Ace Spade ~ private eye

Ace Spade ~ Patty, Kathy and Mo put three words each into the pot for a "word prompt" challenge. The words are: Interview, pen, texting, cigarette, SNAFU, wind, fire, swan, ice.

A pen, a dish and one cranky swan...
an Ace Spade story


By Mo Conlan

Ace Spade searched for a pen in his desk drawer and came up with an old ballpoint. He needed a new Girl Friday and the latest candidate was coming through the door for an interview.

She was a dish – medium height, coppery hair the color she’d been born with, an impertinent smile on her heart-shaped face. She was smoking a cigarette and carried a voluminous basket that Spade thought must be a purse. He didn’t understand women’s apparel.

“Hi, I’m Penny,” she said and sat down in the chair opposite Spade. “Got an ashtray?”

Spade produced an old-fashioned heavy glass one, with grooves on the four corners for cigarettes.

“Thanks,” she said. “What are you looking for?”

Ace Spade had expected to ask the first question.

“General. I’m a PI. Can you type?”

“Of course.”

“On a real typewriter?” he asked, pointing to the old Remington that sat to one side of his desk.

Penny squinted at it. “No reason why not. But why?"

"Don't like to have our business out in cyberspace. Hackers. computer crashes. I like things on paper and I like them to stay here."

"Sure," Penny said.

“Do you, uh, talk on your phone and, uh, text?”

“Nah. Could kill your brain cells.”

Good, Spade thought.

“Why did you leave your last position – I see here -- Eyes, Inc.”

Penny took a last puff and stubbed out her cigarette in the ashtray.

“Lotta stuff. A few SNAFUS that, OK, I guess could be pinned on me. But just freaky bad luck, too. It began on ‘bring your pet to work day’ and I brought Agnes.”

“Agnes?”

“My pet swan.”

Spade noticed her purse wiggling.

“Mr. Bletch – married and way too handsy if you know what I mean – gave me a pinch. Agnes nipped his ankle. He jumped around screaming – big baby – which riled up Agnes even more. She flapped against the fire alarm and set it off.”

“Understandable,” said Spade.

“I thought so.” She sighed.

“But then Mr. Bletch slipped on an ice cube from my iced tea that spilled when he and Agnes were racing around.”

“Hmmm.”

“Hit his head on the corner of my desk. And, well, that was the last of Mr. Bletch. I called 911, but it was just a freak thing.”

They sat in silence awhile until Spade finally spoke.

“Do you know how to wind a grandfather clock?” The one good piece of furniture in his shabby office was the clock that had been his grandfather’s.

She nodded. “Had one growing up.”

“Do you have any questions about the job?” Spade asked.

“Can you bring pets to work?”

The wiggling purse flew open and out popped a long-necked swan. The swan flapped and landed on Penny’s lap – giving Spade a cold-eyed once-over.

“This is Agnes,” Penny said.

“Will she bite,” Spade asked.

“Not if you don’t try to pinch me.”

Spade had a long think, but then went with his gut, as usual.

“You can start tomorrow,” he said. “Agnes can come to work as long as you have a cage for her – in case she becomes, uh, agitated.”

“She usually doesn’t – as long as nobody tries to get fresh with me,” Penny said with a sweet smile.

“Just theoretical – what if you want them to get fresh with you?”

“There’s her cage.”



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