I was taking the self-assessment quiz in Kate White’s Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead But Gutsy Girls Do when the office door behind me flew open. I thrust the book in my desk drawer and sat up straight as though I were in yoga class—or it was the first day on the job, which God knows, it was not.
“Sorry we can’t be of more help, sir,” Mr. Abbott said briskly.
“I appreciate your time.” The old man’s voice quavered. He was not our typical client. The typical client of Abbott Investigations was some corporate CEO-type trying to catch some underpaid employee stealing, or some yuppie trying to nail his/her spouse for cheating. The client—I glanced at my ink blotter (covered with my checking account figures and my answers on the self-assessment quiz)—by the name of Mr. Lorac was about seventy and kind of frail looking with parchment colored skin and wispy white hair that reminded me of a chick fresh out of the egg. He was some kind of college professor—or had been. I couldn’t believe he was still trudging the ivory halls at his age, but who can say. The way things were going I was liable to still be sitting at this desk wearing this head set at his age.
“Have a nice day,” Mr. Abbott said curtly. Yep, in
even the PIs wish you a nice day—and chances are, if you require our services,
you could do with a nice day.
The old guy opened his mouth, but Mr. Abbott had already stepped back and closed the door quietly but firmly.
He sighed, a dry sad sound like the breeze blowing a little dead leaf along the pavement. “I guess I’ve done all I can do,” he said.
I couldn’t help it, I gave him a sympathetic smile. “That’s all you can do,” I said.
He smiled back and, to my dismay, wandered over to the counter behind which I sat, apparently gearing up for a chat. I reached towards the keyboard to pretend I was very busy with incoming calls, but…he looked so dejected…and he smelled like soap and pipe tobacco, which reminded me of my own grandpa.