History is dominated by ‘ifs’. If Archduke Franz Ferdinand had taken a different route home one afternoon, World War One wouldn’t have happened. If Alexander Fleming wasn’t a bit blasé about doing the dishes, there would be no penicillin. And if my mother hadn’t put my best white shirt in with her red slacks, the kids at school wouldn’t have called me ‘Pinky’. Life ain’t nothing but a crap shoot.
It was by chance that a little twinky by the name of Candy Gable shimmied into my office this morning. Straight away, I knew this piece was bad news. I hadn't seen legs that long since I took that summer job as a giraffe podiatrist.
'Oh, I'm sorry,' she said. 'I thought this was the shoe cobbler's.'
'It is, toots,' I said. 'I'll cobble your shoes, cut your keys, and, what the hell, I'll find someone who don't want to be found, you understand?'
She looked confused. 'So, can you fix my stiletto or not?'
I adjusted my fedora. Let me tell you, hat-wearing is no picnic when you got a head as big as mine. 'Sure thing.'
She leaned over my desk and placed the shoe down. 'The name's Gable,' she said. 'Candy Gable.'
'You name your shoes?' I said.
'My name is Candy Gable.'
So this chick named shoes after herself. I made a mental note to name my favourite shoe after myself as soon as I got home. You've got to keep up with trends.
'I should have this done for you by tomorrow,' I said.
I'm lying through my teeth. I got no clue about cobbling shoes, I just forgot to take the sign down when I moved into the office. There was something about this chick, though.
'Look, I hate to be cheeky, but could you deliver this to my house?' She ran her hand through her blonde hair.
Now, I didn't roll outta my ma yesterday. I know when a chick is giving me the come-on. Just the other day, I could tell this broad was putting the make on me - the way she flicked her hair, the way she arched her back, the way she pepper-sprayed me - it's all subtle-like.
I took down her address and tried to stop my hand from shaking. I never get this way about a girl, but most girls ain't Candy Gable.
The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to fix her shoe. In the end, I just tied a bunch of biros to it. It wasn't pretty, but it did the job. Kinda like me.
I spent all day getting ready to deliver the shoe. I even took a bath. I never take baths. I normally use the tub for storing old copies of Private Dick Weekly. That never has me in it, either. Oh no, but Joey Saccamoni got in just for reuniting a guy with his ma. Word on the street is the old gal was so senile, she just forgot where he lived.
I knew I had to be smelling fresh for this chick, so I stopped off at the grocery store for some mints and some menthol smokes.
'And throw me in some of that cologne will ya?' I said to the square behind the counter.
'But sir, this is my ear medicine,' he stuttered.
'What the hell, kid? Did I ask for your life story? Just put it in the god damn bag so I can get on my way.'
Candy lived in a run-down part of town. A guy like me has to watch his back in a place like that. This one time, I went there to investigate a chicken theft. It was all going well to start with, but I was scrabbling across the rooftops in my skivvies before the night was out.
I kept a hand on my piece the rest of the way there. I should point out that piece means gun. I ain't a pervert. I knocked her door and dabbed some of that kid's ear medicine on my neck.
Now, I'm what you'd call a cool customer. This once a guy jumped off a skyscraper and landed right next to me and I didn't even break my stride. But this time it was different. She looked like a movie star. I mean, yeah, so did my ex-wife, but Groucho Marx ain't exactly every guy's dream.
'Ma-ma-ma,' I stuttered like Scatman John in a tumble dryer.
'You're the shoe guy, right?' she said.
'S-sure am, hon,' I said. 'Can I come in?'
She looked puzzled for a second, then nodded. The old charm working.
Inside, her place was interesting. Shaggy sheep, I think they call it. Or Shabby chic. Whatever. Do I look like Jim Llewellyn Bowen, for crying out loud?
'You want me to take my shoes off, doll?' I said.
I kicked them off and left them in the corner. 'You stay there, Ben,' I said.
'What did you say?' said Candy.
'Just named my favourite shoe,' I said. 'Like you.'
She looked confused and shrugged. 'So, did you bring, um, Candy?'
I pulled the stiletto out of the bag.
'Whaddaya think?' I handed it to her. 'The biros make it look kinda classy, right?'
She looked at it with what I thought was amazement and wonder.
'Naturally, no charge,' I said.
She kinda smiled and threw the shoe into a cupboard.
'Ain't ya gonna try it on?' I said.
'Um, not right now,' she said. 'Anyway, my date will be here any second, so . . .'
Date? What the hell? If I'd have known she was seeing some other schnook I wouldn't have made the effort.
Now, I'm a persistent man. I was kicked out of the Jehova's Witnesses for my so-called 'aggressive' tactics, but I know when I'm beat. So I put Ben and Ben 2 back on and headed for the door. When I opened it, I was stunned. And I'm not a man who's easily stunned, as the officer pursuing me with a Taser that time will attest. But the sight that greeted me at that chick's door turned my stomach like so much chicken jalfrezi.
'Fat Barry?' I said.
'What are you doing here?' he said.
'I could ask you the same question, short stack.'
'I'm here for my date with Candy,' he said. 'And why are you talking like that?'
'It's my Private Dick voice,' I said.
'Well, it sounds like you're having a stroke,' he said.
Candy came out behind me and gave Fat Barry a hug. 'It's great to see you, Barry,' she said.
Something ain't right here. Fat Barry shouldn't be scoring with broads as smoking as that. I have to find out what his secret is. I have to use all the knowledge I gained at the Bob O'Flaherty One Day Private Investigation Super Course.
Looks like things are about to get interesting.