Excerpt from Andrea Speed’s *The Little Death*

I slumped back in my seat and pulled the flask out of the drawer. I had to fulfill the cliché, so it was a silver flask filled with cheap rotgut, which I swigged with abandon even while wincing at the taste.

So yeah, I’m the cliché, a private dick with a cheap office and a dead partner and more debt than I could possibly pay off in a month of Sundays. Not that you could tell from my door. Used to be there was a name painted on the window, but that wasn’t true anymore. The hail of bullets that killed Spencer, my partner in snooping, destroyed the original door, so this was the replacement. I was supposed to hire painters to replace the name, but what was I going to replace it with? Was I really gonna go from Spencer & Falconer, Private Detectives to Falconer, Private Detective? I had no choice, I’d hafta, or I’d hafta find a new partner. Yeah, right.

Maybe I’d just hafta retire, find a real job, one that didn’t cut your life span in half and leave you with more trouble than a nun with a grudge in hell’s half acre. The problem was I couldn’t do much else, and frankly I didn’t want to. As much
as I hated it sometimes, I was born to be a private dick. I couldn’t change that any more than a zebra could change its stripes.

Sloane had left me his brother’s e-mail and the header of the threatening mail, so I got out my laptop and had a look for myself. Phone calls might taper off, but spam was eternal, sure to continue on long after the world had imploded and was a scarred, barren shell.

The e-mail was a dead end. There was no name, and the e-mail address was one of those that hid your IP address and was just a random series of letters and numbers that ended with a domain name that seemed to indicate the e-mail was sent from somewhere in Eastern Europe, from one of those former Soviet countries that ended in -ia. There was no way I could track that, and while I was sure I could eventually find someone to ask about tracing the e-mail, I’d be an old man with a prostate the size of a grapefruit by the time they got back to me. That wasn’t worth pursuing.

I looked through Sander’s e-mail, though, but that was the funny thing. There was nothing in any of the files save the inbox and the junk mail folder. Even the trash had been emptied. Not that that meant anything—some people just never bothered to save e-mails—but it made me wonder if Sloane had gone through it, sweeping away anything that his brother might have gotten into that was the least bit hinkey. It was something to chew on.

I drained my flask and then realized there was only one thing left to do. Well, two things: the first was refill my flask. The second was go to Heat, see if I could retrace Sander’s steps the night he disappeared. I downloaded a hot picture of Sander from his Facebook page, although it could have been Sloane instead, since they were both hot in the same way.

I didn’t do the gay club scene, or any club scene, mainly because I wasn’t the type. Even if it wasn’t a cliché, I don’t care for people much. It seems like all they do is betray you, either in the form of a venereal disease or in the form of a
sexy guy who lets you take him home and then comes back later and fills your business partner full of lead. Even a misanthrope like me can think with his dick, but I paid for it. Or should I say Spencer paid for it—I lived to fuck again. Except I haven’t gotten laid since then. If you’re thinking it’s guilt, you’re giving me too much credit. It’s having to find a way to pay all the bills that’s been keeping me from seeing anything besides my own surly mug in the morning.

As it was, the city’s club scene, gay and straight, was dying. Everything in this city was dying, some of it slower than others, but in the end it was all bones and ashes. The gay clubs were doing slightly better, but only because some of the guys needed the scene—they hadn’t quite mastered Manhunt or Craigslist or didn’t want to—or were younger guys tired of Internet trolls. But I had the vague conception that they were sad places if you were over twenty-five, and at thirty-four I was entering “circling the drain” territory.

Maybe I should have changed clothes, looked less like me, but I wasn’t fishing for a trick, I had a job to do. So I stayed in my slightly baggy black suit and blue shirt, with my black duster on top of it all, and my tie so thin and black it looked like someone had erased a vertical line into my chest. I liked dressing black and blue, ’cause most of the time I was matching my bruises.

Heat was just what I expected: noisy, hot, filled with wannabes and never-weres, posers who thought all they needed were designer jeans and too-tight shirts to make up for their fatal lack of personality. I should have asked if it worked, ’cause I could use all the help I could get.

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