Should hit 50K before the end. Huzzah!
The smell inside the Rarezas room was just as bad as promised, like the sea had decided to throw up in the corner. The masks helped, but almost by accident. It was like wearing one gave you an excuse to not think about the smell, which let your brain get on with just ignoring everything that your nose was trying desperately to tell you. Lucky for me, I had that thought after we left. If I had had it while we were there, the whole damn tidal orchestra would have come flooding in again, all at once, and I might have burst a blood vessel.
On the other hand, at least the poor bastard who had to work in this room was happy to see us. “Hello, gentlemen! I’m Henry Cardona Knotts. You were sent over by Ms. MacRae?”
I took him in, over his outstretched hand. He was a short fellow, kind of googly-eyed behind glasses too big for his face, and I was little surprised he wasn’t trying to use a beard to cover that chin. Seemed good-natured, though, which is one way to handle being stuck in a room that reeked like teenage sea monster. “Well, Lucas over there was,” I said, shaking his hand with nary a hint of hesitation. “I’m just sort of along for the hell of it.”
“So, you’d be Tom Vargas, then. Wait, are you a Shamus?” He actually brightened at the thought.
“I guess the hat gave it away,” I replied. “But yeah, I’m down here on vacation.”
“Oh, how exciting! We don’t see people with your skills down here very often. I guess Red Beach just doesn’t have the kind of ‘Cases’” — I could hear the quotation marks — “you’re used to solving. No, wait, ‘Clearing!’ You Clear Cases, you don’t solve them.” Henry looked abashed. “I’m so sorry for not getting that right, Shamus Vargas.”
“Nah, don’t worry about it,” Lucas said, the amusement in his voice mostly directed at me. “He’s not used to having more than one fan at a time.”