Wednesday 28 November 2018

Episode 20 - The Unhelpful Receptionist

It was a short walk back to the office building, showing the signs of recent renovation with brick pillars and large glass windows, suitable opaque, with the company name across the front in large yellow letters/
Two large doors in the centre opened automatically as they approached.
Anyone passing the office would set off the door, and Harry wondered if that would annoy the receptionist.
Inside it was polished white tiles, a shiny dazzling white counter, with the company name again across the front of it in silver raised letters.  All of the letters bar one were in perfect symmetry.  The walls were white, and the lights were very bright.
It felt like they were on a movie set.
The receptionist was not at her desk, if there was a receptionist, and if it was a ‘her’.  Harry realized he was making assumptions when he should be keeping an open mind.
Hew remembered the workshop that told him to leave his prejudices at the door, and to unlearn all of his preconceptions about people and places.  It was a little bit harder than he thought it would be.
Felicity inclined her head towards a set of photos on the wall.
Harry had been looking back towards the desk, and to one side a doorway secured by a digital lock.  Twice he had seen a shadow behind the opaque glass window.  Someone was watching them.
“Some of the staff,” Felicity whispered.
In the corner no far from them was a CCTV camera, watching and no doubt recording their movements.  For security no doubt.
Some of those in the photos Harry recognised.
Jospeh Jones, titled Loans Facilitator,
Alphonse Jones, Collections Manager,
Jeremy Brightwater. General Manager,
Jennifer Jones, Customer Services Manager,
Miriam Walters, Accounts manager,
Edwina Jones, Office Manager.
Quite possibly a family owned business, Harry thought.  It was good to put names to faces, and a little insight into family relationships.  According to two of those in the photos, Joseph said his wife Edwina was having an affair with Al, and Jennifer said Al was having an affair with Miriam.
Edwina, from her photo, didn’t look the type to have an affair with anyone, striking a pose that looked like that of a woman in the temperance league at the turn of the last century.
Miriam didn’t have her trade mark red hair in her photo and actually looked reasonably attractive.
Jennifer was the only one who looked happy.
Al, in his shiny polyester suit looked like a thug in an ill fitting suit.  Admittedly he looked thinner now than he did in his picture.

Harry heard the door beside the reception desk close gently and turned.  A young woman who didn’t have her photo on the wall was standing behind the desk.
“May I help you?”
Just a hint of a Chinese accent.  Harry thought she might be Japanese. 
“What sort of loans do you have here?”
“We provide the financial options for large projects, and we do not deal with the general public.  I’m sorry.”
“The name outside seemed to suggest otherwise.  My mistake.”
I looked at Felicity.  “We should go.”
She whispered back, just loud enough for the receptionist to hear, “I told you they wouldn’t give us a loan.”
I opened the door for her, she smiled at me, and we left.
If Miriam was there, Harry hoped she hadn’t recognised him.

© Charles Heath 2016-2018

Monday 26 November 2018

Episode 19 - The Outtell Finance Company

Harry was, quite literally, astonished.
He'd hoped it would be the killer who’d got in the red car.
But Al?  It couldn’t possibly be him because the person who came out of the bushes was a lot thinner.
What was he expecting?
A blonde bombshell, dressed in a matching red dress?  He'd been reading too many detective stories!  He had to get his mind back on the job.  What was Al doing at the Outtel Finance Company? What was he doing driving one of their company cars?
What exactly was the Outtel Finance Company?
Given Joe’s description of his brother, was it the front for a loan sharking operation?
It was time to do a little detective work, whilst fending off questions from Felicity, and having lunch.

“So, you’re investigating this Al Jones character, are you?”  Felicity picked over her Caesar salad like a sparrow looking for morsels.
“Yes.”  Harry decided to start with the monosyllabic answers and see how long he could get away with it.
“There must be more to it than just ‘investigate’.”
“There is.”
“So spill it.  What’s he done?”  She found something she liked and scooped it up with the fork.
“It’s just an ordinary divorce case.  The wife thinks he’s having an affair with the office manager, calls her a red-headed floozy.”
“Wow.  A floozy?  Haven’t heard that expression except in the old movies.” 
She found another morsel and scooped it up, followed by a sip of what was a half decent chardonnay, even if it wasn’t from France.
“Neither had I, but having seen her, somehow it seemed apt.”
His steak was a little on the tough side, more medium than medium rare.  He was still tossing up whether he’d send it back.  He decided against it, the waiter looked like he was having a bad day.
“Who were you expecting to get into that car?  It seems to me you were both surprised, and disappointed.”
Perceptive girl.  Harry was, thinking it might be a big break, and a chance to get some points from Sykes.
No such luck.
Al didn’t fit the profile of the man who’d got into the car at the crime scene.  Unless the man in the bushes didn’t shoot Joe, but, then, why was he in the bushes?
“I’m not sure.  The murdered brother, Joe, told me he suspected his brother Al, the man who got into the car was having an affair with his wife.  Motive enough for Al to shoot him, since Joe said his brother was capable of anything, but it doesn’t fit the profile of the person I saw fleeing the scene of the crime.”
“You were there when it happened?”
“More by chance than good management.  I had Joe under surveillance, and he rumbled me in the car.  Seems I was not the first to play the brothers’ game.”
She pushed the plate away, finished.  It didn’t look like she’d started.  Harry was not up to eating any more of that steak.
“What now?” she asked.

“Let’s see if we can get a loan.”

© Charles Heath 2016-2018

Sunday 25 November 2018

Episode 18 - The Red Car

He shuddered as another blast of Antarctic air cut through his clothes and chilled him to the bone.
Time to move before he froze.
It was about 100 yards and took several minutes before he was beside the car.  He checked the license plate, just to make sure, then looked around.
There were several tall buildings, with a smaller one between them, the name of the owner emblazoned across the doorway.  Outtel Finance Company.  Two stories, modern looking, or renovated modern.
The meter had about 15 minutes left.
He went up the road to a bus stop and sat down to wait.
Someone would either have to come and feed the meter or drive off in the car.  It would be interesting to see whom.  He guessed if the car was out the front, rather than in a parking spot, the person driving it had just called in briefly.
“I thought it was you,” a female voice came from beside him.
So intent on watching the car he had failed to see Felicity arrive.
“What are we looking at, or are you just waiting for the bus?”
He turned.  She was bundled up in fake fur, and for a moment he almost mistook her for a large rabbit.
“The red car at that meter just down the road.”
“Are you thinking of buying one?”
He looked back at the car.  “I’m hoping it will belong to the murderer of Joe Jones.  I saw it driving away from the scene of the crime.”
“That car.  Then we’d better get some photos of the driver, hadn’t we.”  Harry heard her rummaging in her handbag, and then felt rather than saw the camera.  Just the sort he needed but couldn’t afford.  With a telephoto lens.
“Let me know when you see them, that is if you recognize them.”

Ten minutes later they were rewarded.
His newest client, Al, the man who’d been with the red-headed floozy, came out of the building, stopping to light a cigarette before getting into the car.
Behind him, he could hear the clicking of the camera taking multiple photos.
Then Al slammed the door after him and drove off.
“Anyone you know?” she asked, putting the camera away.
“It’s a long story, but yes.”

“Good.  You can buy me lunch and tell me all about it.”

© Charles Heath 2016-2018

Friday 23 November 2018

Episode 17 - Explanation

“I should charge you with obstructing justice Walthenson.”
Sykes had escorted Harry to an interview room, told him to sit, and then glared at him for a few minutes while he worked out what he was going to say.
Harry knew it would be only a matter of time before the police discovered he had been at the scene of the crime, spoken only minutes before the victim was shot, and was then seen speeding away.
“I was trying to catch up with the red car that a man who came out of the bushes got into.”
Harry had given him the same information about the car as he had to Felicity.
“And there were two people in the car, a man and a woman.”
“It looked like a man who came out of the bushes, but it could have been a woman.”
“Where did the car go?”
“I don’t know.  They suddenly realized I was following them and they got away from me.  I’m not exactly a rally driver, nor is my car a genuine pursuit vehicle.  It was hard enough just to keep up.”
He kept the part about the car belonging to the Outtel Finance Company to himself.  Sykes would find out soon enough, but he wanted a head start before Sykes got there.
Sykes sat opposite him.  This interview was not over.
“What were you doing there.  And don’t try to tell me it was a coincidence.”
Should he tell Sykes about the cases involving the Jones brothers?  Given Sykes mood, he might have.  Perhaps just a part.
“The victim’s brother asked me to investigate if his wife was having an affair with the victim.”  It didn’t sound quite the same out loud as it had in his head.
“Jennifer and Joseph?”  He snorted in derision.  “Those two hate each other.”
“The brothers or Jennifer and Joseph?”
“Both.  If that’s what Al said, then it’s the pot called the kettle black, if you want to know.  I’d walk away from them Harry.  The Jones boys are nothing but trouble.”
“It’s a case, better than chasing lost cats.”
“This’ll get you dead if you start poking around in their business.  Al’s a killer, and Joe, well, he was just downright mean.  Walk away Harry, while you still can.  Go.  I don’t want to see you again.  Understand?”
Harry nodded and stood.
There was no way he was leaving this alone, not now.

Relieved, he stepped out into the fresh air, away from the artificial heat and stuffiness of the interview room.  It wasn’t going to be the last time he would end up in that room.
It was early afternoon, the time of day' when the heat should make itself felt, but it didn’t.  Unseasonably cold, the temperature was hovering around 8 degrees Celsius. 
A sharp gust of wind swept some garbage up the street, and he watched it for a minute until some paper caught on a light post.
Then he saw it.  The red car.

© Charles Heath 2016-2018

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Episode 16 - Summoned

Felicity Benoit was a fellow private detective, who had been in the profession not longer than Harry had.  They had met at a convention in New Jersey where he had learned a great deal about being a Private Detective, and Felicity.
She was honest, forthright, and worked for her father, a distinguished man in a profession of sometimes somewhat shady characters.  A lot, he found, were ex-police, as was Jacob Benoit.
She was quite good looking as well.
They had attended a sidebar event, where the participants were given a set of clues, and they had to work out the perpetrator.  Harry was the only one who got it right.
She was curious about him, told him he3 looked nothing like the average PI, but aside from the criticism, they hit it off and had become friends of a sort.  She worked New Jersey and sometimes come the other side of the Hudson, he rarely had cause to go to New Jersey.
Now he needed her help.
After greetings, she said, “Have you got a real case yet?”
It was something of a ritual, she would ask, and he would say, ‘Not yet”, but in this case, he had better news.”
“Give me the gory details.”
“It’s not that exciting, a woman wants me to catch her husband cheating, and when I had to confront him, told me he wanted evidence of her cheating with his brother.  Then when I was surveilling his bother, the brother was shot and killed.”
“Hell, that’s better than anything I’ve had.  Who shot the brother?”
A man came out of the bushes and jumped in a car.  Got the make and model and two numbers off the plate/.  Think you can help?”
“I can try.  Details.”
He gave her the car make, model, as best he could remember and the two numbers of the registration plate/.
“Thanks, I’ll call you as soon as I can find out anything.”

Harry went back to the office and waited.  This was the part of the case he hated, having to wait for information to come in so he could move onto the next phase.
But it did give he time to think about the latest developments.  He was surprised he had not heard from Jennifer Jones about her brother in law, unless, of course, she had something to do with it, and after confessing Al was bad-tempered, he couldn’t rule him out as the perpetrator.  In the absence of calls from his client, he would have to call her and give her a report. 
It certainly wasn’t going to include the fact Al had asked him to find evidence of her having an affair with his brother.
It irked him he had no idea who his client was, except she said she was married to the brother of the victim.  And the surname, Jones, one of the most common names in the phone book.  He didn't bother looking her up, because there were too many with the same name.
Nor did he have any idea how to contact, or find his second client.
It was a tangled web.
The phone rang, and he jumped.  He'd just nodded off.  It was Felicity.
"The car belongs to the Outtell Finance Company, it’s a company so anyone could have been driving it.  But one thing it was not, and that’s stolen.  So the question is, who was driving it.  I’m in.  What’s the next move?”
He had little time to get over the shock or her inviting herself into his case.  What could he say, she just did him a huge favor.  “Visit the Outtell finance Company.”
“Good.  Text me.”

He was in the middle of searching the internet for information on the Outtel Finance Company when his phone rang again.
He thought it might be Felicity again, and hadn’t looked to see who the caller was.”
“What now?”
“Get your butt down to the station now, Walthenson.  Or I’ll send a car to arrest you.”
Sykes.  More bad-tempered than usual.
“You’ve got an hour.  Don’t keep me waiting.”  The line went dead.

© Charles Heath 2016-2018

Tuesday 20 November 2018

Introducing a new character

I did not have a Felicity Benoit in the original story.  The thing is, I wanted the main character, Harry Walthenson, to show some interest in one of the other characters in the story, what you might call 'a bad girl'.

But circumstances in writing the story changed and made it necessary to add someone new, someone in the same profession, preferably female, just to add some more mystery.

Her father, Alexander Benoit is an ex-cop, and she is his only daughter, something of a tomboy, without a mother for so long she had almost forgotten her.

I'm not sure what the circumstances will be about why her mother left, that will play out later.

It also improves the chances of Harry getting something done without having to worm it out of Sykes.

Look for her to appear from Episode 16 onwards.

Episode 15 – Sykes is on the job

Detective Albert Sykes was hoping he was going to get through at least one night shift without having to attend a murder scene.
He was looking forward to going fishing on the weekend, and, with about an hour to go, it was looking possible it might happen.
Until the call, a shooting in a neighborhood near where he had stopped to have a cup of coffee and a donut.  After attending a domestic violence scene where it turned out the wife had mistaken the husband for a burglar and hit him over the head.
A lot of blood, some very angry words, but not deaths to deal with.  Not then maybe.
A patrol car and ambulance had beaten him to the scene, and he arrived as the paramedics were attending to the victim on the lawn and a visibly upset lady.
When he reached the paramedics, he asked, “What happened?”
A policeman standing by them spoke, the paramedics trying to revive the man lying still, a large blood stain about where the heart would be on his track top.
“Apparent gunshot wound though no one heard the shot.  The witness saw the man fall to the ground, when she came out she saw someone run from the bushes and get into a car which, she said, sped off, and another car which left soon after, in the same direction.”
“Two cars?”
“And a man in the bushes, possibly the perp.”
Possibly, Sykes thought, or not.  That would be determined by the crime scene investigators and put in a call.
Sykes looked over to where the woman was being questioned by the officer's partner.  A quick look at the scene on the ground, and the notification from one of the paramedics that the victim was dead, he joined the officer and woman, arriving just as she was saying, “the man in the bushes got into a red car, no I don’t know the make or model, just that it was red, and the other car was blue.  I think it was chasing the red car, but I can’t be sure.”
Sykes asked a question, “Was the man alive when you reached him?”
“I don’t think so, he was very pale.  I never did a first air course, so I didn’t know how to check.  I just called the ambulance to come quickly.”
“Where are the bushes the man jumped out of?”
The woman pointed to a clump of bushes surrounding a tree on the strip between the footpath and the road.  There was one outside each of the houses in the street, and none looked as though they had been maintained.
He walked around the bushes and stopped on the roadside where there were a couple of broken branches, and a space almost big enough for a man, or woman, to hide in.  Like children had hollowed it out so they could play inside hidden from their parents.
Intermingled with the scent of the bushes was another aroma, that of cordite, of a recently fired gun.  But no weapon, or bullet casings.  The shot had come from the bushes.  The man who burst from them and left in the red car most likely the shooter.
He went back to the paramedics who were covering the body.
“Do we know who the victim is?”
“We believe he is Joseph Jones, lives about two houses down from here.  The woman recognized him.  He usually goes out for a morning run about this time.”
People who have regular activities, and a jogger.  If the exercise didn’t kill him, then he made it easy for someone else to do the job.  Someone who knew him well enough to know where he would be and what he was doing.

When Harry saw Sykes purposefully striding towards him he groaned.
The man was perpetually in a bad mood, overweight, usually smoking a cigar, known to drink excessively, a man who hated the world and everyone in it.   In other words, the perfect man for the job.
Harry had crossed Sykes path on another job, where he refused to answer any of Sykes' questions on the grounds of client confidentiality.  It was an attitude Sykes said that was only going to bring him trouble, warned him he should be inclined more towards helping the police, not hindering them.
Harry pretended he didn’t see the detective coming towards him, and waited till Sykes rapped on his car window.
When he wound the window down, Harry said, “Detective Sykes, what are you doing here?”
As if he didn’t know that, which only irritated Sykes more.
“I could ask the same question.  Your car was seen here at the time of the shooting.”
A moments thought, then “Are you sure it was my car?”
“A blue car matching this car’s description.”
“There are a lot of blue cars matching this.”
“Then why are you here now?”
“I was driving past and saw all the lights and cars.  Could be a potential case.”
“This is a homicide scene.   You should be out looking for stray animals.  If I find it was your car that was here, I’ll have you thrown in jail.  Go, and don’t let me see you here again.”

© Charles Heath 2016-2018

Monday 19 November 2018

Episode 14 - Losing the Suspect

Harry cursed when the car refused to start on the first attempt.
Or the second, but the third, and very nearly not at all.  An older car, it was a little temperamental.
With a short sigh of relief, he slipped into first gear checked before pulling away from the curb, and rapidly accelerated.
The red car was just a small dot in front of him, gaining distance.
Then it slowed and turned left.  Harry was several streets before the turn, watching carefully for side traffic, and oncoming traffic as the street was narrow and he was speeding down the middle of the street.
He turned the corner.
The red car had not gained on him, in fact, had lost some of its distance between them.
He saw why, someone had pulled out of their driveway, and the red car nearly collided with that car.
It scooted around the reversing car, and now only yards behind the red car, Harry could see it was a woman behind the wheel, and it had a passenger?  Was it the driver of the passenger who was the person who came out of the bushes?
A glance at the registration plate partly obscured, gave him two numbers he could be sure of, a one and a seven.
Then the red car braked severely in front of him, the moment he was looking down at the plate, and he had to slam his foot on the brake, almost colliding into the back of the red car.
Harry had come to a complete stop.
By the time he recovered from the shock, the red car had gone, turning left, and then turning again, and was nowhere in sight when Harry turned to corner in the chase.
The driver of the red car had realized Harry was chasing them.
Damn, Harry muttered under his breath.

When Harry returned to the brother’s neighborhood about a half hour later, it was a crime scene with all the trappings, police cars, medical examiners, crime scene investigators, an ambulance, and a familiar face who looked as though he was in charge.
Detective Albert Sykes.
And a woman standing beside him, the same woman who had been kneeling beside the brother, and she was pointing directly at his car.

© Charles Heath 2016-2018

Episode 13 - Shooting on the Streets

Caught by surprise, Harry didn’t have an immediate or reasonable comeback to the brother’s allegation.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said lamely.  He might as well have said ‘guilty as charged’.
The brother shook his head in disapproval.  “You’re just like the rest.  The sooner you realize Al is pulling your chain, the better.  He’s the one you should have under surveillance.”
The brother stood up and looked up and down the street, not warily as if he was expecting trouble, but what might be a precaution.
It was just another quiet street in suburbia early in the morning.  One other jogger, and an old man walking his dog, or perhaps the other way around.
There was no traffic, it was not one of those through streets that everyone used as a shortcut.
“Then, just for the record,” I decided to be bold, “You’re not having an affair with Jennifer Jones?”
“Why would I?  I have my own bundle of trouble to keep happy, and God knows, that’s not an easy job.  I see Jennifer is still trying to prove Al’s a cheater.  Here’s a piece of information for free, Al is not that stupid.  If he was going to have an affair, no one would know about.  No one alive that is.”
Emphasis on the word ‘alive’ which was worrisome.
"Al gets excitable, done time for murder, you know."  He smiled.  "I'd be careful if I were you."
Harry cursed himself for being discovered.  Was he that obvious?
He watched the man cross the road and recommence jogging.  Not the sort of exercise Harry would do himself at that hour of the morning.  What time was it?  His watch told him it was just after 6 am.
He was still watching the brother as he apparently tripped and fell to the ground.  Unusual.  He didn't move.
It was about the same moment Harry realized something was wrong when a person dressed in black burst out of the bushes on the other side of the road, jumped into a red sports car and it sped off.
At the same time, a woman who came out of the house on whose front lawn he was lying, and kneeled beside the man, screamed.

© Charles Heath 2016-2018

Friday 16 November 2018

Episode 12 - Stake Out

A night out in Brooklyn.
It sounded like the title of a movie, one of those romcoms where everything that can go wrong does, but the two get together anyway.  Where had those days of Jane Fonda and Cliff Roberson gone?
Harry could be home watching a movie at home with the cat, but instead, he was enduring the onset of a cold night, in his car on a stakeout.  He was outside the address Jennifer Jones had given him, one of several brownstones.
Harry had already scouted the location and if he was lucky he might get a photo of them in the kitchen, or one of the front rooms if I didn’t get caught outside.  The chances were he was going to get nothing but a cold.
At least he’d arrived there before, at the very least, Miriam got home.  If she turned up alone, Harry might yet get home in time to watch that movie.
Harry doubted the cat would worry whether he turned up or not.
Not even his experience as a night patrolman had prepared him for the long, cold, lonely night he expected to spend in the car. 
Watching, waiting.  For what, he had no idea.  
He'd brought the obligatory thermos of hot coffee and donuts, but it did little to assuage the boredom or cold he felt.
Nothing was happening, not after the first hour, not the second.
At least he didn't think anything had happened. There were times when he drifted off, sleep induced by the right sort of classical music softly played on the car's radio.
One of those nap0s was interrupted by a slamming car door, and he looked over to the building where Miriam lived and saw her on the sidewalk, watching the taxi leave.  She was alone, and he hadn’t seen anyone else but the driver in the cab.
No incriminating photographs tonight.
The clock on the dash said it was 1:40 in the morning.  It had taken her a long time to get him.  Perhaps they had stopped off at a hotel for their dalliance before she came home.
Or not.
She was a little unsteady on her feet, the sign of too much to drink, and she carefully negotiated the steps leading up to the front door, and after a rummage in her purse, she found her keys, took a few minutes getting the key in the lock before going inside.
One job down, onto the next.
Hardly worth going home to annoy the cat.  He would go over to Al’s brother’s place and stake it out, see what he was up against.  Perhaps he might even catch Jennifer Jones sneaking away very early in the morning.
Anything was possible.

It was half-past two on a very cold early morning when he settled down.  The coffee was drunk, the snacks were eaten, the next meal would be breakfast in a cafe if he could find one.
His head slipped onto the car window, and he woke suddenly.
Opening his eyes, he realized it was morning.  Overcast.  Still cold.  Colder than the night before.
He could hear a tap on the window.  He wiped the fog inside to see who it was.
A man.  
Middle-aged with a beard, In a tracksuit.  A jogger, trying to see if Harry had died in his sleep.
He wound the window down.  "Can I help you?"
"My brother got you watching me?"
It was the man in the photograph.

© Charles Heath 2016-2018

Thursday 15 November 2018

Episode 11 - Memories of the Past

It was later than his usual time being out in the city.  Night set in with a vengeance.  Not only had the darkness come down like a black blanket, but the cold had also arrived from the Arctic circle.  Crossing from his car to the Cafe was like walking through a refrigeration unit.
Harry needed some thinking time, and that, for now, worked only with a large black coffee, no milk, no sugar.  The bitterness of the brew sharpened his mental processes.  Later he might consider a key lime pie, or perhaps a custard tart.  Maybe, maybe not.
The odds of starting the day with no client, and no job to go on with, and by night having two clients at odds with each other, and having to decide which took priority.
A woman who wanted to catch her husband with another woman, a woman she was familiar with.  Miriam might be a ‘floozy’ like Jennifer Jones said, but she wasn’t up to having an affair, at least not with Al.  Something else had drawn them together.  I’d seen the look between them when Al called me out.  It was not one of guilt.  
Then there was the husband who wanted to catch his brother with his wife.  That had a lot more credence to it, because Jennifer looked the type if there was such a type, who would, at the very least, flirt with other men.  And Al’s brother wasn’t too hard on the eye, either.
Jennifer also had a degree of sophistication that Al lacked, which made it an improbable pairing.
Just saying.
Oh, what a tangled web...
There was a beat-up piano being driven by an elderly man, who deftly hammered out something that bordered between classical and jazz.  With my tin ear, he could either be a prodigy or a hack.  At the end f the piece there was no reaction from the few diners nearby, so I asked the waiter to take him a drink of his choice, and a request.
He thanked me by doffing his hat.
It provided a short diversion from the problem at hand/
Moonlight Sonata, by Beethoven, and a favorite of an old friend.
It was not so much the sound of it as it was the memories the music invoked, and of whom Harry had been with and when, and how very different it had been.  It had been his first real love, and he still hadn’t got over her.
The piano playing suggested the player was more than just a hack, but it was lost on the current clientele.  Their loss, he thought.
He pulled out his cell phone and called the number under JJ in his autodial list.
“You have it?”  It was the expectant answer of the husky-voiced woman.  And just a little abrupt.
“Too early in the night, and if I’m not mistaken, they’re hardly going to be doing anything in front of a large crowd.”  She’d taken me by surprise and I was a little blunter than I intended.
“Follow them home.”
“Or I could wait for them.  Where’s home?”
She gave me an address in Brooklyn.
“Her place, not his.  She entertains there.”  Though ‘entertains’ was not explicitly described, I got the hint.
“You husband would not be that stupid.”
“You’d be surprised.  Oh, and don’t let him buy you off like he did the others.  He thinks I don’t know.  Don’t let me down.”
The line went dead.
No pressure then.

© Charles Heath 2016-2018

Wednesday 14 November 2018

Episode 10 - Brothers

Harry waited until he was back in his car before he looked more closely at the photograph.
If it was Al’s brother, there was no family resemblance, but, on the other hand, there was a sort of familiarity with his face, as if he had seen him before, somewhere.
Definitely, they were opposites.  Al looked the epitome of a thug, his brother looked like he would be more at home in a mansion.  Both wore expensive suits, so there was money involved.
Was Jennifer Jones looking for a divorce and a large financial settlement?
He turned the photograph over and there was an address written hastily on the back.  One of the more exclusive suburbs.
Another look at the man in the photograph and Harry had to wonder what Al’s game was.  It felt like a game.  How many investigators did he say came before him?  Three.  And none of them had success in getting evidence on either of the two, because Harry was sure Al would have made the same play with the other three.
Did they just take the money and make up some story?
He looked in the grubby envelope thinking it would have a wad of twenties given how thick it was, but no, it was a mix of fifties and hundreds, used, nonsequential, untraceable, and definitely, a lot more than the five thousand Al said he was paying him.
Was this overpayment an incentive to finish the job, or take the money and go away.  Obviously, the other three investigators took the hint.
And it was not lost on him that he was treading the very murky waters of client confidentiality, or that what he was doing was downright unethical.
This was his first real case and he was still brimming with enthusiasm.  For a moment, greed overtook common sense.

© Charles Heath 2016-2018

Monday 12 November 2018

Episode 9 - Punch...Counterpunch

Choking on his drink gave the game away.  Harry didn’t have to answer.  But it was not entirely the reason for the giveaway, it was how remarkable Al looked like Sidney Greenstreet’s Kasper Gutman in The Maltese Falcon.
Harry had to blink a few times just in case it was his imagination.
“I thought so.  How much is she paying you?”
Not the same jolly voice though.  Should he expect to see Joe Cairo come out of nowhere to join them/?  And while he was making mental notes, the red-haired woman was no Mary Astor.
Should Harry lie, should he try to make money out of this?  Or should he turn around, walk out the door, find the woman and give her the money back?
It was clear he wasn’t the first private investigator she had sent to get evidence.  Both Al and the red-haired floozy had bemused expressions.
What had Jennifer Jones sent me into?
I sighed.  “Not enough, apparently.”
“I’ll double it.”
Predictable.  And worrying.  “And if I walk away?”
“You’d be a fool.”
But a live fool rather than a dead one.  This wasn’t his first time around.  “How many before me?”
“What happened to them?”
He shrugged.  He wasn’t going to say, and I wasn’t going to ask.  Whatever it was, it wasn’t good.  This man had thug written all over him.
“Five thousand,” he said.
“Doing what?”
“Catch my bastard brother with her.  One photo.  You’ve got three days.”
He gave me a photo and an envelope.  He’d obviously been prepared, and if I was not mistaken, this was a trap he had set for his wife, and she’d fallen into it.
“I’m supposed to get a photo of you two together,” I said.
“Of course, but don’t you think if we were in a more compromising position it would be better?”
True.  I hadn’t quite thought the implications of the job too closely and realized perhaps it may have been better if I waited for them, followed them home, and got the photo then, of course, if it was possible.
A lesson learned the hard way.
“Don’t worry.  There’s nothing between Miriam and I but air.  Jen seems to think because we work together, there’s something going on.  I suspect she wants to find something on me to cover her own indiscretions.”
He must have seen my rather bewildered expression.
“”I like you, son, which is saying something given how much I hate investigators, police or private.  Now, off you go.”

© Charles Heath 2016-2018

Thursday 8 November 2018

Episode 8 - Finding Trouble

More people were moving from the bar area towards the band stage at the same time he was, and walking between groups getting more difficult.  It felt like the crowd was moving in on him, preventing him from making any headway.
At the spot he had last seen the woman and Al he stopped, looked around, but neither were there.
Damn, he’d lost both of them, which, given he was a  portly imitation of Alfred Hitchcock, or so Harry thought, and the bright red hair of the woman he was with, was some feat.
He drank what remained of his beer and put the empty glass on a shelf.  Just as he did, he felt a thump on his back startling him and also causing him to hit several other empty glasses, knocking them to the floor with a loud shattering sound.
Patrons jumped back and sideways to avoid the glass.
A booming voice behind me said, “Well done, son.  Not many can down a pint in one gulp.”
I turned.  A guy in a suit, by the look of it a very expensive suit.  And one not to mess with.  Several of those avoiding the shattering glass had turned to square up, saw him, and turned away.
Then Harry recognized him, the man with the red-haired woman.  He looked very different closer up, much less like a gangster, but still not a man to mess with.
The red-haired woman appeared at his side, three drinks held carefully, and which she placed on the now empty shelf.
She gave the man the Scotch and offered a pint to me.  Same beer as my last.
He grinned.  “Take it, son.  It’s a peace offering.”
“I didn’t know we were at war.”
“We might be.  It depends on what you say next.”
Harry accepted the drink and sipped it.  It seemed foolish not to.  “Would it make any difference what I said?”
Not really, but a truthful answer will help your cause.  Are you the latest piece of shit PI my wife has sent after me?”

© Charles Heath 2016-2018

Wednesday 7 November 2018

Episode 7 - Looking for Trouble?

The bar was crowded, and the collective sound of a hundred conversations was overlaid by the louder noise of a live band who had cranked up the volume.  They were, he thought briefly, playing a poor version of an Eagles cover, A Horse With No Name.
He liked the song, just not their rendition of it.  Why he thought briefly, did people have to mess with perfection?
He stopped just inside the front entrance for a minute,  long enough to locate the exits, and where trouble might come from, before continuing towards the bar, picking a path through the patrons.
He kept one eye on the women, looking for a likely candidate for the red-haired ‘floozy’, and the other on trying not to inadvertently brush past any of the women, a task made difficult because of the crowd.
There were a number of natural red haired women, but the were office girls, and hardly what he’d label a floozy, and far too young.  Nor were they with any male company.
This was going to be harder than he first thought.
At the bar, he squeezed between an auburn haired office manager in a business suit, a woman definitely the other side of forty but trying to look younger, and a spotty faced office boy, tie askew, messy hair and a spotty face.  We they together?
“What are you drinking?”  Bartender, gruff.  Not a man to mess with.
“Beer, large,”
Twenty seconds, the bartender thumped the bottle on the bar in front of him, and Harry handed him a twenty.  He took the money.  There was no change.  Harry opened his mouth to ask, but the glare told him it was not worth the argument.
As he took a sip, he was bumped by the woman on the other side of him, spilling beer down the front of his jumper.
He turned to look at her.
She smiled.  “Haven’t seen you here before.”
Mid thirties, dyed blond hair with visible black roots, too much makeup, clothes a size too small and a skirt far too short to be sitting on a stool.
This woman was trouble.
“I came to meet a friend.  Didn’t realize it would be so busy.”  This woman made him feel uneasy, and he realized he would have to handle meeting beautiful women better.  Getting tongue tied wasn’t going to help in investigations.
“You can drink more for less,” she said, downing her drink and nodding in the direction of the bartender.  “Who are you looking for?  Maybe I can help.”
Harry cast his eyes over the crowd, looking around the perimeter starting at the band stage.  They’d moved on to a slightly better version of Hotel California.  He could see, now, the lead singer was wearing a purple suit.
Still no obvious red haired floozy.  Perhaps the client had been wrong and they were not here.
“Thanks, but it’s my problem.
He stepped away from the bar, and accidentally stepped into a man twice his size, with a face that looked as though it has seen several rounds at Madison Square Gardens.
“Watch yourself,” he growled, taking the empty spot I’d just vacated.
“Sorry,” I muttered, and slowly headed towards the back, near the band stage.  A number of people were dancing to the music, or in one case, to the music in their heads which had to be something entirely different.
The woman I left behind was now talking to my replacement.
I heard this strange shriek, what was meant to be laughter, and there she was.  The ideal candidate for the red-haired floozy.  Bright red hair, definitely not a proper hair color, and made the last woman I spoke to at the bar look like a kindergarten teacher.
And the man she was hanging off, the lying cheating bastard husband.
Oddly, I thought, they looked good together.

Only one problem.  Al looked like a gangster, right out of a 1940’s movie.

© Charles Heath 2016-2018

Monday 5 November 2018

Episode 6 - A bar is a bar is a bar...

Harry went back into the station and headed for the nearest cafe to get coffee, and something to eat.  What he really felt like was a good stiff drink, but it was too early in the day.
Maybe in an hour or so, when the realization he had a case that didn’t involve a missing cat, dog, bird, or pet of any kind, a case that involved real people.
‘A lying, cheating, son-of-a-bitch husband’.
And from what he gathered from the short discussion, all she wanted was a photo of this ‘husband’ with what he assumed was his mistress.  He’d reserve judgment as to whether she was a floozy or not till when he saw her.
Coffee and a croissant in front of him, it was time to formulate a plan.  He had nearly 10 hours before he was to arrive at the bar.
Firstly, no point in taking a large camera with him into the bar, that would only invite attention.  His cell phone camera would suffice.  Its camera was better than the Pentax he had sitting back in the cupboard in the office.
Should he take Ellen with him so that he would not stand out?  No, it might get dangerous, after all, he was theoretically dealing with a cheating husband, and when he realized why Harry was there, there could be trouble.
Right, go back to the office and get some rest because it might be a long night, do some research on the establishment, and the client if possible,  Planning done.

When Harry closed the door, Ellen was coming out of his office and stopped.
“You get the phone call?” she asked.
“Find your uncle?”
“Luckily.  He was just about to wander off in the wrong direction.  Did you make a note of the call?”
“As much as she didn’t tell me.  I asked for a name, and what the call was in relation to, but all she wanted was to speak to you personally.  That was it, nothing.  You have better luck?”
“Her name is Jennifer Jones, the job is to get a photo of her husband cheating on her.”
“Want me to dust off the camera?”
“No.”  He walked towards her, and then, before he went into the office, gave Ellen the piece of paper Jennifer Jones had given him.  “Find out what you can about her.”
She looked at the note.  “Not a lot to work with, Harry.  Smells nice, though”  She lifted it to her nose and took several sniffs.  “Expensive too, I bet.”
“Do what you can.”

There was Ellen told him some hours later, nothing to be found.  Not for Jennifer Jones, other than there were a lot of them, nor Al Jones, of whom there were a lot more.  It seemed to Harry that the names were phony, or aliases.
He’d soon find out later.

The Mailroom was a bar next to the main mail sorting building in the southern part of the city, near the docks, and instantly remembered it for a bad experience..
He'd been there once before, later at night, nearly collected by a drunk who'd been thrown out of a hotel just up the street.  Whatever description there was on the internet about the bar now, it was not how he remembered it, nor did it accurately describe the establishment.
It was not the sort of place to go without purpose.
When he arrived, night had set in along with the cold, and the street lighting added to the garish neon advertising, gave it a surreal look.  He parked his car a block away, near the railway station, hoping no one would steal it.  There was a mist, and it might yet turn into fog.
Harry shivered.  It was hard to tell if it was the cold, or fear.  Perhaps a little of both.
After a moment's hesitation, he went in, immediately feeling the warmth from the artificial heating.  It was crowded, many of the patrons were nearby workers of all types, blue collar and white collar, who'd just come off shift or finished for the day.  
None looked particularly friendly, nor did any take any notice of him.


© Charles Heath 2016-2018

Sunday 4 November 2018

What's in a name?

Names drive characters.  The weirder sounding the name, the more sinister the character.

Maybe, maybe not.

Pugsley and Wednesday Addams conjure up some interesting thoughts, but we have seen characterizations of them which kind of spoilt the moment, but you can see where this is going.

Coleone, well that too implies something more than just a normal family name.

I had a choice of Jones or Smith, two very familiar names that often find their way to hotel registers.  I wonder sometimes if a small hotel that rents rooms by the hour is not devoted to the Smith family.

So, I picked Jones.

Jennifer Jones, not after the movie actress, Al Jones, short for Alphonse, because I wanted to give an ordinary (maybe) character a weird name, Joseph Jones, mainly for the alliteration, and Edwina Jones, whom with Jennifer, inherited the name.

There are others, but we'll get to them in good time.

For now, all you need to know is that Al is the (alleged) cheating husband, Jennifer is his wife, and Joseph is his brother.

Oh, and Al, unlike his name, is anything but ordinary.

Friday 2 November 2018

Episode 5 - The job

They exited into East 42nd Street, heading towards Bryant’s Park.  Her pace had slowed once they left the confines of the Station.  At the crossing, he noticed she took a long look in every direction while waiting for the traffic lights.
He didn’t speak.  He decided to wait until she told him what she wanted with him.  In the meantime, He pondered how she could know who he was.  He had never seen her before, didn’t think he knew anyone who would know her, and to find him in the phone book was near impossible.
As soon as they crossed Madison Avenue she said, “I need you to do a job for me.  A thousand dollars, half now, half when you report back.  It should only take you 24 hours, 48 at most.”
That initial euphoria of getting his first major case suddenly wore off with the news it was not going to be as her thought.  24 to 48 hours?  Surely it couldn’t be another lost cat?
He tried to keep the disappointment out of his tone. “What would you like me to do?”
She stopped, and he nearly crashed into her.  Way to make a good impression, he thought.
“I have a lying, cheating, son of a bitch husband.  I need you to get the evidence he’s cheating.  A photo will suffice.  He’ll be at a bar called the Mailman, near Brooklyn Bridge Park, after 8 pm.”
“How will I know him?”
“He’ll be the one with the red-haired floozy hanging off him.”
She took an envelope out of her handbag and handed it to him.  A glance inside, a wad of the twenties.
A car stopped at the curb and the rear door opened.  Harry glanced in the direction of the car, but the figure who opened the door was just out of sight so he couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman.
He turned his attention back to the woman.
She handed him a piece of personalized paper, with a name and phone number on it.  “Call me as soon as you have the evidence.”  She didn’t wait for an answer, got into the car, and it was gone before he could say, “Thank you.”
He looked at the note she’d handed him.
A name, Jennifer Jones, and a cell number.  That was it.
The job, a photo of a cheating husband, the one, she said, who would have a red-haired floozy hanging off him.  What were the odds it was a fancy dress night and every man in the bar would have a red-haired floozy?
It would be just his luck.

In the car, Jennifer turned to her traveling companion, another woman, her sister-in-law.
“What did you think?” the other woman asked.
“He’ll fit the bill.  I’m not sure what Al will think of him, but he’s not like the others.”

“Good.  That’s phase 1 complete.”

© Charles Heath 2016-2018