Judgment Calls

Judgment Calls by Alafair Burke Read Free Book Online

Book: Judgment Calls by Alafair Burke Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alafair Burke
make the life of some thirty-year-old millionaire a little more comfortable.
    Some of the old-timers, artists who had used the warehouses as inexpensive studio space, complained about the gentrification. But most Portlanders, like me, were happy to have a neighborhood close to downtown where they could go after work for dinner and a drink.
    Tonight’s dinner was at Oba, my favorite Pearl District spot. The bar in the front of the restaurant was, at least for now, the beautiful people’s place to see and be seen. And, although I didn’t have firsthand knowledge, Oba enjoyed a reputation as a good place to find a companion for the rest of the night. I came for the food.
    Grace was already there when I arrived. Despite the throngs of people packed into the bar, my best friend had managed to procure a seat at a table of young and painfully attractive men. One of them was returning from the bar with her favorite drink, a Cosmopolitan. And, of course, all of them were laughing. Grace Hannigan is one of the funniest people I know.
    I worked my way over to the table and leaned over so Grace could hear me. “You been here long?”
    “Hey, woman. I didn’t see you come in. I just got here a little bit ago.”
    One of the men at the table got up and offered his chair.
    I could barely hear Grace over the noise. She leaned in. “This one on my right is a client. He saw me walk in and waved me over. He’s a computer programmer. The rest of them are with him.” She leaned in even closer and said in my ear, “The blond one’s got potential. He’s coming in next week. I made room on my calendar.”
    Grace cuts hair. It’s a good thing she’s got the kind of job where a guy can make an appointment to see her on a risk-free basis, or she would probably never get a date. You know how actresses and models say that guys never ask them out? You’re supposed to infer that they’re so beautiful that men are too intimidated to risk rejection. I wouldn’t have believed it unless I had a best friend like Grace. She has collagen-free pouty lips, bright white teeth, and flawless skin that’s alabaster in winter and bronzed in summer. Her hair looks different every time I see her, but her natural curls always frame her face just right. And she can eat all the junk she wants and never get fat. I’m so glad I know her, or I’d probably hate her.
    Despite Grace’s looks, men who are obviously attracted to her rarely ask her out. Instead, they make appointments for haircuts. Eventually, they get around to asking her if she has time to grab a drink or dinner afterward, but they always use the haircut as the way in. Grace says she can never tell whether a man’s appointment is a pre-date formality or if he just wants his hair cut, but I keep telling her that any man willing to pay $60 for a haircut is probably looking for a date. A nice shag. A good bang. A first-rate bob.
    I ordered a Bombay Sapphire martini, but we didn’t last at the bar for long. We were eager to talk about the week that had passed since we’d last seen each other, and the noise was too much, so we moved to our table.
    I let her go first, because her news was always more fun. Most of her week this time was spent working on the set of a movie being filmed in the area. Grace’s business had been thriving in town for years, but in the last couple of years she had developed a strong reputation as an on-set stylist for the increasing number of film productions that were coming to Portland.
    As much as Grace enjoyed the new field of work, what she really seemed to love was the dish. Grace had always acted as part-time therapist to clients who trusted her with their life’s secrets, and she actually refrained from passing these tidbits on to others. However, she felt no such loyalty toward pretentious thespians and spoiled prima donnas. Working regularly on production sets satisfied Grace’s lust for good, spreadable dirt.
    Tonight’s topic was the disagreeable side of

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