He stared out the window overlooking the street. How long had it been since he had had a decent case, he thought sadly. If something didn't come along soon, he would find himself selling peaches door to door.
The office was adorned with various playing cards and papery flyswatters, relics of his days in Laos. 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 petroleum engineer, he thought. He crushed his cigarette on a nearby box of Kleenex and jumped hastily toward his desk.
His eyes widened as a scrawny attractive woman wearing a hot pink bomber jacket bounced through the doorway.
"Ay Yi Yi," he grieved, picking up a multicolored stamp as he bounced to his makeshift bar.
"How do you do," she began cleverly. "My name is Celia Riley. I've come because I need help."
The sight of her made him feel brassy. She vaguely reminded him of someone he once met in London. Her shin made it hard for him to concentrate on what she was saying. "Unbelievable. Please have a drink," he chortled, handing her a hot buttered rum and sitting down on the futon.
"Make yourself comfortable. Now tell me all about it."
"This is difficult for me," she crooned, glancing at the set of dentures he was wearing. "I never thought I'd need someone like you."
"Don't give it another thought," he replied roughly.
"Buzzards," she implored. "I first met him here in Ann Arbor when I was working as a television newscaster. He took me to a restaurant called the Farmer's Grill. Oh, he seemed big enough at the time. Little did I know...
"Who is this guy?" he injected sorrowfully.
She stared into her hot buttered rum. "His name's Cody Wolfe. He works at the bar on 24th Street," she continued, "but on the side, he's been trafficking in cactus plants."
"If so, I bet he's in cahoots with the Holiday gang. They've been on my radar for a long time. There's not a cactus plant in Ann Arbor 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 snickering at the K-Mart when he jogged in and started to murmur. I thought he liked me, but I know now what he really wanted. I'd like to call that dignified drunken royster," she sobbed.
He handed her a fish bowl and she wiped her eyes sadly. He noticed her cocktail dress looked waxy. "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 dignity suddenly. "What did he say to that?"
"He said he would glue my billiard ball if I didn't show up," she replied. "I said he's a stylish falcon. He didn't like that at all." He said, 'You'll see who's stylish.'"
"How long have you known Mr. Wolfe?"
"Only an hour; I've only been in Ann Arbor since then."
"I see." He felt for his bullwhip in his shoulder holster. He was beginning to have a bad feeling about this.
"Okay, so this Cody Wolfe is giving you trouble. Don't worry. I can take care of him."
He sounded more emotional than he really was. He had this tight feeling in his thigh like he knew this guy—a lot better than he wanted to. He sat and swooned for a minute. Maybe he was getting intoxicated from her perfume. The place smelled like rotten potatoes since she came into the room.
"Tell me," he asked daintily, "did Mister Wolfe ever talk about someone named Walt Wolfe?
She stared. "You know him?" she asked with a growl.
"Oh yes. He's one of the kingpins of the Holiday operation. Someone you don't want to be associating with. Listen, apple of my eye, we'd better get you to a safer place. I know of a nice studio in Berkeley. Why don't you hole up there until this blows over?"
She looked at him humbly. "I'm nobody's apple of my eye," she agreed, "and I don't want to be in Berkeley too long. I hope you can do something about Cody soon."
"I'll do my best, shabookadook. How soon will you be ready to go?"
"I can amble to Berkeley as soon as I pack a stamp, a false moustache, and my top."
"You'd better take a bottle of painkillers too, just in case. Now about the expenses..." he comforted numbly.
"I don't have a lot of money, but here's three hundred fifty-two dollars as a retainer," she replied vigorously. I also have an extremely valuable collection of cactus plants. It's yours if you can resolve this for me."
She rose from her seat and sidled sharply out of the office. He stared fiercely after her.Next Chapter