Shucks, I shouldn't have held onto this for so long. Couldn't think of anything to write today, so please accept this offering from the late RBP.
Even though it was midmorning, I was in my lounge mode. I had just closed a good piece of business involving an errant heir. I grabbed him up before he could squander his sizable fortune on a slattern in Isle of Palms, SC.
So I plated up a couple of banana-nuts from the Pewter Pot, made myself a pot of Café Bustelo and settled down with the Globe crossword on my desk. Although an angry wind whined its way up Boylston Street, I was in a safe place.
Until a couple odder than Mr. Simon could have imagined strolled into the office.
The guy, I noticed first. He was definitely muscle: squat, swarthy and jittery. He wore an ill-fitting Anderson Little suit, solid navy, with a solid maroon tie. Was that a mustard stain on it? I disliked him instantly, which can be an asset when you're a private dick. I actually preferred the term Creative Investigator, as my card read. And I hated solid ties with solid suits. Just bad form.
He wore cop shoes.
Most of all, I eyed the bulge near his left armpit. You see, varsity muscle have their suits tailored to better conceal a piece. Plus, no beef worth his ribeye would wander around Boston with such a despairing, brow-furrowing visage.
She was a knockout.
Before I could take her all in, Beefy spoke.
"Spenser?" he said.
"Aha," I said, lowering my chair and sipping the joe. "It can read."
"What?" the duo said, in concert.
I said, "Well. That's the name on the door. And ma'am, I felt it politically correct not to assign a gender your, erm, escort."
Beefy was still afluster, so I let my eyes graze.
Tallish, maybe five-nine. Probably early fifties although looking much younger. Beautiful locks of burnished copper, in a seamless pageboy. Just a scoche of makeup. A brown skirt, sufficiently short enough to display two perfect pins encased in sheer hose. A nubby, price-intensive tweed sportjacket. Medium oxblood heels, supremely matching a leather purse. Coach, I thought. A demure scarf hid other assets.
But what hit me first was the Bronze Goddess. Which scent intoxicates me. Not that I am fluent in women's cosmetics. Said elixir was also worn by Susan Silverman, PhD, she of Cambridge and, occasionally, my bed. We have been off and on for almost two decades. Now, it was on. My nostrils faltered.
The dumbass jolted me from my reverie. "I doan like guys like youse." He stirred a bit.
I said, "I don't mind the opprobrium, but your grammar is horrific."
I saw him twitch again. As he said, "You tink you're a hard guy," his right arm went under his jacket. Before the dolt got the last word out, I was around my desk. Twinkletoes I am not, but years of boxing have left me somewhat adroit on my feet, if a tad scarred around the schnozz.
I grabbed the guy's right wrist and twisted it violently behind his back. I gripped his collar with my left and shoved him smartly into the door jamb. His head met metal with a crisp snap.
I said, "Don't think I'm a hard guy. Just am."
As he slumped to the floor, I turned to his companion. "Ma'am," I said, "if we're going to do any sort of business, I'll need Rufus Leaking here to leave the premises."
She looked horrified, face flushed. She said, "I abhor violence. But you are correct. That is not his name. Wayne, you may leave. Add your carfare to my bill. You have proven useless."
I said, "Seems." I resumed my seat as Wayne, wheezing loudly, managed to pick himself up and head for the hall.
I closed the office door and locked it. I eyed the right-hand desk drawer where my .357 lay in wait. Wouldn't need it, I figured.
The woman said, "Wayne used to work for my husband, Trent Tetherton. I thought I might need him today. It appears not..." She paused and drew herself together.
"I am Trent's ex-wife, Blanche. Mr. uh, Spenser."
"As in the zillionaire-I-make-golf-clubs-for-the-stars Trent Tetherton?"
"Spenser is fine. I am titleless. But there certainly is no need to bring, er, a physical minion along when you wish to hire a Creative Investigator. I assure you. I actually serve at your pleasure. How can I be of assistance? Coffee?"
She shook her head. I'd have to guess.
"Martial infidelity? Money worries? Blackmail? Threats? Business treachery?" I was beginning to run out of reasons for my employ.
She shook her head again. I searched mine. I said, "A missing person?"
She nodded vigorously. The scarf fell away a bit. And the view was gratifying.
I said, "And do you wish me to find someone? Or bring someone to justice?"
"Both. It's my daughter, Jonquil. She's been abducted."
"I have never met a human named Jonquil. Do have a son named Forsythia?"
"You know, Mr., ah, Spenser, you can be quite annoying."
"Thank you, Mrs. Tetherton, I was hoping you'd notice. It's a trait I've been honing for years. Comes with the job. Now tell about this abduction."
"Well, Jonquil is an only child. My pride and joy. She's all I have left, after I evicted my cheating husband. She's a senior at Cranmore, majoring in ceramics."
I stirred my tepid coffee. "And I'll bet you took old Trent down for more than a few drachmas. Bronze Goddess doesn't come cheap." Neither did Cranmore, a school for young ladies of a certain pedigree who had no discernible talent or intellect.
My visitor reddened again. "You are also rude, sir."
"It complements the annoying part. Now details." I beamed, which seemed to mollify her.
"It began at last year's Spring Jubilee at the college. Jonnie met a musician there. A drummer." She spat the two occupations out as if they were vile curses.
"Now it appears as though she's run off with him."
"How old is 'Jonnie'?"
"She's twenty-two. She spent some time in Basel after her sophomore year."
Of course, Basel. I raised my palms, as if in surrender. I said, "I have to tell you, Mrs. Tetherton, there may be no crime here."
"WHAT!" The word was a projectile. I wondered when someone last contradicted her, The Carter administration?
I added, "She's an adult, in everyone's eyes. Unless someone forced her, she has the right to 'run off' with anyone she darn well pleases, to be frank. Maybe she eloped."
I thought Blanche Tetherton was going to swoon. I do this to women from time to time.
"And who might this 'musician' be?"
I brushed some cobwebs aside. Yep, the guy who used to play here with Orchestra Luna. A pretty good drummer. Maybe a tad craggy in the face. I heard he had hit the big time in L. A.
I said, "What I can do, ma'am, is find your daughter. Maybe even bring her back to you, if that's what she wants."
"Will this be in the papers? I hope not." I noticed that she had rearranged her scarf over her chest. Drat.
"No need for that unless there's been a crime. One more question. Would there be, say, an honorarium for the drummer if he cuts ties with her?"
"My financial situation is quite entrenched, Spenser. I can buy just about anything I please. Here's a picture of Jonnie."
She didn't blink when I mentioned my up-front fee. Finding an itinerant musician might be expense-laden.
She produced a checkbook. Its cover matched her footgear and bag. I began to like her. As we stood up, the scent of the leather and the Bronze Goddess mingled in heavenly fashion. We stood a foot or so apart. Her eyes moistened. I thought she might hug me. Didn't.
I said, "One more thing."
"There isn't a hard guy anywhere on this planet named Wayne."
Her thin lips parted, revealing an incandescent smile. Then she was gone.
I didn't sit long. I had work to do.