She was a Latina with dyed red hair that would make an Irish girl blush. She was six foot two even without the stilettos. With them on she blocked my view of the sun. Didn’t matter. The way she was dressed I wouldn’t have noticed if it had started to rain frogs outside. I’ve never seen black look so inviting since the time I was almost seduced by a vampire, but that’s a story for another time. Right now this woman was the center of my universe and I was stuck in her gravitational pull.
She checked out the place before her eyes drifted to me, dismissing me and at the same time wanting me. At least I like to think the latter. “My name is Alita, I was told that you can help with certain things.”
I steepled my fingers in front of my face and tried to keep my id in place. Okay, it was a bit lower than my id, but a man is still a man. “I do my best. What can I help you with?” I gesture to a chair across from me, but Alita didn’t even notice because she turned to look out the window at the street that was still empty of frogs.
“I need you to find me a certain book, a copy of Catch-22. You know, the one by Heller,” she said.
I frowned a bit. “Did you check the Barnes and Noble at the mall?”
She spun on me and all hints of warmth were somewhere with the frogs. “If you let me finish.”
I raised my hands and surrendered quickly before I lost my fingertips to frostbite. “Please continue. I’m all ears.” And eyes, and fingers, especially the fingers drifting towards. Focus man!
“The one I’m looking for is a signed copy. I accidentally left it at my boyfriend’s apartment after I broke up with him. I want it back.” Alita turned back on her charm. “Please”.
As she turned on the charm I thought of cascading cold water. I shivered from the thought of that cold water. Really. “Why do you want me to do it? Why can’t you just go get it yourself?” I asked once I was back under control.
“We had…” She paused, tasting again the sour taste of that end moment where she decided it was all over and the only thing to do was kick him to the curb, or maybe what she had for lunch was coming back to haunt her. Damn, I wish I had lunch. “well, that’s not really needed.”
I love it when they know what I need. I really do. I get on my throne so I can look down on her pretty idea. “Look, I’m all for the damsel in distress routine, and trust me girl, you pull it off in spades, but if I’m going to do some breaking, entering, or any combination of the two I want to know what I’m getting into.”
“He slept with my sister, okay. Does that make your job easier?” she asked.
Ouch! Score one for the jerk behind the desk. Still, what must her sister look like that this goof cheated on this pissed off goddess in front of me. “Sorry, but I work best when there are no surprises. Keeps everyone happy, except your ex of course.”
“I don’t care if he’s happy or not,” Alita said. “I just want my book.”
“Okay, I can work on that. Where is your boyfriend’s place, and when do I get a check?” I stick out my hand as a way of positive reinforcement. It’s something that my mother taught me. Always back up the vocal with the physical. It sends a clear and unmistakable message. It can also get you slapped, stabbed, or shot at. I dare you to ask me how I know.
“He’s at The Downs, apartment 24b.” There was a pause, but I refused to ruin the moment. She finally gave up and continued. “As for the check, what do you need to get started?
My smile goes on autopilot since I can tell where this is going. Normally I would be all happy to take this on the off chance of payment or panties, but I have my cousin Antonio’s best interests at heart. “Five hundred up front. Two hundred a day, itemized, plus expenses.”
Alita starts up the pity works. Her mascara better be waterproof. I don’t like to see a woman become a clown. “I really need that book,” she said through quivering lips. “I can get you the money, but if he decides to do something to that book before I can get it to you.” The pools were filling.
“And he knows how much this book means to you?” I watch her left eye. It seems to be filling faster then the right. Ever notice that women seem to tear in the left eye first and men the right? No? Don’t you pay attention to people when you make them cry?
“Oh my God yes. You’ve got to help me. You can even keep the book until I can make it up to you,” she said. Alita must have really deep eyes because I would have bet one would be tracing down those awesome cheekbones by now. I hope she doesn’t drown before she lets the hurricane blow.
I gave her a moment to see more of the show, but then I heard that voice inside of me. I hate that voice. I tried to get some help to make it shut up, but my psychologist kept insisting it was just my conscience and that drugs weren’t needed. I told him to tell that to my bank account. Obviously he wasn’t similarly afflicted since he took my money. “Okay. We can work something out, but the book stays with me until we come to an agreement.”
Alita immediately put water conservation rules in place and the tide has turned. I was now her bestest buddy. “You are amazing. Jessica told me you would be.” She gives me a quick almost hug and sprints towards the door.
“What, did you say…” My words were swatted by the door closing on their behinds. Alita, like Elvis, had left the building. Jessica! I just got owned, and I should have seen it coming. I will have to stop by and make sure to show Jessica my appreciation. Do you think broken glass is an appropriate gift before Labor Day?