Friday, April 23, 2010

Dance Invitations

A perfumed lady died tonight, that's what they tell me. That's why I'm out here in the miserable cold, some 'perfumed lady'. Well, points for vagueness. None for assumption. I mean, I could try to dispute that she's died tonight, but everything still looks and smells fresh.
The smell, at least, is unsurprising for the way she was described.
"Jesus. Freakin' Givenchy, huh." says the Lieutenant, flapping his hand to drive away the buzzing insects of scent at his nostrils. "My wife wears that stuff." The Lieutenant, who will be imortally known as 'Lefty' for his notorious cripping of three suspects' ('suspects', who are we kidding?) dominant hands to disarm them, looks about as well as someone who's crawled out of a rendering vat. If you pinched the flaps on his neck, they'd stay that way. The veins crawling up his neck look equally easy as targets, more tempting if you wanted to keep your thumb and forefinger in working order. His eyes are enough out of their sockets that he's a liability to the estate of Rodney Dangerfield. No respect, I tells ya's. "Well, I think now she'll have to switch to Dior or something. No heavy loss."
"No heavy loss." I murmur. I'm more of a stick-deoderant girl myself.
There's already a tent up surrounding the body, keeping the lookie-loos out, but keeping the scent of distilled ambergris (or whatever) inside. The same thought passes to Lefty. "Don't they make some of that stuff out of, like, mongoose balls?"
"Civets, I think. Odor sacs. Like skunks." I can still see my breath, even as I can feel the creeping moisture in the tent. The hot lights keep me from shivering and out of the cold. Still, I'm going to need a shower.
"Yeah. Skunks is right. Jeez, I'll stick to my Old Spice." He crosses over, looking down at her. A white dress stained brown by gutter water, pearls that look too good to be real around a neck that flows like ivory from head to neck. Blonde hair, golden with a single proud shock of gray unhidden as a front bang. She has the shade of red lipstick that could stop a man in his tracks, make him break into a cold sweat. Her nails, coiffed and perfectly aligned. I pick them up daintily with a gloved hand, scraping underneath for skin, dirt, anything that can tell us what happened.
"Civets. Why do I think of coffee?"
"Special type of coffee." I say, not looking up from her nails.
"Naw, don't tell me. I remember. The civets eat the coffee berries, and crap out the seeds, and those are used to make the coffee?"
"Bingo." I say.
"What, you found something?"
"Nothing. Just right about the coffee."
"She's meticulously done-up for someone who got done-in." Says Lefty. He's reaching, so I give him a smile. But she is, not anything out of place, except maybe a pulse. EMS didn't even bother. Heels unbroken, pantyhose without a nick or tear, and a little white dress whose only flaws have been produced by the inevitable fluids. Not pretty, compared to the rest of her.
"No cuts, no bruises. Nothing on her palms or knees to suggest she fell? Maybe she was cradled down. Maybe the same person who took the purse."
Someone's been keeping up with their reading list, even if Lefty's mystery assailant left the pearls. "Something like that." Presumption sneaks in, calling up a small list of possibilities, each screaming that this person looks too good to have hit the glass ceiling of longevity, propelled by natural causes. Dammit, stick to the evidence, or lack thereof.
Not even a blemish on the white skin.
Except one-- A tiny little dot on the ivory neck. Small enough for a syringe, I wonder?
Assumption! Stop it!
Assumption, but something to work on. Something to keep me busy for the rest of the night. As usual. Something to check.
"Looks like something."
"Something good?" he asks, leaning in curiously.
"Something-something." I snap off my sweat-filled gloves, reading a new pair. "Do me a favour? Cup of coffee?"
"Cream, sugar?"
"Black." I say. He lifts the tentflap, letting in a breath of blessed fresh air. Shit, but it's cold. "Lefty!"
"No civets."
"Picky." A smile, and it's easier to share this time.
The tent flap swings back down, and I'm left with the warmth and the wreaths of perfume. The scent is still strong. Definitely a stick deoderant girl.
New gloves are snapped on, and I recognize the Ella Fitzgerald on my lips long after I start whistling it- "These foolish things... remind me of you..." I stop myself, having unconsciously skipped the previous verse.
"Oh, how the ghost of you clings..."

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