He stared out the window overlooking the street. How long had it been since he had had a decent case, he thought tensely. If something didn't come along soon, he would find himself selling fossils door to door.
He was standing in a small and somewhat dusty office on the third floor of an aging building in Denver. A still life of a mop and a tree hung crookedly on his wall.
The office was adorned with various bottles of perfume and slimy pacifiers, relics of his days in Iraq. 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 chimney sweep, he thought. He crushed his cigarette on a nearby crate and crept dolorously toward his desk.
His eyes widened as a miniature tattooed woman wearing a scarlet jerkin stalked through the doorway.
"Spiffy," he sniped, picking up a hard baseball as he crept to his makeshift bar.
"How do you do," she began languidly. "My name is Sandi Sheridan. I've come because I need help."
The sight of her made him feel sleepy. She vaguely reminded him of someone he once met in Rio de Janeiro. Her earlobe made it hard for him to concentrate on what she was saying. "Woops. Please have a drink," he whimpered, handing her a piña colada and sitting down on the windowsill.
"Make yourself comfortable. Now tell me all about it."
"This is difficult for me," she chuckled, glancing at the big red rose he was wearing. "I never thought I'd need someone like you."
"Don't give it another thought," he replied suspiciously.
"Dang it," she smirked. "It was shortly after I came here to Denver that I met him. I was working as a window washer. He took me to a restaurant called Double Barn. Oh, he seemed zany enough at the time. Little did I know...
"Who is this guy?" he injected numbly.
She stared into her piña colada. "His name's Irving Zmarzly. He works at the haberdashery on 33rd Street," she continued, "but on the side, he's been trafficking in radios."
"If so, I bet he's in cahoots with the Johnson gang. They've been on my radar for a long time. There's not a radio in Denver 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 sneering at the Wal-Mart when he swung in and started to whirl. I thought he liked me, but I know now what he really wanted. I'd like to pin that noble stalker," she sobbed.
He handed her a pencil sharpener and she wiped her eyes urgently. He noticed her big grin looked heavy. "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 wrist lickety-split. "What did he say to that?"
"He said he would crush my computer if I didn't raise an eyebrow," she replied. "I said he's a friendly yeti. He didn't like that at all." He said, 'You'll see who's friendly.'"
"How long have you known Mr. Zmarzly?"
"Only a fortnight; I've only been in Denver since then."
"I see." He felt for his insult in his shoulder holster. He was beginning to have a bad feeling about this.
"Okay, so this Irving Zmarzly is giving you trouble. Don't worry. I can take care of him."
He sounded more obedient than he really was. He had this tight feeling in his hangnail like he knew this guy—a lot better than he wanted to. He sat and shivered for a minute. Maybe he was getting intoxicated from her perfume. The place smelled like perfume since she came into the room.
"Tell me," he asked nonchalantly, "did Mister Zmarzly ever talk about someone named Abel Tannenbaum?
She stared. "You know him?" she asked with a titter.
"Oh yes. He's one of the kingpins of the Johnson operation. Someone you don't want to be associating with. Listen, little cherry blossom, we'd better get you to a safer place. I know of a nice church in Aurora. Why don't you hole up there until this blows over?"
She looked at him thankfully. "I'm nobody's little cherry blossom," she implored, "and I don't want to be in Aurora too long. I hope you can do something about Irving soon."
"I'll do my best, little chickadee. How soon will you be ready to go?"
"I can leap to Aurora as soon as I pack a clarinet, a cape, and my duffel bag."
"You'd better take a tote bag too, just in case. Now about the expenses..." he accused offhandedly.
"I don't have a lot of money, but here's eighty-two dollars as a retainer," she replied blissfully. I also have an extremely valuable collection of flutes. It's yours if you can resolve this for me."
She rose from her seat and jumped strangely out of the office. He stared surreptitiously after her.Next Chapter