Something from the Nightside

Something From the Nightside

Nightside 1

Simon R. Green

One

Money Comes Walking In

Private eyes come in all shapes and sizes, and none of them look like television stars. Some do insurance work, some hang around cheap hotels with camcorders hoping to get evidence for divorce cases, and damn few ever get to investigate complicated murder mysteries. Some chase things that don't exist, or shouldn't. Me, I find things. Sometimes I'd rather not find them, but that comes with the territory.

The flaking sign on the door in those days said Taylor Investigations. I'm Taylor. Tall, dark and not particularly handsome. I bear the scars of old cases proudly, and I never let down a client. Provided they've paid at least some cash up front.

My office back then was cosy, if you were feeling charitable, cramped if you weren't. I spent a lot of time there. It beat having a life. It was a low-rent office in a low-rent area. All the businesses with any sense were moving out, making more room for those of us who operated in the greyer areas of the legal and illegal. Even the rats were just passing through, on their way to somewhere more civilised. My neighbours were a dentist and an accountant, both of them struck off, both of whom made more money than I did.

It was raining hard the night Joanna Barrett came to see me. The kind of cold, driving, pitiless rain that makes you glad to be safe and dry indoors. I should have taken that as an omen, but I've never been very good at picking up on hints. It was late, well past the point where the day starts edging into evening, and everyone else in the building had gone home. I was still sitting behind my desk, half-watching the portable television with its sound turned down, while the man on the phone yelled in my ear. He wanted money, the fool. I made sympathetic noises in all the right places, waiting for him to get tired and go away, and then my ears pricked up as I heard footsteps in the hall outside, heading for my door. Steady, unhurried ... and a woman. Interesting. Women always make the best clients. They say they want information, but mostly what they really want is revenge; and they aren't mean when it comes to paying for

what they want. What they need. Hell hath no fury; and I should know.

The footsteps stopped outside my door, and a tall shadow studied the bullet hole in the frosted-glass window. I really should have got that seen to, but it made such a great conversation piece. Clients like a touch of romance and danger when they're hiring a private detective, even if they only want some papers served. The door opened, and she walked in. A tall good-looking blonde who reeked of money and class, looking immediately out of place amid the battered furniture and cracked-plaster walls of my office.

Her clothes had the quiet elegance and style that shrieks of serious money, and when she spoke my name her voice had an aristocratic edge that could cut glass. Either she'd been to all the very best boarding and finishing schools, or she'd spent a hell of a lot on elocution lessons. She was perhaps a little too slender, with a raw-boned face and minimal make-up that meant she would always be handsome rather than pretty. From the way she stood, the way she held herself, it was obvious she was a control freak, and the set of her perfectly made-up mouth showed she was used to being obeyed. I notice