Big Trouble

Episode 5

Arilin Thorferra

The tiger had only shown up two of the four days I’d been watching Edgar, but when he showed up the next, it was the same as those: get in late morning, head straight to the tennis courts. Unlike Lambert, he drove himself, but clearly not for lack of money. He pulled up in an exotic two-seater import that had to cost more than I’d make in my lifetime, so tiny he could barely fold himself into the seat behind the wheel. I checked it out when he went inside, but he hadn’t left behind anything interesting. The registration forms in the glove compartment identified him as a William Bulworth. Fair enough. He looked like a Bulworth.

On the other hand, Edgar’s coyote friend was another daily regular. Every day he’d shown up just before lunch, and three of those four days he’d joined Lambert for lunch, one of those days with Bulworth. What I hadn’t seen watching inside was that he got chauffeured to and from the Regency, too, just like the fox. Unlike Edgar’s driver, though, the coyote’s stuck around. After dropping him off, the car just circled back to the parking lot.

I circled around on foot myself, heading to the car from an angle that made it look like I might be coming from the club, and nodded to the beaver as he lit up a cigarette with a silver lighter. “Cadillac 355, right? Fleetwood body?”

He looked at me, then back at the car, then back at me more incredulously. “You know a lot about cars for a woman, ma’am.” He sounded more admiring than offended himself. Promising.

“I’ve always been unusual. There’s not many women concierges-in-training, either.”

“No, I guess there aren’t. Uh, congratulations. It’s nice to see women, you know, moving out of the house.”

“It is indeed.” I looked over the car. “This is…Mr. Bulworth’s? No, wait, he drives himself.”

The beaver made a clucking noise. “If you call that driving. This is Mr. Woodley’s.”

I mustered a hopefully believable laugh. “Of course. So…Woodley’s a coyote, right? Friends with Mister, uh, Lambert?” I held up a hand. “Not to be nosy, sorry. It’s just been drilled into me that the Regency is supposed to know everything about all their members. At least, everything that matters when they’re here.”

He grimaced. “That’s always the way with these kinds of people, isn’t it. Mr. Woodley and Mr. Lambert have lunch together most days, yeah. I get the impression that Lambert’s kind of an oddball, but they’re friendly enough.”


He shrugged. “Just what Mr. Woodley’s said a few times. ‘You know, Harry, that Edgar’s a right strange one.’”

“Ah. Say no more.” I held up a hand. “There’s a lot that a concierge needs to keep track of, but that still might be more than what I need to know.”

He laughed. “I don’t know more than that, and haven’t asked.”

“Mr. Woodley’s in…imports? Or am I confusing him with someone else?”

“Not exactly. That’s his father George’s business. Young Don, mmm, enjoys the benefits of being employed in name only.”

“So like most of the club members.”


I managed a couple more lines of serving-rich-weirdos small talk, then waved and headed toward the staff entrance. If anyone noticed I didn’t belong with the waitstaff, they didn’t say boo. Most working-class stiffs usually won’t; they probably make decent money here—more than I’d been making lately—but not enough to play security on top of their real jobs.

I spotted the coyote at the bar in the game parlor, overdressed in a red pinstripe suit with lapels so wide they could get a sailboat up to twenty knots. He was leaning on the counter, sipping a gin and tonic. No one was around him. I slid up on his side. “Don Woodley, right?”

He turned, gave me the once over, then gave me a double-take, brows raising. “I am. Have we met? If we haven’t, we should.” Now that I could get a whiff of both his drink and his breath, I amended it to gin with just enough tonic to add a bubble.

“I thought so, too. Mr. Meloni mentioned you to me.”


“Joey Meloni.”

He smiled apologetically. “I don’t recognize the name.” He wasn’t a good enough liar to keep his ears from lowering a touch.

“You sure? He works for East-West Imports. In the photography group.”

He took a long sip of his drink and chewed on the lime twist before speaking in a quick, quiet hiss. “What do you want?”

“Was the squeeze on Edgar Lambert your idea? I know it wasn’t Joey’s. He won’t take a piss until a higher-up hands him the toilet paper.”

“You’re not one of Meloni’s friends.”

“Never said I was.”

“Cop? Private dick?”

“Not a cop.”

He grunted, looking away. I followed his gaze. Two burly jackals stood at the far side of the bar. They hadn’t been there a moment earlier.

“Look,” I said, “I don’t care what you’re into any more than I care what Lambert is into. But he’s stealing from his wife to keep her from finding out about a trap he fell into that you helped set for him.”

He shook his head. “Either you don’t know enough for me to worry about you nosing around, or you know why we’re done here.”

“Come on, don’t go tough guy on me. With your family connections, what’s anyone gonna do to you?”

Woodley gave me a long look, like he was going over a list of things whoever he’d gotten in bed with could and would do to him. Then he turned toward the jackals, raising one arm and snapping his fingers. “Gentlemen, please escort the lady out, and encourage her not to return.”

“We really have to do this the hard way?” I’d barely gotten the words out before the jackals took my arms and started marching me away from the bar.

The maître d’ gave the jackals a shocked look as I got dragged past, then gave me a positively dirty one. When we got outside, the one holding my right arm let go. “I don’t like to hit girls,” he said. Then the other one gave me a shove hard enough to send me sprawling across the pavement. “But he does.”

I staggered back to my paws, readjusted my sandals, and retrieved my fedora. The girl-hitter stood with his arms crossed, leering. The first one pointed at the parking lot. “Scram.”

“Since you asked so nicely.” I put my hat back on. “But just one thing first.”

He narrowed his eyes at me. “I’m not gonna say it twice, doll.”

I shifted to be just tall enough they were hip high to me, and didn’t let them get out so much as a bark before grabbing both by the neck and hauling them to my new eye level. “Go back inside and tell Woodley doing this the hard way was the wrong choice.” I dropped them, then planted my right paw on the chest of the guy who shoved me.

“Hey, now,” the speaker started.

I pointed at the club. “Scram.”

He swallowed, staring up at me, then nodded and dashed inside. I’d given him a new limp. Good.

I curled my lip at the other jackal. “As for you?” I pressed my shoe down until he couldn’t hold back a howl. “Be nice to girls.”