It was cold out, and he pulled his coat’s collar around his jaw to keep in the warmth. The wind was sharp, and this winter was grayer than usual.
He’d rather be inside. But of course Private Investigator Eliot Spencer had to take that damn case.
He hadn’t seen Aimee for ten years, but she walked into his office in a blue dress and black velvet hat and sat in his chair as if she had just gone out for a cigarette. A story about a necklace, about how only Eliot could get it back for her. It used to belong to her grandmother, been in the family for years.
He was the most feared PI in town, scared a lot of criminals more than the cops did, and with good reason. She figured if anyone could track it down for her, it was Eliot.
He didn’t ask if she had any other reason for asking him. She wouldn’t have told him anyway.
So here he was, on a cold winter’s day, heading to a shady side of town, one of those trendy but dark spaces where genius bohemian artists and criminals lived side by side. There was a couple he was tracking down, infamous in the city’s underworld, and rumor had it that the woman had a penchant for shiny things.
“Either of you seen this necklace?” Spencer asked them. He had practically barged into their apartment, but that was how things got done in this part of town. “It was taken in a smash and grab off Central.”
“No, man, we don’t know anything. Why are you looking for it?” the man asked.
“Maybe he wants to wear it,” the woman suggested, and the man grinned. She added, looking again at Eliot, “It would look real pretty on you.”
“A friend of mine is looking for it,” Spencer growled.
“A girlfriend?” the woman asked.
“Definitely a girlfriend,” the man grinned.
“Not my girlfriend anymore, not in a long time. But she needs this back.” Spencer wasn’t sure why he even answered them. Probably because he had barely slept since Aimee had walked into his office.
“We don’t have it,” the woman said curtly. “And we’re the best thieves in the city; we don’t need to ‘smash and grab.’ If we took it, you wouldn’t even notice it was missing for days.”
“Well, I’m so sorry to insult your criminal skills,” Spencer drawled sarcastically.
“I accept your apology,” she said. “So you and your ex-girlfriend, is that a thing?”
She laughed. “Look, he’s turning red. That’s adorable.”
“I am not adorable,” Spencer said.
“A little,” the man countered.
“Hey, Hardison, what do you think of him? Do you like him?” the woman said.
“Kind of uptight. But cute,” the man said. “All rough on the outside, like his hobby is punching lions at the zoo or something, but turns into mush when his ex-girlfriend comes round. So… yeah, I like him.”
She looked back at Spencer. “If we try to steal it back for you, what will you give us? We can’t promise, but we’ll ask around to see if we can find it.”
“I won’t give you to the cops, that’s what I’ll do,” Spencer said.
“Please,” the man said, “The cops have wanted us for years. Their evidence keeps disappearing.”
Spencer narrowed his eyes. These two were cocky. But if they wanted to make this a game, he could too. “I’ll make you dinner.”
“A private dick who cooks? Interesting,” the man said.
“It’s a deal,” the woman said, then gestured for Spencer to leave.
Spencer left his card, then walked home, frustrated. He’d bet a million dollars that those two would never show up in his office, with the necklace or otherwise.
It turned out, he was technically right. They didn’t come to his office. But he woke up the next day to find the necklace lying on the nightstand, with a note requesting steak and potatoes the next Saturday. Spencer groaned, wondering how they knew where he lived, and how the hell they had broken in without him even waking.