Saturday, June 26, 2010

Phantom, P.I.

“Is this case out of your league or what?” she said, slouching on the stained beige sofa, hands behind her head.

She wore a black leather miniskirt, a pink tube top, and a lazy, brainless stare framed by six coats of eye shadow. She kept her hair across half her face, thought it was coy, I suppose, to leave something to the imagination.

I knew she wasn’t leaving until I figured this one out. It was powerful motivation.

“Max Packer, private eye, stumped by the case of the missing nylon,” she said. “Seriously, what are you good for if this is too much?”

“I play a mean harmonica.”

She rolled her eyes and crossed her nyloned leg over the bare one.

Of all the places to die, it had to be here. I had let her down fast and hard that morning, almost a year ago. “You liked me well enough last night!” she had shouted as I walked to the door.

“Jimmy Beam liked you well enough last night,” I replied and turned the knob. That's when it hit. It couldn't have waited two more seconds. Pain seared my chest and I dropped in darkness.

My spirit was chained to a scorned woman’s studio apartment. My talents were tested with mind benders like finding car keys or ratting out the cat.

“I mean, you’re clearly not much of a ghost,” she said to me now. “Go ahead, scare me. What do you got?”

“You look fat in that skirt.”

“Is that some kind of joke?”

“I wish it were.”

I sorely needed a night off from this personal hell. There just was nothing to go on with this case. It had happened in a matter of minutes. Two nylons out of the dryer, I had seen her do it. She dropped them on the bed, put on her makeup, got dressed and … it was gone.

I couldn’t pin this one on the cat. It was hiding under the couch the whole time.

Those were the facts. Those and the one constant in every case: that this was possibly the stupidest woman on earth.

She reminded me of Alan Pulaski from back in the neighborhood, the kid who spent an hour at the pool looking for his goggles because no one would tell him they were on top of his head.

Suddenly, lightening struck.

“Take off your nylon,” I said.

“I’m not going out bare,” she said.

“Just take it off.”

It was halfway down her leg before she figured it out. One was on top of the other.

“Oh. Well … good then. Took you long enough,” she muttered. She hurriedly rolled it over her bare leg, put on her heels and wobbled out the door.

The deadbolt latched, and the cat snuck out from under the couch.

It sauntered to the middle of the room and peed on the carpet.


  1. Definitely don't tweak the dialogue! It's super snappy and really showcases their personalities. You can really feel the conflict he has with her, especially in the biting remark, "I wish it were." I got a little confused in the section ("You liked me well enough last night...") and wasn't sure if it was a flashback or not. I really like the concept of him being trapped in this girl's apartment! There's a lot of potential there for more in-depth stories, I think, especially if she's not the only crappy tenant he's had to put up with since he became trapped in the apartment. The ending with the cat peeing on the carpet really added a nice touch to the ending. Excellent flash!

  2. Thanks for the suggestion on the flashback. This could probably use a little more editing. I'll take another look at it.

  3. I think "I knew she wasn’t leaving until I figured this one out. It was powerful motivation." really demonstrates the spirit [forgive the pun] of their relationship. The cat peeing made me snort.

  4. Nice story, Matt! I loved this line: "She wore a black leather miniskirt, a pink tube top, and a lazy, brainless stare framed by six coats of eye shadow." It paints her perfectly.

  5. I loved the line, "Jimmy Beam like you well enough" - fantastic.

  6. A bunch of good lines in this one. And what a terrible way for him to spend his afterlife. Ah well... Good story!

  7. I keep trying to get a new angle on a ghost. I'm jealous--you found one.

    Terrific lines and a fun ending.

  8. Very nice take, both on the ghost story and on the noir mystery, all in one fell swoop. Dialog was spot on. Love both the characters, though I'm glad I don't actually know her. ;) But as a character, she's great.

    I wonder what happens when she goes out one night and never comes back? Maybe then he'd get a real mystery to solve, and maybe a chance at redemption?

  9. That's a great story, it made me laugh, especially the attitude of the cat at the end. Looking forward to reading more of your work.