Grey and Lifeless

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I close the door of the office after my client, and pushing on my lame leg, I walk back to my desk. Darkness reigns over my workplace. Were you to peek through the blinds, the only thing you would see would be a grey and lifeless sky, caging an equally grey and lifeless city. No lights, no shadows. A lifetime away, I fell in love with the wide panorama over the rooftops this place offered. Now I try not to look at the world outside.

I reach under the desk. The top drawer is my little treasure chest. That's where I used to hide my Magnum .38. But Maggy never leaves me now, so it's home to a bottle of whisky. I don't bother with glasses anymore. I uncap the bottle and put it to my lips, like a drunkard. You can't be a detective in this city without also being drunk. It's part of the job.

I look at the picture the man gave me. I'm good at what I do. When I set my mind on a task, I never fail. I know I could find that person. Just like that one time. Oh, let me explain the irony.

It was a day like this one, just add some rain to the mix. I had shut myself in my office for three days, and it smelled of cold tobacco and loneliness. I was wearing the same suit as the day before, and my chin couldn't remember what a razor blade looked like. My grey, lifeless eyes were sunk in their orbits, and the last thing I wanted to see was another of those tiring human beings.

The bell rang. For a time, I pondered if I should go open the door or not. A quick glance at the unpaid bills littering my desk pushed me out of my comfy chair.

Waiting for me on the other side of the door was a woman. She was a classic beauty: rocking the Marilyn Monroe look, complete with gloves and a bright, woolen coat. That was it. The peak of my career, the point where I get to be this noir film protagonist. All detectives are waiting for The Case, the one that will forever change their life. Just like that, my fool mood vanished. The terrible smell didn't, and I could see the second thoughts crossing her mind as she entered my lair. I sat her down on the armchair facing me and tried to play it cool.

"Let me know what I can do for you."

"I'm looking for a missing person," she said. She retrieved a picture from her coat and put it on the desk, facing me. "My husband."

At first, I hadn't noticed the ring under her glove. Now it was obvious. Subconsciously, my fingers reached for my own wedding ring. Old habits die hard.

"You married?" she asked, as a way to bring me back to the present.

"Legally, yes. But I haven't seen my wife and daughter for years. Tell me more about your husband. And about you."

Her name was Lillian. She had married Adam two years before, and even though the honeymoon was over, things were still going well between them. Until the day Adam had left for work and never came back. Lilian had called his boss, who told her Adam had left the office a little earlier than usual that day. After checking that he hadn't been caught in any known accident, the cops dismissed her plea. They told her that he either had an affair, or a bad hangover, or both, and he would be back eventually. He did not.

And so she had come to me.

"You were married for two years and things were going well... was there any talk of a child?"

"No," she said. "Why?"

"I had to chase my fair share of men with a parenting phobia. Any... close female friend?"

"You mean, any mistress? Not... that I know of. As I said, things were going well between us. He would never..."

I saw doubt creeping on her.

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