The sound of the office buzzer jolted him out of his uneasy doze. Well who can that be? Rue blinked owlishly, dismissing it as a wrong address. Another ring a moment later, this one more insistent, roused him to action.
Finger on the button, he yelled into the speaker, “Yello…?”
A pause and then a husky woman’s voice answered, “Is… is this the offices of Rue Dobbs, Private Investigator?” There was a tantalizing timidity hiding in the bold, businesslike tone.
Blushing, Rue confirmed her destination, “Oh. Yes…” he began clearing papers from his desk haphazardly, “One sec. Er, come right up.” He buzzed her in.
Settling back into his chair, Rue tried to look busy yet carefree as he heard footsteps sound on the stairs. Heels, at a leisurely pace that had him imagining a leggy blonde. Somewhere in the back of his melodramatic mind, a soft jazz riff started up and a stately silhouette darkened the frosted glass of the outer office door. The figure waited as if steeling herself and then plunged into the room, revealing a woman every bit as beautiful as Rue had imagined.
Startled into politeness, Rue Dobbs kindly removed his feet from where he’d propped them on the desk corner. Snapping his suspenders up over his shoulders, he reached over his cleared off desk to shake the woman’s hand.
Introducing herself as Rebecca Dawes, she turned to sit. Rue was relieved to note that the seat opposite his desk was (mostly) clear. Red, perfectly-tailored suit shifted about her lithe form as she gingerly sat in the chair.
“Mr. Dobbs, I trust you are the right man to approach on matters of … extreme delicacy,” she began.
“Rue, ma’am, call me Rue. And yes, you’ll find me to be the very soul of discretion,” the detective smiled winningly, taking out pen and notepad.
“I thought so. Rue,” she hesitated ever so slightly before using the familiar. “You see, I’m in a little bit of a pickle. My husband… well, I had this collection of memorabilia from my family. A few precious trinkets, nothing real outrageous or anything. Heirlooms. Until very recently, these items resided in a safety deposit box at Emblem National.”
“Mmm…” Rue Dobbs scratched at his pad, “And who left whom, Mrs. Dawes?”
“I didn’t-“ Rebecca blushed and cast down her eyes, “He died. My husband. About four months ago. Suicide.”
“Oh.” Rue stopped his scratching, “I’m sorry for your loss.” He again glanced to the woman’s ring finger where the faintest line from her ring still made its presence known. In his estimation, women her age simply didn’t take off the ring and move on in four months time unless there were no hard feelings or too many. Making a mental note to check on this later, he pressed, “I’m sorry, you were saying something about a safety deposit box?”
“Yes. After – after Ted died, I went to our box and discovered it to be empty.” Here Mrs. Dawes showed more signs of agitation than when she’d rather glibly made mention of her husband’s passing, the change subtle but not beneath Rue’s notice.
“How curious,” Rue leaned forward, definitely engaged now. “Did you ask the bank? Check the signature card? Or perhaps the police?”
“No, no,” Rebecca moaned, “I know he took them. You see, we’d been having… issues… within our marriage. It’s exactly the sort of thing he’d do.” She pressed her hands together on his desk and leaned in, “And I cannot go to the police. I simply cannot. You see…” She paused, biting her ruby red lip.
“Go on. Remember – soul of discretion,” Rue reminded his client, for he had already made up his mind to take on this intriguing case. Eviction notices, bah! he crowed inwardly.
“…The items in question, they’re tokens from various escapades of my family through the years,” she confided. “You’ve heard of the Traccone family, I presume?”
The mafia? Really? No wonder she didn’t want the cops involved. Rue did an excited little dance in his chair, doing his level best to hide his giddiness. His day was just getting better and better. Nodding, he kept his head down, trying to look intent and businesslike but rather feeling as if Christmas had just been dumped on his doorstep. “I understand your need for secrecy,” he smiled.
“I thought you might,” Rebecca emitted a sigh of relief and leaned back into her chair, “So you’ll help me then?”
“Trace down your family, er, legacy – discreetly – and return to you what’s rightfully yours,” Rue recited, “Not a problem. Now, as to expenses…”
Rebecca gave a tinkly little laugh and laid her hand on Rue’s impulsively, “I’m not destitute, if that’s what you’re wondering… Fee payable upon delivery? You do come highly recommended.”
Nodding dumbstruck, it was only after Mrs. Dawes swept from the room, leaving nothing but her card and the lingering scent of perfume in the air, that Rue wondered who’d taken it upon themselves to speak so glowingly of him.