A killer from the grave
An excerpt from Tony Resolvo, Private Ojo, a novel in the making
By Tommy Villalobos
“Hello,” she said, while, at the same time, tapping on the door jamb of my office, the door being open. It was 2 pm. It was September. It was hot. L.A. hot. East L.A. caliente.
My office was located on the second floor of a timeworn building on First and Boyle. Someone said it was built in1889. Creaky floors agreed. I had a corner office in the round corner of the building. Could I have a corner office in a round part of a building? I’m not a philosopher and flunked Geometry in high school. So, I can’t say.
Getting back, when I say “She,” I mean SHE. Before me stood a gorgeous female I suspected of being an angel who had made a wrong turn in heaven and ended up in East Los Angeles, circa 1940.
I was still staring in wonderment, when she said “Hello” again.
“How are you?” I asked the rhetorical question knowing there was only one answer, “Fine.”
“Awful,” she said, disagreeing.
I asked her for confirmation, allowing for temporary mood swings.
“I have a serious problem.”
“Come in, I solve serious problems,” I said. “I’m a private detective.”
“I know, I saw your sign downstairs. ‘Tony R., Private Detective.’ What does the ‘R’ stand for?”
“Resolvo,” I said quickly, displaying my quick reflexes. I had been in business three weeks, and I was grasping at what would be my first client.
She floated toward my desk. Her dress whispered, her hips sang. Her lips were a red torch of invitation while her hair flowed down in a cascade of raven splendor from under her white, wide-brimmed hat. The sound of her high heels on the wood flooring resonated in my head, telling me that they were holding a woman who, at will, could make any man with half a heartbeat whimper.
She stood before my desk and looked at me as if she were the Queen of Sheba and I was a busboy at one of her lesser banquets, set to tell me to jump this way or that way. With tongue shooting out like a lizard waiting to snatch a passing fly, I hung on her next words like that busboy.
“Aren’t you supposed to ask me to sit or something?”
I saw that I had no chair in front of my desk. I looked at my bare office and saw a wooden folding chair in the corner, on loan from my mother. I scrambled around the desk and retrieved it, unfolding it next to her, dust flying. I wiped the chair with the sleeve of my wrinkled white dress shirt.
“Sit,” I said, pointing to the chair, making sure she knew where.
She responded like a well-trained terrier and sat. I returned to my chair.
“What brings you to my office?” I said.
She looked at me as if I had no notion of the concept, “office.” Then she composed herself.
“A certain someone is trying to kill me.”
Her beautiful brown eyes were now widened for emphasis. Her full, red lips were pursed, joined in the emphasis. Her face was not smiling. This was no chiste. This was serious. I put on my most professional face and used my most elevated voice.
“Joe Fluiz,” she said casually as if he was a mutual friend.
“Should I know him?”
“No. He’s dead. Been that way for a while.”
I put chin to chest. I was confused. Even dubious. Then, again, she dressed well and maybe could pay well. I was getting hungry for decent comida. Another question from me to her was in order.
“How long has he been dead?”
“About a hundred and sixty years.”
I stared at her. Then I stared at the dirty window. Then I stared at her. Then I stared at the far wall. Then the worn wooden floor. Then landed on her again.
“Are you sure?”
“Sure as shootin’.”
“Why are you so sure? I mean, did he come to your door and tell you politely that he was no longer with us?”
“Better than that. The person whispered it into my ear. It was at night. I was in bed and I heard breathing in the dark. Actually, it was more like wheezing. I sat up and that is when the whispers came.”
I repeated my staring routine from above with one alteration. I additionally stared at my phone. I might have to call someone to pick up her up, as dazzling as her looks were, and have her rushed to a proper lugar. One for crazy people. I coughed the insincere but polite cough then sought clarification.
“Exactly what did this dead person whisper to you?”
“That I was going to die.”
“Just came out and told you?”
“Yes. He was very direct.”
“He said that he had been dead for a hundred and sixty years, and was going to kill me. He then said that I didn’t have all that much time.”
“How much time did he give you?”
“Didn’t say. Just said I didn’t have that much time. Your place is run down,” she added as an afterthought.
“Didn’t you ask him to be more specific?”
“You didn’t ask him why he held this grudge against you all this time?”
“Didn’t have a chance. He disappeared.”
“In a puff of smoke?”
“How’d you know? Has he visited you?”
I then let out a shallow laugh to lighten the mood.
At this point in our relationship, I wanted to tell her she was a loony, a genuine loca, but my professionalism kept me in check. I again studied her beauty. It was still dazzling. I now hoped that this was a clever joke. You know, a nutty friend of mine who thought this would be a fun thing to do, send a doll who was off her cebolla to a rookie private detective and see him get confused and think of another line of work, like being a lechero.
I was waiting for her punchline, or maybe that friend to come charging in the room, pointing at me, guffawing all the while. Then I considered. Someone who was talking like her usually had a frazzled appearance topped by pelo shooting in all directions while sitting on a park bench speaking to the wind. She did not fit the mold.
She got up and now she stared, her stare focused on me.
“I was set to pay you good money for a little work. But you seem to question my circumstances.” I wanted to tell her what I was questioning was her sanity. She then stared around my bare office.
Being a professional detective, I understood her drift. She could improve my lot. A lot.
To be continued