UNITED STATES—Yes, the woman was astonishingly familiar, yet he had no idea who she was. Like someone gazed upon in a dream. Calling her Nola was just a shot in the dark. . .
“Adriana,” Robbie said tentatively, rushed toward her rapidly retreating figure. “Betty?”       No not that either. “Deisha?”

Meanwhile, the Pyranee dog kept snarling at Rolf, his black schnauzer, in an exploratory way. The woman early pursued her tangential retreat. Then the snarling turned into sniffing at the hind quarter. Robbie, Rolf’s owner and titular master, remained at sea. The woman’s face was so damned familiar, the solid jaw, the red, or rather auburn way, the fell in gentle waves around below a turquoise neck bandanna.

Of course: she was the health inspector who’d exiled Robbie and his giant black schnauzer from his cozy place at the café. It dawned with a gasp that here was the object of his traumatic dislocation from sacred routine and was warm comfortably routine at the table inside the warm and comfortable table inside the café, able to listen to its soothing soundtrack, and big lovable Rolf could be comfy drowsing in the confined space under his owner’s chair.

“Nice to run into you like this,” he said, ceding to a niceness, that tyranny that saves us from greater tyrannies. She pulled sharply on the Pyranee’s collar and halted her stride.
It dawned with a gasp that here was the object of his foul obsession. At odd hours of the morning, he had fantasized his revenge and plotted it, and it seized Robbie in moments of surpassing comfort and security, to be obliterated by the thought of her –that pesky health inspector! She was the scourge of paradises lost, and author of all the rottenness that emerged from this infinitesimal dislocation that somehow unhinged everything, like the one screw loose in a Formula 1 racing car that initiates the process of self-destruction.

“I don’t think we’ve been formally introduced,” Robby continued his assault of kindness.

“I’m Alice.”

“I’m R.P. Caine, but my friends call me Robbie.

“I think I’ve hear of you. Do you write crime?”

“Do I?” he answered rhetorically. I’m about to enact one, he thought deviously. The biggest crime of my life.

Robbie steeled himself for the criminal adventure he was about to undertake. Who better that an expert in fictional crime to carry out his long-planned and massaged plot to perfection? he reassured himself, comforted by the health inspector’s fangirl spiel.

“A lot of my coworkers are into crime,” she said, Robbie, smiled inside. “Well, I think it’s rubbish. It’s a waste of time. You can always turn to the last chapter and find out what happens?”

Robbie’s inner smile turned into a scowl on the outside of his face, which certainly wasn’t the poker face he imagined it to be.

“Say,” Robbie said, “is there an ATM around here?”

“Right this way,” Alice gestured, with just a touch of friendliness. Robbie’s assault of kindness had paid off: it had lulled his victim into trusting him.

They talked of dogs. How old their dogs were, how long they had had them. It belonged to a superficial level of conversation that helped the world to operate on auto-pilot. That was fine by Robbie. It favored his criminal designs…

“Right this way,” Alice gestured.

To be continued…

Graydon Miller, the Wizard of Fiction, is the author of the organ-trafficking thriller, “Hostages of Veracruz” https://amzn.to/3imkqRK Veracruz.

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Hollywood humorist Grady grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon) and its follow-up, Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood. (https://amzn.to/3bGBLB8) His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)