After a hot dog with chili, light onions, a slap of mustard and an Orange Nehi from the lunch cart that Whistling Danny always parked exactly 100 feet from the ront door of the 23rd, I returned to my desk for an afternoon of phone calls. I had those yellow roses and they have come from a florist nearby. Pulled the phone book from the bottom drawer of my desk, found the listing for Florists. "Aw, just great. There's over a page of 'em."
"Where do start?" I learned thislittle trick in getting things done a later in life than most sensible folks do. That trick? Before you start, think it through. "What florist? That card in my pocket. Just a generic white card. High-priced purchases are made by high-priced people and high-priced people tend to buy from the high-priced places. People usually buy from places they pass by. Where would the Senator order flowers from? Maybe, his secretary ordered them. No way. He'd walk in and order them himself to keep all this quiet. He wouldn't have them delivered, he'd have to give a name. We'll start in the government district. One, two, three, four." I jotted down the four addresses and left for the day.
First stop. Miss Prudence Flowers. Tidy little shop tucked between a bookstore and a pharmacy, the window display filled samples of her wares. My entrance was announced with one of those irritating little bells that the opening of the door sets to ringing. Out from the back through a curtain covered with a pattern of violets, Miss Prudence answered my arrival. "Can I help you?" The surprise was that Miss Prudence was a rather short and stocky bald man with a grey mustache and a growly voice.
That unexpected visage threw me for a few moments, but I recovered. Reaching for my I.D. and badge I always kept a the ready in my shirt pocket, I began, "Sir, Lieutenant MacKenzie, BPD. I was hoping you could help us with a matter. "
"I'll give it a try," the man said drying his hands with the green apron he was wearing. "I don't get many inquiries from the police."
"Now that you mention it, I think this is a first for me too. Were needing to know if anyone placed an order for a dozen yellow roses to be picked up in let's say the last four days."
"Ah, I can answer that right off the top of my head. You see it's a tough season to get roses, especially yellow roses. We had an order from Keller and Brown, last Friday. i figure it must have been a retirement gift for one of their secretaries. Let me get that order slip for you." He rummaged through a beat up Florsheim shoe box and came out with a flimsy piece of pink paper, one of those second copies you find in those order books. "Yep, one dozen long stems yellow roses and a yellow rose boudenair. Picked up by a Doris Devonshire. Billed to Keller and brown. Thursday afternoon, our o'clock." He handed it to me.
"Well, how about that," I thought, "I got it the first one out of the box."
I carefully folded the slip for safe transport, reassuring him that we would provide him a copy for his records. I signed one of my cards and left it with him as surety of my word. Started to leave, but I just had to ask, "Sir, who's Miss Prudence."
As he reached for the pack of Camels setting beside that shoe box, he said, "That'd be me. "
I nodded that I was for some reason expecting that.
I left with the sound of that damn bell and the screech of brakes as a Yellow Cab nearly hit a drunk old man, followed by that often heard music of the city, a horn honking followed by a chorus of cursing, an aftermath of muttering and then the sound of life going on.
"God, I love this crazy city!"