Taste of Chapter One

 

….”I’m glad you called us, but what’s the connection from Palo Alto to the Purple Heart Detective Agency? Why did Trevor Baker’s trip up there make you think of us?”

Angie’s eyes narrowed as she answered. “Trevor learned that this high level security defense contractor in Palo Alto was doing research into phantom limb pain. I don’t know how he found out about it. He said he wanted to meet with a scientist there. That it could make him the best illusionist ever. I don’t know what he was talking about. It made no sense to me, but a lot of what Trevor talked about when he talked about magic made no sense to me.”

“What was the company in Palo Alto’s name?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think he said. I just remembered him talking about the phantom limb pain thing… and it made me think of you guys.”

I swung my legs onto the desk. I tapped on the calf of my left leg. It sounded hollow in the still of the room. I laughed in a self-deprecating way. “Clayton Grace, your local neighborhood one-legged detective at your service.”

Angie leaned back in her chair. “Are you offended? I am so sorry.”

I waved her off and I smiled ruefully. “No, Miss Thayer, not at all. Sorry if I gave you that impression. It’s just funny that me missing a leg made you call us.”

Her eyes showed concern, but my words seem to console her. However, a veil then seemed to cross her eyes and she turned to me pointedly. “Did you see a lot of violence during your tour? I mean, I know you lost your leg, but beyond that, was it as bad as they say? Iraq, I mean.”

I paused for a moment, trying to decide how to answer. Was she asking if I was mentally unbalanced, some kind of maniac with post traumatic stress disorder? Or was she asking if I had killed someone in the war? I decided it was probably the latter, and of course, it wasn’t the first time I had been asked. My voice was flat as I responded. “Roddy and I both saw a lot of action. And yes, it was as bad as they say. Much worse really. But if you are concerned about our stability, this is the beginning of my fourth year with the agency. Roddy joined me a year in. And in three years, I’ve never had to draw a weapon, but I am licensed to carry. Roddy too, but just because we were soldiers does not mean we’re inherently violent.”

Angie blushed. “I didn’t presume… oh, I don’t even know why I asked.” She turned her head, but her chin stayed up. “But as regards to violence,” she said cryptically, “never say never, right?” Her voice was low and it struck me as off base and out of bounds, so I decided to ignore it.
I tried to smooth things over. “Roddy and I are both past all of that fuss– the war, the lawsuit,” I lied. “It seems like a long time ago.” I moved us back on topic. “We’ll take your case. It’s a thousand a day, plus expenses. Five days up front.”

She reached into her clutch and pressed an envelope into my hands. “Here’s thirty thousand. Please find him fast.”

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