It was meant to be his escape, an escape from the generations of bankers, dry, dusty men who had been in the business since George Washington said to the first Walthenson to step foot on American soil, 'Why don't you start a bank?" when asked what he could do for the great man.
He didn't think Washington meant it literally, but the Walthensen's then as now was not shy of taking advice.
Except, of course, when it came to Harry himself.
He was, His father once said, the exception to every rule. Harry guessed he was talking about the fact Harry wanted to be a Private Detective rather than a dry, dusty banker. Just the clothes were enough to turn him off the profession.
So, with a little of the money Harry inherited from one of his aunts, he leased an office in Gramercy Park and had it renovated to look like the Sam Spade detective agency, you know the one, Spade and Archer, and The Maltese Falcon.
There's a movie and a book by Dashiell Hammett if you're interested.
So, there it was, painted on the opaque glass inset of the front door, 'Harold Walthenson, Private Detective'.
There was enough money to hire an assistant, and it took a week before the right person came along, or, more to the point, didn't see his business plan as something sinister. Ellen, a tall cool woman in a long black dress, or so the words of a song in his head told him, fitted in perfectly.
She'd seen the movie, but she said with a grin, Harry was no Humphrey Bogart.
Of course not, Harry didn't smoke.
Three months on the job, and it had been a few calls, no 'real' cases, nothing but missing cats, and other miscellaneous items. What he really wanted was a missing person. Or perhaps a beguiling, sophisticated woman who was as deadly as she was charming, looking for an errant husband, perhaps one that she had already ‘dispatched’.
Or for a tall, dark and handsome foreigner who spoke in riddles and in heavily accented English, a spy, or perhaps an assassin, in town to take out the mayor. The man was such an imbecile Harry had considered doing it himself.
Now, in a back room of a disused warehouse, that wishful thinking might be just about to come to a very abrupt end, with none of the romanticized trappings of the business befalling him. No beguiling women, no sinister criminals, no stupid policemen.
© Charles Heath 2016-2018
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