I woke up feeling like I'd been on the losing end of a battle with Godzilla. On top of that, I had a vague hangover, undoubtedly due to the two Scotches I'd downed before passing out. Great sleep aid when someone's made a punching bag out of you.
I made it to the bathroom and showered before checking out the damage in the mirror. One fat lip. Check. Lovely skin tones on my face and gut. Check. Sore shoulders and ribs. Check. But I was alive and that's what counted.
Now all I had to do was make certain I stayed that way. That meant figuring out just what Mr Caiazzo thought someone had given me that he wanted back. Doing so required my getting dressed and going to work.
An hour later, wearing jeans and a decent shirt, I walked into the waiting area of my palatial—yeah I'm being sarcastic—two-and-a-half room office suite. Chelsea, my secretary/receptionist and all around factotum—in other words my aforementioned girl-Friday—took one look at me and asked, "What meat grinder did you run into? You look like hell." Yeah, lots of sympathy there.
I told her what happened, garnering a "How often do you have to be told to stay out of dark alleys?" Then, with a bit more concern she asked, "How bad do you feel? I've got a bottle of ibuprofen."
"Been there, done that, only with aspirin. Coffee would be good though."
"Brewed and ready. Go sit down and I'll bring you a cup."
Another reason I like her. She didn't just point to the coffeemaker, expecting me to get it myself. Well, this time anyway.
I settled down in my nice, padded desk chair with no small bit relief. Yeah, I felt better than I had when I woke up, but there's better and there's 'I'm ready to take on the world'. I was just better. When Chelsea brought my coffee, putting it down on the edge of the large, antique oak desk, I thanked her. Then she handed me some phone messages, for which I—reluctantly—thanked her again.
"Not to worry, Walt, there's nothing earth-shattering in them. A couple of people interested in hiring you, and Mr Carmichael wanting to know when he'll get his report," she told me before going back to the waiting area.
Carmichael was the man whose building I'd been staking out before my unfortunate encounter with the goons. So I figured I'd better let him know that, so far, I had no new information for him. Just as I was about to pick up the phone to do so, Chelsea called out, "Ricky's on line one."
"Morning, lover," Ricky said the moment I answered.
Okay, before your eyebrows hit the ceiling, yeah, we're lovers. Have been for the past several years. Just because I'm a rough, tough PI doesn't mean I have to follow all the stereotypes. I never spent my time hitting up nubile young women in bars after I'd finished work for the day. And the same goes for nubile young men—presuming you can use that word in relation to the males of the species.
I met Ricky Hayes when he hired me to help prove he was not the one embezzling funds from the firm where he worked as an accountant. We put our heads together, came up with a plan and found the real crook. In the process we discovered we had more in common than just keeping him out of prison. Now he's my accountant—on a very personal level.
"Morning, babe," I replied, smiling. Even on the worst of days, all it took was talking to him to make things better. Sappy? Yeah. True. You better believe it.
"Missed you last night," he told me. "How did the stake-out go? Boring as usual?"