It was good to be back on my own two paws again.
When my outfit was bought out by the weasels, I didn’t trust ’em. Little did the weasels know, the skunks they brought in would rat them out too. Come to think of it, we used to have actual rats, but they all took the life raft before I thought to jump ship.
So I got a good gig again. Joey’s still with me, and I still got a bunch of boys I used to hang with, who I can call for the occasional dirty work. Yeah, breaking stuff is still our business, including broken hearts. If you need some low life two timer spied on, we’ve got eyes in every tree, and a paw in every peanut can. Hey – there are some perks to this job.
I had to set up shop in a rented walnut. It wasn’t as handy as the old oak tree, but it was closer to the action we had going these days. Broken hearts pay ok, but we were into any other kind of broken thing, so long as the pistachios kept coming. Oh, you’d be surprised at how real estate listings show up for good tree space. So would the realtors. They have no idea, but when they put “Private!” in a listing, a bushy-tailed browser reads “Lots of trees!”.
Joey was out looking after some philandering goat farmer (we are kinda out in the country now), and Grace had the afternoon off to chase her police dog boyfriend (German shepherds can be somewhat cliqueish). I was alone in the walnut, browsing listings of fixer-upper poplars, when she came in.
I knew right away this one was trouble – for someone else, I hoped.
“I need to get rid of a man.”
“In a hurry,” she added.
Taking my cue to get out the Deluxe rate card, I asked her a dumb question, “Why?” It was dumb, because I’m not supposed to care, or even know, why. Our job is to paint the picture, not jury the art. But something about this one drew me in. Maybe it was the eyes, or the hair, or the grip she had on my throat. I’m not sure.
“Listen, shorty,” Big words, coming from her – she was petite… lithe, winsome, and… ok, she wasn’t tall. But then, I’m a squirrel. So I didn’t take offense. “Here’s the deal. He’s awesome. And we get along great. And he lives far enough away that he’s not in my hair every day. It’s perfect. So there it is.”
“I see,” I said only to stall. After a terribly pregnant pause in which her grip did not lighten up, I finally had to admit, “Ok, no, I don’t see it. What’s the problem?”
“Can’t you see?? He has to go. This just can’t go on.”
She let me down, or dropped me, somewhere around “go”. I quit the interrogation and got down to business. “Ok, who’s the mark?” She handed me a photo. And a Facebook profile printout. And a stack of decrypted emails. And a full sequence of chromosome Q17. I didn’t ask.
I’d seen that mug shot before, several times, at the old shop. This wasn’t the first broad who wanted rid of this exact same dupe. I padded over to the oldest rusty file cabinet in the shop, yanked open the creaky second drawer, and took out the first three fat folders.
“Look, lady, let me let you in on something. I wouldn’t normally tip my hand to a sucke… er, client, like yourself, but there’s things you need to know here. We’ve worked this mark before. And I got to tell you, he’s pretty resilient. I think he’d bounce back from having an Acme anvil dumped on his thick skull. You get my drift?”
“If money’s a problem… I’ve got fresh cashews from my garden.” She bit her lip pensively. I was sure it was an act. But I’m a fool for curvy goodness. And for cashews.
“Ok, we’ll do it, but I’m not sure how just yet. We did an email ‘other things in life are very important to me right now’ letter ten years back – that didn’t take at all. There was the full-on Dear John letter through MySpace, and he didn’t get the hint for months. Setting up the woman in the lap of another guy for him to walk in on did the trick, but only for a while. I tell you, this dumb schmuck is as loyal as the pecan is shelled. Are you really sure you need to be rid of him?”
“Listen bub,” I thought she would grab me again, but all she did is pull out a pistol, throw the files in the air, and bullseye each folder before it hit the floor. “This guy needs to disappear. I am a woman, and I have my goals. How am I going to make life appropriately difficult enough for me if I don’t find some random loser to drag me down every few months?”
I wasn’t about to argue. I took the case – on credit for once – and started checking off the form we had for ‘just friends’ letters. Grace would type it up in the morning. I ticked every box, skipping only the section on ‘I love my children very much’. It’s not like we thought the guy was some kind of monster.
I dropped the form in my out box and headed out to to eat. I was hungry, and I’d heard of a good Italian place.