New Orleans, 1939
Anatoli Palazzo sat behind his desk leafing through a newspaper. He scanned the pages through the glasses that settled on the thin bridge of his nose. He took a gulp from his ‘World’s Greatest Boss’ mug and grimaced.
“Jenny?” he called out the door of his office.
A young girl poked her head in the door, “Yes, Mr. Palazzo?”
“Jenny,” Toli asked, “When was this coffee made?”
“It’s leftover from last night,” Jenny replied, “I ran it back through the maker to get it warm.”
“I see,” he said peering into the mug.”
“I can make some fresh coffee, but I figured, ‘waste not want not.’”
“Sure, no, it’s fine,” said Toli wincing through another sip, “I just need the kick.”
“Anything else, sir?” asked Jenny inching her head back out of the door.
“No,” he replied, “Thanks, Jenny.”
“Anytime, Mr. Palazzo,” said Jenny from down the hall.
Returning to his paper something caught his attention and began dialing the phone. His head swung back and forth between the phone and the newspaper after each twist of the dial.
“Hello,” Toli started, “Am I speaking to Mr. Delareux? Yes, my name is Anatoli Palazzo and I run an importing-exporting company down by the docks. Right. I ran across your ad what says you can be hired for odd jobs. Yes. Today if you could. Wonderful. I’ll see you soon Mr. Delareux.”
Toli hung up the phone and called, “Jenny?”
Jenny’s head appeared once more to grace the jam of the door.
“Yes, Mr. Palazzo?” she asked.
“I’m expecting a gentleman shortly,” replied Toli while rummaging through a drawer, “Could you show him back when he gets here?”
“You mean this guy?” asked Jenny, standing next to a man who looked like he may have been well dressed at one point in time.
Toli popped up from his rummaging.
“You Palazzo?” the man rasped.
“I’m Mr. Palazzo,” he said, smoothing the front of his suit jacket and putting his hand out, “And you are?”
“Thomas J. Delareux, we spoke on the phone,” he said plopping himself into the leather chair in front of Toli’s desk.
“How did you get here so quickly?” asked Toli.
“I was using the pay phone out front?”
“I called you,” said Toli somewhat louder.
“Let’s get to brass tacks,” said Toli, crossing his and slouching into the chair, “What do you got? Poltergeist? Goblin infestation? You got a banshee keeping you up at night? You probably shouldn’t have married her.”
Toli looked at Delareux askance.
“I just need you to drive a truck,” Toli said.
“Why?” asked Delareux, leaning forward, “The truck have gremlins?”
Toli stared at Delareux.
“No, Mr. Delareux,” he began, “I need you to make retrievals and deliveries. My normal employee stopped showing up two days ago and I need you to fill in. Your ad says you do ‘odd jobs,’ correct?”
“What’s so odd about driving a truck?” asked Delareux.
“Look, Mr. Delareux, can you drive my truck or not?”
“Are you implying I can’t drive a truck? Because I can learn.”
“I’m a busy man, Mr. Delareux.”
“$15 and you got the whole day.”
“Normally, I wouldn’t entertain such a farcical bid, but I’m afraid you’ve found me at a disadvantage.”
“That’s usually how I find people.”
“You’re an eccentric man, Mr. Delareux.”
“An eccentric man making fifteen bucks for the day.”
“Let me show you to the vehicle.”
Toli and Delareux walked out of the building onto the gravel path that led to the yard where the trucks were lined up. A man in overalls and a knit cap came jogging over.
“Mr. Palazzo,” he said, stooping to catch his breath.
“Yes, Jimmy, what is it?” Toli asked.
“This detective was snooping around earlier,” Jimmy replied between pants as he handed Toli a card, “Plainclothes guy, left his card, say he wants you to call him.”
“Det. Ed Danvers.” Toli read from the card.
Delareux grunted as he took a nip from his flask.
“Have you met our Detective Danvers?” Toli asked Delareux.
“Yeah, I know him,” he replied, “Where was he snooping?”
“Around by the warehouses,” answered Jimmy.
Delareux took another gulp and started off toward the warehouses.
“These your warehouses, Palazzo?” asked Delareux over his shoulder.
“Yes, they’re mine,” replied Toli, “Where are you going?”
“Around by the warehouses.”
“Mr. Delareux, I’m on a schedule.”
“Won’t be but a minute.”
“Time, Mr. Delareux. Do I need to remind you about time?”
“Could you do that for me?”
Toli jogged after Delareux. They came to a set of warehouses closest to the banks. Delareux was pacing along a worn path in the grass leading from the docks.
“How about these?” Delareux asked, gesturing toward the warehouses.
“No,” replied Toli, “These are the only ones I don’t own.”
Delareux crouched and craned his head lower to the ground.
“What are you doing?” Toli said, dropping his hands.
“See these tracks?” Delareux said, sweeping his hand over the ground.
“Plenty of stray cats back here,” Toli replied, glaring at Delareux over his glasses.
“You think these are animal tracks?”
“Well they’re too small to be human,” Toli began, “Unless. Do you think children have been playing back here? And what with the detective...and Dear God has a child been injured back here. I need to call Detect…”
“They’re not from a child,” Delareux interjected.”
“Then what are they?” Toli frowned.
“Goblin tracks. You have a goblin infestation. I knew it had to one of those three things”
“Good day, Mr. Delareux,” Toli said striding off, “You’ve wasted enough of my time.”
“And a syringe,” said Delareux, extending his arm and waving a steel syringe.
“Well, that is odd,” Toli said, looking askance, “Why would that be back here. May I take a look”
Toli walked back and stood behind Delareux, still examining the path. Delareux passed Toli the syringe over his shoulder.
“Read the label,” Delareux muttered as he pulled out a few blades of grass and sniffed them.
“Give three humans, I assume,” Toli said, “G-I-V, the number three. Backwards, mind you. H-U-M-I-N-Z.”
“Well?” Delareux asked, “What do you think of my goblin theory now?”
“This doesn’t discredit my children theory,” Toli replied, “In fact it reinforces it. I need to contact the detective, immediately.”
“It’s a goblin. And these footprints lead from the door to that warehouse and down to the river bank. Detective Danvers is a lot of things, but a bad detective isn’t one of them. If he was nosing around down here he would have seen these. This is all very recent.”
Delareux stood up and brushed his hands off, “Who owns these warehouses?”
“A local doctor. A Russian fellow if I’m not mistaken,” Toli began to walk back to his office, “Now, I’m going to call the detective.”
“Don’t mention me, will ya?” asked Delareux, following.
“If asked I’m not going to lie to a member of law enforcement.”