Your Good Offices

You set up shop, get your name painted on the door with ‘Adventurer’ written under it in flourishing capitals. You don’t have any training or even a business license, but then you’re not really selling anything or performing any services. You’re not even advertising. You’re just dreaming. Each day after work you ride the cross-town bus to your office and sit at the battered desk and watch night creep up on the city. You’ve never noticed how beautiful your city is, or how strange; even the drunks wandering around your building after dark scream poetry at each other, wave their fingers and cast spells in unknown tongues.

One night near the end of your lease a man walks in, a short bit of nothing, takes his hat off and asks if he can ask you a question. You don’t know who he is, don’t know how he could have heard of you, but you ask him to sit down, offer him a drink of whiskey in a crumpled Dixie cup. He holds it in his fingers like he doesn’t know what to do with it. He doesn’t drink it, just looks at it. You let him sit there in silence while the day dies and the city stirs to life, smiling a little bit to yourself. He starts talking suddenly, tells you a long and involved story that might or might not be true, about a car accident he saw that left a woman dying on the street but didn’t get reported in any of the papers. He called the hospital, the morgue, the police, and none of them have heard anything. You humor him, jolly him along, and don’t take any of it seriously until he describes the woman he saw die, a washed out young thing with hair the nothing color of ditchwater. Suddenly you’re all ears, you’re panting excited, ready for action, but that’s as far as he can go. He saw her die, saw the ambulance take her away, but that’s it. He’s worried that it was a mafia thing, that a fat Italian is going to show up at his place one day and take him for a drive in the country, or a drug deal gone wrong, or the untidy removal of a government spook, in short he’s paranoid, jumpy, and uncertain. You don’t believe any of it – he’s too perfectly twitchy – you think he’s an agent of the Two Girls, but it’s the best lead you’ve had.