The Holmes Files - Roller Skate Roundup

by Lubrican

Chapters : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4-11 Available On

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Chapter One

I was sitting at my desk, wishing that the AC worked and that the wheezing fan that was feebly wafting air in my direction wasn't as old as I felt. It was hot, and it's always hotter when you don't have anything to do.

I'm Bob, I'm a private eye. I'm a good one, too, but that doesn't mean lots of people know it. The few who notice manage to pay the bills, but I'm not living the high life, if you know what I mean. And, of course, I have this soft spot for good people in a bad fix. I usually didn't get any money from those jobs. I felt good...but good feelings don't pay the rent, if you know what I mean.

The faded brown paper on the walls of my ratty office seemed to press in on me, like in that play, The Haunting of Hill House. It was kind of creepy, and I'd just decided to take a little walk and see if there was some breeze out in the twilight, when I saw a dark silhouette appear in the pebbled glass pane of the door.

I watched the latch turn and rested my hand on the .45 holstered on my right hip.

I've pissed off a lot of people in the past.

But it wasn't some husband I'd caught with his fingers in the wrong honey pot. Nor was it a businessman I'd caught fleecing his customers, and put out of business. Nor was it any number of people I'd arranged to get the goods on for a lawsuit of some kind.

It was a dame.

She was a strange one. I could tell that immediately. Her hairdo was the first obvious clue. Young, maybe in her mid twenties, she was a mixture of conflicting signals. Her hair was two shades of red. The majority of it was maybe an eighth of an inch long and almost black, but there were long bangs and what my sister used to call dog ears that were a deep red tint. The bangs were swept to one side and fell casually down across her right cheek. Her features were elfin. Her nose looked like it had been transplanted from an older woman, onto the face of a teenager in a world where acne just didn't exist. The skin on her cheeks looked as soft and pale as a baby's butt, and it was obvious she didn't spend a lot of time in the sun.

Her body was all woman, though. She didn't have so much up top, but it was all relative, since what she did have looked delicious in the thin tank top she was wearing. She wasn't wearing a bra, and it was obvious, even in the heat. A tattoo made up of blues and greens in some intricate design—not the sissy kind of small tattoo a college girl gets, thinking she's being adventurous—covered most of one shoulder.

Jeans, below the tank top, encased hips a guy could grab onto if he was in the middle of a wild, passionate ride. Below the jeans I could see the tops of something that looked suspiciously like military style jump boots. It didn't look like they'd stomped anybody recently, but she gave the impression of being able to take care of herself. I just knew this woman owned a leather jacket. She looked like a biker babe, or maybe a bull dyke...except that she didn't.

Lots of adjectives sprang to mind. Odd…strange...even bizarre...but overlaying them all was the noun those words were helping to describe. That noun was "stone fox," as crazy as that sounds, based on what I've described.

It was strange, and she was interesting before she ever said a word.

She came in and just stood there, looking at me. Those bangs had fallen forward to cover one eye, and the other one looked a little wary, which made me want to laugh. I wasn't tempted in any way, shape or form to fuck with this little beauty. She had an air about her that said she should be wearing one of those t-shirts that says, “Here comes trouble.”

"What can I do for you?" I asked, my voice neutral. For some reason I thought that coming on too strongly, or speaking too loudly, would make her leave.

"I'm not sure," she said.

Man...what a voice. High...youthful...the kind of voice you want to have somebody read you something really long in. Maybe something like War and Peace.

"That could make things difficult," I tossed off. "Why don't you have a seat and we'll see if we can figure it out."

She looked around and her eye came back to me. She looked...curious.

I'm not all that much to look at. Not like back in the good old days, when I was a stud. While in my mind I still FEEL young, the stud kind of wore off of the outside over the years. I have a little gut these days. All that working out I did in the past kept my muscles firm, but didn't do much to prevent some weight falling out of the sky and landing on me. I grew a beard to cover up the double chin, and kept it when people said it made me look dangerous.

"I have a problem," she said softly.

"I'm in the problem solving business," I said.

"You're not what I expected," she said, still not sitting down.

"You either need a problem solver, or you don't," I said. "Doesn't much matter what one looks know?"

Only the decrepit fan made any noise for a few seconds, and then she finally sat down.

"Tell me about your problem," I suggested.

"Somebody has something of mine and won't give it to me," she said.

"And you want me to go get it?"

"Do you do that kind of thing?"

"Depends," I said. I reached in the bottom drawer of my desk and pulled out a bottle of Scotch.

"I don't drink," she said.

Now THAT was an eye opener. She looked like she could drink just about any man under the table and then take on the women in the room.

"I don't believe I offered you a drink," I said, smiling.

"It would be rude for you to drink without offering me something too."

"You already said you don't drink."

"My father had...problems...with alcohol," she said.

That was something I would learn about her in the next days and weeks. She had this way of asserting her own moral code on others. It wasn't blatant, and she wasn't judgmental about it. But even when you first met her you just wanted to make her happy. It was almost spooky, later on, but I had my first experience of it within five minutes of meeting her.

I put the bottle back in the bottom drawer and closed it. I looked up and saw something like satisfaction in her eye, though I don't think she was aware of it.

"What is this something someone has?" I asked.

She blushed then. It was quick and it was obvious. Her fair skin glowed like it was going to catch fire, but it didn't last long.

"It's a pair of roller skates," she said softly.

"Roller skates." I'm sure my voice sounded flat.

"Yes. They're special to me."

"You mean like clamped on?" I was remembering what roller skates were like when I was growing up in the fifties. They'd clamp on to a regular pair of shoes, and you tightened them with a roller skate key.

"No." She looked confused for a second. "They're white leather, with red wheels."

"Oh, OK," I said. "Like you'd rent at a roller rink."

"Uh huh, except I've never seen skates at the rink that had red wheels."

I thought about that for a short minute.

"So let me get this straight," I said. "You want me to get your roller skates back. Who has them?"

She blushed again. She was exceedingly cute when she blushed.

"My mother."

"Your mother." My voice was flat. I was beginning to think I was being made the butt of a practical joke.

"She's kind of a horrible woman," said my visitor.

"I can just imagine," I said, letting some sarcasm leach into my voice. "I mean what kind of woman holds her little girl's roller skates hostage? Maybe you should call her more often. I hear mothers like that, and get testy when their kids neglect them."

Her face got tight and that flawless skin got a bit pinker.

"If you won't help me, just say so!" she snapped. She had a temper, this one did.

"Five hundred a day, plus expenses," I said. I have to admit I said it somewhat smugly. That ought to get rid of my little practical joker.

She stared at me and that pretty little jaw dropped. She had good teeth. I wondered what that dainty tongue of hers would feel like dueling with mine. I'm a pervert. I admit it. She looked strange, but she was also cute in a pants-tightening kind of way.


"I'm not insane," I said calmly. "That's my price. I mean who knows how dangerous this could be. I have to go up against a truly monstrous woman here. That much is obvious. Your mother is most certainly a diabolical miscreant to withhold something so important as...your freaking roller skates!"

Her jaw pulled back up, only to jut forward, and storm clouds gathered on her face. She didn't blush this time, but her cheeks suddenly looked like a little girl who had gotten into her mother's rouge.

"Norm said you'd help me," she snorted. "He said you were a good guy." She looked at me like I was some kind of bug. The effect of looking down her nose at me was marred by the fact that the nose was bent a little bit. "Obviously he was deluded."


"Norman Bidwell," she said, finally starting to turn.

"How the hell do you know Norman Bidwell?" I asked. Norm was a professional photographer who had hired me to recover five thousand dollars worth of wedding photographs paid for with a check that bounced all the way to Milwaukee. The groom thought he was special because he was a lower level mobster type. He had no idea that I'd done some work for some of the heavyweights in his "company" and that I could arrange it for them to be embarrassed if the story got out to certain parties. Somewhat ironically, the mob has a very strict code of ethics. You can steal somebody blind, but you never welsh on a deal. I hope he had a nice honeymoon, cause when he got back he owed his bosses five grand...with interest. I figured Norm would rather have the money than a bunch of pictures.

I know what you're thinking. What kind of self respecting gumshoe deals with the mob? The kind who has bills to pay, that's what kind. Get over it. They're out there and they have money. I don't do their dirty work. Even mobsters have legitimate needs sometimes, and pursue them in legitimate ways. Call it networking. Besides, knowing the right people can get you a lot farther than standing on your principles or yelling about how holy thou art.

Anyway, Norm did mostly portrait work, and this little slice of happiness wasn't really the sort who looked like she'd be comfortable in front of a camera.

She paused on her way to the door. "I did his website, and when I told him about the problem with my mother, he said he knew somebody who was good at that sort of thing. I'm sorry you wasted my time."

Man, that girl could pout. She could give lessons.

"Website," I said. I was no longer convinced this was one of Vinny's crazy schemes to give me a hard time.

"I'm a web designer," she said tightly. She blinked. "Do YOU have a website?" I could see the wheels and gears turning in her head.

"Me?" I laughed. "What the hell would I do with a website?"

"Generate business?" she asked sweetly. Too sweetly. "Oh...I're not interested in business. You'd rather laugh at people with problems and commit highway robbery against them."

"Don't get your panties in a wad," I said. "I thought you were jerking my chain, that's all."

She looked down that nose at me again. " all I'd think about jerking," she said archly.

"Toucheee," I said, grinning. "That's French, you know. They speak a lot of that in Paris."

Her smile was grim. "Not only are you lazy and insolent, you can't even pronounce touché. You're a sad excuse for a private detective, Mr. Holmes.”

Yes, it's true, Holmes is my last name. Ironic, huh? Not that there were any Sherlocks in my family tree. It was just dumb luck. I figured "Holmes Private Investigation Agency" would look good on a door and generate some business. The irony of that was that most people didn't make the connection between the great detective and my name. She didn't make my last name sound ironic, though. She made it sound like it was a dirty word. It stung. I DO have a reputation, and it's not all that bad.

"Look," I sighed. "Maybe we got off on the wrong foot. I've got this friend named Vinny and he likes to pull a fast one on me sometimes. I thought maybe that was what this was about. Apparently, I was in error. I wouldn't want you to get the wrong idea about me."

"You have a friend named Vinny?" she asked innocently. "And he likes to...pull things...on you? How cute." She had the beginnings of a smile on those lush lips. Not only could she pout, she was pretty good at innuendo, too, much to my distress.

"Jokes," I said quickly. "He likes to play jokes on me. I thought maybe he sent you in here as a joke."

"It's no joke," she said, her voice suddenly serious.

"Well, think about it," I suggested. "How often do you think I hear something like you told me? I mean most people could manage to get a childhood toy away from their aging parents. Cut me a little slack here, OK?"

"It's not like that," she said, pouting again. "This isn't a simple childhood toy. Those skates were a major part of my adolescence."

I found myself thinking about what I would have tried to make a major part of her adolescence, if I'd been a boy her age when she was coming into the blush of womanhood. I would have loved to help her become a woman. As a matter of fact, I was distinctly interested in reminding her she was a woman right now.

I pushed those thoughts aside. I operated—probably too often—on gut instinct and my gut instinct liked her. She had spunk. Not as much, though, as she'd have if I got my way... Oops. There I went fantasizing again. I suddenly wished I'd poured some of that scotch, her sensibilities notwithstanding.

"Tell you what," I said. "Let's try this again. Hi, I'm Bob. What can I do for you Miss..."

"Powers," she said softly. "Veronica Powers."

"Well, Ronnie," I said, gesturing at the chair. "How can I help you?"

"Nobody calls me Ronnie," she said.

Man, this woman was prickly. I didn't want her to think she could call all the shots though.

"I do," I said. "I'll give you a discount. How's that?"

"I can't afford what you charge," she said. "Even with a discount," she added.

"Let's worry about that after we've talked. Right now I'd like to hear about these roller skates that were the centerpiece of your teenage years, and why your mother would want to keep you from having them."

"I don't know," she said hesitantly. I knew that wasn't a direct response to what I'd said. What she didn't know was whether she could put up with me or not.

I decided to throw out a line and see if she'd bite.

"I can get them for you," I said.

She wavered for another fifteen seconds, then she sat back down.

I should have known that the relief I felt when she decided to stay should have been a big, red flag in my mind.

I was too busy watching those luscious breasts of hers jiggle when her butt hit the chair, though.

She reached in the back pocket of the jeans she was wearing. I suddenly noticed that she wasn't carrying a purse. That should have been the first thing I noticed about her. I was getting careless. She pulled out a piece of paper.

"I wrote something about the skates one time," she said.

Now that was interesting. Who writes about a pair of skates? This woman was getting more and more interesting all the time.

"A poem?" I suggested.

"I wouldn't call it a poem," she said. She unfolded the paper and stared at it.

"A story, then."

"I wouldn't call it a story either." She was just looking at the paper.

"Can I see it?"

She looked up at me. "I've never shown it to anybody."

"But you carry it around with you."

You've had those moments in life where suddenly something became starkly clear in your mind. You suddenly get it. There's a fancy word for it—epiphany—which most people don't use. But I had one just then. These roller skates, something so simple and childlike, were VERY important to this woman. As odd as that seemed on the surface of things, it was crystal clear that this was serious, and nowhere near a joke.

"Sometimes," she said.

"I'd really like to see it," I said softly. "Anything that might help me sally forth into battle and find victory is something of unadulterated interest to me."

She tilted her head at me. "Nobody talks like that, Mr. Holmes."

I shrugged. "I do...sometimes. I guess it just depends on how motivated I am. And I'd appreciate it if you called me Bob. Now, are you going to let me see that, or do I have to throw you out of here like the bum you think I am?"

She laughed! I felt a rush of irritation as she actually laughed at me.

But then she sat back down and, haltingly, she extended the paper. I leaned forward and plucked it from her fingers, before she decided to be coy again.

It only covered a quarter of the page. It wasn't long, but it was magical, somehow. The first line was almost eerie, because it validated what I was feeling for this cutie pie. And from there it just grabbed the reader and transported a place that was shining with golden light all around, but which also had shadows. Those shadows held menace, a clear and present danger to the happiness of the place I was in as I read what she'd written. Those shadows were like pebbles on the flat surface someone skates on, which can jam up a wheel and end you up with scraped up elbows and knees.

Hell, I'm rambling on about what I was reading. You'll understand much better if you just read it yourself. Here is what was on that paper:

White Leather Roller Skates With Red Wheels

I am the kind of woman people are drawn to. I have charm and charisma. I have grace and style. But if you ask me to tell you something important about myself, I will say—When I was twelve years old, I had a pair of white leather roller skates with red wheels. I used them to race, I used them to run. I used them to capture the imaginations of neighborhood boys. In black skinny leg jeans, before I got hips and I was afraid I would always be TOO skinny, and a green and white checkered shirt tied at the waist, I would skate for hours. Gliding over smooth blacktop, free from gravity and one with motion. And I would smile at the boys that passed by. Even in my freckle-faced, tomboy, spending more time in hospitals and doctor's offices than out, awkward youth, I had charm and charisma. I had grace and style.

I kept those skates glimmering white, the wheels forever ketchup red. The day I learned to skate backwards was a great personal victory. One of those moments when you wish someone was watching, that someone else had seen, documented, recorded, and would later verify that it had really happened. Too many of those moments go by un-witnessed. People watched me skate backwards hundreds of times after that, but I was alone in that first time, that really important time, that defining moment.

That was a bad year for me, along with a good handful of the ones that followed, but that pair of white leather roller skates with red wheels was a respite. They are what I choose to hold onto, a memory that I will mention at random moments in conversation to make sure I never forget. They are probably gathering dust in a garage somewhere alongside numerous other tokens of my past, remnants of those happy memories that sometimes seem scarce, but which I must fight tooth and nail to retain. Because life is a series of moments and we must always recognize that WE get to choose which of those moments define us. I refuse to be defined by sadness and hurt. I will always be white leather roller skates with red wheels.

Now you get it. When I'd finished reading that, I wanted those roller skates, too. They represented a way to flee from those menacing shadows in that place of golden light. I wanted TWO pairs of them. I wanted to present hers to her, and then put on my own, so we could skate together, whirling and dancing away from the shadows in life.

I looked up from the page, and at its author. She had a look of nervous anticipation on her face. She had bared a portion of her soul to me...had taken a risk. She was waiting to see if I laughed at her or not.

She was beautiful in a completely odd kind of way, and she had the soul of an angel. She didn't just have spunk, she had vision. She was wise beyond her years and I suspected she had the key to happiness in another pocket of her jeans. All I could think about in those few seconds was how much I wished she'd share that key with a box of happiness I could dip into...with her.

I shook my head to clear it. This woman was just flat dangerous.

"Interesting," I said.

Her shoulders slumped and the light went out of her eyes. I felt like I'd just kicked a puppy.

"Fascinating," I added.

She perked back up, but only a little.

"I can understand completely why these skates are so important to you now."

"They are," she said, anguish in her voice.

"I can get them for you," I said, feeling like Saint George, preparing to mount my charger and head off to find...and behead...the dragon.

"I can't afford you," she moaned.

"Yes you can," I said. I almost groaned. I hate it when I say that. I sighed instead. " tell me about your mother."

Veronica Powers—young, delicious, beautiful, elfin Ronnie—looked me dead in the eye and said…

"My mother is a buttface."

She went on to tell me more about the woman who had given her life. And, when she was finished, as odd as it might seem, I had to admit that the first thing she said was the also the nicest thing she said about that woman.

There are a lot of word pictures in the previous paragraphs. The ones I would remember later were that place of shining golden light, and Saint George and the dragon. That's because Veronica Powers, as her name alluded to, had the power to bring that place of golden light into the world, like Brigadoon emerging from the mists. That would happen later...much later...but I'd remember thinking about that as I read about the skates.

The part about Saint George and the dragon was something I'd think about on a number of occasions in the relatively near future. I didn't really believe in dragons...or saints either, for that matter. Not then.

But that was before I met Ronnie Powers' mother. And let me get this out of the way right quick… She wasn't the saint part of that phrase.

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