Tuesday, September 07, 2010
That's How I Got To Memphis; FFF #41
He walked in and slid the photograph across my desk. "Mr. Dagget, I want you to find this girl" he said. I looked him over. His rumpled overcoat covered a suit that was long out of fashion and looked like it had been slept in. His bloodshot eyes stood out in sharp relief against his deathly pale face. He seemed to weave slightly like a man pushed to his very limit and his legs didn't seem to have the strength to hold him up much longer.
"Sit down Mr.-" I motioned him to a chair and he slumped into it with a heavy sigh.
"Hall. My name is Hall. I'm looking for this girl and I need some help finding her."
I looked down at the snapshot of a young woman, early twenties at a guess, clad in a denim jacket, flannel shirt, and worn out blue jeans. She was leaning against a tree and cradling a guitar. The sun in the background shone through her brilliantly red hair and gave her face something of an angelic look. "What's her name?" I asked.
"Ruby. Ruby Conners. She is a musician. Plays country music. I've been hitting every bar, tavern, and night club in Memphis looking for her, but in a town this size, I just can't hit 'em all. That's why I need your help." His stomach chose that moment to make itself known and it complained loudly that it was empty and under used. I flipped the switch on the intercom and asked Shirley to get a burger, fries, and a coke for Mr. Hall.
"That's awfully kind Mr. Dagget but I-" he stammered.
"How do you know this Ruby Conners, Mr. Hall?" It's right here with any client that you find out what you're in for. It doesn't matter what they say, because half the time it's complete bullshit anyway, but their eyes will clue you in to what's really going on, if you know how to read them. After fifteen years in the detective business, you learn to read a lot of eyes. His eyes filled with longing and desperation.
"I'm a disc jockey for a radio station, WRON, out of Ronceverte, West Virginia. I'm also a songwriter. I've written several for Ruby. She has a voice a sweet as angels and she is going to be a big star as soon as she lands a record deal." His eyes hinted at a smile.
"What makes you think that she is in Memphis?"
He laugh a little, "She used to get mad and say that she'd come back to Memphis someday. I tracked her to Cleveland where she stayed with her cousin briefly. He's a librarian there and he suggested that I might find her here. I figured that she would be looking for a place to play, so I've been haunting the night clubs."
Shirley came in with a greasy sack of burgers and I noticed that the sudden smell of food made him jump a little. His hand trembled as he reached for the meal. He opened the bag and unwrapped the burger. He ate mechanically, as if it was just something he had to do and taste was of no concern to him at all.
"Do you think that Ruby is in some kind of trouble Mr. Hall?"
"I don't know," his face washed over with worry, "I just have to find her, help her. You see Mr. Dagget," his eyes misted with tears, " I...I love her...and I'll do whatever I can to find her."
"My fee is two hundred dollars a day, plus expenses." This was always the clincher. This is where you find out who is serious and who is just trying to pull a fast one.
"I have a hundred and twenty-three fifty. Would that be enough to start?" He pulled out a small wad of crumpled bills and set it on the desk. It was every damn dime he had. "I just took a job as a dishwasher here in town at the Double Deuce on Beale street. I get paid on Friday and I've got another hundred and fifty coming. I could call my dad and see if he if he could loan me some, but it would take a day or two to get here." His voice cracked as he spoke. He was the genuine article alright. He was prepared to give up everything he had to find this girl, even to the point of starving himself for three more days to come up with the money.
"Alright Mr. Hall, I'll find Ruby for you. I'll take sixty now and call you tomorrow. Where can I reach you?"
"I'm at the Holiday Inn on Central. Room 204." He lit up like a kid on Christmas morning. He mumbled his thanks and shook my hand. He was so elated that he almost forgot to pick up the last of his money. He shuffled out of my office cradling what was left of his lunch and closed the door softly.
Shirley opened the door and smiled at me. "What are you grinning at?" I barked.
"Go ahead and play the tough guy Jay. I know that deep down, you are a dyed in the wool romantic at heart and you can't deny it. You old softy!" she giggled.
"Oh yeah? And how would you know?" I scowled.
"You left the intercom on silly!" her skirt made a lovely swishing sound as she turned on her heel and went to answer the ringing telephone.
***Author's Note*** I was slim on ideas for this week's sentence but I was listening to some of my old vinyl last night and Tom T's "That's How I Got To Memphis" suggested this tale. Enjoy the music that inspired this story, and I hope you don't have to travel all the way to Memphis to find your true love.