Fiction Saturday – Untitled Story – Part One
“Well, why don’t we just get to the point.”
I don’t mind flying. I even kind of like it. It’s the crashing and burning part that I’m not too keen on. That’s why I almost cringed when I saw the well dressed Redhead come through my office door. I could see she favored her right leg. One look and I could tell that she felt the same way about flying as me – from firsthand experience.
She wore long gloves that matched her tailored suit – a dark green, like shadows in a forest, but I could see burn scars by her elbows. There were reddish scars on the right side of her neck too, but her face sure wasn’t scarred, far from it.
“My name is Ginger Cream and I need your help,” she announced. She didn’t believe in long introductions.
“Please, come in,” I said. “And tell me again what you said you want. I’m not sure I heard it right.”
I held open the door to my private office and I could tell by the way she walked across the floor that, even though those hips may have been scarred, they were still hot enough to burn a man – and his credit rating.
I held the chair for her – nice perfume – and asked her if she’d like some coffee. I was glad when she said, “No.” I would have had to give it to her in the “Pep Boys” mug I got the last time I bought tires.
After a wolf invades your flock you become very proud of the lambs you are able to save.
I stumbled over my phone cord while going to my chair behind the desk.
“Miss Cream, was it? Now, what is it again that you said when you came in?”
“I want my husband dead. To make it short and sweet – I think my husband is alive, but I need you to make sure he isn’t.”
It took me a second to untangle that in my mind. It was short, but didn’t strike me as very sweet.
“Well – Mrs. Cream – you may be in the right part of town to hire someone for that, but it’s not me you want. I’d suggest you check in down by the Longshoreman’s Hall. You’ll have better luck there.”
She shook her head and let out a very nice sigh.
“Oh, for God’s sake. I don’t want you to kill him, just prove to me that someone else already has, or not.”
While her clothes and perfume screamed, “a million dollar mansion in The Heights today,” a little voice was whispering in my ear, “but a Shotgun House down by the river for a lot of yesterdays.”
“I’ve got an idea, Mrs. Cream, why don’t you start at the beginning before I pull a muscle trying to understand what you really do want.”
The last time a woman who…who…oh, let’s say it, made me want to clear off the top of my desk when she came into my office, was a brunette who poked her head in my door, told me the Ladies Room needed paper, and then left. I wanted this one to stick around longer. Her eyes were a dark green with flecks of gold dust. She had on just enough makeup to convince you that she didn’t need any more.
“Okay,” she said with a small shrug. “This could take a while.”
“It’s not a school night. I can stay up late.”
For the next hour and a half the Redhead with the limp, the scars, and the Junior League facade told me her story.
Both she and her husband, his name either is or was Adam, were passengers on that airliner that crashed in Yosemite a couple of years ago. She was among the survivors, badly burned, but alive. The reason she was coming to me was that her husband’s body was never recovered. She swore that she saw him after the crash walking off into the woods – quite alive.
They had been traveling under an assumed name. Apparently the wealthy often do, even if they aren’t famous. So, officially, Mr. Cream was never on that plane and is just unaccounted for. He had been gone for almost two years and the Mrs. was getting antsy.
After hearing more than I really cared to about Aviation Law, Maritime Law, Community Property, and her opinion of her husband’s business – oil pipelines – she took a breath. I’m sure I missed a great deal of her monologue while I was wondering what the scars on her hip looked like both with and without silk, but I got the gist of it.
“So, to make a long story short…”
“You’re too late for that, Red.”
“You haven’t taken any notes while I’ve been telling you all of this. Do you have one of those photographic memories? And why did you call me, ‘Red’?”
“It wouldn’t make much sense for me to call you, ‘Blondie’, now would it?” She didn’t flinch. I was right. She wasn’t born in The Heights; she climbed her way up there.
“Most people call me, Mrs. Cream. My friends call me Ginger.”
“I’m not most people, and I’m not your friend.” She gave me that little shrug again.
“Are you going to make any notes?”
“I’ll make them later, when I can remember where I left my pencil. Please continue.”
She went on for another twenty minutes. She shifted in her chair and I knew I’d have to tell the priest.
“And that’s why I’m here today. Do you see my dilemma?”
“Almost. Er – Yes, I think I understand. Let me give you my thirty second version.” I stood up and walked around behind her. She tried turning her head, but it would only go so far.
“You want me to either find your husband alive somewhere or, failing that, prove that he is actually dead. And ‘why’ says the lady in the front row? Because, One – if he’s alive you want to divorce him and get half of everything he’s worth or, Number Two, your more preferable option, if he is truly dead, you would inherit everything. The third half of this pie is that if neither One nor Two can be proven to a court’s satisfaction, you’ll have to wait the full seven years to get him declared dead. And, if my guess is right, after these past two years, you are running short of cash. Is that it, without all of the ‘this and that and the other thing’ thrown in?”
“Yeah. That’s pretty much it.” She shifted her legs out of their ‘Junior League’ pose and into a more comfortable ‘Sitting on the Stoop.’ “I’m thirsty. You got a bottle and a couple of clean glasses nearby?”
“You like the Pep Boys, Red?”