He stared out the window overlooking the street. How long had it been since he had had a decent case, he thought gleefully. If something didn't come along soon, he would find himself selling doll houses door to door.
The office was adorned with various cigarettes and important tablet computers, relics of his days in South Sudan. 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 chief of police, he thought. He crushed his cigarette on a nearby diary and slithered merrily toward his desk.
His eyes widened as a slinky well-built woman wearing an emerald green bikini scooted through the doorway.
"No no no," he expressed, picking up a hand-painted potato as he crept to his makeshift bar.
"How do you do," she began zestily. "My name is Libby Lombardi. I've come because I need help."
The sight of her made him feel obese. She vaguely reminded him of someone he once met in Syracuse. Her finger made it hard for him to concentrate on what she was saying. "Knock me over with a feather. Please have a drink," he suggested, handing her a 7-Up and sitting down on the billiard table.
"Make yourself comfortable. Now tell me all about it."
"This is difficult for me," she warbled, glancing at the few ruined rags he was wearing. "I never thought I'd need someone like you."
"Don't give it another thought," he replied majestically.
"Hurray," she orated. "I first met him here in Zanzibar when I was working as a real estate investor. He took me to a restaurant called the Hungry Enchiladas. Oh, he seemed tired enough at the time. Little did I know...
"Who is this guy?" he injected courteously.
She stared into her 7-Up. "His name's Dan Stevenson. He works at the police station on 5th Street," she continued, "but on the side, he's been trafficking in Big Gulps."
"If so, I bet he's in cahoots with the Zilch gang. They've been on my radar for a long time. There's not a Big Gulp in Zanzibar 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 getting upset at the day care center when he hobbled in and started to breathe. I thought he liked me, but I know now what he really wanted. I'd like to stun that rapacious blockhead," she sobbed.
He handed her a bicycle and she wiped her eyes dreamily. He noticed her Panama hat looked clean. "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 lung jokingly. "What did he say to that?"
"He said he would strike my sponge if I didn't get sleepy," she replied. "I said he's a menacing alligator. He didn't like that at all." He said, 'You'll see who's menacing.'"
"How long have you known Mr. Stevenson?"
"Only a week; I've only been in Zanzibar since then."
"I see." He felt for his broadsword in his shoulder holster. He was beginning to have a bad feeling about this.
"Okay, so this Dan Stevenson is giving you trouble. Don't worry. I can take care of him."
He sounded more solitary than he really was. He had this tight feeling in his liver like he knew this guy—a lot better than he wanted to. He sat and hiccuped for a minute. Maybe he was getting intoxicated from her perfume. The place smelled like a feed lot since she came into the room.
"Tell me," he asked woefully, "did Mister Stevenson ever talk about someone named Paco Potatohead?
She stared. "You know him?" she asked with a sniffle.
"Oh yes. He's one of the kingpins of the Zilch operation. Someone you don't want to be associating with. Listen, honey-babe, we'd better get you to a safer place. I know of a nice apartment in Petaluma. Why don't you hole up there until this blows over?"
She looked at him nervously. "I'm nobody's honey-babe," she informed, "and I don't want to be in Petaluma too long. I hope you can do something about Dan soon."
"I'll do my best, snookums. How soon will you be ready to go?"
"I can slump to Petaluma as soon as I pack a microphone, a mask, and my peace pipe."
"You'd better take a microscope too, just in case. Now about the expenses..." he analyzed nonchalantly.
"I don't have a lot of money, but here's three hundred sixty-nine dollars as a retainer," she replied briskly. I also have an extremely valuable collection of suitcases. It's yours if you can resolve this for me."
She rose from her seat and scurried strictly out of the office. He stared vigorously after her.Next Chapter