Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Package Deal

At this time of year, in the late afternoon when the sun is low on the horizon, there’s a few minutes when it beams straight through the office window and bathes everything in a warm orange glow. It was that time of day.

The scale model on my assembly board was basking in the orange. It seemed otherworldly even though it was a model of a early 20th century feed and grain mill. Albeit a complex one with a spidery roof-top network of pipes and cyclones. I leaned back in my chair and watched the light move over the model.

I’d been working on this for a week now and it was looking pretty good if I did say so myself.

The model was being made for a client and his name was Cal. Just Cal. No last name given. I didn’t care. He paid in cash so he could go by whatever name he wanted. He came into the office last week with a chewed up, hole laced, thoroughly stained manuscript and a demand for me to restore it and build what was written on its pages. He told me it was written by his cousin Earl, and if cousin Earl got back from his trip and found out what had happened to that document, well, life wouldn’t be too pleasant for Cal. Turns out Cal was lazily reading the manuscript and absentmindedly used it in an attempt to shoo away a nosey porcupine who had taken a liking to the exposed plumbing beneath Cal’s house and was gnawing away on the plastic pipes with wanton abandon.

Well porcupines don’t take kindly to shooing, and after the persuading was done, and Cal realized what he’d used for said persuading, the full horror of the situation shook him to his core. Once a semblance of calmness descended, he looked me up in the phone book and hustled over as quickly as he could. Luckily, I was in; as always.

At first I suggested that maybe Cal should look up an acupuncturist given the number and density of spiky holes in the papers. Cal didn’t get the point, so to speak, of my humour, but he was highly motivated, and agreed to my usual fee after only a little grumbling. I got to work immediately.

How I made progress is a company secret. It keeps a roof over my head and allows me a few moments like this to just sit. Unfortunately, my revere was broken by a sound from the waiting room. It was that rare music of someone coming in from the hallway and taking a seat. I brought myself back to reality and walked over to the door that connected to the waiting room. 

The waiting room was its usual self in all its beige and dusty glory, waiting for the cleaning lady who never arrived. There were three threadbare chairs lined up in a row hopefully standing at attention, a coffee table marked by clients’ cigarettes who couldn’t find the ashtray, and ten-year old travel magazines. It was like a doctor’s waiting room, but without the airborne sense of dread. Same as usual. But there was something new this time: a woman seated in the middle chair and a bread-box sized box placed in front of her on the coffee table.

She was blonde, tanned and gorgeous. A Grace Kelly type wearing a summer dress in blueprint blue with eyes to match. One glance from them could stop traffic all the way to Pismo. She sat primly with her purse in her lap and turned sharply to face me when I opened the waiting room door.

No doubt she had made a mistake and came in the wrong office. Happens all the time. Luckily I’m ready with guidance, “The modelling agency is down the hall. Last door on the left.”

She didn’t budge, but replied, “Are you Mr. Madwood?”

“My friends just call me mad.”

“Is this the office of Model Investigations?”

I checked the backwards lettering on the glass panel on the door that connects the waiting room to the hall, “Yes, it is.”

“Then I’m in the right place.”

“What can I do for you Miss…?”

She didn’t follow my lead and simply replied, “It’s about my husband.”

A beautiful woman who mentions a husband in my office usually means only one thing and can be answered just as simply, “I don’t do aircraft work. Leads to divorce.”

“It’s about this package.” She pointed to the box on the table. “A few weeks ago I gave my husband a model kit for his birthday. An expensive one that he’s wanted for some time. He started to build it on Saturday afternoon. After a few hours I heard some crashing and cursing from the garage, so I went out and saw him throwing the kit in the garbage. He stomped out and went to the bar. He didn’t explain. Just said he was sorry and wasn’t interested in it. When he was gone I took what I could find out of the trash and put it back in the box. What’s left is in there”.

“And you want me to salvage it and put it together?”

“Yes.”

“He won’t like that.”

“I want it done,” she said firmly.

I hoped to dissuade her with my fee, “It’ll cost $100 per day plus expenses and a $500 deposit.”

She leaned forward, put her purse on the coffee table, snapped open its clasp, reached in and pulled out a thick wad of cash.

It was tough to stop from gawking as she peeled hundred dollar bills off the roll, so I glanced in the still open purse to see if the wad had a brother in there. No dice, but it wasn’t lonely, she was carrying a heater to keep it warm. Nestled in the bottom was a brand new, snub-nosed, miniature soldering gun.

I couldn’t let that pass, “That’s some serious equipment to be carrying around in that nice purse.”

“I do jewelry repairs for friends. It comes in handy in emergencies,” she said in an offhand manner as she carefully stashed the roll of bills back in her purse.

She was skilled enough for impromptu jewelry repairs, but couldn’t fix that kit. And curiously, she wasn’t wearing any jewelry of her own. No earrings. No necklace. No broach. No bracelets. And no wedding ring. Things didn’t add up. And when that’s the case, there’s only one thing left to do.

“Let’s talk in my office.”
Maybe I need to say it, April Fools :-)

Part 2 of this pulse-pounding series can be found here.

4 comments:

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    1. A wench in the works for April Fools :-)

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  2. April Fools or not, that is a great story! Guy Noir meets E.L.Moore. I sure hope this is the beginning of a new series, I thoroughly enjoyed the Streetcar Noir series.

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    1. Thanks Michael. I do have some ideas for a new series - I just need to wrench myself away from other stuff :-)

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