That Buxom Blonde Phil Was Looking For

A Long, Hard LookAn excerpt from A Long, Hard Look. Watch for the second Phil Brennan mystery, A Still, Small Voice, this summer.


My front door does not have an annoying habit of failing to stay latched.

It latches just fine. I make sure of it.

So it concerned me not a little that it was ajar when I rounded the top of the stairs.

I froze, then stepped back a bit. I stopped on the top stair and leaned my forehead against the wall, which put my good ear almost in the hallway where it could listen better.

Nothing.

These old wooden floors creak if you look at them. Nobody was moving in my place.

Which meant one of two things: nobody was in my place, or they just weren’t moving.

If they were gone, I’d feel like a sap if I waited here for half an hour just to be sure.

If they weren’t, they were waiting, not searching, and waiters wait; that’s what they do.

Yes, that’s what I use for a brain, and it holds my hat up when I need it to.

I clumped up the last two steps, clumped down the hall, shoved my door open, and clumped in.

There, in my favorite chair, was nothing at all. Same with the rest of the place. Just as empty as when I’d walked out and not locked the door half an hour ago. (Locks are to protect things. There would be no point to a lock on my door.)

I pushed the door shut. It latched. I pulled and wiggled and messed with it.

It stayed latched.

I turned the handle. It took some turning. Not hard, but there was just no way it popped open on its own.

Glaring at it didn’t help. It got glared at anyway.

Glared at for about five seconds, and then I heard my office door rattle and squawk.

Normally I’m fine with letting folks wait, but something fishy was going on and it made me jumpy. I pulled the door shut, made sure of it, and scooted down the hall. Took the stairs three at a time, rounded the corner, and almost plowed into the leggy blonde we were all hoping for earlier. She was just pulling my squeaking rattling door shut.

“Excuse me. Can I help you?” Because I do so want to help you.

“What do you mean?” She was confused enough to make the blonde hair seem bleached.

“That’s my office. I assumed you’d come to see me about something.” I left it hanging, sort of like a question, but not. I’d already asked the question, and I’m working on avoiding unnecessary repetition.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I think I’m on the wrong floor. There aren’t any numbers on the doors, which makes it all a bit difficult. In fact, I could be in the wrong building for all I know. Is this twelve fifteen?”

And she tilted her head and smiled so sweetly that I very badly wanted it to be twelve fifteen.

“No, this is fifteen twelve. One five one two. If you’re looking for one two one five, it’s three blocks that way, and across the street.”

She rolled her eyes. “My husband says I could get lost trying to find the kitchen and I swear sometimes he’s right.”

She took a step back, tentative, as if she wanted to leave, but didn’t want to seem rude.

I didn’t care any more. The husband bit made her far less interesting. I’ve done that before and it doesn’t work.

“You’ve been very helpful. Thank you. I won’t take up any more of your time, Mr. . . . ?”

Usually when people ask my name in that passive-aggressive backwards manner, I just stand and let them fumble around until they can learn how to form a decent question.

“Brennan. Philip. Call me Phil, please.” Obviously, with leggy blondes, my righteous indignation takes a hike and leaves me to my own devices.

“Mr. Brennan. Phil, then. Thank you for the directions. I’ll be off to my appointment.”

And she was.

Or, not.

Since she was lying through her teeth, I doubted very much there was an appointment.

The instant I bumped into her, I’d smelled her fragrance.

Which I’d also smelled three minutes ago in my apartment.


If you’d like to see how it all turns out, get A Long, Hard Look in print, or get the digital version and start reading right now.

And remember to watch for the specially-priced preorder for A Still, Small Voice in my newsletter in the coming months. Oh, that digital version of A Long, Hard Look? You get it free if you sign up for the newsletter. How about that?

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