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Chuck Spanner, Interior Decorator three There was a smell in the air, and I knew immediately what time it was. Time to change the boy's diaper. This inevitably makes him hungry, so the rest of my work day was spent on fatherhood. On a day like this, I'm glad for the change of focus. We drove back to the apartment, arriving around 7:00PM. I had Raisin Bran for dinner. He had mushy fruit from a little jar. "I don't know how you can eat that stuff," I said. I checked the answering machine for messages from his mother, but there were none. Three months without a message, I thought. I had a scotch before bed, and the boy had milk. Once again I was glad our roles were not reversed, but I knew we'd both sleep like babies. The next morning we stopped by the office for coffee and the newspaper, both for me, and to pick up my things for the Richards job. I wasn't looking forward to the visit, honestly. Interior decorating just doesn't hold the same thrill for me if I don't get to look for clues, or at least rough somebody up a little bit, and this was one of those rare decorating jobs that didn't come from those kind of clients. In the office I scanned the newspaper for notes from the boy's mother. We had a system for when she was out of touch on assignments, for keeping her connected with me and the boy. We'd leave each other encoded messages in the classified ads. The messages were never that detailed, but it was a way to avoid her letting on where she was to anyone who might peruse my mailbox or phone lines at the office, while still allowing her to say hello, let us know she was ok, or let her know that we were still around. There was nothing. This must be some job, if she can't even reach her contacts at the paper. I gathered my decorating supplies, mostly catalogs, papers, swatches, samples, and changed and fed the boy so he'd be relaxed during the job. There's nothing like cleaning spit-up off my tile samples in front of a client, or trying to negotiate a fee over the sound of crying. Fortunately my women clients can't resist him, and he makes me appear more domestic, which is an important part of my success. Appearing domestic isn't easy for a man like me. I tend to make people a little bit afraid, and while that has its uses as well, I'd like most people I meet to remember that I'm just a harmless interior decorator. One of the challenges of meeting new customers, however, is the boy's name. I don't tell anyone his name, because I believe that at some point in the future he may need to be disassociated with me for any one of a variety of reasons. Its not so much that I have a lot of enemies, as it is that I have a few really powerful ones. So rather than drive the kid crazy with a double identity, having people call him by something other than his mother-given name, I refer to him as The Boy when we're out and about. The cops all understand this, they have a great appreciation for our predicament. Friend's of cops' wives, who believe they are hiring an interior decorator, however, tend to look at me a little strangely. This is one of the reasons I don't like taking outside jobs, but frankly we could use the money. With my things collected, and the boy in tow, I waved to Jimmy on the way out of the office to car. "Hold down the fort, Jimmy." "You can count on me, Chuck. Don't worry 'bout a thing, you're never alone." I paused, and looked at him quizzically for a moment, but he was already turned away, pouring hot coffee for another customer. To say that Tracy Richards was an above average woman in the looks department would be to say that the subways in our city are a little on the crowded side. She was blonde in the way that women in movies are blonde, and tall in the way that other women might wear 6 inch heels to imitate. When we arrived at her house, she was wearing a large soft bathrobe of the type that I've considered stealing from hotels. The only thing out of place about her appearance was that she was dead, and sprawled out across the kitchen floor. I could see her laying there as we approached the entrance to her modest home, through the screen door. The main door was open, and she appeared to have been shot. I set down the boy in his car seat, and reached for my phone. 911 would be quick, but I had quicker resources on my speed dial. Within minutes an ambulance and three squad cars pulled up. Lenny was the first man on the scene. "Geez, Chuck, what are you doing here?" "She called me about a job." "A job? Like, one of our jobs?" He gestured to himself and the other officers piling out of their cars. "I don't think so. Just a decorator job. She said her girlfriend's sister is married to a cop, says I did her kitchen. It might be Tony. Can you ask around for me, Lenny? You know my position on referral work outside of the department." "Sure thing, Chuck, no problem. I'll talk with the guys later today. We've gotta get this place locked down." "I'll come by the station later for a statement if you want. You think you'll need me for this job?" I asked. "Hard to say right now. Might be something simple for our homicide guys, but we'll be in touch. But do come in for that statement, you were the first on the scene, we better get you on paper." "Lovely. I'll be there." We returned to the car. Its an occupational hazard to be naturally suspicious, I suppose, but I was feeling uneasy. I still hadn't made up my mind about the visit from Samuel Doyle the night before. I didn't let it keep me from sleeping, but it had been in the back of my mind all morning. "Well," I said to the boy, "I guess our morning's been freed up, so whatever that man meant by "Tomorrow" can happen anytime now."

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