“Boy, I could use some more coffee. Did anyone make a pot?” I ask as I drum my fingers on top of my desk, waiting for my Mac to come to life.
Neither of them answer me and I can see them looking at me out of the corner of my eye. Just act natural. Nothing to see here, folks.
“I’m in the mood to go shopping. Maybe buy some new shoes!” I exclaim.
Shit! I hate shopping. What the hell am I saying?
“Ha ha, just kidding! Shopping is dumb. We should sign up for a cooking class. Wouldn’t that be great?!”
What? NO! STOP TALKING!
“So no one made any coffee? I think I’ll make a pot. Who wants a cup?” I ask in a rush as I get up from my desk and make a beeline for the kitchenette in the back of the office.
Paige intercepts me halfway, her eyes narrowing as she looks me over from head to toe.
“Oh my God! Why do you have leaves in your hair? Sweet Jesus. Lorelei, get Sven on the phone, I can see Kennedy’s roots.”
Son of a bitch.
I don’t have time to sit in a chair for four hours and listen to Sven tell me about his Yorkshire terrier, Mrs. Justin Bieber, and her bowel movements. That dog is as dumb as her namesake. She walks in circles until she gets so dizzy that she falls down. Like those fainting goats on YouTube. Her legs go all stiff and then she just falls to her side and Sven leaves me in my chair with enough foils on my head to communicate with Mars to go running up to her in a screaming panic telling people to call 911. Then the dumbass dog immediately jumps up and starts the process all over again. Mrs. Justin Bieber is an asshole.
“Sorry, I have to be in court in twenty minutes,” Lorelei states, getting up from her own desk and walking toward me. “What happened?”
I do my own shrugging in response and continue with the act that this is just a regular day at the office. A regular day of being shot at and snuggling in the grass with a guy who makes my blood boil.
“Hey, I need you to pull up whatever information you can find on McFadden. My dad didn’t have time to get everything.” Time to change the subject.
“I figured as much. Here you go,” she tells me, handing me a file filled with papers. “Now, back to the issue at hand. Or should I say, tree bark in hair. What happened?”
Taking the file from her hand, I make a production of flipping through the pages, oohing and ahhing at what I see as she stands there tapping her high-heeled foot on the floor.
“Thanks, Lo. Speaking of the bail jumper, how about we switch cases? I think it’s about time you got your feet wet out in the field,” I tell her as Paige begins pulling leaves and grass out of my hair, mumbling to herself about wasted beauty.
Lorelei snorts, shaking her head. “Nice try. I’m pretty sure we have a rule somewhere in our mission statement about how each individual assigned to a case will see the entire thing through, right, Paige?”
Paige nods her head absently as she gives me a reassuring pat on the back before noticing another grass stain by my hip.
“Thou shalt not covet thy friend’s cases. Why do you want to trade?”
I smack Paige’s hands away from my hip and shoot her a dirty look.
“Really? The Ten Commandments are in our mission statement?” I ask irritably.
“Why are you changing the subject?” Lorelei demands.
Because I cannot work with Griffin.
“Because this is going to be a pretty boring, easy case. Perfect for one of you to handle to get some experience behind you,” I lie.
“A boring, easy case doesn’t usually involve coming back to the office looking like roadkill,” Paige says.
“Gee, thank you so much,” I tell her sarcastically.
“Fresh roadkill, but roadkill nonetheless,” she replies with a shrug. “Spill it.”
I can question insurgents in the middle of war-torn Afghanistan, but I am no match for these two. It only takes a few seconds of their stare-down before I cave.
“I WAS SHOT AT! I saw my life flash before me!”
Lorelei rolls her eyes at me. “You love being shot at—it gives you a cheap thrill. Try again.”
“FINE! Griffin Crawford showed up at McFadden’s house. On a HARLEY. And dove on top of me to protect me when McFadden started shooting. And my father hired him to work on this case. Can you believe that? My own father is a traitor.”
Paige lets out a low whistle under her breath. “A Harley? Oh, man. You’re screwed.”
“She speaks the truth,” Lorelei adds as she grabs her leather briefcase and Coach purse and moves toward the door. “You’ve watched every season of Sons of Anarchy thirty-seven times and instead of porn hidden under your mattress, you have American Iron and Harley-Davidson’s HOG magazines. You’re definitely screwed.”
Lorelei blows us a kiss as she exits the office to get to court and I turn to face Paige with a sigh.
“So, what kind of bike does he have?” she asks.
“Oh my God, it’s a Heritage Softail Classic with a Twin Cam engine, laced wheels with whitewalls, and studded leather. It’s beautiful,” I tell her as I close my eyes and picture the bike in my head. The bike with me on the back of it, my body draped around Griffin, and my arms clutching his waist.
“What the hell am I supposed to do? I can’t work with Griffin,” I complain.
“You’re right. You’re absolutely right. There is no way you can work with that man under these conditions. It’s a tragedy and I am going to do something about it.” Paige grabs her cell phone from her desk and starts scrolling through her contacts.
What would I do without my friends? Seriously? I knew Paige wouldn’t let me down. I know my father gave me this case and transferring it to another firm is going to piss him off, but he’ll just have to deal with it. Paige understands what a bad idea it would be for me to be anywhere near Griffin, Harley or no Harley. I don’t trust him. I can’t work with someone I don’t trust. Especially when he’s a cocky smartass with too many muscles. And a Harley. A fucking Harley.
“Hello, darling, it’s Paige,” she says into her phone. “I need your help. It’s an emergency.”
I can always count on my friends. This makes me feel warm and fuzzy to know she’s got my back.
“No, not for me, for Kennedy,” she continues, before turning to face me and staring me up and down before shaking her head sadly at me.
What the hell is she doing? She doesn’t need to look at me like that just to call another PI firm a few towns over for some additional help.
“Yes, I think it has to be today. She can’t go on like this anymore,” Paige adds. “Perfect! You are a lifesaver. Kiss, kiss. We’ll see you in twenty.”
Paige hangs up the phone and walks around her desk to retrieve her purse from one of the drawers.
“Why do we need to go see the guys at Osborne Investigations? Can’t they just send someone over so I can fill them in on the case?”
Paige pulls her keys out of her purse and walks back over to me, linking her arm through mine and pulling me toward the door.
“What are you talking about? I didn’t call Osborne. I called Sven. Your roots are atrocious. There’s no way I’m letting you anywhere near Griffin Crawford again with hair like that.”
She clutches my arm with both hands when she feels me start to resist, I don’t even bother hiding my contempt by calling her every bad name I can think of from A to Z, starting with asshat and ending with…
GD zoo animal cray-cray.
Get away from me, you little rat,” I whisper to Mrs. Justin Bieber as she sniffs the toe of my boot and then walks away in an angry huff.
I glare at Paige as she happily chats up Sven a few feet away, hoping she’ll feel my stare of death and get me the hell out of here. I don’t have time for this. I have a bail jumper to catch and a Harley man to get rid of.
I reach my fingers up to the neckband of the black plastic cape and tug on it, trying to relieve some of the choking sensation. My head itches like crazy so I use one of my fingernails to dig in between the foils.
“Don’t touch anysing. Vhat is vrong viff you. You mess up my masterpiece,” Sven scolds as he walks over to me, smacks my hand away, and lifts up some of the foils on my head to check them.
I know for a fact Sven’s name is really Steve and he was born and raised in Jersey. Every time he speaks I want to borrow a page out of my dad’s handbook, smack him upside the head, and ask him what the hell is wrong with him.
“Can you please remoof da gun? It making me so nervous. You shoot Sven on accident,” he tells me with a nervous shiver as he stares down at my gun in its holster at my hip.
“How much longer is this going to take? I have work to do,” I complain as I unclip my gun and holster and set it on the tray of unused foils next to me.
“Beauty takes time, Kennedy. Be a good girl and maybe I’ll take you out for ice cream when we’re finished,” Paige says with a smile.
Is it illegal for me to pull my gun in the middle of a salon? I need to check the rules of my CCW permit.
“Here, why don’t you read through McFadden’s file while you’re sitting there so patient and well behaved.” Paige picks up the folder on the floor by my feet and drops it into my lap.
While Sven walks over to the front desk and Paige flips through a magazine next to me, I watch as Mrs. Justin Bieber whizzes on the floor in the middle of the room. Rolling my eyes, I suck it up and try to get some work done while I’m slowly tortured to death with foil and hair color.
Flipping through the pages of the life and times of Martin McFadden, I almost can’t believe what I’m seeing. This guy is nuts. According to what Lorelei found in his court records, he’s been to jail twenty-two times for making erroneous phone calls to the police. Phone calls about tiny little green men from Mars that were trying to break into his house and eat his brain. Two years ago he was arrested outside of a costume shop at Halloween, screaming at anyone who would listen that if they bought alien costumes, it would anger the little men and they would kill us all. Six months ago he petitioned for a patent for his “Alien Safety Helmet,” a pile of tinfoil that he believes should be mandatory for all citizens to wear to protect them from their thoughts being stolen in the middle of the night. He even wrote a book called They’re Reading Our Minds, Watching Us Sleep.
Sweet Jesus. This is the guy I have to track down?
As I continue reading, I hear the bell as the door opens and someone asks if they handle dog grooming. As I continue to read and try to ignore the conversation going on by the reception desk, I hear a word that makes me whip my head up and my eyes bug out of my head: Tinkerdoodle.
My eyes meet McFadden’s across the room as he cradles a trembling brown Chihuahua in his arms. I didn’t get a very good look at him when he sped off in his Honda, but I have one of his mug shots and it’s definitely my guy. If he hadn’t already shot at me, I’d say he looks harmless. Almost like a professor of literature with his dark brown corduroy pants, blue button-down shirt, and light brown, cable-knit sweater, his brown hair graying at the temples.
Even with all the foil on top of my head and the cape draped around me, he recognizes me immediately and lets out an ear-piercing shriek before turning and running for the door.
“SON OF A BITCH!” I shout as I scramble to get out of the chair. My feet immediately get caught in the yards of plastic cape and I land in a cursing heap on the floor.
“PAIGE, STOP HIM!” I shout to my friend as she immediately bursts into action and easily leaps over Mrs. Justin Bieber in her four-inch Manolo Blahniks and runs toward the door. McFadden shoves Sven out of the way and into a shelf of hair products and everything comes crashing to the ground, Sven included.
Even though he’s lying in a pile of shampoo and conditioner, Sven reaches out with one arm and grabs McFadden’s pant leg to try and keep him in place while Paige makes her way closer by kicking hair products out of her way with her heels.
Pushing myself up off the floor, I race across the room as McFadden continues to go for the door, dragging Sven across the floor on his belly behind him while Mrs. Justin Bieber begins yapping and racing around in circles. I watch Paige easily jumping through the maze of fallen bottles and almost grab him when her heel punctures a shampoo bottle and she stops to try and kick it loose. With Paige distracted, McFadden sees me coming for him and starts grabbing anything he can find and pitching it at us one-handed as he heads for the door. Aerosol tins of hairspray fly past my head and Paige takes a gallon jug of conditioner to the shoulder before Sven finally loses his hold on McFadden’s pant leg.
“MAN DOWN! MAN DOWN!” Sven screams hysterically as Paige and I jump over his body and fly out of the door right behind McFadden, poor Tinkerdoodle shaking in fear in his arms as he runs.
When we get out onto the sidewalk, I quickly scan every direction until I spot him sprinting full speed to his Honda parked along the curb a block away. I take off at a dead run, my black cape flying behind me like I’m a superhero and I hear Paige’s heels smacking against the cement as she races behind me.
“STOP! MCFADDEN!” I scream as I race down the sidewalk and watch him jump into his vehicle and start it up.
He peels out of his parking spot and does a U-turn in the middle of the street, pulling his car right up to Paige and me as we stand there trying to catch our breath.
“You’re wearing my Alien Safety Helmet!” he exclaims through his open window as he stares in awe at the foil on my head. “You believe! I feel like under different circumstances, we could really be friends.”