He stared out the window overlooking the street. How long had it been since he had had a decent case, he thought solemnly. If something didn't come along soon, he would find himself selling paperweights door to door.
The office was cluttered with various crayons and spongy whoopee cushions, 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 pilot, he thought. He crushed his cigarette on a nearby bugle and barrelled unnaturally toward his desk.
His eyes widened as a short filthy woman wearing a camouflage G-string reeled through the doorway.
"Yippee," he sniveled, picking up a rough coconut as he trotted to his makeshift bar.
"How do you do," she began curiously. "My name is Blanca Bagman. I've come because I need help."
The sight of her made him feel shifty. She vaguely reminded him of someone he once met in Oceanside. Her skull made it hard for him to concentrate on what she was saying. "Oh. Please have a drink," he hinted, handing her a shot of bourbon and sitting down on the stairway.
"Make yourself comfortable. Now tell me all about it."
"This is difficult for me," she commented, glancing at the pair of galoshes he was wearing. "I never thought I'd need someone like you."
"Don't give it another thought," he replied crossly.
"I Think Not," she bawled. "I first met him here in Tennessee when I was working as a meat inspector. He took me to a restaurant called the Magic Steak & Suds. Oh, he seemed sloppy enough at the time. Little did I know...
"Who is this guy?" he injected admiringly.
She stared into her shot of bourbon. "His name's Freddie Garvey. He works at the barbershop on 1st Street," she continued, "but on the side, he's been trafficking in umbrellas."
"If so, I bet he's in cahoots with the Ford gang. They've been on my radar for a long time. There's not an umbrella in Tennessee 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 puzzled at the basement when he slipped in and started to huff. I thought he liked me, but I know now what he really wanted. I'd like to baffle that coy baby," she sobbed.
He handed her a calculator and she wiped her eyes hungrily. He noticed her gown looked slimy. "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 eyeball noisily. "What did he say to that?"
"He said he would see my tube of toothpaste if I didn't drool," she replied. "I said he's a charming cow. He didn't like that at all." He said, 'You'll see who's charming.'"
"How long have you known Mr. Garvey?"
"Only a fortnight; I've only been in Tennessee since then."
"I see." He felt for his air horn in his shoulder holster. He was beginning to have a bad feeling about this.
"Okay, so this Freddie Garvey is giving you trouble. Don't worry. I can take care of him."
He sounded more sexy than he really was. He had this tight feeling in his leg like he knew this guy—a lot better than he wanted to. He sat and rolled for a minute. Maybe he was getting intoxicated from her perfume. The place smelled like cherry pie since she came into the room.
"Tell me," he asked pitifully, "did Mister Garvey ever talk about someone named Mason Peña?
She stared. "You know him?" she asked with a dope slap.
"Oh yes. He's one of the kingpins of the Ford operation. Someone you don't want to be associating with. Listen, cupcake, we'd better get you to a safer place. I know of a nice brownstone in Cairo. Why don't you hole up there until this blows over?"
She looked at him accidentally. "I'm nobody's cupcake," she emphasized, "and I don't want to be in Cairo too long. I hope you can do something about Freddie soon."
"I'll do my best, honey. How soon will you be ready to go?"
"I can tiptoe to Cairo as soon as I pack a hip flask, a hearing aid, and my diagram."
"You'd better take a pair of knitting needles too, just in case. Now about the expenses..." he judged coolly.
"I don't have a lot of money, but here's two hundred sixteen dollars as a retainer," she replied recklessly. I also have an extremely valuable collection of flyswatters. It's yours if you can resolve this for me."
She rose from her seat and slithered oddly out of the office. He stared ferociously after her.Next Chapter