A Strong Woman - Cover

A Strong Woman

Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay

Chapter 13

Back inside, I rode up in the elevator to the sixth floor. About the only time I'm up there is to pay the rent, but this time I was going to ask some questions.

The receptionist was an older lady, with white hair and glasses hanging from a chain around her neck. They come and go up there in the leasing office – I think the guy deliberately hires older women close to retirement just to keep them from becoming more than functionaries.

"I was just lookin' at the signs out there," I said, waving in the direction of the ground in question. "What gives?"

"There's a new office building planned for that site. It's to be 12 stories – offices, mainly, but also a restaurant, and a gym."

"It's gonna block my view," I said.

"Your view?"

I leaned on her desk. "I been in the same office up there – down there," I said, correcting myself, "since 1992. I been payin' healthy rent for that view. If it weren't for the view I wouldn't be there, and I sure wouldn't pay that kind of rent. You can look out the window an' see the mountains."

"I wouldn't know about that," she said with a sniff. Whether she disapproved of my English or my devotion to the view I couldn't tell. "They are going to put in a street to connect the frontage road with McLeod. That will increase the value of this building's office space considerably."

"An' I bet it'll run my rent up, too. But if I can't see the mountains I won't pay two bucks for that office."

I went out, and went down two flights of stairs to my floor. Cecelia was sitting at her desk, looking over a copy of the New Mexico Statues Annotated 1978 I'd gotten for her – all the state's laws, though the criminal code was what she studied out of the volume. As a PI I've never needed to know as much law as a cop does, especially not with the kinds of cases I usually take, but if she was going to apply for her license I wanted her to know something about what's illegal in the state, and how the language sounds. There's nothing more stilted and awkward than the language of the law, but sometimes being able to quote the law or at least sound legal can be impressive.

I sat down in the wooden chair by her desk, the one Marla had kept though I'd then been the only one who ever sat in it. Cecelia puts clients or potential clients in it when she gets their information, or collects their retainers and fees, or conducts interviews – she's used it more in the five months she's been working for me than Marla did in four years.

"You do not look happy, Darvin," she said as she looked up from the page.

"I ain't. They're gonna put up a building across the way, an' it'll block the view."

She inserted a bookmark and closed the volume, slowly, as if she weren't quite aware she was doing it. "You've had that view as long as I've known you – longer."

"Sixteen years," I told her. "I've looked out that window an' seen the mountains in every sort of light – thunderstorms, summer sun, high clouds, whatever. I know those mountains, from here, as well as I know where the Coke is in the refrigerator."

"And now it's going ... That view will remain for some time – construction schedules always expand, and the fact that signs are visible doesn't mean that they will break ground tomorrow." Trust Cecelia to have seen the signs, even if she hadn't been interested in them and hadn't said anything about it.

"Yeah, but I won't be able to forget about it."

"When does the current lease expire?"

"Not till August." The date of the lease was probably the only thing about the office she didn't know – I'd been handling it myself for so long I'd done it that way again without it even occurring to me that she could take care of it.

Cecelia thought for a moment. "The most efficient course of action would be for you to move this operation into the study. It would be a small matter to add a second line there." The phone in my study already has a separate line from the house, since I do a lot of my church work there. "Do you have a copy of the lease here?"

"Yeah," I said. "Lemme get it real quick."

I went into my office and got the lease from the drawer where I've been keeping it – yearly copies – since 1992. I took it back out front and laid it on Cecelia's desk.

She looked it over. "It will cost a considerable sum to break the lease, yet I am not eager to remain here waiting to see whether the term, or the destruction of your view, will come first."

"Well, let's find this creep first, an' decide about the lease later."

Cecelia nodded. "That is, of course, the correct view of the matter."

"Well, it's my view, anyway," I said with a chuckle. "Want a Coke?"

"I believe I do. Refile this before you bring me one," Cecelia said.

"Well, I know who runs this place," I said, and went to do as she said.

When I came back with the Cokes, I asked her, "How we gonna handle the phone?"

"I could remain at my desk, I suppose, but I am already perfectly competent to handle that task, while I am still learning how to be an investigator. This will be an important part of my education, and I would be unwilling to forego it."

"Yeah, me too. You've already helped me out a lot in just a few months, an' I bet you'll be useful again." I smoothed my mustache with my thumb and forefinger. "How 'bout we see if any of the church volunteers have secretarial experience? If not we can grab someone from a temp agency, but I'd rather keep it in-house, as it were."

"An excellent plan, my husband." She took a drink of Coke. She hadn't been much of a soda drinker when we met, but I had won her over – one of the few times she's come around to my way of thinking. She isn't necessarily obstinate, but she does have definite likes and dislikes, and doesn't always change them easily. "How do we plan to pursue the matter until we have our forces in place?"

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