My name is Jackson Early.
I’m a private investigator.
I used to be a police officer in New York. A little while ago, I was in an accident that took half of my right hand and my right eye. I’ve been “upgraded” with robotic implants that we call “clockwork.” I didn’t want it. I’d rather have been blind, but the police lawyer hired to do the paperwork signed off on the procedure.
I quit the force shortly after and my now partner, Blaze Tuesday, was the only person there to pick me up and offer me a job so that I wasn’t living on a veteran’s salary, drinking myself into oblivion in the depression that would have followed the operation.
Getting robotic implants isn’t the most pleasant experience int he world, but that’s a story for another day.
I’m a partially robotic private investigator. I have mismatched eyes and dark hair. I’m slim, clean cut. I’m almost always wearing a three-piece suit. Today it happened to be a dark chocolatey brown that brought out the brass in my implanted eye.
It was late.
I had ingested way too much caffeine.
Blaze wasn’t back from his errand.
I ran my robotic hand through my hair and growled under my breath.
Something had gone wrong.
I stared at the phone on my desk. My office was clean and well organized. I had a fish tank near the door that bubbled merrily day in and day out, and a potted plant by the window that cast dappled shadows across my desk and gave the room a green hue when the light hit it just right. The personal touches took the edge off of the sickening baby blue paisley that graced the walls of the entire office.
I didn’t complain about it though, Blaze had been kind enough to let me work with him and never complained when I didn’t do exactly as he instructed. I can forgive him his terrible taste in wallpaper. Part of me imagined that it was meant to make everyone else feel mildly uncomfortable, like we were all sitting in a funeral parlour. People got sloppy when they were uneasy.
I knew that there was a big bust about to go down. Blaze had been working on this case for weeks. He didn’t tell me allt he details, he didn’t want me to get involved. I think he was worried that I wasn’t up to snuff, or that this one was too personal. OR maybe he just wanted to be a glory hog and solve the case himself.
Whatever. I would still get a cut of his pay day when all was said and done. Even if I didn’t help out on the case, Blaze made sure that I would get paid a cut. It helped when business was slow.
But tonight was troublesome. This was supposed to have been a routine arrest. Blaze should have been back by now, flashing his pay around and offering to buy drinks for me and the secretary, Trixie.
Blaze hadn’t arrived yet.
I stared at the phone, debating on whether or not I should call the club that Blaze frequented, when it rang.
I nearly dropped the handset in my rush to answer it.
“Detective Early,” I managed.
“Yeah, Jackson?” the voice on the other end of the phone asked.
“Speaking,” I agreed. “May I ask who this is?”
“My name is not important,” the voice drawled. I noted that he had a distinct Italian accent. “Believe me that I am a mutual friend of yours, and of Detective Tuesday’s.”
I waited for a moment, not willing to offer up any more information. If this mysterious caller had something to tell me he would tell me no matter what and I wasn’t willing to play a fishing game while Blaze was still missing.
The man on the other end of the phone cleared his throat as if he were waiting for me to say something.
“I’m sorry,” I said slowly, “I’m not in the mood to play games with strange voices on my phone. I have to find Detective Tuesday.”
“Wait!” the voice said, stopping me from hanging up the receiver. “All right, fine, listen, Blaze has been taken by the men he was trying to bring to justice tonight. He has been injured.”
“Injured how?” I demanded.
“There was an explosion on the docks. The injuries he sustained were nothing serious.”
I shuddered. Explosions on docks didn’t sit well with me; they brought back painful memories. “Can you tell me where he’s being held?”
“No. I don’t know yet,” the voice admitted. “I will be in touch, however, as soon as I do know something.”
“That doesn’t help me,” I complained.
“I know, and I’m sorry. Just know that Detective Tuesday is alive and mostly well. I will call you again as soon as I know more for you.”
There was a click and the line was dead.
I stood from my place and walked back into the main office. I leaned against the door and stared at Trixie. She was reading a novel and chewing on a pencil. Her long, overly red hair had been taken down from the bun she typically wore it in and it hung down her back in gentle waves caused by the twists and bobby pins that kept her hair in place. She was wearing a simple floral print dress and her green eyes betrayed just how tired she was behind her cat’s eye glasses.
She looked up at me and offered a sheepish smile.
“Sorry, Detective,” Trixie said. “I didn’t think you’d mind, since it’s after hours and all.”
I waved my hand. “No, it’s all right,” I assured her. “I was just here to let you know that Blaze isn’t coming back tonight. Things have gotten, shall we say, complicated?”
Trixie nodded and sighed. She was more used to this than I was. “Shall I make another pot of coffee for you, Jacks?”
I smiled. “Yeah, I think I might need it.”