By Mo Conlan
(When I feel stuck on long and large writing projects, I like to write short stories. Frequently they are about a character named Ace Spade, Private Eye. In this one I wanted to write a complete story in under 325 words. It may turn into a collection.)
Rain pelted down in great gray sheets. Layla spotted the taxi, jumped the line, and hurled an over-stuffed black wheelie and herself into the back seat.
“Dis cab taken, lady,” the cabbie announced.
“That’s all right,” said the other occupant, who wore a Fedora of the kind Layla's grandfather had on in old family photos. “I wouldn’t turn a dog out on a night like tonight, let alone a beautiful lady with a heavy suitcase.” He tipped his hat and smiled.
Layla righted herself, sitting closer to him than she might otherwise, as her behemoth of a black bag took up a third of the backseat. She smiled back. Her feet hurt, her clothes were damp and his were the first kind words she had heard all day.
“Where are you going,” he inquired.
“Home, with a lot of work. I’m a lawyer,” Layla glanced at the black bag and sighed. “Work, eat carryout, sleep, then work again.” She smiled brightly, falsely. “Eventually you get to make a ton of money.”
“Do you like it, the work?” he asked.
“No,” she responded, too tired to lie.
“Why do it?”
“Pay the rent…I dunno. What do you do?”
He handed her a business card in old-fashioned script that read: Ace Space ~ Private Eye.
"Wow. Is it fun?” Layla asked.
“Mostly it is. Why don’t you come work for me?”
“Uh. Just like that?” Layla asked, suspicious, having heard about serial killers.
“I read people. Part of the job,” he said. “I could use a Gal Friday who goes to court.”
Layla decided Ace Spade probably was not a serial killer. He seemed more like a throwback to a time she only knew through watching old movies.
“Uh, I don’t know, maybe,” Layla told him.
“We can talk about it over dinner,” he said.
“Cabbie, to the Savoy.”