The Half-Hearted Headline

Millionaire Pleads Guilty to Own Kidnapping.
I love that line. Probably always will.
Baffling X-Ray Reveals CEO Accidentally Ingested Employee Medical Card.
I watch as my client shuffles through the collected clippings, each laminated in chronological order inside my three-ring binder.
Wealthy Couple Claims Aliens Dump Dog-Feces on Collapsed Roof.
Usually clients laugh. Or ask questions. But Jane Smith, a foxy redhead in a Gucci pantsuit with an uninspiring moniker, isn’t my usual client.
Modern Oedipus: Cheating Husband Once Dated His Mother-In-Law
She hands me back the binder before pulling out a pack of cigarettes. “Mr. Feinprint, would you mind terribly?” Her voice has that retro-starlet quality of the old black and white films.
“I would. Asthma, you understand.” I fake a cough. I like to keep my clients guessing.
Jane smiles, teeth showing. “Your office, your rules.”
I sit back in my chair, aware that my dwarfish height rarely inspires confidence. That’s why my FBI styled sunglasses and well-trimmed goatee matter. As for the rest of my appearance, I had been sure to carefully select stripped pajamas with an oversized sweater as an additional layer of purposeful confusion.
“Let’s talk about your case.” I lean forward, elbows barely touching my expensive mahogany desk.
“It’s my boyfriend. He hasn’t proposed even though we’ve been together for years. I’m done giving him chances. He needs to suffer publicly just like I have at every family dinner, party, and social event.”
“Front page news costs extra.”
“Does money look like a problem for me?”
I shrug. “Won’t know until you pay.”
“And I won’t pay until you deliver.”
Jane opens her purse, handing me a magazine cover featuring a well-muscled man.
My eyes widen. “Oh, you’re dating…”
Jane puts a finger to her cherry red lips. “Let’s not say his name, shall we?”
“Of course. I’m just hung up on one detail; you want front-page treatment with no up-front payment?”
Jane scowls. “Fine. Half now, the rest later.”
I slide the sunglasses onto the top of my head. “What are you looking for?”
“Just make sure he feels… inadequate.”
“Oh, classic crotch shot, eh?”
She lit the cigar, the smoke wafting between us. “Is that going to be a problem?” She exhaled slowly; eyebrows arched in defiance.
“Not at all. Come, I’ll show you the best way out.” I hop off my chair, opening the door. The hallway outside is lined with cheap motel carpet. She towers over me, an hourglass dream with fiery curls and long eyelashes.
We reach the main hotel lobby.
“You know, this is an odd place to meet. You should consider upgrading from this dump.”
I force a laugh. “Will keep that in mind. Most of my cases come from average folks seeking retribution.”
She snorted. “Tell you what, if you do well, I might consider recommending you to more upper class clientele.”
At the tinted doors, I reach out a hand.
Jane’s nose scrunches in distrust but her forehead doesn’t show a single wrinkle. Too much plastic surgery, I decide.
Maybe my small size is disarming. She sighs but reaches down to grasp my hand. The goodbye handshake she is expecting turns into a well-timed pull. Jane stumbles forward just as the doors burst open.
Paparazzi cameras go off like well-timed bombs.
I plant a kiss on her shockingly smooth forehead and whisper, “Next time, pay upfront Sweetheart. Your boyfriend pulled the same stunt, so maybe you two are meant for each other. Oh, and stop splashing around with the pool boy.”
She smacks me with her purse and storms off, shoving and screaming through the flashing lights.
The questions strike.
“How long have you two been dating?”
My reply is practiced. Ready. I strike a pose in my rumpled pajamas, letting that detail be captured by the camera lenses. “It’s casual right now.”
“Are you worried about what her boyfriend might say?”
I hesitate. Then grin. “Nah. He’s half the man that I am.”
I retreat inside, pulling the tinted doors shut with a satisfying click. I lock it just as the hounding reporters knock, hungry for more.
I whistle down the hallway.
Next headline: Scandalous Affair! Action Star John Green’s Newest Romantic Rival: A Dwarf?

Riley Cross is a teacher and mom who is constantly pondering whether she should drink her coffee cold or attempt to reheat it again. She adores SciFi and Dystopian literature. Riley’s work has been featured by the Australian Writer’s Center, top ten list for most New York City Midnight contest rounds, and VampCat Magazine. She can be found on the Twitterverse (@WritingByRiley).

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