Part Nine – Untitled Story
I dropped Doris at her place after breakfast and I checked in at my office. When I got onto the elevator I thought I could smell something familiar – a perfume. When I turned down the hallway Ginger Cream was standing by my door checking her makeup in a small compact.
“It’s about time you got here.”
“Did we have an appointment?” I unlocked the door. As she pushed past me into the office my nose confirmed the aroma from the elevator. Ginger left a trail wherever she went.
“Come in, why don’t you?” She walked like someone who was double parked. I didn’t notice any limp, but the scars on her neck were looking redder than I’d ever seen. She went to the inner office and sat down before I had my hat off.
“I was going to make some coffee. Want me to get your mug?” I was moving slow, pushing her buttons. I was going to be in charge, whether she liked it or not.
“Forget the coffee. Get over here. Sit.”
“What’s got your knickers in a bind this morning?
“You do. I paid you good money and so far I haven’t seen any results. Tell me what you know.”
This was going to be tricky. How much should I tell her? Nothing? Everything? Somewhere in the middle? Maybe I should just lie to her and see how she likes it.
“OK, here’s what I know, or think I know, so far.” I took my time pouring myself a cup of coffee. In deference to her being so antsy I made it Instant. “You wanted to know if your husband is alive or dead.”
“Oh, he’s alive alright. I haven’t talked to one person who really thinks otherwise – nobody in California, not the police here, not anybody at his company, not Ricky –“
“And not you. Yes, Ricky too. All of this ‘detective stuff’ was just busy work. ‘Oh, I have no idea where Ricky might be.’ It took me five minutes to find him, just a few seconds longer than it took you.”
“If you’re sure that Adam is alive, where is he? Have you located him?”
Now she was getting dangerous. Maybe I said too much. If Ricky has seen his father since he “disappeared,” it’s a safe bet that she has too and is trying to see how close I am to joining the party. She may be wearing diamonds and trying to pass as sophisticated and worldly, but I wouldn’t put it past her to have a straight razor taped to her thigh. Pulaski Street is just a ten minute cab ride away.
“No, I haven’t found him. My best guess at this point is somewhere in California or Mexico. I’m not sure.”
Those words seemed to act like a safety valve, letting her release some pressure. Her pupils, that had been rimmed in white, relaxed. She smiled at me without the corners of her mouth twitching. She was calmer, but not finished yet.
“California. That’s what I’ve heard too. I must have told Ricky – sorry about that. Anyway – I got word from our bank that Adam’s ATM card was used in San Diego last month. Here is all the info from the bank.” She handed me a white envelope with handwritten notes. She kept talking while I copied everything into my notebook.
“This might be a good lead, don’t you think?”
My guess is that she questioned Ricky about our little “picnic” at his pigsty in the country and learned that Ricky had spilled the beans about his father being alive.
“What’s this for – new shoes and a haircut?” I asked her. She ignored the sarcasm that seems to be in my voice whenever I’m around her.
“Very funny. I think this bank lead from California might be important enough for you to go out there and…” –. I cut her off.
“Haven’t we just admitted to each other that your husband is alive and not all the way out on the west coast?”
“Hello there. Earth calling. Ricky said that he has seen his father within the last year and Ricky couldn’t find his way out there with a tour guide.”
“But you just said that you thought Adam might be in California or Mexico.”
“I lied to you. How does it feel? You’ve been lying to me since the first moment you limped in here.”
“That was uncalled for – about my limp. I’m hurt. You’re a cruel man.”
“Oh, save it. I think your limp is about as real as the rest of your act. Ginger Cream is Gita Tumulski. Quit your kidding, Gita.”
I was glad when she stormed out. She didn’t even try to do the limp.
She was rich and I sure wasn’t, but she made me feel like I had even less every time she walked out of my door. She sucked the good out of everything she touched.
This whole bank card in California was phony. I’d ask Doris to check it out to be sure, but her hint that I should go to California? That’s just to get me out of town for a while to chase a wild goose while she reshuffled the cards back here.
She lied to me, as usual. Only this time I lied back to her. She didn’t expect that. My state license says I’m a Private Detective – not a saint.
What a way to make a buck – or a thousand of them in this case.