It was a regular Friday in the offices of Robert Steele when the phone rang. I grabbed the handset out of the cradle, a telephone cradle… big, black and plastic like the color and texture of my heart.
Cold and shapeless – that is me. It is the job I do. I am… a private detective with the firm Steele-Wall. Down on Main Street in sunny Victoria.
I’d genuinely like to believe I have a partner named Wall – but I don’t. What I do have is, the promise of what you run into when you cross me…
And judging by the sound of the dame on the other end of the blower, I knew I had a hot one on. She spat her words out like a pro-wrestler on a Saturday afternoon, which was odd. It was Friday. Friday, high noon.
It seems one of her favorite cafe’s had just dumped their quality beans for some johnny-come-lately discount brew and, don’t tell me let me guess, the drinks are the same price.
Yea, this was a clear case of brew and gouge. I hate it when that happens. I hate it when the phone rings and there is a angry babe on the other end of the chatter-box. I hate stomach aches and this scene meant I was going to be cooking up a winner.
After she stopped ranting I managed to squeeze a few words in edgewise..
“So let’s take it from the top shall we?” I coached.
Beau, we will call her Ms B, works as the executive legal assistant with the District attorneys office and B’s no slouch. She knows a bad fish when she smells one so she knew who to call.. I had a good feeling about her as I casually glanced at my incessantly and largely unstoppable work load.
B: “Ah, Mister Steele, is this you?”
“Ma’am”, I mumbled between gritted teeth… “It sure is. What seems to be your beef, Baby?”
B: “I was down at the Matrix today, you know the cafe down on 4th and Spring?”
“Yes, Ma’am… the one between Jimmy’s Pawn and Leo’s Bar n Grill?”
B: “Yea, that’s the one… I go there, like, every day without fail and…”
“Stick to the facts Beau.. just the facts..”
B: “well, you know how it is. They get you all jazzed up on supreme bean, all tasty and perfect, and…”
“Please continue…” I encouraged.
B: “Well, I was in for my usual double-americano and… well and… well and….”
Just then Beau broke down into a paroxysm of frustrated sobs. I could almost picture her white shoulders quivering under her delicate cotton brocade. I was touched and at the same time fascinated.
“Baby. Get a grip of yourself… Shake it off honey..”
By now I was furious. I snubbed out a virtual Marlboro into an imaginary ash-tray next to my Olivetti.
“Here’s the way it is sister. There are two kinds of people out there – The good people: that’s you and the men and women in your office that you know and trust.
And then there are the coffee people: the bad people, looking for every opportunity to screw with the general public. That is where I come in.
When my phone rings, it is like the sound of a crying baby. And lately, I have been getting a crib full.”
My job never ends. Coffee cop and private detective. It is a thankless one and the pay is crap. But sometimes on a sunny day, when the wind is blowing in the right direction and things are going my way, I can sit in the corner cafe and everything is okay. The brew is hot and the chicks are cool.
Cool, until the phone rings…
B: “Mr. Steele, ah… Mr. Steele….?”
I snapped out of my narcissistic reverie long enough to realize that I was still on the phone…
B: “Their americanos were just so perfect.. crema like butterscotch churned by angels.. and now.. and now..
“Go on, Miss B.. and don’t let me interrupt…”
B: “Their coffee is like a double-double Tim Horton’s that has been forgotten in the back-seat of a ’56 chev, left overnight in the strip mall and allowed to bake in the heat of the day…”
“Baby, I get your vibe, and it pains me to know that every day in this sleepy little town, there is yet one more coffee crime going down…Now you relax and don’t sweat that pretty little face of yours and let Mr. Steele look after things from here on in…”
As she hung up the phone and I tapped another pretend Marlboro out of my near-empty deck of phantom smokes, I realized one thing –
Damn, I need a coffee!
Detective Robert Steele is the sole proprietor of Steele-Wall a private investigation firm keeping a handle on caffeinated crimes and general mischief in the sleepy little town of Victoria.
Colin Newell, author of the coffeecrew blog once helped write an episode of C.S.I. Las Vegas (Season 3 – Episode Last Laugh) – since then, pretty much everything has gone to his head.