Dzinski knocked at the door and waited. The mid-afternoon sun was standing straight up behind him, urging last night’s liquor out from his pores. He wiped his forehead with an old handkerchief and was stuffing it in his pocket when the door finally opened.
The man who opened the door was about medium height, his head was covered in a sparse, dark stubble, but he made up for it with a finely trimmed beard that looked like he had a professional come in and shear and oil it every other day. He took up most of the doorway, his bare gut jutting out through his open silk bathrobe and over the threshold.
“You the dick?” he asked.
Dzinski nodded and waited to be invited in out of the heat. They stared at each other for a few ticks and the man took a step back and swung his arm out in a demonstration of grace.
“Might as well come in,” he said. “You’re letting all the cool air out.”
The man walked as if he had put on a lot of weight fast and hadn’t mastered moving his heft yet.
They walked down five steps into a dark, sunken living room. Dzinski felt the thick cushioning beneath his half-worn out soles. They continued to another dark room, this time a kitchen, made out in heavily varnished wood and through a row of French doors onto stone patio, still fairly dark under a wide awning.
The yard rolled down a slight incline, and ended at square, in ground pool the size of a modest apartment in the city.
“Refreshment?” the man asked, after making sure Dzinski had seen everything.
“Sure,” Dzinski said.
“I have a pitcher of margaritas,” the man asked, cocking an eyebrow. “Or would you like something stronger.”
Dzinski said it would be fine. The man busied himself behind the bar. A sudden splash caught his attention and Dzinski turned toward the pool. There was a shimmer under the water. It moved from one end almost to the other and then headed up, breaking the surface a couple of yards away from the stairs out.
She climbed out of the pool as if that was the only thing she’d been built for and practised at it as well. He was too far away to make out any details but the general picture was a good one. Dzinski watched her climb out of the pool, walk along the edge and disappear behind a tall hedge.
There was a tap at his shoulder. Dzinski turned and saw the man holding two large, wide-mouthed glasses, each supporting a small wedge of lime. He took his drink and followed the man over to a large table, all wrought iron and pebbled glass. They sipped at their drinks in the shade.
Dzinski was about to say something but felt it was better if he didn’t interrupt what was obviously a grand display of something, meant to make him feel small and desirous of aiding someone who was obviously his better.
“Mr. Dzinski, I am Leonard Maurice,” he said, and waited for the bloom of recognition to happen in his guest’s mind. Dzinski sipped at his margarita. His indifference caught Maurice off-guard and he hurried to say anything else.
“Who I am is unimportant,” Maurice said throwing his left hand over his shoulder, like he was tossing a pinch of salt after knocking over the shaker. “But the task I have for you, why you are here, is important . You are a busy man, and I am taking up your time. Although I would like to hope I am doing it amiably.”
He smiled and waited for an answer.
“You have been a gracious host,” Dzinski said and lifted his glass. He’d have to move carefully around this one, so that he wouldn’t crack the facade. He’d gladly sit here in the quiet, sipping at cold drinks, as long as he was out of that god-damned sun. So he’d play along. At least until he had a second drink and his back dried.
“I’m sure you have your reasons for being cautious,” Dzinski said.
The first pin set in place. Maurice gave him a wry smile.
“You assume things, Mr. Dzinski,” he said. “But I understand what you are saying. But, before I go on, would you like a refill?”
Dzinski handed over his glass and waited for the large man to make his way back to the table. He accepted the drink and waited. A shimmer bounded up on his left. She threw her arms around Maurice’s neck and planted a kiss on his furry jowl. Her hair hung wet and dark and slapped against his chest. As she stood back up, Dzinski saw she wasn’t wearing anything beneath the thin terry cloth robe tied tight around her middle.
“Mr Dzinski, this is Greta,” Maurice said. “She was just running inside to watch television while we discussed our business.
Greta gave Maurice a pout, when he turned to bask in his guest’s awe, she gave Dzinski a look that wasn’t much more than a slight narrowing of the eyes and what had to be an imaginary flick of the tongue at the corner of her mouth. But it did what it set out to do.
Maurice had to clear his throat a second time before he caught on. He apologized and saw by the other man’s smile he took it as a complement.
“Now, Mr. Dzinski, there will be no further interruptions, we can get to it.”
Dzinski pulled the crumpled pack of cigarettes from his pocket, pulled one out, stuck it in the corner of his mouth and almost struck a match but waited until Maurice gave him a short nod, then lit up.
“What I need,” Maurice said. “Is for you to find my wife.”
“Wasn’t that her?” Dzinski asked.
Maurice managed to blush somehow.
“Oh no. She is my mistress, my muse, my bright, shining love. I need you to ferret out the woman I married.”