Art by Ron Chironna
by Elaine Viets
“She cleaned me out. She took everything—even my towels.” Will Drickens’s nasal whine echoed off the marble floor in his Fort Lauderdale beach house.
The thirty-something hedge-funder pleaded for help with sad, puppy-dog eyes—at least, he tried to look sad. Private eye Helen Hawthorne saw a hound with skin tanned and oiled like a Coach bag. Will wore enough flashy designer labels to stock a mall. Phil Sagemont, Helen’s husband and partner, had trouble hiding his contempt for their new client.
When the trio made their introductions in the empty foyer, Will had slyly checked out Helen’s long legs and curves. She was glad they were safely upholstered in a sleek black Armani pantsuit. Phil, dressed in Florida formal—tan pants, navy polo, and boat shoes—got a dismissive glance from Drickens. Helen saw her husband’s eyes drift to Will’s bald spot. She knew Phil was proud of his thick, silvery hair, which he wore in a ponytail.
The two forty-something private eyes followed their unhappy client into his bare living room, painted a fashionable gray. “Look at this room! Not a thing in it.” Will’s reedy voice bounced off the hurricane windows and marble floors.
Big as a hotel ballroom, the living room had a dazzling view of the white sand beach and azure water.
“We get the point,” Phil said. “You could have just told us.” Helen gave her husband a quick nudge. Coronado Investigations needed the business.
Will’s whine drilled through the soothing sounds of the surf. “But it has more impact if you see it. My entire art gallery is gone! Look!”
They followed him down an interior hallway lined with hooks.
“What kind of art did you have?” Helen asked.
“The best. Six LeRoy Neimans. My favorite was Playboy—that’s a Playboy bunny. I also had Sinatra, Elvis, Four Jockeys, Surfer, and Sailboat. Great investments: Neiman’s dead, so he’s not making any more.”
He opened the door to a chamber big enough to stage a Broadway musical. “She stole my Vividus bed.”
“Your what?” Phil said.
“It’s probably the most expensive bed in the world,” Helen said. “It’s made from things like cashmere, silk, and lamb’s wool.”
“Sixty thousand bucks,” Will said. “Worth every penny.”
“I’d like to see that,” Phil said.
“So would I,” Will said, trying—and failing—to sound wistful. “I’m staying at the Ritz until my new furniture is delivered, and the bed isn’t the same. It’s been eight months now. The police aren’t taking me seriously. They took a report and fingerprinted my house—you can see the print powder everywhere—but I heard them snickering at me.”
“I can imagine,” Phil said.
Helen glared at him, but their clueless client had no idea Phil was subtly mocking him.
“Find any prints?” Helen asked.
Art by Kelly Denato
by Robert Lopresti
“Petey! Wake up! It snowed.”
Peter Saverlet wanted to turn over and go back to sleep. He had nowhere to go, so who cared about the weather? He wasn’t a schoolkid looking forward to a day off. That was the worst part of being unemployed, you never got a day off. Someday he’d—
He sat up, eyes wide. Maybe someday was today.
He ran into the main room of the mobile home. His brother Paul was looking out the window, skinny frame bouncing with excitement.
“Look at it, Petey! Isn’t it beautiful?”
Peter grinned. “It sure is.” The fresh white stuff had covered all the beer cans and old tires in their yard. It had to be a foot deep. “What time is it?”
“Seven in the a.m. I woke up to take a leak and saw what it was doing, so I woke ya right away. Is this the day, Petey?”
The big brother nodded judiciously. “I think so, Pauly. Get dressed. We’re gonna get rich.”
“What the hell is wrong with kids today?” asked Sonny Fonk.
David didn’t answer. He knew what a rhetorical question was, even though Sonny probably didn’t.
“When I was a kid—” Sonny jammed the old truck into gear. It would need a new transmission soon. “We were thrilled when school was closed. Now, all you do is whine, whine, whine. You oughta be out playing in the snow.”
David thought about pointing out that he couldn’t play in the snow because his mother’s boyfriend—“Uncle Sonny,” he was supposed to call him, which was stupid enough to be appropriate—had corralled him to help plow driveways.
That was the sort of work Sonny liked. Occasional, haphazard, and, since he didn’t have a business license, slightly illegal.
“I was supposed to have an algebra test today,” David said.
“Typical! You’re all brokenhearted ’cause of that? What kind of kid wants to take a test? And in math yet!” Sonny shook his crew cut in
“I studied for hours last night. Now I’ll have to do it all over again.”
“You don’t have to do it at all. What the hell did algebra ever do for anybody? I didn’t take it and look at me.” He strained again to get the protesting stick shift into gear. “Damned snow.”
“We could move faster,” David said, “if you would plow the road in front of us.”
“Nobody’s paying me to do that. I’m not gonna wear out my plow on a public road. That’s what I pay my taxes for.”
As far as David knew, Sonny never paid any such thing, except for the unavoidable sales tax, but saying so would not improve things. He also didn’t mention that the reason he wanted to do well in math was to get into a good college, as far away from Sonny and his love-blind mother as possible.