The Word Incarnate
Robert Allen Lupton

I opened Enchanted Investigations a few minutes early, made coffee in the percolator, changed the water in my dog’s dish, and fed her two donuts. They disappeared in a single bite. My dog’s a cross between a Shetland pony and a Pixie princess who was turned into a poodle. The Fae call the breed, Shetdoodles. Her name is Snotsniffer, but I call her Baby in public.

She drank her water and splattered most of it on the floor. Her hooves rang on the hardwood floor. She clanked the front ones on the countertop, pulled the donut box to the floor and devoured it, box and all. I shook my head.

Snotsniffer raised her head and said, “Mo, want mo.”

She has the intelligence of a three year old, after all she’s half princess. I said, “No Baby, you ate all of them. I’ll get you a couple burgers for lunch.”

She stamped a hoof and grumbled. “Slee’ now.” She curled up in corner and was snoring before my coffee was ready.

A rapid knock shook my door. That’s how most of my business starts, someone knocks on the door. I checked to be sure my gun was in reach, poured a cup of java, and yelled, “You waiting for an invite? Door’s unlocked.”

A fancy dressed man walked in. He took off his fedora, put it on the head of his cane, and leaned the cane against my coat rack. He wiped a coffee cup with his handkerchief and reached for the coffee pot.

“Slow down, partner. I told you to come in. I didn’t say to make yourself at home.”

“I’m sorry. I assume you’re Louise Blaine. It says Louise Blaine on the door.”

“Time enough for apologies later. Call me Lou. How can I help you?”

He shot his cuffs forward, straightened his tie, and refolded his handkerchief. “I’ve got a problem.”

“Everyone who comes through my door has a problem. I assume you’re not referring to the way you dress. You hang around this part of Los Angeles dressed like that and someone will solve your problems with a blackjack. Go ahead and grab a cup of joe.”

I petted my dog and rubbed her nose. Pixie snot is magic. It lets me see through spells and enchantments. With a small dribble on one hand, I can tell if a person is really a troll, an orc, or a fairy. The sweetest looking grandma might be an elf, dryad, or a gnome. The Fae have the same problem humans do. Some are good and some are bad and I want to know what I’m dealing with.

He still looked like a man and Snotsniffer verified it. “He’s ‘uman. Not troll, not goblin. Smell funny.”

“Baby, don’t talk. Mister, take a load off and tell me what you want. Whatever it is, I charge fifty bucks a day and expenses. Three days minimum, cash in advance.”

“I’m J. Wellington Faro, of the Dallas Faros. It’s my daughter. She’s involved with a quite distasteful man, Bill Carey, the city councilman.”

“So your daughter’s fooling around with a man you don’t like. I’m not a chaperone and I don’t do strong arm work.”

“Nothing so plebian. Deborah’s an adult and I wouldn’t presume to tell her who she can see and who she can’t. You’d be surprised at the things a young woman will do to prove a point.”

Having been a young woman once myself, I didn’t think I’d be a bit surprised. “Please continue.”

“Mr. Carey is not only an elected official, but he’s a minister. His church, The Word Incarnate, is not affiliated with any traditional church. Deborah dresses even more strangely than before and she attends services every night. Sometimes, she doesn’t come home.

“I got no use for shamans. Man should earn an honest living. A man who believes that the Lord will provide shouldn’t pass a collection plate to earn his wages. What exactly do you want?”

“I want you to check out The Word Incarnate. If it’s on the up and up, I’ll just wait until Deborah tires of this particular diversion. Her attention span is astonishingly short. If she’s in danger, I want you take whatever steps are necessary to protect her.”

“You mean like if Father Carey has multiple wives or practices virgin sacrifices?”

“Not exactly. One of those ships sailed years ago and any man foolish enough to marry my daughter is on his own. What kind of church has services every night? They lock themselves inside after sunset. I’m worried.”

That was strange. Most churches operate like a Ponzi scheme. They need new blood to survive. Locking out potential donors is counter-productive. I never was one to believe that an omnipotent and omni-benevolent god much cared what I did on Sunday mornings or Saturday night, but I do believe that there isn’t much difference between the Pope and a witch doctor. I said, “I’ll take your case, but I want two weeks in advance.”

J. Wellington Faro never flinched. He counted out seven crisp one hundred dollar bills. Damn, I should have asked for three weeks.

That evening, I dressed in the Rosie the Riveter outfit I wore six days a week at the airplane plant until I got laid off when the war ended. A lot of women were put out of work. Some got married. Some worked the streets and some took menial jobs. Me, I got my private investigator’s license and with a little help from an obnoxious pixie named Marvin made a name for myself by running the Bandits, a goblin gang, out of town. He gave me Snotsniffer, or Baby to most folks, especially if they’re the sensitive kind. Her snot, like Marvin’s, disenchants enchantments. I’d bet a dollar to a donut that this Bill Carey was some kind of Fae. Most likely a Red Fairy. Orcs aren’t smart enough to run a long con like a church, trolls choose jobs like cops or guards, and goblins just want to cause havoc. Yep, probably a Red Fairy.

I checked my makeup, rehearsed my sob story, locked up the office, and walked my dog to the church. I stopped and let her sniff and christen the ground in the park where Marvin and I defeated the Bandits with a barrage of snot balloons. A city work crew was repairing the streets in front of Banshee’s Breath, my favorite tavern. The workers were all gnomes, enchanted to look human, and Helga Gunderson was the HGIC, the head gnome in charge. She nodded and touched her nose to acknowledge me. I returned the gesture. I never expected to be friends with a gnome.

Baby and I walked through the tall doors of the Word Incarnate Church about ten minutes before sunset. One of the deacons greeted us. “Welcome to the Word Incarnate. I’m sorry, but we don’t allow pets inside the building.”

“I thought God liked dogs.”

“No doubt he does, but all things have a place, and their place isn’t in our sanctuary. Render to Caesar, and all that.”

If I wasn’t on the job, I’d have pressed the issue. I took Baby down the street and Helga agreed to watch her for me. I refreshed my snot vision with a heavy slather and dashed back to the church. The deacons were human and so was most of the congregation. I spotted a couple of dryads and a gnome or two. The organist played, “Onward Christian Soldiers” and I sat down. The clank of the front door locking was louder than the organ crescendo. The good reverend Carey walked to the pulpit. He wasn’t a Red Fairy or any other type of Fae. He looked as human as Tail-gunner Joe McCarthy, but a lot better looking.

He recited an opening prayer for peace, happiness, calm seas, trailing winds, and goodwill to mankind. He didn’t say anything specific, seditious, or impressive. He sat down and everyone sang a couple hymns I didn’t recognize. He returned to the podium.

“My friends. The Word Incarnate is the Incarnate Word. God helps those who help themselves. He also helps those who help each other. God made us in his own image. It is our duty to make ourselves strong in his image. We must be fruitful and multiply.”

There it was. The fruitful and multiple thing is shaman code for God wants you to have my babies. He went on and on for another hour without saying anything of any consequence except a thinly veiled reference to the lessons of World War II. God wants us to protect the faithful. I figured this meant that the good minister kept an arsenal in the basement.

After the service, the congregation shared communion and split up. Several of the faithful disappeared. I was the only new person and I ended up in a coffee klatch with a group of women my age. The good ladies regaled me with stories about how the Word Incarnate changed their lives for the better. I acted bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, laughed at the right times, and oohed and aahed on cue. They prayed continuously for my salvation. It was like a relay, only with prayer instead of a baton. By the time we finished, I’d have agreed to worship a stuffed peacock if they’d only shut the hell up.

We broke up after midnight. I met Helga for a night cap at the Banshee’s Breath, recovered Baby, and caught what sleep I could in the loft above my office.

I left Baby at home the next evening, but I added pixie snot to a bottle of perfume. Even diluted, the snot would work its magic. I’d dab a little on whenever I needed it. I marched in the church at sundown and the service was the same as before. I almost recognised two of the hymns. The tunes were familiar, but the words were strange. After the service, they invited me to join the faithful in the inner sanctum. I dabbed on a little lilac-scented pixie snot and prepared to defend my virtue or my life. Maybe it would only be a potluck dinner. Most churches were big on potluck dinners. Fried chicken would be good. I do like me some fried chicken.

It wasn’t a potluck dinner, an orgy, or a human sacrifice. I didn’t know whether to be pleased or disappointed. I wore clean underwear. The congregation split into three groups. One group cleaned and polished surplus military rifles and pistols. Bazookas were lined up in a row on one table. Six women chatted while they cleaned brown gunk off mortars. I recognized the smell of Cosmoline. This wasn’t a church social, it was an arsenal. What the hell was the right honorable minister and councilor, William Carey, doing with enough firepower to invade Paris or at least Torrance?

Bill said, “Louise, over here.”

I freshened up my perfume and scanned the room. Everyone was human, not an elf, orc, or fairy in sight.

He took my hand and said, “Louise? It is Louise, isn’t it? I’m so happy you could join us. We’re doing the Lord’s work, but the Lord helps those who help themselves.”

He made eye contact. Politicians are like that. I guess they think that if they look you in the eye, it makes them sound sincere and truthful. His eyes flickered and were as orange as fire. I held his gaze and said, “Call me Lou.”

“Okay, Lou. This is Deborah. Deborah Faro. She’ll show you the ropes.”

A short blonde wiped a grease-filled hank of hair off her forehead, cleaned her hands on a rag that had seen better days, and said, “Please to meet you. We got fifteen more mortars to clean before the militia picks up everything at midnight.”

I said, “I hate Cosmoline. It ruins your clothes, and I can’t get that greasy wax out of my hair.”

Deborah laughed. “Try peanut butter or mustard.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s to get rid of skunk smell.”

We spent the next two hours prepping mortars. I told her my mostly true sob story. My man went off to war while I took a job in a defense plant. I tell people that he didn’t come back, but the truth is the bastard found himself a cute little French peasant with sad eyes and a great body, married her, and moved to Idaho.

I can run a straight bead with an arc welder better than any man I know, but that didn’t mean squat when the war was over. The returning service men got the jobs and me and my fellow lady welders got the boot. Only fair, they risked their lives, but that doesn’t change the price of bread. The lucky girls found work as secretaries, waitresses, and clerks. The unlucky got a ring, a baby, and house to keep clean. The rest were left to scavenge for a living any way they could. My story was that the Five and Dime laid me off because I wouldn’t do the mamba with the boss.

Cosmoline makes my eyes water, and the tears helped sell my story. Deborah sniffled and said, “That’s terrible. I’ll stake you to a meal after we finish tonight. If you don’t have a place to stay, we have cots set up down the hall. You’ll be safe, no one will bother you. I know, I stay a couple times a week.”

She blinked away a tear and smiled, “Unless you want to be bothered.”

“I’ll take a raincheck. I got a meal lined up and a place to stay tonight.”

I laughed with her and pried the lid off the last mortar crate. Carey’s orange eyes bothered me. People don’t have orange eyes and neither did the Fae I’d encountered. I was pretty sure about that. The pixie snot let me see the Fae as they really are, and I didn’t remember ever seeing one with orange eyes. I’d ask Helga later, and check around tomorrow if she didn’t know anything.

At midnight two trucks pulled up to load the weapons. I freshened my lipstick and perfume and took a long gander at the drivers. Goblins. The drivers were goblins. The Church of the Word Incarnate was either selling or giving weapons to goblins. No way was this going to turn out well for the good people of Los Angeles.

I kept my head down and helped unload and load the truck. This got better all the time. The trucks were loaded with burlap sacks of marijuana. We unloaded the locoweed and loaded the weapons. The goblins counted everything and drove away.

Twenty minutes later three more goblins backed ice delivery trucks to the loading platform. We tossed the burlap bags in the trucks. I never saw money change hands.

They unlocked the door after midnight so we could leave. The good minister actually blessed us individually as we left and handed us a paper sack with a ham sandwich and an apple. He looked human, but my skin where I’d dabbed the snot-infused perfume burned under the gaze of his fiery orange eyes. Something wasn’t right.

I met Helga and suffered the ‘you-been-gone-too-long’ attention from Baby. A little snot and slobber from a mutt never hurt anyone. I cleaned my face and ordered another beer for Helga and one for myself.

“Helga, The Incarnate Word is a front. The good people buy surplus firearms, uncrate, and clean them up. They trade them to the goblins for marijuana. We put the dope in three ice delivery trucks. It’s probably on the streets by now.”

“The Bandits sold dope, are they back in town?”

“Don’t know. I wouldn’t recognize a Bandit if we were doing a slow dance. The guns aren’t the only thing. The minister has orange eyes. What kind of man’s has orange eyes? My skin burns when he stares at me.”

The gnome lady took a long pull on her beer. “Oh, honey, people and Fae don’t ever have orange eyes. The man is a demon.”

“He looks like a man to me, even when I’m wearing snot goggles.”

“Pixie snot doesn’t work on demons. It only works on Fae enchantments and spells. Demons use a completely different kind of magic. Me and my boys moved here from Europe in 1936. The demons were taking over everything. An honest gnome couldn’t keep a job. I don’t like demons.”

“How do I fight him?”

“You can’t fight him and win, but demons can only manifest themselves if they’ve been invited. Some idiot has invoked a demon. Fool thinks he’s in charge, but no human can boss around a demon, but the demon is bound to an anchor. It could be a necklace, a bottle, a painting, or just about anything. Find the anchor. Destroy it and the demon will be dragged back to whatever level of hell he crawled out of.”

“You mean like an amulet? How do I find his anchor?”

“Sweetheart, it could be anything. If I knew how to find demon anchors, I wouldn’t be paving streets for a living. I’d advertise myself as Helga, queen of the demon hunters. The only thing I know is the demon has to keep it close. He doesn’t have to actually carry it, but he has to keep it nearby. No magic amulet and the poof, the demon is gone.”

I figure Carey, the demon councilman, was running a triangle trade. Guns, to dope, to something. The something could be money, influence, or power. Since goblins were involved, I knew it couldn’t be good. What part did Deborah Faro have is this? She could just be another stooge cleaning weapons for the good minister. I couldn’t believe that a child of privilege would willingly help arm a goblin army and put dope on the street. Of course, I hadn’t asked how the honorable J. Wellington Faro made his money. For all I knew, he was involved in the drug traffic up to his freshly starched collar.

“Helga, I may need help with this.”

“I’ll keep my crew and equipment on the streets around the church. A few bulldozers and a steamroller might come in handy.”

After the service, I helped Deborah open a crate of grease-packed grenades. As soon as we began to clean them, I said, “What’s the deal. Why are we cleaning goop off these weapons? Where do they go?”

“A bunch of discharged servicemen have a place in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Father Carey’s one of them. He supplies them with weapons. The Nazis and Japanese only pretended to surrender. They have armies in Central America and Mexico. We better be ready to defend America.”

“Really, Deborah and I suppose they have Pancho Villa signed up to guide them across the Rio Grande.”

“Pancho Villa’s been dead about fifty years, but they’ve recruited locals to help them.”

“How does the dope fit into this?”

“Surplus guns aren’t free. The money has to come from somewhere.”

Sounded like a misguided, but potentially noble cause to me. The problem was that I knew about the goblins and she didn’t. At best, this was a scam to make money for the demon, Carey, and whatever goblin horde he was involved with. At worst, we were arming a goblin army. For all I knew, a marijuana bonfire could open a gateway to hell and let a million demons march through with an armed goblin escort. Sometimes, I hate the way I think.

I nodded to Deborah and said, “The war ended too quickly to suit me. It was like everyone on both sides decided to take a timeout. It’s good to be prepared. Where do you want these grenades?”

“Aren’t you the little boy scout? Put them by the loading dock.”

I decided to give Deborah the benefit of the doubt and accept her story, for now. When the trucks came, I dabbed fresh perfume on my neck and slathered some on Deborah’s forearm. “Try my perfume, you’ll like it.”

She sniffed and said, “Don’t care for lilac.” She walked toward the trucks and stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the driver was a goblin. She gasped and damn near dropped the crate of grenades.

The goblin touched the pistol on his hip and glared at us. I took the grenades from Deborah and carried them to the truck. “She got a splinter from the edge of the crate. I’m going to help her get it out.”

I left the other members of the choir to load and unload the truck, sat Deborah down, and poured us both a cup of coffee. She was visibly shaken.

“What’s that thing driving the truck?”

“It’s not simple, but most of the things you read in fairy tales are sorta true. He’s a goblin and goblins are bad. Let me start at the beginning.”

I told her the whole tale, including magic pixie snot, Shetdoodles, and gnome road crews. I explained the difference between good Fae and bad Fae. I described orcs, elves, nymphs, dryads, fairies, and trolls. She didn’t believe a word of it.

I washed the snot laden perfume off her arm and pointed to the truck driver. She said, “He looks like a truck driver again. An anchor is tattooed on one arm.”

I gave her a fresh spritz and she gasped when the driver turned into a goblin. Deborah was a slow learner. We did the spritz and wash three times before she was convinced. “Wow, I thought some men were just jerks. Makes sense. I probably dated a troll or an orc. I gotta get out of here.”

“You can go when they unlock the doors. I’ve got history with goblins and if I don’t stop them, I don’t know who will.”

Carey walked over and said, “Excuse me ladies, but those trucks won’t load and unload themselves. A little help please.”

Deborah slathered on fresh perfume and stared at Carey. His orange eyes flashed fire and he growled, “What’s in the bottle?”

Deborah said, “I’ve been working hard and I stink. Lou let me use some of her perfume.”

Carey automatically touched a woman’s bracelet on his left wrist. He twisted it a couple times. “Don’t care for lilac, myself. Let’s get to work.”

Deborah whispered as he walked away, “He looks like a man. Is he human? His eyes were on fire.”

“I didn’t tell you before, but Carey is a demon. He carries around some kind of trinket, a ring, a watch, maybe even a lucky penny. Whatever it is, it’s his anchor to this world. If we destroy it, he’s down for the count.”

“Maybe it’s that bracelet. No man would wear a bracelet like that unless there was a reason.”

I looked at Carey. Every few seconds, he touched the bracelet. “Deborah, you may be right.”

“Why are you doing this? Is someone paying you?”

I wasn’t about to tell her that her dad had hired me. “Not to stop the goblins and the demons. I had a job, but I finished it tonight. For here on, this is community service.”

“I can’t leave until they unlock the doors. I’ll help if I can.”

Carey shouted from across the room. “Trucks, ladies. Trucks.”

The man was right. I needed to deal with the goblin trucks and then get his bracelet or maybe the other way around. The trucks went somewhere loaded with guns and came back loaded with dope. The dope got loaded onto trucks and went somewhere else. If I didn’t do this in the right order, I’d never catch everyone. Hell, I’d probably get killed. I decided demon first, trucks later. Cut off the head and the snake dies.

“Deborah, I’m not ready to take on Carey and the goblins tonight. Let’s load the trucks. Tomorrow, I’ll bring help.”

“What should I do?”

“Go home. Tell your mom and dad that you love them. If you still want to help, meet me at the Banshee’s Breath tomorrow at four.”

“What do my parents have to do with anything?”

“They don’t, but I figure it can’t hurt to tell family you love them before you fight a demon.”

I met Helga for lunch and gave her the rundown. She promised to have two bulldozers and steamroller outside the church at ten. “Lou, I’m coming with you. I’ll bring a dozen gnomes with me. I got a fairy owes me a favor. I’ll get her to put a spell on Baby. Your Shetdoodle will look like another Rosie the Riveter, but she still won’t talk any better than she does now.”

“I’ll tell anyone who asks that she’s drunk.”

My plan was simple. We’d make our move when the trucks came, overpower the goblin drivers and make them take us to their headquarters. Gnomes are vicious when they need to be and we have mortars and grenades. I figured we could handle the goblins. When the other trucks came to pick up the dope, we’d handle them the same way. I didn’t want the other church members to interfere, so we filled spritz bottles with pixie snot water. Once the good folks saw goblins, I figured at worst, they’d back off, and at best, they’d help us.

Carey would certainly try to stop us. I didn’t know squat about demon powers, but I couldn’t worry about that. We’d swarm him, rip off the bracelet and anything else that might be his anchor, and run like hell. Once we got the anchor far enough away, he’d vanish in a puff of smoke like a bad dream. Good plan. Simple. What could go wrong?”

I modified the plan during the service. I managed to spike the holy water with snot and everyone got a good dose before they left the sanctuary. My plan worked perfectly when the dope drivers climbed down from their truck cabs. The women screamed and the men shouted. Some ran away from the goblins and some loaded the guns they’d just cleaned. The place looked like fire sale. People ran everywhere.

Carey tried to calm folks down. Baby, Deborah, and I went after him. The gnomes worked their way through the crowd toward the goblins. I counted on the confusion distracting Carey so we could get his bracelet. It worked and it didn’t. Before Helga and the gnomes could reach the goblins, some of the good parishioners opened fire on the goblins. I didn’t plan on that.

The people saw the goblins as goblins. They also saw the gnomes as gnomes. In all fairness, Helga and the boys didn’t look like storybook gnomes. They didn’t have red pointed hats or overalls. The gnomes ducked for cover and so did the goblins. The pixie snot let people see Baby as a Shetdoodle.

A woman screamed, “It’s a devil dog. It’s after the preacher. Shoot it. Shoot it.”

I wasn’t about to let anyone shoot my dog and I grabbed Baby by the collar and said, “Under the truck, Baby. Now. Under the truck.”

Baby growled, “No truk. Dirty under truk.”

I kissed her and said, “Please, under the truck.”

Three bullets whizzed past us and Baby said, “I go now.” She slid the last ten feet and ducked behind the rear wheels. A second later, two goblins scampered from under the truck and looked for another place to hide.

Carey ran around the room taking pistols and rifles away from his flock. He came close to my hiding place and I decided it was now or never. I tackled him and ripped the bracelet from his wrist. I threw it to Deborah and she sprinted toward the door.

Nothing happened except Carey rolled over, backhanded me across the face, and jerked me to my feet. My left eye began to swell closed. He grabbed my collar with one hand and touched the crucifix hanging around his neck. He smiled when he touched it.

The cross was his anchor, not the bracelet. I’d been wrong. I hoped my mistake didn’t kill me.

He hit me three more times and Baby charged across the room. She barked, “No hit Lou,” and crashed into the demon. Baby held him on the floor with her front hooves. Demon Carey needed both hands to keep her teeth from his throat. I crawled toward them.

Helga ran to the door and screamed for help. Two bulldozers tore through the walls. Another gnome followed with a steamroller. The good parishioners ran. I can’t say I blame them.

I yelled at Helga to stop the goblins from leaving. I could barely see with my swollen face, but I patted down the demon and searched for his cross. “Baby, hold him down.”

I found the cross, ripped it fee, and stumbled to my feet. Carey shifted between human and demon form and escaped from Baby. He took two quick steps, grabbed me, and fought to regain the cross.

Deborah shouted, “To me. Throw it to me.”

I flipped the cross through the air. She caught it about a second before Carey caught her. She threw it back to me and I ran toward the door. Carey was quick and tackled me before I took two steps. As I fell, I tossed the cross as far as I could. It slid across the floor and into the path of the steamroller.

Carey and I both froze. The steamroller crushed the cross. Carey looked into my black eyes and said, “Nicely done.” He vanished in a puff of black smoke, but not before he hit me three more times.

I couldn’t see through the cloud of acrid smoke. It burned my throat and lungs. I collapsed and hit my head on the hard concrete floor. The goblins hurried into their trucks.

Baby barked uncontrollably. I was woozy from the smoke and beating, but before I passed out, I pointed and said, “Goblins, Baby.”


I woke up in my own bed. My head felt like I’d spent the night drinking bad homemade hooch. Baby barked and licked my face. I hugged her and said, “Quiet, mama’s got a headache.”

Deborah and Helga came into the room. At least the three of us were alive. Deborah handed me a cup of coffee and a bottle of aspirin. I almost choked on the coffee. It was half scotch.

I washed down a dozen aspirin, petted Baby, and said, “Sorry, I took a dive. Did we win?”

Deborah said, “Yea, pretty much. Baby was awesome. After you went down, she ran across the room and chased the goblin drivers back under the trucks. She kept them trapped until Helga summoned a squad of Fae friendly police. You feel okay? Your eyes look a little bloodshot?”

Helga picked up the story. “The drivers gave up the location where they took the guns. The police called the National Guard and confiscated everything. The goblins were gone when the police arrived.”

I sipped the coffee, petted Baby, and asked, “What about the marijuana?”

Deborah said, “They ran the dope across the border down by Tijuana. We gave customs a heads-up and they busted three shipments in a row. The whole operation is shut down. The feds froze Carey’s bank accounts. Even if someone summons him again, he won’t be able to get to the money.”

“Sounds like you girls did pretty good while I took a nap.”

Helga said, “Happy to help. Let me know if you need anyone to doggy sit your baby girl.”

Deborah said, “Dad told me he hired you. Thanks for sticking with it. You mind if I hang around. I think I’d make a good detective and I’m pretty fond of the big puppy.”

“Free country. Suit yourself, but don’t get any big ideas. I’m not puttin’ your name on the door.”

Deborah topped off my coffee with Johnny Walker and smiled. “We’ll talk about that when you’re feeling better.”