(Update: The Frank Billions story continues – Chapter Two)
Below is an exerpt from my non-existent novel “Frank Billions, Space Detective: The Case of a Penny Saved”. If you would like a copy of this book, perhaps you could employ me for a year and I’ll write it.
Frank Billions: Space Detective
Chapter One – A Penny Saved
“This town ain’t big enough for the two of us,” my partner had said – and he was right. The town was about forty centimetres across. It was inhabited by an alien race of tiny but highly intelligent insectoids. It was foolishness for us both to be there, treading on citizens and inhaling ten percent of the atmosphere with each breath, but sometimes foolishness is what you have to do to earn a crust in this mixed-up galaxy. I was there on a case. He was in love. Little did I realise then but the two weren’t unconnected.
There comes a time in every space-detective’s career when he traces his path of impossibly concealed clues back to the bad guy, only to find that the bad guy was none other than his own friend, colleague and squash partner. You see a lot in my game, and after a while nothing really surprises you anymore. Like the time I saw my neighbour Terry at the library. I didn’t bat an eyelid. But this hit me like a tonne of bricks – a tonne of heavy bricks. It wasn’t that I didn’t think him uncapable of the crime – counterfeiting was just as much his cup of tea as a good Earl Grey is mine. All the pieces fit together just like a well-lubricated jigsaw puzzle. What really got my honker out of joint (apart from the knuckle sandwich I received from asking too many questions) was the look of his baby-blues when he told me I’d got the wrong man. He went into the slammer and I went into a cold friendless galaxy with nothing but a badge and a lack of faith in humanity. I don’t know who got the better deal.
The dame sitting in my office, drawing on a slim cigarette with an even slimmer pencil, claimed to be my former partner’s sister. She looked about as much like him as I did. Nevertheless you don’t get far in this game by calling your clients liars, so I wasn’t about to call this lady’s bluff. I’ve seen my fair share of gorgeous women, but she was something else. This was the kind of eye-candy that made a diabetic cornea weep. She had legs all the way down to her feet, and just like a properly constructed polynomial on a Cartesian plane, she had curves in all the right places. I hadn’t let a dame near my heart since the time my regular cardiologist went on holidays and left his niece in charge, but this was the kind of girl Charles Blondin would be happy to fall for. Still, I wasn’t about to do the Humpty Dumpty routine – not in this crazy mixed-up trust-no-one galaxy.
I asked her name and she told me it was Wilde. I said I couldn’t wait to hear it. Penny Wilde, she insisted in a voice like my morning coffee – strong, sweet and French. I answered in a voice like my afternoon coffee – bitter, stale and reeking of bourbon: “What can I do for you Miss Wilde?”
“They tell me you’re the best.”
“They say a lot of things. They say it’s gonna rain today.”
“It is raining, Mr Billions”.
“Call me Frank.”
“Alright Frank, let me get to the point.” A lock of red hair fell onto her face like a marmalade tear. She wiped it aside. “Marty’s in trouble.”
Martin Wilde, my former partner and friend. This was the man who taught me the meaning of the words ‘commitment’, ’diligence’ and ’persistence’. Apart from being a world-class dictionary salesman, he was the darn space detective who ever carried a laser magnifying glass. You could say I owed him everything. But that was before he went bad. Nowadays the only thing I owe him is a big hairy bag of nothin’. “Marty’s a big boy, Miss Wilde, he can take care of himself.”
“Somebody’s out to get him.”
“Lady, half the galaxy’s out to get him, even the city library has a price on his head. Heck, I’d be out to get him if I hadn’t already wasted most of my life on that lying, cheating, no-good jailbird.”
“He asked me to find you. He needs your help.”
Well, that figured. Old Marty Wilde finally needed someone’s help so he sends his sister. Back in the old days, Marty knew I couldn’t resist a gorgeous dame. He was trying to play me like a fiddle. I guess he didn’t count on this fiddle being out of tune. Things have changed. Things always change – that’s the only thing that doesn’t. But one thing puzzled me. Who was Marty running from? Like I said, Marty could take care of himself. He knew his fists that like the back of his hands. He was wasn’t afraid of anything. Yet someone had him running scared like a guinea pig in a foghorn.
“So why doesn’t he ask me himself?” I asked.
“He was going to. I guess he never showed up. And now he’s been missing for two weeks. I don’t know what could have happened to him.” Penny Wilde stopped talking.
I’ve been a space detective for twenty-five years, and before that a plumber for seven. I knew when a girl was about to turn on the waterworks. She turned her face away. We weren’t going to get anywhere if she was going to play the something-in-my-eye game, but it didn’t matter. She’d already told me enough. I showed her the door. She said it was nice.
I watched Miss Wilde’s siloutte through the frosted glass of my office door as it slowly faded away – just like her brother had done all those years ago in the frosted glass door of my life. I stared at the letters on the door – “sevitceteD ecapS snoilliB edliW”. I had never gotten around to taking down the “edliW”. Bone laziness on my part and nothing more, nevermind what my shrink says. Still, that was the moment I decided to take the case. Maybe it was because a gorgeous desperate dame had asked me to, maybe it was because I still gave a damn about my no-good partner, or maybe it was just because it beat every other petty domestic or space piracy case that I had on my desk, I couldn’t tell you. But that was the moment I picked up my hyperphone and made the first call. I hadn’t spoken to the owner of the “Asteroid Deli and Cooperage” since the great barrel shortage of 3056, but if anyone knew what happened to Marty, old Jordan Asteroid would. Besides, I needed a sandwich.
Next Chapter: Frank Billions: Space Detective – Chapter Two