It was the kind of night that wraps around you like a dark fog, that whirls your coat and hair like an arial whirlpool and dances around the amber streetlamps like mist, the kind that wraps you in its tentacles and goes inside you and fills you up like a milkshake maker fills his glass. It was the kind of night that projects every light and sound and thought through the New York air, the kind of night that sounds like a lone taxi and smells like cheap cigars and tastes like cold hard steel. It was the kind of night I like best.

My name's Tlogmer. Charlie Tlogmer, private eye. At least, that's what it says on my door. I stepped out of the elevator with a bit of the air still in me and the doors closed. At my own door was a dame.

She stood like a marionette, a hand on the doorframe, her back to me. Cheap perfume reached my nostrils. I tried to sound professional. "Whaddaya want?"

She heard the elevator's ding three seconds late and turned. "Mr. Tlogmer?"

I looked back without blinking. "That depends. Who are you?"

Her eyes shone like twin Coca-Cola bottles: Beautiful and empty. "Mr. Tlogmer, I need your help."

"Come back when I'm awake." I unlocked the door, stepped inside, managed to find my way through the office to my bedroom, and went to sleep.

I woke to the sun, slicing through the curtains, dancing the cha-cha across my eyelids, and rolled out of bed. The remains of an ancient pastrami sandwich greeted my yet-unfocoused eyes like a bad-breathed Taiwaneese politician greets a small lizard slipping into his sandal. I pulled myself to my feet and wandered off to the bathroom.

I had just finished squeezing the last drops of toothpaste from the tube when an ear-splitting shave-and-a-haircut knock ricocheted off the walls of my apartment. I opened the door.

The lizard slipped out of my Taiwaneese sandal to reveal an extremely wide wad of bills. A wad of bills that looked exactly like the dame I'd politely dissmissed 8 hours before. My smile probably made me look like I was going for her thoat.

She stood there like a rabbit in headlights, nose twitching slightly.

"Come on in", I said too loudly, with a grand motion that swept my desk clear. "Charlie Tlogmer, Private Eye. No case too small, no case too large, except those involving the federal government. What can I do for you?" I belatedly extended my hand.

She looked the office over. She looked me over. "Quite a piece you got there," she murmered, glacing at my midsection.

I opened my mouth, then closed it.

"Glock .22, I see. Classic." She smiled. I realized that my handgun was indeed at my side.

"Oh yeah, that." I leaned an elbow on the desk. "So what brings you here? There've gotta be two-hundred other private dicks in San Fran just waiting for a broad like you."

"You were the cheapest dick I could find." She found a chair and sat, legs crossed.

I smiled sauvely and sat down myself, behind the desk. "So?"

"What?" She glanced away from the window.

"Well, you came to a PI. You must be after something."

"Someone," she said. "What's the pay?"

"How much you got?"

"I asked you first."

"And I asked you second." I sighed. "Two hundred a day, plus expenses. So who're you looking for?"

She smiled again, teeth like the daughter of a Taiwaneese politican married to an orthodontist, who enjoys long walks on the beach. But I'm getting ahead of myself.


I stood up. I sat down and felt the chair start to give. I stood up again. "Sorry?"

She gestured to what I thought had been a card. "Your ad? I make a great cup of coffee."

Oh, yeah. Secretary. "Right, right, yeah. Well. . ." I looked at her. "You're hired."