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by Ann Diamond




The phone had not rung all week. I was sitting at my desk that day, pondering my bank statement and feeling very much like an ex-hairdresser in the midst of a mid-life crisis. Which was what I was. In the last two years, my trickle of customers had gradually decreased to a few droplets. My once-dazzling celebrity clientele had all been lured to other establishments whose marketing tactics were far beneath me. My reputation for being a busybody never really helped matters. What exactly were my options? Run away to some Third World country and work with lepers. That takes training, and I had only my skill with scissors and a box of business cards identifying me as David Dennings, Private Detective.

The phone lay dead, dormant, soon to be disconnected. A sudden intuition made me pick up the receiver. I could hear the sound of breathing at the other end.

"Hello?" "Hello." "Ariadne Detective Agency?"

"Yes." "Are you a detective?"


The voice, muffled and artificial, seemed tense.

"I don't like talking on the phone."

He sounded like the nervous type. I told him to come on over. Minutes later I heard the screeching of brakes, a thud, and a car door slam. Then came the sound of the doorbell. I buzzed him in. As I listened to his footsteps climbing the stairs, I felt a slight frisson of dŽja-vu. At the top, he swayed panting in a cloud of patchouli oil. Earrings, neckscarf. A few thousand dollars worth of leather which looked like it had recently been run over by a car. The inevitable skullring winked from his pinky finger. I welcomed him in to my headquarters, such as it was. He reminded me of some fancy heron tiptoeing across a beach.

I said, "I like to get to know people before I say I'll work for them. Have a seat and let's talk."

He flung himself on the only sofa, slid one hand into his pocket and pulled out a wrinkled photograph.

"There's someone I want you to locate."

The picture had been taken in full sunlight. She was squinting.