From the files of Dick Streetsmart, Private Eye.
There was something fishy from the start. The dame--and there's always a dame, see?--had asked me to meet her down by the pier. She sounded upset on the phone, which could have been an act, but she'd promised to double my usual fee, and that made me an attentive audience.
The pier was empty, and just as I was cursing myself for being a chump, I heard her.
"Mr. Streetsmart?" The voice I had heard on the phone called out to me. I looked around but...nothing. And…maybe I'd skipped lunch again, but I could swear I smelled something like…cucumbers. Cucumbers and summer days at the beach...
"Down here, Mr. Streetsmart." I snapped out of my nostalgia and reminded myself that chumps who didn't pay attention by the river ended up in a snug pair of concrete shoes at the bottom of it.
I looked down. That's when I saw her. The mermaid.
Now, here's the part in the story where you say you don't believe me, take away my gin, and call me a cab--but if you've been in this city as long as I have, you've seen more improbable things than a lady with a tail, am I right? Well, turns out this lady had a tail and a tale, if you know what I mean. She explained that she'd been living there, in the river, almost all her life, but now she was afraid she'd have to leave. She wanted my help. She looked innocent enough, and as close as I was, her scent was making me a little delirious. Sweet nectar and fresh grasses seemed to waft from her golden tresses down to her silvery blue fin. It was like summer at the Shore, only it was alive and shining at my feet. She was quite a dish and she smelled like sugar on the sea.
"What could you want from me, doll?" I asked. "Somebody get dumped in the Hudson? Illegal fishing?" How do I know what gets a mermaid up in arms? So to speak.
She shook her head. "It's the tabloids. I think a tourist snapped a picture of me and sold it to one of those horrible magazines! I don't want people to come looking for me, to hunt me!" She shuddered, her pale hair throwing out droplets and wafting the blue-green tang of fresher waters than this river had seen in a lifetime. "Or worse, they'll start asking questions, just awful questions!"
"About what? What've you got to be afraid of, sweetheart?"
"They'll ask...where I came from."
"What? Are you from Jersey or something? Aw, doll, that ain't nothin' to be ashamed of!"
"No," she bit her lip. "No, it's just that, well...my parents were...well, they were..." she took a deep breath. "They were FISH!"
I was confused, for sure. But maybe that was her musk and the rising moon—it'd obfuscate any man's senses. "Fish? Now look, two fish can't--"
"They were two sturgeon who fell madly in love under a full moon. It must have been some kind of magic or spell or something that made me!"
"More like the chemicals in the East River," I muttered. I had my doubts about her story. Sturgeon? In love?? If she didn't have a flipper in place of getaway pins I'd say she was on the giggle juice. But she looked so down in the gills I just couldn't say it. I made a decision--maybe I'd regret it, but once I made it I knew I'd stick to it. "I'll help you," I told her.
She grinned wide, her smile glowing whiter than the moonlight reflecting on the water. "Oh, I just knew you would!" We shook on it and sealed the deal.
As she swam off, leaving me in the olfactory daze of her lingering musk (and cucumbers), I realized I'd forgotten to ask the most important question of all.
How on earth had she called me?
Edited by galleywest, 02 August 2008 - 02:20 AM.