Hank Bradshaw – Dead Dame Walking – Chapter 2

2 – The Wet Stinking City

My office wasn’t big by any stretch. Half of the room was my office, outside my door was the small waiting room with my receptionist desk and just beyond that was even smaller restroom. I could make my way from one side to the other in five big steps.

My stomach growled like a damn bear caught in a steel trap. I needed some hard fried eggs and as many parts of a pig that Bobby could fit on my plate. I used the head, tried to straighten my shirt, fix my tie, and splash a little water on my face. I rubbed my teeth with the hand towel and took a swig of mouthwash. I was ready. Before I left, I put a note on Judy’s desk to tell her to sit right there and freeze until I came back. I hoped it didn’t offend her to the point of rebelling.

I hit the lift and went down four floors to ground level. Once I was outside, I was surprised to find it was still drizzling. The hard rain had stopped over a day ago but this misty sprinkle just wouldn’t quit. It was enough water to make big puddles in potholes and gutters, but not enough to wash away the trash. The city smelled like a dead, rotting dog inside a wet garbage can that half the city used for a toilet.

Bobby’s Counter sat right next door. It was a diner that was all counter and no booths. To me, that meant all food and no B.S. Bobby knew what I wanted by the look on my face. Hot, black coffee, three eggs, bacon, sausage and ham. He threw on some sourdough toast for good measure.

The place filled up while I ate but no one sat in the seat on either side of me. Not because they didn’t want to, but because they physically couldn’t. I’m so wide I practically took up three seats when I sat down. My shoulders are as wide as a Mack truck. Anyone sitting on the stools next to me would have to lean side to, to get a bite. Was I the widest guy I ever ran across? Not by a long shot. My hands were twice the size of the coffee mugs; about the size of the napkin dispensers. My fingers, the size of bratwursts. Have I seen guys with bigger hands? You betcha. Did any of those jerks have a chance against me? Not on your life. I was just glad my stomach was flat enough for me to hold over the counter while I ate. If it didn’t I would end up wearing most of my meals. My delicious breakfasts. That was why Bobby’s Counter was one of my favorite greasy spoons.

After two more cups of joe, I dropped him a decent tip and trudged back up to my office. I smiled when I saw that I’d startled young Judy almost out of her wits as she tried another quick getaway.

“Read my note, huh?”

She slapped my arm. “You scared the dickens out of me.”

“Good. A girl your age shouldn’t have any ‘dickens’ in her.” She wasn’t amused. “Sit.” I walked her back to the desk and took her purse from her. “I need you to go deposit this in the bank.” I handed her the check that Ms. Masters gave me. “It’s okay. I already dropped it and it didn’t bounce back up.”

She looked at the amount. “Jeepers!”

“I know it, kid. Looks like we’ll be eating steak for a bit.” I pointed her to the coffee maker and she knew what that meant. While she started the coffee, I grabbed a bottle of gin from the cupboard inside my office. “Did you have breakfast?”

“No, I’m watching my figure.”

I gulped down a mouthful. “It’s fine. It ain’t going anywhere. You need to get yourself next door and have Bobby cook you up a breakfast.”

“I’ll be fine.” She rolled her eyes. Every time she did that I wanted to roll them right back around again with a swift smack upside the head.

“At least go down and get some toast and maybe some bacon. Could you do that for me? I’ll buy.”

She perked up. “Alrighty! You got yourself a deal.” She bounced over with her hand out.

I pulled a Camel out and shoved the butt between my lips. “Tell Bobby to put it on my tab.”

She pouted. “You’re no fun.”

“I’m not supposed to be fun, dammit.” I flicked the ash on the floor. “Get yourself some food, go to the bank then sit here until five o’clock, manning the phone, like the good little worker that you are. Have some coffee while you’re at it.”

“This is awful. I want to see the city.”

“Then don’t spend your summers away from school and come here for work anymore. Besides, it’s all wet and sticky out. You don’t want to be out there.”

She sighed. “But yet, here I am about to go into it to deposit your check.”

“And aren’t you the little trooper.” I grabbed her by the neck and kissed her on top of her head.

As I headed for the door she said, “Where are you going?”

“Home. I have to shower and change. I’m going to a dinner party tonight.”

“Can I come?” Her eyes filled with hope and the way she slightly bounced up and down on her toes showed how bad she really needed a night out.

“Absolutely not.” She frowned and I said, “Once this case is done, I’ll take you out for a night on the town. Promise.” That cheered her up and she clapped her hands together.

I left the safety of the tall, red brick building and returned to the wet, stinking city, hailed a cab and headed home.

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