She had short brown hair, long brown legs, and stood on the sidewalk shivering in a short summer-weight dress and heels. She had pulled up in a PT Loser, the driver a pale, thin young man. From my second floor office window I could tell that his hair was not long for this world, and I couldn't help but think that if that guy could get a woman who looked as good as that, then maybe I still had a shot after all.
I watched a little longer as they perused the offering of Girl Scout cookies set up on a folding table at the edge of the sidewalk. Actually, she was doing the perusing, he was just standing there, off to one side. A box of Thin Mints, two of the lemonade ones and two of...yes, those chewy caramel and coconut ones. Based on my less than a minute long observation of her, and I judged her solely on her appearance, her good taste in cookies, and her bad taste in men, I knew that she was perfect for me.
As my soul-mate drove away with her pasty man-child in his stupid looking car I turned back to the question at hand. To wit: how in the hell was I going to pay my rent? Both my office and home rents were due in less than a week and after making my payment on the unreliable P.O.S. that I relied on for transportation, there just wasn't much money left. Not for the first time I questioned why I even had an office at all. In the year I'd been in business only two people, other than some of the folks that worked in the neighboring offices, had walked into my office, and they'd been two kids pushing and daring each other through the door to see what a real live private eye looked like. I think I'd disappointed them. Everyone else just called the number on the tiny ad I kept in the yellow pages.
Hell, I'd already been reduced to making spaghetti out of ramen and ketchup, maybe it was time to let the office go, maybe my ego could do without it. I sat at my desk and shuffled the bills around again, looking at each one, making another mental note of how much and when, and then moving them from the left side of the desk where I had put them this morning, to the right side. After that I read part of a Spencer novel, that guy cracks me up, keeping one eye on my open office door, just in case someone came in. No one did. This time of the day there wasn't much going on in my office building.
There were ten offices on the second and top floor of our building. Downstairs was occupied by a furniture store with thirty-five hundred dollar leather sofas in the front window. No reason to go in there, even if I had the money and even though my kids had moved out of the house for college months ago, I still had dogs that liked to sneak onto the couch when I wasn't looking, or when I was for that matter. The other offices consisted of a contractor, a property manager who only worked on Fridays and Saturdays, a massage school that also held yoga classes, an appraiser and a couple that I didn't really know what the hell the occupants did. The remaining handful were vacant. Unless I happened to be in the office during one of the classes at the hippie academy I'd often go days without seeing any of my neighboring tenants.
Really, the hippies weren't bad, some of the girls that went in and out of there were pretty nice looking, and the place did have a rule against perfumes, which was great, because if I'd had to smell patchouli on top of everything else today, I was just going to snap.
About two, after the lunch rush, I went downstairs and walked a couple of doors down the neighboring strip mall to the sandwich shop, the one with the funny name, but the serious sandwich. The one that actually puts meat on their sandwiches, not that other place where the fat guy lost all that weight. Of course he did, he was living on bread an lettuce.
I ate a sandwich and chips, drank two glasses of tea, and got a soft-serve ice cream cone and took it back up stairs. How I missed that god-awful car on my back to my building I'll never know, but at the top of the stairs I noticed that a guy was standing outside my door. Then I realized that it was pasty man-child, the guy who had driven off with my dream girl, the guy who had probably in the last couple of hours even had his hands on her cookies. Cookies that should have been mine, cookies that she would have shared with me while watching Family Guy on my horrible looking hand-me-down southwest print couch.
"You Chandler?" he asked.
"Yeah, that's me. Can I help you?"
I shifted my ice cream into my other hand, my keys always seemed to be in the wrong pocket, and unlocked the office door.
He was looking up and down the hall, not wanting to be seen talking to a PI, "C'mon in," I said, motioning him to a chair opposite my desk. I sat down and asked again, "Can I help you, Mr...?"
"I'm sorry, Burgundy. Johnny Burgundy." he pronounced it like the street in New Orleans. "I've never met a private eye before, Mr. Chandler."
"Most folks are lucky enough to not have had to. So, why are you meeting one now?"
"It's my fiancee, I think she's cheating on me."