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All seasoned insurance fraud investigators worked their incisors; at least Roddy Granger assumed they did. Estelle couldn't easily hide her bitterness and resentment of being trapped. Roddy Granger, of course, understood nothing of her situation and was only impressed the lady spoke to him with Southern Belle lyricism. After Lester completed his violent arm motions, Roddy Granger couldn't help himself and sniffed the air.

His body knew something he didn't. Estelle ignored Lester, as she usually did, and continued to watch Roddy Granger like a peregrine falcon. Roddy Granger started to fidget: The woman with the oily hair was watching him a little bit too wild eyed for comfort. He imagined and imagined oddly, her gaze not to be that of a peregrine falcon but of a gazelle being chased by a cougar.

As soon as he imagined that, he imagined that same cougar skidding to a halt as the gazelle, equally as suddenly, had stopped in her tracks, turned and affixed upon the cougar a particularly unnerving bug-eyed look.

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Roddy Granger fidgeted some more. He didn't understand how he could be imagining all this, of a gazelle skidding to a halt and turning. The woman was not only fixing him with the same bug-eyed look of the gazelle he imagined but was waiting for him to answer a hypothetical question which she hadn't posed out loud but released, he further imagined, with a medicine dropper, drop by drop, onto the goopy protoplasm of his own cerebral cortex.

A gazelle, for all intents and purposes, was the equivalent of a mouth-watering cheeseburger for a cougar. What gives with the cougar stopping look? Lester at that point raised his voice a notch and commenced, what Estelle referred to as background banter, his usual routine while counting money.

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The customers paid Lester with crumpled up currency that stank of sweat, urine and sometimes shit, whatever made its way into their grimy pockets. They paid for their drafts or cans of Miller with ones, once in a blue moon, a fiver. Lester didn't like making change. He liked keeping all the money that was handed to him.

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There is no sense in getting to know him. And besides, what did I tell you, Estelle? Estelle giggled behind a flattened hand, cocked her head and trained the red horned rims in the direction of Roddy Granger's ears. And as soon as she did, Roddy Granger felt as though yet another thought had been inserted directly into his head by the same mysterious masked surgical personage, this time utilizing an extremely long pair of alligator forceps.

He had peed before he got in the car but oddly, the prospect of going for another tinkle seemed like not such a bad idea; once in the restroom, he would be able to catch up on a few moments of quality alone time with his church bulletin. Roddy Granger had been getting more than just a bit "touchy-feelie" lately on the advice of his psychiatrist. Kerpowski informed Roddy everything was going to be just fine: He simply had a garden variety anxiety disorder and told him the way to deal with it was by living in his anxiety.

Wear its skin, Granger. Take up residence inside of it. It will teach you all you need to know. Through living in his anxiety, as Dr. Kerpowski advised, Roddy became a flaming train wreck within a few short days. At the same time, did learn to heed emotional cues. Estelle brushed the tips of her fingers across Roddy Granger's forearm at the exact moment Lester had turned his head to look down at his money. Roddy had also been working with his psychiatrist on telling the difference between emotional cues and boners. He was pretty sure this was an emotional cue he had just received and NOT a boner.

In Hindsight

A boner would be unthinkable and inappropriate. Lester hadn't answered the question put to him as to whether or not Estelle was his daughter. Roddy Granger pursed his lips: His job to draw conclusions. Any clue might prove significant in the bear claw claim investigation. At the same time, he didn't want to get into the young wife thing, did and didn't.

There was something about Estelle that spelled trouble. Lester would certainly have spelled that kind of Trouble with a capital T. To complicate matters, she was asking for his help. Roddy Granger puffed out his cheeks.

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He knew exactly what that certain something was about Estelle. He just didn't want to admit what that certain something was in the midst of a field investigation. Plain as the nose on his face:. Estelle was carrying a bushel full of sex appeal right down the middle of main street on the shady side of boner city! Kerpowski frequently evoked the image of the animal with its paw getting caught in a trap in order to help Roddy confront his garden variety anxiety issues.

From across the room, Dr.


Knaw your paw OFF! Roddy flinched whenever his psychiatrist yelled OFF like that. His psychiatrist always chuckled when he observed Roddy Granger flinch. His psychiatrist enjoyed making Roddy Granger flinch. As often as he could Dr. Kerpowski raised his voice suddenly or lunged forward with both arms outstretched or clapped his hands together without warning. Roddy Granger felt a stirring, as if a magnet and lump of iron had simultaneously been dropped down the front of his pants while two other magnets were inserted into both of his ear canals and pushed straight through into his right and left temporal lobes.

Roddy Granger needed to get into that rest room stall right away, take out his church bulletin, unfold it, smooth it and not just smooth it but smooth it good , and start looking at it; licking his lips if he had to while he looked. He stood abruptly and made a beeline toward the little alcove over which hung a crooked and filthy sign reading 'water closet. Directly after Estelle followed Roddy Granger into the rest room's alcove, Lester's voice rose as if somebody had pried off one of his fingernails.

He slipped off his stool and in doing so inadvertently got his sleeve caught on the sink's faucet. Estelle had already covered the distance between bar and restroom like a cheetah emerging from high grass on the African veldt.

Pee in the Woods

His head was propelled backward against the wall, making a dull thump. Lester bellowed, "What was that goddamn dull thump I just heard? The bar's plumbing seemed to have caught him in its irrational grasp. Estelle paid no attention to Lester, her jet-black hair parting to one side to reveal a single reddish wisp dangling over one dark green oval eye.

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The whisp swung like a pendulum past her prominent patch of freckles now glowing madly as if fueled by radioactive isotopes. Estelle's hair had been fire-engine red since birth. She kept her father's original tin of shoe polish secure on the end of a hemp lanyard and wore it around her neck. On seeing the dangling red wisp, Roddy Granger wanted to ask Estelle a question.

Now is not the time for questions but a time for listening, stranger. I need to tell you a few things. Only a week earlier, while at his office and seated in front of his duty station's PC, Roddy Granger had intended on typing the letters MLB into his Google search engine. He wanted to check the recent Minnesota Twins box score. Curiously, there appeared right away fifty or more JPEG images of scantily clad older women all of whom had taken photographs of themselves standing in front of bathroom mirrors. Roddy Granger scrolled through the images one by one, stroking both church card and church bulletin with trembling hands.

Jenkins, the head of Investigations, just happened to pop his head through the office door at that precise moment. Jenkins gently shut the door behind him. Afterward, Granger could hear his voice followed by roars of laughter. Roddy Granger arose, face beet red, and stumbled drunkenly toward the door.