Feb 15, 2022
11 mins read
This one's a bit off the beaten track, as it's the opening to a story that never was. I (Kathleen) was going through a Roaring Twenties faze, and started to write a fairy-tale crossover with that idea. I may go back to it, someday, if I can shake a few of the tropes into something a little less stale.
It was late—so late it was early.
Her silver heels glistened against the rough stone cobbles, and the phosphorous light of a streetlamp rendered her skin white as the snow that had just begun to fall.
A single flake came to rest, unmelting, on a lip painted red as the blood streaming from her throat.
“What the futz are you doing here?”
Later still, and dawn was teasing snow laden clouds to a lighter shade of gray as Jake Hunter turned to face the copper who’d called out.
“Officer Falcone,” he greeted the frowning bull with a tip of his hat. “Cold day to be out so early.”
“Colder for some than others.” Falcone placed himself deliberately in front of Jake, blocking his view of the crime scene. “And ya’ didn’t answer my question.”
Jake’s eyes, gray as the dawn clouds, chilled. “A little pixie called me.”
“Always were a wise guy, even when you carried a buzzer.” Falcone put a gloved mitt on Jake’s arm. “Take a powder, shamus. And next time, pull the other one, it’s got–” And then he froze as the subtle chime of bells rang out from behind Jake’s hat. “You gotta be shitting me.”
“Told you a little pixie called me.” Jake glanced up as the winged sprite, glowing regulation blue to show she was on duty, fluttered up from where she’d been resting on the brim of his fedora. In a literal twinkle, she dashed off to join the other crime scene pixies, all currently providing light for the detective crouched over the victim. “Now if you don’t mind…” Jake said, and though it was clear the red-faced copper did mind, Jake shrugged off Falcone’s gloved hand and stepped around him.
A few long-legged strides brought him even with Detective Danny ‘Doc’ Murphy as he knelt over the beauty someone had left so carelessly in the snow.
“Doc,” Jake greeted the detective who, once upon a time, had been Jake’s partner—back when Jake had still been on the force.
Danny grunted and stretched to his full height—which was not a long trip.
At 4’2″ Danny Murphy was the tallest of Sinead Kilcannon Murphy’s seven sons.
He was also the only one in the family’s colorful history to go for a badge, but not even the buzzer kept thugs from giving Doc grief over his stature.
Jake had yet to see a bruno get a chance to razz Doc twice.
“So,” he prompted, “what’s with Tinker Bell rousting me outta bed?”
“Cut the bushwa, Jake.” Doc shook his head, shedding the snow that had piled up on his hat. “Everyone knows you bunk on the couch in your office. And besides that,” he added over the rising peals of pixie ire, “you know they hate when you call ‘em Tinker Bell.”
“Sorry, ladies.” Jake flashed a grin at the female flurry—they were all female, and Jake had long ago decided not to wonder how that worked—and they quieted down immediately. Jake had that effect on the fairer gender. It was a curse. “And I like my couch,” he said, turning back to Doc. “It’s comfortable, it doesn’t need to be made every morning, and it’s not out here on the Stroll, in the snow, at six o’futzing clock in the A.M. So what’s with the chime? You need my nose to help ID some quiff–“
“Jesus Jake, shut your yap and look at her! She ain’t no quiff.”
Jake shut his yap and looked.
And felt the saliva drying in his mouth.
“Yeah,” Doc said with a grim satisfaction, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Thought you’d recognize her.”
“Who the hell wouldn’t?”
Doc just stared, and Jake shrugged off his own defensive tone as he crouched down to better view the face that graced The Palace marquee.
There wasn’t a man in Chicago who didn’t know her name and, as Jake knew too well, any swell lucky enough to get into the swanky club would never forget the night they heard Snow White sing.
Of course everyone knew Snow White was just her stage name. The canary’s real moniker was a mystery to all but a few.
Just so happened Jake was one of those few. He’d learned it the night before, when they’d met backstage at the Palace.
Turns out, up until Capone crossed the bonfire, she’d been Gwynn Farrier of Kalamazoo, just another wannabe starlet hoofing the streets of Chicago, looking for a break.
Then Al opened the door, and the Court crossed over and everything changed. And Gwynn Farrier was smart enough, quick enough and pretty enough to cash in on the new deal.
Looking at her now, Jake had to figure the deal turned sour.
“She was a helluva looker.”
“Still is,” Jake said, and meant it. Even with blood beading the ebony fringe of her cloche and ice filming those violet eyes she could stop traffic. His own eyes, a less dramatic gray, took in the look of mild surprise she’d been left with in death, then drifted down, past what remained of that slender throat, over the spattered silver fur of her coat — fallen open to reveal the glittering black lace of her dress — halted at the hint of flesh between the hem and the top of her stocking.
Just hours ago, he’d considered himself privileged to witness those stockinged legs cross as she applied the blood red lipstick in her dressing room mirror. He shook away the memory, dragged his eyes back to the killing wound. “Why the hell did you call me?”
“I called you because she had your business card in her bag,” Doc replied, nodding towards the ritzy clutch some of the pixies were hauling to the evidence case. “And being as she had your card in her bag, I figured maybe she was availing herself of your services, and if she was availing herself of your services, it might be whatever she hired you to look into was what got her bumped off. At least, that’s what I’m hoping, because looking at that neck–“
“You think I did this?” Jake was standing before he knew it, eyes glinting sharp as the claws that had so clearly opened Snow’s throat.
“I think you could have,” Doc replied calmly. “And I ain’t the only one who knows why you quit the force.”
“I’m not the only sap in Chicago who got cursed during the wars,” Jake snarled.
“No, but you’re the only sap who got cursed who also had his business card in the victim’s clutch,” Doc leaned in with his own snarl. “And I’m the only one at the clubhouse who won’t think you went feral on the Prince’s Sheba, so you’d best tell me if you were working for the deceased and where you were between–” he paused, looked at the hovering flight of Crime Scene Pixies, who flashed the estimated time of death in unison — they’d taken to Morse code quickly — before looking back at Jake, “– midnight and two a.m.”
“Yes,” the word edged its way between Jake’s teeth, “she hired me.”
“Last night.” the PI took a deep breath, let it out. He could feel the rage, red and dangerous, settling back to its normal background mutter. “I met her at the club, between sets, must’a been around 9:30.”
“And after?” Doc had his notebook out and was taking notes with one pencil, chewing on another. Jake knew this was because the detective wanted his pipe but the pixies put up a fuss around smoke.
“After, I stopped by Glinda’s joint, then I went to the office. Got in about eleven, stayed there until Tink–” paused at the jingled warning, “–until your duly authorized CSP woke me up.”
“So,” Doc clamped the pencil he was chewing near in half, “no alibi?”
“No,” Jake sighed, taking off his hat to smooth his hair, “no alibi.”
“And I supposed she hired you to take pictures of the prince diddling a chorus girl?”
If only, Jake thought. “I can’t tell you,” he said.
“Your client’s a stiff,” Doc pointed out, chomping the pencil violently. “You think she’s gonna care you spilled her dirty laundry?”
“I can’t tell you, Doc. Snow hired me, but she’s not the only client.”
Doc’s face crinkled into a grimace, his teeth clenched so tight Jake was sure the pencil between them would snap. “You’re not making my life easy, Jake.”
“And you know how that keeps me up, nights.”
“What I know is you’re the one behind the eight ball, here.”
“Nothing new about that,” Jake tipped his hat down over eyes cold as the frost forming on Snow White’s lips. “I pretty much live there.”
“You may be living behind the eight ball now, but you’re gonna be living in Joliet, or worse — doing time in the Grey — if you end up looking good for this.”
“You telling me that’s how the squad runs now? You see a guy that looks good, so you stop looking?”
“I’m telling you this is gonna be a futzing Wilding hunt. Look at her neck, for Christ’s sake! Nothing human did that.”
“Hate to break it to you, Doc, but the city’s overrun with nothing human, these days.”
“I don’t know why I bother,” the stocky detective ripped the spare pencil out of his mouth and stabbed it at Jake. “I should just haul you in on suspicion.”
“On what grounds?”
“On the grounds of, if you’re in the stir, you won’t get into any trouble, or,” he stuck the pencil back between his teeth with a snap, “you could give me a reason to leave you out. Snow hired you for something — was that something a threat? She afraid of anything, or anyone in particular?”
“She was copacetic, just wanted me to find someone she knew from back home.” And that was all he would say, given his client had ended up dead on the pavement a couple hours after giving him his retainer. “If anyone wanted her iced, she wasn’t wise to it.”
Doc chewed on that, and his pencil. “Can you at least give me a little — you know — tell me if you maybe smell something?”
“You want me to use the thing that got me tossed off the force?”
“I’m not the one who tossed you, kid.”
Which was true.
Because it was, Jake shrugged deeper into his coat and turned away, willing the cage door open. Not too far, just enough to let the beast have a whiff –
“Blood,” he growled, forcing the words through vocal chords no longer adapted to speech. “Tobacco, gin–“
Doc humphed, and backed off a few paces.
Jake squatted down, ignored the flurry of pixies as they swept out of his reach. If he’d been in the mood, or less hairy, he might have told them they didn’t have to worry.
Bears don’t give a futz about pixies.