Disclaimer: Paramount owns the good stuff. Keatís owns the poem. I own the story. Allís fair, if you ask me.
"The Drinking Game"
ĎWine comes in at the mouth, And loves comes in at the eye, Thatís all we shall know for truth. Before we grow old and die, I lift the glass to my mouth, I look at you, and I sigh.í --Keats.
I sit in my office and put my feet up on the desk. Not very professional looking, I know, but what the hey. Itís my office, my desk, my damn agency. I started this on a whim. I thought I could do some good in this horrid world. Yeah, and Iím Sherlock Holmes.
No new cases, no unsolved crimes. I thought about calling it a day, but I was interviewing for a new assistant, since my other one decided that New York wasnít the place for him to live. I told him that he had no sense of adventure. He laughed, slapped me on the back and told me to take care of myself and lay off the coffee.
The frosted glass door, with my name stenciled on it, revealed a shadow. My hand went instinctively to my gun holster, fingering the handle, tapping the end. Jesus, man. Get a grip. Hesitation marks the movement behind the shadow, then a knock. I put my legs down with a grunt.
"Yeah, come in." I say loud enough to be heard.
Well, she was the last thing I expected to come walking through my door. Not real tall, but legs that wouldnít quit. Figure curved in all the right places. A face that looked to be chiseled out of fine bisque ivory and this reddish brown hair. I couldnít really tell the hair color since the light in my office (your standard hydrogen light bulb, hanging from the ceiling), wasnít giving off the best light. She stood quietly at the other side of my desk. I guess I must have been staring, since she shifted on her high healed shoes and crossed her arms beneath her breasts.
"Well, if youíre done scrutinizing me. . ." She said. Husky voice. Good. I canít stand high pitched female voices. Makes me think of simpering little vamps and prostitutes. This lady standing here in front of me, is one classy looking dame.
"Iím sorry, Miss. . ." We hadnít been properly introduced, so I was at a somewhat disadvantage.
"Calloway. Kathryn Calloway. You advertised for an assistant?" She made the last sound like a question. Kathryn Calloway. Nice name. Fits her.
"Sure did." I indicated for her to take the seat across from me. "So, tell me Miss. Calloway. Why would you want a job working as an assistant for some PI?" I couldnít imagine this dame packing heat, so, I was trying to get this over as quickly as possible.
"I like a good mystery." She said. Calloway pulled out a cigarette case and produced a cigarette. "Mind if I smoke?" She said. I shook my head no. She lit the thing, took a drag and Iíll be damned if she didnít make it look elegant.
"Do you have any experience, Miss. Calloway? This isnít going to be some sort of sit down and take notes type of job." She gave me this crooked grin, one that could melt the hardest of hearts.
"Look, my dad was a police commissioner in Chicago. Iím a dead eye shot." She leaned across the desk and looked me right in the eye. "As a plus, I donít scare easily, Mr. . ."
I never told anyone my first name. Call it a quirk, but I like the idea of being known as one name. Sounds mysterious. "Chakotay. Plain, simple."
"Fair enough. Look, in this time and age, no body thinks as a woman as a personal investigator. You might say, it throws the suspect off track." She sat back and I could see her cross one leg over the other. Yep, very nice legs.
"Donít mind getting dirty?" I asked her.
"The dirtier the better. I grew up around this kind of life. Why should I run from it now?" I took a look into the cup I had coffee in and realized that it was empty. I got up and went to pour myself another cup.
"Coffee?" I asked. Most dames I knew couldnít stand the stuff. Then again, it looked like Miss Kathryn Calloway broke the mold.
"Black. Thank you." Yes sir, this was one tough dame. Feminine, yet hard as nails. Even took her coffee like a man. However, Iím not like just any man. I like to sweeten mine up. I reach for an extra cup I keep around for clients and pour her a cup. Black, just like she asked.
Handing it to her, I turn back and pour myself a cup. I hear her take a sip and sigh. "Good. You know your coffee." She says, taking another drink and watching me move to back around my desk. I see her looking over her cup, as if sizing me up. Pretty eyes. A sort of grayish blue mix. Very becoming. They look like the type of eyes that can change colors with her moods. I wonder if I would know her long enough to find out.
"Coffee and I are longtime partners, Miss. Calloway." I say, sitting back down in chair.
"Call me Kathryn, please. I feel like a damn student again when I hear ĎMiss. Callowayí." She took another sip.
"Educated, huh?" I say. Time for the crux. Take her or leave her. "Then why work for a PI for money that ainít so great?" Why the hell work for something that didnít make you rich. Kathryn looked like a dame that came from a good background with a wealth of good breading. Why stoop to this profession?
"Iím not concerned about the money. I enjoy doing detective work. Why not do something you enjoy?" She was right. I had been a strategic officer in double-you-double-you-one, but a nice piece of shrapnel in my arm had killed that opportunity pretty well. This is what happens after an honorable discharge.
"It just doesnít seem like a befitting profession for a lady." I admitted. Dumb answer and it was probably going to get me in hot water because everyday, I saw the women out there. White signs declaring equal rights.
"So, I should be a nurse or a school teacher. I should marry and have babies. Is that what youíre saying?" She said. Kathryn cocked her head to the side and really scrutinized me.
"Look, sweetheart. I didnít mean anything by that. I suppose you could say that Iím from that school of thought." I shrugged and took another drink of coffee. I could see that Kathryn was in a league of her own.
"Just take a peak out your window. Why, I bet someday, women will be flying those fancy flying machines and doing a manís work." She straightened slightly. "Just because we seem smaller and weaker, doesnít mean that we are."
"All right. Youíve made your point." I raised my hands in mock surrender. I know when Iíve been brow beaten.
"So, when do I start?" She asked. Yes, I could get used to her. At least someone who interests besides the opposite sex. Tom had had a real problem with that. Especially getting involved with our female clients. I figured a social disease would do him a world of justice. Maybe thatís why he really left.
"Can you start tomorrow morning, say around 9:30-ish?" I wasnít much of a late sleeper and I thought the time was good.
"Fine." She said rising. I stood as well, being a man of some breeding. I remember my manners at least. She reaches out across the desk to shake my hand. I grasp hers. Strong grip. Kathrynís got confidence. Smooth hand. Small, with long fingers and well cared for nails.
"Iíll give a door key tomorrow." I said, releasing her hand. Without those heals, sheís probably a good three inches shorter. But she doesnít seem to be uncomfortable with them.
"Good. Iíll see you in the morning." She said and turned to leave. Yes, a very fine example of a lady. She exits and I sit back down at my desk and put my feet back up on it. I lean back in my chair and close my eyes. Here, I had had no intention of hiring a woman and see what I do. I hire myself one.
Guess tomorrow weíd see if my decision had been the right one.
She was outside the door at nine am the next morning. A damn half hour before I told her to be here. Actually, once I give her the key, it might not be such a bad idea. Hope sheís half as good at making coffee as she is at drinking it. She gives me a confident smile. I give her a look and realize sheís wearing slacks. Definite difference from other women. But she looks good in them. Black, belted at the waist with a becoming pale yellow v-neck blouse.
"Sorry for being here early. I didnít see the point of sitting and waiting around home for another half hour." Yes, a good change from Tom.
"Hey, donít apologize. I like punctuality." I say, unlocking the door. She comes in and puts her jacket and handbag on the chair she occupied yesterday afternoon.
"Great. I then hope you donít mind if I straighten up a bit." She said, putting her hands on her hips and surveying the room.
I took little offense at that, since as a rule, Iím a pretty tidy person. I like being able to find my files when I need them. "Not a bit. Tom left it in a bit of disarray when he left."
"Tom?" She questioned, picking up the coffee cups and moving them over to the sink. She dumped the remnants of yesterdays offering and washed them.
"Old partner. Took up with one of our female clients."
"Oh." She said, looking over her shoulder at me. I looked up from the paper I had been reading. I caught her eye and smiled.
"Tom, shall we say, had an eye for the ladies." I said.
"Does that come with territory?" Kathryn asked. I could tell she didnít approve.
"Not mine. I make it a point to *never* get involved with a client." I told her. Never had, never will.
Kathryn smiled and went back to washing the cups. We spent the rest of the morning in relative silence. Me going over the newspapers and her cleaning up a bit. She was amazed when she discovered under a pile of old clippings and such, another desk. She staked her claim.
I ordered out for lunch. Chicken salad on wheat for me, turkey with swiss on wheat for her. Two cups of coffee. For some reason, my eyes kept straying to her. Gorgeous. Striking. My eyes, which were so prone to detail, noted everything. The way she rolled her eyes at some silly notion. The way she rubbed her forehead in deep concentration. The different ways she stood. Hands on hips, arms across her chest. One hand on her hip with a cock in her leg. The way the freckles spotted her nose and scattered on the area of her chest not covered by her blouse. Her hair was short, but not as short as the flappers that frequented the clubs. Curled under at the ends. A small golden clip holding it at the side.
Nothing happened that day, so we left early. On the way out, I gave her a key for the door and another for the one downstairs that lets us in. After all, my office is on the third floor. I asked her if she wanted to join me for a cup of coffee and a danish at the cafť down the road. She declined, telling me she had to get home and let her dog out, since her sister had to be out all day and the dog, she said, laughing, was probably crossing itís legs. I watched her walk into the distance, figuring sheíd get into one of the cars pulled along the side of the road.
I didnít much like the idea of her walking home on the dark streets of New York on her own. Pretty lady in a bad town. I jumped in my car and turned toward where she was headed. As I neared her, I slowed and rolled down my window.
"How far are you going?" I yelled out the window, watching the road and other vehicles, which werenít a lot for this time of day."
"Sixteen blocks, give or take a few." She said. Kathryn hadnít stopped walking.
"Not in this city, youíre not. Especially not alone and at dark." I said.
"Iím a big girl." She said, looking my way and pulling her coat tighter around her.
"Well, Iím not willing to hire another assistant so soon. Hop in." I said. She stopped and looked at me, as if weighing her decision. She looked both ways and crossed the street, coming around the front of my car. I reached over and unlocked the door. Kathryn opened it and sat down.
"Wise decision." I said, rolling up my window. She opened the top button of her coat and put her head back, as if suddenly tired. Got a nice look at that neck of hers. Why hadnít some fella picked out this jewel?
"I figured arguing with you would be a futile effort." She said with a sigh. "Turn right at the next corner." She said, closing her eyes.
"You canít be that tired. We didnít do anything today." I said, flashing her a grin.
"Headache." She answered plainly.
"Get them a lot?" I asked. Before the war, I got them a lot myself, too.
"Only when Iím tense." She said. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her close her eyes and smile that crooked grin of hers.
"Try a shoulder rub. They work wonders for tense muscles, which help to relieve headaches." I said. Didnít want to push the point, but hell, I was known for my backrubs in my family.
Kathryn let out a chuckle. "I may take you up on that someday." I couldnít tell if she were serious, or joking. "Turn left in two blocks. Anyway, a nice soak in my bathtub will cure my aches and pains." She said.
We rode the rest of the way in companionable silence. Well, except when she told me which way to turn. Sixteen blocks? Hell no. Try more like thirty-six. I stopped in front of an apartment building that looked just about as cozy as the one I lived in. She gathered her handbag from the front seat and buttoned the top button of her coat. My apartment building was just a block from hers and before she got out of my car, I made her a proposal.
"Tell you what, Kathryn. Since it is a lot more then sixteen blocks from here to the office, Iíll make you a deal. You let me drive you at least home from work. New York, dark and a beautiful woman, just donít work well together." She pursed her lips, then chewed on the bottom one a moment.
"All right. As long as Iím not making you go out of your way."
"Familiar with Brimstone Flat?"
"Just up the way." Realization dawned on her face. "Thatís where you live?"
I flashed her another grin. "Small world."
"Guess so." She opened the door and got out. I watched to make sure she entered safely and drove on down to my apartment. Very small world.
Around noon the next day, we got a client. Tall blonde with icy eyes. Thin, spinster-ish nose and a haughty manner. Kathryn eyed her with slight contempt. Iím sure my comment about not becoming involved with clients zipping through her mind. This lady was not my type. Shocked the hell out of me when she said she was married. Back ramrod straight, I took her to be a school teacher.
"I am looking for my husband." She declared. She declined taking seat and the cup of coffee Kathryn offered her.
"Whatís the problem?" I said, noting that Kathryn was taking notes at her desk.
"Harold, my husband, has disappeared. I require your assistance in finding him." She said. She raised an eyebrow as she said this, almost daring me to question her motives.
"Weíre going to need specifics, maíam." Kathryn said. The blonde eyed her carefully and Kathryn gave as good as she got.
After a couple of hours, Kathryn and I had enough to go on. We split the list and went to work. Tracing, trying to find leads. Everyday ended in dead ends.
Each night, I took Kathryn home. Each night, I pondered the case. Seems I had one I just couldnít solve.
Two weeks passed by and we were getting down on the list. Kathryn had run across a couple of dead end leads, but thatís as far as we got. It seemed to bother Kathryn more then I that we couldnít find this Harold character.
Two weeks, I found a great colleague and friend.
Club Saraka, located on the east side wasnít your standard club. Had a reputation worse then typhoid Mary. Gambling, girls, liqueur. Was nothing to see couples in the corner, trying their damnedest to fit into the scenery while trying to become one. Wild dancing, good food. It was the only place we hadnít checked and a couple of our lead indicated that someone at the Saraka would know what happened to Harold. Kathryn and I had both pretty much figured that dear Harold was communing with Davy Jones in the Hudson, but didnít want to put the case to bed yet.
I almost balked when Kathryn insisted that she go with me to Saraka. No place for a lady, I kept telling her. But like it has been since the beginning, Kathryn has proven she isnít like no other lady. We decided to make a night of it. I kept my club going gear in the closet and Kathryn had brought hers with her this morning, insisting that I give her a ride in. Didnít mind too much since I really liked her.
I changed my jacket in the office while she excused herself, taking her garment with her. When she stepped back into the room, well, letís just say, I was impressed.
Stopped at the knee red silk. Clung in all the right places. Not too revealing, but like any other man, I could go for anything in that. I didnít say anything for a moment.
"Well, I donít think slacks and blouses are appropriate for that club." Kathryn stated.
"Youíre right." I said. I held out my arm and she took it. We locked up, hopped into my car and proceeded to the toast of the town.
We separated at the door, circling this room, feeling out the joint. As she moved, I would catch her eye and smile. Sheíd do the same to me. I was almost jealous of the attention that was lavished on her. Then again, I knew what a beauty she was. Yet, I had my set of values to follow.
Kathryn made her way over to me as I casually leaned against a wall. From this vantage point, I could see the action going down.
"Learn anything?" I asked her as she slid in beside me.
"No, other then theyíre expecting some big wig here tonight. Typical club." She said with Ďhumphí at the end. About that time I saw the Ďbig wigí she was talking about. Louis ĎDocí Zimmerman. Known for his particularly evil ways of doing away with enemies. A couple of run ins with him and I knew I didnít want him to see me. All exits were blocked. If I could just keep him from seeing me, Kathryn and I could escape unseen. I hadnít told her that I had found out exactly what happened to Harold. Just as I expected, fish bait in the river.
But Doc, well, I didnít want him to know I was there. A thought came to mind and I acted on it. "Whatever happens, play along, Kathryn." I said, grabbing her by her shoulders. Her eyes went wide open.
"Chakotay?" She said. She never called me by name.
I looked the lady in the eye, apologizing ahead of time. "Forgive me for doing this." I said. I pulled her against me and laid one on her. I didnít shut my eyes because I wanted to keep an eye on Doc. So I kept it up, moving my lips against hers. Kathrynís eyes were open in shock. Truth be known, sheíd never had been kissed like I was doing to her now. Her eyes slid shut and she responded. Hope it was just a good act.
Doc turned about then and I knew he knew it was me. I pulled away from her enough to whisper against her lips. "Kathryn, grab my pistol, turn left and shoot." I said, eyeing Doc and his pistol about to be lowered on me. Kathryn broke out of, hell I donít know what it was, a daze. She nodded and it played out in slow motion.
Except the one thing I didnít expect. Her shot hit the mark, but not before he fired his gun. It struck her in the shoulder, plowing her into me. I was going to have to get her out of there and fast. Couldnít afford to lose one hell of an assistant and for that matter, one *hell* of a kisser.
I lowered her gently to the floor, holding her against me. Kathryn looked up at me and gave that damn crooked grin. "That was fun." She said. Her hand reached up and stroked my cheek.
"Shh, weíll get you out of here and to the hospital."
She let out a chuckle. "Bet you never did that with Tom." She said.
Then she fainted.
I sat in the waiting room of the hospital, chewing on my thumb. Habit I picked up as a kid. Sheíd been in surgery, removing the bullet and fixing the damage. I felt bad. But I had cleaned it all up with the police. Doc had been gunning that night. In fact, my little fiasco had led to the capture of some of Docís most noted henchmen. "Two Blocks" Malroy and Joe "Babyface" Carey. The real kicker was Harold Ďgrievingí wife was one of Docís most deadly assassins and lover.
On the way back to the hospital, I picked up a small bouquet of flowers. They sat in the chair beside me. Soon, one of the nurses came out to tell me she was all right. Though they only seemed to let in family, the nurse was nice enough to let me into see her.
Kathryn appeared to be sleeping when I came in. Just a little paler then usual and a bandage on her shoulder. I set the flowers on the table beside her, about to leave when I heard that throaty voice of hers.
"So, howíd I do?" She asked. I pulled a chair over to beside her bed and sat down. She still managed some humor.
"Blew him away, Kathryn. He died right on the spot." I told her. She gave her patented grin.
"Told you I was a dead eye shot."
"Did I ever doubt you?" I said.
"No. However, Iíd like you to take the number of that milk truck that knocked me over. I have a few choice words for the driver." She said, chuckling, which soon turned into a grown of pain.
"Donít do that?" I told her. She smiled again. "What say when you get out of here, I take you out for dinner."
"For being the best damn partner a PI ever had." I said, rising and about to leave.
"You always kiss that way?" I heard her say. I turned at the door and gave her a smile of my own.
"Guess youíll have to investigate." I said and left.
Within a week, Kathryn was back at work, drinking coffee faster then pig goes thru a meal. She still moved a little stiffly in the one arm, but she was back. Wry sense of humor and all.
True to my word, I took her out to dinner. A small Italian restaurant owned and operated by a small pudgy man who always knew what was going on. Not to mention, his fixation with herbs and spices made for the best spaghetti in the city. At least in my opinion.
We sat across from each other, drippy candles in bottles, plate of spaghetti in front of each of us and two half full glasses of red wine beside those plates. Neal, the owner, decided to let us eat on the house, since he found out that Kathryn was the little lady that had brought down Doc. We talked about our lives, what we had planned out for the remainder of our lives. Never, would I have thought, that I could enjoy and work this well with a woman.
I just stared at her. I once said you had to be blind not to notice this classy dame. Maybe I had been. Thought of a poem I once read and I said it, not fully realizing that Iíd said it aloud.
ĎWine comes in at the mouth, And loves comes in at the eye, Thatís all we shall know for truth. Before we grow old and die, I lift the glass to my mouth, I look at you, and I sigh.í
"Keats." She said. I didnít realize sheíd know this.
"Yes." I smiled. "Sorry, I didnít realize Iíd said that out loud."
Kathryn smiled. "No need to apologize. Actually, I was just thinking the same thing myself." She said, reaching across the table and taking my hand.
The moment began there. A lovely feeling of being pulled toward her. Over a basket of french bread, our lips met in a delicate kiss. A pulsing sense of electricity flowed between us and for a moment, I forgot what it had felt like to love. We pulled away from each other and both of us smiled.
"What say we grab a moving picture show?" I asked. I wasnít ready for this evening to end.
"Iíd love to." She said quietly, rubbing her thumb over the back of my hand.
No, Iíd never wanted a female assistant. But now, I couldnít wait to see what adventures awaited me. Especially with the classy Kathryn at my side.