Monday, May 3, 2010

Flash Fiction Challenge: Skyler Hobbs and the Sweetest of Dreams


“That’s her,” our client said

I stared, trying not to leer.

Red-orange tresses danced about the girl’s head like flames, singeing the air as she swept into the bar. A sleeveless dress, translucent as a tropical sea, coalesced about her hips and breasts. Music throbbed from hidden speakers as if announcing her arrival: Sweet dreams are made of this. She moved with a swaying stride that sucked eyes from the sockets of every guy in the place.

Every guy, I noticed, including Mr. Skyler Hobbs.

I grinned, because until now Hobbs' interest in women had been confined to the criminal use of feminine wiles. Skyler Hobbs, you see, entertains the delusion that he is the honest-to-god reincarnation of the great detective Sherlock Holmes.

Our client, a stuffy accountant named Peter Peterson, was likewise affected, but his lustful expression was tinged with horror.

“You see?” he said. “Dressed like a skank, and frequenting a dive like this!”

The dive was a Portland, Oregon institution known as the Queen of Hearts, and while it was hardly a hangout for the upper crust, it was no worse than a hundred other neighborhood bars.

Hobbs set aside the copy of Mississippi Vivian he'd been reading. “Does she always look so . . . provocative?”

“The Grace I know,” Peterson said, “has never exhibited so much as a bare shoulder in my presence.”

I said, “And you’ve been engaged how long?”

Peterson’s cheeks colored, looking incongruous with his tough guy appearance. Feeling their normal attire would invite undue attention, Hobbs had outfitted Peterson and himself accordingly. Hobbs wore black jeans with rusty studs, a too-small Metallica T-shirt and a necklace made from a Budweiser caps. Spiked hair and a nose ring completed the look. Peterson looked equally ridiculous. I wore my everyday Jason Wilder—Computer Doctor clothes: chinos and a sweatshirt bearing a discreet Rogue Fish Tale Ale logo.

The mystery was this: After a six-month engagement to a demure brunette with a city government job, Peterson had discovered that by night she became this flame-haired clockstopper. Baffled, he’d followed her several times to this bar, but had been afraid to enter.

The lady in question eased into a booth with three burly bikers and squirmed from lap to lap. Within minutes she had one of them in hand, leading him out the back door to the alley.
   
I pushed my chair back, assuming we’d follow, but Hobbs stopped me. “Not yet, Doctor. Let us await further developments.”
   
We did. Ten minutes later she breezed back in, this time joining a group of guys who persisted, long after the style was dead, in wearing their baseball caps backwards. In short order she’d cut one from the herd and led him outside.
   
Hobbs’ eyebrows went up. He seemed perplexed. Peterson wrinkled his nose, looking more miserable than ever.
   
I leaned close and said a few words into Hobbs’ ear. His eyes went wide. “No! Not her. I refuse to believe it. I have another theory, but it must be tested.”
   
Upon her next return, Hobbs and I were waiting near the back door. Blocking her path, Hobbs executed a short bow.
   
“Pardon me,” he said. “Would you care to accompany me outside?” He extended an arm like a boy scout ready to escort a lady across the street.  
   
The girl took a step back, surveyed his costume and laughed. “What did you have in mind?”
   
Hobbs smiled and winked. “Merely a stroll in the moonlight, I assure you.”
   
“No thanks.”
   
Hobbs turned to me. “Would you care to try?”
   
I stepped up and whispered in her ear, steeling myself for a slap. Instead, she grabbed my hand and dragged me toward the door.
   
Once outside she said, “Turn around, lover. I have a surprise for you.”
   
I turned, tingling with anticipation, and next thing I knew she’d snapped handcuffs on me and thrust me into the back of a panel van. 
   
“Hello, scumbag,” said a grinning police officer. “You have the right to remain silent.”
   
I said something unprintable.
   
“A sting operation,” said a familiar voice. “You have confirmed my suspicions, Watson!” 
   
“Wilder,” I said under my breath, and twisted to see Hobbs and Peterson standing behind the redhead.
   
The girl’s mouth fell slack as she stared at our client. “Peter?”
   
“Hello, Grace.  I’m relieved to learn the truth about your… activities. But the engagement is off.  I cannot envision life with an undercover policewoman.” 
   
There was more talk, and a tear or two was shed, but in the end Peterson was gone and I was released.
   
“I knew it was a bad match,” the redhead said, “but in my line of work, I don’t meet many nice men.” She stretched up to kiss Hobbs lightly on the cheek. “Like you.”
   
Hobbs blushed furiously, and though he tried hard not to smile, his lips betrayed him.
   
“But what I really need,” the girl said, “is a guy who’s only half nice.” She pulled my face to hers, uncorking a kiss so soulful it curled my socks. I was still woozy when she pressed a business card into my hand. “Call me,” she said. “Sweet dreams.”
   
I licked my lips as the van pulled away, her last words throbbing in my brain. Sweet dreams.
   
“You will note, Doctor, that I was correct." Hobbs' voice was oddly constrained. "That girl could never perform the disgusting acts you suggested.” 
   
I was about to say, Not to strangers, anyway, but caught myself. Hobbs’ eyes were fixed on the card in my hand, and one of those eyes seemed to glisten.
   
“You’re right,” I said. “She’s a nice girl. Too nice for me.” And though it took every ounce of will, I tore the card into tiny pieces. “What is it they say about the sweetest of dreams, Hobbs?”
   
“They are those always just beyond our grasp.”
   
“Yeah,” I said, watching the bits of paper flutter to the ground. “Ain’t it the truth.”

###

© copyright 2010 by Evan Lewis
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For links to more stories in today's Sweet Dreams Flash Fiction Challenge, visit Patti Abbott's pattinase or Gerald So's If You Want to Know About My Life.

Please pay special attention to tales by two of my fellow critique groupers:
Looking for Something by R.L. Kelstrom
Beadie and the Blesser by Kassandra Kelly

More adventures of Skyler Hobbs and Doctor Wilder:

20 comments:

David Barber said...

Top write again Evan. I'm loving Skyler Hobbs.

Deka Black said...

My first Skyler Hobbs story. Short and nice.

Deka Black said...

I almost forgot: te photo surprised me!

pattinase (abbott) said...

These redheads are turning out to be a world of trouble. Yes, the photo was great as was the story. Thanks for turning Skyler over to us.

sandra seamans said...

You've got to love Skyler and Hobbs. Though I do hope Skyler at lest memorized her number before he tore up the card! ;-) Great story, Evan!

Richard R. said...

Terrific! We always want MORE Skyler & Hobbs.

Richard Prosch said...

Skyler Hobbs shorts remind me of Asimov's Black Widower stories. Nice work. Them Portland cops are tough.

Cormac Brown said...

A nice continuation on the series.

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Only a few more and you can issue a s/s collection. This one was really good.

Steve Weddle said...

Heck yeah. Every time I read something of yours, I realize that I don't make it over here often enough. Nice job.

Evan Lewis said...

Thanks for the kind remarks, folks. Hobbs loves the attention (though he professes not to).

Joseph A. West said...

Better late than never...
A good story nicely told. Yeehah!
Joe West

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

Lots of fun, Evan! "Flame-haired clockstopper" ~ love that description.
"I said something unprintable." ~ very cute...
Thanks for taking us on another adventure with Skyler Hobbs & Wilder. Nice job!

David Cranmer said...

This character has turned out to be a favorite of mine.

I hope he has a long healthy life.

Ron Phillips said...

Nice job. I'm going to have to check out the rest of the Skyler Hobbs stories. Thanks for the comment over on my site. :)

Zipper said...

Another great Hobbs story. When's the novel coming?

Paul D. Brazill said...

Fantastic. the Syler Hobbs stories are the bees knees.

Kassandra said...

Skyler in black, mmm-eow! I think he could be half-bad too with the right inspiration. Love the story. I only await more.

Evan Lewis said...

Hm. Maybe someday Hobbs will encounter some red kryptonite and his evil half will emerge.

Loren Eaton said...

I am quickly developing a soft spot for Skyler Hobbs. What an awesome character and a great premise. Nicely done, Evan.