02 – On The First Day of ChristmasThe Naughty List
I came out the door in a rush and there she was, leaning against my 1973 bright red Pontiac Firebird, with the onyx bird sprawling across the hood. I had worked the entire summer of 1975 to save up for that car and it’s my baby.
My baby that she is touching.
I narrow my eyes at her as she licks her fingers to erase the evidence of her first crime today.
“That was my breakfast,” I grumble at her.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Wolfe.” She has a glint in her eyes as she smiles at me. “I thought you and your ego were being fed enough by your adoring fans in the bullpen.”
“Ha. Ha. Figured out where we’re going yet?” I move closer to shoo her off my baby. I run my hand along the car where her ass was touching it. I see her roll her eyes.
“No. I have a map. Was going to take the notes, if you can call them that, and mark all the instances where Santa has been attacked.”
“Perfect! That means we have time for breakfast. I’m driving,” as I head toward the plain brown Ford LTD Crown Victoria on the other side of the parking lot.
“Wait! What about your Firebird?” She comes trotting up next to me.
“I’m not taking my bright red Firebird on a stakeout. Now, if you wanna go on a date later, sure. I might even let you take the stick,” I say as I wink at her.
“Pig,” she mutters as she rolls her eyes. “I am not going on a date with you. Not now. Not ever, Wolfe.”
“Well, then I guess you’re never gonna see how my stick handles.” I shrug as I duck into the driver’s seat.
“I already know how you handle your stick,” she says with a smug look as she slides into the passenger seat. I shake my head as I drive off. A few minutes later we are pulling into a small diner near the station. The little bell chimes on the door as we step in, and we take up residence in a booth.
“What can I get ya, Wolfe?” The cute waitress is talking to me but looking at Trouble with a questioning look.
“I’ll take the usual,” I say as I smile at Connie. She’s cute, but her father would shoot me.
“I’ll have coffee and toast with jelly,” Trouble offers. Then the waitress is gone. I watch in amusement as Agent Harris meticulously pulls out her map and unfurls it on the table. This is followed by the sorry excuse of a case file, and a pen. She never once looks up at me or asks me a question. She ticks down the list marking the locations on the map. I had already put together the basic area of where we needed to focus, but due diligence is never a bad thing. Shows she gives a damn about this petty case. I can’t help but wonder whose Wheaties she pissed in to get assigned to this. About the time she marks the last of the locations on the map, the waitress comes back and sets down what can only be described as a ‘heart attack on a plate’.
“What is that?”
“This, my dear Agent Harris, is the ultimate breakfast. Two biscuits, sausage patties, with bacon, scrambled eggs, and all of it buried under a divine amount of gravy.”
“I see,” she says with disdain.
“It’s delicious. Want some?”
“I’ll just have the toast,” she picks up the little jelly packet and cracks it open to spread on her pitiful triangles of bread.
“Suit yourself,” I shrug as I shove a hearty bite into my mouth.
“Hmph.” She makes that little hum noise women make that drives me crazy. She obviously wants to say something, but she makes that sound instead and now I’m chasing my dick around trying to figure out what I did wrong. I ignore her while I enjoy my breakfast, and she seems content enough to ignore me. She buries her nose back into the case notes and reads through the various encounters as she narrows down where she wants to stake out. I take the silent moments to take her in. She is a looker, that’s for sure. Enough of one that I am contemplating if the consequences of breaking the captain’s rules would be worth it.
I shove another bite in and I know I know her from somewhere. I close one eye and cock my head to see if it gives me a clue.
“It’s rude to stare,” she says without looking up at me.
“Also, rude to steal someone’s breakfast.”
“Got any proof I stole it?” She looks up and smirks at me.
“Guess I’ll have to frisk you to see if you stashed any of the evidence.”
“I would like to see you try, Wolfe.”
“Is that a bet, a threat, or a promise?” I flash her a wolfish grin.
“Guess you’ll just have to find out.” This saucy little minx grins and pops a piece of toast in her mouth like she had won this verbal tête-à-tête.
“So, promise. Good to know. Figured out we’re going to be staking out Sears, yet?”
“How did you-?” she asks with an astonished look on her face.
“I mean, not that hard. They were all clustered in that area.” I motion with my fork. “Sears is the one that makes the most sense.” I had already built the map mentally, as the addresses had been read off at the bullpen. I know this city like I know the back of my hand. I thought she would like that we are on the same page, but the scowling look she is giving me suggests otherwise. “What?”
“If you knew that already, why the hell did you let me waste all this time?” She motions over the table in frustration.
“You were double checking my work. I would have been more worried if you got a different answer.”
“Let’s get one thing straight, detective Wolfe. We’re supposed to be working together on this case. Even though I don’t need you and can solve it on my own. So next time, maybe you could save the smug look and just tell me the information.”
“Okay, Miss Smarty-pants. If I had told you we were going to Sears, you would have jumped my shit. Telling me that is just some assumption I made, and I was wrong. Then we would have still been here with that map, waiting for you to get to the same damn answer. So, I tried to cut out one argument. Just to find myself in another one.” I clank my fork down on the plate.
“Right. Cause you know everything. Just like you always do.” She crosses her arms and sits back, glaring at me. “You’re Joe Wolfe.” She starts in by saying my name in a mocking tone. “Perfect at everything. Knows what’s best and thinks being some Podunk detective makes him better than the FBI.”
“Uh, huh. Says little miss alphabet soup rookie that got dumped into Podunk nowhere. You’re the one in my backyard, honey.”
“I’m not your honey, and if you think I don’t know this town, you’re sorely mistaken. You don’t even know my name, stud.”
“Hrmph,” I give her a taste of her own medicine. But that nagging feeling that I have had this very argument with her before strengthens. Who the fuck is this girl?
“Hmph!” She gives it back in spades. How do women do that? I don’t really want to know. I just shake my head and throw the twenty on the table for breakfast.
“C’mon, Alphabet Soup. We got a parkin’ lot calling our names.” I wait long enough for her to gather up all the paperwork and map before following her out of the diner. I stop at the counter to pick up the two capped cups of Joe that Connie left us. This is going to be a long day.
Sears is on the other side of town. I spend the time tuning the radio to the local Christmas station as we make our way to the department store. The AM station runs classic Christmas music non-stop from December first to Christmas. “Sleigh bells ring, are you listenin’,” pipes through the speakers in Bing Crosby’s crooning voice. She rolls her eyes and looks out the window.
“What? You don’t like Christmas music? I thought everybody loved Christmas.”
“Christmas has nothing to do with that audio torture.”
“Audio torture? This is classic Bing. I mean this is Bing at his prime.” That gets her to pull her sulking gaze from the window and gawk at me.
“Are you seriously going to make me listen to this crap all day?” I can see the hint of fear on her face.
“Okay. This is not crap. It takes real vocal talent to do. Have you ever tried singing this song? Kicks my ass every time.”
“I have and no, it doesn’t take talent to belt out this garbage of fake cheer.”
“Wow. Okay, Mister Scrooge. We have a bah-hum-bugger in the house.”
“That’s Miss Scrooge to you,” Trouble barks back at me.
“Suit yourself. Just remember, Scrooge even loves Christmas in the end.” I wink at her as I reach over to turn up the radio.