It was midday when I got the call. I knew from the voice on the other end of the phone that I was in for a doozy. And that was before he said, “Buddy, you’re in for a doozy.” I pulled on my coat, unfolded my portable unicycle, and wheeled it downtown. I’m a detective. A citrus detective. And sometimes, a circus detective. I wasn’t sure yet which kind they would need. Racing past bike messengers on a unicycle is fine for most private eyes, but I like to pull out the bowling pins, light one on fire, and juggle. It’s a little trick they don’t teach you in detective school. It’s called “experience.”
When I pulled up at the brick building, there was a crowd out front. A few employees had come out of the lobby, obviously shaken. I did a quick little mime number I picked up in the service, a routine I call dragged-by-a-string-around-the-pinky-finger-down-an-icy-hallway. I find it calms those in a crisis. I mime-skated inside like a pro and finished with a dead-silent triple-axle right in front of the facilities manager. I adjusted my hat. “How can I help?” I said calmly. The manager led me to the kitchen. “There,” she said. “It’s in the FruitGuys Crate.”
I knew I had to get her to tell me more. I reached into the FruitGuys tray and pulled out a bunch of roses. “Is this it?” I said slyly. She shook her head, no. Soon I was throwing scarves everywhere. I pulled coins from behind her ears, but she still wasn’t talking. She just pointed. “What is it?” she said. I reached in and pulled out a round piece of citrus: smaller than a navel orange, a bit more porous, and with a blush of red on the outside in places. I started peeling the skin back.
As I opened the fruit, she gasped. “It’s. . . It’s…It’s. . .” “I know,” I said. “A dark purple color inside. It’s called a blood orange,” I assured her. She was still shaken. “Look,” I said. “People have been eating these for a long time in the Mediterranean region. If you ask for orange juice in Italy or Spain or Morocco, you’re bound to get Blood Orange juice. Here,” said as I handed her a slice. “It’s delicious – like citrus with hints of berry. It’s nothing to be afraid of. This, on the other hand,” I did my famous mime-in-a-box-that-locks-from-the-inside-lost-key pose. “This is terrifying,” I said. She smiled as she took a bite. “So it’s not circus fruit,” she said. “Not at all,” I said. She turned and whistled to her co-workers, who ran into the kitchen and tasted the great fruit. “Thanks, FruitGuy Noir,” she said. I mimed a high five and unicycled into the night.