She stood there, waiting for my answer, wondering if I'd agree to help her. I wondered, too.
Why I shouldn't get involved was easy: I got into the Private I-investigation racket to interface with computers, not people. On the other hand, I had the distinct feeling that if I turned this doll down she might lose it, go ballistic, maybe take it out on my hardware. And how would I explain that to corporate?
While I chewed things over, I looked my visitor up and down. She was different than a lot of dames. Petite, but not fragile. Cute, but not as a button. Older (30, maybe 32), but holding her own against gravity (though I might have caught a whiff of Replenisher with Retinol). Altogether, she was some package. Real FedEx material: The kind of hottie I absolutely, positively wanted to be there with me overnight.
I was done chewing and ready to swallow.
"Take the load off," I said, brushing some Taco Bell lunch litter off a stack of Wired back issues so she'd have a place to park her keister. "And drop the 'Mr. Spade' bit. Call me Spam."
"As in the repugnant canned meat product," she purred.
"As in the repugnant e-mail transmissions," I replied. I pulled a cigarette from the pack on my desk, put it in my mouth and didn't light up (this is a No Smoking building). "But you're not here to talk about name origins.
So spill it. And try to keep it short. Lots of cutting, no pasting."
"OK. Sure." I'd ruffled her feathers but this bird wasn't flying anywhere; she'd just whistle her tune through a clenched -- and perfectly lipsticked -- beak. "A few weeks ago, I inherited a considerable sum of money. Very considerable. I wanted to invest it but didn't know in what. So, while I looked over various options, I parked the money in the bank. In the passbook account I shared with my husband."
I knew where this was going. It was a story older than UNIVAC.
"Then, last Thursday morning, I woke up to find a note from my husband on the kitchen table. He said he was going away, far away, and doing it on the money from our joint account."
"And you want me to recover your dough."
I opened my bottom right desk drawer and took out a bottle of Red Bull. I offered some to the lady.
"I'm afraid high caffeine drinks go straight to my heart and cause unpleasant palpitations," she said, refusing.
I slugged my Bull right from the bottle. "I'll take your case," I told her. Then added, "My fee is an hourly, plus expenses, outlined in this contract which you'll have to sign here ... and initial here ... and I'll need a credit card. For a deposit."
She did as she was told.
"There's just one more thing," I said, waiting for authorization on her Visa.
"I'll need your hubby's SS."
She showed no response. Nothing. It was like she was the general public and I was one of Kevin Costner's last six movies.
"His Social Security number," I explained. "You got it?"
She did. I got to work.
Things got off to a fast start, went my way. I was on the move, in the flow, flying higher than Dennis Tito. Then, from out of nowhere, boom. There was a crash.
"Goddamn this machine," I shouted. "Fatal error?' What'd I do? This is the third time it's crashed today. I gotta reboot..."
After I was back up and running, I fell right back in the groove. Having the SS number and knowing how to hack into the computer systems of most large American banks made it a piece of cake to find hubby and the money. With a few quick keystrokes -- powpowpow -- I transferred the money back into her account. hen, because hubby was a lowlife bum who deserved it, I opened a CitiBank credit card in his name and ordered myself a GameBoy Advance with it.
"All set," I informed her.
"That's it, Spam? Just some typing on a computer? No skulking in dark alleys? No dead ends or red herrings? No rough stuff?"
"The only rough stuff this PI(IS) runs into is when the mail boy occasionally calls me a 'fucking nerd asshole,' " I said. "It's a new day, sweetheart. A new world."
She looked disappointed. Crestfallen. I could see there'd be no Love Connection tonight. Hell, a pepper-sprayed blind man could see that. "Guess if I want hardboiled," she sighed, "I'll just have to wait for my Easter basket."
Easter, I thought. Isn't that what Spring Break used to be called? ©