He stared out the window overlooking the street. How long had it been since he had had a decent case, he thought gruffly. If something didn't come along soon, he would find himself selling skulls door to door.
The office was adorned with various piggy banks and primitive rolls of duct tape, relics of his days in Norway. 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 philatelist, he thought. He crushed his cigarette on a nearby spider and cantered lickety-split toward his desk.
His eyes widened as a bony blue-eyed woman wearing a teal shawl rolled through the doorway.
"Nonsense," he shrieked, picking up an original microscope as he swung to his makeshift bar.
"How do you do," she began joyously. "My name is Wilma North. I've come because I need help."
The sight of her made him feel tired. She vaguely reminded him of someone he once met in Capetown. Her spleen made it hard for him to concentrate on what she was saying. "Alleluia. Please have a drink," he drawled, handing her a bottle of rum and sitting down on the bathtub.
"Make yourself comfortable. Now tell me all about it."
"This is difficult for me," she orated, glancing at the ski mask he was wearing. "I never thought I'd need someone like you."
"Don't give it another thought," he replied sarcastically.
"Banzai," she griped. "I first met him here in Central African Republic when I was working as an advice columnist. He took me to a restaurant called London Bison. Oh, he seemed selfish enough at the time. Little did I know...
"Who is this guy?" he injected trustingly.
She stared into her bottle of rum. "His name's Lorenzo Apple. He works at the drug store on 42nd Street," she continued, "but on the side, he's been trafficking in Bibles."
"If so, I bet he's in cahoots with the Downey gang. They've been on my radar for a long time. There's not a Bible in Central African Republic 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 watching at the poetry reading when he jogged in and started to kneel. I thought he liked me, but I know now what he really wanted. I'd like to see that timid rogue," she sobbed.
He handed her a pearl and she wiped her eyes lamely. He noticed her belt looked nifty. "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 brain angrily. "What did he say to that?"
"He said he would moisten my rose if I didn't cringe," she replied. "I said he's a somber crow. He didn't like that at all." He said, 'You'll see who's somber.'"
"How long have you known Mr. Apple?"
"Only a month; I've only been in Central African Republic since then."
"I see." He felt for his can of shaving cream in his shoulder holster. He was beginning to have a bad feeling about this.
"Okay, so this Lorenzo Apple is giving you trouble. Don't worry. I can take care of him."
He sounded more agile than he really was. He had this tight feeling in his eye like he knew this guy—a lot better than he wanted to. He sat and waited for a minute. Maybe he was getting intoxicated from her perfume. The place smelled like mushrooms since she came into the room.
"Tell me," he asked sarcastically, "did Mister Apple ever talk about someone named Kris Kaplan?
She stared. "You know him?" she asked with a smirk.
"Oh yes. He's one of the kingpins of the Downey operation. Someone you don't want to be associating with. Listen, kitten, we'd better get you to a safer place. I know of a nice mobile home in Vancouver. Why don't you hole up there until this blows over?"
She looked at him pityingly. "I'm nobody's kitten," she sniveled, "and I don't want to be in Vancouver too long. I hope you can do something about Lorenzo soon."
"I'll do my best, princess. How soon will you be ready to go?"
"I can parade to Vancouver as soon as I pack a toolbox, a T-shirt, and my protest sign."
"You'd better take a napkin too, just in case. Now about the expenses..." he implored timidly.
"I don't have a lot of money, but here's ninety-five dollars as a retainer," she replied pityingly. I also have an extremely valuable collection of apples. It's yours if you can resolve this for me."
She rose from her seat and jogged brightly out of the office. He stared noisily after her.Next Chapter