Thanks to Laura B. for her idea about the IRS. Please read and review.

The Best Laid Plans

by

BJ Thompson

It was a twiddle-your-thumbs type of day. Peggy Fair could only rearrange the files and dust her desk so much. The only excitement in her day was the arrival of the mail.

A letter from the Internal Revenue Service jumped out at her. She sliced it open. The letter announced the time and date of the audit. Must have been the car repair bills or was it the medical expenses, she thought. Tomorrow she would start gathering the documents. Joe would not be happy. This is the second time in three years.

She arranged the mail on his desk with the IRS letter on top. If she was lucky, she'd be at home cooking dinner for herself and Toby when he returned and saw the letter.

"Joe!" she shrieked as he slammed the door to 17 Paseo Verde. She was so surprised she almost laughed.

Joe Mannix's face was streaked with soot, his tie askew and the left sleeve was missing from his new sport jacket. She smelled the mixture of smoke and sweat as he roared past her going for the bottle of Scotch on the credenza. He poured himself a drink, drained it and splashed more Scotch into his glass.

"What happened to you?" she asked.

"You don't want to know." Joe gulped the second drink, grabbed the bottle and plopped into the chair behind his desk. "I don't even believe it!"

"Are you going to tell me what happened or drink yourself to death first?" Peggy plunked into the client chair. "Well?"

"You know all those plans I had for today?"

"Yeah."

He guzzled the rest of the Scotch and refilled his glass.

"What happened?"

"You know the lead I got that Bobby Jenks might be living in that condemned building over on Dwyer?"

"Yeah?"

"I went there. Nosed around the building. Somebody was living there because I found a bedroll and some cooking utensils. So I sat down to wait. I figured I'd talk to him and let him know his sister's worried about him and the least he could do is call her every now and then. Then I smelled smoke." Joe started pacing, circling around Peggy and his desk. "Guess what's on fire?" The liquor sloshed from his glass as he gestured. "The staircase. Luckily I found the fire escape."

"Do you think someone deliberately set the fire?" she asked.

"Probably for the insurance money."

"Is that how you lost your sleeve? Got it caught on the fire escape?"

"That's another story." Joe remembered his one-sleeved, charred and tattered new sport coat, removed it and dumped it on the floor. He collapsed into his chair and loosened his tie. "I got in a fight with Mikey."

"You . . . in a fight with Mikey? Isn't that a little lopsided?"

"He's only got me by fifty more pounds and a couple of inches. He didn't like me insinuating that his girl might be seeking solace with another man."

"He ripped your sleeve off?"

"Yeah, grabbing for something, anything, to keep from falling off the porch." He downed the remainder and replenished his glass. "I had punched him after he took a swing at me."

"I thought you didn't do divorce cases."

"They're not married; therefore it's not a divorce case."

Peggy rolled her eyes. "A technicality, I'm sure."

"But that's not the worst . . ."

"Hey, heads up." A set of keys flew over Peggy's head and landed in Joe's hand. Peggy peeked over her shoulder to see Police Lt. Adam Tobias loitering in the doorway.

"Thanks. Where did you find it?"

"Hi, Adam. Find what?" Peggy asked.

In Santa Monica, down by the pier. A couple of kids joyriding."

"Find what?"

"Oh, he didn't tell you?"

"Adam!"

"Somebody stole his car." Adam chuckled.

"Stole your car? When did that happen?"

"A couple of hours ago."

"How . . ." Peggy asked.

"I don't want to talk about it."

Adam snickered. "He was in the little boy's room at the gas station on Finley."

"When a man's gotta go, a man's gotta go," Peggy smirked.

"Thanks, Adam. I'll remember that the next time your day goes down the toilet." Joe held up the Scotch bottle. "Join me?"

"Nope, still on duty." Adam grinned. "Oh, and Joe, try not to leave your keys in the ignition." With the reflexes of a veteran cop, Adam ducked as Joe flung a book at him. "Ooo, somebody's having a bad day," Adam teased as he disappeared from the office.

"It's been a hell of a day. What else could go wrong?" Joe sighed and sipped his Scotch. "Hell of a day."

She watched him relax as the events of the day and the Scotch had its effects. He sighed again and toyed with his glass. She tried not to stare as he rolled the glass around the mail on his desk.

"Guess I'd better get cleaned up." Joe almost tripped over his coat still lying on the floor. With a drop kick, he landed the remnants of his jacket on his bag of golf clubs. He scooped up the mail. "Anything interesting?"

Her eyes widened. "Uh, the usual . . .bills . . . you know," she stuttered.

"Yeah, I know." He lingered at the landing. "Screw it!" He turned and pitched the mail back on his desk. "I'm taking the rest of the day off and so are you."

Joe bounded up the stairs and disappeared. Peggy exhaled with a whoosh. She hadn't realized she had been holding her breath.

"Good night, Joe," she yelled up to him.

Peggy raced to snatch her purse from her desk and leave. As she locked the office door she thought tomorrow might be good day to call in sick.

The End