For a time he made a decent salary by impersonating a detective.
He had fun. He cultivated a seedy unshaven look,
Wore old tweed coats, shirts without ties, and practiced
A weary tone for making simple phrases
Sound menacing or coolly ironic. The work was easy:
Find out the whereabouts of the deceased’s first husband,
Puncture this guy’s tires and that guy’s ego,
Make a pass at the waitress who witnessed the showdown
Between the corpse in the bedroom and the fair-haired suspect
About whom nobody knew anything, except that he was
A New Yorker and had served in the navy during Vietnam.
He wondered where the trail would lead this time.
“All right,” he said. “Surprise me.” And all of them
Started talking at once, the doorman who looked down
At his twenty-dollar tip, the call girl who lived next door
And was eating a six-lettuce salad for lunch when he knocked,
The waitress, who planned someday to own the restaurant,
The cops, who treated him like crap, and the one reporter
He could trust, who had once been the high school sweetheart
His mother wanted him to marry. He knew he was good at his job.
Other mothers hired him to locate their missing daughters.
They trusted him. Yet he never felt like a genuine detective.
When he went to the professional detectives’ convention,
He confided this feeling to colleagues, and they said
They, too, felt they were impersonating detectives.
For a busy person, he did a good imitation of laziness.
He whiled away a whole afternoon looking at the tops
Of tall buildings from the high arched windows of his own,
And wandering clouds, and the occasional plane,
And he even pictured the passengers on that plane,
British Airways flight #177 from Heathrow to Kennedy,
Where the same cast of characters turned up, only here
The call girl was a flight attendant from the south of France,
The man with the reporter’s notebook was an amateur philosopher,
And the victim, disguised as a young British novelist,
Was traveling with her mother. They were all waiting for nightfall,
Waiting for Miss Scarlet to appear. “What took you so long?”
She asked. It was then that he knew that he’d met her before,
But where? He could see past her red-haired disguise
Her hazel eyes gave her away. She spoke candidly about the men
She had known before him, and he didn’t necessarily believe her
But was glad she had let him seduce her, and even told her
He loved her, though that wasn’t going to stop him
From turning her in, if she did what he thought
She did, and that’s what he meant to find out tonight.