Mae Sullivan frowned up at the grimy old office building and
shifted from one aching spike-heeled foot to the other,
trying to keep the weight off her blisters. From the looks
of the neighborhood, her chances of getting mugged were only
slightly greater than the chances of the building falling on
her. Only a loser would work in a place like
It hadn't been easy finding an
incompetent private eye on such short notice in a midwestern
city like Riverbend. But now there was Mitchell Peatwick.
She could picture him, leaning back in his office chair,
balding and overweight, slack-jawed and beady-eyed, no
brains to speak of.
He'd patronize her because she
She'd play him like a piano.
she had to do was convince him that he was investigating a
real murder case, and he'd swing his paunchy weight around,
creating noise and confusion until whoever had taken her
uncle's diary would be forced to either give it up or bury
it forever if he didn't want to be accused of murder. Yep,
that was all she had to do. So go do it. She took a
deep breath and winced as the waistband of her borrowed pink
skirt cut into her flesh. Then she pulled the veil on her
hat over her eyes and walked toward the cracked glass doors
of the old building, watching her reflection as she climbed
Even through the dumb pink veil, she
really did look sexy. It was amazing what clothes could
Now, if she could just get this damn interview
over with before the waistband of June's skirt cut her in
two and June's heels made her lame for life, she'd be on her
way to solving all of their problems.
Mitchell Peatwick be dumb as a rock with a weakness for
women in tight skirts, she prayed as she rang for the
elevator. Please let him be everything I need him to
The window behind him was cranked wide-open,
and the ceiling fan above him stirred the air, and Mitch was
sure if he got any hotter, he'd die. As it was, he was
pretty sure that the only thing that kept him alive was the
fact that he wasn't moving. If he moved, his body
temperature would rise, and he'd melt right there in his
He didn't want to move, anyway. He was
too depressed to move. He leaned back in his cracked leather
desk chairâ€”sleeves rolled up, hands laced behind his head,
heels crossed on his battered metal deskâ€”and thought about
the way he'd planned things and the way they'd turned out.
Big difference there. Anticipation was a lousy preparation
for reality. That's why he was giving it up for fantasy.
Fantasy was not particularly productive, nor was it
lucrative, but it beat reality hands down.
Fantasy was leaving a prosperous career to
become a private detective. Reality was regretting it. He
closed his eyes and tried to recapture the dream, the part
where he'd be the Sam Spade of the nineties. Then the
elevator cables rumbled across the hall and Mitch knew
another divorce job was coming his way. He hadn't had many
illusions about relationships before, he thought sadly, but
he had absolutely none now. Even the people who weren't
married had him investigate to see if the people they
weren't married to were telling the truth. And of course,
they weren't. That was the one irrevocable truth Mitch had
learned in a year, the only thing, he realized now, that
he'd taken away with him.
Spade would have understood that part, but he would have
spit on the divorce work. Mitch had the uncomfortable
feeling that he should be spitting on it, too, instead of
making a precarious living at it. Too precarious. He had one
week left in the year, one week to earn the last of the
twenty thousand dollars and win his stupid bet and go back
to his regularly scheduled life, but to do that he needed a
client who would shell out $2,694 before Friday.
wasn't going to happen. Prying money out of clients was the
second least favorite thing he'd learned about this job.