A jaded private investigator finds more than he ever bargained for in a case that draws attention to the importance of a well brewed cup of coffee…

by: Susan Cornford

In the six years I spent tracking David Addley, it never occurred to me that he didn’t exist. I know you’re expecting a long, complicated story about this, but I’m going to keep this as short and sweet as I possibly can. You’ll thank me for that when it’s over.

Everybody on the street has my number tattooed on their eyelids. You never know when a private dick will come in handy, and my forte is being very handy indeed. So, it was no surprise when this broad, no, this chick, no, this woman phoned me asking to meet at Spotty’s Café. The coffee’s hot there and you don’t want to know about the rest. But nobody takes much notice of who goes in and out, and that’s a necessity when you are in my business.

I noticed her immediately when I stepped in the joint from the rain (Someday I’m going to move out of this city where it rains nine days out of ten.) She was blonde, beautiful, sexy, and she looked scared — all the things you’d expect. The red-polished ends of her fingers kept twisting her coffee cup in a half-circle and back again.

I ordered a cup of coffee at the counter and sat on the opposite side of the booth. Our eyes met and introductions were made. She took in my face, my suit, my Hawaiian-print tie; her features relaxed and her eyes overflowed. I handed her my handkerchief. Tears mopped, she started her story about a character named David Addley.

It had been a whirlwind romance, conducted first on a dating website and then over a few drinks at David’s favorite bar. They had fared like a house on fire. Then he’d disappeared, just like that. She’d tried every avenue she knew of to find him, which weren’t very many. At the end of the day, she had just come up empty. Now she was willing to pay good money to find this chimera again.

I didn’t want to tell her that I didn’t like her chances, or even my chances, but I knew we were talking needles in haystacks. Reluctant lover-boys who make themselves scarce usually do a good job of it. Still, the coffers were low and there was no reason to not take a shot at the case, see what I could shake loose.

I shook for a couple of months and didn’t get so much as an acorn for my trouble or for the good lady’s bucks. After I made my last report to her, she seemed fairly resigned to having lost the love of her life and ready to move on with someone else. I’d like to say it was me she was going to be doing this with, but I’m not the type that blonde, beautiful, sexy women go for. By now I’m almost used to that. Almost.

Still, something about the case had burrowed under my skin. Whenever I had time to spare from other work, I’d dig into some dark corner or other that I hadn’t thought of looking in before. Finally, after six years, I struck it lucky. I was in this small town, not far from the rainy city, looking for yet another straying husband, sitting in yet another greasy-spoon café (my poor cholesterol). Someone at the next table pronounced the magic name “Addley” and my ears pricked up.

After some judicious listening and some careful cross-checking, I ended up knocking on the door of a nice, suburban house on a nice, suburban street. The door was answered by a nice, suburban lady who blushed deeply when I mentioned the blonde bombshell’s name. “You’d better come in,” she said, opening the door wider.

The woman insisted on giving me coffee and sandwiches and then started on her story. “I knew I was doing something I shouldn’t when I met Gloria on that website, but I was determined to give it one more attempt before I gave up. We got along so well that I felt I had to meet her in person and so I did, just the once. She was, in every way, so beautiful — I expect she still is — that, all of a sudden, it hit me: I really couldn’t drag her through what I’d soon be going through. So, I disappeared, before I had my gender reassignment surgery. At least I paid her the homage of going by the name Gloria Addley from then on, the name I always should have had. David Addley never should have existed and now he never did. Please don’t tell the other Gloria that you found me. Please just leave things as they are.”

So, I left dear, blonde Gloria in her blissful ignorance and I hope she’s found happiness wherever she is. As for me, I’ve found out, much to my surprise, that I am the type that tall, deep-voiced transgender women can go for. My cholesterol is lowering, and she makes a damn good cup of coffee.


Susan Cornford is a retired public servant, living in Perth, Western Australia. She has had pieces published or forthcoming in 365 tomorrows, AHF Magazine, Akashic Books Fri-SciFi, Altered Reality Magazine, Antipodean Science Fiction, Fudoki Magazine, Mystery Tribune, Switchblade, The Gambler, Theme of Absence, The Were-Traveler and Thriller Magazine.

2 replies on “Gloria”
  1. says: Arthur Rosch

    Times have changed and the possibilities of character have expanded to include every permutation of human behavior. A nicely set piece of writing. I loved the description of the hands circling the cup. Brava.

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