She had legs that went all the way up, and then some. An electric blue dress that could spark a riot. Gone was any chance of getting out of the office on time for a change. I could smell the trouble through the cigarette smoke and this would take a while. She introduced herself with her name, Eva, and with her hand, which I shook. There was a scratch on her thumb, and I asked about it as she sat down.
“My cat. He can be a little dictator at timez.”
Her accent eluded me. A European goulash of sorts, with a hint of paprika. My accent has been mostly obscured by practice; a snoop won’t get very far with the locals if he sounds foreign. Only a trained ear would pick me out from my now-fellow Portlanders, so she wouldn’t have a clue as to what we had in common.
“What can I do for you?”
“I need you to find my cat’z collar.”
She ignored my long pause and blank stare.
“He won’t wear another collar, he’z paranoid of zem.”
Twenty years in this trade and you think you’ve heard it all. A collar. Really. Sal Mazzatti must have put her up to this; I got him good last spring when I hid a dead pigeon in his office. It’s a running joke.
I told her to call Ace Ventura, and that I was closing for the day.
She must be German. Just perfect for this trick since they tend to have very little humor to give away. I offered to find her a squirrel.
“Pleaze, you must help. He’z very angry wizout it. Look.”
She held up her left arm and pulled up the sleeve to the elbow. There were more scratches than my March Madness brackets. I told her that the best I could do for her was to put the cat down, and that I really was closing. I stood up to leave, and she reached into her purse and pulled out a wad of bills that could have had its own moon.
“I’ll pay double your rate. And here’z a map of where it zhould be. He doezn’t wonder far, or often.”
Everyone has a price, and it seems mine is double the triple I quoted her. With a sizable chunk up front I agreed to take the case. She finally cracked a razor-thin smile.
“Thank you. Heidi will be zo happy!”
I reached into the top drawer and pulled out two Cubans, offering her one.
“No, thank you. I only smoke Tipalets, and I left mine in ze car.”
With that, she left. I briefly considered calling Mazzatti, but she had actually paid, and top dollar to boot. No way Sal would lay out that much green over a stinking office. So I grabbed the crudely-drawn map, and left for my car, and Clinton Street. Half an hour later I was parked in front of a church on 69th Avenue, and headed south on foot. A woman was throwing a tennis ball for her black lab, and the ball had rolled under a truck.
She called out, “Butch! Fetch!” No luck. Not enough room for the mutt to maneuver.
“Step aside, Butch.”
I side-armed the ball back towards the woman, with Butch slobbering off after. Turns out this place was a well-used hangout for dogs. Scratch finding any cat, or cat accessory, near here. Sirens alarmed from a distance. Dead quiet other than that. A few minutes and blocks later a police cruiser whisked by and stopped in front of a brownstone just ahead. By the time I got there they cops had the place on double lock-down.
I recognized the chief even before I had gotten to the place.
“Well, well, Dimples. What’s the fuss?”, I asked through clenched teeth.
“Who the…” Our eyes met. “Well, for the love of scotch. How ya’ been, Jack?”
“Not missing my days in uniform, that’s how.”
He laughed/wheezed. “Don’t I know it!”
“But you’re still in yours.”
“Yeah, I may be old but they still keep me on the streets.”
Just then a man in his underwear was walked out of the house in cuffs.
“What’s he in for?”
“Apparently his wife’s been busting his balls and yadda yadda. He roughed her up a bit. Poor bastid. What brings your to my neck of the woods?”
I lied about the details, but not about the petite fraulein.
“Wow, a wandering daughter job. Why aren’t the real police involved?” He understood completely, but asked anyway.
“Funny, I never wondered why not.”
A huff. “Sure thing, wiseacre. Stop by the precinct sometime and I might let you back in. I gotta fly.”
Dimples went back to work, and I continued south. Holy god I’m at 791 words and there are 4 more pictures to write about. No! 807! Paul will never run this! The CC Writer’s Guide was clear!
You see, after the Mt. Tabor article went so smoothly I figured I could do more walk-‘n-talks just like it. As in, I take pictures of cool cars, and submit articles with the pics in the order as taken. Unfortunately I took 13 pictures during my great-idea-at-the-time “Going Down On Clinton” theme, which, during the walk, expanded to the subtitle vis a vis Bush. You know: double and triple political/sexual entendres. And puns. Lots of painful puns. Like this next obvious karma joke:
Ahem. Anyway, my predetermined goal was to do exactly this, using every good picture taken down Clinton, and up Bush, to make an interesting read of it. The problem was the very last photo I took. It wasn’t of a car at all, which explains the bizarre case posited above. But before we get there, my journalistic integrity mandates I include the final three auto photos.
1. A joke involving a nice rack, and a bullseye.
2. A witty crack about the economy, or a freightliner.
3. A joke about the French.
There. Now I can get down to brass tacks: the final apawcalyptic picture that sent this article on a fast-track to never-gonna-get-posted-ville:
See? According to my own rules, I simply HAD to start at the beginning (the two Continentals) and end at the ending, and this was the last picture I took on my Bush quest. Fer crying out loud, it’s Hitler. How else do I connect two old Lincolns and one of history’s greatest monsters? See the collar? That’s what Jack Clueseau was looking for, but I’ll be damned if I can think of any moderately believable link at this point.