Late Lattes – Part I – A Julie Smithland Story

    They don’t notice me here.  No one ever does.  In high school, that was the bane of my existence.  As a PI, it’s one of my greatest assets.

     Except when I’m trying to get the attention of Brownsborough’s mayor.  

     “Ahem.”  

     Silas Barker jumps and turns to glare at me, his irritation apparent.  “You do realize that I have a secretary to announce visitors, don’t you, Julie?”

     “Is that what she does?”  I ask innocently.  I don’t mention that Jennifer was on the phone and ignored me for ten minutes before I decided to bypass her.  

     Silas isn’t amused by my question if his popping jaw is any evidence.  Time to change the subject.

     “I have the pictures you requested.”  I push an envelope toward him.

     He snatches it from my hands.  “About time.”  

     “I’ll send you my bill,” I call over my shoulder as I exit the room.  I don’t need to stay to watch his reaction – I have a pretty good feeling what it’ll be.  

     Silas hired me a month ago to follow his wife.  Gloria has been going on weekend trips to “see her mother” and Silas was convinced that she had another man in her life.  So he hired me.  The envelope I just gave him has conclusive photographic evidence.    

     She has been visiting her mother.  

     I shake my head as I step out onto the sidewalk.  Silas has always been paranoid.  Last year, during campaign season, he was positive that his opponent was trying to poison him, and he refused to eat or drink anything that wasn’t in a sealed package.  

     His opponent was the minister of the local Baptist church.  

     Oh well.  Silas is my most faithful client, and his paranoia helps pay my electric bill.  As long as he doesn’t start suspecting me of something, I’ll always be guaranteed a job.    

     Rather than climb into my car, I head across the street to Late Lattes, a 24-hour coffee shop that opened two years ago.  I’ve never figured out the  reasoning behind their hours.  True, it is a novel idea, and I’ve made quite a few midnight stops here, but rarely is anyone else around after 8pm.  Most of Brownsborough’s residents retire early.

     Careful not to brush against any flaking paint on the historic building’s exterior, I open the door.  Freshly ground espresso, a stocked bakery case, and the beginning notes of a Frank Sinatra album welcome me into the room.

     Despite the ringing of the overhead doorbell, no one calls out the customary greeting.  I pause a moment to let my vision complete the transition from early morning sunshine to dimly lit interior.  Carl Sphagen, the proprietor, prefers just enough light to make things cozy, but the room seems even darker than usual.  

     I stand back to see the menu painted on the wall above the counter.  I already know what my order will be – a dark chocolate mocha latte.  The real question is how many shots of espresso I need.  It doesn’t take me long to decide.  I’ve been up all night, so I settle on a triple then glance back at the bakery case.  One of those custard-filled doughnuts will go along nicely.

     Still no one has appeared to take my order.  Odd, considering Late Lattes usually has exceptional service.  I step toward the counter to ring the bell, but my hand freezes above it.  

     What I couldn’t see from my previous position is all too obvious from here.  The cash register is open, and there’s a body on the floor behind it.

To be continued…

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Tea Review: Earl Grey Green – my favorite of favorites!  It contains the essence of traditional Earl Grey, but on a lighter note.  As a green tea, it has less caffeine than its traditional counterpart and is perfect for a relaxing evening.

I confess my addiction – I just ordered my second one-pound bag in less than six months.

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