It had been raining for so long that the noise was as easy to ignore as static on the radio. The view from my office window was as grey as one of those newfangled tele-vision screens. Even the mug of coffee on my desk looked like the oil tray for some machine that only mechanics care about.
I’d thought about sitting back and reading the paper, but I wanted to look professional in case a client walked through the door. Not to mention that I’d read it so often this morning that I could tell you exactly which pages the four murders, three scandals and six stabbings were on. Even the spittle-flecked editorial railing against the corrupting influence of crime comics had stopped being amusingly ironic.
If Marla wasn’t out for lunch, she’d probably tell me that this was the perfect time to organise my case files. But, I’d already thought about that. The problem was that I’d had this annoying habit of getting a run of cases from people called Bentley, Bertelli, Billingham, Brockley, Breen and so forth. Most of my recent cases had been affairs, accidents, arson, assault or alimony too. Whichever way I organised the files, my rickety old filing cabinet would still become dangerously top-heavy.
My eyes drifted over to my typewriter. There had been some interview in the paper about an insurance clerk who wrote a swashbuckling nautical romance on his office typewriter during the off-hours. My guess was that the interview had been insurance against his boss finding out about it. Not only did it read like a sly advert for the company, but who wants the bad publicity of firing a genius?
I took a sip of coffee. It tasted like coffee. Lukewarm coffee at that.
Sighing, I reached for the paper again. But, before I knew what was happening, I’d already scrunched it up and thrown it at the ashcan in the corner. It missed. Even a crime comic or a swashbuckling nautical romance seemed like more exciting reading material right now. But, I couldn’t exactly leave them lying around my office. People tend to frown on that kind of thing.
I stared up at the clock. It was still twenty five to two. There was a good chance that the cheap gears inside it had seized up. I didn’t feel like taking it apart to find out.
Then, just as I was thinking of sneaking off and catching a matinee, I heard footsteps. Running a hand through my hair, I sat back and put a smile on my face. First impressions matter. Not to mention that, for once, I was actually happy about being interrupted by a client. Had it really come to this?
A few seconds later, a hazy silhouette appeared in the door window. I’d been meaning to get one of those frosted glass windows like you see in the movies, but it turned out that not cleaning an ordinary window does pretty much the same thing at a fraction of the cost. Ingenuity.
Finally, there was a sharp knock. I smiled and said: ‘Come in.‘
Marla stepped through the door with a huge grin on her face. ‘I was on the way back from the diner when I happened to meet the people who’ve just hired the room next to ours. Get this, they’re an up-and-coming swing band! Isn’t it exciting?‘
As the first out-of-tune trumpet blasts pierced the walls, I let out a sigh and said: ‘Great. Just great.‘