The Resignation of Poppie Freeman


Gripping the knob, I popped my hip against the peeling paint of the familiar office door. Ever since the titular owner of ‘Jacob Tomb, Private Investigations’ had drunkenly kicked it open three years ago the lock had ceased all functionality except its aesthetic charm.It honestly hadn’t mattered, in the five years I had worked for Jacob Tomb we had rarely seen a case that had warranted securing the office. The business mostly centered around digging up the goods on cheating spouses. By the time our clients came to us they damn well knew what was going on, but most needed an incriminating picture to hammer it home.The small envelope labeled ‘Poppie Freeman’ lay on my desk, as was customary on Fridays. I opened it up and counted my money. The bastard had shorted me. This was also customary.I placed my bag down and marched through the door separating my cramped reception area and Tomb’s office. Pulling the tablecloth off the poorly concealed safe I spun the dial and opened it up. Jacob didn’t know I knew the combination. I kept all the books for the place anyway. When he saw fit to skim from my pay, I simply made up the difference. Today I felt like I deserved a bonus as well and slipped out an extra fiver from the company funds.I covered my tracks and tidied up the office, throwing away old hooch bottles and straightening the papers he’d knocked over. I also snatched a box of matches and a pack of coffin nails from his desk. One of the advantages of your boss drinking himself into a stupor every night, he lost everything. Made for a nice alibi when swiping his smokes.After the normal cleaning, I sat at my desk and started reading through the paper. I occupied myself briefly with the crosswords and puzzles. They were far too simple, I finished them in minutes. I had worked as a codebreaker during the war. I saw mathematical patterns and sequences everywhere, it was how I dealt with boredom.It took several hours more for the boss to make his entrance. When he did I gave him the usual earful. “I just don’t understand why the hell I gotta be here at noon. You never get here before three and then I’ll be lucky if you’re sober enough to hold a conversation.”Tombs shrugged with a boyish smile. “Poppie, if you ain’t here to tell them to come back later they might not come back later.” He winked at me, chuckling at his comment. The whiskey on his breath could peel paint.Jacob Tomb was in his late twenties and was admittedly quite easy on the eyes. His crooked nose had a strange charm to it. Despite the untold gallons of alcohol (of suspect quality) he had remained in quite a pleasing shape. He was slim, muscular, and cleaned up nicely when he put in the effort. At first, I thought him quite handsome ’til his personality dampened any attraction I felt.Tomb had recognized what many didn’t of me. I am smart and quite capable. He also didn’t seem to be of the mindset that my dark skin made me any less so. Still, he wasn’t above using my lack of options as an excuse to pay me a pittance of what I deserved. After the war, a black woman was hard-pressed on finding any office work. I mailed out my resume to scores of businesses and was invited to interview. When they saw me in the flesh I was turned away at the front door.“Don’t see why you’re bustin’ me down. You got paid, didn’t ya?” No point in arguing the details on that I supposed. Our normal squabble came to a sudden end. The tapping of high heels pulled our attention to the frosted glass with the pealing lettering.A feminine silhouette appeared at the door, followed by three light knocks. Tomb stared at me expectantly, above even answering the door that he was closer to. So I stepped past him and admitted our visitor. Tomb stared with slackened jaw at the raven-haired bombshell in the doorway. Swinging her full hips she sauntered in and looked past me as those hungry blue eyes fixated with predatory intent on the dick before her. “Mr. Jacob Tomb? A friend of mine referred me, Pete Conway.”She wasn’t what I considered anything exceptional but certainly wasn’t bad to look at. She knew how to work what she had. Her hair was done up in victory curls. Her mug was powdered and lips were painted bright red. In fact, she was too put together. Something about her raised my heckles, a lady doesn’t generally put that much effort to hire a discount PI from the slums.The way Tomb’s tongue was waggling indicated it had the desired effect. His mind twisted in a way that had made speech quite out of the question. The booze that still clouded his brain, gumming up the works even further. Realizing that if Tomb was to get paid (and myself vicariously) I would need to start the conversation. “Mr. Conway, the piano player from a few months back?”The stranger looked at me. No, she looked through me in a way that was all too familiar. It was a quick glance, taking in little more than the pigment that separated us. The breathy warmth of her voice from before had a sense of coldness as she replied, “Yes. We work together.” She shifted her attention back to Jacob, making it clear she didn’t care for the help. “He said you helped him with his wife, got pictures of her running around.”I pushed down the indignation, as I always had, and focused on the money. I doubted if my boarding house would accept my fully intact pride to cover the rent. “Is that why you’re here? Do you think you might have an unfaithful husband Mrs…?”“Miss, actually. Miss Midnight. Abigail Midnight.” The name was as fake as anything else about her. While shooting an array of daggers from her eyes in my direction she asked, “Perhaps we could talk privately in your office Mr. Tomb?”He looked over into the cloudy mirror by the coat rack. Realizing the sorry picture he presented, he made a bid for time. “Listen, I just stepped in the door and I’ve already got one dame on my back.” He thumbed a gesture toward me. “Wait here a minute. Miss Freeman will istanbul travesti show you into my office when I’m ready.”With that, he tipped his hat to Abigail and retreated. In a flurry of what was certainly rushed preening and grooming, we heard the opening and slamming of various drawers. Brushing past me, Abigail walked to the small window at the end of the hallway. I held my breath and tried not to gag on the excess perfume she was slathered in. For her part, she utterly ignored me as though I were another piece of molding furniture.Tomb’s graveled voice crackled through the intercom on my desk. “See her in, Poppie.” These crude electronic boxes were a joke. The walls were so thin I swear his actual voice was louder than the cheap gray box.“Miss… Midnight was it? Jacob Tomb is ready to see you now.” I turned and opened the door for her, releasing the smell of cheap aftershave and mouthwash that burned my nose. He had positioned himself at his desk, leaning back on his chair with his feet up. I wrinkled my nose, I would be wiping mud off that desk tomorrow I supposed.Without a word, Abigail ambled past. Tomb gestured with a wave of his hand. “Close the door, Poppie. We don’t need anyone snooping in on whatever is troubling Miss Midnight.”Doing as told I returned to my small desk and started to go over the bills. Shaking my head at the idiocy of those two, I listened to their conversation as it seeped through the thin, porous wall. I could have just as well be sitting right between them. I knew that a loose woman with a fake name was nothing but trouble. However, what kind of trouble she would be was yet to be seen. So I listened closely for any clues.“So cut to the chase, doll-face. Just because I’m being nice enough not to charge you by the hour doesn’t mean you can waste my time.” I rolled my eyes, thinking back on all the jilted wives who had been fed the same line. I preferred male clients, Jacob charged them more and rarely took… services as payment from them. Only hard cash.“Jacob… may I call you Jacob?” The breathy, seductive vocal quality was back in full force.“Tomb. Only one woman ever called me Jacob. She’s been dead a long, long time.” I suppressed a laugh. His Mother called him Jacob in every Christmas card she sent, and the old lady was still very much alive and living with her new beau in Wyoming. I answered those cards myself in his stead. Jacob had made it quite clear that he had no time to do so himself. And I felt bad for her. Sometimes she sent cash which I pocketed. In a way, I was her real son.I knew all of Tomb’s secrets, such as his name was Tomberline. Despite all his claims he had never been on the police force nor did he have ‘connections with the cops.’ He was sneaky and charming when he put in the effort and that was generally all that was needed to keep the business afloat.“Tomb, I’m in trouble.” With a quiver in her voice, she dramatically added, “I don’t know where to turn!” Sensing this was something worth seeing I leaned back in my chair and carefully slid the stack of files on top of the cabinet to the side. I peered in the thin, spiderweb crack. It had been conveniently created one evening when Tomb had tripped over an empty bottle on the floor and smashed his face into the wall. No matter what story he ever spun this was actually how he broke his nose.“Well, tell me your sob story. Maybe I can help ya, maybe I can’t.” He leaned against his desk and poured the brown, unmarked bottle into two filthy glasses. He handed her one.As he offered it to Abigail she cupped her hands around his, glass and all. She executed a fancy little maneuver, taking the glass in one hand and pulling Tomb’s sweaty mitt against her breast. She looked into his eyes and then threw back the drink. Tomb shifted uncomfortably, his manhood quickly rising at an awkward angle. With a dramatic flourish, she turned and leaned on the desk, filling her glass with more of Tomb’s poison. “You have to, Jacob. You just have to!”And so she laid a tale that any pulp novelist would be proud of. Her poor father had been killed in the street, he had a ledger that had been taken. It contained banking information about where their wealth was kept. Now penny-less Abigail had been singing at the dive bars (in between caring for her dying Momma of course) hoping to find some information about where the key to the family fortune was. She finally arrived at the point, revealing the supposed location of the journal. “The police have the journal. They will deny it but it’s in an evidence locker at the 6th precinct. It belongs to my family!”I had to give her credit, she spun a nice little yarn. Although most of it was pure fabrication I knew Tomb was a man and willing to eat it up, to play the part and rescue the damsel in distress. Rolling it around my head the bare facts were the only truths to be had in the tale. The cops had a journal, ‘Abigail’ wanted it. It was valuable.And so ‘Miss Midnight’ moved in to close the deal. She pressed her body against Tomb, and looked deep into his eyes. “I need your help. I need… you.” And with that, she pressed her lips to his. She set her glass on the desk, he dropped his on the floor. I scowled angrily knowing who would be cleaning that up. She took his hand, placing it firmly on her tits. A longing moan released from her parted lips as he fondled her.He desperately attempted to free the twins but fumbled in confusion with her shape-wear. After several sad minutes, she ran her fingers through his hair and plunged Jacob’s face into her cleavage. I learned a new fact about this woman. The presentation and precision made it clear. The way she led him over her body, a calculated and overwrought show to ensnare. This was the work of a seasoned professional.I played the voyeur a bit longer than was needed. There was a comical juxtaposition between her face and the breathy fanfare that she made. Abigail istanbul travestileri groaned and supplied an occasional ‘Oh God’ or ‘Yes! Yes!’. Tomb seemed to believe it, but her face looked very, very bored. Another day at the office for her I suppose. But why my office? Why was this journal important enough to give out the goods on a filthy PI’s desk?Realizing they would likely be a long time, I covered back up my peephole and turned my attention to the files. The referral from Pete Conway had seemed true enough. If I wanted to find out what was really going on that seemed like a good place to start. This entire case stunk, and I needed to keep my employment secured. I fished out the Conway file and found the club he worked at, The Painted Cobra. I hung an ‘Out to Lunch’ sign from the window. Quietly I slipped through the door, leaving the mystery woman to sink those claws in as deep as she wished.——————————————————————————————————————————————————————It wasn’t the best part of town, but there were worse. Something about the dive was off. The Painted Cobra was hard to find. The entrance was in a back alley and easy for a drunk to walk right past. All the windows were covered up in a beautiful mural of half-dressed women drinking and playing. There was a fellow guarding the door, dressed very nicely too.I looked it over, no apparent signs of segregation barred my entrance. Unfortunately, it was my experience that often was only a formality. Most nightclubs would not let me in, except as a cleaning woman. And so that’s what I introduced myself as when I approached the mountain of a man working the door. Just an out-of-work cleaner looking for a job.He eyed me with suspicion and I contemplated walking away right at that moment. This wasn’t a normal hole in the wall, it was… nicer than it should have been. The door was heavy, hand-carved, and had intricate metalwork inlaid into winding patterns. The bouncer wasn’t your average meat wall, there was something cunning in his eyes that made him seem far too intelligent to be spending his day kicking out pickled men.I should have turned around, disappeared down the street. However, the way he shifted on his feet and stood at attention indicated that was likely no longer an option. Something had him on edge, even before I arrived. If I tried to walk away I’m not sure he would let me. “Why did ya come here then? Lots of places. Not like we put out an ad.”My mind spun wildly. I had used similar lines before in this work, normally no one bothered to question the small dark-skinned woman’s intentions. They thought me beneath suspicion. Grasping at the only name that came to mind I offered up the pianist. “Pete Conway shops at the store my Momma works at. Momma told him I need a job, he said to come on by. He’s such a nice man.”“Is that so?” He raised his eyebrow and looked me up and down. I’ve had guns leveled at me in this business and this was far more terrifying than any lump of lead pointed at my mug. He tried to break the truth from my lips by force of will alone.For my part I stood strong, adopting the innocent and naïve demeanor that men so willingly assumed of me. “Is he here now? Could I talk with him?” I pressed, doing my best to pretend that I couldn’t read the man’s body language like he wasn’t analyzing my every movement.After a long stare, he nodded. “He’s in. He’s upstairs chatting with the boss.” He held the door open, and I entered. The bar was dark, only a few lights were on. There were no patrons, the place wasn’t serving. The doorman stopped and whispered to the impressively large bartender who gave me the once-over.“Are ya closed down, should I come back another time?” I started taking in all the possible exits and ways to escape that I feared I would soon need. Whatever Miss Midnight was up to, the game was was more perilous than I had first imagined.“Yeah, had to close tonight. Bad case of rats. Let’s go see Petey, would hate for you to come out all this way for nothing.” Seeing little in the way of options I decided I had to see it through, and followed my burly escort up the steps. He knocked on the door at the top, it cracked open. “I’ve got a woman here, says she wants a cleaning job.”“What are ya thick? Why didja bring her in? Tell her to scram.” The new deep voice echoed down the stairwell.I looked behind me, thinking while they were gabbing is time to run. The bartender stood there, looking up at me. I smiled at him and waved like I was wishing him a good morning. I doubted my innocent act was sticking, I was trapped. “She says Pete sent her. Said she would like to talk with him.”There was a long silence. A hissing of whispers behind that door. I did my best to keep calm and stay composed. Inside my heart felt like it would beat out of my chest, every muscle knotted and tensed. Finally, the door opened.I about did a double take. The man who beaconed me looked exactly like the fellow who led me up the stairs, save for his skin was the same color as mine. “Come on in, Petey could use some company right now.” The office was well-lit, unlike the rest of the bar. The furniture was polished and very expensive. It reeked of opulence, golden statues and vases surrounded me. Bookshelves lined the wall behind the desk. He smiled and closed the door. Pointing a hand to the man sitting motionless in a chair facing the redwood desk he cheerfully said, “Go on, tell Petey hello. He hasn’t been talking to us. Maybe he would talk to his good friend.”I knew as I walked toward Mr. Conway that he was in a bad way. His stillness was only broken when he shook and wheezed. Blood dripped off the chair into sticky pools on the floor. As I approached him I nearly heaved up my breakfast. His face looked more like old hamburger patties than anything human.“Hmmm, seems we have a new lead.” A woman’s sultry, smoky voice filled my ears. “For her sake, I hope she’s more cooperative.” travesti istanbul I turned toward the corner where she was leaning. I had walked right past her, and how I ever missed this dame was beyond me.I had never seen a woman with such raw, powerful beauty in my life. She was older than me, maybe in her early forties. Her eyes fixated on me, those intense, emerald eyes. Most people look at you, stare at you. Her gaze held you at gunpoint; made you her prisoner.Even with the bloody horror near me, I could only fixate on her. She looked me up and down and I returned the favor. Her short, bright red hair was styled in finger waves. A light smattering of freckles ran over her cheeks and nose. Her forest green dress was made of expensive silks and wrapped her ample curves. Everything about her radiated sex and power.The bodyguard snatched my bag from my hands and started rifling through it. I made no effort to stop him, it wouldn’t have mattered if I did. He pulled out my folding knife from my army days. “She’s got a sticker.”The woman shrugged and smiled. “She’s a woman, ain’t she? Needs to defend herself. Give her back her bag.” He pocketed my knife, not trusting me as much as the woman in charge. Then he pushed my purse back into my chest.“Douglas, Mr. Conway won’t be needed anymore. Put him to bed.” With no hesitation, the now-named bodyguard walked to the bloody pile of what was once a man and snapped his neck. I could feel the brutal crack in my own bones. Douglas turned to me, no mercy in his expression, but a listless gaze of a stone-cold killer.“Dispose of it,” The woman said as she fixed those emerald eyes on me. “I’ll be fine alone with her.”So Douglas dragged the man out, chair and all. He eyed me up and down as he walked away. “Ya sure you don’t want someone in here?”She laughed and walked toward a long, leather couch. She had a noticeable limp. “I said we’ll be fine. I’ll call for you if I need anything.” She gingerly sat down, her composure broken briefly as she winced. As soon as she settled in she gestured for me to join her. “Come join me, darling. The desk is far too messy right now for a civilized conversation.“Lidia Gillis.” The name escaped my lips without even passing through my brain. She had been all over the papers. Whatever was going on with this case, I had bitten off far more than I could chew. My only hope was to try not to choke on it.It was the biggest story of the year. She was married to Ed Gillis, one of the higher-ups of the Southland Hills Gang. They were hosting a dinner for all the bosses two months ago. There was a hit, someone stormed the place and ended the party with a shower of hot lead. Lidia took a slug herself but survived. She was the only one who did. The city was on fire with infighting, and if the current rumors are to be believed she ran the latter part of what was left of the business.“So you keep up with your current events. You can call me Miss Lidia.” She pet the other end of the sofa with her hand. “I believe I told you to have a seat.”I placed myself exactly where she had indicated. She wasn’t in a hurry to ask me anything. She turned to the dark wooden cigar box on the end table and opened it. She analyzed them. She ran her slender fingers over the selection. One caught her eye and she plucked it out, passing it under her hose and inhaling. “I don’t like being disadvantaged. So who would you be?”I briefly thought of lying, giving her a false name. Those eyes though were sharp. I doubted I could fool her, and getting caught in a lie was perilous at best. I settled on the truth, anything she wanted to ask I would answer. My glance drifted to the sticky crimson pool where Conway had been. Maybe, just maybe I could walk out of this office alive. “Poppie, Poppie Freeman.”“What a simply adorable name.” Never taking her eyes off me she took a straight cutter from the box and sliced off the end. “Do you have a light?”I reached into my bag, fumbled past Tomb’s cigarettes, and pulled out the box of matches. I struck one and with a quivering hand pushed it straight to the end of the cigar. She pulled the cigar back and gave me a disapproving glare. Her lips parted and she blew out the match. “You’ll singe it, muddy the flavor. Again, hold out a match.”She let me have a moment to collect myself, I took in a breath. I struck a new match and held it out. She leaned in and turned the cigar above the flame. She let it begin to blacken around the edges. The match burned low, the nerves in my fingertips tingled, then screamed but I dare not move till she was done. She held me in her eyes, analyzing me as smoke began to rise. Finally, with a satisfied nod, Lidia leaned back. “Good girl.” I shook out the match and waited for the next question. “You need to take your time. Be mindful.”I watched as the clouds of imported tobacco danced out of her lips. Fidgeting nervously before her, all pretense of bravery melted. That damned stare stripped me, I melted in those deep-set eyes. “So Poppie, do I really need to ask why you are here?”I shook my head. “No… Miss Lidia. I work for a private detective. Some broad came in today, wrapped my boss’s head up fast with a bunch of lies. She dropped Conway’s name. I decided to investigate, to figure out her angle.”“Really, watching out for your boss?” She tilted an eyebrow at me. “That’s loyalty. Or is it something more than that?”“Hah!” I was surprised I could laugh. “Jacob Tomb is a louse at his best. I’m loyal to getting paid. If every floozy with a sob story gets him in deep I’ll be out on my ass.”Blowing a plume of smoke to the side, she leaned toward me and put her hand on my leg. “Smart kid. I was worried you didn’t have a good head on your shoulders after you so recklessly barged into my joint.” The hand patted me, then lingered. Inside I felt something jump in delight as she squeezed my leg. “What did you do before working for… Tomb was it”“I was a codebreaker during the war.” At this, she sat up straight. An intrigued wonder filled her eyes.“Really? Were you discharged after the war then?”I shook my head. “No, I…” Anger slipped into my voice as I told her. “I was sacked for arguing with my superior.”

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