“Marlie’s Detective Agency.” she said balancing the phone on her shoulder.
“I want to talk to Marlie.” he said.
“Marlie is out of the office at the moment. May I take your name and number? She will return your call as soon as possible.”
“When’s that gonna be? I don’t have all day.” he said.
“Marlie should be in by two. Will that be soon enough?” she said as she grabbed for a pencil.
“It’ll have to do. The name’s Smith, Bob Smith 645-1854.” He hesitated a moment and asked, “Did you say she?”
“Oh this is getting better all the time!” A dial tone followed.
“Thank you for calling.” Marlie stuck out her tongue at the phone and then placed it back in its cradle. She scanned the caller id again. “Smith, huh. Calling from the Paradise Hotel? And giving me some other number. Probably trying to get his wallet back from a girlfriend down there.” she thought as she raised the lid on her laptop.
A few minutes later, she punched the number Mr. Smith had left into her phone.
“Hello?” A child’s voice answered.
“Not a business phone at least.” Marlie thought. “Hi. Can I talk to Bob, please?” she asked.
“He’s not here. But my mommy is. Mommy, somebody wants to talk to Uncle Bob.” the child yelled.
“Hello. Can I help you?” The child’s mother had taken the phone.
“Well, maybe so.” Marlie said. “Is Bob Smith there? I have a message to call him back at this number.” Marlie waited for the answer.
“I see. Who are you?” She clearly wasn’t about to give out any information.
“Marlie Beacham.” She gave no other details.
“He doesn’t know any Marlie Beacham and neither do I. What do you want?”
“Not sure, just calling him back at the number he left. Do you expect him in later?” Marlie glanced at her watch.
“Well, I’ll try then. Thank you for your time. Good by.” Marlie sat back in her chair and stared at the water stain on the ceiling. Her meditation ended when her phone rang.
“It’s Smith. You in yet? Yeah, I did some checking. So let’s cut to the chase. I got a need and you need the business. Am I right?
“Yeah, and you need a patsy like me to do your dirty work. Am I right?” she responded.
“Ah, now that we understand each other. When do we talk and where? Your place or mine?” She could hear the leer in his voice.
“Neither. Know Kinski’s on the corner? In 30 minutes. Work for you?” She didn’t wait for an objection. “I’m the redhead in the corner, next to the coffee pot.”
“Got it. I’m the guy with the problem coming in there in thirty minutes.” He hung up.
She checked his number. It didn’t match the one he’d given her before. “A cheap cell.” she thought.
Marlie had finished her coffee when Mr. Smith walked in, looked around and spotted her in the corner. Tall, thin, fortyish, tan, bit a limp on the right, cheap slacks, and bald. He slid into the booth and faced her. A fresh coffee sat waiting for him.
“Impressive.” he said.
“The little girl is yours, by the way. So what’s with the uncle bit? Your brother a little vexed over that?” Marlie wanted the advantage in a first encounter.
“That’s none of your concern.” He wiped the rim of the cup with his napkin.
“Well what is then? If you don’t mind. Saves time. And time equals money for me. Tonight is a free visit; after that, it’s not. Work for you?”
“Talk tough, don’t you? Well here’s the gig for you.” He finished his coffee, sat the cup down, and wiped the rim again. “I’m missing some money, a lot. I don’t want no loud noises. Just a name and address. I’ll take care of getting it back. Think you can handle that?”
“Port au Prince? The tan, I mean.” she asked, ignoring his question.
He knit his brow scanning her face, “Yeah, a little trip I took. You gonna do this gig or no?”
“Lose your money there?” she asked. “I’ll find your money. And your brother.” she said not waiting for an answer. “That’s what this is about, isn’t it?”
“Possible.” he replied.
“Let’s talk expenses.” She motioned for another cup of coffee.
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