February 19, 2016
It was 12 noon on a Tuesday in New York City. September. The sun was shining, the sky was clear, a cool breeze through the trees. In the business district, men and women were emptying out of their office buildings like flood over a dam. It was lunchtime and executives in expensive fedoras on their way to lunch at the club mingled with secretaries in uncomfortable shoes off to run errands, dodging the lines of tellers, clerks, and salesmen milling around the corner hot dog stands.
In the park, the benches quickly filled with men and women carrying their paper bags full of baloney sandwiches or slices of last night’s roast on a hard roll. At this hour, men and women were walking quickly through the park, from east to west, west to east, north to south, south to north. Lunch hour was precious and flew by all too quickly, and soon it was time to go back to the drab office and restart the day’s toil.
Hollywood Russell sat on a bench under a tree and enjoyed the little dramas that played out before him. There was a man with hangdog eyes, looking at his newspaper but not seeing it. Across from him were a pair of men loudly complaining about their bosses. Turning right, Hollywood saw a trio of young secretaries walking past a bench where an equally young executive sat. Hollywood watched them walk, as did the young executive.
Private eyes rarely had the luxury of enjoying a day like this. If there was no case, Hollywood would be in his office, and lunch would either be at his desk or down at the local watering hole. If there was a case, he’d be out but working, and lunch, if he had the time, was wherever he found himself. But today the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and Hollywood was very comfortable on the bench in the park. He folded his newspaper, dropped it in his lap, and leaned back.
Next to Hollywood on the bench, but at a distance that left the PI room to stretch, was a businessman virtually indistinguishable from the others inhabiting the park this afternoon. Neat, moderately priced brown suit, hat pulled back on his head to enjoy the sun, peanut butter sandwich wrapped in wax paper and of course the paper bag next to him.
Hollywood tore his eyes away from the secretaries, who were now on their second lap around the young executive’s bench, and leaned over to his neighbor. “Looks like the fish is on the hook.” He nudged the man in the ribs and nodded in the right direction.
The man in the brown suit looked and smiled. “With gams like that, those dames can’t lose.” Hollywood favored him with a wolf grin that ended at his eyes and leaned back.
The minutes ticked by and little by little the park emptied out as New York’s businesses demanded their cogs and gears start spinning again. The secretarial trio, their appetites quenched for food but no more, went back to their desks, phones, and coffee. The young executive looked at his watch and decided that he had stretched his hour about as far as he could, and made ready to get up.
Hollywood stood up, and as he did, the newspaper in his lap fell to the ground. “Oh, pardon me.”
He bent to pick it up, jostling his bench mate just as the man fired the gun that had been hidden in the brown paper bag. His shot went high, lodging in a tree just a few feet above the young executive’s head.
The detective straightened up and turned to the would-be killer. “Tell Deez he’ll have to do better than that.” He plucked the gun out of the man’s hand, tucked the newspaper under his arm, and walked out of the park, escorting the startled young executive back to his office.
It was such a nice day that Hollywood almost considered not cashing the check.