Cinnamon Kiss
then when Jesus and Feather found their way into my home. The idea that this arrogant little man would refer to my mother in that tone made me want to slap him. But I held myself in check. After all, I had mentioned my mother’s admonition and Feather needed my best effort if she was going to live.
    “So why am I here?” I asked.
    “You’d need a practicing existentialist to answer a question like that,” he said. “All I can do is explain the job at hand. Mr. Lynx…”
    “Yes sir,” Saul said. “May I say that it’s an honor to meet you.”
    “Thank you. Do you vouch for Mr. Rawlins?”
    “He’s among the best, sir. And he is the best in certain parts of town, especially if that town is Los Angeles.”
    “You realize that you will be held accountable for his actions?”
    Lee referred to me as if I weren’t there. A moment before, that would have angered me, but now I was amused. His effort was petty. I turned to Maya Adamant and winked.
    “I’d trust Ezekiel Rawlins with my life,” Saul replied. There was deep certainty in his voice.
    “I’m my own man, Mr. Lee,” I said. “If you want to work with me, then fine. If not I have things to do in L.A.”
    “Or in Montreux,” he added, proving my suspicions about the eavesdropping devices throughout the house.
    “The job,” I prodded.
    Lee pressed his lips outward and then pulled them in. He looked at me with those infant orbs and came to a decision.
    “I have been retained by a wealthy man living outside Danville to discover the whereabouts of a business associate who went missing five days ago. This associate has absconded with a briefcase that contains certain documents that must be returned as soon as possible. If I can locate this man and return the contents of that briefcase before midnight of next Friday I will receive a handsome fee and you, if you are instrumental in the acquisition of that property, will receive ten thousand dollars on top of the monies you’ve already been paid.”
    “Who’s the client?” I asked.
    “His name is unimportant,” Lee replied.
    I knew from the way he lifted his chin that my potential employer meant to show me who was boss. This was nothing new to me. I had tussled with almost every boss I’d ever had over the state of my employment and the disposition of my dignity.
    And almost every boss I’d ever had had been a white man.
    “What’s in the briefcase?”
    “White papers, printed in ink and sealed with red wax.”
    I turned my head to regard Saul. Beyond him, on the far wall, next to a lamp, was a small framed photograph. I couldn’t make out the details from that distance. It was the only decoration on the walls and it was in an odd place.
    “Is your client the original owner of these white papers, printed in ink and sealed with red wax?”
    “As far as I know my client is the owner of the briefcase in question and its contents.”
    Lee was biding his time, waiting for something. In my opinion he was acting like a buffoon but those eyes made me wary.
    “What is the name of the man who stole the briefcase?”
    Lee balked then. He brought his fingers together, forming a triangle.
    “I’d like to know a little bit more about you before divulging that information,” he said.
    I sat back and turned my palms upward. “Shoot.”
    “Where are you from?”
    “A deep dark humanity down in Louisiana, a place where we never knew there was a depression because we never had the jobs to lose.”
    “Education?”
    “I read Mann’s
Magic Mountain
last month. The month before that I read
Invisible Man
.”
    That got a smile.
    “H. G. Wells?”
    “Ellison,” I countered.
    “You fought in the war?”
    “On both fronts.”
    Lee frowned and cocked his head. “The European and Japanese theaters?” he asked.
    I shook my head and smiled.
    “White people took their shots at me,” I said. “Most of them were German but there was an American or two in the mix.”
    “Married?”
    “No,” I said with

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