17 year old Detective Madeleine takes her new friends on a mad adventure that spans two continents and can only start, (middle) and end in trouble.
I leaned against the hot side of my car, observing the grotesque semi-nakedness of my fellow human beings on the beach and slurping the weight of loneliness that was the dregs of my iced cappuccino. Usually I feasted my eyes on the seductive contours of the mountain’s arms gently embracing the still, horizontal line of the ocean and allowed my mind to slip into happy nonsense. But that day, the swarms that had gathered to revel in the heat on the Spanish Banks attracted my gaze. If they hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have noticed the slender redhead until she was right in front of me, rocking back and forth a little and peering into my eyes like she could see something other than an uninteresting, nineteen year old failure inside my slightly overweight body.
As it was, I watched her wend her way across the sand at an almost run, scanning the crowds until she spotted me over by the road, then changing her rout to get to me the fastest way possible. Her red bob seemed subdued in comparison with the flaming red-orange skirt that swayed about her legs.
“Abbie! I need to get to a certain address in Shaughnessy. Take me?” Madeleine said when she arrived before me.
“Do I look like I run a private taxi service?” I asked, and was about to go on but she cut in.
“Oh, most definitely,” was her playful response. She pushed of strand of hair out of her eyes and said as sweetly as possible, “please?”
“Well that’s a vague question. Do you mean, ‘why should you take me to some random destination?’ or ‘why do I want to go to Shaughnessy?’ or perhaps you are asking mewhyin response to some vague and half formed question that I seem to have posed to you since our meeting six weeks ago. Of course, you might also be asking—”
“Why Shaughnessy,” I clarified to stop the babble.
“Because poor-little-orphan-me has just come into a veritable inheritance through the death of a long lost aunt—” she paused. Maybe she could see that I wasn’t exactly enjoying her little story or maybe, as the grin on her lips suggested, she had planned to stop there. “Actually, I’ve been invited to the house of a new clinent, who contacted my detective agency yesterday.” She said this quite seriously.
“Well, that’s even more convincing,” I said, glancing about for a garbage can in which to deposit my empty cappuccino cup. I spotted one a little ways down the sidewalk and walked over to it. She followed me, circling around impatiently and chattering all the way.
“No, but it’s the truth. Why won’t you believe me about the detective agency?”
“Because it’s not real.”
“Take me to Shaughnessy with me and I’ll prove it.”
“You’re mad,” I said, tossing the plastic cup into the bin.
“Yes, we’ve established that. But I’m serious in this case. And I’m in a bit of a hurry. I’ve got an appointment at four.”
“And you didn’t leave time for yourself to take public transportation to get there?” I turned on her.
“That was an accident—I was held up,” she paused as if considering to divulge more information, then thinking the better of it, “but please, pretty please take me?”
“Oh, alright. It’s always fun looking at the mansions, even if this is some kind of a game of yours.”
“Not a game,” she promised, already around my car on the passenger side. “And thanks, Abbie, I owe you one.”
At least she’d learned manners somewhere along the way.
A moment later we were pulling out of the parking spot and heading inland from the Spanish Banks.
“Ahh, farewell Spanish Banks,” said Madeleine, “I had a Spanish Lover, once, you know,” she continued a bit dreamily.
“You’re too young to have had a Spanish lover,” I said. “What are you, eighteen, nineteen?”
“Seventeen—but don’t tell my new client that. I’m actually twenty-seven and just look young for my age. And I havesohad a Spanish Lover. Alright, we were only six when he looked at me with those serious brown eyes of his and made me swear never to tell anybody what he was about to say.” She paused for a little laugh. “Did you ever have a little boy tell you that he loved you when you were a child?”
“After I promised to say nothing to no-one, he took my hand and said, in a half-whisper, ‘I love you.’ And I think I loved him back, as much as a six year old is capable of that sort of thing—which is probably not very. Of course, I didn’t tell him that. I did the proper thing and slapped his hand and said, ‘silly boy’ and later hoped he’d guessed that I was just teasing.” She laughed loudly at this point, and I couldn’t help joining in a little. She was one of those people with an infectious laugh. “I wonder what my little Pepito is up to now. Probably not so little anymore.”
This nearly one-sided conversation continued as we drove along the quiet residential streets, windows down to catch the breeze.
“Where are we going, exactly?” I interrupted.
“It’s on Oak Street,” she said, looking up the address in a small address book she pulled from her large side-strap bag. “Oh, and do you mind pulling over someplace inconspicuous for a moment?”
“Why?” I asked.
“Do you meanwhyas in—” she began, then stopped and laughed in response to the glare on my face. “I need to change out of this skirt. Not professional enough.” And she pulled a pair of black pants from her bag.
“Wait, you’re just going to change in broad daylight?”
“That’s why I suggested someplace inconspicuous, silly.”
I pulled over by a fence on an empty road and Madeline did her quick change. Really, you couldn’t have seen her doing it unless you were right by the car peering in the windows. A short while later I parked the car in front of a massive house built in the style of an Italian Villa; bright sienna walls and all.
“Alright, so, pretty much, don’t say anything much.” Madeline said in a prep-talk sort of voice. “This client could be dangerous, or moody, or, well anything. She could even be French.”
“Wait, I’m coming in?” I asked.
“Sure, why not? And I was teasing in my last comment. She is French. Rich French, too, so mind your manners.”