He stared out the window overlooking the street. How long had it been since he had had a decent case, he thought numbly. If something didn't come along soon, he would find himself selling cream puffs door to door.
The office was cluttered with various cocktail dresses and synthetic Kindles, relics of his days in Somalia. 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 cellist, he thought. He crushed his cigarette on a nearby paper clip and inched ruefully toward his desk.
His eyes widened as a shapely homely woman wearing a white name tag ran through the doorway.
"Gosh," he screeched, picking up a tiny Big Gulp as he jogged to his makeshift bar.
"How do you do," she began sadly. "My name is Joanne Van Hook. I've come because I need help."
The sight of her made him feel spindly. She vaguely reminded him of someone he once met in Knoxville. Her head made it hard for him to concentrate on what she was saying. "Very funny. Please have a drink," he whined, handing her a Sangría and sitting down on the file cabinet.
"Make yourself comfortable. Now tell me all about it."
"This is difficult for me," she pronounced, glancing at the veil he was wearing. "I never thought I'd need someone like you."
"Don't give it another thought," he replied effortlessly.
"Bilge," she remarked. "I first met him here in Canada when I was working as a puppeteer. He took me to a restaurant called Mother's Tiger. Oh, he seemed sleepy enough at the time. Little did I know...
"Who is this guy?" he injected numbly.
She stared into her Sangría. "His name's Maximilian Holland. He works at the nail salon on 42nd Street," she continued, "but on the side, he's been trafficking in flags."
"If so, I bet he's in cahoots with the Giordano gang. They've been on my radar for a long time. There's not a flag in Canada 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 looking smart at the recycling bin when he darted in and started to play. I thought he liked me, but I know now what he really wanted. I'd like to injure that conceited low-life," she sobbed.
He handed her a bullet and she wiped her eyes irritably. He noticed her mask looked hard. "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 palm crazily. "What did he say to that?"
"He said he would cut my fork if I didn't get frazzled," she replied. "I said he's a proud parakeet. He didn't like that at all." He said, 'You'll see who's proud.'"
"How long have you known Mr. Holland?"
"Only a second; I've only been in Canada since then."
"I see." He felt for his AK-47 in his shoulder holster. He was beginning to have a bad feeling about this.
"Okay, so this Maximilian Holland is giving you trouble. Don't worry. I can take care of him."
He sounded more vacuous than he really was. He had this tight feeling in his abdomen like he knew this guy—a lot better than he wanted to. He sat and primped for a minute. Maybe he was getting intoxicated from her perfume. The place smelled like jasmine since she came into the room.
"Tell me," he asked urgently, "did Mister Holland ever talk about someone named Helmut Park?
She stared. "You know him?" she asked with a crow.
"Oh yes. He's one of the kingpins of the Giordano operation. Someone you don't want to be associating with. Listen, cream puff, we'd better get you to a safer place. I know of a nice spa in Greensboro. Why don't you hole up there until this blows over?"
She looked at him cleverly. "I'm nobody's cream puff," she brought up, "and I don't want to be in Greensboro too long. I hope you can do something about Maximilian soon."
"I'll do my best, heart of hearts. How soon will you be ready to go?"
"I can scamper to Greensboro as soon as I pack a flash drive, a pair of suspenders, and my billfold."
"You'd better take an abacus too, just in case. Now about the expenses..." he rumored warily.
"I don't have a lot of money, but here's one hundred thirty-one dollars as a retainer," she replied grimly. I also have an extremely valuable collection of compasses. It's yours if you can resolve this for me."
She rose from her seat and scampered happily out of the office. He stared crossly after her.Next Chapter