This is the first section of the first draft of “Rise of the Paladin”. My friend says it sounds too stereotypically noir. I think it’s good for a first draft.
This time the lady was beautiful without trying to be. Some women are like that. When Nick Manolis first saw her the word sexy came to mind, but that thought quickly left his head. She was too…elegant? Not quite. Self-assured, perhaps. She knew she was beautiful and she knew how to use it, but she didn’t parade it either
All of this crossed Nick’s mind within the 20 seconds the lady had walked through his door and sat down in front of his cheap, plywood desk, but Nick didn’t dwell on it. Dwelling on it was unprofessional, and he’d read enough Dashiell Hammett to know that focusing too much on dames tended not to end well (he’d also read enough to think of women as dames). And besides that, Nick didn’t live in a Dashiell Hammett novel. He smiled warmly at the young woman in front of him. “Private Investigator Nick Manolis at your service, Ma’am. What brings you to my office tonight?” Calling the tiny room with a corkboard nailed to the back wall an “office” was a stretch, but Nick wasn’t in a position to be picky about his surroundings.
“I have an interesting problem, Detective Manolis. And you don’t need to worry, it has nothing to do with…infidelity.” Despite himself Nick couldn’t help wondering if that meant she was single, but he forced the idea out of his head. Not having to deal with yet another cheating spouse – the private detective’s bread and butter – would be a relief, at least.
The lady continued. “I think I’m being followed.”
Nick took out his notebook and started jotting down details. “Why do you think that, Miss…”
“Merrick. Celia Merrick. And to be honest, I don’t have any poof. But for the past few days…first it was an old woman.”
“An old woman?” That wasn’t what Nick had expected to hear.
“That’s right. First she was outside my apartment, which was strange, since we don’t have any elderly people in my neighborhood. So I ignored her. Then, when I left my job at a record store in the mall, she was there again. Then outside my apartment again. I turned to confront her, but she…ran.”
Nick didn’t stop writing as he talked. “You sound surprised.”
“It was an old lady, so yes, I was surprised. She didn’t look like the sort of person who could hitch up her skirt and run, exactly. Then she turned down a corner and was just…gone.”
“I have no idea where she went. It sounds crazy, but she just seemed to…disappear. Is that crazy?”
Nick laughed. “It’s not normal, Miss Merrick! But that’s not all, right?”
Celia was smiling. Nick’s laugh was infectious, his manner charming and affable. “No. I haven’t seen the old lady since then. But…someone else started following me. Two people, actually.”
“Two people? Really?”
“Men this time. Oriental. They wore black suits. This time as soon as I got off my block, they started shadowing me. One on either side…almost always just out of the corner of my eye. Every time I turned towards them I’d get a glimpse before they fell into a crowd or walked the other way, but later they’d show up again.”
“Were you followed here?”
“I don’t think so…for some reason they seem to know my work schedule, but I had off today. I wouldn’t have come on my own if I’d seen them around.”
“I see…okay.” Nick put down his pen and looked into Celia’s eyes. “Miss Merrick, what exactly are you asking me to do?”
Celia looked confused. “I need you to figure out who’s following me! Gather some evidence I’m being followed, at least.”
“Why not go to the police? I’m just one guy renting a room in a crappy office complex. Why go to me?”
Celia threw her head back and laughed. “Come on, Detective Manolis, you of all people know why I’m not going to the police. I’m not going to the police for the same reason you left the force. They’re corrupt, useless, and it would be a waste of my time.”
Nick was startled. “How do you know who I am? Who are you?”
Celia put her hand up to her mouth and giggled, amused at Nick’s surprised. “I’m surprised you haven’t caught it yet. I thought you were supposed to be a private detective. My father is Captain Rhys Merrick.”
Rhys Merrick! Captain Merrick was nearly a legend within the Shipton police force. When Nick had first joined up he idolized him. “Well you could have lead with that! So he mentioned me, then?”
“Not as such. I just knew there was no point in going to the cops unless I could hand them something on a silver platter, and when I was looking up private eyes he did recognize your name from the force. I figured if I was going to hire someone I could do worse than get a man with the backbone to quit the force before he turns 25.”
Nick made a point of sitting up and straightening his five dollar tie. “My goal is to help people, Miss Merrick, and if the police won’t do it I will. Now tracking down stalkers isn’t normally the forte of the private detective, but for the daughter of Captain Merrick, I’ll do my best. Fee will have to be standard by the hour, I’m afraid. I’m uh – well, I don’t think it would be wise to be offering discounts just yet, eh?”