I am a voice in my head. As long as I don’t interfere, the rest of me functions rather well—until Miss V hands me the fortune cookie at the finish line of a plateful of her twice baked pork.
“Herro Razalla,” Miss Violet does the Chinese thing with Lazarra even though she’s Stanford, Class of ’51, and third generation Sacramento. She insists that her success with Half Wong in Saddleton is due to the consistency in ambiance.
I think it’s all in the name which, for those in the know, tells the tale of a Chinese woman who has gotten rid of an unsatisfactory husband, a Mister Wong, who aspired to be a chef. I once joked with her about naming her café Half Right. She remarked that Half Light just wasn’t catchy.
Miss V’s eyes widened behind her glasses when I wad up the slip of paper from the broken cookie and cast it on the pile of pork bones. “You always keep those awful things. Something wrong, Lazarra?” she proves that her pronunciation is purely atmospheric.
“Be at peace with yourself,” I spit out. “The last two fortune cookies I’ve gotten have said the same thing.”
“Something wrong with the sentiment?” The tiny Chinese woman grins.
“I have a hard time believing that any random sample of fortunes in cookies would score three out of three in three different locations.”
“Maybe all fortunes same,” V reverts back to type. She picks up one from the plate at the nearest table. “Not worry,” she assures her male customer. “We realize you get wrong fortune. Have yours in kitchen.”
She ignores his vexed look and breaks open the cookie and reads, “The greatest danger could be your stupidity.”
“See, not your fortune,” Violet grins at him and turns to me. “Not all same.”
“Okay, okay,” I calm down. Just one of those strange coincidences in life.
“Getting late. Staying with Adam, tonight?” Violet turns to another subject.
“No, I’m on my way to Fresno to bunk with a friend,” I can’t explain to V about staying at Adam’s hotel since the murder.
“I’m going on vacation—headed to Palm Springs,” I change the subject towards less local information. “I may not be back in the area for a couple of months.”
“Seen Brick around?” Miss V’s question about my former boyfriend doesn’t annoy me. Ignoring my change in subject does—a little.
“Not for a long time. I hear that he and Decker Dooley make quite a pair,” I say more coolly than I intended. I don’t like to talk about that subject, either.
“You just barrel of fun, tonight,” my friend slides her glasses down her nose and peers at me over the rims.
Halfway down the hill to Stockton, I realize that I have a long drive to Fresno, so I call Radinka to let her know that I’ll be late. Radinka, meaning playful, encourages me with a promise of leftover meatloaf in the frig. “You know where the wine is,” my old friend, a brunette with cuddly looks and business sense as sharp as surgical cutlery, cuts the connection short because she’s taking out a client for dinner.
“He’s got ever so much money,” my friend’s fin cuts the water as she circles the prey. “He wants me to invest all of it.”
“So you will,” I say to dead air and feel the thump-thump of expansion joints across SH 16 vibrating through the wheel.
I share a bowl of instant oatmeal and coffee with Radinka in the morning. My venerable BMW hums down SH 99 in the direction of Bakersfield where I have to pound a client over the head, not on the back, for choking on a legal brief full of vegetables laced with heavy metals. I told him not to plant in that particular field!
A wrathful real estate agent stalking through my client’s deserted office space helps me track my target to a lunch counter on Truxton Avenue where Wilbur and I exchange a few threats and harsh words after which I leave with a bank draft in payment for services rendered. The paperwork for this case fills two heavy cases in the trunk of my car. I should charge out extra for gas..
Four hours lost in Bakersfield puts me very late into Palm Springs where I check in with my office using my NEC, the latest in laptop computers, and the internet.
A long list of messages downloads. Every other one reads Go on vacation, Laz. I strip off one of my shoes by stepping on the heel with the other and straining against the pressure from the shoelaces. The other I have bend down to untie before I kick it off. The footies come off by stepping on the toes and pulling out my knees joint. I can hardly wait for the hot tub and shower.
I’m so tired I won’t mind drowning. At last, I’m on vacation—only a few cases of paperwork in the car that I have to FED-X to the office in the morning.