The rain hit hard at my window. It slowed down to a whisper, then hit hard again. All afternoon the rain had been doing this while I sat behind my desk with my feet up, doing nothing. I looked around the ratty little office and wondered vaguely what time it was.
It wasn’t much of an office. The four walls were painted a sickly lime-green, and the only bright spot in the room was the famous Marilyn Monroe calendar with its flame-red background. Two ladder-backed straight chairs, a two-drawer file cabinet, a cheap combination typing-and-writing desk and a swivel-chair completed the furnishings. The rugless floor was laid with brown and yellow linoleum blocks. As I sat facing the door, looking over my feet at the milk-glass pane, I could see in reverse the lettering of my name:
JACOB C. BLAKE
Behind me was my single window with its excellent view of the air shaft. The office was on the mezzanine of the King Edward Hotel and it was probably the worst location for a private investigator in San Francisco. But I hung onto it for two reasons. One: I lived in the hotel. Two: It was cheap.
I lit a cigarette and tried my best to blow smoke rings. After several tries I blew a good one. While I watched it disintegrate the door opened and a girl entered. She was young and she held a pistol in her hand. I left my feet on the desk and raised my arms in the air as high as I could reach.
“Stick ’em up!” the girl said, out of the corner of her mouth.
“They are up.” My voice came out higher than I’d ever heard it before. My body felt suddenly cold and damp. The girl came around to the side of my desk, shoved the pistol into my face and pulled the trigger. A jet of lukewarm water splashed on my forehead and dribbled into my eyes. The girl made a noise, a foolish, school-girl giggle.