Pride is an arse. Corrupting you with its sweet whispers only to kick you in the teeth whenever it feels slighted.
Dignity however, dignity is civilised. Guiding along a path of enlightenment.
When things go wrong pride throws its toys out of the pram, dignity however holds your head up straight protecting you in its dignified embrace.
This was a lesson that Amy Anderson, private detective, had learned the hard way. She had been proud when she was a child and it only got worse once she moved into adolescence. She had been pretty, athletic and was had good grades. Always working hard, always being a ‘good girl’ and always being proud of it.
Everyone kept telling her clever and talented and pretty she was. That last point should had made her suspicious. Looking back it sounded like the way talked about an especially surprising pet. ‘Who’s a good girl? You are!’ Mixed with surprise that she could also do other things than look nice.
Stuffed full of pride she stepped out into the world and the world didn’t give a fuck.
Turns out grades are just numbers on a piece of paper, and working really hard doing what is expected nets you nothing once you reach the next stage in life.
First of all she had no real idea what to do with her life once she got out of school. She had always been told what to do up to that point and suddenly she was expected to know what she was going to do next. She felt lost and her As in everything turned into a curse as it meant that she could do what ever she wanted.
No one had ever asked her what she wanted and by that point she had no idea what that may have been.
Having believed in the system so far and seeing how it might lead to a well paid job she decided to study law. She did it with her usual amount of discipline and nearly burnt herself out. The work load was so large that it could not be done by a mere human. The professor talked about one thing during the lectures but asked completely different things during exams. And most infuriating were the people who got better grades with far less work than she put in. Those idiots did not even understand what they were talking about but had been learning the proper things to regurgitated during exam time.
She hated them.
And she started to hate herself.
Her life had been based on lies. Very obvious lies once you had reached a certain point in life, but lies that people studiously ignored or papered over with great pearls of wisdom like:
“That’s just how the world works.”
“Everyone is doing it.”
“It may be a shit system but it is the only one we have.”
Arguments that would had gotten her into trouble if she had used them when she was three years old were now used by the supposed elite of society.
Instead of going properly insane she decided to go crazy. She some generous scholarships keeping her afloat and she decided to do some partying and adventuring why she still had the time. She had been cursed with a deep seated professionalism which prevented her from descending into proper debauchery and so she kept her grades up even if her attention was elsewhere.
She partied hard, reclaimed much of her lost adolescence and lost her illusions in regards to law. What she saw there was a system that tried to confine the complex ideal of justice into limited definitions which then were savaged by a hordes of interest groups hell bent of making the law bow to her wishes.
She faded out of university and tried to become a police officer.
That didn’t work. Being the underpaid, under equipped idiot who had the pleasure to enforce the law was even less gratifying than being one of the the people supposed to interpret the law.
By that point she had taken her pride the shed and killed it for good.
She decided that in the end she’d rather be responsible for her own life and try to follow some kind of ideal that was not compromised by outside forces. That way she’d at least have dignity.
She had still a love for the law that she was loath to give up so she became a private detective. She spoken enough legalese to help both herself and her clients and she had been long enough in the police academy to get along with the fuzz.
Again her dreams had been crushed by the hard rock of reality. She had been thinking of being a private investigator. Being called to solve crimes.
Instead she spent most of her time shadowing husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends for signs of infidelity. Or having a an eye on family members not trusted by someone else from this most holy of societal institutions.
She was free however. Working for no one but herself and enjoying the ability to tell preoperative clients to go and get stuffed if she didn’t like them. Sometime to the protest of her long suffering bank account. But a week of ramen noodles was a small price to pay for the ability to be able to look at her mirror image straight in the eye.
The day so far had been slow. In the morning she had been filing papers and sent out her last invoice. A lone warrior sent against an army of bills, leaving her only with her dignity for company. Amy stared at the frosted glass window of her office. When ever she felt the tug of depression she just looked at that sign proclaiming her “Amy Anderson Private Investigator.” She smiled. Seeing it always make her feel better. Her tiny monument to her hard earned freedom.
She was about to drift away into a day dream where she’d be a celebrity investigator sought after by the police and the rich and the powerful all looking for her legendary detective skills when a brand shoulder shadow darkened her window. Followed shortly after by a knock so hesitant that it was hard to connect it to the dark shape blocking the light from Amy’s door.
“It’s open.”, said Amy sitting up straight, quickly rearguing some papers on her table into something she hoped resembled nonchalant work. She was looking up her face transitioning to her business face, she had practiced in front of the mirror since long before she even became a detective. Her business face stumbled when it met the face of her would be client. It was only through years of training that it could recover quickly enough to prevent a car crash expression and shift into a crooked smile-frown that appeared to be trying to hard only to the most observant.
Lucky for Amy the man in front of her was obviously more used to being observed than doing any of that himself. His face was of the kind that inspired gods to fall in love with mortals or into fits of unending jealous rage. Deep amber eyes that pulled the every gaze into them drowning them in heir depths, framed by a face that combined sharp features into a soft overall shape. Escape the eyes and fall pray to a smile formed by full lips insinuating deeds most scandalous.
This man, Amy decided, was trouble as she struggled to keep her blood pressure within medically acceptable margins.
“Mrs. Anderson?” he asked, his mellow voice resonating in the room.
“Yes.”, she said. Clawing her way back into control.
“I” he hesitated for the briefest of moments, “need your help.” He looked deep into her eyes.
“I think that can be arranged. Please take a seat.”, She gestured towards one of the two slightly worn chairs in front of her desk.
The man sat down with one fluid motion. He sat so upright that it was uncomfortable looking at at him. He looked at her with an ease that had been carefully cultivated. While her visitor obviously know how to move and talk to maximum effect, he was straining against his limits.
“So.” Amy said after her prospective client had decided to continue the conversation with a gorgeous silence. “What can I help you with Mr…?”
“Franklin.” He said, standing up again with a fluid motion offering her his hand. She shook his hand. A soft hand she noted. That toned body had probably never done an hour of honest work in its entire existence. “My name is Christopher Franklin.” He flowed down into his chair again. “And I… I think someone is trying to murder me.”
“Murder you?” Amy asked hoping that the hint of excitement in her voice would be thought of as professional curiosity.
“Yes. In the past month strange accidents have started happening around me. First someone had tampered the brakes on my motor bike. Then someone accidentally placed a bottle of an isotonic drink filled with bleach near my own bottle in the gym. Then the boiler in my bathroom exploded!” Franklin’s well maintained facade started to crumble now. “I only survived that one because my phone rang… Once might be a coincidence. Maybe twice. But now I have no doubt that someone is trying to kill me.” He looked at her pleadingly.
“Do you have any idea who might want to kill you, Mr. Franklin?” Amy asked noting that the there was something peculiarly tempting about seeing this monument of a man looking pleadingly at her asking her to protect him.
He looked at her with big eyes. “No. I… That’s why I am here. You are the detective, right.”
“That I am.”, She said a smile warming her face. “And as a professional I can tell you that you must have made someone very angry, or envious or perhaps jealous,” she let that one hang in the room for a little extra bit, to no effect, “to make them try to murder you. And if what you are telling me is true I think we can exclude a psychopath who would you kill you just for the kicks. The methods sound to much like someone wanting you to have a tragic accident.”
“Right?” Franklin said suddenly sitting up again. He was thrilled that someone was finally taking him seriously. It was adorable. “It is too much of a coincidence. But I can’t imagine for the world why anyone would want to kill me. I never did anything to anybody.”
“Well let’s just start with the basics. What do you do for a living Mr. Franklin?” Amy asked.
“I am an actor.”, He said with pride in his voice. “But right now I mostly work as a waiter or if I’m lucky as a singer. You know to make ends meet until I get my first few roles. Paving the way to some proper acting jobs. Right?”
Ah, Amy thought, the Hollywood dream that was keeping the bars and restaurants of the city in business by paying less than minimum wage to the flood of actors that were THIS close to their breakthrough role.
“So had any luck lately?” Amy asked formulating some early hypothesis.
“Not in job wise…” Franklin said square shoulders slumping very so slightly.
“However…” Amy said noticing that there was a source of luck handsome Mr Franklin had not yet mentioned, which might yet provide her with a new juicy idea of what might drive someone to murder.
“Well…” he said a bit sheepishly, “I got to know a woman and we… we are getting married.”
“Congratulations.” Said Amy smiling out of politeness but mostly because she had caught the scent of motive again. “And who is the lucky girl?” she asked.
He looked at her blushing slightly. “Hellen Ashford Stone. You might have heard of her.”
Might have? Hellen Ashford Stone was one of the richest and by far the most eccentric women in the entire city. Since she had lost her last, fourth husband twenty years ago she had sworn to live her life to her fullest and to never marry again. And lo and behold the old dame had found herself a young lover who she intended to marry?
The handsome Mr. Franklin had murder victim written all over him. If Amy could manage to keep him alive long enough to solve the case she would never have to work a single unfaithful bastard case ever again.
Hell she might even buy her dignity a cosy little house to live in.