The Caffeine Cure


“My brain cells aren’t working,” Tillotson said.

Diana stepped back and held her front door open. She let him handle the screen.

“I know what they need,” she said.

She led the way past the living room to the kitchen of her rented Cape Cod. By now she didn’t have to tell him to take a seat, or to put his briefcase on the table. She went straight to the range and started heating water for coffee.

At the first sip his face relaxed like a sheet of ice slumping off the roof of a car. She took it as a signal to start her report.

“I asked around,” she said. “Nobody’s even heard of him. If he’s paying for it, it’s not with anybody I know.”

“Or with you.”

“Or with me.”

She didn’t take offense. He needed to know whether his suspect was leading a secret life with the local hookers. She was one of them, even if roles got a little fluid here in her kitchen.

“We can’t find any trace of him having an affair,” said Tillerson. “No life insurance on her. He was the big earner in the marriage.”

“No motive? How about his alibi?”

“He says he was working late, but he’s the boss. Any number of ways he could have slipped out, killed her, and come back.”

“So basically what you have is, she’s older, and she’s dead.”

“That and this itch I get when something just doesn’t look right.”

“Does caffeine cure it?”

“Never has yet.”

“So what’s the itch about?”

“They met twenty-some years ago. He was thirty-two. She was fifty. Okay, I get it. A beautiful, sophisticated older woman. But now she’s seventy-three. Maybe the magic went away.”

“It usually does at some point.”

Diana made a face. Who was she to talk about marriage? She knew only what clients told her, and they might or might not be a representative sample.

“That’s true,” he said. “But maybe he blamed her for getting old.”

“Could be. I read that he broke up her first marriage.”

“Yeah. I interviewed some friends of hers. At the time they thought she was crazy, throwing away a solid guy for a boy toy. They were surprised when it lasted this long.”

“Do you have any pictures? You know, besides what was in the newspaper?”

He opened his briefcase and removed an old-fashioned photo album, which he pushed across the table. Diana started turning pages.

“Damn,” she said. “If that’s seventy, sign me up. I mean, not yet, but she’s doing it right.”

“How does he strike you?”

“Client material.”


“Now I’m getting the  itch.”

She flipped a few more pages.

“You know what it makes me think of? ‘Granny porn.’ Ever heard of it?”

“I can guess.”

“It’s a niche, but it’s popular. Or so clients tell me. The basic scenario is a young guy and a hot horny woman with a Medicare card. Maybe he’s a delivery guy, maybe a friend of her grandson. Spoiler alert—they get it on.”

“No shit.”

“I could actually refer a fair amount of business to a woman like that. It comes up.”

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Yeah. There was an affair, but she was the one. And the guy was younger than her husband.”

“That’s gotta hurt.”

Tillotson thought.

“I’ve still got nothing. That means I need a confession.”

“Get him in a room and needle him until he snaps.”

“I’ve done this before.”

But he was grinning as he got up to go.

As Diana got home from an afternoon client, she opened the door and heard the phone ringing.

“It worked,” said Tillotson.

She sometimes wondered what kind of risk he was running by reporting to a civilian, and not just any civilian.

But that was up to him.

“What, the caffeine?” she asked.

“Yeah. The itch is gone.”

~ fin ~

Albert Tucher_headshot_Color2018

Albert Tucher is the creator of sex worker Diana Andrews, who has appeared in more than one hundred stories in venues including SHOTGUN HONEY and the anthology THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2010. Her first longer case, the novella THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE, was published in 2013. In 2017 Albert Tucher launched a second series set on the Big Island of Hawaii, in which BLOOD LIKE RAIN is the most recent entry. He lives in New Jersey, and he loves NJ Turnpike jokes.