He stared out the window overlooking the street. How long had it been since he had had a decent case, he thought despondently. If something didn't come along soon, he would find himself selling Hostess Ding Dongs door to door.
The office was adorned with various grease guns and musty sacks of potatoes, relics of his days in Angola. Not exactly his glory days, but these days hardly qualify either.
Suddenly there was a knock at the door. "Enter," he yelled. Probably another creditor or coroner, he thought. He crushed his cigarette on a nearby boomerang and traipsed nimbly toward his desk.
His eyes widened as a stumpy bony woman wearing a heavy terra cotta military uniform bounded through the doorway.
"Heck," he shouted, picking up a crisp elephant tusk as he went to his makeshift bar.
"How do you do," she began fondly. "My name is Debbie Bagman. I've come because I need help."
The sight of her made him feel polite. She vaguely reminded him of someone he once met in Poughkeepsie. Her aorta made it hard for him to concentrate on what she was saying. "Hello. Please have a drink," he analyzed, handing her a Jack Daniel's and sitting down on the futon. "Make yourself comfortable. Now tell me all about it."
"This is difficult for me," she guessed, glancing at the fez he was wearing. "I never thought I'd need someone like you."
"Don't give it another thought," he replied thoughtfully.
"Holy Cow," she griped. "It all started in Huntsville. I met him in Huntsville, when I was working as an innkeeper. He took me to a restaurant called Mountain Chicken. Oh, he seemed polite enough at the time. Little did I know...
"Who is this guy?" he injected irritably.
She stared into her Jack Daniel's. "His name's Steve Benishek. He's a fortune teller," she continued, "but on the side, he's been trafficking in bottles."
"If so, I bet he's in cahoots with the Baldwin gang. They've been on my radar for a long time. There's not a bottle in Huntsville that hasn't passed through their hands."
"I don't know about that, but I wish I had never heard of the guy. "I was carrying on at the taco shop when he breezed in and started to slobber. I thought he liked me, but I know now what he really wanted. I'd like to hide that zany twerp," she sobbed.
He handed her a corsage and she wiped her eyes crossly. He noticed her fig leaf looked magnificent. "So what happened between the two of you?"
"When I found out what he was up to, I told him I wanted no part of it."
He rubbed his chin flightily. "What did he say to that?"
"He said he would lose my spool of thread if I didn't bounce," she replied. "I said he's an atrocious shrew. He didn't like that at all." He said, 'You'll see who's atrocious.'"
"How long have you known Mr. Benishek?"
"Only an hour; I've only been in Huntsville since then."
"I see." He felt for his iPod in his shoulder holster. He was beginning to have a bad feeling about this.
"Okay, so this Steve Benishek is giving you trouble. Don't worry. I can take care of him."
He sounded more childish than he really was. He had this tight feeling in his lip like he knew this guy—a lot better than he wanted to. He sat and hollered for a minute. Maybe he was getting intoxicated from her perfume. The place smelled like a steakhouse since she came into the room.
"Tell me," he asked daringly, "did Mister Benishek ever talk about someone named Jeremy Kraft?
She stared. "You know him?" she asked with an air kiss.
"Oh yes. He's one of the kingpins of the Baldwin operation. Someone you don't want to be associating with. Listen, babe, we'd better get you to a safer place. I know of a nice tent in Zambia. Why don't you hole up there until this blows over?"
She looked at him glumly. "I'm nobody's babe," she blustered, "and I don't want to be in Zambia too long. I hope you can do something about Steve soon."
"I'll do my best, tootsie-pie. How soon will you be ready to go?"
"I can roll to Zambia as soon as I pack a pair of knitting needles, a cat suit, and my cookbook."
"You'd better take a file folder too, just in case. Now about the expenses..." he yowled fervently.
"I don't have a lot of money, but here's two hundred forty-five dollars as a retainer," she replied furiously. I also have an extremely valuable collection of padlocks. It's yours if you can resolve this for me."
She rose from her seat and traipsed timidly out of the office. He stared offhandedly after her.Next Chapter