Thursday 25 June 2020

Case 2 - Episode 9 - Now you see them, then you don’t

Felicity went for a long walk around the University grounds and ended up in the library.  She needed a quiet corner where she could do some research, starting with using her iPad.

At least, in using wither of her devices, a tablet, and a smartphone, she fitted in with everyone else.  All she needed was a stack of books in front of her.

First on the agenda was the man named Lorenz, and typed in the name in the search box and waited for the number of hits.

Nearly 22 million.  She had to break that down and then added ‘name’ to the search.

6.8 million.  Great, she thought.  She scanned the first six or seven pages, and most were about the meaning of the name, and the rest were about Florence in Italy.

Nice thought, a trip to Italy.  She’s been once with her parents years ago, and they had gone to Florence, Pisa, Tuscany, Rome, and Sorrento.  She had loved Sorrento the best.

Enough daydreaming.

This wasn’t working.  She needed to have more information about who the person was.  She was not even sure Florenz was male or female, though the odds were on the former if they were a golfing partner.

Then she had an idea, professionals gravitated towards other professionals in those fields like medicine, law, accounting, upper management.  Florenz had to be one of those.  They also had to be in the New York area, because of the fact they played golf.

Twenty minutes later she had him.  Emil Florenz.  Doctor, not of the strictly medical sort, but a psychiatrist, aged 50, not married, and liked to be seen with beautiful women.  One photo that did catch her eye was Florenz with Harry’s mother.

Not recent, but many years ago, when they were at University together, and presumably before she met Harry’s father.  She took out her notepad and scribbled, “bet mother and Florenz have reacquainted’.

Yes, that was certainly the look of love in those eyes, Felicity thought.

Next, she searched for anything else, and found that he was employed at a number of hospitals in outpatient clinics, and the board of one charitable institution,

One that raised a lot of its money from golf tournaments.  And, yes, there was a photo of Florenz and Harry’s father, looking like best friends forever.

This guy was squeaky clean, so how could it possibly be the man she was looking for?

Then, scrolling pages quickly to see what else she might find, it had stopped on another photo, this time with three people in it, Florenz on one side, and Harry’s father on the other, but it was the woman in the middle that was of most interest.

Mandy Prenderville.

She knew the name Prenderville.  Everyone who was anyone knew that name, and also knew never to go near them.  Search over.  Investigation over, for now.

Time to go.

In previous surveillance, Felicity knew Corinne usually came out of the main administration block and headed for the subway through a shortcut.  She had positioned herself halfway, with a vantage point that would not be seen by Corinne and give her a full view of anyone who might be following her.

It was only an off chance there might be, and a greater chance the afternoon would come to nothing.  She did have some of Corinne’s feelings about her father, so it was not a total loss.

She waited, and waited until it was almost as the point when she was about to leave.

It was then she noticed Corinne come out of the administration block with her girlfriend [name] and ambled towards the subway like time didn’t matter.  Perhaps for her, it didn’t.

With one eye of the two girls, she kept the other behind them, seeing, checking, and discarding candidates, until the list came down to one.  Trying not to look obvious and not very good at it.

It might be a hapless suitor working up the courage to talk to her, but it seemed a little too contrived.

No, that boy or young man was definitely keeping her in his sights.  She took a number of photographs of him, and a few as close as the zoom on her phone camera would let her.

It was not a face she recognized.

She joined to procession, keeping back enough distance that if he turned around, she would be just another student going home.

When the girls went down the subway stairs and their heads disappeared from sight, the boy started running towards the stairs.

Felicity adjusted her speed too but didn’t run.  That would bring unwanted attention.

When she reached the top of the stairs, the girls were gone, and the boy was looking at destination boards.

She knew where Corinne was going, he did not, but she could just see them ahead, walking amid a group of other travelers.  Then the boy saw them and dashed for the turnstile.

She had got through before him and kept him in sight.  She didn’t need to worry about where the girls were going like he had to.  At the top of the ramp to their train, he had just turned the corner and looking feverishly for them.

A train was in at the station, having just arrived and disgorging passengers, with others waiting to get on.  Corrinne and her friend were closer to the front of the train.  The boy was now dashing for the train and meeting a headwind, passengers getting off the train before leaving the station.

Then, suddenly, the train doors closed and it left the platform.  The boy had been too late and missed the train.

In his haste, he had dropped a piece of paper from his back pocket and she went over to pick it up.  Not a piece of paper, but a photograph.

Of Corinne, on the University grounds.

© Charles Heath 2020

Case 2 - Some supplementary characters - 1

In order for Harry to investigate the whereabouts of his missing father, though there are varying opinions in regard to that, he is going back to his father's legal practice.

There, he is going to find a variety of family members, and relatives, some of who he'd rather not see, but unfortunately, he's going to have to.

There are, of course, others who are involved in the story, and these are some:

Merilyn Watson – fathers personal assistant

She has worked at the practice for 20 years or so, most of them working as Harry’s father’s personal assistant, some of them as his ‘mistress’.  She knows more about Xavier Walthenson that his wife does.

This woman was selected by the Grandfather Walthenson and was briefly suspected by others in the practice she was his illegitimate daughter.  She wasn’t, just the daughter of an old friend.  She literally knows where the bodies are buried.

Ellen – Harry’s PI front desk

Ellen Jacobsen is Harry’s personal assistant, general office factotum, and was selected by Harry’s grandmother, Giselle White, and ‘placed’ with Harry without his knowledge.  She is there to keep an eye on Harry and make sure he doesn’t get into any trouble. 

Which didn’t quite work when he was kidnapped in his own office.

She does external research via Giselle’s office, which is at Harry’s father’s practice.

Emil Florenz

Aside from being Harry's father's golfing partner, or one of a group of four, he is the most important, as he is on the board of a charity, the same charity that both men organize golf fundraisers for.

He and Harry's mother and father all went to the same university, and it appeared that Emil and Harry's mother were an item back then, and, from what Felicity is about to discover, more than like an item now.

Florenz is a psychologist by trade, works as several hospitals and outpatient clinics, aged 50, not currently married, and likes to be seen with beautiful women.

And, he knows Mandy Prenderville.

But more sinister: his is the name Felicity got from a dying man and quite possibly someone who knows about Harry's disappearance.

 Charles Heath 2020

Thursday 18 June 2020

Case 2 - Episode 8 - Corinne is not impressed

Felicity made up for the coffee she’d had to leave in the hotel café with another in the campus café.  It was now close to lunchtime and from past experience, Felicity knew Corinne would come for lunch either by herself or with her study group friends.

Today, she was late.  Or that meant she was not at school.

Felicity waited, having brought the New York Times crossword with her to do while she was waiting.  It was nearly half an hour before Corinne appeared, alone, having parted with several other girls before entering the café.

And, like Felicity had done before she sat down, Corinne made a quick scan of the café and saw her.  The benign expression changed to concern, if not slightly annoyed.

She did not immediately come over but went to get a cup of coffee and a sandwich before walking across the hall to where Felicity was sitting by a window.

Corinne waited until she’d sat down, and stirred in two packets of sugar in her coffee before saying, “Has my brother got you checking up on me?”

“No.  I was just concerned.  The threat after going to that block down by the docks hasn’t diminished, and both of us are concerned for your safety.”

“I can look after myself.”  It was the mantra of someone who didn’t like to be told they needed help.”

“You don’t know what you’re dealing with.  Harry does, as you are fully aware, of what could happen.  You need to be constantly in company and try not to be on your own going anywhere.  Otherwise, if there is no one else, I want you to call me or Harry.  Any time of the day or night.”

“Haven’t you got a real-life to be living somewhere else?”

“Not at the moment, no.  At least if you’re going to be here, then it will make my life easier.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I do.  I went down to that vacant block, too, and ended up in a fight that didn’t go down well with the police.  These people are not to be taken lightly.”

Best not to tell her about the people who had followed her.  Her priority this afternoon would be to see if anyone was following Corinne.  She had not seen anyone suspicious around the campus grounds.

Rather than answer Felicity, she ate her sandwich in silence and sipped her coffee.

Felicity thought about getting another and was about to go over to the counter when Corinne said, “Mother says father’s gone missing.  It’s not the first time, and I can hardly see how she could possibly write anything into this time because they don’t get along anymore.  She also said she’d asked Harry to find him.”

“That was yesterday afternoon.  She sounded concerned.”

“My mother doesn’t sound concerned about anything.  She just goes off like a firecracker when something doesn’t suit her, and at the moment it’s marriage.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s seeing someone else.”

Interesting revelation, Felicity thought, but not her first assumption for the mother’s concern.  Perhaps Corinne didn’t know about the mess her father left behind.

But the fact she might be having an affair….

“What makes you say that?”

“It wouldn’t be the first time.  It’s one of those tit for tat things.  Dad has it off with his personal assistants, and mom goes and shags another lawyer.  She was one herself once, and still has a lot of friends in that profession.”

Felicity was not quite sure what that had to do with the picking of partners to spite her husband, but it was noteworthy, and she would talk to Harry about it later when she went back to his office.

For the moment, there was one question she had for Corinne.  “Do you know who the latest boyfriend is?”

“No.  Yuk.  Why would I want to know that?  Just the idea of it is unthinkable.”

Possibly, but a woman driven to the edge can make some strange choices and decisions.  It was what her father had told her about her mother, only it wasn’t a man she had gravitated towards.  That too, for a while, had been unthinkable.

“Well, if you do find out by accident or otherwise, you might want to let Harry know.  Or alternatively, if you happen to know where your father might be, it will help.”

“I don’t want to know.  He just yells at me all the time, so it’s better he’s gone off with some floozie.  Leave us in peace.”

She’d finished the sandwich and coffee and stuffed the wrapper in the coffee cup and stood.

“You can go now.  I’m perfectly safe.”

With that, she headed for the door, via the rubbish bin, and headed back to school.

Felicity ordered another cup of coffee and then mulled over the latest news.

© Charles Heath 2020

Monday 8 June 2020

Case 2 - Episode 7 - Felicity is on the case

Although Felicity had been stripped of her Private Detective credentials and reduced to being the office manager for her father, a man who understood the nature of her problem, but had given her good advice from the beginning, good advice she had chosen to ignore, he was not so demanding that she could not spend time with Walthenson.

He did say one thing before she left the office the next morning after telling him about the case Harry had cracked, even if it was with a great deal of good luck.  All the same, he was impressed.

What she didn’t tell him was the nature of her visit, that she intended to help Harry find out who kidnapped and tortured him.  She had that name, Florenz, which Harry had said he would look into with her, but so far he hadn’t called.  If he didn’t by the end of the day, she would take to the internet to see what she could find before visiting him.

That brought another memory to mind, one that seemed to get lost in the moment, that she had told his mother she was Harry’s girlfriend, and he hadn’t denied it, only looked a little surprised.  Then the news of his father had supplanted the moment and it was gone.

Perhaps when she saw him later, it might climb above the somber news of his father.

But for now, it was more important to keep an eye on Corinne, whom she still believed, despite assurances to the contrary, that she was going to meddle in affairs that could get her hurt, or worse.

Both Harry and she had tried to impress this on her, but Felicity recognized the signs of deaf ears syndrome.  She’s suffered from it herself.

So, this morning’s task was to check and see if Corinne was doing what she promised Harry she would do and go back to school.  That meant making a trip to Brooklyn, and if she was lucky, on to Hoboken to a particular cake shop that sold her favorite cake.

While on the train she read the newspaper, a real newspaper, unlike a number of others who were using smartphones and iPads.  It was the same with books, she liked the feel of a bulky book in her hand, and to be able to turn the pages.  Computers were rapidly taking the fun out of everything that was once a leisure activity.

There on the page before the crossword was a small piece about the body that had been found down by the docks, and oddly the victim’s name had not been published, not the exact details of how the man had died.  That seemed odd to her.  Perhaps the police had a reason, and if an opportunity arose with Sykes if he was still speaking to either of them.

She should be grateful he had not thrown the book at her for her part in the man’s death, or that she finished up standing trial for attempted manslaughter considering he had died, and no other
perpetrator had been found.

She was still shaken by the event.

The train arrived at the station and she alighted with a dozen or so other passengers.  In a manner she had cultivated since going to her first Private Detective conference, she checked out each of the other passengers, on the train, and now off.  Where they were going, how they walked, were they purposeful or dawdling.  Any or all of those characteristics could mean something.

And for one, in particular, a lanky boy in his early 20s, walking casually, too casually she thought.  And he had looked in her direction, on the train, and then on the platform several times, some in a manner that tried to hide what he was doing.

She took the elevator; he took the stairs.  She did not run, or walk fast, giving away the fact she thought she was being followed, but kept close to the walls and used shop windows to keep an eye on his movements.

He’d stopped at a coffee vendor to get a cup, all the while casually watching what she was doing, and then cup in hand slowly dawdled in her direction.  He was definitely following her, but she hadn’t noticed him when she left the office, so had it been someone else from that point, and once they assumed she was going to the subway, have someone else take up the tail from there?

Could she be that important to anyone?

Her mind went back to the man in the alley, and what he said, that she didn’t want to know who his boss was.  Had he been alive and given her up to them?  She hadn’t given him her name, but he would have a description.  Or there might have been someone else there and saw what had happened?

A chill went through her.

Another glance backward and he was still there.  The thought of confronting him went through her mind for just a second.  Not a good idea at this point, but she would get a photo of him and check his identity later.

Right now, though, she needed an escape plan.

Up ahead was a hotel.  They had back doors, and places to hide in between.  Not a good idea to get stuck in the lady’s restroom, but somewhere else where she could see him follow her in and assume she’d left by the back door.

Tricks she had learned at another symposium.

Luckily there was a restaurant on the ground floor, and she was able to sit down and order a coffee from a vantage point where, if the man followed her in, she would not readily see her.
Just as the coffee arrived at her table, the waiter blocked his view of her, and as she had hoped, the man kept going through to the rear exit after a quick scan of the lobby and café.

She had a few sips of the coffee, and went back out through the front door, and continued on to Corinne’s University.

© Charles Heath 2020

Tuesday 2 June 2020

Case 2 - Episode 6 - A lead, but it might be the death of Harry, again

Detective Albert Sykes was not going to be pleased to see Harry.

He had promised Sykes that he would try to keep out of trouble, but now the name Prenderville had come up, Harry would ask the Detective his opinion of them first before he did anything he might regret.

If they were behind the first kidnapping, Harry suspected, if there was going to be a second, they would have learned from their previous mistakes and he would never be seen again.

That also, Harry considered, may happen to his father if he was, in some way, involved with them.  And, by the nature of his absence, and the tenor of his note to his mother, his father had stumbled in their direction, and he was trying to keep his family safe.

On that score, his father had failed.

But Harry had one more problem to surmount before he left that office, and it came in the form of the devil, Alicia Wentworth.

She’d been waiting for Harry to come out of the rat’s nest as she called it, particularly to see him.  Since most of the time Harry visited the office she made herself scarce and dealt as little as possible with others of the family, he was not so much surprised as he was curious.

“You’ve been down in the dungeon weaving plots with the white witch, have you?”

Grandmother Giselle called Alicia the black witch mostly because she chose to wear black clothes.  Grandmother Alicia called Giselle the white witch because she pretended to be nice to everyone, including Giselle, but harbored murderous thoughts.

A few people other than Giselle did that.  Alicia was not a woman who made friends easily and was prone to speaking her mind.  It may have impressed Harry’s grandfather, but it didn’t cut it with a lot of other people, especially those with influence.

Harry’s father had been known to liken her to a poisoned chalice.

Harry’s older brother lusted after her, and the younger despised her as much as their father.

Harry was very glad he didn’t work in this office.

“Damn.  Sprung again.  Can’t fool you, can I?”

Harry always found a congenial approach always worked, though she had lashed out once or twice, but not without provocation.  Harry thought himself now older and wiser.

“You hear about your father?” she asked him.

“Word travels fast.”

“The walls have ears.  Let’s go to my office.”

Her office, of course, used to be his grandfather’s, the most elegant and largest in the practice.  His father had tried to move in the day my grandfather died, and the next, Alicia had his stuff thrown out into the passage.

Her husband, her office.

My father’s notion that he was next in line for the office and the head of chambers had been hotly contested and narrowly won.  To say he was still on a knife-edge was an understatement.  But as head of chambers didn’t get him the office.

She waited until he had passed into the kingdom’s antechamber, one step removed from the throne room, and closed the door behind him.  Her personal assistant was not at her usual seat.  She ushered me through herself, and then closed that door too.

The cone of silence, it reminded Harry of, out of old episodes of a television show called Get Smart.  There was also the same comic value.

She sat in her seat, and he sat opposite.  He felt like an errant schoolboy having been summoned by the headmaster.

“Your father is a fool.”  Her opening statement was to either annoy him or be her opinion of him.  If it was the latter, it hadn’t changed since the first day she met him.

“Twenty plus years of hard work trying to change your mind hasn’t worked then?”

“So, you think screwing two clients and three personal assistants is not a good reason to call him a fool.”

Harry did not know about the clients.  But what had started with his grandfather had been inherited by his father, and then by his older brother.  Only she had made my grandfather marry her when she became pregnant.  Or not as the case may be as she mysteriously had a miscarriage after she had landed the big fish.

No more children had ensued.  She hated the idea.

Harry shook my head.  “As bad as that sounds, you cannot take the moral high ground here.  Not with me.  But, as you say, at least my grandfather didn’t screw the clients.  Who in particular?”

“He wouldn’t tell me.  All he said was that this new client would be the turning point, the start of an upward trajectory.  His words.  I thought he was on drugs.  Since then I have neither seen or heard from this client, and he’s disappeared.  I suspect it might be with one of the client’s wives.  Do you have any idea what he’s up to?”

“No.  As far as my mother’s concerned, he’s gone missing, but not necessarily with another woman.  But it’s not the first time he’s done this, and won’t be the last.”  Harry decided not to tell her about the note.

“I’m surprised she’s still with him.”

“I was surprised you remained with my grandfather after he cheated on you.  I’m willing to bet my mother stays with my father for the same reason you did.”

Secrets, Harry knew a few.  Some that no one else knew.  That one he’d kept to himself, an ace to play when he needed to.  It seemed like the right occasion.

“And,” I added, “don’t bother trying to make excuses or lie.  I have photographic evidence.  It was my first case.”

“You were fifteen.”

“I knew then what I wanted to be.  Uncles, Grandfathers, fathers, and brothers, I had all the material I needed to hone my skills as a private detective.  Cheats, liars, and sometimes worse.  I’m not holding it against you, only to say the pot can’t call the kettle black.”

The old saying, very appropriate.

“Alright.  Point of order to you.”

“Have you got anything else more substantial than rumors fuelled by hatred?”

“I know who the woman is, and I think I know where they are.”

“And you’re going to tell me this, why?”

“At first out of malice.  Now, seeing you, and I’m guessing you’re here because there has been a development, and it would be remiss of me if I kept it to myself and something happened to him.”

Contrition didn’t sit well on her shoulders.

She took an envelope out of the top drawer and handed it to me.  “It’s all I know.  Don’t open it here, and don’t ask any questions.  I don’t want anyone to know what I’ve told you.”

If the woman was a Prenderville Harry could understand why.  If it was not, he would be back if he had to.

“I’ll try to keep your part in it anonymous.”

With no more to say, he left.  Outside the outer sanctum Harry stopped for a moment to see just how badly he was shaking, and, yes, to breathe again.  That woman could reduce any man to a gibbering idiot in three minutes.  He’d been in there more than five.

© Charles Heath 2020