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«The Mummy Case», J Rain

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Найти другие книги в жанре: Русская классическая проза, Триллер (Все жанры)

J.R. Rain

 

Chapter One

I was doing decline push ups when my office door opened. Decline push ups cause a lot of blood to rush to your head and a fabulous burn across the upper pectorals. They also looked pretty damn silly in a professional environment. Luckily, this wasn’t a professional environment.

Somebody was quietly watching me, probably admiring my near-perfect form or the way my tee shirt rippled across my broad shoulders. Either way, I rattled off twenty more, completing my set of a hundred.

In a distinctive country twang, a man’s voice said, “I could come back.”

“And miss my near-perfect form?”

I eased my running shoes off the desk and immediately felt a wave of light-headedness. Granted, I didn’t entirely mind the light-headedness. I am, after all, a sucker for a good buzz.

The man who came swimmingly into view was wearing a cowboy hat and leaning against my door frame, a bemused expression on his weathered face. He was about twenty years my senior.

“Howdy partner,” I said.

He tipped his Stetson. “So what are those push ups supposed to do, other than cause a lot of blood rush to your head?”

“That’s enough for me,” I said happily. “Oh, and they happen to be a hell of a chest workout.”

“Seems like a lot of trouble,” he said.

“It’s not easy being beautiful.”

“Ah,” he said. “You must be Jim Knighthorse. I heard about you.”

“Lucky you.”

As he spoke, his Adam’s apple bobbed up and down like a buoy in a storm. His white hat sported an excessively rolled brim-completely useless now against the sun or rain. Maybe he was a country music star.

“I was told you could be a cocky son of a bitch.”

“You would be, too,” I said. “If you were me.”

He looked at me and shrugged. “Well, maybe. You’re certainly a big son of a bitch.”

I said nothing. My size spoke for itself. He looked around my small office, perhaps noting the many pictures and trophies that cluttered the walls and bookcases, all in recognition of my considerable prowess on the football field. Actually, all but one. There was a second place spelling bee trophy in there somewhere. Lost it on zumbooruk, a camel-mounted canon used in the Middle East. Hell of a shitty word to lose it on.

“I heard you could help me,” he said finally, almost pitifully.

“Ah,” I said. “Have a seat.”

He did, moseying on into my small office. As he sat, I almost expected him to flip the client chair around and straddle it backward, cowboy-like. Instead, he used the chair as it was originally designed, although it was clearly not designed for someone as tall as he. His bony knees reached up to his ears and looked sharp enough to cut through his denim jeans. I sat behind the desk in a leather brass-studded chair that was entirely too ornate for its surroundings. The leather made rude noises.

Ever the professional detective, I kept a straight face and asked for his name.

“Jones,” he answered. “ Jones T. Jones, to be exact.”

“That’s a lot of Joneses.”

“Well, yes,” he said, blushing slightly. “It’s not really my name, you see. It’s sort of like a stage name. You know, a gimmick.”

“So you’re an actor?”

“No, I own a souvenir shop in Huntington Beach. But I’ve acted as the spokesperson in my own commercials.” Ah. It came to me then. I’d seen Jones before, late at night on the local cable circuit. Usually right before I passed out in a drunken stupor. Damn cheesy commercials, too, many involving what appeared to be a rabid monkey. Sometimes Jones and the monkey danced. I was embarrassed for Jones. “Maybe you’ve heard of it,” he continued. “Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe.”

“Heard of it?” I said. “Hell, I spelled old and shop with extra e’s and p’s up until the fifth grade. My teacher, Mrs. Franks, thought I was Chaucer reborn.”

He laughed. “I wanted to change the name when I bought the store a number of years ago, but there was a big public uproar.” He cracked a smile, and I realized that he enjoyed the big public uproar. “So I gave in to pressure and kept the damn name. I regret it to this day.”

“Why?”

“No one can find us in the phone book…or even on the internet. They call us and ask: Are we under Y or O? Is it Ye or The?” He sighed and caught his breath, having worked himself up. “I mean, what were the original owners thinking?”

“Maybe they were English.”

He shrugged. We were silent. Outside, in the nearby alley, a delivery truck was backing up, beeping away. I was one of the few people who appreciated the warning beeps.

“So what can I do for you, Mr. Jones?” I asked.

“I’d like to hire you.”

“ Zumbooruk!” I said.

“Excuse me?”

“Exactly.”

Chapter Two


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