Making the Rent the Hard Way
What do you do when you're a small-time PI and need to make the rent? If you're me, Cade Warner, you take a case that looks simple enough--then turns out to be anything but.
I was hired to find a missing shifter by the name of Luca Montana. Mr Farnham, the shifter who hired me, says Luca's his friend and he's worried about him. He had reason to be worried. Luca's not his friend, and he's found out something that could ruin my client's plans to have shifters take over the city.
Finding Luca wasn't all that hard. Saving him--and the city--from Farnham's machinations could turn out to be deadly. Then there's the problem of Luca himself and my growing attraction to him.
Yeah, making the rent definitely has its ups and downs.
Ever have one of those days when you wonder why you even bother to get out of bed in the morning? If you have, you know where I'm coming from.
To start with, Carol--my girl Friday, as I affectionately thought of her--up and quit on me. She called this morning--Wednesday, to be exact--just as I was fixing breakfast, to say she'd been going crazy with nothing to do, so she'd gone looking for another job and found one.
Things had been slow and that's the truth. I think maybe it's because people are looking for detectives like the ones they see on TV--tall, dark, and handsome. Sexy. They want to walk into a fancy office suite and see a buxom woman at the front desk, then be taken into an office that looks like something out of an architectural magazine to talk to a suave dude who reminds them of James Bond or Remington Steele. I wouldn't mind if my agency was like that. Hell, I wouldn't mind if I was sexy. It might help. But I'm just your average Joe, running a now one-person business.
So anyway, there I was, wondering where I'd find another gal willing to work for cheap as my secretary slash receptionist. Probably nowhere, but I had to at least make a stab at looking.
As soon as I got to my office, I called to put a Help Wanted ad in the local papers. Then, being at very loose ends at the moment, I sat down at my computer to check the state of my finances. I knew they were bad, but when I saw exactly how bad... Maybe I could have dealt with it if the first of the month wasn't coming up, which meant I had to pay rent. A fast bit of math told me that it was the rent or eating and, like most people, I do like at least one meal a day. That was looking very iffy right now if I wanted to keep my agency alive.
I had two cases I was working on. One was the sleazy "is my husband playing around?" type, which I hate, but it does bring in the pennies. The other one was setting up security cameras for a new client so he could stop shoplifters in his mom-and-pop grocery store. I'd spent several nights on the first one. Said husband probably was cheating on his wife--I would, if I were him--but not with his business partner like the wife suspected. So far I hadn't been able to get any photos of him with anyone else in compromising positions. He and the business partner had gone to a local bar after work one evening, but he'd gone home right after that. Setting up the security for the shopkeeper would happen this afternoon.
Disgusted, as I did the math again and came up with the same answer, I wondered, not for the first time, if I was in the wrong business. When I'd started out two years ago I had dreams of being another Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe--or Sherlock Holmes, as if. That was not happening.
I leaned back, staring up at the ceiling of my tiny office, when I heard the door from the hallway open. I spun around, got to my feet, and went to see who was there.
A huge man was framed in the doorway as he looked around. When I say huge, he made Dwayne Johnson look like a ninety-pound weakling. I was about to greet him when he turned to say to someone, "It's safe, boss," then stepped into the waiting room.
A moment later a well-dressed dude about my age--meaning in his early thirties--came into view. He had black hair, a small mustache, and dark brown eyes under thick eyebrows. Even though I'm human, I knew he wasn't. I can sense shifters a mile off if I can see them. It was a good talent to have--and, as far as I know, a unique one for a human.
"Mr Warner?" the man asked. When I admitted I was, he said, "A pleasure to meet you."
That set off my radar. No one starts a conversation with a small-time PI by saying that. At least, no one I've ever run into.
"And you are?" I asked him.
"Richard Farnham." He looked around then gestured to my office. "If you don't mind."
"That's fine. I'm not sure your bruiser will fit in there with the two of us. It's pretty small."
Farnham chuckled. "He'll stay where he is."
I nodded, taking Farnham into my office. When we were seated--me at my desk, him in the only other chair--he said, "I want to hire you to find someone, Mr Warner."
"Please call me Cade." He nodded, so I asked, "Is he, or she, human or otherwise?"
He smiled. "I've heard you have the ability to know who's who or who's what."
"I do. I know you're a shifter. Gray wolf?" He nodded. I smiled wryly. "Not that my ability had done me much good except as a party trick, but that's neither here nor there. Who did you lose?"
"A...friend of mine by the name of Luca Montana," Farnham said. I wasn't happy about the slight hesitation before he said "friend", but I kept my thoughts to myself for the time being.