1 – The Client
If she had been a snake, she would’ve bit me. I heard her clear her throat politely, twice, while I slept at my desk with my feet up. Last night, when I came into the office, drunk as a skunk, I saw that my kid sister, Judy, had already called it a night and locked up. We had been just missing each other the last few days, so I wanted to make sure I ran into her and decided to sleep at my desk instead of going to my apartment. She wouldn’t ditch out on me this time.
For a third time, I heard her throat clear. I told her, “Shut the hell up!” but apparently that was only in my head. It was a good thing, too.
“Mr. Bradshaw?” said an older, more elegant voice than Judy’s.
I cranked one eye open, lifted the brim of my hat and ran my coated, dry tongue along the roof of my mouth. “You’re not Judy.”
“No, Mr. Bradshaw, I am not, but seeing your great detective skills at work fills me with the upmost confidence in your abilities.” The woman sitting across from me was roughly in her mid-fifties; nice blue dress, giant white pearls around her aging neck and short dark hair, speckled with white and short enough that the matching earrings were in full view. She sat with perfect posture, clutching her small matching handbag on her lap. She looked around my office in disgust and swallowed hard. “I wanted…”
“Let me stop you there. I usually don’t go for any kind of sarcasm this early in the morning.”
She smirked. “It’s eleven AM.”
“Then I should have a drink while you politely tell me what the hell you’re doing here.” She forced a light chuckle while I pulled the bottle of scotch out of my bottom drawer along with a rocks glass. “Start with your name.”
“I am Elizabeth Masters.”
The name rang a bell but I couldn’t place it. I threw the drink back. Maybe another glass would jog my memory. No dice. “And how can I help you Miss Masters?”
“I own and am the Editor in Chief of The Daily Heat…”
“That tabloid rag?”
She rolled her eyes under closed lids. “It is a news periodical, Mr. Bradshaw.”
The third drink was enough to bring my memory back. “That’s right! You’ve been getting sued left, right and center for slander.”
“None of which are true, as you can see by how many of those cases I lost.”
If my memory served, she always won those cases with that First Amendment crap that kept those vultures on the streets, spewing their venom. I patted all the pockets in my coat until I found my pack of Camels and lit one up. “And what can I do for you?”
“I want you to catch my killer.”
I laughed. “Look lady, you got to let the Reaper do his job before I can do mine.”
“I’m very serious, Mr. Bradshaw.”
“So am I.” I leaned forward, blew smoke in her face and said, “You ain’t dead.”
For just a moment, I thought she would lose her head and really let me have it. She instead, smiled. “Mr. Bradshaw, as you know, there are many people in the city who would like nothing more than to witness my untimely demise. I have been getting death threats now for months and just yesterday, someone made an attempt on my life.”
“Someone shot at my car while I was parked. The bullet hit the windshield. Not me, thankfully.”
I snubbed out my smoke that was about to burn the skin between my fingers. “Have you gone to the cops?”
“Firstly, I do not want any press on this. If I go to the police, my competitors will publish a horrific account of the events, I’m sure. Second, I do not want whoever is doing this to think that I am rattled. Doing it this way insures that I control the spin of the story.”
“How did you come to find me?” I tapped on my desk, already knowing the answer.
“You are no stranger in the pages of The Daily Heat. Just last month, you shot someone dead. Right in the middle of the street, in broad daylight.”
“The bastard deserved it.”
She forced another smile. “I’m sure he did.”
I pulled out another cig, inhaling deeply while I lit it. “Do you still have these death threats?”
“Of course. Why don’t you come to my beach house around eight o’clock. I’m having a dinner party tonight. I can show you everything and you can speak with those closest to me.”
I was lost in thought for a moment. The last thing I wanted in the world to do was to hang out with a bunch of uptight windbags who think their shit don’t stink, but I guessed I could ignore them long enough to eat. It better be steak…
The smoke slowly crawled out of my mouth while my brain ran circles around my head. “It’s a deal.” After going over the paperwork and getting half of my fee up front, she gave me the address and I heaved a disgruntled sigh about having to drive all the way to the water. What a huge pain in the ass. I hoped that her friends were hot and knew how to shut up.