Mickey Dolone hated being called little. None of his classmates took him seriously, though he’d been sleuthing since the 6th grade.
His office was a makeshift area in the tool shed out back. He heard a knock at the door. The dame at the door looked 15 and nervous. Her ill-applied makeup was smeared from crying.
“Are you Dolone? I need your help.”
“Didn’t you see the name on the door? What’s your name, doll?”
“Darla. Darla James.”
Mickey assessed what he knew about her. Darla James was indeed 15, just a sophomore. Rich parents. Recently on-again, off-again gal pal of Sidney Roth, Senior jock.
“I like older women,” Mickey said with a sly grin. “You need my help, eh?”
She blushed a bit. Was she trembling?
“I have some…thing dear I need to hide.”
An odd request as Mickey was hired to find not to hide. Then again, this one didn’t even notice the placard.
“Price depends on how big the job is and how irritated I get before I finish.”
She nodded. “Here’s $100 up front. It’s all singles. That’s all I had.”
Mickey did his best to stifle a laugh but let out a snicker.
“Okay, doll, what are we hiding?”
She stammered. She stuttered. “It’s…it’s…it’s Sidney.”
“Is he on the lam?”
She shook her head. Mickey noticed the beginnings of her tears.
“He’s dead.” She was into full-on sob now.
“That’s a pretty tall order, dame. Why’d you do it?”
“It was an accident,” she whispered between wet sniffles. “We were in the back of my dad’s SUV. Sid wanted to fool around, so I let him. He was doing that one thing and…”
How exactly would that lead to death? Mickey thought she was going to take forever to finish the story.
“What happened next?”
“Come on, spill it!”
She moved close enough for him to smell her hair. Lilacs. He was a sucker for lilacs.
“Well you see. My dad is a secret agent. He keeps the SUV loaded with gadgets and what-not. Being Saturday night and all, everything should have been cleaned out. Sid had his elbows resting on the floorboard. And…”
She broke into another bout of crying. And snuggled in closer to Mickey. He thought it awkward at first but felt bad and put an arm around her.
“It’s okay. Do you feel like you can tell me the rest?”
She sniffled again and nodded. “Daddy must have had something hard wired in there because that’s what got Sid. He must’ve put a foot up to get a better position. That’s when the box popped open. Hit him square in the jaw. He wouldn’t wake up.”
Mickey tried to picture how they’d been laying and how a box could’ve hit anyone hard enough to kill. Then he was distracted again by the smell of her hair and the closeness of her body.
“There, there. It was just an accident. That’s too bad. You can’t very well go to daddy and tell him your boyfriend died fooling around.”
“Now you understand why I need your help. Daddy would be so mad. And he could get into so much trouble if the agency found out an innocent got hurt because of negligence.”
Mickey wasn’t so sure about Sidney’s innocence. During a case last, Mickey found some missing lunch cards in Sidney’s possession.
Darla looked into his eyes. Deeply. “You’ve just got to help me.”
Mickey was considering the logistics of hiding a body. “It’s going to cost you big. Why don’t you leave the body at a church or something, attach an anonymous note?”
“No. Someone would see me. It has to be hidden, so well that no one will find it.”
Mickey struggled with the choice of help Darla or help Sidney. Either or, it couldn’t be both.
“Okay, doll. We’ll do it your way. Where’s the stiff?”
They carefully trekked to Darla’s parents’ house. Neither had a license or a bicycle, so they went on foot.
“You’re sure your guy bit the big one?”
“I’m sure. He had no pulse. He was blue by the time I dragged him to the shed.”
“This is going to be tough, what without a vehicle.”
“There’s an old red wagon in the shed.”
The meager shed sat off-center south of the house. A few puddles remained in the yard from last night’s rain. Mickey eyed the padlock.
“I’ll get the key.” She fumbled with a key ring to get the right one.
Mickey went in first. “Kind of dark in here. Where’s Sidney?”
“Right here, you dick!” Sidney slammed and locked the shed door. His shit-eating grin was enough to startle Darla, though she’d seen it before.
She shivered. “Are you happy?”
“Not really. I’d be happier if we burned it down with the little fucker inside.”
“In fact, I think I’ll do that. You better pray you go quick you little pecker!”
Sidney left. He came back with a lighter and gas can. He had the shed burning in no time. Darla was crying loudly, hands to her face.
“You didn’t have to kill him,” she blubbered.
“Sure I did, babe. He ratted me out. Snitches get stitches.”
“But punks get skunked.”. Mickey was behind them.
“How?” Now Sidney looked like he would cry. Even more so when he heard the police siren.
“No real trick. I found Mr. James’ hidden tunnel.”
“Tunnel?”. Darla was aghast.
“You said he was a secret agent. It must be his getaway without the worry of prying eyes.”
“You think you’re so smart!”. Sidney was angry but looked defeated.
“I knew there was no body. There were no drag marks in the yard and Sidney is big enough to leave a trail. I also knew Darla was putting on to entice me into something.”
“But what about the police?”
“When you trap someone, always make sure you pat them down. I called 911 on my cell after I found the tunnel. And don’t call me little, dick.”