I don't usually take missing persons cases, but the landlord was looking for do-re-mi of the folding kind and I had no job in sight.
When the phone rang I dove on it like a prom date. She had a voice made to cause trouble. " I saw your ad in the Yellow Pages, it's cute. I like the part about musician and private investigator. Other guys were busy, but I figured you could use the work."
Cute. Real musicians have day jobs sister. But I swallowed hard and took her address. Life not's easy when you play the shawm.
I pulled on the trenchcoat and walked out into the humid, clingy night. Not a breath of air moved. It was one of those days the whole world smelled like a bicycle seat half way through the Tour de France.
I reached her middle of the block address in a middle of the road part of town and knocked on the door. She told me to come in. That here's trouble voice again. I pushed open the door and caught sight of the body the animators wished they had drawn when they created Jessica Rabbit. She was in a sun dress and it was dark out.
She was having a late snack. Coffee black, a bagel. Peeling an orange with her nail file.
" Mr. Reed ? Come in, I'm just spending some time with the boys."
She sat behind a desk covered in tiny chariots, musical instruments, costumes and scenery.
She handed me her card. Rita Mesa. Mesa's Performing Fleas. Motion Pictures, Television, Special Occasions.
Her freckels were moving.
"Don't you just love them ? Cutest little bastards in the world, and stong. Every night after rehearsal I let them sit on me this way. I kiss them all before they go to bed."
The itch which needed scratching when I laid eyes on Miss Mesa's contours wasn't the same itch anymore.
" Let me put them away. Ozzie, come here pal."
A tired looking Samoyed padded into the room and stood next to Rita's chair. " O.K. guys, off you go." The fleas leapt for the dog and hung in the air for a second before landing. I swear to you, it was a formation jump in the shape of champagne glass. "Here's your Benadryl, Oz. Remember, no scratching."
The dog sighed and left.
I asked about the case, I was shaky as a lawyer's morals and needed some reality.
" Oh, Stavros is missing, just tonight. I kissed him good night, counted the boys, and he came up missing. I love him to death, Mr. Reed. I know he hasn't been gone long, but I'd do anything to have him back."
She turned her smile on me for the first time. Promise written on perfect lips, teeth like the keys of a new Steinway. Then her smile widened, revealing the most minute imperfection, and I saw my per diem fall away. No mileage, no phone expenses, no fees for photos or copies. I had the case solved.
" Miss Mesa, that's a plain bagel isn't it ? Not poppy seed. I'm afraid there's been a terrible accident.