It was one of those nights.
The smell of gasoline smellier than a pig's underbelly. The grit of the street tangible, digging underneath your nails, into your eyes. Smoke thick as the steam rushing up from a bowl of steamed vegetables. Darker than the eys of a murderer. Yeah. You know those nights? Of course you do. Everybody in this damn city knows these nights. Hell, the entire city is made up of those nights.
Terrible night for some. But a perfect night for others. Not for me, but another one, a cold blooded one. A perfect night for a murder. A murderer.
But it wasn't such a great job for the murdered--the gentleman of the manor, none other than the eccentric musical genius known only as 'Brooke'. Kinda like Plato. Just crazier.
And it's my job to figure out who the murderer was. The great Usopp, known worldwide for his detective skills. And of course, I could never do it without my assistant, the only thing redder than her hair being the fire in her eyes. And yow! Can that dame pack a punch!
Now this, this here, this is a big city. The lights from the streetlamps glitter in the darkness like fireflies roaming the night. Except this isn't the country, this is a city, and where there's city, there's blood. And blood is on somebody's hands. There were only a few people who knew Brooke, or even knew where he lived. Those eccentric types. You know them. Like your crazy old uncle, or Beethoven. Didn't that freak cut off his ear?
Anyways. The main suspects.
There's Monkey D. Luffy, with a head full of nothing but air, but with dough to throw around. He's always there with Brooke, just as crazy as that guy was, and his friends tell me that he can pack one hell of a punch. He's a guy with money, and with dreams, and in this world, the latter won't get you anywhere, but the former? That will get you far. So that's number one.
Number two is none other than the musician's chef. Sanji. Blonde hair over his face, you just gotta wonder what he's hiding underneath there. Surly beyond belief. Chain smoker. Called Brooke 'shithead' on a daily basis. Yeah. You know the type. New Yorkers, y'know? All the same. Anyways. He's got a kick that'll kill you, I've heard, and could slip something into food. I dunno. I'm a detective, not some guy in the forensics department. But lemme tell you, I'm sure the great Usopp could do just as well in there as on the detective scene, but this, the life of adventure, this is the life for me.
The next suspect is Brooke's doctor. The guy ate some funky fruit in his childhood, and this doctor, he provided all of Brooke's medicine for him. Now this guy's real strange. He's got fur and hooves and horns, and damn, if I didn't know any better I'd say he was a moose. But this guy, he doesn't like to talk much, likes to concentrate on his work. Which is all well and good; I do pretty much the same. Us lone wolves tend to. But in a place like this? Anything is suspicious. And if that's not suspicious enough, then the knockout he's got for an assistant sure is. She's curvier than a chain of balls (which happens to be one of my great and terrible weapons), and lemme tell you. That's pretty curvy. She's quiet. Smart looking. Speaks politely, and when she does, you know there's something going on in that mind of hers. Those two, they're hard nuts to crack.
Then there's mob-boss Franky, with all his little brothers and sisters. People talk, people talk about Brooke being involved with all that mob stuff. Scary stuff for normal people (but not the great Usopp, of course), and Franky's a big guy with a curious affinity for cola and guns. Especially guns. The cops are scared of the guy, won't touch his family. They're decent, mostly. But hey, when the three cheapest things on the market are gunpowder, fire and cola, and a guy's got a helluva lot of all three, you gotta be careful.
And last is the most suspicious one of all. Roronoa Zoro, the man who was hired as Brooke's very own bodyguard. Carries around swords in the age of the gun, and specializes in pointy objects. Always glaring, always quiet, the only words coming out of his mouth being scornful. People say that before he kills whatever guy is harassing his employer, he spouts some stuff about spirits. Elements. Real crazy, but good at what he does. Nobody knows much about the guy. They say he's killed a hundred people, say he's done work for the government, but nothing's for sure.
And the last person in this unraveling story of grime and crime and gunpowder is my assistant. You remember me describing her earlier? Hair red, eyes even redder? Yeah. Her. She comes, says to me, "You can't handle your money, you piece-a shit. Lemme have a cut, and I'll handle everything."
So I says to her, "The great Usopp doesn't need your help," but she insists and hell, she's damn good at what she does. Smart girl. No parents, no family, no nothing, it looks like, 'cept for a tattoo. We're kind of the same, then, and we're like family, now.
Except that's not really important, not now, maybe not ever. The important thing is the answer to this question: Who killed Brooke?
So, I'm sitting there at my desk, smokin' my cigarette and thinking about things white the last bits of moonlight flicker through the blinds. Getting dark outside. I flick my lamp on and lean back in my chair, propping my feet up. 'Cause hey, I spend half my life in this place, and it might as well be comfortable. 'Course, this isn't about comfort. This is about thinking.
Which seems to have gone wrong as Nami bursts through the door, her silhouette sharp against the door frame. Girl's got a good sense of drama, but not good enough--instead of staying there and slinking down to my desk, whispering things about the case with eyes half lidded, she storms in and slams the desk. "Wake up, you long-nosed idiot!" She barks at me and I.. wake from my peaceful slumber. A guy's gotta sleep, y'know? And just to make things clear, my nose isn't long. It is noble, with a Greek-like architecture and a Roman swoop and a delicate bump at the ridge that presents just the right air of nobility.
So I wake up and I says to her, "What? What is it Nami?" Now, I know most expect me to say something a bit more profound, but she just woke me up, so I let myself off the hook this time.
"I know what this murder's about," she says, the grin coilin' up her face more suited to the Cheshire cat than a woman, and the brightness in her eyes can't be mistaken. She waits. For me to guess.
"Mo-ney." She enunciates both syllables clearly. So that's why she was grinning. Brooke was a rich man.
"Money!" I tell her. "Brilliant!" But obviously, my heart's workin' faster than my head, 'cause after a second, my smile dims and it occurs to me. "U-uh, Nami. Every suspect in this case has to do with money. He pays his chef and bodyguard, and he knows Monkey D. Luffy through wealth, and he pays his doctor, and... and-and-and... well, everybody knows the mob deals with money."
She snorts, and scrapes a chair over - on my good hardwood, too - leans forward, looks me real close in the eye. Her jaw furiously works on a piece of bubble gum, and she blows one right in my face. This girl's got guts. And bubble gum, that's a real fad with girls, these days. Not with men, real men, which is a damn shame. I like bubble gum too. Don't make me less manly, but hey, sweet things are good. You'd never meet a man who doesn't like his Momma's chocolate chip cookies.
Anyways. "Great job, genius," she tells me, "but you don't have the nose for money that I do." ...well, this much is true. I don't concentrate so much on the material, y'know? "Check out this will."
I gape at it. "Every suspect's name is on it." I take it from her, hold it in the direct beam of dusty artificial light streaming from the lamp. "This doesn't help at all."
"On the contrary!" Nami announces, standing up, heels clicking against the hardwood. My good hardwood. "They'd refuse to talk otherwise, but this makes them veritable suspects. You got that, De-tec-tive?" She pops another bubble. It swells and bobs in the air for a second before her tongue recovers it.
"Got it," I say. "So, we start the questioning tomorrow?"
"Sounds good to me," she says, an arch of her brow and a twitch of her lips. "You're the boss."
I look down at the list, look back at Nami. "We start at dawn," I says to her. "Well, no. Maybe 10. Dawn is really inconvenient for whoever we're questioning, and we can take him off guard if it's sorta early, but dawn'll just make him--"
"Who are we questioning?" Nami interrupts. Impatient dame.
"Monkey D. Luffy."
Her grin has money written all over it. "Got it. You're pickin' me up, nine sharp, yeah?"
"Thanks, Boss," she says with a wink, and disappears into the night.
Sometimes I wonder why I keep her around.