Friday, February 12, 2010

strong coffee

for previous episode, click here

to begin at the beginning click here





faye denner was the toughest and most expensive private detective west of the mississippi and she didn't like to be kept waiting. not even by senator vanderfield, in front of a cozy fireplace in the senator's front parlor.
she had been sitting by herself for a half hour after the scheduled time of her meeting.
"bring me a clean ashtray - please," she addresed the butler when he appeared. "certainly , madam. will there be anything else?"

"i'd like a drink.'
'of course. we have lemonade, tea, coffee -"

"a drink."
"this is a dry county, madam. the dryest."
"oh excuse me, i forgot i wasn't in east st louis."



the butler smiled. "not exactly. but if you would like some coffee, i could make it very strong - add a little extra body to it."
'that would be nice. i'm partial to a strong body. if you don't mind my asking, - what did you say your name was?"
"i didn't, madam."
"then what is your name, big boy?"
"i don't care to be addressed as big boy, madam."
"is that a fact? and what exactly would you care to be addressed as?"



"as little fellow."
"i see. well, run along little fellow, and bring mama some of that strong coffee. and that clean ashtray. i mean, we do want to keep it clean, don't we?"
"indeed, madam."



"by the way, why am i being kept waiting? did i hear some kind of commotion outside? can't you keep the peasants in line around here?"
"there is a bit of a disturbance in the orchard, madam. a devil girl is caught in the branches of one of the best pear trees."






"one devil girl? that's a problem?"
"we - the staff - are working on it."
"i think i'll take a look. where is this orchard anyway?"



"shoot her down! just get a shotgun and shoot her down!" mrs white, the cook was waving her big spoon at quiqui, the littlest of the girls, who was hanging upside down from a pear tree with her foot entangled in the stem of a large pear.
"that would be kind of hard to do, mother, without damaging the pears, or even the tree itself." mr green the gardener, and his assistant plum tucker, were poking at the branches with long hoes, but couldn't quite reach the squirming quiqui.



"what are you rubes doing?" faye asked. "can't any of you country folk climb a tree?"'



"we could, miss," plum tucker told her. "but we'd rather not touch the spawn of lucifer if we can avoid it."
'"is that you, faye?" quiqui called. "faye denner? get me down out of here!"



faye moved closer. "get you down? but what are you going to do for me, honey? you know me, i don't do anything for nothing."
"anything! just get me down. i'll do anything you want!"
faye laughed. "anything! that covers a lot of territory, doesn't it?" she looked at mrs white and mr green, but they didn't laugh or smile back.
"just get me down, please, faye. we can finalize the exact terms of my gratitude after i'm down.





"all right. i'll climb the tree myself if somebody will give me a leg up." she looked at the three servants, but they all backed away, mrs white with her nose in the air, and the two men fearfully.
faye started to say something but stopped when she saw the butler approaching down the orchard path.



"what is this character's name?" she asked plum tucker.
"why, miss, that's mr littlefellow, the butler, who did you think it was?"
"of course, of course. over here, mr littlefellow, over here," faye called to him.
the butler looked up at quiqui as he approached. faye grabbed his arm and scandalized poor mrs white by rubbing up against him.



"how about a leg up here, mister littlefellow we'll get my little friend down in two shakes of - of whatever shakes twice, hey."
littlefellow blushed slightly and took faye's hand off his arm. "let me try something first, madam. your hoe, please, mr green."
the gardener handed the butler the hoe.



"wait!" faye grabbed the butler's arm again. "quiqui, if he gets you down, you still owe me. my intentions were good and duly stated."
"i don't care about that, just get me down!"
"say you owe me, quiqui!"
"i owe you!"
"all right. go ahead," faye told littlefellow. he reversed the hoe in his hand and hurled it like a javelin at quiqui, who screamed as the shaft and then the blade sailed over her head.






but the blade nicked the branch or the stem just enough to free her and she fell to the ground, where she lay on her back shouting.
"he could have cut my head off!"
"well done, sir, well done," mr green looked admiringly at the butler.
"more than a bit of luck, i'm afraid," littlefellow replied.
faye grabbed quiqui's hand and hauled her to her feet. mrs white had fled, and mr green and plum tucker followed her, after a nervous smile at faye.



quiqui shook her fist at littlefellow. "what did you think you were doing, you imbecile! what are you, in league with hoover?"
faye's eyebrows shot up. "hoover, eh?"
"yes, hoover. and his pal dillinger, too. they have a lot to answer for!"



"interesting." faye bent down and put her arm around quiqui's shoulder. "but no need to talk about these matters in front if this fellow, is there?" she whispered. "after all, he is the butler."



"let's get out of here," quiqui answered.
faye straightened up. "i have business here. and you belong to me now, so you'll have to stick around."
"belong to you!"
"don't argue. we'll be out of here soon enough." faye turned to the butler. "come on, mr littlefellow, let's go back and get that strong coffee. and bring some for my colleague here."



littlefellow looked at quiquii. "isn't she a child?"
"she's a demon! bring her some extra strong coffee." faye looked down at quiqui. "you do want some coffee, don't you?"
"yes. and some food!"
"i'll see what i can do." littlefellow turned to go back to the house, and faye and quiqui followed him.
"to return to our conversation, before we were so excitingly interrupted," faye said to littlefellow as they went up the path, "why is the senator keeping me waiting? it can't be because of quiqui here. he wasn't even out there."
littlefellow looked around. "as a matter of fact, it is because of this incident. you see, the senator has an aversion to anything supernatural and breaks out in green hives - "



"green hives!" quiqui interrupted him. "do you have to give us the filthy details! you country people!"
"witches, demons, werewolves, vampires, zombies, they all cause the senator to endure this unfortunate condition," littlrfellow went on imperturbably.
"really?" faye asked. "then how does he get along in the united states senate?"



"he has doctors on hand there with special pills -"
"special pills!" put in quiqui. "shine a light!"
littlefellow ignored her. "but here in the sanctuary of his ancestral home, he didn't think the expense of a medical staff necessary."
"so does this mean he won't be seeing me anytime soon?" faye asked.
"perhaps not."
they were back in the house. "then i'll be on my way," faye told him. "the senator will receive a bill for my time. if he still wants my services, let me know." she grabbed littlefellow's arm again and squeezed it and moved closer to him. "unless you can help me out."



"come on, faye, behave yourself," quiqui told her.
"i'm afraid i'm not authorized to deal with these matters on the senator's behalf."
"too bad." faye let go his arm.
"will you still be wanting that coffee, madam? it should be ready."



"why not? no sense letting it go to waste." faye sat back down and lit a cigarette. "did i just go five minutes without a smoke?"
littlefellow turned to leave.
"i want some food!" quiqui shouted at him.
"oh shut up," faye told her. "i'll get you something on the way back to st louis. we'll stop at ernie's."








i'm warning you, i'll want seconds."
"o k, i'm warned. go ahead, get the coffee," faye told littlefellow.



quiqui settled back after the butler left. "nice chair. so what exactly do want from me, faye?"



"wait until we get to ernie's. then between shoveling two helpings of food into your face,



you can tell me everything you know about our friends hoover and dillinger.'"




next: harding grows weary


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