October 24, 2016

Henny and Lloyd's First Case
by John Paulits (short, PG)
Cover image.
Image credit: Sand Pilarski. More info.

Ambition -- check. Analytical mind -- check. Determination -- check. Whiskey -- yeah, that, too. Now all they need is the case...


It was the dawn of a new era, and I felt proud as I stood across the street from the old New York City factory building, where Henny and I had rented space. There in a third floor window sat our sign, lettered and painted by our own little hands on a big piece of white poster board (after we'd priced neon), proclaiming HENNY AND LLOYD -- PRIVATE DETECTIVES. In smaller letters it said Third Floor -- just in case clients were so overwrought with their problems they couldn't count up to our window. Henny's face appeared above the sign. He waved me upstairs. I waved back but looked around before moving, taking in the historic -- to me -- moment.

We'd chosen an office in this ten-story building filled with various small businesses on the west side of Centre Street because it came cheap. And besides, it put us only a few blocks from Chinatown and across the street from a pizzeria, so an inexpensive lunch -- the only kind Henny and I ate -- would be easy to find. The office had only one double window, but fortunately the buildings across the street were low enough the sun shone in when the planets aligned properly. The sign in the window one office over from us read ECHOE LIGHTING COMPANY. The lighting company rented the corner office in the building and had signs in windows facing both Centre and Grand Streets. In neon. Diagonally across the street was the old police headquarters. A new HQ had been in operation down by City Hall for years now, and the old one had been turned into zillion-dollar condos, although why anyone would buy a zillion-dollar condo in this ten-cent neighborhood befuddled me. But they'd dressed up the old HQ so people would believe it was worth a zillion dollars. People will believe anything. In a way, Henny's and my business depended on it.

I crossed the street and walked into the filthy lobby of good old 161 Grand Street. The original white marble walls of the lobby were yellowed and graffiti-covered now, and the floor of the lobby had a gap-toothed white mosaic design. One look at the elevator, which had no hint of either expedition or safety to it, would send any sensible person five feet over to the open doorway of the pungently aromatic stairway, and that's where I headed. If I were to die on the job, I didn't want it to be from an elevator mishap. I took a deep breath and dashed up the two flights of stairs to our office. Painted on our frosted office door window were the same words as on our window sign, less the reminder about the third floor. Once clients were outside our door, we figured they'd pretty much know where they were. I looked proudly at our names and thought of the scene in The Maltese Falcon where Bogie tells his secretary to get the window and door repainted and have Miles Archer's name removed. Henny and I pretended to worry about which of us would be the one to give a similar order to our secretary. If we ever got a secretary. If we ever got a case.

I opened the door and there sat Henny, feet up on one of the two old, scarred, wooden desks we found in junk stores on Lafayette Street, a couple blocks away.

"This is living," he said. "We finally did it. P. I's. Look in your bottom drawer."

I sat at the other desk, our window behind me, and opened the bottom drawer. A bottle of Boone's That's All whisky smiled up at me.

"Where'd this come from?"

"I bought it. Where do you think it came from? A bon voyage present for both of us as we set sail on a sea of crime. Marlowe and Spade each kept a bottle in the office. It's good for the image. Pour us a drink."

"Now? Into what?" I asked, looking over the spare office.

"Here's a little trick I know." Henny took a plain piece of typing paper from our used computer printer tray and rolled it into a funnel. "Pour."

"Into that? It'll go all over the floor," I protested.

Henny got up and walked over to my desk. He took the bottle, which I'd opened, and poured some into the paper. He held it up to me to show nothing coming out of the bottom. Then he tossed back the drink.

"Do one for me," I said.

He did and I drank from it, marveling at my clever partner and wondering what the hell I was doing drinking Boone's That's All at eleven o'clock in the morning. Wasn't it bad enough drinking it and its rotgut relatives every night? "We're not having this for breakfast >every morning, are we?" I asked Henny.

"Just setting a tone today." He leaned back and replaced his feet on the desk. I did the same. Today, this glorious first day on the job, was not a day to be picky. Henny and I were licensed detectives, private investigators. Cool, tough dicks. I remember telling my father, when I fourteen or fifteen and under the spell of Bogie and Spade and Marlowe, that I wanted to be a dick when I grew up. He nodded wearily and told me the only way I'd ever be a dick was if I changed my name to Richard. I realize now he could've said worse. Well, I'm still Lloyd, not Richard, and damned if I'm not a dick anyway. And at twenty-five years old, too. Ah, if only all Henny's and my future days could feel as promising and pleasant as this one.

They didn't. A week dragged by as we waited for a client, one client, just one, to knock on our door. We didn't want to be out of the office and maybe miss a call, so it became a big treat when my turn came to walk to Chinatown and bring back lunch. When neither of us wanted the long walk, we lunched on pizza from Grand Pizza across the street. With all the garlic Henny and I used, we'd've done a hell of a business putting vampires in their place. I'm glad we didn't need to kiss our clients to get their business. If we ever got any clients. Henny wondered out loud whether we'd picked the best spot for our office. It seemed we'd chosen the one crime-free neighborhood in New York City.

"Of course, we didn't," I reminded him. "We picked a dump we could afford."

Our meager online presence hadn't yet gone viral -- hadn't even caught a cold, actually -- and the only advertising we'd done, besides our window sign, was to put fliers under the windshield wipers of parked cars in the neighborhood when we went out for pizza. And so we waited.

We waited and we read. Mystery stories, naturally. We planned to deduct these used paperbacks on our tax return as a business expense. Henny went for the hard-boiled Marlowe and Spade types. I leaned to the softer variety that had a dandy puzzle to it, ala Ellery Queen and good old Sherlock. We were sitting in the office on our second Monday in business, quietly reading, when that most glorious of sounds reached our ears. A knock on the door.

Henny and I looked over our books at each other.

"Did you hear something?" Henny asked.

The knock came again.

"What do we do?" Henny whispered. "Should I get out my gun?"

I gave him a "don't-be-dumb" look and tossed my book down. "You're closer. Answer it."

Henny stood up and stepped toward the door. Before he opened it, he dashed back to his desk and took a toothpick from a box in the top right hand drawer. He slid the toothpick into the left side of his mouth and swaggered to the door. I hated it when Henny started with his toothpicks, but we had no time to discuss it now. Henny opened the door to reveal a woman, a distraught woman, who looked to be in her forties. Early forties. A woman who'd seen better times. She had a dark blue handkerchief in her hand, and a damned big one it was. She kept dabbing her eyes with it and sniffing prodigiously. Her hair was blonde and seemed to be glued into place. Not a hair moved, not a hair was in disarray. Her clothes were not stylish; downright frumpy, actually. She wore a blue suit, the skirt of which swished to an end near her ankles. Her white blouse had an enormous bow, behind which her chin disappeared whenever she opened her mouth to talk. She had shoes with sensible low heels. She wore a hat, a kind I hadn't seen since I don't know when. A little pillbox job. She lifted her eyes from her handkerchief and looked at us. Her makeup, heavily packed on, hadn't smeared. Fighting off the ravages of time, I supposed. Heck of a way to try to look young, though, calling attention to the losing battle you were fighting to do so.

But she was a client, and she was beautiful.

She stood in the doorway looking back and forth between Henny and me until Henny offered her our client chair. She probably could have figure that out on her own, since it was the only chair not tucked behind a desk. Henny situated her chair properly in the right angle of the L formed by our two desks. Henny went through the necessary introductions, I couldn't help noticing how the harsh light from the window behind me streamed over her and highlighted her every facial flaw. Illumination was not her best friend. Her makeup struck me again. The image of a plumber caulking her furrows rose in my mind. Hell, I'd rather've been old with no makeup than covered with the gloop she'd put on. But, of course, I am not a woman. And I am not old. Henny invited her to state her case, so I got out a pad of paper. Notes were important. Or so they'd told us in online detective school.

"It's my daughter, Mr. Henny, Mr. Lloyd."

Henny and Lloyd were our first names, but she could call us anything she wanted.

"She's getting married Saturday, and I want to keep her from committing the gravest mistake of her life."

"Who's she marrying, ma'am?" asked Henny, rolling his toothpick to the right side of his mouth. I wished he'd throw the stupid thing away. He looked ridiculous.

"The man's name is Raymond. Giles Raymond. My daughter is Geeta Daniels, Margarita, actually. Geeta is a nickname. I'm Mrs. Marion Daniels. My husband died five years ago. So I'm responsible ... responsible for Geeta's happiness." She began sniffing and dabbing with the big blue handkerchief again. I felt a wave of elation, realizing our very first case had this delicious spark of romantic, family drama to it. A crying client and a dastardly groom-to-be. A detective couldn't ask for more.

"We understand," Henny said as I wrote down all the names and relationships on my pad. "What would you like us to do? What's the problem?"

"Geeta wants to marry Giles, and I know he's merely using her. I know he sees other women. I know he's a two-timer, a four-flusher."

I saw Henny perk up. 'Four-flusher' was one of his favorite 1940s' detective expressions. I didn't even know what it meant -- you had to have five for a flush, didn't you? When Mrs. Daniels mentioned it, though, I supposed she meant someone who didn't have all the goods but liked to portray himself as having them.

"How do you know?" Henny asked.

"I know this man. I hear from others. I once followed him myself to see where he went." Her voice softened as if ashamed of her behavior. "I know where he goes, and I tell my daughter all about him, but she doesn't believe me, of course. He's convinced her he loves her."

"You tailed him, eh?" Henny switched his toothpick left to add some gravitas to his pronouncement. "Where did he go?"

"To see other women, of course!" she answered as if the answer should be obvious. Especially to two trained, top notch detectives.

I tried a better question. "Why would he be using your daughter? What would he get out of it? Besides your daughter, I mean."

"Money. When my daughter marries, she will come into the money her father put away for her."

"How much?" I asked.

She took the blue handkerchief away, sniffed and said, "Five hundred thousand dollars."

Sheesh! I'd've married the mother for half that.

"Good reason," said Henny as the toothpick slid to the right. "So you want us to tail this Giles Raymond and get the goods on him?"

I shot Henny a look. Toothpick. Tailed. Get the goods. The guy lived in the forties and loved his work.

"If my daughter doesn't believe me, she'll have to believe two private detectives. I want you to follow him, watch his house, take pictures of the women he sees, the women who see him, and get this report to me by Friday morning. Can you do it?"

The way she put it sounded like a high school pep rally. Can you do it? Go team! Go! Go!

Henny nodded with enthusiasm. "We'll need addresses and his daily schedule, where he works, photos of him. You give us that, we'll go to work."

Mrs. Daniels pulled a manila envelope from her large handbag and dropped it in front of Henny. "You charge a fee, no doubt?"

I cleared my throat. "We do."

Henny jumped in. "You'll want both of us on this case, no doubt."

"Oh, yes. It's so important."

"Then we'll have to ask five hundred dollars a day. Plus expenses."

I looked at Henny and, as Mrs. Daniels fished in her purse, mouthed the words, "Five hundred!"

"Fine," said Mrs. Daniels, extracting her checkbook. She wrote out a check, and Henny and I reached out for it when she finished. I shot Henny another look, and he settled back into his chair and got out a new toothpick. Henny didn't have a head for figures. We'd already agreed that I'd take care of the money. I looked at the check, and as Mrs. Daniels replaced her checkbook in her purse, I held up two fingers to Henny and mouthed the words, "Two thousand." Henny puffed out his cheeks. That was two month's rent on this dump. I had to turn the two fingers I'd raised into a brush of my hair when Mrs. Daniel's looked my way and provided the info we needed. After reminding us she needed results by Friday, the day before the wedding, she left, pressing the big blue handkerchief to her eyes.

Henny put his finger to his lips, and we waited until we heard the elevator doors open and close and the elevator begin its creaking journey to the ground floor. Henny leaped up and stood on top of his desk. "We're in the chips, Lloyd. This is only the beginning. Nothing's gonna stop us now. I'll write up our case and publish it. We'll make it pay twice. I'll be Watson, Hammett, Chandler. Let's go follow our Floyd Thursby." He leaped from his desk, and I followed him out the door.

We were back in the office twenty seconds later.

"I was following you, Henny. Why ask me where we're going? Where did you think you were going?"

"It seemed the right thing to do. Get to work right away."

"Sheesh! You got us charging out the door without knowing where we're going. The guy's at work now, for Pete's sake. Look, I'm going to the bank and deposit this little beauty. You stay here. Study what's in the envelope she gave you. When I get back, we'll approach this case with some intelligence. If you have any. Jesus, rushing out the door to nowhere."

"I have intelligence, plenty of it. Just hurry back."

The manila envelope informed us that Giles Raymond was a big deal securities salesman with Schlemer, Schlemer, Schlemer, and McCormick, office at 85 Broad Street, a monster of a building across the street from the Fraunces Tavern, where George Washington said farewell to his assistants after the Revolutionary War ended.

Raymond didn't look much like a wheeler-dealer or philanderer in the photo Mrs. D. gave us. Actually, he looked like a dweeb, a dork. A poor man's Wally Cox or maybe even Arnold Stang, if anybody remembers them. Hardly the type to be the playboy Mrs. D. suspected. But here I stood, lurking outside the main entrance of 85 Broad Street. Henny had gone off to lurk outside the brownstone Raymond owned on Leroy Street. Owning a brownstone meant he did pretty well with his securities.

Anyway, I was to tail Raymond when he left work and meet Henny on Leroy Street. Or call Henny to join me if Raymond didn't go home. Or join Henny if I missed Raymond, and he went home. We had it all worked out. According to Mrs. D., he left work around six, but when six forty-five came, and still no Raymond, I put my brain to work. This was where I excelled Henny. I enjoyed the puzzle. I loved the figuring-out part. Henny saw himself as our street operative. The question: Did I miss Raymond leaving or was he still in the building? I had the answer. I whipped out my cell and called Raymond on the office number Mrs. D. had given us. Whoever answered told me Raymond had just left for the day, so I scurried back across the street and, sure enough, two minutes later, Raymond, dressed in a dark blue suit and carrying a brown briefcase, walked out of the building. This was my first head-to-toe look at the man. I'd've been shocked if he tipped the scales at over one hundred twenty-five pounds. There wasn't much to this guy, plus he was bald in the bony way emaciated men get. Little tufts of side hair waggled over his ears, but not so much as one strand covered his dome. What could the daughter see in him? He hailed a cab.

"Nuts," I muttered. Raymond got in and the cab immediately got caught at a red light. I grabbed the next cab. "Can you stay behind the cab in front of us?" I asked excitedly. Henny would've said, "Follow that cab."

"Are you for real?" asked Abdul Serhakkian, my driver.

The light turned green, and I ripped my wallet from my pants pocket. I flashed my detective license and said, "Police work."

"Police work. Big deal," mumbled Abdul, but he pulled out after the cab.

Raymond went straight home to Leroy Street. I paid my fare and wrote down the amount in my notebook, the first recorded expense for the Henny and Lloyd Detective Agency. Another proud moment. Raymond climb the stoop to his front door and went inside.

Leroy Street is a spectacular street. At least the block between Varick and Hudson Streets. Old brownstones lined one side of the street, a dozen of them. They leaped out at the eye because, walking from Varick Street, you passed two, wide, five-story tenements from the twenties. You expected very little from the street at this point. But across from the big blue flag proclaiming the Hudson Park Branch of the New York City Library, Leroy Street swerved, and you passed from the shadow caused by the bulky library building into the sunlight let into the block by the wide open playground of the Carmine Street Recreation Center, and you saw what you hadn't seen before -- those dozen glorious brownstones, all the same height, the middle nine the same design. Splashes of greenery, small trees, bushes, and some ivy enlivened the tiny cement-covered yards in front of each house. Trees lined both sides of the street.

Raymond lived in a gray-painted building near the middle of the line of houses. His was the only light-colored front in the lot. "Eleven" the front door proclaimed. The house had a ground floor and three upper floors. Henny popped up at my shoulder.

"He came right home from work," I said. "Now what?"

Henny's eyes glowed in ecstasy. "We watch. This is the glamour part of our chosen profession. A stakeout."

I didn't see what was glamorous about a stakeout, but Henny had really bought into our profession. We watched but not for long. It was still light, nearly seven-thirty, when a woman came down the street. I said a quick prayer. Please be heading to Raymond's place.

"Get your camera out, Henny," I whispered excitedly. "Get it ready." Henny got ready.

"I wonder if she's the real girlfriend," I said. "The daughter Geeta."

Henny tapped my pocket. I pulled out the photos Mrs. D. had given us and studied the photo of Geeta. No, not close. I showed it to Henny. He shook his head.

"The hair," he said. "All wrong."

Geeta was a smiling brunette. The woman approaching was a somber blonde. I tapped Henny's camera, and he attached the fancy lens he used for long distance work and began snapping.

"The lens cover," I said. "Get it off. Get it off."

Henny snatched off the black plastic cover and managed to shoot a couple more shots as the young woman paused a moment and looked back toward the street. I nudged Henny to keep snapping. The woman took out a key and let herself into the house, using the ground floor entrance rather than climbing the short flight of stone steps to the more elegant first floor entrance Raymond had used.

"Entering slyly, like a mistress," Henny said to me.

"Let me write it all down," I said. "Tell me what you saw."

"Young woman. Blue dress. Blonde hair. Stylish. Carrying a large leather bag. High-heeled shoes. She arrived at seven twenty-five and let herself into Raymond's house -- ground floor -- with her own key. Raymond lives alone so she must be there to see him. I think we have something, Lloyd."

"If you got the lens cap off in time."

"First case jitters. Don't worry about it. We have to stay and see what time she comes out."

I frowned. "Henny, she could be there all night."

"All the better. She's an illicit girlfriend. The longer she stays, the more incriminating. We have to know."

"'We,' as in both of us?"

"All right. All right. All right. One of us can do it. We'll take turns. I'll flip you for who goes first. Winner stays."

"Heads," I said. Heads came up, and Henny started off smiling. "I'll relieve you in three hours. If she comes out early, I'll be at Walkers. Call."

Walkers was a neighborhood bar a half-mile south of us -- a ten minute walk. I nodded glumly as Henny walked away.

It was a few minutes before ten when the woman left Raymond's house, again like a thief in the night, through the ground floor entrance. She checked up and down the street and even looked my way, but I couldn't see how it made much difference, since I stood a good distance off behind a tree. From where I stood, though, the woman looked pretty good. Raymond must have some personality. The woman walked away from me toward Hudson Street. I waited until she turned the corner and, after duly noting her departure time, headed for Walkers, another cab ride I'd charge to Mrs. D.

Every night afterward, I followed Raymond home from work and met Henny on Leroy Street. Every night around seven-thirty, a different woman carrying a different large, leather bag would arrive, sometimes coming from Varick Street, sometimes from Hudson Street. The woman would stop and look around suspiciously before slipping quietly into the house through the ground floor entrance. Always with her own key. Mrs. D. sure had him pegged. Raymond was proving to be a world-class juggler of women. I grew a tad jealous of Giles Raymond's way with women and told Henny so as we sat in the office Friday morning after sending our report of Raymond's four active nights and photos to Mrs. D. as requested.

"Well," said Henny. "Two blondes, a redhead, one with black hair. It took a lot of standing around (we'd each stood watch two nights), but our first case is over. We did the job. We earned the two thousand bucks. Now, all we have to do is wait for another client."

"Oh, is that all?" I asked.

Late Friday afternoon, a rapid knocking tattooed our office door. Henny's eyebrows lifted. He grabbed a toothpick and went to answer. A young brunette, in tears, rushed into the room. I recognized her from our photo collection. Geeta Daniels. Behind her, like a tiny canoe caught in the wake of a mighty ocean liner, puttered Giles Raymond.

"Are you responsible for this?" she cried and threw our report on my desk.

"Yes," I said. "We're Henny and Lloyd."

"That's our work," Henny said coolly.

"How could you send my mother such horrible lies?"

"They're not lies, ma'am," I said. "They are the result of professional detective work."

"Lies, lies, lies. Tell them, Gilly."

Henny and I exchanged a glance. Gilly?

"Oh, yes, yes. Lies. I know none of these women ..."

"See," said Geeta. "Gilly swears this report is full of lies. Tell them what you did all last week, Gilly."

"I spent every night last week with you, dear. You came ..."

"See," Geeta cut in. "My mother paid you to fabricate rubbish like this, so she could try to trick me, intimidate me. She doesn't want me to see Gilly any more. That's it, isn't it? Admit it."

"No," said Henny, lines appearing between his eyes. "We took those pictures outside Mr. Raymond's house on Leroy Street."

"Oh, do you hear what they've told Mother, Gilly. The lies they've told her. She said this morning I must break off with you. What shall we do?"

Gilly, I mean Giles, took out a handkerchief, a white one, and mopped his forehead. A day at the securities' desk must never have been like this. "I don't know, darling. You know how much I love you."

"Mother doesn't believe it. You've been telling me you love me for almost a year now. I know you love me, but Mother insists she has proof that you don't! She has these photos, Gilly. Oh, these women, these women. It's not true, is it?"

"But darling, I ... I was with ..."

"Oh, these photographs, Gilly."

"... you. I don't understand."

"Mother was wild, absolutely wild, when she tossed them at me this morning. Actually gloating! She believes these photos, Gilly, and you know I can't, I simply can't, marry against my mother's will." Softly, she added, "You know I love her, too, darling." She ratcheted up the volume and went on. "Oh, if there were only some way to prove to my mother how much you love me, Gilly. You do love me, don't you, Gilly?"

"Well, of course I do. We could ... I mean ... it is sudden, but I mean we could ... it's always possible ..."

"What is, Gilly? What is? Think of a way, darling."

"You have ... you did have us get the license in case we ever should decide to ... you know ... decide to ..." Gilly swallowed prodigiously.

"Mother will be waiting at home for us. She'll insist we never see each other again. Oh, these damnable photos. If only we were married already."

"We ... we ... could get m ... m ... married, I suppose. I mean, if you think that would convince her. I mean ..." Raymond shrugged.

"Oh, darling Gilly. How could it not convince her? Yes, I do have our license with me." And Geeta threw herself into Gilly's arms and plastered his mouth with a kiss. She pulled back and smiled into the little man's face. "Today. Let's get married today, Gilly. Let's go home as man and wife. It will prove to Mother how much you love me. Mother will be so happy."

"Whatever you think best, dear." Gilly wiped his forehead again and looked as if the firing squad leader had shouted out, "Ready ... aim..."

"Let me go and clean my face, and we'll go down to City Hall. It's walking distance from here, isn't it, Mr. Henny?"

She looked at me, so I answered. "Yes, straight down Centre Street to the Municipal Building. Walk it in about twenty minutes. Nice day outside."

"Ladies Room?" she asked.

"Down the hall to the left," I directed.

"I won't be long, Gilly darling." Geeta swept out of the room.

Gilly darling joined Henny and me in a profound silence.

Henny looked puzzled and asked, "I'm sorry. Weren't you and the young lady already planning to get married? Tomorrow, I'd heard."

"Married! Oh, no. Oh, my. Tomorrow? No. I have a dental appointment tomorrow. Married, no. Had a near heart attack when Geeta suggested getting a license just in case. No, not until this very minute," he stopped to wipe his brow --'Fire!' -- "did I know I'd be getting married."

Henny looked my way. "So, go to work, Mr. Puzzle," he said.

"Have you met Geeta's mother?" I asked.

"Once, about six months ago. A gray-haired, elderly, most refined woman. Sweet. But from the stories Geeta tells me, a she-dragon, a gorgon, gentlemen. I've grown deathly afraid of her. To tell the truth, I have. You heard. She's a suspicious beast."

I continued my interrogation. "Elderly, you say? Around, what? Forty?"

"Forty! Oh, no. More like sixty. At least sixty."

I looked at Henny.

"And the inheritance?"

"Inheritance? Who died?" Gilly asked.

"Her father?"

"No, no. Hale and hearty. Fine gentleman. Wouldn't be an inheritance if he did die. They're quite poor, you know. Feel sorry for him, married to the gorgon. Can't understand how the mother could have changed so from when I saw her."

"Does Miss Daniels work?" I asked.

"Teaches kindergarten. Hates the little monsters."

The door opened, and Geeta returned, all smiles. "I'm so happy, darling. I really am."

"Happy, yes ... ah, yes, me, too." Willy's facial expression came well short of confirming his words. He wiped his forehead again.

"Mother will be so pleased," Geeta repeated, and she began to cry. "Come, my darling." And she led little Gilly from the office. In no time, she re-entered, alone, still teary-eyed.

"Let me give you this," she said. "So there will be no trouble. Say no more about this."

She placed a check on my desk. I looked at it. Another thousand dollars.

"Oh," she said, full of emotion. "You two gentlemen have helped make me the happiest girl on earth." She began blubbering again and pulled an enormous blue handkerchief from her purse. Henny and I had seen the handkerchief before. Geeta Daniels closed the door behind her.

Henny and I sat immobile, too embarrassed to look at one another.

Finally, I picked up the check Geeta had laid on my desk. "It has M. Daniels printed on it. Same as the first one. She's the M. Daniels on the check. Margarita," I said. "Not her mother, Marion."

"She was all the women?" asked Henny. "She was all the women! And the mother? Is that possible?"

"Sure. Why not? The big leather bags those women carried had a change of clothes in them. No wonder she used the downstairs entrance. She needed time to change into and out of her disguise without Gilly catching on."

"And we watched her force that poor schmuck to marry her," said Henny. "Right here in this office! Maybe we should've started a lonely hearts online dating service instead of a detective agency."

"He's the one with the dough, not her," I said. "I don't feel well. We deserve to have both our names taken off the door."

Henny's head sank. "The bottom drawer of your desk, please."

I pulled out the bottle of Boone's That's All, while Henny folded two pieces of typing paper. He held them while I poured.

"To better times, Henny," I toasted.

We drank. And drank again.

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Article © John Paulits. All rights reserved.


Scroll down the screen to see the rest of this week's articles!

By John Paulits:

In This Week's Press:

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Encounters -- Carl Wade Thompson
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Henny and Lloyd's First Case -- John Paulits
~ Ambition -- check. Analytical mind -- check. Determination -- check. Whiskey -- yeah, that, too. Now all they need is the case...

THE ODDS 216 -- Bill Harvey
~ Anything you say may or may not be held against you in a court of law...or a kitchen!

Tomorrow Falls 10 -- Carrie A. Golden
~ Tess has been trapped underground, and the monsters have found her trail...

Ralph Bland: Author Interview -- Carrie A. Golden
~ Carrie Golden interviews author Ralph Bland.