Mellow saxophone music, please.
It was hot the morning of that afternoon. Hotter than my Aunt Nellie’s girdle. I don’t really have an Aunt Nellie, but if I did, and if she wore a girdle, it would be hot. Those are the kinds of things you automatically know in my business.
I’m an Outdoor Detective.
The windows were open to catch an unavailable breeze. I was reading a book about fly tying and wondering which of the insect’s legs to tie first. I was sweating like a preacher on a nude beach when the door to my office slammed open.
There he stood. Older than when I’d seen him last. Sadder looking, a little grayer at the temples, maybe, and a few pounds heavier. But he was the same man.
“I’m Woodrow,” he said. “I heard you were the best Outdoor Detective in town.”
He was right. I am. My name is Wortham.
“It’s been a long time,” I said in my best Detective voice.
“You saw me yesterday,” he countered.
I smiled. “I know. You’ve aged since then.”
“We age every day.”
Ah, a philosopher. He took a chair across from me.
“Put it back,” I said. “My mother gave me those chairs.”
“Have you found us a deer lease yet?” he asked.
I shook my head, slowly, and watched him with hooded eyes.
“Those look like hooded eyes,” he said.
“Take them off. You look ridiculous.”
I dropped the hoods in the top right hand drawer of my desk, next to the 45 that’s gotten me out of trouble so many times. It was an Elvis 45; Hound Dog. I think Don’t Be Cruel was on the other side, but the heat was so bad it would have been cruel to look.
“Leases are hard to come by.” I propped my feet on the battered desk. I stopped, scraped off some of the excess batter and replaced my feet. “It takes a lot of shoe leather to find a good one.”
“Those are composite soles,” he observed.
I smiled. “I know.”
“There’s a hole in your sock.”
I frowned. Had he been spying on me, watching through the blinds?
“There’s a hole in your shoe,” he observed.
“That’s where the shoe phone goes, but it broke, so I took it out.”
“So have you found us a lease yet? You have the job, you know.”
I reached into my bottom drawer and pulled out a bottle. I offered him a drink. He took the bottle, unconsciously wiped off the top and took a good, healthy slug. I shuddered. I hate slugs. He choked and took a drink.
“I hate flavored water,” he complained.
I smiled. I didn’t say anything.
“I’m glad you didn’t say ‘I know’.”
“I know.” I looked at him through a haze of cigarette smoke, which was strange, because neither of us smoked.
“What about our deer lease?”
I shuffled through the papers on my desk. It was a slow shuffle, kinda like a soft-shoe. “The cheapest I’ve found is nine hundred a gun for a thousand acres.”
“Kinda steep, isn’t it?” he asked.
“No, it’s all flatland. There are no mountains near here. Still nine hundred bucks, though.”
“You’ve counted them?”
“A mere estimation. You get what you pay for.”
“I’m beginning to see that with you. Lotta doe, I hope?”
“The proper question would be, ‘I hope this costs a lot of dough,’ but I don’t like all this talk about baking.”
He looked around. “I don’t see any typewriters or computers. You’re all talk, even when it comes to baking.”
I allowed my smile to slip, slightly. Good muscle control. I can also wiggle my ears. “If you think you can do better, do it.”
He suddenly reached into a back pocket. I slapped him, hard. I don’t like other people in my back pockets. He rubbed a cheek and glared at me. I slapped him again. I didn’t like him rubbing my cheek, either. I hadn’t shaved that morning.
Red faced, he held out a newspaper ad. “Here’s a cheap lease I found. Deer, turkey, quail, and hogs. Four hundred a gun.”
I quickly glanced at the ad, never taking my eyes off him. “Fine. We’ll take it.”
“You’re useless,” he said and left in a huff. Maybe it was a minute and a huff, I can’t remember.
I smiled. “I know.” Another case closed.
The country rain fell softly in the bright sunshine, muted by the sounds of the city.
I leaned back and clasped my hands behind my head, wondering just why one would want to tie a fly.
It’s a sad and lonely life, being an Outdoor Detective, but someone has to do it.