The second novel in the Jack Meter Case Files. Jack must find the culprits who are absconding with pieces of the universe.
M. D. Benoit's World
"MY BUILDING IS GONE, MR. METER. I want you to get it back."
The short, crown-balding man in the brown pinstripe suit wrung his hands and waited. I stifled a groan while I thought of a way to let him down gently. I was a private investigator, not a repo man. I glanced at Winston, who was leaning against the door jamb, pulling on his stogie, and filling the room with blue smoke. He grinned then shrugged.
"I'll let you two gentlemen sort this out," he said. He closed the door softly behind him, leaving a pile of cigar ashes on the floor.
I listened to his footsteps plod down the stairs to his lawyer's office on the floor below. Winston had always had a weird sense of humor, and the derelict in front of me was proof of it. I cleared my throat, and swore Winston would pay for this one.
"I'm sorry for your loss, Mr. Garner, but¯"
Garner made a cutting gesture and dumped his wide butt on the vinyl chair in front of my desk. The straggly white hair that circled his bald spot flew up. Dandruff settled on his shoulders.
His beard, which grew in white patches over reddened skin, made him look like a dog with mange. The suit he wore had an Italian cut, but the dark material showed several greasy stains and covered a yellowed white shirt. Tufts of salt-and-pepper hair sprouted out of his open collar. Onion and sweat smells now mixed with cigar smoke.
Even if this guy really needed my help, I doubted he'd have the wherewithal to pay my fees, which I'd purposely jacked up so as not to attract clients. What with being independently wealthy, I could afford to be choosy, and I took only the cases that really interested me. His being poor didn't really bother me, though, but I had a thing about lack of personal hygiene. I breathed as shallowly as possible.
"Winston told me you might be able to help me," Garner said. He swallowed visibly. "That you wouldn't laugh at me. He said you were used to the . . . unusual."
I frowned, and pulled the sleeve of my sweater a little lower to hide one of those unusual things I was "used to". If he knew that I had a piece of alien matter wrapped around my wrist that had allowed me to travel to different worlds, he'd probably turn tail real fast. I reserved that tactic for a last resort. I decided to try diplomacy first. "I suppose that's true," I said, my tone soothing, "but¯"
Garner scooted to the edge of the seat. "One day it was there, then the next, poof! Gone. I want to know what happened to it."
Now I was confused. His building had exploded? "You want me to find out who blew up your building?"
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"You said poof!"
"I mean poof!, not boom!"