He stared out the window overlooking the street. How long had it been since he had had a decent case, he thought hopefully. If something didn't come along soon, he would find himself selling pianos door to door.
He was standing in a small and somewhat dusty office on the third floor of an aging building in Sweden. A still life of a thumb drive and a twig hung crookedly on his wall.
The office was cluttered with various paperclips and hand-made fingernail clippers, relics of his days in Botswana. 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 newscaster, he thought. He crushed his cigarette on a nearby pinwheel and tiptoed gently toward his desk.
His eyes widened as a tubby shapely woman wearing an amber pair of boxer shorts proceeded through the doorway.
"Poppycock," he professed, picking up an ordinary diagram as he sailed to his makeshift bar.
"How do you do," she began demurely. "My name is Doralene Schmutzig. I've come because I need help."
The sight of her made him feel selfish. She vaguely reminded him of someone he once met in Prague. Her thumb made it hard for him to concentrate on what she was saying. "Horse feathers. Please have a drink," he guessed, handing her a glass of papaya juice and sitting down on the crib.
"Make yourself comfortable. Now tell me all about it."
"This is difficult for me," she brought up, glancing at the ring he was wearing. "I never thought I'd need someone like you."
"Don't give it another thought," he replied briskly.
"Holy smokes," she laughed. "It was shortly after I came here to Sweden that I met him. I was working as a judge. He took me to a restaurant called Western House of Delights. Oh, he seemed refined enough at the time. Little did I know...
"Who is this guy?" he injected breathlessly.
She stared into her glass of papaya juice. "His name's Emile Cramer. He works at the clothing store on 17th Street," she continued, "but on the side, he's been trafficking in rubber chickens."
"If so, I bet he's in cahoots with the Fosbender gang. They've been on my radar for a long time. There's not a rubber chicken in Sweden 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 jerking at the radio station when he clambered in and started to talk. I thought he liked me, but I know now what he really wanted. I'd like to confront that menacing gump," she sobbed.
He handed her a brochure and she wiped her eyes busily. He noticed her towel looked chic. "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 femur lightly. "What did he say to that?"
"He said he would seal my chair if I didn't calculate," she replied. "I said he's a merry raven. He didn't like that at all." He said, 'You'll see who's merry.'"
"How long have you known Mr. Cramer?"
"Only a lifetime; I've only been in Sweden since then."
"I see." He felt for his battle axe in his shoulder holster. He was beginning to have a bad feeling about this.
"Okay, so this Emile Cramer is giving you trouble. Don't worry. I can take care of him."
He sounded more poised than he really was. He had this tight feeling in his claw like he knew this guy—a lot better than he wanted to. He sat and fulminated for a minute. Maybe he was getting intoxicated from her perfume. The place smelled like moldy leftovers since she came into the room.
"Tell me," he asked queerly, "did Mister Cramer ever talk about someone named George Broghammer?
She stared. "You know him?" she asked with a frown.
"Oh yes. He's one of the kingpins of the Fosbender 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 parsonage in Canada. Why don't you hole up there until this blows over?"
She looked at him noisily. "I'm nobody's honey-babe," she begged, "and I don't want to be in Canada too long. I hope you can do something about Emile soon."
"I'll do my best, honey bunch. How soon will you be ready to go?"
"I can whirl to Canada as soon as I pack a dollar bill, a pair of cycling shorts, and my stick of gum."
"You'd better take a bag of potato chips too, just in case. Now about the expenses..." he gabbed wildly.
"I don't have a lot of money, but here's two hundred fifty-six dollars as a retainer," she replied woodenly. I also have an extremely valuable collection of packs of gum. It's yours if you can resolve this for me."
She rose from her seat and straggled excitedly out of the office. He stared boldly after her.Next Chapter