Jeffrey Hollar’s Picture Choice: Both
Title: M.I.S.S. Stakes
Marvin Skolnick set the file folder he’d been reading down on his cluttered desk and breathed a tired sigh. Running a hand through his thinning prematurely-gray hair, he was forced to admit skill and dedication were not the reasons he was the youngest case manager in the agency’s history. It was really more a matter of nobody else wanting the job. He understood all too well why that was the case.
Marvin worked for the Mythological/Imagery Support Services (M.I.S.S.) division of the state’s Child Support Recovery Unit. The very existence of his division was a closely-guarded secret from all but the most senior administrators…well and, of course, those who required the division’s assistance.
Tracking down deadbeat dads and getting them to assume the financial responsibilities for their offspring was a difficult venture under the very best of circumstances. When the fathers of said offspring happened to be entities the average person believed were either mythological or imaginary in nature the difficulty factor shot up exponentially higher.
It wasn’t as if Marvin begrudged his clients the assistance of the agency. He knew the poor souls had already done their level best to resolve their issues before they sought any outside help. He knew they were only trying to get what they were, rightfully and legally, entitled to from their recalcitrant former partners. Knowing didn’t make him any less inclined to wonder what the hell these whacko women had been thinking to get involved with such…unusual breeders in the first place.
This had been an especially rough week for Marvin. With three investigators out battling an especially virulent flu bug, he’d been forced to lock up his office and go out and attend to some field work. It hadn’t been all that long ago he’d been a field agent, himself, but certainly long enough he had forgotten just how taxing it could be.
Emilia Rosenkrantz had been a heartbreaking re-introduction to field work. The mother of the delightfully cute little moppet was a cashier at Buster’s Seafood Smorgasbord down by the bay. Emilia’s father, so Ms. Rosenkrantz avowed, was a merman. He’d been her most frequent customer for some time and she was mesmerized by his surfer good looks and his voracious appetite for seafood of any sort. Their relationship was helped along, considerably, by the fact he was also one heck of a good tipper.
Though Marvin couldn’t imagine what had led to the carnal end of the situation, the woman was most insistent as to the father’s piscine status and, equally, as insistent she’d not seen hide nor scale of him since the fateful night she informed him of their impending bundle of joy. She was chagrined to admit while little Emilia showed no overwhelming love of fish or any inexplicable draw for the beach, her father was a merman…no question of that.Marvin Skolnick set the file folder he’d been reading down on his cluttered desk and breathed a tired sigh. Running a hand through his thinning prematurely-gray hair, he was forced to admit skill and dedication were not the reasons he was the youngest case manager in the agency’s history. It was really more a matter of nobody else wanting the job. He understood all too well why that was the case.
Marvin worked for the Mythological/Imagery Support Services (M.I.S.S.) division of the state’s Child Support
Initially at a loss as to how to resolve this dilemma, Marvin finally opted for dressing the pudgy toddler in a not-very-convincing mermaid costume and sitting her on the rocks near a tide pool while he hid just out of sight blowing mournful calls on an enormous conch shell. After six hours, Emilia seemed disinclined to sit still any longer and Marvin, regrettably, admitted it might take a bit longer than he’d initially projected to lure her father into a position where his compliance with his responsibilities could be insured. He’d scheduled the Rosenkrantzes for another try the following Tuesday.
He’d enjoyed no more success with the case of Alicia Ramirez Sanchez and her mother either. Her mother had two great loves in her life, Alicia and antiquing. She had no intention whatsoever of meeting the girl’s future father on the, otherwise uneventful, day she’d purchased the old clay jug from a roadside swap meet. While cleaning it off, she’d been flabbergasted when, with a billow of smoke, an honest-to-gosh ifrit had come whooshing out of his captivity within said jug.
In hindsight, using the three wishes she was entitled to for freeing him might have been better thought out but there was no sense dwelling on past mistakes. Marvin had no inkling of what the first two wishes might have been for, but Ms. Ramirez was very forthcoming about the third. Not many men were into antiquing and she wasn’t having any luck with the internet dating sites and so, looking at the swarthy, well-muscled djinn, she’d made the most, so to speak, of that final wish.
This case had one upside to it in that the mother knew exactly where the absent sire of her daughter was but hadn’t been able to get his assistance. He’d gone into hiding in the very same jug from which he’d initially appeared and simply was not going to come out. All attempts by Alicia’s mother to break the jug had proven unsuccessful. It, apparently, enjoyed some sort of magical protection. Additionally, she’d spent hours yelling into the narrow neck of the jug with no response from inside.
Marvin winced at the dressing-down he’d gotten from the finance office over the expense vouchers he’d filed on the case. Familiar with the infernal nature of the father, he’d purchased some $500 worth of smoking, sparking, flaming, exploding fireworks. He figured, incorrectly it seemed, the combination of pyrotechnics and his daughter in the midst of them might entice the ifrit to come out and play with the child. Once he came out, the rest of the matter could be resolved with minimal effort.
It hadn’t worked at all and, given his unauthorized expenditures, the case had been pulled from his control and given over to his agency rival, Lewis Havermeyer. To Marvin, that hurt far worse than his failure to help a client and infinitely worse than having a butt cheek chewed off by the harridan in Accounting.
Oh well, at least it was Friday and he had a peaceful, supernatural-free weekend to look forward to. That he would spend said weekend in an uninterrupted binge of heavy drinking interspersed with a barrage of telephone calls from his mother berating him for not having gone into the aluminum siding business with his brother. It wasn’t an enviable life or even an exceptionally lucrative one but it was, if nothing else, seldom boring.
Jeffrey Hollar is half Klingon, half Ferengi, visiting Earth in an attempt to negotiate a merger. He is currently working on a novella and a collection of zombie stories with his wife, Lisa McCourt Hollar. Jeff writes almost daily for his blog, The Latinum Vault, found at http://www.jeffreyhollar.com.