My name is Charlie English. I'm thirty-eight and homeless, so when a man offered me forty bucks to deliver a message and another forty when I had, I jumped at the chance. I shouldn't have. I walked into the house -- and a murder scene -- barely getting away before the cops arrived.
I needed to get out from under the frame, and knew a private detective who might be willing to help me. There’s one problem, though. He’s my ex-lover, which could make things dicey.
He’s less than happy to see me when I show up at his office ... until I tell him why I’m there. That piques his interest. Now it’s a case of finding out who the dead man was, who killed him, and proving it wasn't me. Can we succeed ... while dealing with our renewed interest in each other?
"You look good," I said, leaning against the doorjamb of Trent's office. "A bit older, but that's to be expected." He did look good. His hair was short and well styled, as were his beard and mustache. His face had a few more lines, but then whose doesn't as they move into middle-age.
Trent turned, surprise and dismay flashing across his face before he got his expression under control. "Can't say the same for you. You look like you've aged ten years."
I smiled dryly. "You always were someone who told it like it is."
"Why lie? I get enough of that from some of the people I'm involved with for work." He leaned back, looking at me. "To what do I owe the dubious honor of this visit after such a long time?"
"I need your help."
"From the look of you, I'd say that's a given. I'd suggest a good barber for starters, and clothes that don't look like you bought them at a used clothing store," he replied somewhat snidely.
"Yeah, well since that's where they came from ..." I took a deep breath. "I'm serious. I could be in bad trouble and I need you to help me get out of it."
I knew he wanted to tell me get lost but I'd piqued his interest. He beckoned for me to come in and take a seat.
"Okay, what's going on?" he said when I had.
"Short story, someone's trying to frame me for a murder."
"Will they succeed?" he asked with the briefest of smiles.
I marshaled my thoughts, wondering where to begin. "As you obviously deduced, although you didn't say it, I'm homeless. I have been for the last couple of years."
"Damn, Charlie. Why didn't you let me know?" Trent replied. "I'd have, I don't know, leant you some money until you got back on your feet. How the hell did it happen?"
I gave him a brief rundown, starting with how I lost my job soon after we split up. By the time I finished he was shaking his head in disbelief.
"There have to be jobs out there you can do, even if it's flipping burgers."
I smiled wryly. "Tell that to the people who want to hire twenty-year-olds, not some guy who's pushing forty with only one job skill. Even plumbing companies seem to want guys who are younger, if they're hiring, which they weren't back when I went looking. Get 'em young, bring them up right."
"That's the only reason? I mean, you're not ..." For someone who didn't pull his punches, he didn't seem to be able to ask the obvious question.
I answered anyway. "I don't drink, I don't do drugs. You should know that."
"You didn't when we were together, but things can change, Charlie."
"They haven't, despite my circumstances." I chuckled. "I don't need the added expense when I barely make enough to buy food these days."
Trent nodded. "Why do you think you're being framed for a murder? And whose murder?"
"I don't know for certain, but his name might be Anderson." I went on to explain about the guy who'd hired me to deliver a message, followed by walking in on the dead body, and getting away just as the cops were pulling up to the house.
His first question, after he'd taken it all in, was, "Did you touch anything?"
"Yeah. The back door and one of the kitchen counters. They probably also have the sole print from my shoe in the blood, but I got rid of them so I think I'm safe as far as that goes."
"Near the house? They'll undoubtedly search all the trash bins in the area, figuring you'd do that."
"Nope. I didn't even realize there was blood on my shoe until I walked a long way from there. Then I dumped them in the trash by a bus stop."
"Good. Not so good about the fingerprints. They'll know you were at the house as soon as they run them through the IAFIS database."