I’m currently working on a new series. It’s a detective story about a private eye named Moneta Watkins. Here is a rough draft of chapter four. Please excuse any typos. This chapter is supposed to introduce Moneta’s side-kick (the Watson to her Sherlock) and Moneta’s love interest. If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them in the comments.
Moe sipped her beer and watched the other patrons from her table in the back corner of the restaurant. The room was crowded for a Tuesday night. Lots of couples talking quietly in booths or not talking and staring at their phones. Moneta eyed plates as they went by, trying to decide what to order. She watched an elderly couple share a pizza as they both read paperbacks. A little boy caught her staring and glared at her, so she stuck her tongue out at him and they both laughed. After being cooped up in her office all day researching the Mrs. Kingsington-Ring and her husband all day, it was nice to be out and around people.
“Moe, I thought we agreed that you would not wear a t-shirt today,” Stacey said as she took a seat at the table.
“You said no t-shirts with pictures of old movies or weird quotes. This t-shirt has the Green Lantern logo. And not just any Green Lantern logo. This is the John Stewart logo, because he is the best Lantern in the cannon, without question,” Moe replied and took another sip of her beer.
“I don’t understand any of that,” Stacey said as she waved to a passing waitress. “I just want you to dress nicely for work meetings is all.”
Moe rolled her eyes. “They’re not paying me to dress nice,” she said with a grin.
The waitress arrived at the table with pen and pad in hand. “Y’all ready to order?” she asked with a slight southern twang. Her eyes passed over Stacey to Moe and then went back to Stacey. The waitress stared at her as if she knew her but couldn’t place her.
Moe finished her beer and then said, “I’ll get the cowboy burger and another beer.”
“How do you want that cooked?” the waitress said, not taking her eyes off of Stacey.
“Medium rare,” Moe said, passing her menu to the waitress.
“I’ll have the house salad with the vinaigrette dressing, but on the side. And no carrot shavings, please. I’ll also have a side of steamed broccoli and a martini. Clean, wet, straight up, stirred. And tell Mike with Beefeater, not that well shit,” Stacey said, holding out her menu.
“Oh my gosh! You’re her!” the waitress said, finally making the connection.
“Here we go,” Stacey said under her breath to Moe.
“You’re Kim. From the Sweet Adventures of Lizzy and Kim. I used to love your show. I watched it every day after school,” the waitress said.
“That was me,” Stacey said.
“Wow. This is so great. I can’t believe you’re at my table,” the waitress said.
“Yep. Here I am. Ordering food,” Stacey said.
“Wow,” the waitress said, putting her hand on her hip and looking Stacey up and down.
“So, did you get my order or do you need me to repeat it?” Stacey asked.
The waitress waved dismissively. “Oh, I totally got it. So, what was that line you used to say?”
“That was a long time ago,” Stacey said.
“But there was that one line. What was it?” the waitress said, biting the end of her pen in thought.
“It’s not really important,” Stacey said.
“Oh no, Lizzy. How will we ever get out of this pickle?” Moe said in a voice that was half worried and half whiny and one-hundred percent overly dramatic.
“That’s it!” the waitress declared with glee.
“Traitor,” Stacey said to Moe.
“Do you still talk to Lizzy? She was amazing on that show,” the waitress asked.
“Her name’s Juliette. Lizzy was the character’s name,” Stacey explained.
“She was so good on that show. And I just saw her last week in that new one, about the horse ranch that she is trying to save. She was in that one with Robert Redford. It was so great. He plays her dad who’s dying of cancer, but you don’t know that right away, and then she moves back home to help him run the ranch, and she falls in love with that one guy who plays Thor. Have you seen it? She’s amazing in it,” the waitress said.
“I’m sure she is,” Stacey said.
“Wow, this is so cool,” the waitress said. “Would you… Would you mind if I took a selfie with you?”
“I’ll take it for you,” Moe said.
“That would be amazing. Thank you so much,” the waitress said with glee in her eyes. She passed Moe her phone and Moe moved around the table to get a better angle.
“Say pickle,” Moe said.
“Pickle!” the waitress said as Moe snapped the picture.
She handed the phone back to the waitress who then knelt next to the table. “So, does Lizzy ever come and visit you here? Do you two ever hang out?” she asked.
But before she could get an answer, a man placed a hand on her shoulder. The waitress turned to see Mike, the bartender and manager, standing over her. In his other hand, he was supporting a tray of drinks. “Hey, Jamie. Why don’t we give these two women some space to enjoy their meal,” he said. His deep voice had the unique ability to commanded attention and ease tension at the same time.
“Oh, my gosh,” the waitress said, standing up. “I’m so sorry. I got completely carried away. I’ll go and put your order in right now.”
“Thanks, Jamie. And I’ve already got their drinks,” Mike said as the waitress left. Turning to Stacey and Moe, Mike said softly so he wouldn’t be overheard, “I’m so sorry. That was a real pickle.”
“I was scared we were never going to get out of it,” Moe said, nodding.
“You two are assholes,” Stacey said, crossing her arms.
“Alright, another beer for you,” Mike said, placing a heavy glass filled with dark amber liquid in front of Moe. “And for you, Ms. Celebrity, a martini. Wet, clean, straight up, and stirred,” he said, placing an extra-large martini in front of Stacey.
Stacey picked it up and took a sip.
“Am I forgiven for the pickle crack?” Mike asked.
Stacey took another sip and said, “Maybe.”
Mike looked at Moe and she instinctively looked down. Her heart fluttered and she bit her bottom lip. “You got any good cases you’re working on?” he asked.
She looked up into his light brown eyes. They contrasted with his dark skin, making their soft color pop. “Nothing I can talk about. How long are you in town?” she asked.
“Two months. Then I’ve got a climb up the Knife Edge trail on Mount Katahdin scheduled,” he said.
“Where’s that?” Moe asked.
“In Maine,” he said.
“Staying stateside this time?” Stacey asked.
“I’m heading to England in three months to do Scafell Pike again. Katahdin is just something to do while I wait,” he said.
“England? I bet that’s going to be beautiful,” Moe said.
“The invitation stands,” Mike said. “Anytime you want to come with me, you are more than welcome.”
“I can’t leave. Thanks though,” Moe said, looking at her pink laces.
“It’s an open invitation,” Mike said, and then, rubbing his head he added, “Anyway, I’ll let you get back to dinner. I should check in at the bar.”
“Thanks, Mike,” Stacey called as he walked away. Then she looked down her nose at Moneta and raised her left eyebrow.
“What?” Moe asked defensively.
Stacey took another sip of her giant martini.
“I can’t just run off to climb a mountain,” Moe said.
Stacey looked down her nose at Moe again.
“Maybe someday, okay,” Moe said. “There’s just too much going on right now.”
Stacey sipped her martini again.
“I mean, this case I’ve got is a real pickle,” Moe said.
“It’s not funny,” Stacey chastised.
“It’s a little funny,” Moe said with a devilish grin.
“So your case. Where does it rank on the Moneta scale?” Stacey asked.
“It’s only a two,” Moe said. She took a drink of the fresh beer Mike had brought. It was heavier than her first one but sweet. She liked it.
“I’m sorry. I could tell you were hoping for more this morning,” Stacey said. Her compassion seemed genuine, but it was hard to tell with her.
“It’s alright,” Moe said.
Jamie the waitress quietly arrived with their plates of food and placed them down on the table. She wouldn’t even make eye-contact, which Stacey seemed to revel in. Moe assumed the waitress’s attempts to be unobtrusive meant Mike had said something to her.
“Thanks,” Moe said as the waitress stepped away.
“So give me the details,” Stacey said. She took the dressing she’d asked to be put on the side and dumped it on the salad, which made Moe smile.
“I can’t,” Moe said, picking at her French Fries. “The client demanded absolute secrecy.”
“But that doesn’t apply to me. Who am I going to tell? You’re my only friend,” Stacey said.
“That’s not true,” Moe said.
“Please. You know you’re the only person in the world I can stand,” Stacey said. She took a big bite of her salad and then said as she chewed, “So spill it?”
“Honestly, I can’t,” Moe apologized.
Stacey swallowed and then said, “Okay, so what about this? You hire me as, like, your assistant or something. You don’t even have to pay me. I’ll be your intern. That way you can tell me everything and you aren’t breaking your contract.”
“I don’t know,” Moe said.
“No, seriously,” Stacey said. She was perking up as she thought about the idea. “It’ll give me something to do. And if this is really a 2 on the Moneta scale, then you will probably want the company.”
Moe took a bite of her burger and thought while she chewed. “You’d have to do everything I said,” she said.
“Absolutely,” Stacey said.
“And we start at six tomorrow, and you’ll have to be on time,” Moe said.
“God. Six? Fine,” Stacey said, sipping her martini.
Moe smiled. “Great, you’re hired,” she said.
“So what’s the case?” Stacey said.
“Catch a cheating husband with his mistress,” Moe said.
“Oh. I’m so happy. This is going to be fabulous,” Stacey said, sipping her martini.