Hair of the Dog.
“The thing of it is…” Charlie’s chubby fingers toyed with a few crystals of salt that had spilled onto the table top as he uncomfortably stammered on.
With the exception of having a burly, six and a half foot tall Marilyn Monroe sound-alike leveling the business end of a SIG-Sauer automatic at his belly button that morning and not pulling the trigger, Fish’s day had been a total bust.
And now this.
“Those flyers I printed up before I called you…well, you wouldn’t believe how many calls have come in.”
“All right Charlie,” Fish answered. “I’ll bite. How many?”
“Something like thirty.”
“Not bad. And these people all claim to have your dog?”
Charlie nodded, stuffing the last bite of his sky-high pastrami and swiss on rye into his mouth.
“Dude,” Kenny weighed in. “But how many of these calls are like, for real?”
Charlie shrugged, forcing the remainder of his sandwich into his esophagus. “So far, none. But the way I see it, one of them has to have Mr. Foo.”
As of that morning Charlie had spoken and met with three callers who all claimed to have found his girlfriend’s diamond studded, psychotic little lap doggie.
One of them had tried to pawn off an aging black cockapoo as Mr. Foo.
Then there was the pair of space cases from Hollywood Boulevard, who wanted him to believe their pit bull/golden lab puppy was his not-so long lost pet.
And the third didn’t even bother bringing a dog to their meeting on the Venice Boardwalk. But after channeling the spirit of one of the male collies that had played Lassie on TV, she had a good idea where find the prodigal pooch.
Only in L.A.
“So, it’s like this,” Charlie drew a mouth full of iced tea through his straw and swallowed.
“You’re gonna cut us loose,” Fish chuckled. “And get your dog back from one of these callers, right?”
Charlie nodded. “Look, you can keep the retainer, but I’ll take it from here.”
“Kewl,” Kenny answered. “Anything you like, say, Dude.”
What the hell. Twenty K for one day’s work was light years from shabby.
“So,” Charlie paused to stifle a belch. “No hard feelings?”
“Nah, no worries, Charlie,” Fish’s face broadened into a beatific smile. “Good luck, man. Seriously. Tell you what, keep my number, and if it doesn’t work out, just give us a call.”
“OK, I will.” He fished a hundred dollar bill out of his wallet and laid it over the check. “I’ll take care of lunch. But first, I gotta go to the john.”
With a fair amount of struggle and straining, Charlie managed to extricate himself from the booth and waddled off for the men’s room.
Halfway there, his cell phone rang. And looking at the caller ID, there was no question in Charlie’s mind about who was interrupting his visit to the tinkletorium.
“Hi, Ma.” Then he listened for a few seconds. “What do you mean, I never call? I talked to you last night.” Then he listened for a few seconds.
“Of course I care, Ma. What, somebody else bought you that condo on Doheny Drive?”
He nodded his thanks to the huge man in the dark suit, who held the door open for him as he walked in to the empty restroom.
“So the building’s full of faygellahs. So what? Who cares?”
He listened for a few seconds, then stepped up to a urinal and unzipped.
“Ma, what can I say? If Barry Feinstein can afford to buy his mother a condo in Palm Springs, maybe you should see if you could adopt him.”
Then he listened, shaking his head.
A pair of graffiti on the wall over one of the urinals caught his eye, where someone had written, “MY MOTHER MADE ME A HOMOSEXUAL.”
Beneath which, some other men’s room poet had scratched, “OOH, IF I BUY HER THE WOOL, COULD SHE MAKE ONE FOR ME?”
“What do you mean, you have no naçhes from your son? Is that what this is about, Ma? That you’re not a grandmother yet?”
Charlie never got to hear his mother’s guilt-laden response.
The soft-nosed bullet caught him right behind his ear, shattering into half a dozen fragments as it entered his brain, killing him before he finished crumbling to the floor.
Which meant he never heard the second bullet fired into his head for insurance.
The tall man in the dark suit calmly removed the silencer from his little .22 caliber pistol, pocketed both and retrieved the spent casings from both of his bullets. He grabbed a paper towel from the dispenser on the wall, and then used it to pick Charlie’s cell phone up from the floor.
From her end of the line, Charlie’s mother was still haranguing.
“Youuuu’ll have…to call baaack,” he gushed, interrupting her in mid-diatribe. “Charlie is…indis…pohsssed.”
Then he hung up.