Tuesday 3 November 2020

Case 2 - Episode 18 - Felicity follows Florenz to a building on Broadway

When Florenz didn’t stop at City Hall, what Felicity thought was the most likely destination, she thought that perhaps Florenz had discovered she was following him, and this would end up a wild goose chase.

But, when he continued walking slowly up Broadway towards Times Square, she began to think perhaps he was just out for a morning walk to his next appointment.  In the short distance past the entrance to the park, he had stopped to look at his watch, then his cell phone, as if he was checking one against the other.

Then, as he started walking again, he bumped into a man who was walking quickly, making the collision more than it might have been.  Florenz dropped his phone, the other man, who had staggered a few steps before regaining control, turned and told Florenz to watch where he was going, then continued on his way at the same breakneck speed.

Florenz turned to watch him leave, then started scanning the path behind him, and then his eyes coming back up the other side of the road where Felicity, thinking quickly on her feet, moved into a doorway that made her look as if she was going into the building.

That action lost her a valuable minute, and when she came back out onto the street, immediately looking where he was last standing, he’d gone.  Then, she looked further up the street and saw him, just, crossing the next intersection at Reade Street.

It looked to her like he had almost run to get that far in such a short time. 

Or he considered he was late for that appointment, and just walked fast.

She took the calculated risk of almost running herself to catch up, stopping still some distance from him, having to wait for traffic lights at both Duane and Thomas Streets, and by the time she crossed Thomas Street, Florenz had stopped at the Worth Street intersection and was checking his phone.

At least it was a good morning for a walk.  Rain had been predicted, the clouds were scudding by overhead, getting darker by the minute, and she was hot from the continuous exercise of walking fast, then slow.

By the time Florenz checked his phone, she had caught up and was now seriously considering a sandwich, or coffee.  Had she more time she might have, but she had to cross and then dodged some scaffolding almost walking into it her attention so intent on where Florenz was.

It was a moment where losing concentration, by the time she looked up, he was gone again.

Damn, this fellow is slippery.  Or he knew he was being followed.

But a few seconds later she realized he had crossed the road, dodging several cars and taxis, a lot more dangerous than if he crossed at the lights.  Or had he just realized he was on the wrong side of the road?
At the intersection, Franklin Street, the scaffolding ended, and the next building would provide no cover.  She was maintaining about 20 yards distance between them, and she stopped when he did at the lights.

When they turned green, he didn’t immediately cross, but turned around and looked directly back towards her.  She almost missed his movement and, in her haste, to backtrack to the start of the scaffolding and a store she had seen there, she ran into a woman who was coming out of the store.

It caused the woman to drop a package.

All Florenz would have seen if he was looking in her direction was her back and a red-faced woman accepting a package.

He would not have heard her say abruptly to Felicity, “You should watch where you’re going, young lady.”

Nor hear her apology, in her meekest tone, “So sorry.”

The woman continued on her way, and Felicity followed behind her slowly, scanning ahead to see if she could see Florenz.  

For the moment he was missing.

Felicity caught up with him at Canal Street, once again the traffic lights her friend in need, the lights just changing and there he was, at the head of several others crossing the street.

She kept back until the lights just changed, then walked quickly across, and then stopped.  

Florenz had disappeared.

© Charles Heath 2020

Thursday 22 October 2020

Case 2 - Episode 17 - Sykes has a chat with Ned Blines

 It was like an archetypal stand-off in the middle of a dusty western town, two gunmen eyeing each other off, waiting to see who drew first.

Ned had seen Sykes approaching but didn't move.  Instead, he kept his eyes on the Detective whilst nonchalantly smoking his cigarette.

Sykes stopped about fifteen feet from Ned.  After a few seconds, he said, "Hello Ned."

Ned gave him a long hard stare, blew smoke into the air, and took another puff.  He knew Sykes, and the two had sparred before.  "What are you doing here.  This is private property."

A technicality Sykes thought, but as an officer of the law, he had the right to enter if he considered a crime was being committed, or about to be.

"It's also a crime scene, so I could ask you the same question."

Ned flicked the cigarette butt into the air and watched it land about six feet away in a pothole in the road surface.

"You or that other detective find who killed Theo.  The other detective reckoned it was a woman whom he surprised when she was snooping around."

"She wasn't snooping around, and no, she did not kill your brother, someone else did, one of your many enemies, Ned.  You and Theo are not very well-liked."

"By the cops maybe.  You find the girl?"

"Yes.  And she was not responsible for his death.  Theo had five bullets in him.  One stray, and harmless shot, by the girl, and four from the killer.  It was a professional hit, Ned, so you and Theo are working for the wrong crowd this time.  Just what are you, and Theo before you, doing here?"

Sykes had noticed Ned had stopped leaning against the car, resisted the urge to have another cigarette by putting the pack back in his pocket, and stood ready for what might come next.

"Doing my job.  Why are you here?"

Sykes noted that it was not exactly a welcoming tone or stance.  He took a moment to check, mentally, if he could get to the gun quick enough if Ned rushed him.  Borderline.  He made a mental note to get in some more practice at the gun range.

"Is that the same job your brother Theo was doing?  Exactly what was he doing that got him killed?"

"Nothing wrong.  It's a simple security guard gig, watching over the property and make sure no one affects an illegal entry, more for their safety than anything else.  The property beyond the fence line to the water is unsafe."

'Effect and illegal entry'?  That, Sykes thought was Ned's brother Willy speaking.  Ned's vocabulary was limited, as was Theo's.

"Have you checked it yourself?"

"Why would I?  Didn't you just hear me tell you it's unsafe?  My job is to stop people from hurting themselves and hitting the owners with a huge insurance bill."

It was a simple set of instructions Willy had given them, but nothing like the truth. It was a case of keeping it simple stupid for his brothers 

There was another reason for their presence which no doubt Willy knew so it would have to wait till he saw him.

Sykes pulled out a card with his name and number on it, took the five or six steps to reach Ned's car, and put the card on the end of the bonnet.

"You call me if you see anyone snooping about before they try to shoot you, too.  Or if any girls turn up.  And a word of advice, Ned, so you don't end up in jail for life, Theo's killer was not the girl so if you or the equally dim-witted brother, Willy, try anything, I'll know and you will both be the first people I call on."

Ned said nothing, just stood silently, glowering at Sykes.

"Good," Sykes said.  "I'm glad that's settled. Say hello to your brother and let him know I'm coming to see him."

Ned glared at him for a few seconds then went back to leaning against his car, totally ignoring the card Sykes had left for him, and lit another cigarette.

He waited until Sykes had left before getting out his cell phone to call his brother.

© Charles Heath 2020

Wednesday 14 October 2020

Case 2 - Episode 16 - Sykes revisits the dockland crime scene

 It wasn't the first time Sykes had been down to the docks, especially this section that had been scheduled for reclamation for at least 10 years, but a series of setbacks had seen it put on hold or the subject of lawsuits, takeovers, and government red tape.

But that was only part of the story.  

There were a plethora of ownership claims, from gangsters to allegedly crooked businessmen, to multinational companies whose origins were wrapped up in so many trusts and shell companies that the owners were all but completely obscured.

Sykes' forensic accountant was only two levels back in the tangled web, and not likely to find much in a hurry.  Perhaps a little old-fashioned police work might yield results quicker.

He made sure that he left his destination with the desk officer in case of running into trouble.  He was also given the benefit of the colleague's advice, take someone with him, or get eyes on the back of his head.

It appeared everyone had a bad story about the docks.

Even in daylight, the disused docklands were eerie, and the place sent shivers down Sykes's spine.  It was still reputedly the burial ground for a long list of missing persons, sometimes gangsters who got caught in the crossfire, informants who all lived on a precarious edge, or people just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He walked the half-mile main frontage, feeling that there was more than one set of eyes watching him, and took in the details.  

There were old warehouses on one side of a wide street some all but falling.  On the other, there were large signs posted everywhere about the hazards of venturing past the chain wire fences, highlighting the fact the wharf was rotting and very dangerous, and the buildings near the wharves were equally subject to imminent collapse.

Back to the street and the fencing, five gates were all secured with new chains and locks over rusting metal fencing. It may have looked old and decrepit, but when Sykes tested it, it felt extraordinarily strong and sturdy. A closer inspection of parts of the fence showed signs of recent repairs.  What was intriguing was that someone had gone to great effort to make the whole structure look like something it wasn't.

He crossed the road and walked alongside the more sturdily constructed warehouse buildings made of brick, with mesh-covered windows and thick locked doors that would withstand to the pounding of a ram.  He knocked on a few, discovering they were very thick and the locks on the doors were new too.

A glance at the step showed under some of the doors, showed the door hadn't been opened in a long time, because of the lack of scrape marks.  Except for one, two buildings from the end where the door showed signs of being recently opened.

This had to be the one where Felicity had run into Theo.  Sykes conducted a methodical search within 50 yards of that doorway, and it led him to the point where Theo Blines had died.  Felicity had told him she had accidentally shot Ned close to the doorway.  There were still drops of blood on the steps, but none on the ground heading away from the doorway, showing that Theo Blines had been carried from the doorway and the building as if to remove an association from it.

That had been either mistakenly or intentionally omitted in the report Sykes had received. So, a new fact, Theo Blines had been moved and likely killed in that spot.  He would have to check the medical examiner's report again.

He went back to the doorway and pounded on the door.  He was not expecting anyone to answer, but it would be remiss of him if didn't try.

Back out on the street, he could hear a car coming, slow down as it approached the building, then stop.  It sat there for a minute before he heard a door open and close, then nothing.  Still in the doorway, it would be difficult form the car occupant to see Sykes, but poking his head out from the wall Sykes could see the occupant was standing beside their car, not looking in his direction, but instead smoking a cigarette and infrequently looking in one direction, then the other.

Even from that distance, he could recognize the form.  Ned Blines, taller and meaner looking than his younger brother Theo, a man with the gift of belligerence.  First to start a fight, and usually, the last man to leave with the least amount of damage.  Not someone to take on alone, not unless he had a gun, which, by a quirk of fate he was carrying.

He waited until Ned finished his cigarette, then stepped out from behind the wall.

Sykes had covered 50 yards before Ned saw him, turned, and stood waiting for him.  The fact Ned hadn't jumped in his car and fled meant he thought he was not doing anything wrong.

Technically, he wasn't.

© Charles Heath 2020

Monday 5 October 2020

Case 2 - Episode 15 - Old Adversaries

 After some thought on who to see next, the notion of questioning what essentially was a blunt instrument considering Ned Blines was as daft as his younger brother, it was clear that it was a better idea to go to the eldest brother Willy, and see what he had to say first.

Whoever it was that sent them on the surveillance mission must not have known they were pushing the junior brothers to the upper limits of their capabilities. Sykes doubted Willy was masterminding this operation, his responsibility would be limited to finding work that was supposed to keep them out of trouble.  

Willy was the smartest of the three, but that didn't mean he could see trouble coming, or know that the work he was being given could lead to unexpected results.  Unlike his brothers he had a day job, working as a property manager for one of the councilors who was reputed, through a series of shell companies, the owner of a lot of decrepit buildings that were about to be rezoned.

Where there was money to be made, James Quirk was at the front of the line.  Once a prominent defense lawyer, he inexplicably changed sides to become a DA, and then an elected Councillor.  Joel may not have made the connection, but Sykes did.

Quirk’s ambitions, as everyone knew, didn't stop there, and he was now looking at the state legislature.  The only thing holding him back was the necessity to keep fighting brush fires, the likes of the rezoning scandal just one of many.  And those skeletons in the closet, lie Sykes, and what he knew of him.

Despite Quirk’s best efforts his affairs on the down-low, rezoning, for one, had made the news, but with some deft sidestepping, and another scandal involving a rival candidate surfacing at just the right moment, made Quirk’s problems just as quickly disappear.  That and the news of Willy Blines suddenly put his hand up and tendered the necessary ownership documentation.  There was no law against a city employee owning property, so long as he had no influence over decisions regarding that property.

For Blines part in alleviating Quirk's problem, he got a nondescript job in City Hall, and the rezoning proposal was shelved to take the heat out of the discussion.  It was an election year, and rezoning scandals were the last thing any of the incumbents rerunning for office needed.

The story at the time had piqued Sykes' interest, not only in that it was about a man, that very dame James Quirk, with whom he held a grudge going back many years, but also that it might have something to do with the docks.  With several areas up for possible residential rezoning that land would go from worthless to worth billions overnight, and a reason for corruption if ever there was one.

Sykes also had a history with the Blines brothers, having known them from the early years when they were the muscle for the penny and dime crime bosses who organized 'protection' for the shop keepers and aa collection agents for the loan sharks among the poorer tenants of the city.  Sykes himself had grown up in those very same apartment buildings, in that very area where the low-income families eked out a living in substandard housing and inconsistent employment.

After his parents had both died in a tragic fire, Sykes had escaped and moved to New Jersey.  A lot of those he'd grown up with hadn't. 

It was, in it's purest form, the survival of the fittest, and the Blines had always known which side of the law was most beneficial to them, as gad their father and his father before him.  For the Blines and their ilk, it had always been the wrong side of the law.  

Sykes picked the right, and as soon as he could, he signed up to become a cop, and as soon as he'd completed training he vowed he would come back and clean up the streets, and the old neighborhood.  

It didn't take long for Sykes to realize that it needed more than good intentions and a large dose of enthusiasm, it needed assistance from those who were in a position to affect a change.  Inevitably he had to concede, eventually realizing they were part of the problem.

Which, of course, led him to this point in time, still working the area as part of his beat, and had been for quite a few years now, with the same intentions, and still being one step behind.  The players were the same, only they were prospering, and his cold cases were mounting.

It was easy to see why.  Tracks were being covered, alibis being handed out, and the money trail was getting murkier and murkier. 

But, mulling over the developments arising from talking to Joel, Sykes realized that he might be moving into very dangerous territory, particularly if he was going start accusing a candidate for the DA’s job of corruption.

And now he had a new piece to the puzzle, Walthenson senior.  A cold fish if there was ever one, but he didn’t look, to Sykes, to be a master criminal.  He seemed to be more like the right man in the wrong place and then finding himself in a dilemma that he couldn’t get out of.  So, if he could find Walthenson, perhaps that might become another lead, and perhaps connect a few dots.

Perhaps a little more desk-bound investigation might be wise to see who else might be involved, before he started digging a very big hole for himself, one that he might not be able to get out of.

© Charles Heath 2020

Wednesday 9 September 2020

Case 2 - Episode 14 – Sykes get acquainted with Theo Blines

Detective Albert Sykes had his proverbial finger in several pies.  One keeping an eye on Walthenson, one keeping an eye on Felicity, the girl who had inadvertently stumbled upon Theo Blines, and another chasing down the recent work history of said same Theo.

His information about Walthenson was that according to the cleaner of the building where Harry had his office, Harry’s father had gone missing, or so Harry’s mother had said in a reasonably hysterical manner according to the cleaner.  Sykes was not sure, having met the woman, that she could muster hysterical in any circumstances.  She was, Sykes thought, a very cold fish.

His information about Felicity was that she wasn’t looking for another suspect to shoot, but oddly wandering around the city.  First, she appeared to be following Harry’s sister Corinne, which made sense to Sykes because of what foolishness Corinne had done in going to the docks.  But it was her movements in the city that piqued his interest, because it looked as though she was following several subjects, one of whom was Harry’s mother.

Did they suspect Harry's mother had something to do with the father's disappearance?

What was disconcerting about this operation was the fact a man named Florenz was involved, and Sykes had a list of charges but no convictions against him, all of which revolved around financial transactions, and suspected money laundering.  An exceptionally smooth operator according to his boss, who, when Sykes mentioned his name in passing, got a stern order to leave him alone.  Florenz apparently had golfing friends extremely high up in the department.  He was going to tread very carefully with that investigation.

But it was the Theo Blines trail he was most interested in, offering to assist Detective Wallace in his investigation that had gone cold through lack of evidence and leads.  Sykes, however, had a confidential informant who had put the word out and was now ready to tell Sykes what he’d discovered.  

Sykes had picked a reasonably secluded spot in Central Park to meet his confidential informant, a character named Joel Whittaker.  

Whittaker used to be a top-notch reporter who broke several very large stories concerning corruption in high and low places, but succumbed to the headiness of his success and went one step too far, landing a scoop that, in the end, wasn’t.  Payback for the people he had betrayed, and lucky to come out of it alive.

Nowadays, he was not the most reliable man on the planet, but he was walking on the other side f the street, with enough street cred to worm his way into any illegal operation or know a friend of a friend of a friend of just about every criminal in the city.  People told him stuff because they knew he could never use it against them, no one would believe him.

That’s what made his such a good confidential informer/

He always looked undernourished and had what he himself described as an on and off relationship with drugs, which Sykes took to mean that he used whenever he had any money.

For this meeting, Sykes had brought him a couple of donuts, a pretzel, and a cup of weak coffee.  For himself, he had an Americano.  A few minutes after sitting down, Joel appeared and sat at the opposite end of the seat.

Sykes pushed the tray of food towards him and he grabbed it.  Sykes first impression, Joel had not slept in a week, still in the same clothes he'd last seen him wearing and was starving.  All the signs of a man on the edge, and in need of a fix.  He knew where the contents of the envelope under the tray would end up.

He let Joel have the first of the donuts, then asked, "What have you discovered?"

"That you should walk away while you still can.  These people, they're connected, if you know what I mean."

“The Blines?”

“They’re the tip of the iceberg, you don’t want to start digging too deep.”

He knew what he meant.  Corruption, the sort that never saw the light of day because it went a long way up the ladder.  His boss had already issued a veiled warning.

"And if I don't?"

"How's a dip in the Hudson sound?"

"Cold for this time of year.  It's not the first time I've been warned, Joel, and it won't be the last.  But I suspect you're not going to name names."

"Not those at the top of the pile because I don't know who they are.  But the small fish, the Blines brothers, they're bottom feeders.  Theo had a simple surveillance job, so simple they can't believe he got shot.  Ned, his brother, wants the shooter, and word is it's a girl, which makes it a vengeance job.  Doesn't know who she is yet, but they have friends in the police, so I suspect it won't take long.  You know her, tell her to leave town."

"Or I could just bust Ned.  Who's he working for?"

"Ostensibly himself, but we all know some it’s other people who own the vacant land at the docks.  Nothing on it, but someone seems to think it means something to someone.  Ned's now looking after the surveillance.  No one is willing to talk about it, so that means there's money involved, and if there's money involved, 'The Banker' is involved."

Sykes know of this 'Banker', a man who was reputed to broker deals for criminals, terrorists, and anyone else who wanted money, or those who couldn't get finance from legitimate sources because of their credit rating, places similar to but now defunct, Outtel.  

With the name Florenz popping up, it seemed to Sykes that it might just be him, or of not, someone he knew, so investigating Florenz further was one option on the table.

"You know of a guy called Florenz?"

"He plays golf with the Mayor, and a few other city luminaries, and others of less repute but men of consequence none the less.  Not a man I would be looking at once, or sideways.  Why?  You planning to take up golf?"

Golf was one of those games Sykes had no time for, like chess, and tennis.  Chasing a little white ball around an arduous course meant exercise he didn't want, but desperately needed.  That's what gyms were for.  But he did know that the golf course was where a lot of deals were made, and large sums of money were won and lost.  What better place was there to broker shady deals, away from prying eyes and hidden microphones.

"Not yet anyway.  You wouldn’t happen to know of these so-called men of consequence?"

“One or two.  One is apparently missing, a chap by the name of Xavier Walthenson.  You know his kid I’m told.  Nearly died not minding his own business.  You might drop a hint it wouldn’t be wise to go looking for a man who doesn’t want to be found.”

First Sykes had heard of the elder Walthenson’s disappearance.  Harry should have told him rathe than finding out this way.

“Some people have an insatiable curiosity.”

“Just remember I told you it killed the car.  The other is someone whom you may recall from the old days if ever there were such halcyon days.  James Quirk.  Councilman, soon to be DA if the word on the street has any credence, a man with much ambition.”

“And a lot of history to erase.”  An interesting connection for a man like Florenz to be acquainted with.  But the name James Quirk opened a creaky door in his brain, and he didn’t think he was going to like what was behind it.

Joel had finished the donuts and coffee and had pocketed the envelope.  The interview was over.  "Some free advice; leave this alone.  Too many heavy hitters involved.  All I would do is protect the girl.  Ned's not the sharpest tool in the box, but he does get a little carried away when dishing out retribution.  There's another brother, Willy, got more sense than to be involved with the dunderhead brothers, but I suspect he's the one who throws them bones when he can.  He might be worth having a chat to since he works with some of those City Hall types."

He stood.  "Take care."  A few minutes later he had disappeared.

© Charles Heath 2020

Monday 3 August 2020

Case 2 - Episode 13 – Once a suitor, always a suitor?

Felicity was no longer interested in Alicia Wentworth.  Well, not for the moment.  When she and Florenz parted, with more than just a public display of simple friendship, she decided that Florenz would be the target.

She suspected Alicia would get the chauffeur to take her onto the office, so that would not lead to anything useful.  Harry would have that covered, by talking to Giselle, after she sent him a text about the latest development.

No, Florenz was on foot, so she was hoping he’s lead her to his office.  A long shot, but one worth taking.

And, it seemed, he was not in a hurry, though he did look at his watch twice as if he was pacing himself for another meeting, and trying not to get there early or late.  A man of punctuality and could be an indicator of other eccentricities.

It was a leisurely stroll up Broadway past Park Row, but just before Barclay Street he stopped on the corner and appeared to be waiting for someone.  Was he early or late, Felicity looked at her watch.  Three minutes to the hour.  He was early.

The hour ticked by, then another five minutes.  A look of an impatient man crossed his face, then, a relaxation in posture.  His companion must be in sight and coming down Broadway from the other direction.

It took another minute for the companion to appear through the pedestrians, and she got another shock for the morning.

His companion was none other than Harry’s mother, Elsie Walthenson, once known as Elsie Wilkinson, one of the Boston Wilkinson’s, a rather interesting titbit that Felicity had discovered when she read the caption accompanying that photo of Harry's mother with Florenz back in school days.

And, back then, it was interesting to note that Florenz was nobody in particular.  Or so the caption said.

Felicity hoped that Mrs. Walthenson would not recognize her from the fleeting meeting they had in Harry’s office, that she had been too wrapped up in her husband’s departure than to bother with her.

She waited until they went into a Starbucks nearby, and then followed them in and found a seat nearby, after getting a coffee herself.  They were not near any windows, but not in a position where they could see anyone coming and going.

Not that they were interested in anyone else.  There seemed to be a stronger connection.  Was she more to him than just the wife of a golfing partner?

She tried not to be obvious in listening to their conversation, not that it was going to be easy because of the white noise around them, but she did get to hear a number of snippets.

The first, “What on earth did you get that son of yours to look for Xavier?”

“What was I supposed to do?  I was angry.  Leaving me that note, running off with another woman.”

“Not that.  You know Harry’s a lot smarter than he looks, and you’re not going to be able to be very convincing if you’re going to be lying to him.”

“Why?  You told me he was hopeless at being a detective.”

“Perhaps, but he’s been snooping around places he shouldn’t be.  Like Xavier.  When Xavier asked me my opinion about Shawville, I told him not to get involved, but he didn’t listen.  Seems Argeter shot his mouth off about the money involved, and it was like a red rag to a bull.

“How much does Xavier know?”

“Nothing.  His mother wisely destroyed the files and told him to leave well alone.”

“What did she want in return?”

“You know what she wants.  Alicia Wentworth’s hide, and it’s going to be hell on earth bringing that to a conclusion.  I still can’t believe the mess old man Walthenson left behind, simply because he was besotted by the one thing he couldn’t have.  Or tried.  Killed him in the end.”

“Do you know where Xavier is?”


“Do you care?”

“No.  What if he doesn’t come back?”

“You know the answer to that.  It was a mistake I made all those years ago, and I’ve had time enough to regret it.”

She reached out and touched Florenz’s hand.  No need for words.  Felicity knew the answer to that question.

Nor did she want to hear any more of the conversation.  She felt sorry for Harry.

© Charles Heath 2020

Monday 27 July 2020

Case 2 - Episode 12 – It’s not what you know, but who

Felicity already hated Alicia Wentworth long before she started her surveillance on her.  Harry had given her the details on the woman, and a lot more than was normally required, but it was clear he thought she was a person of interest in her husband’s untimely death, and the kidnapping, if it was that, of his father.

Not to mention the years of torment played upon Harry’s family since the grandfather’s death.  It was an interesting tale, but one that had more than a few loose ends.  And dangling at the end of them, what appeared to be a woman who would do anything for wealth.

Just a quick check showed she had come from the backblocks of LA, her mother a movie extra who missed her shot at becoming a star, her father, any one of a hundred stars, directors, and other film luminaries who promised her everything and gave her nothing.

But a child who had to fight for everything she wanted and more.

It was almost straight out of a film script.  Joan Crawford could have played the mother, and the daughter, well, she wasn’t quite sure who would fit the bill.  But it would be a star-making role if it ever came to the big screen back in the day.

Alicia Wentworth lived in the grandfather’s house.  It was a sprawling mansion that was looked after by a housekeeper, a maid, a cook, a groundsman, and a chauffeur.  That meant the house was never empty, so it was going to be impossible to search.

Unless she found a way of getting the incumbents to leave for a while.

She’d work on that later.

There were plenty of places she could take up a position to watch the house, without her activities being investigated or noticed by the other residents.  The other residents kept to themselves, behind their high walls and quest for privacy.

The neighbors were a who’s who of the city’s luminaries and watching them come and go, and who visited, was as interesting as that of her primary target.

This was the second day of her stakeout.  This morning she was doing the early morning jog, the one that ran the length of the street and back, the one that kept Alicia’s house in sight the whole time, thanks to some special headphones, and glasses.

Her father had some of the best surveillance equipment in the business, and she was compiling a list for Harry so that he might keep up with the latest equipment because sooner or later he was going to need it.

Nothing happened on the first leg.

Three residents departed in their cars, an Audi, a BMW, and a Hummer.  The most interesting was the Hummer.  It was the size of two cars, and she was seriously considering buying one.  Perhaps talk to the owner if the opportunity arose.

The third leg had her meet with the strange lady two houses along, a thick Russian accent, and a medium-sized dog, the breed of which she was not sure.

“You are new,” the woman said, stopping.

Felicity stopped too, breathing hard.  She was a little out of shape.

The dog sat, but it was growling.  Perhaps it didn’t like strangers.

“Just visiting my aunt who lives around the corner.  I’ve just got back from Berlin, and she said I could languish there while I assess my options.”

“What do you do?” the woman asked in fluent German.

“Translator, multiple languages,” she replied in Russian.  “Don’t need a translator, do you?”

The woman shook her head.  “Good luck to you and your exercise.  It’ll no doubt kill you in the end.  It’s what happened to my husband.”

The woman tugged on the dog leash ready to continue her walk.

“What happened, heart attack?”

“No.  His enemies knew he went for a jog every morning, lay in wait, and shot him.  He wasn’t a nice man.”

Then she shrugged and left Felicity still gasping for breath.

“I hope you don’t have any enemies, Miss.”

Not yet, anyway, Felicity thought.

Behind her, she could see the gate to Alicia’s property opening, and a minute later a car drove up to the road and stopped for a moment.  Felicity bent down to look as though she was tying her laces as the car then turned right and headed up the road away from her.

She noticed that Alicia was in the rear, being chauffeur driven in the Audi SUV.  She memorized the license plate and model of the car.  It was another because the previous evening Alicia had returned home in her red Mercedes coupe.

When Alicia’s car turned the corner, Felicity knew she had at least a minute before the car could turn off the road.  It was lucky this time that Felicity’s car was only seconds away, but still it took nearly a minute and a half to get in, start it, and get moving.

Luck was with her, she caught up just as the Audi turned off, heading towards what she assumed would be the main road back to New York.

Forty-five minutes later, the Audi dropped its passenger off near Wall Street, and Felicity tarried long enough at the intersection to see which building Alicia had gone into.  And get a photo of the man she had met outside before going in.

She didn’t recognize him, but that didn’t matter.  Most of the tenants in this part of the city were financial advisors, stockbrokers, and a new variety of con men out to fleece the people who wanted to get into investment but didn’t know-how.

Perhaps she was just cynical.

She found a car park, parked the car, and bet on the fact Alicia would not have concluded her business by the time she got back to the building.  Not far away was a café, and where she needed a well-earned cup of coffee.  Now she knew why she would never drive into the city and rely on public transit.

She might have to jostle with thousands of other passengers, but it beat the traffic jams, and cabbies who were very quick to blow their horns of you were in their way.

She watched for an hour, playing a guessing game of who was who going in and out of the building.  Rich people predominantly, who probably knew more than anyone else how to play the game, and then the players, those traders in their expensive suits and swanky manner.

Then there were lawyers in even more expensive suits, playing a different sort of game.
Some met outside the building before going in, some others met outside the building, but couldn’t afford to go in, or were not allowed in, a politician or two, faces she had seen in the papers, probably working on their permanent campaign to stay in office.

And then there were the tourists.  They stood out and viewed the whole place as just another collection of tall buildings.  The bull was nearby, so was the memorial to 9/11.  This part of town was just a stepping stone for them going to another place.

So, it was not going to be the man she went into the building with, it was always going to be about the person she came out with and showing a little more than just a friendly gesture when parting.

None other than Harry’s fathers golfing friend, Florenz.

© Charles Heath 2020

Friday 17 July 2020

Case 2 - Episode 11 - You don’t sometimes get to pick your partner

Harry had always assumed from the very moment he met Alicia Wentworth, that she would be trouble.  Hiding behind a benign smile, heaping flattery on everyone in sight, and sidling up to the patriarch, Walthenson senior, she had started as his personal assistant at the grand old age of twenty and had split his marriage apart and most of the family too, by the time she was twenty-one.

And for her efforts, and the trouble she created for everyone else, other than Walthenson Senior, she married him in a combined twenty-first birthday and wedding.

For Harry, it was still beyond his comprehension that a drop-dead gorgeous twenty-one-year-old could marry a man in his seventies, but later he came to realize some people will do anything for money.

She had, and then only had to endure the notion of living with him for another seventeen months before he died, of a heart attack, and though Harry could never prove it, he knew she had something to do with it, other than having sex as she had told the police.

She had set the scene perfectly, too perfectly.

But the police did not pursue the matter, and she got away with it.

Now, she was the de facto head of the practice, had more in assets and wealth than the rest of the family combined, and was resented by everyone who worked with her.

And, despite all that, she remained.

Perhaps after all Harry did have some grudging admiration for her.  At least she did not give him a hard time like the rest of the family, but that had to be simply because he didn’t work there.

But that nagging feeling that she was responsible for a lot of problems never left him.  He played nice with her, for appearance's sake, but knew one day, there would be an opportunity to investigate her.

With her alleged association with the Prenderville’s, that day had come.  Just because she gave him a name in an anonymous envelope, didn’t mean she had nothing to do with her.  It wouldn’t surprise him that she set it up this way, telling, but not telling, knowing that the name would preclude him from doing anything, because no one had before, and that included some of the top prosecutors in the city.

The Prenderville’s were virtually untouchable.

And by virtue of her alleged connection to Prenderville, Alicia might think she was too.

How mistaken.

“So, what are you looking so peeved about?”

He came back to reality with a thud.  It might have been him accidentally falling out of his chair, but he just caught himself in time.

He was conscious of the fact that he had to present a better image to Felicity since she had professed to his mother that she was his girlfriend.

She was a girl, and she was a friend, but he hadn’t quite categorized their relationship in those terms.  Not that he minded that she had said so.  He liked her, and he believed she liked him too.

“The fact Alicia might be involved with the woman.  And that she might be involved with my father, in fact, responsible for his disappearance.  It certainly would play into Alicia’s hands if he were to disappear.

And then some.

After the death of his grandfather he had got to sit in on the will reading, and in fact, obtained a copy of the will from the lawyer.

His interest was in the terms, not in the fact that his grandfather had left Harry nothing, in comparison to his father and brothers.  Only those who practiced law would get a share.  However, another little codicil added presumably later, was that in the event of his father predeceasing his grandfather’s second wife, she would inherit Harry’s father’s stake in the practice.

Harry was not sure how that could actually work, but it was complicated and settled on that basis.

The curiosity was on one hand, the grandfather had left nothing but a small stake in the practice for his new wife, and on the other, that he could make Harry’s father basically the caretaker until he died when Alicia would then step up and take everything.

Neither his mother nor Harry could understand why he chose to stay.  If he had left right after his grandfather’s death, that practice would have foundered in six months or less with Alicia at the helm.  He’d built it up and made a comfortable living from it.  Perhaps that was all he wanted in life.

But now he was missing, that put a whole new light on the practice and Alicia.

“Then perhaps it’s time for me to begin surveillance on her.  See where she goes, who she meets, you know the sort of thing.  If she has something to hide, I’ll find it.  And, it’s better if I do it,” Felicity said, “because she knows you and might recognize you.  Me, she wouldn’t know from a bar of soap.”

A generous offer.  “But,” he said, “don’t you already work for your father?”

“Not at the moment.  He’s put me on a semi-permanent holiday until the trouble I caused blows over.  Could take a year, he said, before the police let us back in.  It’s not so bad for him, but they won’t work with me, so he had to cut me loose.  Now, I can work for you.”

“Well, at least I can pay you, but not a lot, mind you.”

“I was hoping you’d say that…about the helping, that is, and not the money.  What are you going to do?”

“Check out the indomitable Mandy Prenderville and try not to get my head shot off.  From what I’ve briefly read about her, and her brothers are very dangerous people.”

“I’m surprised Mandy allowed the press to take the photos.”

“I’m surprised my father is somehow mixed up with the Prenderville’s.  I’m guessing it might not have been readily apparent to my father at the time.  After all, his own father blindsided him with the Wentworth marriage thing, so what else wasn’t he told, or anyone else.  And if my grandfather was working for the Prenderville’s, it would have been a huge account.”

With funds being funneled into the new wife’s pockets.  If nothing else comes out of this investigation, he would somehow get the truth from Alicia, or if not her, others responsible for what had happened.

It might be the single reason why she stayed with Walthenson’s.  It would be interesting to hear what Giselle had to say about it.

“What about Florenz?” Felicity asked, remembering there was another player in the mix.

“Fit him in around everything else.  I’ve no doubt at some point all the players will cross paths, if not intersect, and hopefully, we’ll be there to ask some pertinent questions.”

Felicity decided not to tell Harry about the situation with his mother and his sister.  Somehow, along with everything else, she would juggle all of that too.

© Charles Heath 2020

Sunday 5 July 2020

Case 2 - Episode 10 - Felicity and Harry meet at the office

When Felicity arrived at Harry’s office late in the afternoon, she found the outer door locked.  Had he gone home for the day, was her immediate thought, but then, she knew that he lived in his office, so he may well be inside.

She knocked on the door and waited.  It gave her a minute or so to consider telling him he needed to put some sort of door chime in so the sound of an arriving visitor could be heard in the inner reaches of the office because if he had the door closed between the outer and inner office, it was doubtful if she heard the knocking.


She knocked louder on the door, much louder, and enough to draw a look from a discrete neighbor who stuck her head out her door to see what was going on.

Felicity was saved from talking to her when Harry opened the door.

“I was coming, you know.  I can hear the knocking.”

“I thought you had the door closed.”

“No.  I was waiting for the delivery person to arrive.  Chinese.  Again.”

She was going to have to do something about his diet because it consisted of noodles, rice, hamburgers, fried chicken, and pizza.  Another year of that he was going to be overweight and have a heart attack.

He stood to one side and let her pass.

“Checking up on me?”  He closed the door and leaned against it.

Felicity took off her coat and put it over the back of Ellen’s chair, then sat in her seat.

“Should I have to?  You are doing as you’ve been told by the doctor?  Resting?”

“As much as possible.  We have a new case, you know.”

“And I hardly think anything is going to happen to your father, that probably hasn’t happened already.  Had I not seen the note, my first guess would be that he’s gone to ground with a new girlfriend.  Corinne seems to think so.”

“So do my brothers at work, and others, though I’m not sure if they’re trying to convince me, or themselves.  It’s a very dysfunctional office.”

“If you don’t mind me saying, you’ve got a very dysfunctional family.  One may very well follow the other.”

Another knock of the door saw Harry go over and open it.

Not exactly what Felicity would do, but it was something else she would have to talk to him about.  A camera outside the door so they could screen callers.

It was the delivery man.  Harry passed the man the money and got a box in return.  Harry closed the door and put the box on the desk where Felicity was sitting.

“I thought you’d drop in, so I got enough for two.”

After setting out the boxes he sat on the other side of the table and they ate.  He had brought two bottles of beer from the fridge in his office.

“So, as you were saying, you visited the office.  Any leads?”

“Ellen, my assistant, is one of Aunt Giselle’s spies, sent here to make sure I don’t get into trouble.”

“She failed badly.”

“No, it happened after she went home.  She doesn’t live here, so you can hardly blame her for what happened.”

“You’re too forgiving.  Anything else?”

“I don’t believe a word my other Aunt, Alicia says.  She hates my father, and I think she believes she should be the head of chambers.  She was quick to take my grandfather’s office when he died.”

“Self-preservation, perhaps.  Who got all the money?”

“There wasn’t any.  My father thought she had squirreled it away the day after he died.  No one will ever really know.”

“She play golf?”

A rather odd question Harry thought.  “Why?”

“You know that character Florenz that I mentioned to your mother, and she said was one of your father’s golfing partners.  Seems he has a connection to a woman named Mandy Prenderville, as apparently does your father.  Do you know anything about the Prenderville’s?”

It was the same name as on the sheet of paper inside the envelope that Alicia Wentworth had given him, and enough to send a chill down his spine.

What the hell had his father got himself into?

© Charles Heath 2020

Friday 3 July 2020

Case 2 - Some supplementary characters - 2

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 more:

Jason Prenderville

Has been at the top of the list of the FBI’s most wanted, the perpetrator of all manner of crimes, reputed head of the Prenderville family.

As no one has heard from him for over a year, it is presumed that he is dead, but Sykes thinks he is in hiding after a hit gone wrong on another crime family’s head.

Mason Prenderville

The younger brother of Jason, and rumored to have killed his older brother to take over the family business.  Currently in jail serving a life sentence, allegedly for the crimes that his brother committed.

There was never any love lost between the brothers.

Mandy Prenderville

Reputedly the head of the Prenderville family, and who had allegedly cleaned up the criminal activities and now is the head of a conglomerate of legitimate businesses.

She is also the head of the Prenderville Charity Trust, and spends most of her time at the Trust.
Sykes does not believe the Prenderville’s, under Mandy, has ceased all illegal activities.

She may have arranged for the killing of Jason, and the sending to prison of Mason in order to get control of the family business.  She is far more ruthless than the two brothers.

© Charles Heath 2020

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

Tuesday 26 May 2020

Case 2 - Episode 5 - Giselle knows something

So, the question that popped into Harry’s mind in that instant was ‘what the devil?’ along with a shudder when he remembered what had happened.  He didn’t think he was going to get over that near-death experience in a hurry.
Harry knew his father knew about the plot of land, but Harry didn’t think he had continued his investigation.  But, if he was going to put two and two together and come up with four, it would certainly also tell him this was the reason for his sudden departure.
“We should move this to a more secure location,” Harry said, walking towards one of the conference rooms.
“Why?”  She seemed perplexed by Harry’s reaction.
“I’ll tell you, in the room.”
She followed him in and Harry closed the door.
“Now, she said as she sat down, “What’s the big secret?”
“After I visited the block, which, by the way, has nothing on it but an antiquated shed, I was kidnapped, tortured, and left for dead.”
“You’re joking?”
“No.  Lucky to be found still alive, barely in fact.  I’m surprised my father didn’t tell anyone.”
“He didn’t.  Nor did he mention anything about the block.  I only found out when a file came downstairs to be filed, no action is taken.”
“Did he check it out?”
“No.  He sent me an email to find out who owned it, but that was it.  Apparently, he was representing a party who were looking to buy it, but then the deal went cold.  Something else I noticed; your faithful assistant checked those details too.”
“How could you possibly know that?”
“Because she asked me for help.  Your father told me that you might need some assistance, and to give it.  That wasn’t the reason, by the way, the girl is a friend of a friend’s daughter.  I might have encouraged her to apply for the job.”
“So, my father could spy on me?”  It would be typical of him, Harry thought.
“No, so I could make sure you didn’t get into trouble.  It seems I failed badly on that score.”
Right then Harry was annoyed with his father, and nearly made the decision to let him go off on whatever foolhardy mission he’d set himself and forget about finding him.  If he didn’t want to be found, who was Harry to bring him back?  And, after all the pain he’d put his mother through, he was surprised she wanted him back.
“Did you ever investigate it any further, even though he dropped it.”
“Or didn’t, as I suspect.  The file he sent down has gone missing, presumably with him.  In answer to your question, yes, I did, though I didn’t add it to the file.  I dug further into the previous owner, one of those shell corporations that live in the Cayman Islands.  On the surface, the company was not easy to trace, much less the principals behind it, but I did get one name, and it wasn’t a name I would shout out loud, or even whisper in a quiet corner, Jason Prenderville.”
Harry was not surprised.  A man suspected of so many crimes that his rap sheet expended across multiple pages and was literally the No 1 hunted man in this country.  The problem was, he was thought to be dead, killed by his brother Mason, who was serving about twenty life sentences for basically the same crimes his missing brother was supposed to have committed.
Even though the two ring leaders were indisposed, the sister Mandy Prenderville was allegedly running the business, but she had shielded herself behind a very thick veneer of respectability, handing over millions to charities of all types.  It would be a very brave person to investigate her.
“Which is why you made sure Ellen didn’t find out about him.  But it makes sense now what had happened to me, and who was behind it.”
“One brother is missing presumed dead, the other in jail, and the sister is allegedly squeaky clean.  I hardly think your cop friend Sykes would go after any of them.  The last one who did is still missing.”
“Could that be the reason why my father is missing?”
“It’s a possibility.  But, even if he isn’t, I would implore you not to go sniffing around them.  Any of them, and especially the sister.  That woman is serious trouble.”
“If she’s respectable as you say…”
Alicia shook her head.  “Just keep away from them.”
“And if my father is involved with them?”
“Then he’s made his bed, and there’s nothing you can do for him.”

© Charles Heath 2020

Sunday 24 May 2020

Case 2 - Episode 4 - Jeremy being Jeremy, then Alicia summons

Harry stepped out the door to Robert’s office and nearly walked into Jeremy.  He was lurking by Robert’s personal Assistant’s desk.
“Harry.”  He looked as surprised to see me as Harry was to see him.
“Jeremy.  Going to see Robert?”
“No.  God no.  It’s too early in the morning to see him.”  He noticed the assistant giving Harry a stony look.
“Oh, Sandy, this is the younger brother, Harry.  The private detective.”
The change in her expression was instant.  From loathing to fear.  Did she have something to hide, or had she been listening in on his conversation with Robert?
“You didn’t say who you were?” she said in a different tone.
“You didn’t ask.  But I won’t hold that against you.”
Then Harry realized why Jeremy was hanging around.  He liked her.  Harry should have made the connection when Jeremy mentioned her name.  It had come up during one of Harry’s rare visits to home.  But he’d be surprised if she gave Jeremy more than a moment’s notice unless she thought he had prospects at the practice.
“Did mother tell you why I’m here?”
“Yes, but I can’t tell you anything because I rarely see him.  I’ve been working in the dungeon with Giselle.”
The dungeon was the archive, and where all the old case notes were kept.  Giselle White had graduated from attorney to archivist in a bid to keep her foot in the door.  Alone, except for several cats, it was the only way of staying out of a retirement village in Florida.
“I’m going there next.  I can wait.”
“You go.  I’ll be here for a while.”

She gave Jeremy a smile.  Perhaps his prospects had changed since the last time Harry saw him.

The dungeon was on the floor below, and a quirk in the building design, the floor the offices were on, and the one below was serviced by a staircase.  The original tenant for the two floors had requested in when they signed a pre-building lease, but by the time the building was finished, the company had gone out of existence and their grandfather had snapped up the accommodation for what he called a ‘song’.
There were two other conference rooms downstairs, but the rest of the space was given over to an archive, a law library, and filing space for old and current cases.  He’d spent a lot of time in the law library when he was younger, and it was one of the reasons why Harry didn’t want to practice law.  Too many nuances to wrap your head around.
Giselle was disappointed but understood.
My father and brothers did not.
And it wasn’t as if Giselle hadn’t tried to weave her magic on him at the behest of their father.  They both had the impression that Harry might turn out to be a better attorney than my brothers, and even my father.
But they’d never know.  Harry preferred to exercise his investigating skills as a private detective.
It disappointed Harry that his father never used his services for the legal practice’s investigations.  Maybe Harry’s father thought if he had, Harry might have shied away from the law faster than he had.
Harry was walking past the top of the stairs when he saw movement on the floor below, and then a call, “Harry, is that you?” in the very distinctive British accent that belonged to Giselle.  In all the years she had spent in America, it had done nothing to change it.
Caught.  Now he’d have to go down to see her.
Age had only changed the way she looked, it had done nothing to blunt the keenness of her mind or the lethality of her glare.  She was, Harry learned very early on, not a woman to anger, or disappoint.
He went down and greeted her with the usual hug.  Something else about her, she carried around the aroma of mothballs.
“Since no one tells me anything, let me guess why you’re here.”
This would be interesting.
“Your father had gone gallivanting off on one of his expeditions.”
“I didn’t know he went on expeditions.  I just know he’s gone away for a few days and failed to give an adequate excuse to my mother.”
“So, you’re here in an investigatory capacity?”
“Just dotting I’s and crossing t’s for mother's sake.  It seems no one really knows where he’s gone.  Do you?  You seem to know everything that goes on in this place.”
“Nearly.  But here’s a hint.  It might have something to do with a certain plot of land, and I’m guessing you also know about it.”

© Charles Heath 2020