Smith is an eccentric genius when it comes to solving crime. Early draft.
There is nothing I hate more than having nothing to do. Yet, there I was, leaning forward on the counter. Something would happen soon, I was certain, but I was just aching to get the ball rolling. My hands thumped the laminate countertop, as I rocked backward on the four-inch heels this job had me wear. I didn’t really mind the heels. While I’m used to dressing up, it had been quite a while since I was required to wear anything as fashionable as the burnt orange baby-doll dress and cute peep-toe platform heels I currently wore. I actually enjoyed getting dolled up for the occasion.
While I waited, I continued drumming on the counter to the nineties rock playing on the music overhead. Humming gradually changed into soft singing under my breath. I wanted something to happen soon. Action is far more exciting than waiting for it to happen, I have found. Glancing at the clock only caused me to groan. I had only opened the store about five minutes earlier. I wasn’t sure how long I would have to wait for someone to walk in, but I hoped it was soon.
A stack of postcards advertising an upcoming sale sat in an untidy mess by my elbow. I stood up tall, pressing them into a neat stack. Picking up the top card, I couldn’t help but scowl. Flesh and Fantasies, the cards shouted out in electric pink type. Ugh, what an awful name for a store. The products sold within the boutique actually were quite cute, but paired with that name, I could imagine that their clientele would consist of sex workers and husbands looking for anything to spice up their routine or nonexistent sex lives. With a disgusted grunt, I leaned forward once more.
The song ended, and I picked right up on the new beat that began to play. My eyes looked past the mannequins on display in the window into the parking lot, waiting for any sign of movement outside. My hope grew as a battered Buick pulled into the parking lot and then deflated just as fast when the car turned around and pulled back onto the road. I smacked the counter, stood up straight and headed out to the store floor. In a weak attempt to placate my mix of boredom and anxiety, I walked up to a table lined with lace panties, straightening the already straight rows. My fingers traced the delicate pattern on a pale blue pair wondering what reaction they would draw. Most likely none.
A flash of black streaked across my periphery. I looked up, spying a man in a baggy suit walking up from the parking lot. This was it. A customer!
I rushed behind the counter, awaiting the man’s entry into the store. He walked with an exaggerated list, bumping into the brick façade and smacking his shoulder on the edge of the doorway. Leaning back on the counter, I watched him stumble inside.
“Good mornin’,” I called out, adding a slight Southern lilt to my voice. Guys always seem to love a girl with a sweet Southern accent.
“Morning,” he said, his own voice offering a light slur. “I’m so glad you’re open. I need help. I forgot my anniversary last night. My wife’s going to kill me if I don’t come home with something nice.”
If that were the case, no amount of lingerie would make things right. If my husband had spent his anniversary drinking the night away, he better show up with a trip to Paris and an entire flower shop on hand if he wanted to make it up to me. But I played dumb, which has served me well in the past.
“Well, you’ve come to the right place, hun.” I smiled that mega-watt smile that I’ve been told turns men into slobbering fools. That’s precisely what I would need today.
The man returned my smile and began to wander through the boutique. He’d stop, paw at a silk teddy or ogle a see-through bra paired with a nearly microscopic but matching pair of panties. As he reached the table of panties that I had just been straightening, he stumbled a bit. What he didn’t realize was that, as he palmed a pair of panties and hid them in his jacket thinking I hadn’t seen a thing, I was reaching down to press a silent alarm hidden under the counter. I then rushed from behind the counter to him. “Are you okay, hun?”
The man’s eyes grew wide, his mouth dropping. Clearly, the barely-there dress worked just as I had hoped. He started at my feet and slowly drew his eyes up my legs and then jumped straight to the cleavage that I rarely had a chance to display. Normally I would have called out such sexist behavior, but I couldn’t scare away this guy.
Walking up to the man’s side, I noticed that his eyes were much more alert than they should have been for someone still drunk from the night before. He bit his tongue then responded. “I’m fine, but you could do me a favor.” He straightened up to his full height, which even though I was standing at five feet, ten inches in the heels, was a good six inches taller. Looking down, he sneered, his face transformed to calculated fury. “Get your ass behind the counter and give me the money in the register.”
Just as his had moments earlier, my jaw dropped. “Please…please don’t hurt me,” I begged, my voice wavering.
“Move it, bitch.”
He didn’t display a weapon, and I wondered if he carried one. Maybe he thought I was a pushover, but I wouldn’t provoke him. I turned around slowly and took measured steps back toward the counter. I hadn’t even taken two steps when I felt the steel barrel of his gun press into my lower back.
Call me stupid, but I couldn’t help but ask, “Why are you robbing a store at the start of the day when there’s hardly any money in the register?”
“Bitch, I’d shut my mouth if I were you. Wouldn’t want anything to happen to that pretty face.”
I took another couple of steps and the gun followed, pressing harder into my back. He spoke up once more. “You know what? I want you to go into the back. I’m going to teach you a lesson for being such a smart little bitch.”
Without even turning, I replied, “Oh, sweetie, you shouldn’t have threatened me.”
I took one more step.
“By the way, did you even check out this place before deciding to rob it? You at least should have made sure we were the only two in the store.”
“What the fuck’s that supposed to mean?”
“Turn around.” I took another step forward, and when the gun didn’t follow, I knew he had taken the bait. I pivoted, the grin on my face so wide, it would have blinded him…if he had been looking in my direction.
“The fuck?” he asked, staring at the disheveled man standing before him.
Normally, a wiry man standing eight inches shorter than his foe would think twice about starting a fight. But some men enjoy the action. And for other men, with height and size in their favor, they tend to enjoy the practice of beating on someone smaller than they are. So a fight between the two was inevitable.
My smile was returned with a wink from our new company, a private detective who had been waiting for this man to arrive. While I would have loved to have given my full attention to the hell that most assuredly was about to break loose, I had a job to do. I walked back to Flesh and Fantasy’s back room and grabbed my cell phone, calling Lt. Grant Epperson.
“Grant, Smith’s got him,” I said as soon as he answered, though I wondered how he heard me over the ruckus that erupted from behind me as the fighting began.
“Are we going to need an ambulance this time, Kath?”
“I’m not sure really, but it may not hurt to have one just in case. You know how he gets when he’s been bored.”
“That’s why I was afraid when he volunteered to catch this guy pro bono. I’ll be right in.”
I hung up the phone and turned around to survey the damage. Good thing, I suggested the ambulance.