To paraphrase that old TV show, there a million stories in this naked city--and it is a naked city in every sense of the term. Love and sex and magic run rampant here, but I tried not to get swept up in the fervor of it. I played my cards close to my chest and kept my hands to myself. For the most part. That was until he fell into my lap. Literally.
My name's Ruby, Ruby Calypso, and I'm a private detective. My daddy was a private detective and his daddy before him. You could say I inherited the family business. I should've been born a boy--at least Dad seemed to think so--but since there was no stem on my apple, what are you gonna do? So, I played baseball with the neighborhood boys, started smoking cigars at twelve and learne how to throw a proper body check. Drop your shoulder and explode into him, that's the key to a good body check. These days, though, I don't engage in much hand-to-hand combat. Now, I carry a Sig Sauer .380, licensed of course. What it can't stop, I don't need to catch.
"That kinda night?" asked Petey.
"It's always that kind of night." I cracked a smile and walked to my favorite booth. Okay, so I hung out here a lot. Petey was always good and if worse came to worse, I could take him home for some entertainment. Granted, he wasn't as young as he used be--chin a little softer, abs not quite so delineated, but you could still see the ball player he used to be. And he could go all night. An admirable quality indeed.
Just as I settled in with my drink, the angel walked into the place. Of course, I didn't know at the time what he was, but he was tall and impeccably dressed; he drew my attention effortlessly. A black overcoat hung from his broad shoulders which I thought was odd because it was too hot for a coat like that. But I dismissed the funny feeling. In my line of work, paranoia is an occupational hazard. That night, I didn't want to overanalyze this gorgeous man. Instead, I opted to lose myself in his gray-green eyes, taut dusky skin and thousand-watt smile. And he was smiling at me. I returned the grin and dropped my gaze. But his eyes stayed on me. I could feel them peering beneath my clothes, the palpable heat of his gaze setting me afire.
We played the game for a couple more hours, flirting across the crowded room. He seemed to be waiting for someone. I know the signs all too well. Checking his watch every few minutes, sweeping the sea of faces with an expectant expression. But his eyes always came back to me. Enough was enough. One of us had to make a move and I'd run out of patience.
"Hey," I said to a man and his date who shared a stool next to my quary. "I just left that booth over there. Why don't you two take it?"
They thanked me and hurried away. I slipped onto the stool and faced the beautiful man next to me. I asked, "Were you ever going to come over and talk to me?"
He smiled and checked his watch. "Of course I was. Just have some business to attend to before I can play.
I ran a finger along his jawline "But when you're free, you'd like to play with me?"
A sharp inhalation and a raise of his eyebrows told me all I needed to know. Tossing down the last of my fifth--or was it sixth?--drink, I handed him my business card. Meet me here when you're done.
He assured me he would and I waved goodbye.
The trip to my office a couple blocks away took about ten minutes. Could've been less if the sidewalk hadn't been swimming in front of me. Once I'd closed and locked the door, I kicked off my heels and stripped off my skirt and blouse. I freshened up in the bathroom and flipped on the radio. A top forty station played a pop song with a driving beat. I reclined on the leather sofa and skimmed through a magazine.
About thirty minutes later, a knock roused me. I'd dozed off. Wiping my eyes and checking my breath, I hurried to the door. His familiar silhouette darkened the frosted glass.
"Hey, you," I said, sweeping open the door.
"Oh my. That's some way to greet a man." His eyes roamed over my scantily clad body.
"Thought I'd cut to the chase for you."
He laughed and gathered me in his arms. His generous mouth engulfed mine and I melted against his solid form. We'd played our little game long enough.
"I missed you, Xavier," I murmured as our lips parted. "God, it's been years. Why didn't you let me know you're in town?"
He bristled and edged away a little. A sigh filled the space between us. "Listen, Ruby, there's something I need to tell you."
But he didn't get the chance to go on. A crash and darkness. A dark figure ran through the hall, jostling us. Xavier let out a strange hiss and crumbled in my arms. Though he had a good seventy pounds on me, I did my best to ease him to the floor without dropping him.
"Xavi? What happened?" I blinked, desparate for my eyes to adjust to the blackness. My first instinct told me to run after the attacker, but I didn't know the extent of Xavier's injuries and I was in my skivvies. Pursuit would have to wait.
I pulled Xavi from the hall into my office and closed the door. I flipped on the overhead light and saw a blackish ooze seeping through a hand he had clamped to his abdomen. I pulled open his coat and stripped off his shoulder holster. He was packing--that explained the heavy jacket. Using a pair of scissors from my desk, I cut open his shirt and wrangled the fabric from beneath him. The shirt was the only thing close to a dressing I had so I balled it up and pressed it against the wound. The gash was dangerously close to his left lung. Searching blindly with my free hand, I reached for my jacket which contained my cell phone.
But then white light filled the room and I reeled backward, allowing the shirt I'd been using to staunch the blood to fall to the floor. I pair of blinding silver wings --yes, wings--spread out behind his back.
"What the fuck...?" I gasped.
"Ruby," he said and reached for me. "Don't be afraid."
As I watched in disbelief, his injury sealed up all on its own...and then vanished.