Michelle's the name, Michelle Hammer, my friends call me Puss. I'm a private investigator. I get the goods on cheating spouses, thieving employees and track down deadbeats. It's not glamorous, but it pays the bills.
I was a cop for ten years and damn good one. Then one night we responded to a fight at a dance club in the warehouse district. By the time we got there, it was a real brawl. Most of the fighting stopped once we showed up inside, but two males was still goin' at it.
My partner Rico and I tried to separate 'em, then the guy I grabbed went for my gun. I got him in a judo hold and he went limp. He was dead by the time the Paramedics got there. Turns out, he was the City Council Chairpersons nephew, so in no time the Police Department fired Rico and I. Excessive force they said. The Medical Examiner said an overdose, not that it mattered.
Rico found a job out west. Me, I got a P.I. license.
The nickname? Some three years back I was workin' undercover to get evidence on a cheatin' husband so his wife could slap him with divorce papers. I went in costume to a Halloween party at an exclusive club where he hung out and sure enough, he was there with another woman.
I was gettin' some good pictures of the lovebirds when some punk decided to swipe the night's receipts. I nailed him and the next thing you know I'm on live TV in my black cat outfit and stiletto boots. The crowd at McGinty's Tavern started callin' me Puss in Boots, and then just Puss.
My latest client is none other than Harland Christopher IV, yeah, those 'More money than God' Christopher's. The electronics conglomerate with a gadget a week that everyone has to have.
He arrived at the office a week ago, mad enough to bite the head off a rattlesnake. He was convinced someone altered his fathers will after the old man died. He said to call him 'Ace' and I said "Call me Puss."
The senior Christopher had cashed in his chips while on his honeymoon in Antigua with his 26-year-old wife. Number six in his 75 odd years. A heart attack was the official cause. Unofficially, he fucked himself to death. Whatta way to go.
Anyway, at the reading of the will, Rosalie, wife number six, got a bundle as spelled out in the pre-nup. Harland II got the company, Harland III a big bundle, and my client got a few mill and a jade cat. Considerin' Daddy was worth close to 900 million bucks, my client got chump change.
He was Daddy's favorite to hear him tell it, so after the reading of the will he figured someone had loaded the dice. He didn't know squat about hirin' a P.I. and asked his chauffeur' so enter yours truly.
I told him this wasn't my usual cuppa herbal tea, but he plunked a roll of bills on the desk that would gag a python and said pretty please. I'm a sucker for blond haired, blue eyed hunks in custom made suits, so I said okay.
The answering machine's light was blinking when I walked in my office after havin' lunch downstairs at McGinty's, one message from Ace plus three from Rosalie. I felt sorry for her, but she was getting on my nerves.
I met her at the Christopher mansion, an ivy covered brick pile in a part of town where houses are a mile apart behind iron gates and high walls. Ace arranged for me to talk to the mansion's staff and see if they knew anything.
They buzzed me in at the gate and a half-mile later, I arrived. A butler met me at the door and had the staff assembled in the front hall. After talking to them individually, I determined they had no useful information.
I figured I'd better talk to Harland senior's widow, so the butler escorted me to the parlor and said he'd tell her I was here. I was checking out the wood and leather décor when Rosalie came breezing in. She musta been playin' tennis because she was in whites and all sweaty.
She started talkin' a blue streak about how much she missed her 'cuddle bear' and why were the brothers fighting and wasn't it a shame that Ace was left with so little money ... blah, blah, blah. When I determined she didn't know squat, I waited until she stopped for breath and split; another dead end.
Back in the office the machine was blinking again. Ace said he'd found several discrepancies in the company's financial records and could I call him. Rosalie asked if we could meet for lunch she had a lot to tell me, yeah right, I bet, later for you, sis.
I had some contacts at the Hall of Records check out the Christopher will documents. As far as the court was concerned, they were all legal and proper. I asked if they'd fax me scans of the signature pages.
One thing I did learn from the mansion staff; Ace was the old man's favorite. He had a different mother than the other two, so he wasn't close with his brothers. Harland Senior and Joan, Ace's mother, doted on him, so he led a charmed and carefree life through his twenties.
When his father brought him into the business, he locked horns with his older brothers immediately. Daddy ran interference for him, so he became a vice-president. Now that the old man was out of the picture, a nasty fight for control was brewing on the top floor of the Universal Electronics Building.
My fax beeped and the documents came rolling out. I selected the signature pages, some examples of the old man's and the three brother's handwriting and went to see the Mole.
His real name is Jeremy Todd, but with his thick lenses, prominent nose and receding chin ... well, you get the picture. Mole was one of the best forgers goin' until he tangled with some mob heavyweights over phony gold certificates. I owed him a favor so he asked me to help him do a fast fade.
I made sure I wasn't bein' tailed and soon he was peering at the signatures, whistling through his teeth as he concentrated. I looked around at the basement where he lived thinking it was about as cozy as a sewer pipe when he said, "These are fakes."
He went into a lengthy explanation about graphology that I half-listened to; his thumbs down on the will's signatures were enough for me. I left him some cash, hopped in the Z and called Ace. A plan was forming in my mind and I wanted to run it by him. He approved and we were on our way.
When I sauntered into Harland II's office I was dressed in a tight miniskirt, low-cut blouse showing plenty of cleavage and high heels. He practically ran around his desk to greet me, holding my hand longer than necessary to shake it and looking me over appreciatively. He grabbed a chair and asked me to have a seat.
"Call me 'Hugh'," he said in his smooth baritone. "All my friends do." I smiled alluringly and said "Call me Puss, all my friends do", he liked that.
Yeah, I know. I use my sex appeal when I need to. I'm a woman, dammit and let's face it, most of the time it works.
I proceeded to tell him that Ace had hired me to check out whether the will was phony or not, but I thought he didn't pay me enough for my trouble and wondered if Hugh could make me a better offer. He agreed immediately and doubled what Ace paid me. I was to report to him what I had found out about the will's possible forgery and any moves his baby brother was making regarding the company.
As I left his office he invited me to his club for a drink or three, but I begged off sayin' I had an appointment. Ridin' the elevator down my heartbeat slowed to normal. I was tenser than I realized. I had figured my appearance would distract Hugh to the point where he didn't question my treachery to his brother and I was right.
When I parked behind McGinty's, I noticed my office light was on. It was off when I left.
I pulled my Glock from under the seat, walked carefully up the back stairs and down the hall. Light shone from under the door, someone was in there.
I threw the door open and went into a shooting stance screaming, "Freeze dirtbag!"
Rosalie screamed and spun around in my desk chair, eyes big as saucers.
"I almost shot you! What the hell are you doing here? How did you get in?"
"That nice man in the bar downstairs let me in," she said, lip trembling and eyes filled with tears. "I didn't mean any harm. I ... I wanted to see you. You never answered my calls. I'm sorry."