Midnight barked from the backyard, then someone knocked on my front door. Hard. I looked at the time on my phone, 8:21 a.m. Once late for me to start my day, but always early for someone to knock on the door uninvited.
I grabbed a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum off the top shelf of the hall closet and sidled up to the front door, gun arm bent at the elbow. I snuck a peek through the peephole from the side, then lowered the gun.
"Shit," I whispered to myself. Another knock. Harder.
I opened the door.
Moira MacFarlane stood in the doorway with her hands on her hips. Five foot nothing, a hundred pounds, her presence took up more space than an All-Pro left tackle.
"Most people call before they drop by." I stared down at her.
"Cork it, Cahill. I've lost count of the number of times I've called you over the last few months." Her ice in a blender voice at full rattle. "But I know the exact number of times you've returned my calls. Zero."
"I've been busy."
"Doing what?" She glanced at the gun in my hand, then pointed her brown eyes back at me. "Indoor target practice?"
She ran a hand along my cheek. "Growing a beard?"
"Maybe." Not really. I couldn't remember the last time I shaved. Or even looked in a mirror.
She pushed past me without invitation. Midnight spotted her through the sliding glass door in the living room and started barking again. Happy yelps. Moira went over and let him in. She knelt down and hugged him and he licked her face.
Moira surveyed the living room. Pizza and to-go boxes and beer bottles soiled the coffee table. And an end table. I looked at them, too. Actually, seeing them for the first time in too long. They'd become background wallpaper that I no longer noticed. The detritus of my new life.
"I thought you liked to cook."
"I do." But cooking required planning and cleaning the dishes. There were already plenty of dishes in the sink along with dirty pots and pans.
Moira shook her head and walked into the kitchen. She sat down at the table strewn with a week's worth of newspapers and a couple used cereal bowls.
"Jeez, Rick." She squished up her eyes and mouth. "You were never a neat freak, but you weren't a slob. This is worse than my son's apartment at San Luis Obispo. He's twenty-two. What's your excuse?"
I didn't have an excuse. I just knew that if I didn't change my life, it wouldn't last very long. Like too many people who came in contact with me. Letting things slide around the house was the best I could come up with so far.
"I'm guessing you had another reason besides playing my mother to come over here." I sat down at the end of the table.
"You're still an asshole. At least that hasn't changed."
"Thank you. The reason you're here?"
"I have a job I need help with." She pulled a manila folder out of her shoulder bag and tossed it in front of me. It landed on the sports page. From five days ago.
"Not interested." I tossed the folder back in front of her. Not sure of the date of the sports page it landed on. "Thanks, anyway."
"You didn't even look at it." She opened the folder and set down a photograph of an overweight middle-aged white guy in front of me. "Infidelity case. Your specialty. All you have to do is help me tail this guy. No contact. No guns. Nobody gets hurt."
We hadn't talked in six months. First, she avoided my calls, then after I'd stopped for a while, she started calling me, and I didn't answer. But she'd only needed one look at me and my house to figure everything out. More proof of what I'd always thought. She was the best PI in San Diego. And she could find plenty investigators other than me who'd be happy to help her on a case.