At the time, I didn’t know if there were two shots or only one, they were that close together. I knew there was at least one, because that bullet tore a white-hot hole through my shoulder. Behind me, as I fell to my knees, the girl screamed.
Cora Mancuso was an attractive woman in her late fifties with a librarian look. A pair of horn-rimmed reading glasses dangled from her neck on a beaded lanyard. She wore her hair long and pinned up in the back. Cora routinely and unpretentiously colored her hair to counter the creep of gray. Her skin was pale and powdered, prematurely weathered by time. She usually wore modest, business-casual attire. Today it was an ivory button-up blouse over navy slacks. Her jewelry was limited to a small, gold cross on a gold mesh chain worn at her throat. Cora was often abrasive, frequently annoying, and rarely generous with her good nature.
But, she had a job with me for life.
“Good morning,” I said trying my best to sound pleasant. I may not have pulled it off. “What’s this?” I asked nodding to the beige overcoat hanging on the coat tree in the corner. The coat was slight and elegant. A woman’s coat.
“You have someone in your office.”
“I’m a detective,” I said. “I detected that. Why is someone in my office?”
“My guess is she wants to hire you.”
“Hire me,” I repeated. “Cora, you know I’m completely tied up on the Navistar convention. I don’t have time to take on a client right now. You know that.”