The Ragabash Foxtrot

So I’ve only been settled in my office for about five or ten, on account of being the sort who early-birds to work, and there comes a knocking at my door. “Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin,” I call, and wait for a response. There weren’t any. “That’s a joke,” I call again. “I’m not a real wolf, you know,” and this time the door opens. The boy who steps in is about six feet of blond and blue and pale, and he stands there like he don’t know what to do once he’s been let in. I point at a seat across from my desk and I says, “Sit. Go on.”

“Are you Raguel Jones?”

“Did you read the sign?” He keeps staring, not looking too smart while doing it, so I lay it out for him. “Yes, I am Raguel Jones. R.J. to my friends, and my best friends call me the Rag. Say it like a storm’s rolling in whenever I’m in town. And you?”

He slams his hand on my desk, and before I can tell him that that ain’t a name, he says, “Have you seen this girl?”

There’s a picture crumpled under his manicured fingers, so I has to pry it out to get a look. There’s a long-faced gal with longer brown hair, and you can’t see her skin for all the tiny freckles. Her eyes are the same blue as her denim dress. Or maybe not, hard to say, ’cause the top of the picture is light and worn, like it was left in the sun to dry up like a raisin.

“Old photo,” I guess.

“This is my girlfriend. Elizabeth Doehner.” The stranger shoves the picture at me again. “Likes to go by Lizzy Do. She disappeared three months ago without a trace.”

“And it just so happens that I’m a whiz at finding what’s lost. The sign would’ve told you that, if ya bothered to read it.”

The stranger reaches into the pocket of his jeans, the kind that’s faded by bleach instead of sunlight, and pulls out a piece of paper. No pictures on this one, just names. Mine’s circled at the top of the list. “She left everything behind. I was looking through it again for a hint that might explain things. I found this list, and I don’t know any of the names except for hers.” Before I could ask how he found mine, he said, “I looked you up on the Internet. Paranormal investigator?”

“You wouldn’t believe how many people think they’ve been hexed when their glasses are just lost on top of their heads. But I know a few real deals as well.” I take the photo and I take the names, and I look at them both, commit them to memory. “What’s your name, kid?”

“Frederick Thompson.”

“Well, let me tell you some things or two, Fred. Ol’ Rag here has never met your fair Lizabeth, but I can help you in the next best way. I am, after all, an investigator.” I put the list in the pocket of my own worn jeans. “I’ll pass these by my contacts, see if any bells start ringing. If they do, we can negotiates pay and work from there.” I push the photo back at him. “Here. It’s yours, and won’t do me no good.”

“What if you need to describe her?” Freddy asks, and he looks as confused as when he came in, standing in that doorway. He’s a burly sort of boy, in a manufactured way as opposed to a bear-wrestlin’ sort of way, but he’s got the face of a child.

“She ain’t exactly an exotic beauty, in case you haven’t figured that. Trust me, I’ve already memorized what I need to.” I put up my feet all along my desk, which is supposed to be a hint for him to get his hands off and get out, but he doesn’t get it. “I may be a while, so come back tomorrow. This your first time around these parts? You don’t look like a local, trust me. Why don’t you go downtown and find the Chili Coyote?” I push my heel against his manicured hands, hoping to dirt ’em up a little. “Best chilidogs in the state. Tell them the Rag sent you.”

He gets up, brushes off his knuckles, and thanks me like a waiter who’s just been spit in the face. He doesn’t slam my door, just shuts it with a little click, and he’s gone. And good riddance, I think as I pick up the phone. I can only hope that I hit every answering machine in the state, but with my luck, Freddy and I are in for a long trek. He doesn’t seem like the sort to trust me to go a-looking alone.

Dorian Graves hails from “the Middle of Nowhere, Oregon” and is a recent graduate from Mills College. His story, “The Ragabash Foxtrot,” was half of his thesis; the other half, “A Taste of Empty,” was published in Mad Scientist Journal earlier this year. Part 2 of “The Ragabash Foxtrot” will be published in Strangelet Volume 1, Issue 3.

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