Short Story 18b of …

blog post
This is part two of the 18th in this series of those not accepted by journals for publication.




Part Two

Two days after painting CAF TERTIUS – PRIVATE INVESTIGATIONS on the finished stairway entrance door, I was listening to an Earl Scruggs banjo medley on my restored pawnshop 33 rpm player and entering my expenses and income in an open-source bookkeeping program. The investigation of a parking lot dispute had three entries for the date of activity – a pair of Benjamins for three hours work, ninety for an extended overtime parking ticket, and twelve-fifty for lunch. At that rate, I’d be on the nut for sure. Not a good sign for staying in business. I’d need more than a few cases if I wanted to pay back my savings, keep up on the rent, or just stay even. (Well, I could live in the Miata and eat without losing weight on my Army retirement, but bucket seat sleeping is…)

My ringtone “Wildwood Flower” on a Takamine Pro twelve-string guitar brought me back to reality. I’d waited for over a week to gut up my response, “CAF Tertius PI. How may I help you?”
A throaty-voice with a distinctively southern accent responded, “I’m Cassandra Gibson. Do you have some time tomorrow?”

“Let me look,” I lied. I thought about rumpling some paper for sound effects, but that went away with dial phones and Rolodexes. Guessing my pause was long enough, I asked, “Is noon or a quarter after a good time?”

She breathed, “I’d like it earlier if possible.”

I nearly blushed from the sound of her voice while thinking about telling her I had the morning free, but I didn’t want her to wonder why I’d said noon. I was silent to give her some decision time, then I asked, “For my records, how’d you find me – web site or newspaper ad?”

“I saw your sign on the door downstairs when I was buying a Brunswick Al Jolson 78 yesterday. Mrs. Fender gave me your card.”

We made an appointment to meet at my office just after noon the next day.

The jingle from the motion detector inside the unlocked street door alerted me. She hit the Ring button at the upstairs door and the first few chords of “I’m a Ramblin’ Man” by Waylon Jennings sounded on my phone. I touched the little green button with the old cradle-phone icon which I was just getting used to and said, “It’s open.”

I hesitate to use a 1930s pulp fiction description of the woman who stepped through the door of my office space, but she fit the best of them. Tall, runway walking, focused… I recognized more than a hint of Shalimar. It was my maternal grandmother’s favorite, and my grandfather could afford it by the quart. I’m certainly not a prude but the acceleration of my internal life-fluid’s pump reacting to her appearance embarrassed me. Her outfit was skimpy but projected income I didn’t expect to have in my lifetime. I was sure she wore makeup other than natural color lipstick, but it must have been professionally applied.

“Mr. Fabulist,” she said.

“Yes,” I responded as I settled my pulse. “Clayton, but I prefer Clay.”

I motioned her to a faux leather chair, as I slid behind my thrift store purchased well used Ikea desk. She didn’t take the chair but leaned over the desk like one of Miss Kitty’s Long Branch freelancing girls taking a drink order from a dusty beer starved trail hand. Her Loreal advertisement auburn hair dropped in front of where no polite man would be purposely looking. Well, I am human, but I focused on the slowly rotating ceiling fan wafting the Shalimar through the room.

Without asking about my fees she stated her reason for seeing me. “My father has been paying a questionable-ethics multi-employee firm to keep tabs on my former husband for several years. Daddy shares little with me, but his intent is to discover if or not my ex, Phillip Gretsch, has been withholding income related to our settlement.”

I thought: A Gibson and Gretsch in the same case?

-end of part two-

As my octogenarianism continues, my mind wanders as I wonder.
Or could it be that my mind wonders as I wander?
It is a fact that I have opinions – or is it?