"Naked Came The Uke"

Chapter 1, by Janet Rosen

Nightfall. I see it out my grimy third floor window, sickly yellow color crawling under the San Francisco fog and reflecting off the white and pastel stucco walls of the neighborhood. Rosen's the name. I pick up a little P.I work now and then. Do what I can. Friday afternoon turns into Friday night, nothing I can do, so I pour myself a tall one, light a Lucky straight, and put my three inch stiletto heels up on the desk.

The radio is playing a sad old blues riff, but it doesn't obscure the sound of footsteps up the stairs, then down the hall, but not solid. More like a soft "whup, whup." Flip-flops if you ask me, mens size 10, probably made in China. I keep my feet where they are, but smooth my full pleated black skirt over my knees. There's a silhouette through the frosted door of the outer office, tall, broad-shouldered, hatless. I take a sip, wait for the knock.

It comes. "Come on in, its open," I call out softly.

He walks in. Tall indeed, over 6 feet, with legs that go up to here and a 500 watt smile that doesn't stop. The kind of guy who'd look drop dead gorgeous in Armani, or in silk sheets. Unfortunately he's in neither. I glance down--yep, flops on bare feet; at least the nails are well-clipped and everything looks clean. But the suit is some weird style that hasn't been in vogue in years, maybe never: off-white but cotton instead of linen. No lapels, no shoulder pads, arms and legs hemmed way too short. Belted with a certain insoucience.

He stops opposite my desk, giving me the head-to-toe treatment. The smile goes up to about 750 watts. I motion to the empty chair; he sits and I just sit tight, smoking, waiting for him to tell me what's up. I wait. Doesn't bother me. I like the view.

"Mrs. Rosen, I understand you help people find things." A soft, deep voice. The type you could get used to hearing at odd hours. I sit up straight, stub out the smoke, and tell myself to knock it off fast.

"That's Miss Rosen," I correct him. "What seems to be missing, Mr. um........?"

"Matt Burns." He extends a hand to shake mine; the grip is firm yet gentle. Odd. "My shihan is missing. Miss Rosen, do you know anything about Aikido?"

"Those Japanese dogs, right?" Great, I think, have I sunk so low I'm looking for lost pets now? Quick glance down at the desktop: the calendar says the rent is due in 3 days, the checkbook says I can't pay it. I look up and try to match his smile. "So, how old is Shihan and when and where did he slip his leash?"

This ain't so bad...how about the next chapter?

I've seen enough. Can I leave now?