Part 1: A belle in the night
It was nighttime. My time.
I had just put the paper to bed, tucked it in, read it a story, plugged in the night light, left a glass of water on the bedside table, and told it not to let the bedbugs bite as I closed the door. Then off down the mean streets of Baltimore to the ratty studio apartment I called home.
The door was unlocked, which wasn’t right, and when I opened I saw the glow of a cigarette across the room.
I switched on the light, and there she sat, in my reading chair, drinking a glass of my bourbon ordinaire. “Well, doll,” I said, “if I’d expected company, I would have laid on the good liquor.”
“This is quite satisfactory,” she said, adjusting her skirt to allow me to admire the line of her thigh. Her vocabulary was Downton Abbey, but her accent was Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Her clothes said Saks, but her eyes said floozy. The little cross at her throat murmured piety, but what the decolletage blared was entirely secular.
I poured myself a slug and sat down on the bed. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?” I asked.
“I have a friend ...” She trailed off.
“Good for you. I don’t. I’m an editor.”
“He’s an editor, too. Only ...”
“Toots, if you’re going to talk entirely in ellipses, we’re going to be here till dawn.”
“Only he’s gone. He’s just gone, gone without a word to me. I went to see him at work and he wasn’t at work and they wouldn’t tell me anything about him and I don’t know what to do and not knowing what to do I came here to see you.”
“Let’s not go to the other extreme, doll. Try a little punctuation. Tell me, where does, or did, this friend work.”
“At the Courier-Messenger-Dispatch.”
The old Curious Mess, about one page of yard sale ads shy of turning into a shopper.
“Was he, you should pardon the expression, a copy editor?”
“Yes. He was”—she fluttered long eyelashes over big brown eyes and blushed—“he was the slotman.”
“Then I know where he is.”
“You do? Really? Tell me.”
“They’ve sent him to the Hub.”
Next: The mission