I didn't start out to be a private eye. I thought I was gonna be a
secretaryget my boss his java in the morning, take letters, and so on.
Hell, I didn't get my degree in steno to put my life on the line. It was
true I wanted an interesting job, but that I'd end up a PI myself . . .
it never entered my mind.
Back in 1940 when I went for my interview, one look at Woody Mason and I thought for sure it was gonna be a bust.
There he was, brogans up on the wobbly wooden table he called his desk, wearing dark cheaters in the middle of the day, his trilby pulled down so low on his head it was a week before I knew he had straw-blond hair. A butt hung from his thin lips, smoke curled up past his rosy nose. I wondered if he was a boozehound.
"I'm Faye Quick," I said.
"Good for you."
"Mr. Mason, I came for the job. You wanna good secretary or not?" That got his attention.
Mason slid his legs off the desk, pushed down the sunglasses, and over the rims eyeballed my gams, while he stubbed out his Old Gold and lit a new one. So what did I expect from a gumshoe?
My friends told me I was a crackpot trying for a job with a shamus. But I thought it could be interesting. I didn't want to be in some nine-to-fiver pushing papers that had to do with mergers, business agreements, or the like. I wanted to be where whatever I was typing or listening to had some meat to it.
"Are ya?" Mason asked.
"Am I what?"
To myself I thought, Hardy, har, har, but I didn't say it. I gave him a look instead.
"Sorry. Guess ya get that a lot."
"Sometimes I open my big yap too much. So Miss Quick, you wanna work for me?"
"That's the general idea," I said, and thought maybe he was a little slow or something. But Woody Mason was anything but slow, I was to find out.
We went through some Q and A's, then he hired me on the spot. I was slaphappy getting a job my first day looking.
That was how it was then.
But in '41 the Japs hit Pearl Harbor, and by January of '42, Woody Mason was in the army and I was running A Detective Agency. The A didn't stand for anything. He named it that so it would be first in the phone book. By the time I took over I knew almost as much as Woody, but in the beginning it was a scary idea.
"I'm not sure, boss."
"Ah, Quick, you can do it. I got complete confidence in ya."
"Yeah, but I don't."
"Listen, when I come back from this clambake I wanna have a business to come home to. You gotta keep the home fires burning, like they say."
"That's not what it means: a girl like me packin a heater and chasin the bad guys. Keepin the home fires burnin means sittin in the nest waitin for your man."
"Ain't I your man, Quick?" Woody smiled, the dimples making their mark in his cheeks, and my heart slipped a notch.
I wasn't in love with Woody, but he was a looker when he gave ya the smile. Mostly he reserved it for female clients. But on that day he brought it out for me.
Excerpted from This Dame for Hire by Sandra Scoppettone Copyright © 2005 by Sandra Scoppettone. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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