As the bus lurched down Hollywood Boulevard my stomach flip-flopped. Why did I agree to meet Bugsy Beetlebaum? I surveyed the scene through the scratched windows: gaudy signs advertising quick pleasures and simple salvation. As we neared Vine the sidewalks became thick with tourists and other lost souls.
A few more blocks and I hopped off. Something was sticking to my left heel. Yuck. I had speared a wad of discarded spearmint. Now I really am a gumshoe, I thought as I balanced on one foot to remove the gum with a tissue. I skittered around the stars in the sidewalk and through the green mullioned door into Musso and Frank’s.
Beetlebaum was hunched over a menu in the back booth. A short, slight fellow in khaki shorts and a faded T-shirt, he didn’t pose much of a threat. It was dark, though. I felt inside my purse and was reassured by the smooth touch of a mother-of-pearl handle. Good. I had my trusty magnifier. I like to read the fine print.
We made quick work of our fillets.
“You said you wanted to discuss a contract,” I reminded him.
“Like I said, murder is my business. I got the papers here. Sign on the dotted line and I’ll pay $100 a hit.”
I sipped my wine and didn’t correct his grammar.
“I run a very efficient pest control business, but our ads need a little class. You know: an extra helping of je ne sais quoi.”
“So what do you want from me?”
‘”We kill bugs” sounds so crass. I want to say, “We’re experts in the art of, uh, something-icide,” you know?’
“I think I do.” I signed the contract. “Here we go. A is for acaricide, from post-classical Latin acarus, ‘a mite or tick’ and –icide, from classical Latin -cīdium ‘cutting, killing.’”
“That’s one,” he said, slapping down a Benjamin.
“Lots more where that came from,” I replied with a grin.