I'd started that day like every other - dead broke and desperate for one more pull of gin. But money doesn't grow on trees and the landlord had warned me the next batch of bathtub hooch would be my last, so I'd dragged my ragged bones into the office. At least it was a Wednesday.
In my business, Wednesdays are deader than Bela Lugosi. That makes them good for two things: checking the want ads and reviewing old cases. Unfortunately, I'd already used the paper to clean up after my morning porcelain prayer, so that only left review. There wasn't much of interest on my plate these days. The old lady who'd lost her parakeet - I'd put a dish of bird seed on my window ledge, but that hadn't worked so the trail was cold. The store owner who wanted to know which one of his employees was stealing - on that one, I'd spent at least eight minutes posing as a customer and hadn't seen a single theft. And then there was the MacArthur murder, where I'd run out of suspects.
I hadn't solved a case since that sailor asked me for the time, and he'd skipped town without paying me. Maybe Janice was right - this town didn't need a washed up private eye. She'd left, hell, it was over a year ago now, but I was betting she'd take me back if I ditched the drink and found some respectable employment. I was just about to pick up the phone and call her when she walked in.
"Your door was unlocked," she said. "Is this a bad time?"
I shook my head and gestured towards the other chair. "How can I be of help, Miss..."
"Jacqueline Swarbrick. My father is President of Notre Dame Sewer and Septic."
This little birdie was sitting on a gold mine, but I knew to play it cool. "Never heard of it."
"Really? It's only the most prestigious company in the solid waste industry. One of our workers has fallen victim to a terrible hoax, I'm afraid. He's been taken in by some floozy he met via telegraph, and I'm afraid she intends to leave him penniless. Please, you must help me find out who this strange woman is." She handed me the last telegram to peruse.
What was this doll's angle? She didn't have any skin in the game. But I've always been a sucker for a pretty face. "Four hundred dollars cash. That's my price, whether I find this skirt or I don't."
She produced a wad of crisp bills from her clutch. "And please - keep this quiet. Notre Dame doesn't need the press getting involved here."
"Discretion is my specialty, Ms. Swarbrick. I'll give you a call when I've got something."
An hour later, I picked up the phone.
"Ms. Swarbrick? I've completed that job. This Leanore broad's a faker, and a bad one."
"My word! However did you determine that so quickly?"
"Detective work, ma'am. Just old fashioned detective work."