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Five the Hard Way, Case 1 -- The Draining Assignment by David Boop
Cover Artist: Logo Design: David Boop
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Date: 26 March 2016

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Five the Hard Way, #1

The Draining Assignment

A Trace Walker Temporary Mystery
by David Boop

"This is Trace Walker. Got anything?"

I hated begging my temporary agency for an assignment every day. I would've much preferred for them to call me when they had something, but that was their policy; call in or don't work.

Once a respected private investigator, I lived life as a late-night opening monologue joke. The good guy caught doing the wrong thing in the most public of ways. My actions left me un-hirable for any permanent job. Luckily, the agency kept my résumé aside for jobs that called for unusual skills. When they had work, it meant no one else was qualified. Normal at first, these jobs always had a twist.

Like when I moved a warehouse of steam showers.

"How's a steam shower different from a regular shower?" I asked Greg, the site's super. A burley man, he wore a Magnum P.I.-esque Hawaiian shirt.

"Instead of water, you can fill the shower with steam."

Trace Walker Mysteries
Five the Hard Way
by David Boop

Case 1 -- The Draining Assignment
Case 2 -- The Stock Taking Assignment
Case 3 -- Another Trucking Assignment
Case 4 -- A Trying Assignment
Case 5 -- A Step Up Assignment
"Like a sauna?"

"Yup. Good for the skin or upper respiratory infections."

I spent the morning driving forklifts until the loading dock was empty. As I parked my lift, I noticed a room marked "Displays". Worried that I'd missed showers to move, I checked out the area, only to find it barred from the inside

Greg joined me. "Oh, the models built in, so they're staying. Strange, though. Door shouldn't be locked."

Using a pry bar, we popped open the door.

A rush of steam hit us like getting off a plane in Brazil. All twelve steam shower models ran on full blast. On the floor, a naked female body lay prone. We rushed across the slippery tiles, but there was no way prune girl still lived. The corpse had spent easily the whole morning, if not the night, in a steam bath. In my previous life as a private detective, I'd seen death, but this one made me nauseous.

Turning her over, Greg freaked. Middle aged, any beauty she once had had gone down the drain with her soul. She'd recently colored her hair a bright red, but I could see a few strands of her natural blonde streaked within.

"That's Nancy Grubinger, our installation manager. She was a no-show this morning."

I checked for a pulse and shook my head. "And was that normal?"

Greg set down the body and slid open his cell. The familiar 911 tones rang out.

"She'd just put in for early retirement, something to do with some stock coming through. We figured she came down with short-timer's disease. I filled in for her, while you filled in for me."

The opposite door was locked from the other side, meaning someone had sealed Nancy in after turning up the steam. Boiled to death is no way to die, but it's clean. By the time Forensics did their sweep, any DNA would be out to sea. However, if I moved fast, there might be some evidence recoverable in a place few think to look.

I grabbed the crowbar and a tool belt from the dock.

Having rootered sewer drains previously, I knew commercial buildings had two runoff lines; theirs and the city's. A trap resided between them. I flipped up the manhole cover and climbed down. To my luck, the belt's flashlight had fresh batteries. I found the rungs leading up to the demo shower area. I had to slide on my back through cobwebs and muck to the trap, but I found it and wrenched it free.

There were still a few strands of hair the color of Nancy's, but also some shorter black hairs laying within the bundle; most likely pubic.


I emerged to find the person who made me more nauseous than a climb through the sewers. Detective Lopez never liked me in the best of circumstances and he loathed me finding near his crime scene.

"Walker! Please say you're confessing to this murder. Make me smile."

"No, I'm offering a killer delivery service. No tip needed." Handing him a ziplock with wet hair, I couldn't tell if he was more disgusted by it... or me.

"That's not admissible anymore. Your stinkin' ex-con hands are all over it."

I ignored his gibe. "Yeah, and by the time you team got around to looking in the drain, if at all, there wouldn't even be this much to recover. At least you've got something to work from."

He took the bag ungratefully. I never got thank yous, ever.

The temp job ran through the week. I got the news on the last day. The hair strands contained DNA on record, for all the good that did.

Jaeger Harris, the DNA's owner, didn't even spend a half-day in lock-up. A former Marine, now private security, he claimed Nancy and him had shagged in the steam shower room after meeting in a bar. With my corruption of evidence, they were lucky to even get that lie. Over the week, it'd been clear through the memorials and testimonials of her friends, Nancy wasn't a barfly and then take them home (or to work) type of lady. Looking at Jaeger's picture, I doubted he dated older office managers. He struck me more the ditzy supermodels type with his physique.

No, somewhere lay a connection between the two. How did simple Nancy cross paths with Black Ops veteran Harris? Poor, sweet Nancy, whose ship had finally come in. But why kill her before the money arrived? Harris wasn't on any of her paperwork, her will. The stock, I discovered through gossip, went to her brother, her sole heir.

Lopez dug only as far as he saw fit, which wasn't deep.

Without a license, I couldn't do more for Nancy other than pity the way her life ended. After all Monday, I'd just be a temp again.

About the author:

David Boop is a bestselling Denver-based speculative fiction author. He’s also an award-winning essayist, and screenwriter. His novel, the SF/noir She Murdered Me with Science, will return to print in 2016 from WordFire Press. David has had over fifty short stories published and two short films produced. While known for Weird Westerns, he's published across several genres including media tie-ins for The Green Hornet, The Black Bat and Veronica Mars. His RPG work includes Interface Zero, Rippers and Deadlands: Noir for Savage Worlds. David regularly tours the country speaking on writing and publishing at schools, libraries, and conventions. Two other Trace Walker Temporary Mysteries have appeared on the pages of Gumshoe Review.

David's a single dad, part-time temp worker and believer. His weirdest job was as a professional Beetlejuice impersonator. His hobbies include film noir, anime, the Blues, and Mayan History. You can find out more on his fanpage, or Twitter @david_boop.

The Draining Assignment © David Boop, April 2016

Our Readers Respond

From: Spring Lea Henry:
Definitely want to read more about Trace! He comes through loud and clear as a Voice.
From: Richard Shirley
An intriguing start to a story. Looking forward to the next installment.

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