~ Swing Time ~
Tommy Dorsey's song I'll never smile again blasted from the bosses small cluttered office, Doris covered her ears and tried to concentrate on the out going invoices and just gave up. The music drove her nuts, if it wasn't the Dorsey brothers playing then it was Benny Goodman, Harry James, Les Brown or Woody Herman. She had grown up listening to the swing bands and had even gone to a ballroom or two to dance. But that was back then, now she would give up her false teeth and eat oatmeal for the rest of her life to hear Britney Spears or a Rap song. "God damn I wish I were deaf instead of half blind!" She pulled a pair of earmuffs from her desk drawer and tried to get some work done before her boss came out and ruined her day. She typed on her keyboard as if her fingers were on fire, she maybe over 50 as she told everyone and didn't care that they all knew she was really closer to the 75 mark but she could still out type and work people a quarter of her age. Now if she could only instill those traits in her boss, MacKenna would rather trade services than get paid in real money. She looked up through her thick glasses to see her strange employer in the normal attire of grey pleated trousers complete with suspenders, white button down shirt and matching grey vest. The one thing that she wished she could toss out the window was the battered fedora that never seemed to leave her bosses head; she swore that Mac slept with the damn thing on.
"Hey ya doll, I'm going to check out a tip I got, if I'm not back by closing lock up for me."
"Well this tip better bring some money in or I'll be typing on that old banger you have in the closet and doing it by flashlight!" She yelled out and swore to herself. "Damn kids I swear they all need their asses kicked for at the least 30 years, damn bills need paid but there's no money. There would be if someone would keep their trousers closed and put the hand out for green backs." She sighed and went back to work and hit the print button to print out all the invoices she had just completed. She leaned back in her computer chair, kicked her feet up on her desk and waited for the printer to finish its jobs. The office was a mixture of stuff left over from the 40's and her brand spanking new computer that she built, a printer and office furniture that she had rented from an office store. She told Mac that there was no way in Hell that she was going to try to keep up with all the work by doing as she had done back in the 40's. She had a PC at home and there was no way that she wouldn't have one at work to. However, that was years ago and every year or so, she would upgrade it. This last one she had built herself by ordering parts from a PC company. She told her grand kids and great grand kids that she wasn't dead yet and there was no reason why she couldn't learn new things. She crossed her ankles, looked down at her new cross trainers and rocked her feet back and forth. "I bet Mac doesn't come back until morning, damn tip is probably about a stripper or a damn horse that's running."
The Swing Time Ballroom was dark and smoky just like it had been more than 60 years before. Not much had changed in the place, in fact most people thought that the only thing that had changed were maybe the light bulbs. Mac blinked her eyes a few times and then walked to the middle of the long mahogany bar. She pulled out a long cigar, snipped the end off with her cutter and slid it between her lips. Searching her pockets, she pulled out her silver Zippo and burned the end before lighting it. With one eye squinted, she looked to the bartender and gave her a crooked grin. "Hey Sally gimme a bourbon neat and some pretzels if you have any." Sally pushed back her dyed red hair, eyed Mac and shook her head of long curls.
"It's awful early for you to be in here, Doris kick your ass outta the office again?"
"Nope, I gotta call from a contact, said he had a tip for me about a case I'm working on."
"I know what kind of cases you work on so that means that Victoria Secret has a new line coming out."
Mac wiggled her brows and licked her upper lip. "I all ready got a taste of that the other night, have you seen the new commercial that they have on TV?" She waved a hand in front of her face and whistled. "I damn near fell over and choked on my chocolate milk." She groaned when she saw the look on the older woman's face. "Hey I got ulcers doll, and I happen to have a weakness for C-milk."
"One way to get rid of those is to get into a different line of work." She placed the drink in front of her and then leaned on the bar with one elbow. "So what's this case you're working on?"
"Ya know the usual, husband cheats on his wife for years with some floozy and gets all bent out of shape when he finds out that she's been doing the same thing." She shrugged her shoulders and took a sip of her drink. "The guy I'm supposed to meet says he knows where the wife's boy friend is?" She winked and drained her glass in one move.
"Don't tell me you're gonna give them the heads up?"
"Nope I just wanna know where he is, it's the wife I'm going after. I'm gonna offer her the info I have on her husband for a price and if she turns me down then I get the dirt on her and go back to her husband."
Sally rolled her eyes and filled Mac's glass up. "That's kind of dirty Mac; do you always play them against each other?"
"Nope, I hate this guy with a passion and I'd love to see her take him for everything he's got. The asshole stiffed me on some work I was doing for him, so I owe him this trouble." She looked to her left when a man took the stool next to her. "OK John what have you got for me?"
John combed his beard with a small silver brush and looked at her from the corner of his brown eye." The bum lives over on King St. in Martinsburg, it's a big puke green house with black shutters. He doesn't have a job so he'll be there until some sucker comes around with free beer or drugs."
Mac rubbed the side of her face with one hand and then propped her chin up under a closed fist." So I'm looking at a real scum sucking bastard huh, what the Hell is the wife of a banker doing with white trash?"
"She's doing the rebellion thing; she knows he sleeps with cheap sluts so she's doing the male version." He said and took the tonic water from Sally. "Ain't that right Sally?"
"How the Hell would I know the only cheap bastard I know is the one I'm married to."
Mac smiled and dropped bills down on the bar." Thanks John I appreciate the info, I better get over to the wife and lay out the deal and see if she'll go for it." She checked her money clip and waved it in front of him. "Gotta get the dough or Doris is gonna toss me in the river with cement shoes." She clapped John on his shoulder and left the ballroom. On her way out the door, she whistled one of the songs that had been playing in the ballroom. She stepped outside, lowered the brim of her fedora and walked over to where she had parked her Subaru Outback. The clothes may scream the 40's but her car had to be dependable and her 1948 rag top Plymouth was not and best kept at home in the garage under the car cover. She had restored it years before and now only drove it when the weather was nice. Pulling her keys from her pocket, she unlocked her car and then slid behind the wheel. No sooner had she closed the door then a knock came from the window, she looked to her left and then rolled the window down. "I told you Mr. Simson when I get something I'll call you." She looked up into his brown eyes and knew she was in deep shit.
"I want you to do something else for me, I want you to kill both of them and make it look like a murder suicide."
She shook her head and snorted her disbelief. "Hey pal, I'm a private detective, I don't murder people."
"I'll pay you twenty thousand dollars now and another ten when they're both dead."
She shook her head, rolled up her window and pulled away. She flipped off the small tape recorder she kept in her vest pocket and placed it on the seat next to her. "What a fucking freak, I'm not going to jail for anyone and besides I hate the site of blood." She took the next street, turned down an alleyway and then parked behind the police station. "Dumb fucker, there's no way I'm getting blamed for anything if they end up dead." She grabbed the tape recorder and then went into give it to a friend of hers that worked homicide. Going through the back door, she took the stairs to the third floor and then walked to the office at the very end. She looked across the wide space at all the cluttered desks and small stations and was thankful that she gave up her job as a cop. Being a private detective suited her better anyway; she set her own hours and preferred to work into the wee hours of the morning. She spotted her friend and walked directly to her, pulling the tape recorder out, she placed it on her desk and hit it on. "Hey Salisbury I want you to keep this tape and if anything goes down on a Mrs. Simson you'll know who to go after." She watched her friend's expression turn into disbelief and then a shit eating grin blossom across it. "Can you do anything with it?"
"So this asshole comes right out and asks a former cop to off his wife and her boyfriend, how stupid is that?" She tossed her long dark hair over her shoulder and leaned back in her chair. "Ya know it's not admissible in a court of law but it would give us some leverage with the District attorney if anything happens." She took the tape, placed it in an envelope, marked the time, date and then initialed it. "Hey George initial this for me and put it in the safe." She tossed it to one of the other detectives and looked to her friend. "So tell me about this asshole." Mac gave her the complete history of the case she was working on, leaving out the possible deal making with wife and finished off with the husband approaching her outside of the ballroom. "Don't worry I'll watch your back just like when we were on the force together and if I was you, I'd steer clear of this guy."
"Ohh you don't have to tell me that, I'm keeping a wide berth of him but I'm thinking I should at least warn his wife that he wants her dead."
"Call her on the phone from your office, that way you've got the bill and you're no where in the area."
"Damn girl but you sound so damn paranoid anymore." Mac winked at her and got up from the corner of her desk. "Don't worry so much, I'll have a couple hundred alibis where I'm going and hopefully I'll have one for the rest of the night as well."
"You're a dog Mac, one of these days one of those women is going to beat your ass or steal that tiny heart you have, then what are ya gonna do?"
"Find the nearest bridge and jump off, I like being the perpetual bachelor and getting my ass kicked would be humiliating." She squeezed her old partners shoulder and gave her a short wave. "Later Terry, I got some hearts to break."
"More like spread some more wild oats, you're still like a damn guy." She leaned back in her chair and watched her long time friend's form disappear from sight. "Be safe Mac."
"Now listen to me very carefully, you have to leave, go somewhere where your husband can't find you and not your boyfriends place." Mac pulled her fedora off and ran her fingers through her sweat soaked blondish hair.
"Who are you and why am I hiding from my husband?" Mrs. Simson asked in a low whispering voice.
"Because the sick bastard tried to hire me to kill you and your boyfriend that's why, now get out before he finds someone who won't turn him down."
"My husband wouldn't do that, without me he has no money."
"Listen lady, there's such thing as life insurance, here's my number, when you're relocated call me, I have information that will help you." She gave out her phone number and hung up the phone afterwards. "Damn stubborn ass woman, she didn't even give me a chance for my deal spiel." She got out of her torn up leather office chair, cringed with the loud squeak it made and went over to where her suit jacket hung from the wooden coat tree. "I have drinks to buy and hearts to break?"
"And bills to pay so you better get some damn cases to work while you're out there," Doris said and got up from behind her desk. "And don't forget that I have my foot surgery in two days so that means that I won't be here to keep the electric company from flipping that switch." Mac closed her eyes and dropped her head; she knew that she would forget about Doris' foot surgery.
"Damn and you'll be gone for six weeks, how am I gonna keep everything running with you gone?" Doris raised a finger and pointed to the bulletin board right behind her. "You see where it says Truman Avery; she'll be here to take care of every thing. You be nice to her, she's my great grand daughter and nothing like me."
Mac grinned devilishly and pulled her suit jacket on with a flourish. "Ohh that means she's a wild woman, is she gay?"
"Back off MacKenna, I'm a wild woman compared to her. She just lost her job as an inventory clerk at the Smithsonian Museum and I have no idea if she's gay and if she is I pray that you're not her type."
Mac narrowed her eyes, shook her head and rose out a hand." Wait a minute; she's more or less a cross between a nun and a librarian then, what kinda fun am I supposed to have with her? I've known you my entire life, how am I supposed to work with a stranger?"
"Figure it out Mac and I wish I had tanned your rotten ass more when I could still catch you. Now go sew your wild oats or whatever the Hell it is you do with those women."
"I'll have you know that I'm a gentlemen and I don't do anything that they don't want."
"I'll believe that when you come in before noon."
After showering and putting on clean clothes, Mac stood in front of her full-length mirror and straightened her hand painted tie. Most people when they saw her thought of someone who bought their clothes from one of the many vintage stores in the area. What they didn't know was that she had her clothes made and preferred the clothes of the 40's; she even had a few zoot suits that she wore on occasion. She didn't have them in the colors that the men wore back then, she liked the dark grays and blues. There was no way she would walk around like Cab Callaway in bright yellow or mint green. Grabbing a thin black belt from her closet door, she threaded it through the belt loops of her dove grey trousers and then fixed her matching suspenders over her shoulders. "OK so what will it be, the vest and watch bob or the coat and zoot chain?" She looked at her clothes and grabbed a long Zoot jacket and then her gold triple zoot chain from her dresser. After splashing on some Obsession for men, she grabbed her fedora and went out the door of her apartment. Once on the street, she flipped a quarter and headed over to the garage where her Plymouth was stored. "It better not rain, I hate having my baby out in bad weather." She pulled the heavy cover off and stowed it in the trunk. "Hope all you ladies are ready for me." She ran her fingertips across the cherry red paint and then crawled behind the steering wheel. She pulled out on to the street and headed towards the ballroom, no one thought of it as being a place where she could pick up a woman, but she seldom left alone and those times she did were by choice.
Pulling into a handicap spot, she hung the blue and white tag from her rearview mirror and then got out, she knew what she was doing was illegal but knew that Salisbury would make the ticket disappear if she got one. Fixing her tie, coat and fedora, she walked into the ballroom and shook hands with the bouncer at the door. The dance floor was crowded with dancers and the swing music came from the live band on the large stage. She loved the music of the 30's and 40's, she grew up with it even though it was way before her time. With her great grandfather and grandfather being private detectives starting back in the late 30's and in the same office, she had grown up with the nostalgia of those time-periods. Her parents would drag her from their office kicking and screaming all the way out to their car and wouldn't calm down until they put the oldies station on the radio. They had tried to get her to live in her own time-period but found it useless, while they and the rest of the world were listening to AC DC, Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers and various other groups, she was with her grandfathers listening to swing and the big bands of the 30's and 40's. It may have been a time of war but it was a time where people cared about each other, now you would be lucky to have someone holds a door for you. She walked up to the bar and waved at Sally. "Can I have bourbon with a water chaser?"
"Water chaser, you're starting out slow aren't cha?" Mac gave her a light shrug of her shoulders and looked out over the crowd.
"Yeah well I have a meeting with a possible client and I don't wanna be stuttering drunk when she comes in."
"Not another cheating spouse thing, is that the only type of cases you take or what?"
"That's the only ones that have come to me, I'd love ta have a good mystery. Ya know a missing relative or something like my grandpa's worked on, but the gangsters nowadays are way different then back then."
Sally chuckled and nodded her head." You don't have to tell me, remember I was married to your grandpa for a while before he met your grandma?damn I'm over the damn hill."
"No you're not, you still look good Sally." She took her drinks and went over to her favorite table, before she took her seat; a tall blonde touched her on her shoulder.
"Are you MacKenna Jones?"
"That would be a yes, how can I help you?" She looked up and pulled her eyes away from the ample bust to chocolate brown eyes lined in black.
"I'm Regina Taylor; I'm supposed to speak with you about my problem." Mac nodded her head, held out a chair for her and then took her own seat. "I've been following my partner all over town and I think she knows what I'm doing. I need pictures to keep her from causing me any problems when I petition the court for full custody of our daughter."
Mac nodded her head in understanding; she had done cases like this before." I charge fifty bucks an hour, after eight hours it goes up to seventy five. Is there any problem with that?"
"No the price is fine with me." She looked around the ballroom and starred off into the distance until she heard Mac call her name.
"OK then, just give me a home/work address, a recent picture and how soon you need the pictures."
"I over heard a phone conversation this morning, she should be at this address in two days, they're supposed to go away for the weekend and this is where she's meeting her."
Mac took the address, stuffed it in her shirt pocket and took a sip of her bourbon. "OK, as soon as I get the pictures developed, I'll call and we'll make an appointment to meet. I expect payment at time of delivery." The woman nodded her head and then got up from the table; Mac ignored her and turned to watch the people on the dance floor.
Still wearing the same clothes that she had on from the night before, Mac tried to sneak into her outer office and tried to sneak right back out the door when she heard Doris growl her name. "MacKenna Francis Jones freeze or I'll zap your ass!"
"Ohh come on Doris, it's only ten in the morning." She turned her head and sighed when she saw a mousy looking woman sitting at the desk where Doris normally sat. "I have work to do and I have a new case to prepare for?"
"And you have to meet my replacement before you disappear into that Hell hole of an office and drive us nuts with swing music." Mac dropped her head and ran her hands across her tired face; she hadn't gotten any sleep and wanted nothing more than to fall on the couch in her office. "Don't you dare give me that look; it's your own damn fault that you're tired." She came around the desk, grabbed Mac by the back of her neck and dragged her to stand in front of the desk. "This is Truman, Truman this is your adolescent boss, make sure that she only takes on male clients. If it's a female you'll never see any money and you'll end up working in here with a flashlight."
"Hi I'm Mac, if you need anything I'll be in a coma on my couch." She walked slowly to her office shedding her coat and shoes on the way.
"What have you gotten me into and what's this about female clients?" Truman asked and looked up to her grandma from behind her dark wrap around sunglasses.
"She's a world class dog and trades her services for sex from her female clients. That's probably why she's late this morning and looks like she crawled out from under a slimy rock."
"I heard that Doris and I wasn't with a client last night." She peeked around the door jam and then disappeared.
"It was probably two female clients and not one," She went back around the desk and returned to showing Truman the reports and other duties of her new job.
Mac dropped down onto her old leather couch, adjusted her pillow and looked across to the wall behind her beat up desk. Black and white pictures from the 40's covered the wall; some of them were her great grand father with known mobsters of his day. Others were just places that he had been that figured into family history, he had done a lot of traveling and always brought back little trinkets. One of them still sat on the window ledge by her desk; it was a snow globe of New York. She remembered playing with it while sitting on the ledge watching her grandfather work on files. Her eyes closed and she fell asleep to the sound of Doris and Truman talking in the other office.
"Grandma D these finances suck, how the Hell does she pay you and keep the office open?"
"That's easy, she owns the building and I've put away enough money from her grandpa's and her work to keep everything in the green. What you're seeing there is what she sees, she doesn't know about the other accounts. Besides, I can only make so much money because of social security."
"She really sucks at this business," She ran her hands through her heat-damaged hair and pulled her sunglasses off to rub her sore eyes. "And what's with the zoot suit look, was she at a costume party or something?"
"Nope that's how she dresses every day; she's stuck in the 40's." Doris raised a gnarled hand and waved off what she knew Truman was going to say. "I know and so does she, but she grew up in this office. She has heard all the stories from those days and finds it romantic; I think this is her way of holding onto her grandpa's."
"I can understand that, they must have been very important to her."
Doris sat down next to her, pulled open a side desk drawer and showed her a picture of a three year-old Mac with her great grandfather and grandfather. "She spent most of her childhood in this office, her dad was a cop and her mom taught school. I watched her while the men went out investigating and until her mom got off work and came and got her."
Truman leaned back in the chair and grinned, she had to admit, she stepped into a strange situation." The whole background around you and the Jones' would make one Hell of an HBO series, 60 some years in the Private I business."
"And the dirty little secrets I know about certain families in this area and that includes the high and mighty politicians in Washington DC."
The next morning, Truman unlocked the door to the office, flipped the light on and went over to her desk. She sat down in the chair, flipped the computer on and looked around the outer office while it booted up. It was a bright office with the walls painted white and bright curtains at the floor to ceiling windows. Getting up from her chair, she went over to the window and looked out. The two-story building was in a strange place, when she passed by it every day it made her think that it had fallen from the sky and landed in the middle of a side street. On either side of the building were streets placing it in the center of a diamond. She looked across the street to the small coffee shop and felt her stomach growl, checking her pocket, she found a few bills and some change. "Coffee and maybe a donut?" She pulled her dark sunglasses from her pocket and put them on before going down the stairs and to the front door. Walking across the street, she pulled the door to the coffee shop open and walked in. The smell of freshly brewed coffee and pastries had her stomach growling again, she stopped at the counter and looked at the different flavors of coffee.
"Can I help you?"
"I just want a regular coffee and can I have a second cup to keep it hot, my office is kind of cold." She pulled her money from her pocket, counted out the money, and saw that she had a whole six cents left to her name.
"I saw you come out of Mac's building, are you taking over for Doris?"
Truman looked up at the older man and nodded her head." Doris is my grandma; I'll be filling in while she's recovering from foot surgery." She handed the man the money and looked at him when he wouldn't take it.
"I've known your grandma since we were kids; I don't want your money and take this over to Mac." He gave her two huge coffees and put pastries in a paper bag for her. "I know she's suffering by now, I saw her friend leave early this morning and she was stumbling down the sidewalk."
"She had someone up there last night," She looked over her shoulder at the building and groaned. "She's a leg lifting dog." She looked back when she heard the older man chuckle.
"Ohh that she is alright, sometimes I see two women sneaking out of there in the mornings. All the young bucks around here hate her with a passion." He laughed harder when her jaw dropped open. "She likes those fancy dressing women, they wear those fancy dresses."
Truman looked down at her clothes and felt every bit the spinster that she was." I better get over there I don't want my boss thinking that I'm late." She looked up at the second floor but couldn't see through the office windows. "I hope I never have to see the women sneaking out in the morning." Once inside the building, she placed her coffee and one donut on her desk and then stopped outside Mac's office. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and walked through the door. "Mac I brought you coffee." She waited and when Mac didn't answer her she opened one eye but kept it trained on the wall across from her. "I brought some donuts to?you know to go with the coffee?" Giving up, she opened both eyes and looked around until she found her boss stretched out across the old couch. She moved folders from the corner of the crowded desk and placed the coffee and bag down. "I'll be at my desk if you need anything," She looked closer and couldn't help but stare, Mac was tangled in her suspenders and the chain at her waist. "So you're into bondage, wonder if you have handcuffs with fur inside of them." She leaned in closer and was within inches of Mac's face.
"Not here but I have them at home," She opened one eye, let out a yell and fell off the couch. "Damn woman but you scared the Hell outta me!" She got up from the floor, took one-step and flew back onto the couch. "God damn that hurt." She rubbed her hip and looked up at Truman. "Do you ever take those old lady glasses off?"
Truman touched the earpiece and shook her head." I had eye surgery and my eyes are still sensitive, do you ever change clothes?"
"Me, you should look in the mirror. Then again you'd shatter it," She grabbed her head and moaned from the pounding behind her eyes. "Damn librarian clothes you wear and the frizzy hair thing ya got going on there?" She gulped when a large hand grabbed the front of her shirt and jerked her up from the couch.
"You know what MacKenna; it's no wonder why you have to sleep around. After a few words from your mouth the woman high tails it away from you, you're a crude bitch and it's no wonder you wake up alone." She dropped her back on the couch and left her office.
Mac rubbed her throat and sighed; she felt bad about what she said and got up to go after her new secretary. "Damn it to Hell Mac but you're an asshole and she's right." She got up from the couch; her suspenders jerked her back and then tripped on her zoot chain. "Wait Truman come back?I'm sorry!" She tried to crawl to the door and stopped when she heard the outside door slam. "Ohh fuck," She dropped her head on the floor and pounded her fist on it. "When Doris finds out what I did I am so dead." She struggled with her chain and her suspenders until she was able to get up from the floor; she searched for her shoes and then grabbed her fedora before running from her office.
Truman walked into her bedroom and stood before her full-length mirror; she leaned close and tried to see her eyes through her dark sunglasses. "She's right, my hair is frizzy?looks like I got hit by lightning." She pulled on the front of her dirt brown sweater and looked at it from an angle, taking it off, she looked at the green sweatshirt she had on. Pulling that off, she looked at the blue flannel shirt and then got to the final barrier before her skin. The threadbare Black Sabbath T-shirt would be better for a rag instead of a shirt. "What's wrong with my clothes, they're functional, comfortable and they really suck." She went over to her single bed, dropped face first onto it, gasped for air and rolled over. "Leave it up to me to fall and land with my face on a dry cleaning bag." She balled it up and tossed it across the pale blue room. "Now I'll have to find another job or starve to death." She dropped her arms out to the side and starred up at the ceiling. "Grandma D's going to be pissed off; I get into a fight within five minutes of being alone with Mac." She got out of bed and went out to her small kitchen, after searching for a few minutes; she found salad stuff and a half a bottle of cheap wine. "I guess I qualify now as a vegetarian, its nine o'clock in the morning and I'm eating wilted lettuce." She looked at the wine closely and noticed stuff floating around inside the bottle. "Does wine go bad?," She looked at the lid and decided to pour it out. "Only if the cap is metal and drops rust into the wine." She made her salad, got out a half-gallon jug of milk and Balsamic Vinegar dressing. After a bite of salad, she took a drink of milk and gagged. She slapped her hands over her face and swallowed with difficulty. "Ohh my fucking God that's horrible!" She coughed and wiped tears from her cheeks. "You're a mess Truman; you're so bad that Jenny Jones wouldn't give you a make over." She scrubbed her face and then tried to work her fingers through her badly damaged hair. "Maybe you should shave your head and start all over, or keep the GI Jane look forever. You'd save on shampoo and could throw out all your brushes. Sure and then you'd have plenty of money to pay for the therapy so you could find out why you talk in the second person!" While choking down her salad, she looked through the help wanted ads in the newspaper. "Ohh here's a good job, cleaning kennels at the animal shelter. Bet the animals wouldn't complain about my clothes and I'd fit right on in with the terriers and the seeing-eye dogs would think I'm blind." She searched some more and found another one. "Or I can get a job delivering port-o-potties!"
Mac pulled into Doris' driveway and dreaded what she was going to have to do; she got out of her Plymouth, waved at hand at Doris' husband Bert and went into the house through the kitchen door. As soon as she saw the older woman, she knew that Truman had told on her.
"What did you do MacKenna?" She asked and sat down at the table.
"You mean you don't know or you just want to hear me say that I was a complete asshole and I deserve to be severely beat and thrown in front of a speeding train?"
Doris gave her a small grin and waved a hand at her to sit." I'd love to hear the long version but I don't have the patience for the normal MacKenna run around that you'll give me; you will go to the florist. Notice the key word 'Florist' not the little refrigerator thing at Wal-Mart, but a real flower place. You'll get Truman some flowers and then after you go home and take a shower, you'll go over to her apartment, drop to your knees and apologize to her for being a complete ass."
Mac dropped her head and nodded, she knew that she was getting off easy." What kind of flowers? and should I get her anything else, I'm really sorry about what I said to her and I don't think she'll believe me when I do say I'm sorry." She looked up with troubled green eyes. "I could come up with a bunch of excuses but none of them would be true, she scared the Hell outta me this morning and it just declined from there."
"She told me that she was pretty close to you before you woke up, she can't see that well yet so she has to get close to stuff."
"Is she blind, like legally blind?"
"Ohh no, she had surgery to repair a detached retina. She was in a car accident and got hurt pretty bad, that's why she lost her job at the Smithsonian. Here's her address, you go over there right now." Mac took the paper and put it in her shirt pocket before getting up.
"White roses would be OK right?"
"How in the Hell do you get so many dates if you don't know anything about flowers?"
"They don't want flowers from me." She grinned and left Doris rubbing her temples.
Truman sat huddled on her couch with a cup of coffee and her binoculars held up to her eyes, she pulled them down a little and then put them back up. "Come on little bird move so I can see you." She looked out to the feeder that hung outside her window waiting for the Chickadee to move around on the feeder. Sometimes she sat for hours just watching the birds come to the feeder, she had no idea what some of birds were. She wanted one of those bird books but never seemed to have the spare money anymore, after fifteen years of working at the Smithsonian, one car accident and her future is in the street. She was sitting in traffic on I95 when a cement truck plowed into cars behind her causing a chain reaction that left 22 cars smashed together. Besides a head injury and the torn retina, she had both legs broken and suffered a fractured hip. Her bosses let her go while she was still in x-ray at the hospital, they told her if she couldn't get around then she was not needed. She burned through what savings she had while recovering and had only been out of her casts for a week and a half before getting the job at Jones Investigations. Now with no money and no food in the apartment, she was worried about not being able to buy birdseed for her little feathered friends. "So guys while your out flying around if ya just happen to see some change laying on the ground could you bring it on by, I'm broke as hell?"
Mac brushed back her still wet hair; pulled on her fedora and jogged from her bedroom into the small kitchen where she had left the flowers she had gotten from the nearby florist. She had to admit that they smelled good and added something to her otherwise dreary little kitchen. She flipped the ceiling light on and squinted in the gloom. "I just changed that damn light bulb; I swear they last for five hours and blow up." She picked up the bouquet of flowers, grabbed her car keys and went out the door that connected her apartment to the two-car garage. She normally just walked around to the outside door to get her car but was in a hurry. Going over to her Plymouth, she got behind the wheel and a few seconds later was pulling out onto Main Street. She had no idea that Truman lived just a few blocks away from her, what was even stranger was that she had never met her before she came in to replace Doris. She thought that she knew all of the older woman's grand children but Truman was a mystery to her. What she didn't understand was why she had acted the way she had with the other woman, she usually treated everyone with respect no matter what they looked like. And if her life depended on it, she couldn't remember any details about Truman except that she wore those old people sunglasses. She watched out the window for the address that Doris have given her and stopped outside of a small tenant type house. The place fit how she envisioned a librarian type person to live in, it was a dark brown house with small windows and gave her a dreary feeling. Most of the houses along this street were over 80 years old and had the original wooden shingles covering the outsides. She parked her car and walked up to the front door with the flowers in one hand, looking to the list of four names, she saw that Truman lived in a bottom floor apartment. The house didn't look big enough for two single apartments let alone four, she wondered if they shared a hallway bathroom. She opened the outside door, took three steps inside and was up against the other wall. She looked to the numbers on either side of her and pounded on Truman's door, while she waited, she ran over what she wanted to say to her. Before she could straighten her jumbled thoughts, the door opened and she was looking directly at Truman's chest.
"I ahhh?these are?here." She handed her the flowers and stuck her hands in her pockets before looking up into her ice blue eyes. "I'm sorry?I was?you're really tall." She was five foot five in shoes and knew that Truman had to be six foot in her bare feet.
"You bought me white roses?"
"Yeah, I ahhh?"
"Would you like to come in, the place is a mess, I'm packing." She stepped back from the door and watched a flustered Mac. "I can't afford the rent here anymore and I've got a week to find someplace cheaper and a job on top of it."
"You have a job," She turned to face her and felt her face heat up. "I'm really sorry about yelling at you, it was uncalled for and I have no excuse for doing it. Will you come back to work, I?," She looked down at the toes of her black and white New Yorker wingtips and then up at Truman. "I need you to come back, please. I don't know anything about computers or what Doris does in the office." She pulled a check from her pocket and handed it to Truman. "Doris left this on my desk; I would have given it to you earlier if I had known it was there and I hadn't acted like a complete ass." She figured that Doris wanted her to know how much she was paying Truman and that's why she left it on her desk. "Is it enough, if not I can give you more?" Truman looked down at the check and back into nervous green eyes.
"This is more than enough; I've never made five hundred dollars a week before." She was at a loss as to what to do or say. "Do you want some coffee; I haven't packed it away yet."
"Sure that would be good," Mac looked around the apartment and knew that she couldn't live in the cramped area. The living room was the kitchen and bedroom, the bathroom was at the opposite end of the square room and there was only two windows in the place. An old couch sat near one window with the small single bed near the other. She didn't see a TV anywhere and the only modern appliance was a CD player. "Have you found any apartments to look at, this place is?"
"Small, cramped and I can hear everything my neighbors upstairs are doing. I was thinking of that place a couple miles away, they rent out suites by the week or month." She handed Mac a cup of coffee and leaned up against the counter. "I'd stay here but the new owner is going to tear the dividing wall down and make it a flat type apartment, he's going to charge three times the amount I'm paying now."
"If you don't mind, what's he charge for this place?" She wouldn't pay no more than fifty bucks a month for the dive; she had stayed in motel rooms that were bigger and nicer.
"Six fifty a month and that's not including utilities and grounds keeping pay."
Mac snorted and went over to look out one of the windows." Truman the yard is maybe 6x6 if that, what do they charge you for the two blades of grass that grow in the dirt?"
"I know but it wasn't always like this here, the damn yuppies move in, raise the rent so that regular people can't afford it and then they sell to some other rich yuppies and pretty soon we're all living under tarps in Washington DC." She took a deep breath, turned and placed her hands on the counter. "Sorry I just get so pissed off over what they can do to the little people." She dropped her head and never heard Mac sliding up the window sash.
"Well, once you're out of here I can have the place closed down for a failed building inspection." She pulled out a pocketknife and dug into the window frame. "It's got a serious problem with carpenter ants; I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't have termites as well."
"You can do that, I mean how much will this cost?" She watched Mac pull her wallet out and then took the business card from her outstretched hand. "You're a licensed building inspector?"
"Ohh sure, that's how I keep my own building from being torn down." She gave her a wide grin and winked. "Just kidding, my building is up to code and safe. Doris makes sure of that because I forget about things." She placed her coffee cup in the small stained and chipped enamel sink and leaned against the counter next to Truman. "I know of a place that's open and it won't cost that much and it's a Hell of a lot nicer than that flea bag place you were thinking of. It needs some painting done and cleaned but it's in a sturdy building and the landlords only nasty after a long night."
"Is it open and am I going to need the first and last months rent?"
Mac grinned and shook her head." It's been open for years and don't worry about the rent just yet. If you put some shoes on I'll take you over there so you can see it."
Truman looked at the wooden dash in the Plymouth and knew that the piece of wood cost more than anything she owned. She had never replaced her car after the accident and had been walking everywhere since her casts came off. Before that, she was using her wheelchair to go to the grocery store. With working for Mac, she was only a 25-minute walk from home and wouldn't need a car. When the car slowed, she looked up and then over to Mac. "This is your building, why are we here?"
"Because this is where the apartment is," She got out and jogged around to pull the heavy door open for Truman. "No ones lived in it for years, I use it for storage, you know furniture that I don't use." Truman gave her a shake of her head and wouldn't get out of the car. "What's wrong, it's a nice big and airy place. It has AC and its own furnace thermostat."
"I've heard about the women coming and going of all hours from your building, I don't want to live where I'll have to see that."
Mac narrowed her eyes at her, grabbed her hand and pulled her from the car." Who ever told you that needs to mind their own damn business," She struggled with her and found out that she was stronger than she looked. "Ohh come on Truman, I'll show you why there was a woman leaving here so early, actually she came here early and left an hour later."
"Why should I, Grandma D told me about your bachelor ways and trading of Investigative services for sex."
"OK so I've done that a few times but what I was doing this morning was not that." She pulled her to the front of her building, opened the door and held it for her. "I know you've not paid attention to the actual size of this building, it's very deceiving from the outside." She went over to a door beneath the stairs, opened it and let Truman go before her. "I don't even think Doris remembers this room; or that I use it regularly." She flipped the light on and walked across the polished hard wood floor to a sound system. Flipping the switch, she closed her eyes when Harry James came from the speakers lining the room's walls.
"This reminds me of a dance studio," Truman said and walked in further to see one wall lined with mirrors. "Mac do you teach dance or is this for your own personal use?"
"I have a few students that I teach Swing, I have one steady partner that comes over twice a week for practice. We enter competitions when they have them and we've even won a few contests." She turned the music off and walked up to stand in front of Truman. "She's the one that was leaving here this morning; she can only make it before work because she has to pick up her kids after work and then make supper for her family."
"Is she a single parent?"
"Nope, happily married to a cop with two left feet." She walked from the room and waited for Truman to follow her. "If you want, I'll show you that apartment, it's across from mine but you'll never hear a peep from me, the walls are solid brick." She went up the stairs, turned opposite of where her office was and stopped in front of a wooden door on the left side of the hallway. "I'll warn you, it's dusty as Hell in here." She opened the door and waited for Truman to go in first. "Everything works, I had the bathroom remodeled a few years ago and Doris uses this bathroom when she's here." She gave her a grin. "She didn't want germs from the nasty clients that show up here." She leaned against the door and watched Truman wander around the large apartment, it had a full kitchen separated by a half-wall with a countertop from the living room and a bedroom at the back next to the bathroom. She knew that if she wanted, she could rent it for eight hundred dollars a month or more. She just didn't want anyone in her building with her, that was until now. Something about Truman struck her, she wondered if it had anything to do her relation to Doris. "Well will it do, I'll help you clean if you take it." Truman turned to face her and looked over the tops of her sunglasses.
She stepped closer and crossed her arms over her chest. "How much rent and how are the utilities set up?"
Mac scuffed a toe across the floor and stuffed her hands deep into her pockets." I can't charge you rent and the utilities are set up for the whole building," She looked up and felt her heart seize in her chest when Truman took her glasses off to show narrowed eyes.
"If you're doing this out of guilt I'll stomp your ass into the floor, now how much rent?"
"There's no guilt in this Truman, I can't charge you rent because your like family?you know what I mean?" She moved so that she was in front of the open door and had an escape route. "It's because of Doris, plus she'd kill me if I charged you to live here. When she finds out, she might make me pay you to live here."
"I'll pay for the difference in the kilowatts and what about a laundry room?"
"In the hall right next to the public bathroom, there's a little closet downstairs next to the front door, if you have dry cleaning just put it in there. When it's done, you can find it in the same place."
"They pick up and deliver your dry cleaning, I couldn't even get my news paper and you get dry cleaning."
"It's easy when your family has used the same place for over 50 years; I should buy stock in the place." She looked around the apartment and saw that it wasn't as dirty as she thought. "So do you want the apartment or not?"
Truman looked around again and nodded her head." Do you know anyone with a truck; I have my couch and bed to move?"
"I could get the paddy wagon to your place if I wanted, and cops to move your furniture. Being a former cop helps sometimes, have any really heavy stuff that needs otherwise useless men?"
"Nope, just my couch and my bed, everything else stays there." Mac rubbed her face and nodded her head.
"OK, we can handle that; it should fit in my Subaru. We can fold the seats down and just slide the couch in and if you didn't notice, there's a queen size bed in the bedroom already. The mattress and box springs are brand new and still in the plastic bags." She shrugged her shoulders and yawned. "I worked a case for a guy that owned a mattress store, that's how he paid part of his bill."
"In that case my bed can stay there, why don't you go get some sleep and I'll walk back to my apartment and finish packing along with getting a hold of my landlord."
Mac pulled out her keys and handed them to her." My Subaru is down on the street, if you want you can use it to haul some of your stuff over, just wake me up when you come back and I'll help you carry everything up the stairs." She went across the hallway, opened her door and looked back at Truman. "I never lock my door so when you get back just come on in." She went into her apartment and closed the door quietly behind her.
"OK, so maybe she's not as bad as I thought she was. She really didn't give me a good first impression," She said to herself and went down the steps. "It was horrible actually, if not for Grandma D I would have walked out the door." She went out the door and looked for the Subaru. "You're an ass Truman; you should have asked her where it was and what color it is." She walked around the building and stopped when she saw an Outback sitting along side the building. "That has got to be her Subaru," She shook her head and walked up to it. "Only she would have a vanity license plate with 'Swing' on it."
Mac shed her clothes, draped them over a chair in the kitchen and went into her bedroom. Without pulling the blankets back, she crawled into the middle and lay down. Rolling from side to side, she sat up, pulled her t-shirt over her head and tossed it on the floor. She lay back and dropped her arms out to the side with a deep groan. A few minutes later, she rolled from her bed, went into the kitchen and grabbed a beer from the refrigerator. When she got beyond exhaustion, she couldn't sleep until she either relaxed or passed out. She turned on her TV, dropped down on the couch in just her boxers and placed her feet on her coffee table. After taking a few long drinks, she placed the beer on the table and leaned back in the soft leather cushions. After closing her eyes, she listened to the TV and fell asleep dreaming about Thigh masters.
After filling up the Outback, she went to the bank and cashed the check from Mac. It felt good to have money in her hand and decided the first thing she would by was food, she smiled brightly and pulled into the Food Lion parking lot. "OK Mac, since you won't accept rent, I'll cook. Everyone has to eat and from what I've seen in two days that's one thing you don't do regularly." She went into the store and filled up the cart with enough food to last her a month, she bought things that she had not been able to afford before. Her one main weakness were chocolate Hershey's kisses, she grabbed two bags and felt a guilty pleasure. Once her shopping was finished, she drove back to her new apartment and carried the groceries up the stairs. Eight trips later, she had all the bags into her apartment and all over the kitchen counters. She pulled the refrigerator from the wall, plugged it in and then checked to make sure that it was working. "This is better than what I had in my other apartment; it has one of those ice makers." She put the perishables away and then picked one of the cupboards for the soups and staples. An hour later, she had steaks cooking, potatoes in the oven and corn cooking. After she had found the box with her few dishes and silverware, she cleared a spot on the counter and then went over to wake up Mac. Tapping on her door at first, she heard the drone of the TV and opened the door. She stepped in and looked around in total amazement; on one wall was a framed original poster of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall from Key Largo and then one of a scene from the movie To have or have not. She stepped in further and looked at the antique grandfather clock that stood against one wall and then saw Mac's feet on the coffee table. She took a deep breath and decided to bring supper over to Mac's apartment because she had a kitchen table. Turning around, she hurried back to her apartment, got their dishes and came back in. She placed the dishes on the kitchen table and then walked around the couch. Her jaw drops and she looks over the top of her sunglasses at Mac's bare breasts. "Mac?put some damn clothes on," She grabs one of her feet, picks it up and drops it to the floor. "Time to eat?I wrecked your car," She rubbed her face, looked down at her firm breasts, and grinned evilly. "There's naked women running down the street!" She gave up on waking her by talking, grabbed a throw pillow, and smacked her over the head. "I'm sure I can find someone on the street that's hungry!" She smacked her again and grinned when she threw her hands up over her head.
"Come on now I know our sex life isn't that bad." Mac mumbled and fell over on the couch to protect herself better. "It'll be better later, need more sleep."
Truman stood with one hand planted on her hip and the other still clutching the pillow, she raised it over her head and beat Mac all over her body. "Sex life, we don't and never will have a sex life so get up and put some clothes on!" She stopped when green eyes opened and looked up at her, Mac panicked, fell off the couch and started looking for her shirt.
"Would you at least turn your back, geez Truman?"
"You can't be modest with your reputation and I've seen plenty of naked women," She watched her crawl across the floor on her hands and knees to her bedroom. "I did the entire inventory for the African Tribal exhibits, there's lots of pictures of naked women." She walked around her apartment and looked at the framed pictures on the walls; she stopped in front of one that caught her eye. It was a black and white picture taken in the 40's. "Why does she look familiar?" She asked when Mac came into the room in a t-shirt and her pants.
"Have you ever seen the movie Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Ingrid Bergman," She ran a finger across the glass and wiggled her brows at Truman. "This is Ingrid; she's one of my favorites along with Katherine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall." She looked up at Truman and then around her to the table. "You cooked for me; you didn't have to do that."
"It's the least I could do; it's probably cold by now. I didn't know that it would take a near deathly beating to wake you up."
"Yeah well normally I'm not that hard to wake up," She winked and moved over to the kitchen table. "It's easy if you know the trick, but I don't think you want to know what it is. Do you drink beer or do you want something else?"
"Beer is fine," She sat down at the table across from Mac and took the offered beer. "I guess I need to get a kitchen table, I always used my coffee table to eat off."
"Why bother unless you're going to have people over that want to eat at one, I don't know of anyone who eats at a table?except for Doris and Bert."
"Well they're old school and you don't leave the table until you're done." She took a bit of her steak, watched Mac cut her meat in small pieces, and dip each piece in the steak sauce she had poured on her plate. She found it weird that a woman whose office looked like a hurricane kept everything separated on her plate; it was almost compulsive in a way. As Mac ate, she took in the small details that made up the smaller woman. The thin lines at the corners of her emerald green eyes, the lines at the sides of her pink lips that crinkled with her crooked grin, the way her hair fell across her brow and curled above and behind her ears and then to lay against her neck . She looked up with raised brows and tilted her head to the side. "What are you doing with your food?"
"Eating why, what are you doing with yours besides watching it get cold?"
"You eat weird?that didn't make sense did it." She wigged her fork at how Mac has separated small portions all over her plate. "What would you have done if I made stew?"
Mac looked down at her plate and grinned; she had always played with her food but never paid attention to what she was doing with it. Doris caught her at times and yelled at her to stop playing and eat like a somewhat normal person. "Not quite sure since it's been years since I had any," She leaned forward and looked at Truman's plate and up to her. "At least I eat and if you don't I will." She wigged her knife and fork at Truman's plate and grinned. "No left overs in this house?" She dropped her brows over her nose and gave a small shrug of one shoulder. "Maybe, because I never cook and just run across the street and get deli food." She filled her mouth with steak and chewed happily while Truman sat and watched her. Then she noticed that the table was vibrating a little bit and looked under to see that Mac had her feet wrapped around the table leg and her toes were wiggling.
After supper, with Mac's help, Truman got the rest of the Outback unloaded of boxes. Once they were stacked inside the apartment, Truman held out the keys to her. "Here's your keys, I'm going to go home and see what else I need to get done before I turn my keys over."
"You're going to walk back to your place," Mac looked at her pocket watch and shook her head. "Take my car, it maybe safe around here but I still don't want you walking all the way there at ten o'clock at night. And you don't have to be here so early in the morning; banker's hours are good for me, even though I don't get up before ten." She winked and went across the hall to her own apartment. Truman juggled the keys in her hand and then smiled; she didn't really feel like walking all the way back to her apartment and was thankful for the kind gesture. Closing her door, she went back down the steps and out through the door to the garage. She had no idea of how many doors were in the building until they had started bringing boxes upstairs. Once she was out on the road, she noticed that she had been listening to Big band music on the radio the entire time she had been using the car. Shaking her head, she turned up the volume and really listened to the music. When she got back to her apartment, the phone was ringing off the hook. She grabbed it on the run, fell onto her couch and panted into the receiver.
"What are you doing that you're out of breath?" Doris asked.
"I just got home, I was moving into my new apartment. What are you doing up this late?" She stretched out on her couch and listened to her grandma yell at her grandpa for something.
"I'm ready to smack the shit outta your grandpa, he keeps throwing his damn shoes right in front of the door. If I trip over them one more time he's gonna need a proctologist because I'm gonna shove them up his ass. So where's this new apartment going to be and am I gonna have to beat up a doorman to be able to see you?"
Truman chuckled at the thought of a doorman at any of the buildings in Shepardstown, she looked down to her ole scuffed up shoes and then up to the water stained ceiling. "Would you believe that I can fall out bed and roll right to my desk?" She heard her grandma gasp and knew that she knew what she was talking about.
"You're gonna live across the hall from the problem child! Ohh you have no idea what you've gotten yourself into?what's she charging you for rent?"
"She won't take any rent but I'll pay for my share of the utilities and what ever else I can pull off. Ya know I spent hours with her today and she's really not that bad, a little flirty at times but nothing that I haven't seen with all those people I worked with in DC."
"That's funny; I thought she'd turn that off around you. You're not really her type; she goes for the glittery women."
"Thanks grandma D that 's just what I wanted to hear, does my ego wonders you know." She felt like a knife went through her chest. "It's hard not being anyone's type, not even the other geeks at work wanted anything to do with me."
"Ohh come on Truman you'll find that person who thinks you're a Goddess or they'll find you, now get some sleep, Mac will have you frazzled with in an hour's time." She hung up the phone before Truman could say another word.
"Maybe I should go find some blind people; they don't care what a person looks like." She pulled her sunglasses off, dropped them to the couch and got up to go look in the bathroom mirror. What she saw made her small ego deflate even more, her dark frizzy hair was coming out of its pony tail and split ends stuck up all around her head. Pushing her hair back from around her face, she took in her high cheekbones and strong jaw. "Shave your head and you can scare people with this face." She wiggled her dark bushy eyebrows and gave up. "The Hell with it, you'll never get anyone like Mac to look at you." She turned off the bathroom light and went to where her bed sat with no sheets or blankets, shedding her frumpy clothes; she crawled onto it and rolled to her side. "I'm no Ingrid or Lauren that's for sure." Her last thoughts were of Mac with a cigar clenched between her teeth saying Bogart's famous line from Casablanca. "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, she walks into mine."
Mac was already at her desk when Truman came into the outer office; she sniffed the air and grinned widely. She could smell the cinnamon Danish and fresh coffee that Truman had gotten from across the street; she pulled another file folder from the stack on her left and dropped it in the center of her desk. It had been weeks since she had actually looked at some of the files let alone close them out, Doris never came into her office because she said it gave her a migraine. When a file was finished, she usually left it in the in box on Doris' desk. When a light tap came from the door jam, she looked up and waved Truman in. "You're early, it's not even 0830."
"I know but I had some more stuff to bring over, the only thing left in my apartment is my couch but I think I'll leave it there and just get a new one." She placed a paper bag and cup of coffee on Mac's desk. "Why won't the man at the coffee shop take my money?"
"Because my dad helped him out years ago when someone broke into his shop and robbed him, from then on, I've gotten free coffee and donuts."
"You're in here awful early; I thought you didn't come in until later?"
"I have this case tonight, I have to follow some woman and get pictures of her being unfaithful so I thought I'd get some of my desk cleared off so I have someplace to work." She dropped another file on the right side and leaned back in her chair. "I don't know what Doris did with the files so I hope so showed you."
"Ohh she did but her system scares me, it doesn't make one bit of sense to me so I don't know what to do."
"Put it the way you want it," She looked up from taking a drink of her coffee. "I think Doris is gonna retire once she gets a taste of freedom, I've been trying to get her to retire for years."
Truman sat down on the edge of the cluttered desk and nodded her head. "I think she might too, I tried to get her to quit a while ago when her knees started bothering her." She saw the look of confusion on Mac's face. "You didn't know that her knees are bad did you, she has bad arthritis in them and takes Celebrex to help with the stiffness and pain. She mentioned visiting my mom down in Alabama, maybe I can get my mom to come up and get her and take her down for a while."
"So that's why I never met you before now, you're not from here."
Truman gave her a small nod of her dark head and a crooked smile. "Now I was born in Alabama and didn't come up this way until I got the job at the Smithsonian, I worked there ten years and my asshole boss fired me when I got in that car accident."
Mac raised a finger and wiggled it. "Wait a minute; you got fired because you got in a car accident that wasn't your fault to begin with. Is that legal what he did?"
"Doesn't matter if it was or not, my asshole father is the head of antiquities and what ever he says goes. So that means he can screw anyone he wants including his only child and no one can say a word about it."
Mac knew her mouth was hanging open; she couldn't fathom a father firing his own kid after a serious car accident. "I know some shady characters; I can have him beaten up if you want."
Truman gave her a snort and then rolled her eyes behind her glasses. "He would enjoy having someone think he was that important that he warranted an ass beating. I figure the powers that be were showing me a way out of Hell, I'm an archeologist and the only job I could get was a lackey in the Smithsonian's basement." She shrugged her shoulders and took a sip of her coffee. "Now I'm free of that assholes degrading remarks and hope that he gets lost in the bowels of the place looking for his checkbook." She gave Mac a wicked grin. "I stole his checkbook a few days before the accident and hid it down in the mess where he sent me to work. He refused to get us paper masks to keep from inhaling all the dust that we kicked up moving stuff on the shelves. So I stole his personal checkbook to cause him problems."
"Remind me to never piss you off?oohh wait you already have my checkbook." She tapped the folders on her right side and looked up into the dark sunglasses. "You can file these or what ever you want to do with them," She looked at the old clock on the wall and groaned. "I've got to run; I have a client waiting on some information." She got up and grabbed a worn brown leather WWII bomber jacket. "I don't know what time I'll be back, I've got to get pictures for that other client." She grabbed a leather notepad, pulled a few pages from it and handed them to Truman. "Those are the work hours I did on some cases; I put their case numbers next to the number of hours." She grabbed her coffee and donut before going to the door. "If you need a car today use my Plymouth, the Outback blends in better when I do surveillance work." She tossed her the spare set of keys to the building, apartments and both her cars. "Keep those, there's times I lock the place up like a drum and you'll need those keys to get in."
Truman looked at the ring of keys and nodded her head. "Where's your Plymouth parked and what color is it, I don't want to wander around like an idiot?"
"Ohh you can't miss my Plymouth, it's a 1948 candy apple red ragtop. It's under that car cover in the garage, just be careful with it if you go anywhere." She went out the door whistling a Glen Miller song.
"Ohh I don't think I'll be going anywhere, there's no way I'm taking a chance on getting a single scratch on it." She dropped the keys into the pocket of her baggy pants and grabbed the folders from off the desk. "Now I have to figure out a filling system, and about the hourly charges." She went back to her desk, looked at the pieces of paper Mac had given her. "Ohh I see what you've been doing, you wait until the case is finished before billing. No more of that MacKenna, these people are going to pay as you work. Why should they get off for sometimes months without giving up a dime?" She sat down and started going through the folders to combine them with the billing hours. Once she had that done, she started doing the invoices. "Now because I'm a big bitch, I'm going to call every single one of you to let you know that you owe money and if it's late you will pay interest fees on it." After finishing the ones that Mac had given her, she went into her office and took a seat at her desk. There had to be at least twenty or more folders on her desk, she didn't think that an investigators services would be that great in such a small area. She opened one of the folders and noticed that it was from one of the nearby businesses. "Ohh I see what you do besides peek on adulterers, you do background checks on new employees. But how do you do this without the use of a computer?" She went through the paperwork and found receipts for gas stations and tollbooths. "Ohh for the Greek Gods, you go and personally speak to all their references." She closed the files and sat back in the worn chair, spinning so that she could look out the window, she thought of how she could make it easier on Mac without stepping on her old fashion ways. "Hell there isn't a way unless I drag her into our time," She grabbed one of the other files and found the notes on expenses, adding them up, she was shocked at how much it was and the amount of time Mac spent on the road. "What if I can prove that this stuff can be done quicker by computer and then she'd have more time for the more interesting cases?"
Mac knocked on the door to one of her client's houses; she had been looking for information proving that his business partner was embezzling money from him and stashing it away in a bank account in his six-year-old daughter's name. It wasn't that difficult to follow him into the bank and eaves drop, it was getting the paperwork to back up everything. Luckily, for her client, she knew the bank teller and was able to convince her for copies of bank statements. Though not legal in any way, it was just the thing needed for her client to bring in his other business partners. She stepped back when the door opened and nodded her head at the older woman who answered. "I'm here to see Mr. Pomers, he's expecting me."
"He's in the kitchen; if you'll come with me I'll get you a cup of coffee and then you two can talk." Their conversation latest all of a half hour, Mac turned over the bank statements and Mr. Pomers handed her a check for the completed task. They shook hands and she was on her way, the only thing she had planed that night was to follow the woman from her other client. She hoped that she could get the pictures and then head on home for the rest of the night, for some strange reason, she wanted to just sit and watch TV. Her usual thing would be to go out and get a date for the night; she just didn't feel up to entertaining anyone. Checking her pocket watch, she walked out to her car and got in. She had a few hours to kill before having to sit on stakeout; she pulled out and headed to the center of town. The video store was one of her favorite places to go and one of the places that always managed get into her wallet.
Truman typed the person's name into the search engine of the new program she had loaded earlier that day and sat back to see what would happen. Five minutes later, the screen filled up with everything the person had ever done. She was surprised that it didn't show how many detentions they had while in school. She hit print and then typed in another name. "This private investigator stuff isn't that hard, I can do this stuff with no problem." She got up and went over to her apartment; she had some laundry to do and thought it was funny that she could do it while at work. Pulling her laundry hamper out into the hallway, she took a good look at her clothes and grumbled. "Everything I own is brown, dirt brown, mud brown, dark brown?brown!" She dumped her dark clothes into the washer and then went back to her office. "Even my shoes are brown," She remembered what Mac had on that day and wondered how she would look wearing something blue. "Who would even notice, Mac wouldn't that's for sure." She pulled the papers from the printer and put them in their respective folders and set them aside, three hours later, she had all the files done and sitting on Mac's desk. Her next task was to straighten the mess up in Mac's office; in one corner was a stack of files that had an inch of dust covering them. She looked in the filing cabinets in the outer office and found one that was completely empty except for an old telephone missing some pieces. Hours later and covered in dirt, Truman turned off her PC and the lights in the office. She decided that she would just stay in her new apartment that night and get the last of her boxes from her old apartment the next day. What she couldn't wait to do was take a nice long bath in the large tub and then sit down to a bowl of soup and crackers. "Maybe I'll buy a TV; I haven't had one in six months."
Mac sat in her car outside the address that her client had given her; she grabbed her camera with the long lens on it and got ready for a long wait. She had picked a spot where she could see through the window and hoped that she could get a few pictures and then head on home. It was past seven o'clock and dark outside when she saw the woman walking towards the front door; she lifted the camera and then jumped when the car door opened and large hands pulled her out. "Hey wait a minute here what the Hell?" The first punch jarred her head to the side and the second snapped it back. She dropped to the ground, shook her head and then gasped when a foot connected with her side. Two pairs of hands grabbed her by her arms and dragged her into the alleyway, once in the darkness, they continued with the beating. Her head snapped from side to side from the punches, when she fell to the ground, kicks to her sides and legs kept her there. Even when she slipped into the darkness, they continued to beat her. Hours later, she woke up with a pounding in her head to rival all the hangovers she had combined. She rolled to her side and coughed painfully, the taste of blood in her mouth told her that she was in serious shape. With her sight almost gone from the beating and the darkness of night, she saw her Outback sitting at the curb. She rolled to her knees, felt the world tilt and then straighten with time. With agonizing pain, she crawled to her car and then got the door open. With every movement or breath, she felt her ribs grinding. With the last of her strength, she pulled herself into her car and passed out.
Truman rolled over and looked at the clock, it was three o'clock in the morning and someone was blowing their car horn. Rolling back over, she covered her head with her pillow and yelled. "Damn it to Hell go blow your horn up your ass!" She got out of bed, went over to the window and looked out. "Damn dumbass people, I'm trying to?fuck!" She tilted her head to the side and saw that it was Mac's Outback making all the noise and it was sitting up on the sidewalk at an angle. Running to her door, she flung it open and took the stairs two at a time. Opening the front door, she blocked it with one of her boxes and went out to Mac's car. By the time she got out to the car, the horn had stopped and Mac lay across the front seat. Opening the door was the biggest shock of her life, Mac lay in blood stained clothes and with a swollen face. "Mac?come on talk to me?" She reached in and felt for her pulse, after finding it; she pulled her hand away and saw it was covered in blood. "You need a doctor?" She searched the ignition and found the keys still in it, she was about to get in when Mac grabbed her hand.
"No hospital?questions?call Detective Salisbury." She gripped Truman's arm tighter and passed out again.
"Damn you Mac!" She reached in and pulled her over to the seat, slipping her arms under her, she lifted her out and carried her into the building. "You should be glad that I'm not a wimp and I can carry your ass, otherwise you'd be staying in your car tonight." Going to Mac's door, she struggled until she got the door open and carried her into her bedroom. When she turned the light on, she felt queasy from seeing how bad Mac looked. Her face was so bloody that she couldn't see anything except that both eyes were swollen closed and her nose was twice its normal size. "I don't care what you say, I'm calling a doctor." She knew that her grandma would tan her hide but she didn't know anyone else to call at that time of the morning. Once she calmed the older woman down, she got a phone number and called it. Little did she know that it was the detective's number and had killed two birds with one stone. While she waited for them to get there, she tried to clean some of the blood from Mac's face and got her out of her torn clothes. The sight of her bruised and battered body made her feel sick, she had no idea how to help her and was relieved when she heard someone pounding on the door. Pulling the door open, she stepped aside when she saw a tall woman holding out a badge and then saw a smaller man behind her carrying a black gym bag.
"I'm Detective Terry Salisbury and this is my brother Jimmy, where's Mac?"
"She's in her bedroom," She walked towards the door and stopped. "I know her ribs are broken and four of her fingers on her right hand," She wiped a hand across her face and looked at Jimmy. "She should be in the hospital?"
"Don't worry about Mac; she's been in more scraps than anyone I know." He walked past her and then turned to his sister. "I'll give a yell if I need any help, get out the bottle of good stuff." He looked to the bed and groaned. "Hell break out all her booze, damn train couldn't have done this much damage." Salisbury peeked around the corner and groaned she had seen Mac beat to Hell before but nothing like this. "I need some ice and a couple towels." He opened his bag and pulled out all kinds of medical supplies while Terry went for the towels and Truman went to get ice. When she checked Mac's freezer, she cussed when she found the ice tray empty.
"I'll be back in a minute with the ice, she doesn't have any." Terry gave her a funny look when she went across the hallway and into the other apartment. When Mac woke up, she would give her the third degree about renting out her other apartment. "Here's the ice, I'll have more in a few minutes." She handed Terry the bowl of ice and went to the bedroom with everything. "Is there anything else I can do?"
"You can tell me who you are and how you happened to know to call me?"
"I'm Truman Avery, my grandma is Doris, and she gave me your number." She sat down at the kitchen table and looked up to Terry. "Mac was supposed to be taking pictures of some woman, does this happen often?"
"You mean her getting the shit beat out of her, nope. This is the worst I've ever seen her, who was this woman maybe it's connected?"
"Let me go get the file," She got up and saw that Terry was following. "I hope she has a file, in the two days that I've worked for her I've been shocked at her record keeping." She snapped her fingers and grabbed the leather notebook from where she had tossed it on the small table beside the door. "Maybe it's in here?" She handed it to Terry and took a seat on the couch where she could look through into the bedroom. "I still think she should go to the hospital?"
"Don't worry; if she needs the ER then Jimmy won't waste a minute letting us know." She looked through the notebook and found an address with the days date next to it. "If this is the address then it'll be easy to check for witnesses, I'll check it out and then have some of our friends do some sneaking around on the side." She pulled the page out and stuck it in her shirt pocket. "So you're Doris' granddaughter, one out of how many?" She chuckled at Truman's blush and sat down across from her.
"A lot of grand kids and she never warned me about stuff like this happening, she may have done it on purpose." She looked across at Terry and noticed for the first time that her eyes were an eerie golden color and that her dark hair set them off. "Should I take a CPR class or maybe become a paramedic?"
"Nah, it's not too often she gets smacked around this bad."
"Damn lucky to or she'd owe me a lot of money," Jimmy said from where he stood in the doorway. "She won't be doing anything for a while; I taped her broken ribs, set her fingers and sutured all the bad cuts. When she's able to get up and move around, she'll need to get to the dentist. I pulled one tooth out but I think the one next to it is going to cause her some pain." He took a seat next to Truman and gave her the once over. "Who are you and how did you get her up here?"
"I'm her assistant and I carried her?did I hurt her more by doing that?"
"Nope, I was just wondering. Will you be staying here with her; she'll need help and someone to keep an eye on her?"
"I live across the hallway so I can keep an eye on her, is there anything I need to do?"
"Yeah, smack the shit out of her when she wakes up," Terry said and got up from the chair. "Just kidding, when she wakes up tell her she owes us all supper." She took a card from her pocket and handed it to Truman. "That's my phone numbers, if she gets worse call 911 and then call me." Truman watched them leave and then went into Mac's bedroom to check on her. She picked up her Kevlar vest and saw that it had a few holes in it, she forgot to ask Jimmy if her having the vest on saved her some injury. She knew from the way it was designed that it had to be an older model, her ribs weren't protected. She placed it on a chair in the corner of the bedroom and then picked up the rest of her clothes. She couldn't save the shirt, the blood stains would never come out and her trousers were trashed as well. The right thigh area was torn and covered in what looked like wheel lubricant and the left knee was the same. "Where were you and how in the Hell were you able to drive home?" She carried the clothes to the kitchen, tossed them in the trash and grabbed a bottle of water. After closing both her apartment door and the front building door, she jogged up the steps, went into Macs and headed to her bedroom. She put the water on the nightstand and sat on the edge of the bed. Using one of the wet washrags and a towel that Jimmy hadn't used, she wiped Mac's face and neck. "You are going to be one hurting puppy when you wake up." She went into the living room, sat down on the couch and turned the TV on. She had the volume down low enough so that she could hear Mac when she woke up; she searched through the channels and settled on watching Jag.
Mac fought her way through thick mud to the surface; she searched with her hands and knocked something over. She didn't know where she was and hoped she wasn't in a bad place, then she heard Truman's voice close to her ear. She reached over with a hand and grabbed her upper arm. "Truman?I can't see? "
"That would be because both your eyes are swollen shut, who beat you up?" She helped her drink a little water and then wiped her face again. "Here's a better one, how did you drive all the way home?"
"I don't remember driving home," She struggled to sit up and groaned when Truman helped her. "Bathroom?"
"Just put your arms around my neck and I'll carry you there."
"I can walk, just help me up."
"And just how are you going to see where you're going, stop fighting me and hold on." She picked her up and carried her to the bathroom, placing her on her feet; she placed her hand on the sink top and then went out the door. "Yell when you're done, I'm going to get you some of the pain pills Jimmy left."
"Ohh Hell?you called Terry?"
Truman chuckled and yelled back to her. "Blame yourself and Grandma D, you asked me to call her and Grandma gave me her number. Terry brought Jimmy along when I told her what you looked like. Good thing to because I couldn't help you, it's hard to look at you right now." She shook her head when she saw Mac struggling to walk from the bathroom.
"So is my face fubared?"
"Fucked up beyond recognition?yeah, if it wasn't for you running your car up on the sidewalk and blowing the horn, I wouldn't have known it was you." She helped her back to bed, handed her the bottle of water and the pills. "No moving around too much, your ribs are broke and you look like someone used you for a soccer ball."
"Feel like it to?I don't say this too often?thank you for everything."
"You're welcome, just don't do this anymore." She pulled the blankets up to her chest and brushed her hair back from the cut at her eyebrow. "I don't like the sight of blood and seeing you like this almost did me in."
"Don't worry, this isn't a regular thing, I just wish I knew who beat me up?"
"Terry has the address where you were, I'm sure she'll find out who beat you up and then let us know. Now go to sleep it'll help with the swelling."
"You sound like a mother," She sunk into her pillows and moaned. "You want kids when you get married?"
"Me get married and have kids? Not in this life time or the next dozen, I haven't found anyone in the last 30 some odd years that likes frumpy." She flipped the bedroom light off and stood in the doorway. "I'll be on your couch, yell if you need anything."
The next morning Truman woke up with a stiff neck and an arm dead, she tried to sit up on the couch but that arm was useless. Struggling with the dead weight, she sat up and rubbed the side of her face. It felt rough under her fingers and then she saw why, she had slept on the zipper from Mac's leather jacket. She got up, went into the bathroom and saw that her hair looked like something from Bride of Frankenstein. And that was quite a feat considering her hair had started out in a pony tail, giving up on being able to do anything with it, she headed over to her own apartment. If Mac woke up and needed something she would be able to hear her if she left their doors open. After a quick shower, she started breakfast and checked on Mac in between cooking and getting the newspaper from the front door. When everything was finished, she went into her room and tried to figure out the best way to wake her without causing more bodily damage. "Mac its past ten o'clock,"
"You let me sleep that late?" She tried to sit up and let out a low moan and then a whimper. "Get my gun and shoot me, I know I'd feel better."
"How about if we try some pain pills and breakfast, I made eggs, bacon and fried potatoes. I didn't know if you wanted toast of English muffin." She grinned when Mac tried to open her eyes but all that showed were slits. "I don't think giving you a fork is a good idea; you may end up stabbing yourself."
"Probably right, help me up so I can go to the bathroom and try to brush my teeth." She held out a hand and then groaned when Truman lifted her up and put her on her feet. "You have to do everything the macho way don't you?"
"I'm not about to pull on your arm when your ribs are all taped, I'll help you to the bathroom and then you can yell when you're done. I'm going to get our breakfast so I can help you if you need it."
"Will you feed me if I miss my mouth?"
"I can put it all on toast if that'll help," She left the bathroom and tossed over her shoulder. "Or watch you eat with your fingers."
"Gee thanks as if I don't make a big enough mess normally now you want me to eat eggs with my fingers." She searched with her hand and found the toilet without sticking her hand in the water and when she was finished she tried to wash her face and then brush her teeth. She wet her hair and tried to brush it but found it hurt like Hell. "I must have huge knots on my head."
"Actually I think you have some sutures in there somewhere, believe me when I say that heavy weight boxers don't look as bad as you do." She took her arm and led her to the kitchen table. "I had to toss your clothes out; they were all torn and covered in blood. I cleaned your jacket up but I haven't been out to your car to see how bad it is."
"With my luck I smashed the Hell out of it," She stuck a finger in her mouth and shook her head. "They knocked a tooth out?"
"Almost, Jimmy pulled it out the rest of the way. Do you have a dentist I can call, he said to have your teeth checked for any more problems."
"I think I'll wait until I can see before going to a dentist. Plus who wants to work on someone who looks as bad as you say I do." She eased her hand around her plate until Truman placed a cup of coffee in it.
"OJ is at ten o'clock, coffee is at two." She placed a fork in her hand after she put her coffee down and moved her hand over her eggs. "I just heard the downstairs door open; it's either Grandma D or Terry." She sniffed the air and moaned. "We're in trouble; she's come to check on us before her surgery." She whispered and tried to control her expression when Mac stuck her tongue out at her.
"Well this is something I never thought I'd see," Doris said and placed a box of donuts on the kitchen counter. "Mac sitting at her own table and someone cooking breakfast for her," She sat down beside her and across from Truman. "Damn Mac but you're ugly; did they use a baseball bat on your face?"
"Thanks Doris, I always love your compliments." She turned her head to where she thought Truman was. "So do I look like a baseball head?"
"I'm keeping my mouth shut on this one," She nudged her grandma's foot and gave her a narrowed look. "You always get me in trouble."
"One thing you better do is either get Mac dressed or put the closed sign on the door, then again maybe you'll get more business with her running around in her tank top and boxers."
"Ohh I'm real sure that my bony knees won't be having anyone breaking down the door. Now where's my toast or didn't you make any?"
"I was waiting to see if you wanted that or an English muffin, since you didn't say anything I figured you didn't want any," Truman replied and then got up to make her toast. "Butter or jelly?'
"Damn you would think that you two have lived together, you sound like me and Bert. And the more butter you can get on her toast the better she likes it, they'll need a jack hammer on her arteries if she keeps it up." Mac went to laugh, pressed her index finger over her bottom lip and growled. She had forgotten about the split in her lip and knew she had opened back up, before she could say anything, Truman pressed a cold rag in her hand.
"Just hold it there for a second while I get something to put on it," She saw the raised eyebrow that her grandma gave her and shrugged a shoulder. "That's fresh coffee grandma; would you fill our cups while I get stuff for her?"
"Truman you don't have to?"
"She moves like a jack rabbit when she's on a mission; she was gone before she finished her sentence." She waved her hand in front of Mac's face and grinned. "This is cool I can make faces at you and you'd never know!"
"Maybe but I bet Truman would tell me, she likes me."
"When did I say I liked you," She tilted her head back by placing two fingers under her chin and put medication on the split in her lip. "Now be careful or your lip will split again."
"What was that stuff," She waved a hand in front of her mouth and felt tears running down her cheeks. "It burns!"
"You're a big baby, it was only medicated Vaseline. I could've put Blistex on it, now that stuff burns on an open cut." She sat down and went back to eating her breakfast. "Eat Mac or I'll eat it, remember no left overs."
Mac was asleep on the couch, her head tilted back over the arm and her pillow clutched to her chest. Truman was down stairs in Mac's music room doing stretches before she went out for her evening run, she put a CD in the player and went to the center of the room to start her stretches. Sarah McLachlan's voice came over the speakers that lined the room, she moved slowly into her stretches and felt her muscles pull and then relax. It had been a couple days since she had run and she was feeling it now with her stretches. Three songs later, she was pulling her sweatshirt on and heading towards the door that let out into the garage. Jogging past the Plymouth, she turned left and jogged up hill towards the High School. She used the track there a couple times a week for her main run and the made the loop at a cool down jog home, she would have to think of another route to get the same mileage in since she now lived closer to the track. She cut down the hill towards the gate that led to the football field and track, as she got closer; she saw that she would have to share the track with the boys track team. "Fucking wonderful, testosterone on the hoof, little fuckers think all that matters is their tiny dicks." She jogged slowly down to the track and stayed on the outside and away from the teenage boys; she would come earlier in the day so that she wouldn't have to listen to their crude comments about her looks.
"Look it's the Georgetown bag lady!" A kid yelled and ran past her. "Ever wash that nasty sweatshirt?"
She waited until he was ahead of her and then mumbled. "Yeah but everyone one can say that you've never washed your jock." She stayed at her pace no matter what the other runners did, some of the kids left her alone, other's threw nasty comments at her and tried to force her from the track. Her temper started to build, as the comments got nastier, she finished her last lap, jogged through the gate, and headed back home. The more she thought about it the madder she got and the faster she ran. She was at a full sprint when she went past her building; she cut up alongside it and kept on going. When she finally stopped, she outside of the Ballroom, bent over with her hands on her knees and panting. Standing up, she wiped sweat from her face and then walked through the door. She had never been in the place before but had heard about it from her grandma, she couldn't picture her there dancing when she was younger let alone on Saturday nights. She teased her that the reason she had to have her hammer toes fixed was that grandpa stepped on her feet all night. Looking around the place, she saw the bar across the room and walked over to where she saw an older woman standing behind it. She pulled some bills from her pocket and placed them on the bar. "Can I have some water please?" She wiped her face on her sleeve and noticed for the first time that the music playing wasn't big band but a band from when she was a teenager. She looked to the bartender with a raised eyebrow. "I never expected to hear 38 Special playing in here." She took the bottle of water from the bar and took a long drink.
"I get tired of hearing that old music," She grinned and handed Truman a bar towel. "Kinda weird since the stuff we're listening to is old to." She slapped the bar and leaned in close to Truman. "What gets me is you go in to a record store and there's all these young kids going nuts over Foreigner, Journey, Sting, REM and Reo Speedwagon thinking that they're new groups."
Truman wiped her face and nodded her head. "I have to listen to swing all day at work; my boss is kind of?eccentric? She even dresses in zoot suits." She looked up from playing with the bottle ring when the woman busted out laughing. "What you don't think that's weird?"
"Mac is one of a kind," She held out a hand to her. "I'm Sally; I've known Mac since the day she was born, Hell I was married to her grandpa for a while." She whispered low so that only Truman could hear. "I think that was a few centuries ago that I did that stupid thing and married that snake." She squeezed Truman's hand and winked at her. "And Mac's just like the men in her family, charms the panties off the women in this place and leaves 'em wanting more."
"Yeah I all ready know about my bosses doggish ways, that won't be happening anytime soon though, she got beat up the other night and she got hurt bad."
Sally leaned closer and waved off one of the servers. "Come on in the back with me and tell me what happened to her, something doesn't sound right to me." She walked from behind the bar and waited for Truman to join her; she looked up and shook her head. "I didn't think you were so damn tall." Truman gave her a crooked grin and shrugged one shoulder, Sally wasn't even as tall as Mac, and if she was five feet tall she was lucky. "Go ahead and laugh, I was as tall as you at one time, old age shrinks ya. One day you'll be my size and mistaken for one of the actors from the Wizard of Oz." She took her to the office in the back and closed the door behind them, showing her to a comfortable recliner, she dropped down onto an old couch. "Now tell me what Mac got herself into and maybe I can help." After having been brought up to date on everything that had happened and then given her thoughts on the subject, she remembered when Mac had met with someone and gave Truman a description of the woman. "So what are your plans?"
"Well I can do the back ground checks for her?after that I don't know I have no idea what she does?"
"That kid is just plain nosey, she gets in everyone's business and gets the information she's looking for."
"Well that's not me; I blend in to the nearest wall." She looked down at her dirty cross trainers and back up at Sally. "I look like a librarian and I get treated as one, if I'm not ignored then I'm terrorized."
Sally waved a hand at her and shook her head. "Ohh come on, get you into some nice clothes, get your hair fixed up and I know you could have that little dog Mac falling over her own two feet."
"Only if I tripped her would that happen?well I could do that now since her eyes are swollen closed and there's no help for me, you could put me in Armani and I'd still look like a frumpy person."
Sally got up from her couch, grabbed a card from her desk and handed it to her. "Bullshit, you call me tomorrow morning and I'll get you all fixed up. I can even give you some pointers on being a PI; remember I was married to one of the best."
"I don't think even a fairy godmother can help me?no disrespect but I'm a ship wreck?worse than the Titanic."
Mac stood bent over in the refrigerator scratching her ass and trying to figure out what things were by feel alone, she almost dropped the milk when Truman came up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder. "Geez are you trying to kill me off the rest of the way?" She put the milk back and grabbed at her chest. "I'm hungry and I can't find anything." She whined and pouted. "I woke up and you were gone, where'd ya go?"
"I run everyday, I ended up over at the Ballroom. She pulled out a plastic container and placed it on the table. "I met Sally and talked to her for a little while," She grinned at the thought of her almost being Mac's grandmother. "You have so many interesting people for friends." She pulled the lunchmeats from the container and then looked to see what Mac was doing. "You know trying to lift your eyelids isn't going to help any." She looked down at what she was doing and cussed. "Come on freak, we're going over to my kitchen. I was going to make us sandwiches but since there's no bread over here or anything else besides mustard." She grabbed Mac by her hand and led her across the hallway, sitting her down on one of the chairs that had been in the apartment; she went into the kitchen and started making their sandwiches. "Are you still trying to pry your eyes open?"
"Nope, I gave up on that." She wandered into the kitchen and stopped when she ran into Truman's side. "Has any of the swelling gone down?"
Truman looked at her face with a closed eye, tapped her on her nose and smirked when she yelped in pain. "A little but I think it's just your bottom lip that's not as big, your nose is huge and there's no bridge." She tilted her head and grinned. "Actually, you look kinda Cro-Magnon." She ran a finger across Mac's pronounced brow and felt her fingers tingle. "You even have the gait down, all stooped over and everything."
"Glad you find my demise amusing," She jabbed her in the ribs and then patted her side. "How many layers of clothes do you have on?"
"Four why?it's cold in here, I always dress this way...thin blood." She went back to making their sandwiches and then grabbed two cans of soup from the cabinet. "Chicken and noodle or tomato soup?"
"Tomato and you're so full of shit, it's hot in here." She pulled on her t-shirt and fanned herself. "I'm running around half dressed and you're like an Eskimo."
"And I can tell you dressed yourself this morning, your boxers are on backwards."
"And you looked that close at my crotch?"
"No, it's the 'enter here' sign on your ass?that is unless it's meant to be there and tell me that you think it's not a little strange to be sitting on buttons?''
Mac reached back and tried to wiggle an eyebrow. "Wondered what that was, so what kinda sandwich are you making me?"
"Turkey on wheat with the works, including spicy mustard," She put the sandwiches on plates and set them aside until the soup was done. "Can you carry the sandwiches while I carry the soup?"
"You're no fun; I wanted to see how much soup I could keep in the bowls." She put her hands out and took the plates. "Just point me in a direction where there's no furniture and the door."
"I don't have any furniture except that chair that was here, so you should have no problem getting to the door."
"Nuns have more stuff than you do and they've taken a vow of poverty."
"I used to have stuff but I sold things to pay my rent and buy food, it's been months since I watched TV." She followed Mac into her apartment and put the soup on the table. "You know this is just plain weird, maybe I'll stop at that little flea market and see if they have some bar stools. I can get a couple to use at the bar between the kitchen and the living room, what do you think?" She took a seat across from Mac and handed her a spoon from the drawer behind her.
"I think I'm gonna make a mess over here and it'll be your fault," She blinked her eyes a few times and was able to see a little through the slits that were her eyes. "If you go down stairs and take the door opposite of where my music room is you'll find a mini weight room, against one wall is a bar with stools. Take what you need, I'm the only one in there and I never use them. Sally will be glad that someone uses them, they're from the ballroom." She searched for her soup with her spoon and grinned when Truman grabbed her hand and moved it in the right area. "Maybe a straw would be better for me?"
"Where would be the fun in that, I'm having a Hell of a time over here watching you." She took a bite of her sandwich and then moved Mac's hand closer to her own. "Are you sure about the bar stools, I can get some?"
"I'm sure, they've been down stairs for years and I never use 'em." She finished her sandwich and tried to eat her soup without spilling it from the spoon. "Well I did try to use one for something but that didn't work and she got really pissed and?" She looked up and tried to see Truman. "Never mind it was just one of those?things."
"Uhh huh I can just imagine what you were doing and I'll leave it for when I need something to amuse my dreary days with." She placed her dishes in the sink and started water running to wash them; she turned and found Mac right beside her.
"I'll wash 'em; maybe the steam will help with my eyes."
"OK, well I'm going to go over to my desk and get some work done." She stopped in the doorway and looked back at Mac. "Did I tell you that I got half those background checks done?"
"How did you do that in one day, it takes me hours making all the phone calls and other stuff it takes."
"See that, if you would update your office a little you'd know that there's a PC program that does all that stuff. I signed the office up for a couple law enforcement WebPages, we can check on anyone's criminal record or see if they have one."
"How come Doris never told me about this stuff?"
"Would you have listened to her?"
Mac ran a wet soapy hand through her hair and shook her head. "I'm stubborn and think better if I write everything out on paper."
"That's all well and good, but letting tech stuff play some part in work is good to, tell ya what, you play with your notebooks and I'll do the tech stuff."
"OK I can handle that?will you still type up my notes like Doris did, I can't type?"
Truman grinned and stepped out into the hallway. "You're assuming that I can type worth a damn."
The next morning after feeding Mac, Truman called Sally and then called her grandpa to see what time her grandma's surgery was. She checked her watch, jogged down to Mac's Outback and climbed behind the wheel. She would swing by and pick Sally up before going over to see her grandma, she knew that she would be like an animal after her surgery but had to go see her. Checking the gas gauge, she pulled into 7-11 and got out to pump the gas. She looked over her shoulder when she felt eyes boring into her back and gave the young women a small smile.
"Well this has got to be a first; Mac never lets anyone drive her cars." She gave Truman the once over and raised a dark eyebrow. "You're looks must be deceiving, you don't look like the type that can rock Mac from her foundation." She climbed into her car and pulled away, Truman stood in total confusion until it hit her as to what the woman thought of her and Mac.
"I should either feel honored that she trusts me enough to drive her cars or like a whore for the reason people will think I'm driving her cars." She filled the tank up and then went inside to pay for the gas; she didn't miss the look the young girl gave her when she saw what car she was driving. "Has she hit every young thing in this area?" She got back in the car and pulled out in the direction of the Ballroom, she would make it there a few minutes early and hoped that it was all right. She pulled into the parking lot, stopped at the front door and saw that Sally was just coming through them. She went around to the passenger side and helped her to get in before going back to the driver's side. "Is it OK if I stop to see my grandma, she's having surgery today."
"Nope, I don't mind at all, I was talking to her yesterday about you and promised that I'd drag you over there if necessary."
"Ohh that means that Grandma D has plans for me, maybe I should throw myself in front of a truck."
"Not yet you won't, you have to give me a chance to torture you."
Mac wandered around her apartment and finally went down the stairs to her music room, after finding it painful to do anything but wander in circles she went back up stairs. Going over to Truman's, she opened her door and stepped into the apartment. Taking a deep breath, she grumbled when she couldn't smell anything. "I know she put cologne on before she left, I heard the spraying." She went into her bedroom, tilted her head back and forced her eyes to open. She spotted the bottle on her small dresser and picked it up. "Jovan, she wears a cheap musk?" She sprayed some on her wrist, smelled it and had to go by her memory as to how it smelled. "Smells good on Truman, wonder what she's hiding under all those layers of clothes?" She fell back on her bed and rolled until she had her head on her pillow, pulled it close around her face, she sighed and relaxed into the mattress. "There's got to be something she's hiding, people who dress like her don't want other people to see something but what is the something? I could never figure that out, is it a lack of ego or something else?" She was still pondering the causes when she drifted off to sleep.
"I think they're kind of sexy," Doris said in a raspy voice and wiggled her feet in her soft casts. "Maybe I could attract a younger man if I wore these dancing?"
"Maybe that would work if you left grandpa at home when you went out dancing," She looked to where her grandpa was sitting by the window reading a Popular Mechanics magazine. "Then again, you could leave him here and I don't think he would realize it for weeks."
"Men are all the same with the exception of one woman we all know and wished we could still paddle." Sally said and held up her can of Coke. "To the lesser sex, they'd be lost without us." They clinked their cans together and knew they were in trouble when Doris' doctor came in and waved a finger at them.
"Well grandma, I think we better go before your doctor kicks our asses." She gave her a kiss on her cheek and rolled her eyes when she felt an envelope pressed into her hand.
"Take that and use the damn thing," She covered Truman's mouth with her hand and looked to Sally. "Make sure she uses Mac's credit card for everything she gets today, I'd sign the deed of the building over to her just for putting up with that rotten kid."
"She's not that bad and she's always good for a laugh, she came out of the shower this morning with her boxers on inside out."
"I've seen her looking that way in the middle of the afternoon," Doris and Sally both said and gave Truman a smug look. "It'll get worse the longer you know her, she's ten times worse then some men."
Sally pulled Truman to her feet, waved at Doris and then walked from the room. "Come on, we have people to see and Mac's credit card to max out!"
"But I don't wanna use her card?it's not?right." She grumbled and mumbled all the way out to the parking lot and just gave up, she couldn't win with the older women, they knew more tricks then she did.
"Sure it is you're covering for the great PI MacKenna Jones because she was stupid. So it's right that she pay for your PI clothes and I know just the person to help." They drove towards Berryville Virginia and pulled off on a back road, with Sally giving her directions, they arrived at an old farmhouse. "This is one of my best friends; we've known each other most of or lives." She waited for Truman to help her from the car and held onto her arm on the way up to the door. Sally pulled the screen door opened and then opened the inside door without knocking. "Did I mention that the reason I've known her so long is because she's my sister?" "Sophia get your lazy ass out here and make me some tea!"
"And you can either go to Hell or make it your damn self!" A younger version of Sally came into the kitchen; she waved the tip of her walking cane at her sister and snapped her dentures. "Lazy ass bitch, always wanting someone to wait on you," She looked behind her and saw an unsure Truman trying to melt into the shadows. "Whose your friend there Sally and why hasn't Mac come for her clothes?"
"This is Doris' granddaughter Truman; she needs some clothes that make her look professional."
Sophia stepped closer and then pulled Truman further into the kitchen. "Someone your size shouldn't be shying away from two dwarves,"
"Speak for your own damn self I'm not a dwarf." Sally said and stole her sister's cane. "Take her to your workroom and I'll make us some tea and this is going on Mac's credit card so don't spare the cloth."
Sophia smiled, took Truman by her hand and pulled her along behind her. "Ohh I hear silk?lots of imported silk!" She pulled her down a long hallway and stopped outside one of the doors. "I make the best damn clothes this side of Italy, everything is handmade and that includes the labels. I've been making clothes for the Jones men since WWII," She went over to a table filled with material and grabbed a bolt of royal blue silk. "I know there's got to be blue eyes behind those sunglasses and this will make them sing." She held the material up against Truman's chest and then wiggled her fingers at the many layers of clothes. "What ever you're hiding under all those clothes is gonna be revealed in two seconds or I'll use my electric scissors."
"You better do it, her hands aren't too steady anymore, you might end up with a limp." Sally said and placed a tray with a teakettle and cups on a worktable. "Come on Truman, besides doctors, tailors are the next in line to know everyone's body secrets."
"Besides we've seen Mac in all her glory and nothing can be that shocking." She saw the look that crossed Truman's face and wondered why she was turning pale. "Wait a minute," She looked to her sister. "Sally they're not are they?"
"Not a couple nope, but they're partners in the PI business," She raised a hand to stop Truman. "You may not have a PI license but you're doing Mac's job and all the paperwork. Now get your clothes off so we can measure you." A few minutes later, both older women stood with their mouths hanging open and looking at a bashful Truman. "Sophia is that possible?"
"Apparently it is we're both seeing it," She pushed her hair back in its bun and looked at Truman. "You've been hiding this body because?"
"I always got strange looks from everyone," She looked down at the thick muscles of her thighs and then down to her bare feet. "Grandma D says it has something to do with genetics and the fact that our family can be traced back to Vikings."
"Where were we when they were handing out great big giant Viking men, we both got stuck with those shrimps?" Sophia asked and then pulled her tape measure from around her neck. "I got stuck with one of those shrimp poppers of a man, one yard of material made an entire suit for him."
"You got lucky," Sally waved a hand over the worktable until she found another tape measure. "I was married to a sea monkey, a yard of material made both him and Mac a set of clothes." Truman relaxed listening to the two old women talk about all the husbands they had and about their kids and grandkids. Soon after she was sitting in her silk boxers and tank top and drinking tea, Sophia waved a button down shirt at her and had her try it on.
"See how this fits, I may have to let out the shoulders a little." She waited until Truman had the shirt on and then checked over her work. "You know you're shoulders are wider than any of the men I make clothes for, then again they're those scrawny ass wimpy men with the narrow shoulders and child bearing hips. Men don't do hard work anymore, they sit on their asses all day and play on computers." She made a few chalk marks on the shirt and had her take it off again. "Sally's almost done with your trousers; we're making your clothes in dark blues, blacks, grays and pinstripes. All your shirts will be in different colors except green, you're not a green person like Mac."
"What is all this going to cost?"
"Nothing, Mac gets me all the silk and material I need and I make her clothes." She tapped Truman's chin and gave her a grin. "I never asked where she gets real silk from or how she can get it in every color and in full bolts."
"OK Truman try these on and let me see how my sewing is," Sally handed her a pair of black trousers and crossed her arms over her chest. "Don't know about you girls wearing boxers but at least yours aren't all baggy like Mac's."
"That's because Mac's a sea monkey and buys her shorts in the little boys department; I bet she has some with Sponge Bob on 'em." Sophia looked up at Truman and winked. "You'd tell us if she did have them wouldn't you?"
"Sure, she does have some with little stop lights on them and some with of all things Speed Racer." She fastened the trousers and stepped in front of the full-length mirror, she had never had tailored clothes before and liked how the trousers fit. "These are?unbelievable." She turned and looked at how they hung in the back.
"What can we say, we do excellent work," She turned Truman back around and checked the pleats in the front. "I made these like Mac's, plus, you need the extra room because of those tree trunk thighs you have." Sophie came from over at the sewing machines with a jacket. "We're not going with the zoot suit look but with something that makes Armani look like a Kmart special. Sophie held out the jacket and grinned when Truman had to bend at the knees to get her arms in the sleeves, once it was on, she smoothed down the front and looked to her sister. "Yep she's the double breasted type, fits perfectly." She watched her sister raise a finger and go over to the sewing machine she had been using.
"This is my favorite one though," she waited for Truman to take the jacket off and then helped her with a blue pinstripe. "This is my version of Dana Scully and with your wide shoulders it'll be a killer." She stepped back and took in how the jacket fit over Truman's wide shoulders and how it hung across her hips to mid thigh. "Just perfect, Mac will be floored when she sees you." She looked to Sophie with a raised eyebrow. "Should we call the Queen?"
"All ready did, now let's get back to sewing, I think we can get four suits done today and I've already got some shirts that will fit her."
"Hold on a minute here, whose the Queen and do I really need this many suits, I do have clothes at home."
"Someone that's going to make you into a heartbreaker and yes you do, and if you're going to be working with Mac then you have to look the part."
"But I'm just her secretary?" She gave up when two sets of eyes pinned her where she stood with her pants around her ankles. "OK I'm not going to argue with you guys but what's this queen person going to do to me?"
Mac sat at her desk with her feet up on the edge, she had tried to do some work but found the perfect excuse not to when Terry showed up. She pushed back the sleeves on her sweatshirt and turned her head when Terry tapped on the doorframe. "You still look like shit; I figured the swelling would have gone down a lot in the last couple of days."
"Well I can see a little through the slits I have for eyes, I can't smell anything and I have a hell of a time taking a deep breath. The good news is I have a good cook and she makes sure that I take my pills; if I wasn't such a dog I'd ask her to marry me."
Terry dropped down in the chair in front of her desk and looked her over with a critical eye. "She's not your type Mac; you go after the flashy, brainless, uneducated women that can't make change from a nickel. Truman is not anywhere near that, she has brains. Who knows what she hides under all those clothes she wears though." She looked at the Georgetown sweatshirt and pointed. "You don't own any sweatshirts, where'd you steal that from?"
"It's Truman's, I got cold and it was laying on her bed," She pulled the neck up to her nose and tried to smell it. "It smells like her, I think this is the one she sleeps in."
"You can't smell anything with that big nose and are you listening to yourself, you sound like a love struck idiot?"
"Do not; I've only known her a couple days. But this is kinda like the feeling you get when you smell a puppy, ya know all safe and warm."
Terry busted out laughing and slapped her hand down on the desk. "I would love to see you tell her that she smells like a puppy."
"That's not what I meant?you're not gonna let me get away with it are you?"
"Hell no, I've had more laughs over your pick-up lines then watching the comedy channel. You suck at it and I still don't know how you get so many dates."
Mac gave her a wicked grin. "It's not by talking that's for sure; one woman wants to insure my tongue though."
"You did not just say that," Terry threw a piece of balled up paper at her. "You're worst than a dog, you're unfuckingbelievable."
"That's what she yelled all night long?" She shut up and leaned around Terry's shoulder. "Ohh goody my boss is here, I can't find my pills." She watched as Truman walked between their apartments with suit bags and then came into her office with a paper bag. "You had suit bags, did we have dry cleaning?"
"Nope, I picked up your clothes from Sophia. Hey Terry, find out anything on Mac's attackers?" She handed Mac the bag and sat on the edge of her desk. "That's roast beef, horse radish, onions and lettuce on Italian." She pulled a carton of milk out of her sweatshirt pouch and placed it in front of her.
"Nothing yet besides that house she was watching is empty and no one has lived in it for months. The names came up with nothing?you look different."
"Ohh I had my hair cut," she slipped her sunglasses down and eyed a happily eating Mac. "That's my sweatshirt."
"Yep it was," She wiped her mouth. "Mine now, it smells good and it's soft."
"You're deranged, I haven't washed that since I went running and that's why it was laying on the end of the bed because I was going to do our laundry." Mac shrugged her shoulders and continued eating.
"Wait a minute, you're gonna wash the little dogs clothes?" Terry kicked the front of Mac's desk and waited for her to look up at her. "She cooks for you and now she's gonna wash your clothes to?why?" She looked to Truman and knew that there was something different about her besides her hair looking different. "Where can I get a woman like you?"
"Alabama; gotta go get some work done before my boss docks me a days pay." She got off the desk and went to her own, with a backward glance; she snorted at Mac and dropped down into her chair. The small PI had horseradish all over her chin and a milk mustache to go with it, what made her comical was the huge sweatshirt.
After dropping Sally off, she had gone to see her son Serge. He cut her hair and arranged a time later that night to come over and do a hot oil treatment and some other things he deemed necessary for her successful rebirth. She didn't think she needed all of this but found it impossible to argue with anyone related to Mac or Sally. Once her PC booted, she clicked on the shortcut for the investigating icon and typed in a name from one of the files on her desk.
Terry leaned in close to Mac, rolled her eyes at the mess her friends face was and whispered. "If you bring in some bimbo and scare Truman off you're a bigger ass than I ever thought and wipe the stuff off your face it looks gross."
"Scare her off?Terry I'd never stand a chance with a woman like her. Besides Doris would kill me if I ever made a single overture towards Truman."
"Ohh so wearing her dirty sweatshirt isn't an overture of some kind? Before I thought you were weird, now I know you're insane and maybe suffering from brain damage on top of everything else."
"You're the one with brain damage; you already said she wasn't my type now you're saying about me scaring her off with a bimbo."
"Ohh the Hell with it, let's go over to the Ballroom I need a good stiff drink and you're buying."
"I can't show my face like this," She stood up and pointed at her boxers. "And I don't have any pants on!"
"Cute boxers Mac, maybe you should have Truman dress you so that you're clothes aren't inside out." She grabbed her by her hand and pulled her out of her office. "It's not like you haven't had your face rearranged before, put some sunglasses on and pants."
Mac stopped in front of Truman's desk and searched for her sunglasses. "Where's your granny glasses, I need to hide my whole face?" She took the wrap around sunglasses from Truman, put them on and stumbled to her apartment. "I'm a real chick magnet dressed like this huh?"
"Yeah and the little horns on top of your head fit perfectly!" Truman yelled to her and snorted when Terry dropkicked Mac when she stopped in the doorway. "I put your new clothes in your closet!" She was still amazed at Sally and Sophia's talent with making clothes. The suit that Sophia had made for Mac was a dark blue pinstripe with matching vest and a hand painted light blue silk tie. She couldn't wear ties, she always felt restricted if anything was tight around her neck. She just wore her shirts open at the neck and with three or four shirts over the top. She would have to get over that very soon, after hearing three people rant about her body; it was worth giving it a shot. She typed in another name and then watched Mac and Terry come out of her apartment.
"Don't wait up, we're gonna get shit faced."
"You already look shit faced," Terry said and steered her towards the stairs. "I'll have her home early and I'll throw her in bed if she's drunk." She waved at Truman and kept Mac from falling down the stairs. An hour later all the files were finished and Truman was shutting down her PC when Serge came skipping up the steps.
"I'm here! The Goddess of style, Princess of pimp and I've forgotten how droll this place is." Serge spun around slowly and waved a hand above his head. "This place is simply?MacKenna," he stepped over to her desk, waved a hand over the roses, and gave her a crooked smile. "So you have an admirer that sends you expensive flowers?"
"Mac gave me those; it was her way of apologizing for being an ass."
"Reverent white, somehow that doesn't fit Mac, Doris must have helped her." He primped his dyed platinum hair and looked around for Mac. "Where is the little imp, it's about time I shaved that mess she calls hair?"
"She went to the Ballroom with Terry," She shut down her PC and got out of her chair. "Let's go in her apartment and do this, she has furniture and I haven't gotten any yet." She walked into Mac's apartment and groaned when she saw the mess she had left, her clothes were all over the living room floor and dirty dishes sat on the coffee table. "Damn sea monkey is a pig," She picked up her clothes, took them to the hamper in the bathroom and then came out to get the dishes. "Wait until she gets home; I'm gonna drop kick her little ass."
"Why are you worried about her apartment, she's the one who has to live like a pig not you?" Serge remarked and started pulling stuff from a large leather bag. "I brought this for her, just pop it in the freezer and then when it's frozen put it on her face." He demonstrated the facemask with his normal exaggerated flair and then handed it to Truman. "It should take some of the swelling down and maybe slow the growth of her eyebrows."
Truman gave him a funny look and dropped down at the kitchen table. "Growth of her eyebrows, I didn't see anything wrong with them?"
"That's because you're captain of the unibrow team and she's second in command, now sit still while I get prepared for your coming out." He pulled her now below the shoulder length hair back and checked her split ends and severely damaged hair. "I feel like Michael Caine in Miss Congeniality." He set the oil treatment under hot water and then turned her so that he could see her face. "How I wish I had his team of artists, you really need all of them."
Mac grinned at Sally's cringing features; she climbed up on a barstool and made kissing faces at her. "Ohh come on Sally gimme a big old smooch."
"Go to Hell sea monkey you're ugly as Hell and now I can see why Truman's been doing all your work." She leaned in closer and tried to see her eyes. "You can't see a damn thing can you?"
"Not a whole lot but Truman takes care of me," She thought about that for a second and grinned. "Kinda weird huh, she barely knows me but she takes care of me?"
"You're a lucky woman Mac," She put drinks in front of them and handed Terry the bottle. "You could be up there in your apartment all alone or worse if she hadn't found you."
"Yeah Mac, Jimmy would have been pissed if he couldn't fondle you and you know he did that when he was checking you out."
"Just my luck, the only one to fondle me in weeks was some guy." She took a long drink of her scotch and looked in the glass. "My last date was with some college kid who wanted to watch Christine Aguilera videos and drink mud slides."
Terry looked at her and then to a grinning Sally. "Could have been worse, she could have been at your place and forced to watch the African Queen or Tora Tora."
Truman sat on the couch with her head wrapped in some kind of plastic, green stuff on her face and Serge doing a manicure. She tried to move her eyes and felt like her skin was going to crack. "Don't move, flinch or think too hard or the mask won't work."
"Whatz it for?" She asked without moving her lips.
"It cleans out your pores, takes off old skin and tightens up what's left." He examined her nails before moving onto the next hand. "You have hands like a dishwasher, hand cream would be good. You know that stuff that keeps your skin from drying out and falling off?"
"I never think about stuff like that, besides, I work with my hands."
"I can tell that, you have more calluses than weight lifters and steel workers combined."
"Oww what are you?" She tried to pull her hand away and jumped when he pinched her thigh.
"Hold still I'm pushing back the cuticles and you have terrible hangnails, but when I'm done with you, you'll look like a million bucks."
"With all the torture you've put me through I may sue you for that much."
"It'll all be worth it if you can catch yourself a rich man."
Truman busted up laughing and felt her facial mask crack. "I'm taking this shit off my face," She got up off the couch and went to the kitchen sink. "A man is something that I don't want but if any are attracted to the new and improved me, I'll scream bloody murder and hide in a dark corner somewhere." She scrubbed her face and used the towel hanging around her neck to wipe it dry. "Now what about this stuff in my hair, I think my heads shrinking because of this plastic bag."
"Ohh for heavens sake, you dykes give me more problems then my drag queen friends." He waved a ringed hand at her and strutted into the kitchen. "Put your head in the sink and I'll wash the oil out, I'll warn you now that your hair is going to look a lot different than when we started."
"You didn't turn me into a ditzy blond did you, because if you did you had better have a will made out because I'll kill you?"
Serge clucked his tongue and shook his head back and forth. "Of course not, blonde is out, natural is in. I just brought out some of your highlights and with all those nasty split ends gone?" He pulled her up from the sink and dropped the towel over her head. "You are going to be fabulous!" He pulled a hair dryer from his bag, plugged it in and then pulled the towel from her head. You need to get rid of that old nasty hairdryer you have, the only thing it's good for is defrosting your freezer." He fluffed her hair as he dried it and back brushed it every which way until she thought all her hair would fall out. After a few minutes and her head cleared, he used the brush and brushed her hair back from her face. "Now for your unveiling," He took her hand, led her over to the full-length mirror in Mac's bedroom, and stepped back. "Well what do you think?"
Truman stepped closer to the mirror and looked at her reflection, she looked back to Serge and then to the mirror. "My own grandma won't recognize me," She ran her fingers through her hair and noticed the chestnut highlights. "Am I going to have to spend hours in the bathroom to stay looking this way?"
"Of course not, use good shampoo and toss that damn hairdryer. I didn't change anything that wasn't already there; I just uncovered the real Truman. I uncovered the archeologist in the dust and debris, oohh how I wish Mac were here!"
Mac placed her glass on the bar and waved off Sally, she wasn't feeling any pain and didn't want to feel any in the morning either. "Nope that's it for me Sally; Truman will kick my ass if I'm hung over in the morning. Plus I have my dance student coming in at 5am." She looked to Terry and slapped her in the back of her head. "You stop that, she's twice your age and is liable to have a heart attack."
"So what?she might know more then me and I need all the training I can get."
"Forget it Terry, she has kids our age and her husband can kick both our asses without breaking a sweat. Stay away from the sorta straight women; they always break your heart."
"Speaking from experience there Mac, I haven't seen you ever sway away from them?"
"Dancing is one thing, sex is another and I leave that to the braver souls." She got down from her stool and waited for Terry to join her. "And right now all I want is my empty bed because it would be scary to wake up and not be able to see who it was in there with me."
Terry wrapped an arm around her shoulders and led her to the door. "Now you wouldn't be complaining any if a certain frumpy secretary was in your bed."
"I'm thinking that you have a crush on Truman and you're feeling me out on it?"
"I'm not the one who stole her dirty sweatshirt, I think you have a crush on her and you're just denying it."
"How did we get on the subject of my unattractive secretary?"
"You started it and your shallowness is showing through like a neon beer sign, what ever happened to what's on the inside counting more than the package?"
"I gave up on that when they turned out to be nut jobs, self inflictors and alien abductees. Now I go for the beautiful but bimboish, you can turn them in a circle three times and they forget they were with you."
"Solves the problem of running out of dates, or having them turn you down because of a bad one if they don't remember you, so got any left overs, I'm not picky."
"God you're desperate, buy a vibrator, they're loyal and you don't have to keep spending money on 'em."
Truman was still asleep when the music started up downstairs; it pounded the floor and had her bed vibrating. Rolling to her side, she leaned over and pounded on the floor. "I'm going to kill her, rip her arms and legs off and bury her body in the basement." She rolled from bed, found one slipper and dragged her feet all the way to her door and down the stairs to the music room door. She yanked it open, walked in and planted her hand on her hips, what she was watching was something she had never seen before. Mac moved fluidly across the floor with her dance partner to what she thought was some kind of Latin dance. "Mac there's a strange woman watching us."
"Is she really good looking and maybe interested in me?"
"Half asleep and heading towards the stereo."
"Ohh Hell, we just woke up my work partner, she's gonna kill me later."
Truman turned the stereo down and went back out the door, she hoped that she would be able to go back to sleep for a few more hours. She fell into her bed, hugged her pillow around her head and fell back to sleep.
"You didn't tell me that you had a new partner or that she was living here, what's she like?" She spun from Mac's body and then came back. "Is she like you, all buff and commanding in a tough situation?"
Mac wiggled her brows and then blinked her eyes to clear the pain. "I don't know about buff but she commands me pretty well, she's bossy just like her grandma Doris." She spun her dance partner out and back in for the final steps of the Rhumba.
"She looked pretty buff to me in those little shorts and half t-shirt." She wiped sweat from her brow and looked down into Mac's bruised and still swollen face. "You look terrible, maybe you should go back to bed."
"Ohh I will after I take some pain pills, it wouldn't be bad if the sledge hammer in my head would go away." She rubbed her temples and walked to the stereo to turn it off. "Say hello to Tom for me and tell him I could use some help finding someone."
"I'll have him call you later today; he's off from the cop shop for the first time in weeks."
"So it's busy in the missing persons division, I never thought that many people could just up and disappear."
"Ohh I wish a lot more would and that includes my boss, I can guarantee none of us would report him missing."
She gave Mac a hug and left the room with a wave over her shoulder. Mac stretched her lower back out and then went to the stairs, she was feeling the few hours of sleep she had but felt better for not getting drunk the night before. Taking the stairs slowly, she went into her apartment, grabbed the pill bottles from on top of the small table near the kitchen, and kicked her shoes across the floor. She opened the tiny slits she had for eyes and tried to read the labels. "Damn it to Hell and back, I can't read these damn tiny ass letters." She went across the hallway, went into Truman's apartment and then to her bedroom. Stopping beside her bed, she sat down on the edge and tried to see the faint line of her body under the blankets. She could hear her deep breathes and see the rise and fall of her chest, reaching out a hand; she trailed it down across her arm and stopped at her much larger hand. Giving up the idea of waking her from a peaceful sleep, she laid down and watched her until she fell asleep with her head on the pillow next to Truman's.
Truman rolled over and felt something odd beneath her; she raised her head, blinked her eyes and groaned. Curled up against her body was a snorting, drooling Mac, rolling back over, she went to get out of bed and found a hand holding onto the back of her shirt. "Come on you sea monkey let go."
"But my head hurts."
"More then your heads gonna hurt if you don't let go," She turned and watched Mac grip her forehead with one hand. "Where's your pills and I still think you should go to the hospital for a head CT."
"It's my sinuses; they feel like they're gonna fall outta my head." She tried to sniffle and felt tears come to her eyes. "I sneezed last night and thought my head blew off, even my ears hurt." She whimpered and pulled Truman's pillow to her chest. "My pills are lost in the bed somewhere?I couldn't read the labels." She tried to see Truman and gave up with a low moan.
"You remind me of my dad when he was sick, it was like having a little two year old around." She searched through the bed until she found the pain pills and the sleeping pills that Jimmy had given Mac incase she couldn't sleep. Opening the bottle of pain pills, she placed two or them in Mac's hand and then grabbed the bottle of water she had on her nightstand. "Now take your pills while I go make breakfast and you can make my bed." She left with an evil laugh and went to the bathroom.
Mac was at her desk looking over some of the investigation reports that Truman had typed up for her, she couldn't believe that she had ignored all the time Doris had told her that it would be easier to get the information via the Internet. At this rate, she could triple the amount of background checks she did and bring in more money. Moving another report closer to her face, she read off the number and then whistled. "Have I always charged this much for a background check?"
"No, I changed the fee; this is 2003 Mac, not 1943." She grabbed the folders from her out box and dropped more papers into her in box. "You can have a seat John, I'm sure if you stare at her long enough she'll realize you're here." She pointed to a chair that John had never seen before and then went back out to her desk.
"I have a chair in here besides my desk chair?" Mac asked and then looked over to see that there were two in front of her desk. "Where'd these chairs come from?" She yelled and watched John's shape drop down into one.
Truman yelled back. "Would you believe I found them under three years worth of files, ya know that's what those cabinets are for, not your old shoes?"
John leaned in closer so that Mac could see him better, in a deep whisper he asked. "Where did you find a heart stopper like her, I almost fell down the stairs when she looked over to me?" He bit into his hand and moaned. "Do you think she'd go out with me?"
"Did you like go blind since the last time I saw you, Truman is not a heart stopper and no she won't go out with you, she's gay."
He snapped his fingers and leaned back in his chair so that he could see Truman sitting at her desk. "You are so wrong about that Mac, I know you've gone blind but even that shouldn't keep you from seeing what a heart stopper she is?or have you already?you know and it didn't work?"
"She raised a brow at him and shook her head. "That is just sick?Doris is her grandma and I ain't talking about this no more, I got in trouble over?something similar." She grabbed her hat and got up from her chair. "Come on, you can buy me and Truman lunch and tell me why you're here while we're waiting." They walked past Truman but not without John tripping over his feet and running into the back of Mac. "Keep it up John and I'll tell her what you said."
"Don't bother; I heard every word you two said." She raised a dark brow at Mac and gave her a crooked grin. "I don't do sea monkeys and I want extra horseradish, I think I'm coming down with a cold."
"Will that kill the germs or keep everyone away so they don't get sick?" John looked to each one of them and gave up on an answer. "Never mind, what kind of sandwich?"
Mac pushed him towards stairs. "Smoked turkey with provolone and the fixins, now move your ass I'm hungry." John tried to look back over his shoulder at Truman but Mac poked him in his back. "I maybe half blind but she's not and if you don't behave yourself I'll tell Doris." She scratched her jaw and grinned when she realized that she knew what kind of sandwich Truman liked. "Just too fucking weird, I can't even remember how I take my coffee but I know how she takes hers."
"And when you get your sight back, Doris will beat the Hell outta both of us dogs, not like it will hurt you; you're already a few straws short." He said and went down the steps with a loud laugh at Mac's groan. "She's a hotty Mac and if you don't think so then your taste has gotten lost somewhere."
She waited until they were outside before she said anything. "I have excellent taste, Truman's just not the kind of women I go for and you know that."
It was going on seven o'clock that night and Mac had been gone over an hour on a stakeout with Terry, looking in the full-length mirror in Mac's apartment, she checked out her clothes and then grabbed her keys from the small table. She still couldn't get over how they moved between the two apartments as if it were one residence or that she had to keep taking her sweat shirts back from a sea monkey. She jogged down the stairs, went out the front door and locked it behind her. She couldn't believe that she was actually going to the ballroom to meet an informant, she hadn't told Mac about it because she didn't want her saying that she couldn't or shouldn't be doing it. "I can do this, what's so hard about opening your eyes and ears and watching people. That's what Sally and grandma D says Mac does; I just hope this bears fruit." She got into Mac's Subaru, started it and let it warm before heading to the Ballroom. "I can't believe I'm going out in public half naked," She pulled on her suit jacket and looked down at the single button down shirt she wore. "I haven't been this naked since my shower." Pulling out onto the street, she took the next right for the shortcut.
"This really sucks Terry and why in the Hell am I sitting in a cold as car with you anyways?"
"Because you owe me and this is all for you anyways, this is the bitch that I think set you up."
"And how would you know this, I didn't give you a picture or anything."
"No but I just happened to be going past the place where you were supposed to met whoever, and this woman was going into that abandoned house. If it's not the one who talked to you then it's the other one that's involved with?Ohhh the Hell with explaining your stupid ass case to you, we're here and that's all there is to it."
"I'm just amazed that you've gotten to the rank you are and being totally clueless at the same time."
"Me clueless, you're the little dog that runs up underneath every hot womens skirt but you're ignoring Truman."
Mac turned in the seat and looked to her long time friend and confidante. "You're the second person in as many days ta call her a hotty, has everyone gone blind but me? I think you and John are just terrorizing me because I can't see to good."
Terry gave her a wide grin and winked. "That could be it or we could be telling the truth and you're gonna loose your cook because you're shallow."
"I'm not shallow; I just like what I like."
"And you use women to no end and you'll always be alone because of it." She knew she was being cruel to her best friend but someone had to, the way she was going, she would be all alone on her deathbed. "I'm not saying to jump into a serious relationship with some bimbo, just stop being a guy all the time."
Mac leaned in close and touched the side of her face to make sure that it wasn't a mask. "What's gotten into you all of a sudden, you're almost as bad as I am when it comes to women?"
"I realized that I'm working my way towards sitting at home and when I'm old and decrypted and no one will care." She shrugged her shoulder and looked out her window. "The meals on wheels driver would be the only person I would see unless you came over in your electric wheelchair."
Mac blinked and turned to look out the windshield. "God you're morbid tonight, are you PMSing or something?" The more she thought about it, the more she saw that Terry was right. "We're gonna be ancient dykes with only each other for company if we don't give up our ways." She looked back to her pensive friend and sighed. "How soon do I have to give up chasing women?"
Truman walked into the Ballroom and headed directly over to the bar to hide in one of its dark corners, she had already gotten a few whistles and crude proposition from a man near the door. She had heard some of the things that Mac said to women from her grandma but they were nowhere near as raunchy as what the man had said to her. "Hey Sally can I have a frozen Russian?"
Sally stepped closer to her and saw the disgusted look on her face. "You look like you're about to upchuck on my bar, why is that?"
"Some pig at the door grossed me out with his lack of manners; he said that I look good enough to give him fifteen minutes of lap fucking."
Sally looked towards the door and saw a table with five men sitting at it. "Which asshole said that?"
Truman looked to the door and narrowed her eyes. "The freak with the handlebar mustache and leather jacket with USA on the back, what are you going to do?"
"Take care of the filth that isn't supposed to be in here anyway, I banned his scummy ass two weeks ago for slapping one of my girls on her ass." She grabbed the phone, spoke for two seconds and then watched a short stocky woman in a black t-shirt go over to the table.
"Once she gets done with him he'll wish he'd stayed home."
"Who is she; she looks like she could pick up a car?"
"A miscreant that I caught stealing food from me almost 30 some odd years ago, she just got back from London a week ago. Apparently the pubs there aren't to her liking anymore so she came home."
Truman watched the smaller woman put the man in a martial arts finger hold and march him out the front door. "Maybe she can drop kick Mac for me, I'm tired of picking up her clothes and finding her dirty dishes on my desk."
"As big as you are you should kick her ass, it'll be easier now that she can't see too good and why hasn't she gone back to a doctor about that?"
"I have no idea, I told her she needs to go see Jimmy but she's a stubborn ass and won't listen. Now any idea who this informant is that I'm supposed to meet?"
"Yep, this person knows everything and I should, I was here before God." She slapped a hand down on the bar and gave out a loud bark of a laugh. "Anyway there's this woman that comes in here and she hides out at the back table, last night she came in and her face is all bruised. One of the waiters said her husband did it because he caught her cheating." She noticed Truman's eyes go to a creepy silver color. "Her husband is the one that Mac met here right before she got the shit kicked out of her; I think he had something to do with it."
"OK, so what am I supposed to do; I have no idea what Mac does or if I can do anything that can help?"
"Ohhh it's easy, just sit at the next table and open your ears; in about ten minutes either her girlfriend or boyfriend will be in here and then she'll show up shortly after that."
"Isn't she taking a chance coming to the same place her husband does?"
"Nope, he runs a bar on the other side of Maryland; he never comes in here at night so she's safe. Now did you bring Mac's little tape recorder that she never uses?"
Truman taped her pocket and then pulled out a small microphone that went with it. "I brought this so that I can put it on the edge of the table, with the music I didn't wanna take a chance on it not picking everything up." Taking her drink, she went over to the table and sat down with her back to the wall. Looking around, she noticed that she was in complete darkness and no one could see her. After taping the small microphone to the edge of the table, she sat back and melted further into the darkness. She didn't have long to wait before a young woman showed and took a seat at the table next to her. She looked to the side and notice that the women didn't have any bruises so she wondered where she fit into the picture. A few minutes later a man showed up and sent her deeper into confusion, she was about to go back over to Sally when a badly beaten woman came over and sat down with the couple.
"What are you doing here," the woman said to the man and took a seat on the opposite side from him. "I told you it was over and to leave me alone?"
"I came because Debra asked me to, this involves me whether you like it or not."
"Bullshit, you just want in on the money so get your ass away from me before I let everyone know what you did to a certain person."
He growled and leaned across the table. "You can't prove a god damn thing and why in the Hell would I beat anyone up other than your asshole husband?"
"Because you're working for him that's why, now get the fuck away from me!"
Truman caught his mumbles and felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up; his threats were something that she would tell Terry. As soon as he was gone, she turned her attention back to the women and listened to their conversation. Mumbled at best, she couldn't hear what they were saying and hoped that the sensitive microphone picked it up. An hour later, they had left and she went back up to the bar to say good night to Sally.
"Where is she," Mac went from Truman's bedroom back over to her own living room and dropped down onto her couch. "She never goes anywhere so where is she?" She looked down at her pocket watch, cussed and got up to go out and look for her missing friend. She made it as far as the stairs when Truman stopped at the bottom and looked up at her. "Where have you been, I've been worried enough that I was going to report you missing and look for you in the gutters!"
"Ohh will you calm down, I was working a case." She came up the steps and stopped to look down at how Mac was dressed. "I would love to see you out looking for me in your boxers, the vest and watch bob are a nice touch to your weird ensemble."
Mac looked down at her bare legs and feet and then to her watch chain running across the front of her vest. "I could always say that you mugged me and stole my pants, now where were you and what case were you working on?"
"You're a nosy little sea monkey," she went into her apartment and turned back to Mac. "Give me two minutes to change and I'll tell you."
"You can change clothes in front of me?I can't see you so what's the big deal?"
"You can see good enough and that's exactly why you're not gonna watch me, no one sees my body."
Mac grabbed the tail of Truman's jacket and held on. "I heard that you had clothes made so your tailor knows what you look like and all I gotta do is ask her and she'll tell me."
"No she won't," She went to her bedroom and closed the door. "I tipped her good but you'll find that out when you get your credit card bill!"
Mac stood outside the door and grinned evilly, she didn't know why but it didn't bother her that she paid for Truman's clothes. "So did Sophia make you some skimpy silk underwear I can fondle, you know like my favorite stuff that Victoria Secret makes?"
Truman pulled the door open and tapped Mac on her chest. "No, go fondle one of your floozy's underwear, mine are off limits to your paws."
"Ohhh come on Truman, you get to see my underwear how come I can't see yours or play with 'em?" She ran into Truman's back when she stopped in the hallway. "I know ya wanna show me, maybe model 'em for me."
"You have brain damage, remember I'm frumpy and I could wear cotton granny underwear for all you know."
"Then how come I've been hearing that you're a hotty and I'm missing out because I can't see?"
"If you went to see Jimmy then maybe he could tell you why the swelling hasn't gone down yet and then you could see that I'm not a hotty."
"I already know why the swelling hasn't gone down, my septum was crushed and it's gonna take a while for it to heal." She ran a finger across her swollen nose and flinched. "Plus my sinuses are messed up from all of this?and I can't smell anything."
"I bet that puts a damper on your underwear fetish." Truman snorted when she saw the light blush rush over Mac's face. "Ohhh so you are a sick little fucker aren't you?"
"Like you don't have any weird habits, I'm gonna find out what they are and terrorize you."
"Have fun looking but you won't find any because I don't have any that you haven't already seen."
Mac stood in the hallway spinning her watch chain and trying to figure out what Truman was talking about. "What are you talking about and why are you in my refrigerator when you're the one with all the food?"
"You have beer and I don't cheap beer but more than what I've got." She dropped down onto Mac's couch and put her feet on the coffee table. "Now why are you running around with no pants on?never mind I don't think?I don't want to know."
Mac dropped down beside her with a beer and the ice mask on her face, she grinned when Truman choked on her beer. "Terry can't drive worth a damn and I spilt coffee in my lap, I spent all those hours watching a vacant house with her because she saw that women there that I was supposed to investigate."
"Yeah well while you were on stakeout, I not only saw all those involved with one of your cases but got it taped on top of it." She handed Mac the tape recorder and leaned back into the couch. "It didn't mean anything to me, I have to read the report you have on them."
Mac turned the tape recorder on and then looked to Truman with a wide grin. "That's the wife that was cheating on her cheating husband with a scumbag drug addict, now how did you know where they would be and where were they?"
"You're the PI you tell me?" She groaned when Mac just sat and stared at her as if she were insane. "Ohhh OK, Sally told me when they would be at the Ballroom. I would have told you but you were with Terry and you don't have a cell phone and I don't know Terry's number." She took a deep breath, played with her beer bottle and continued in a soft voice. "I went and hid in the dark at a table right next to them, good thing I'm plain and can blend into what ever I stand near."
"I felt the material that your jacket was made out of and that's nowhere near plain, that's the same stuff that my suits are made out of and I bet it was in a dark blue color?"
"Come on Mac I know you're not color blind and could see that it was a dark blue and it looks nothing like your zoot suits, so it was just a plain old suit." She drained the last of her beer and got up. "I'm going to bed."
"Ohhh can I come tuck you in?"
"Go to Hell sea monkey and if you crawl in bed with me again I'll break your legs."
"No you won't, you liked having me there." She wiggled her brows and winced from the pain in her face.
"You are so delusional, go to bed before I remember that I was given permission to kick your ass." She went from Mac's apartment and into her own; she had stopped closing her door at night because Mac was wearing the hinges out. Once she had brushed her teeth and washed her face, she went into her bedroom and crawled into bed. She hadn't minded the morning she had woke up and found Mac curled up with her, she just didn't want Mac to know that.
Continued In Part 2
The Athenaeum's Scroll Archive