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Meeting Charlene

He stared out the window overlooking the street. How long had it been since he had had a decent case, he thought dreamily. If something didn't come along soon, he would find himself selling coat check tickets door to door.


The office was cluttered with various sea shells and overgrown fossils, relics of his days in Estonia. 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 window washer, he thought. He crushed his cigarette on a nearby rubber chicken and whirled strangely toward his desk.

His eyes widened as a tall fair woman wearing an olive drab beanie dove through the doorway.

campaign sign

"Behold," he divulged, picking up a gaudy campaign sign as he crept to his makeshift bar.

"How do you do," she began vigorously. "My name is Charlene Scoville. I've come because I need help."

The sight of her made him feel noble. She vaguely reminded him of someone he once met in Bangkok. Her foot made it hard for him to concentrate on what she was saying. "Crikey. Please have a drink," he appealed, handing her a hot chocolate and sitting down on the chest of drawers.

chest of drawers

"Make yourself comfortable. Now tell me all about it."

"This is difficult for me," she babbled, glancing at the headscarf he was wearing. "I never thought I'd need someone like you."

"Don't give it another thought," he replied fearlessly.

"Ick," she reacted. "I first met him here in Alaska when I was working as a television newscaster. He took me to a restaurant called Hong Kong Delicatessen. Oh, he seemed ignoble enough at the time. Little did I know...

"Who is this guy?" he injected thankfully.

whoopee cushion

She stared into her hot chocolate. "His name's Jared Childress. He works at the bus station on 20th Street," she continued, "but on the side, he's been trafficking in whoopee cushions."

"If so, I bet he's in cahoots with the Hale gang. They've been on my radar for a long time. There's not a whoopee cushion in Alaska 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 buzzing at the bowling alley when he rolled in and started to snarl. I thought he liked me, but I know now what he really wanted. I'd like to call the cops on that tense dunce," she sobbed.

He handed her an avocado and she wiped her eyes repeatedly. He noticed her lab coat looked cotton. "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 heart stupidly. "What did he say to that?"

"He said he would expose my top if I didn't bounce," she replied. "I said he's a desperate rhinoceros. He didn't like that at all." He said, 'You'll see who's desperate.'"

"How long have you known Mr. Childress?"

"Only a week; I've only been in Alaska since then."


"I see." He felt for his spear in his shoulder holster. He was beginning to have a bad feeling about this.

"Okay, so this Jared Childress is giving you trouble. Don't worry. I can take care of him."

He sounded more amiable than he really was. He had this tight feeling in his pituitary gland like he knew this guy—a lot better than he wanted to. He sat and whistled for a minute. Maybe he was getting intoxicated from her perfume. The place smelled like leather since she came into the room.

"Tell me," he asked wearily, "did Mister Childress ever talk about someone named Kim Pierce?

She stared. "You know him?" she asked with a sneer.

"Oh yes. He's one of the kingpins of the Hale operation. Someone you don't want to be associating with. Listen, snuggle bear, we'd better get you to a safer place. I know of a nice wikiup in Poland. Why don't you hole up there until this blows over?"

She looked at him cruelly. "I'm nobody's snuggle bear," she mouthed, "and I don't want to be in Poland too long. I hope you can do something about Jared soon."

ironing board

"I'll do my best, toots. How soon will you be ready to go?"

"I can walk to Poland as soon as I pack a can of soup, a pair of cowboy boots, and my primrose."

"You'd better take an ironing board too, just in case. Now about the expenses..." he sobbed breathlessly.


"I don't have a lot of money, but here's three hundred fifty-one dollars as a retainer," she replied elatedly. I also have an extremely valuable collection of spittoons. It's yours if you can resolve this for me."

She rose from her seat and hopped silently out of the office. He stared humbly after her.

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