The Two Girls

You’ve come into a little bit of money and you’re trying to think about what you can blow it on. You don’t want to keep it, don’t want to save it – it came too easily for that, you wouldn’t be able to feel like you’d earned it. It’d make you feel a little bit hollow. You’ve got scruples. But you can’t spend it on anything too expensive, anything too flashy. It wouldn’t fit it with your style. So you’re not going to buy a new motorcycle, or that painting you’ve had your eye on in the gallery downtown (for all that you know the artist, she’s a friend of yours, she doesn’t need the money), or even some gaudy vacation, the Mediterranean, a world cruise, game hunting in Africa.

You decide to invest in mystery. It’s not a lot of money, in an absolute sense, but the kind of people you need to hire don’t cost much money. You find a couple of college students, two girls that might be twins but aren’t, both washed out and expressionless with hair the nothing color of ditchwater, and pay them to invent an enigma and figure out how to bury it in the fabric of the city. They look at each other and say, give us a couple of days, we’ll let you know. You do, but, of course, in a couple of days they’re nowhere to be found, and your money’s gone, the check’s been cashed, their accounts have been closed, their apartment’s deserted, their seats empty in the lecture halls.

That was half your money. You take the other half and hire a private detective, the kind you’ve always wanted to hire, a grubby little man in a grubby little office, off-balance fan knocking against the ceiling, dead bodies of flies thick on the windowsills. He wants to know why you gave them the money first thing. He tells you it wasn’t smart. You shrug, defeated; you can’t think of how to explain it. Sure, he’ll do it, he tells you, and offers you a drink to seal the deal. You drink the whiskey out of crumpled Dixie cups, and keep your face carefully still as the drink kicks and claws its way down your throat. You kiss the second half of your money goodbye, but figure it’s well spent.