Men at Work

By: Karen Kendall

1



GO FIGURE—Marina Reston found it impossible to drive with cold cucumber slices over her eyes.

Even though she’d carefully cut out iris-sized holes in the centers of them with a sterling-silver grapefruit knife and had removed all those icky little seeds.Even though she’d pulled a Saks Fifth Avenue baseball cap down to her brow-line and tucked the slices under the rim to keep them in place.

And even though, when that had failed, she’d used a very large manuscript rubber band to hold them on. Driving under the influence of cucumbers just didn’t work.

The juice ran into her eyes even when they did stay on. And they created huge blind spots, playing havoc with her depth perception. She was simply going to have to meet private investigator Gina Keys with horrifically puffy eyes.

Thanks, Ben. This wouldn’t be a problem if I could stop crying over you….

How could her fiancé have broken up with her in a letter? How could he have just disappeared? And how could he not answer his cell phone or respond to the increasingly desperate messages she’d left over the past four days? Not only was she devastated, she was worried sick.

And then there was the question of the charity calendar Ben had promised to pose for. The shoot was next week. She had to find him before then or Frameworks for the Future would be short a model—but he’d obviously forgotten. Just like he’d forgotten her.

Well, that’s just fine…because I hate him.

Marina’s hands tightened on the wheel as if it were Ben Delgado’s neck. As if she could drive him around a corner, floor his gas pedal and run him straight into the plate-glass storefront of that Taco Bell…But, oh, hey!

What was she thinking? Ben was so not worth a storm of shredded cheese stuck to her 911’s paint job. Not to mention all the irate people in paper hats and food-service gloves who would be sure to yell at her.

Marina went back to the problem of her gruesomely puffy eyes. She could always leave her sunglasses on inside the P.I.’s office, but that seemed so aloof and pretentious.

With a sigh, she pressed the small silver button that unrolled her 911’s window and then tossed the cucumber slices out the window, so they took to the air like mini flying saucers.

She rolled up her window again and frowned at the electronic GPS map in the Porsche’s console. Since she was traveling south, or upside down according to the map, it always took her a moment to figure out if the GPS wanted her to go left or right next. Because left, upside down, was like right, right-side up, and Marina had no sense of direction whatsoever.

Her delayed deductive reasoning eventually kicked in, and Marina turned right on 17th, heading for Little Havana. Soon she was on Calle Ocho, passing tiny meat markets, fruterias, herbal shops and cigar stands.

Shecraveda cafecito, or Cuban coffee, but given her already frayed nerves and shaky emotional state, it was a bad idea. A woman who’d been crying for almost four straight days and living on a diet of wine and Advil should definitely avoid caffeine.

Two blocks, another left and one parking slot later, she found herself in a small cluttered strip mall that housed G K Investigations. She gathered her purse, Jumbo Jamba-Juice cup and little Ziploc bag of cucumber slices and then headed toward G K’s office door.

She remembered that Ms. Keys kept her door locked for security reasons and pressed the button next to it.

A buzz indicated that she could now open the door and she clicked inside in her new bargain sandals. She’d saved thirty percent off the $595 retail price by ordering them from Bluefly.com.

And Ben says I don’t know how to spell economize. Her lip trembled.

Ben. Where was he? She had to find him. He couldn’t do this! She needed him. Loved him. They had a life together—he couldn’t just disappear this way.

“I’ll be right with you,” a voice called from the back.

Marina’s eyes welled up again as she looked around Ms. Keys’s very plain, very small office and wobbled over to one of two green velour easy chairs that had seen better days.

Oh, God. The swelling around her eyes would never go down before the silent auction tonight if she didn’t stop this. And she had to emcee.

Marina set her purse in her lap and her Jumbo Jamba-Juice on an old trunk cluttered with magazines. The only other piece of furniture in the reception area of the office was a very large dog crate that served as a stand for a beat-up coffeemaker.

She wondered a little nervously where the dog was—she was petrified of big ones. Curiously, the air held not a whiff of eau de canine—just a faint mustiness that was all too common in south Florida.

With unsteady fingers she opened her Ziploc bag and removed two more cucumber slices from her reserve stash.