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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Not Even a Mouse: A Rona Shively Short (Chapter Seven)

I walked quietly back to the workshop area to see if I could find Bergman. I saw a squat, little man standing at the Move ‘N Shaker table. He was wearing a faded blue work shirt, red velvet suspenders and a ratty, old cab driver hat. He held an unlit cigarette between his lips and his expression was just plain grumpy. He appeared to be squinting at the parts as he put them together. I walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder.

“Hi, are you Monte Bergman?” I asked, smiling. It was so unnatural for me to do this. I rarely smile unless I’m flirting and I was sincerely hoping he didn’t think I was here to ask him out on a date.

“Eh, who’s asking?” he said.

“My name is Jenny Herman,” I said, “I’m doing some market research for Mrs. Clos.”

He put down the parts he was working on and bowed to me slightly as he took my hand. He placed a soft kiss on my hand and said, “Glad to meet you, Ms. Herman.”

I didn’t know how to respond to that. He looked scary, but he was actually an old-fashioned gentleman. “Good to meet you, Mr. Bergman. I’d like to ask you a couple of questions about working on the Move ‘N Shaker line. Do you have a minute?”

“Sure I do, and you can call me Monte,” he said with a wink.

Well, this wasn’t what I had expected at all. I asked him a couple of questions and he responded much like the others had. He had days when he was stressed, but for the most part he enjoyed the work. It was a job and there weren’t many out there these days. There especially weren’t many out there for old ex-cons like him.

After I finished talking with him, I felt terrible. I had hoped that he would be a bad person so that I could wrap this investigation up and go home. Just before I went to leave, I asked him about Tony Albertson. I hadn’t seen anyone working the cart the entire time we had been talking. He told me that Tony was a good man who regularly attended St. Mark’s church but that he had been sick for the past two days and was now in the hospital with pneumonia. I wondered why Mrs. Clos hadn’t mentioned this.

I headed home feeling like I had wasted a few hours badgering people who had no clue that they were being singled out as potential criminals. Most of them seemed okay in spite of their quirks. What didn’t sit well with me was that the Move ‘N Shakers were coming up missing, yet no one on the line seemed to be doing anything wrong. It was puzzling.

When I reached my apartment, I let myself in and went straight to the refrigerator. The sandwich from earlier was waiting there to be reheated. I removed it from its wrapper and stuck it on a plate so that I could microwave it back to edible. Within a minute, I had a burger and a Coke sitting in front of me and I was preparing to eat my high cholesterol, high fat midnight snack. Before I could get the first bite, there was a knock at my door.

“Who the hell?” I said, not completing my own sentence, but completely understanding what I meant.

I walked over to the door and looked out the peephole. It was Trey. I had forgotten that he was coming back by tonight. I opened the door and let him in.

“Hey, Toots,” he said, smiling and winking.

“Toots?” I said, “Who wants to be called Toots?”

He grabbed me and kissed my cheek before chucking me under the chin. “I thought all women liked being called Toots.”

“No wonder you’re still single,” I said. I’m not a nice woman.

“Ouch,” he said, “What’s wrong with you tonight? Somebody piss in your Wheaties or something?”

“No, no, I’m just having a tough time figuring out this case I took yesterday,” I said.

“Oh, yeah, what’s it about?” he asked, “Maybe I can help.”

He looked so cute standing there with his arms crossed. I couldn’t even remember what the case was about when I looked at him. Damn, this was distracting.

“Uh, well, I think this lady thinks there’s someone stealing from her company,” I struggled to explain.

“Well, that’s part of the problem, are you even sure what you’re working on?” he laughed.

This snapped me out of my trance and I slapped him on the back of the head for that, “Yes, I’m sure.” I hated for someone to question my intelligence, even when it wasn’t obvious to them that I knew what I was doing.

“Okay, then, who does she think is stealing?” he asked, rubbing the back of his head.

“There were five people that she asked me to check into,” I said, “but they all come up fairly clean and after talking with four of the five, I’m pretty sure none of them are stealing.”

“So it has to be the fifth guy,” he said. “Case closed.”

“Nope, he’s in the hospital,” I said, “and, he’s an old guy who goes to church and all of that. I don’t think he would do it.”

“Okay,” he said, “maybe no one is stealing from her.”

I gave him a look that said, “Are you stupid?” He put his hands up and shrugged his shoulders, “Well?”

“Then why would she come and talk to me about it?” I asked.

“Maybe she’s pulling some kind of insurance fraud and wants it to look good, so she comes to you to investigate something that isn’t really happening?” he said, “It’s an old gag, but it works.”

I thought about this for a moment. Trey knew a lot about fraud; he’d done time in jail for it. And Mrs. Clos was a little screwy.

Come back tomorrow for more of the story!

Until next time...

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A Little Bit of Mystery: Short Mysteries to Confuse and Amuse

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