a hard time believing it. I was surprised that fat-ass could even get a woman to look at him, let alone want to see him naked. Not to mention the whole idea of cheating on Marley was astounding—getting a girl that beautiful was a once in a lifetime deal, even less likely if you were Mr. Glass.
“What did you hear?”
“He said he hadn’t cheated on you today. That means he was probably going to cheat on you sometime later today.” I scooted my chair even closer to her side, our legs almost touching.
Marley’s forehead fell back into her palm, her body quivering softly as she cried. I always thought it would get easier to deal with the criers as the years went on, that I’d grow more calloused to the crumbling of marriage. Sure, I did grow a bit more calloused, but I still couldn’t throw these women out of my office, no matter how much I wanted to. And god damn did I want to now. Not because I didn’t like her—in fact, I was pretty sure I was quickly falling in love with her—but because it was lunch time. I could practically smell the cheeseburger I’d now never have. I looked up at the clock. 1:30pm. I was going to be late to the station.
“Miss Marley,” I said, abruptly feeling more like a low-wage migrant worker, “I mean Marley.” She glanced up at me. “I don’t feel comfortable leaving you alone and I need to head to the station for a few minutes. Chief wants to speak with me. Would you like to come with me, just to clear your head?”
Marley nodded, her hair now slightly less shapely than it had been at the start of our meeting.
“Great,” I said, pushing myself to my feet. My left leg had fallen asleep hours ago and felt like it had been replaced by a limp noodle. I grabbed onto the side of the desk to stable myself, jutting my chest out so as to appear at least somewhat in control of my own actions. Marley stared at me, eyes red and puffy from having been rubbed for the past half hour straight. Even still she was absolutely divine. I nodded at her to stand up, relatively sure nodding at people was a pretty typical way of silently saying, “Hey, stand up. We’re going to go on a drive to the police station, but not because you’re in trouble. I have a meeting.”
Marley lifted herself up, her body hunched over like a runner who had just lost a race. She was maybe five-foot-five, although her heels added an extra inch or two and her slouch removed what was added. She grabbed her black purse off the handle of the chair, the chain jingling as she slung it around her shoulder, and then turned toward the door behind her. Out of respect for her vulnerable state, I averted my eyes from staring at her ass again, only allowing myself two or eight quick glances and one head shake at the idiocy of her husband. I followed her out the door.
Marley was waiting for me in the lobby, a black jacket slung across the middle of her folded arms. Her eyes were still red, but she seemed to be making a conscious effort to appear as though she had not been crying. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a key, then locked the office door. I could feel Tina staring at me – she hated when I locked my door. I had made the mistake of including “lock the doors at the end of the day” in the job description when she came to interview, and she claimed I was slowly putting her out of a job. I turned toward her and smiled.
“Tina, I’m heading to the station. You can slip any messages under the door in case I get back after you leave.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to just get an answering machine? Maybe a robot to greet your clients?
“You know they don’t have robots capable of being secretar—executive assistants.” We had this discussion at least once per week, her attempt to assess how long she had left before her highly humanized job was to be replaced by an emotionless robot. I would have never told her, but I figured it was somewhere in the two-to-four year range.
“I’m sure you’ll find a way,” she said.
I turned and began walking toward the door, then stopped.
“Oh, and Tina,” I said, glancing at her over my shoulder. “If a fat man in a red polo shirt tries to seduce you, please call the police.”
I could tell she was no longer listening.
I opened the door to the office and stepped into the hallway, Marley following closely behind. Her bag jingled softly as she walked, heels tapping against the hard, laminated floor. I always kind of liked the sound of women’s heels against the ground, it reminded me of my mother coming home from work when I was younger. It also reminded me of a drunken prostitute stomping around at a gala she had no business attending. Which image burst into mind when I heard the tap of the shoes depended on my mood at the time. More often than not, though, a poorly-dressed, dirty, drunken girl—face covered in welts and sores—would stumble into my thoughts, her body swaying out of tempo with the music and threatening to topple over with each step of her clear stilettos. Occasionally, though, the two scenes would meld together into an offensive memory of mother returning home from a long day’s work on the street corner. I told her about this once, to which she replied with a series of unspeakable insults.
“Have you ever been to a gala?” I said, turning slightly toward Marley.
“A gala?” she asked.
“Yeah, you know. A fancy party, or a ball, or whatever.”
“I think you’d do well there,” I said.
She definitely had the body to drunkenly wander around a fancy gala in clear stilettos. I wondered if Marley had ever pursued a career as a prostitute, but decided it would be in poor taste to ask. There was a point in my life when I had seriously considered a side job as a prostitute, and would gladly have spoken about it if she had asked. I had ultimately decided not to pursue that career, though, as I figured it would be a conflict of interest to be in both law enforcement and intimate employment. There was also the fact that I didn’t quite have the looks to become a respectable prostitute. I mean, sure, I could grow a solid, thick beard, but I wasn’t entirely positive that the female population of New York found much attraction in middle-aged, balding, overweight detectives. Plus, there was the whole issue of what could happen when I kissed people. It just made for a very poor career choice.
I pulled open the door at the end of the hall, stepping into the garage. I was always pretty concerned when it came time to show a woman my car. It wasn’t exactly a Ferrari. In fact, it was actually a Ferraro. Technically it was a 1996 Toyota Camry, but the previous owner had replaced the front and rear Toyota badge with a metal logo that read “Ferraro,” a stallion mid-gallop below it. I was never sure if the person who added it was an idiot, a foreigner, or a mixture of both, but I kept the badge where they’d put it. The dealer who sold it to me claimed it was “a genuine Ferraro, straight from the coasts of Italy.” I knew he was full of shit, but I kind of liked the way it looked. More importantly, it was nearly free.
“Here she is,” I said, pointing to the beige and rust colored Ferraro. I’d always intended on getting it re-painted, but, unfortunately, had been quite busy for the past eight years and never had the time.
“This is your car?” she said, tilting her head slightly as she stared at the partially opened door. Of course she had to spot the one imperfection right off the bat, the small design flaw—that I had absolutely no part in causing—which resulted in the passenger door always being slightly ajar no matter how hard I tried to close it. No one ever noticed the Ferraro badge, or commented on how well kept it was. They always went straight to the door. Or the rust. Or the dents. Or how the bumper was an entirely different color from the hood, which was an entirely different color from the rest of the car.
“Yes,” I said. “She doesn’t look like much, but she’s a genuine Ferraro.”
“This is a Ferrari?” she said, turning toward me.
“No. Ferraro, straight from the coast of Italy.” I figured the illusion of an exotic car might make the drive a bit more comfortable for her. Plus, if I could get her fixated on the car, maybe she’d be less interested in my driving. I’d never been a very good driver. There was a period of several years in which I was not sure what the yellow on a traffic light meant, and an even longer time in which I was positive that the rear-view mirror was supposed to be pointed so I could only see my own face. I still wasn’t entirely sure how to position the mirror, but now knew for sure that it wasn’t meant for studying my new haircut whilst driving.
“Never heard of a Ferraro,” she said, walking to the open passenger door.
I pulled out the key and pretended to unlock the door by pressing on my CVS ExtraCare Rewards card. I never actually locked the doors—not by choice, of course, but simply because the locks had long since stopped working. I didn’t mind, though, as everything worth stealing from the car had been stolen long ago. The neighborhood gangs no longer even bothered looking in the windows. In fact, I once had someone place a few cents on the driver’s seat, as if my car had been outside Penn Station playing shitty music and panhandling for cash.
I sat down inside, motioning for Marley to follow. She settled down next to me as I placed the key into the ignition and twisted. The engine turned over once, twice, then nothing. I relaxed my hand and twisted once more. Again the engine turned over once, twice, then kicked to life. I placed my foot on the brake, pulled the car into drive, then slowly pulled out of the garage and began toward the police station.