I’m sick of Ramen, Abe Montoon muttered as he stirred the beef broth into the green boiling pot. The steam rose toward the fan above the stove top. 0100 and I’m making wax noodles for a late dinner. Why’s it so hard to make ends meet?
On the counter, the phone chirped. Abe picked the phone up and looked at it. The screen blurred, and Abe muttered curses as he looked for a pair of reader glasses.
“My name is Tiffany ‘Louder’ McCowell. I have need of your services, and I have money to hire you. Are you available to meet at nine in your office?”
“What the hey, she’s got money. I need money. What’s the worst that can happen?”
“Sure, I’ll see you at nine.”
Abe poured a bowl of Ramen noodles and carried them to his recliner. The end of a black and white monster movie played on the television, but Abe wanted to know more about his potential client.
She’s potential until the money changes hands. Money in hand changes status, not looks, not promises, cold hard cash. Abe ate his noodles and Googled Tiffany ‘Louder’ McCowell. He whistled as the images loaded on his phone. What a dame, he muttered. Who would cheat on her?
At 0800, Abe loaded into his 1989 Chrysler New Yorker and drove across town. He pulled into an empty handicapped parking space and shut off his engine. After rummaging around in his glove box, he put the handicapped hanger around the mirror, the blue and white faded and the date unreadable.
Abe smoothed down his rumpled grey tie and tried to suck in his gut. His five o’clock shadow verged on a full beard, his chin hair mostly white with just enough black left showing to call it salt-and-pepper. He wore khakis this morning along with black Rockport shoes, his trademark black trench coat with a matching G-Shock watch and fedora. The scar that ran from the corner of his left eye and along his jaw until it reached the midpoint of his squared chin completed his look.
He marched up the decrepit stairs to the front door. One tenant, one that remained apparently, had painted the steps white. On the right side of the door, a sign hung from a rusted metal arm that read: Rooms for rent. 100 dollars per week. No pets allowed.
The door squeaked when Abe shoved it open. Another piece of broken glass crashed to the floor. His office was in the last room on the left. A faded wood bench sat outside his door.
An old woman with an unlit cigarette dangled from her mouth, her yellow-stained teeth flashed menacingly as Abe shuffled down the hallway. She wore a faded floral housecoat, her hair done up in rollers, her face unwashed and pockmarked. “Look what you did, layabout,” she snarled at him, as Abe drew near.
“Hello to you too, Mrs. Smith. How are you today?”
“Bite me,” Mrs. Smith snapped. “Where’s your rent?”
“Not even with your teeth,” Abe replied. “I have a client coming in at nine. When I get paid, you’ll get paid.”
“I best have something by the end of the day, scrub. If I don’t, you and those cats are outta here, capisce?”
“You’ll have something, Mrs. Smith. Tell Mr. Smith hello for me.”
“Bite me,” the landlady hissed, slamming the door hard enough to make the panes of glass rattle in his own door. He unlocked the door and walked in. A dirty ceiling fan circulated on low, which did nothing to stifle the suffocating heat, and Abe’s cats-Pooks and Em- rested on the window sills in the sunshine.