This is the continuation of a story. You can read the rest here.
The card says Drake & Associates, but it said that before there were any associates. Nowadays, the associates consist of Marta, the building’s cleaning lady who often takes breaks on the couch in my office; and Betsy, my actual associate who’s really an underpaid problem solver slash phone answerer slash reception seat filler. Although, it’s not like the phone rings much or many people walk in, besides Marta, so perhaps she isn’t underpaid.
Not that I’m one to talk with a name like Walker Alden Bradford Tecumseh Ulysses Francis Drake VI, but Betsy’s name doesn’t suit her. Drake is derived from the Old English word for dragon, but in modern English, it means a kind of duck. Not only did the Drakes go from dragon to duck, but I’m the sixth one in a row to carry Tecumseh and Ulysses in addition to all the other silly names with which we already saddled ourselves. Really, no one needs more than two names. Three, tops.
I suppose the names of anti-slavery Union generals were added as an antidote to the fact that the first name we collected, Francis Drake, is from a slave-trading pirate knight who died childless and pooping himself from dysentery on a boat coincidentally called The Golden Hind. Yay history!
Anyway, Betsy’s name doesn’t suit her. Her parents must have expected her to be the type of girl who could carry the name with a girlish tact and aplomb, but not our Betsy. Our Betsy is more of an Ace, Killer, Slash or some other moniker that goes well with black leather and androgynously badass panache.
I call her Bets, which makes her want to stab me, but I just can’t bear to add the girly E sound at the end, because it makes her seem like a tween with curlicue handwriting who adds hearts over lower case I’s and squees a lot. Bets unimaginatively sounds like someone who works at a bookie’s office, which is more along the lines of the reasonable than the erroneous name her parents gave her.
A few years back, she made some very bad people very angry. Near as I can tell, it’s the only time she’s ever asked anyone for help. Afterward, she appointed herself associate. I think it’s a way to prove to everyone, including herself, that she didn’t need help; instead, she’s helping me, which happens to be true. I have no idea how I managed not to die pooping myself like Francis before she came along. I was a baby bird out of the nest. Chirp chirp.
All tucked up in cozy civilization far away on the other end of the phone number written on the card, I’m hoping Bets can get me out of this mess I presently find myself in, because her job is essentially to get me out of messes I find myself in. She’s magic that way. I hand the card to the woman standing over me and take another nap. I wake to find a woman’s face, but it’s a face I recognize.
Whether Bets is attractive or not is as irrelevant to most people as the beauty of a tornado. They’re more concerned with the devastation in its wake than the phenomena itself. Not many people get past her steely gaze that can burrow right through your soul and leave you whimpering, but if you are brave enough, you’ll be surprised to find that it’s actually quite a pretty face as figurehead to a knockout specimen. This is not one of those brave times though; the face snarls at me and I drop its gaze.
“What have you done, Cump?” Bets calls me by my namesake William Tecumseh Sherman’s nickname to get back at me for calling her Bets. It’s a rather lopsided revenge since I don’t mind. I got used to being called by stupid names long ago.
“I did nothing. I am an innocent victim. Goons, car trunk, cliff, boom, owie, sleep.” I make as many matching hand gestures as I can like someone who doesn’t know sign language at all, which I don’t.
The face guffaws and sneers. Despite the guffaw, the face is not amused. Probably because the girl attached to it had to drive several hours to the middle of nowhere to collect her idiot boss.
I almost forget about the hillbillies on whose sofa I’ve been squatting until the man walks in, predictably wearing grease smeared overalls, because of course, he is. “Yer car’s a beaut! But, I’m ‘fraid she’s toast. I can fix her up, but it’ll take a while. Got to get parts and such.”
The “and such” scares me. Choices are tow car back to the city at tremendous expense or fix car in boonies at tremendous expense. Either way, tremendous expense will be had along with no car for a while. “Fine. Do it.” A flash of joy crosses the man’s face. At least someone appreciates fine American steel. This man never would have wasted a classic muscle car just to kill me.
Bets and I drive back to the sweet, sweet city in her ludicrous compact car. I show off how bravely injured I am. She almost slams the car door on my legs. Always the nurturer. Her car suits her about as well as her name. On the other hand, her gigantic slobbery dog who insists on putting his gigantic slobbery head on my shoulder the whole trip home because he loves me so much, fits her perfectly. She says it’s a coincidence, but of course, she named Shamus after me.