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

Saturday 16 May 2020

Case 2 - Episode 3 - An Interview with Robert

Robert was Harry’s eldest brother.  They had a love-hate relationship that was mostly hate.  He was the eldest son and got everything, Harry was the youngest son, and preferred to believe that he had got nothing.

Jeremy was the middle, and sometimes, forgotten son, who lived in Roberts's shadow.  In a sense both younger brothers did.

His door was still closed, but there was a woman sitting at the desk outside his door, his personal assistant, Harry assumed, and she looked up after he’d stood in front of her desk for a minute and a half.

“What do you want?” she asked abruptly.

Her manner was directly channeled from my brother, as it was exactly how he would have addressed Harry if his brother was sitting in that seat.

“Robert tell you he had a miscreant brother who might come calling, did he?”

The stony expression on her face didn’t change.  “As I said…”

Two strides Harry had his hand on the office door handle.  She was also just about out of her chair, but too slow to get between him and the door.

Harry smiled.  Forced, of course.  Then he opened the door to see his brother sitting with his feet on the desk leaning back in his chair, talking on the phone.  The sound of the door being thrust open almost made him fall backward.

Harry could smell the perfume of his assistant; she was that close.

He turned his head and looked into her eyes.  “Thank you, you can sit down again now.  I can see he is in.”

Harry stepped through the door and then closed it, leaning against it.

Robert finished his call, took his feet off the table, and shrugged.  At what, Harry was not sure.

“Mother said you’d be dropping in.”

“Did she?  Too many floors above us for me to attempt that.”

He looked quizzically at me.  Harry forgot; his older brother didn’t have a sense of humor, and worse, he never understood his brother’s ‘interesting’ sense of humor.

“Whatever.  What do you want?”

“According to our mother, our father is missing.”

“He’s not.”

“You know this for sure?”

“He just goes away for a few days, to get away from everything, but mainly our mother.  He said as much when he left the office the other day.”

“He said this, on the way out?”

“Not in as many words, but this is not the first time, nor will it be the last.  I think he’s found a new squeeze.”

Robert could be, well, Robert.  He was well aware of our father’s proclivities because the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree.  Not that Robert had a wife to cheat on, or, last Harry had heard, a girlfriend.  The last one had dumped him.

In Harry’s opinion, she’d been too good for him.

“What was he working on?”

“How should I know.  He doesn’t confide in me.  You know as well as I do that we’re just the hired help.”

Hired help didn’t get their own personal assistant, nor did they get an office.

“You never were a very good liar, Robert.  So, for the next week or so I’m putting you under surveillance, everywhere you go, everything you do.  At the end, I’ll put it into a report and give it to our father, if, or when, he returns.”

A flicker of either astonishment or fear appeared for a second in his expression.

“You wouldn’t.  You couldn’t.”

“Let’s do it and see where it goes.”

Harry was reasonably sure that Robert had several friends that he didn’t want anyone to know about, and one habit he didn’t want his father to find out about.  Sadly, in the early days of Harry learning the trade so to speak, Harry had used him and Jeremy for surveillance practice.

Harry’s older brother was not the paragon of virtue Harry thought he was.

Nor was his father, but Harry had known that already, and tried not to be disappointed.

Harry opened the door, ready to step out.

He shook his head.  “Shut it.”

Harry closed the door again.

“This doesn’t get attributed to me.  If it does, I’ll just deny it.”

“What is it?”

“He said he had a delicate job to sort out in Philadelphia and that he would be gone for a week; some business he had to clear up.  He seemed distracted, and when I asked him what it was about, he just yelled at me, telling me it was none of my business and left.”

“He’s not normally moody and sharp?”  He was, as Harry well knew from experience, but this sounded like an exception.

“Not like that.  He looked really rattled.”

It couldn’t be anything to do with the Jones’ business, Harry thought, so it had to be associated with the vacant block down by the docks.

“Delicate, you say.”

He nodded.  The circumstances seemed about right.

“Maybe I’ll hold off on the surveillance, just for now.  Thanks.”

© Charles Heath 2020

Monday 11 May 2020

Case 2 - Episode 2 - Merilyn, the Personal Assistant

Summarily dismissed, Harry retreated to the comfort of one of the leather chairs and picked up a 1935 edition of National Geographic.  Flicking through the pages, he abstractly thought the world seemed so different then.

In the back of Harry’s mind, he was remembering the first time he met Merilyn Watson.  She was so much younger then and he remembered his mother thought for years that his father was having an affair with her.

Most unsurprising, considering she was twentyish, and all of us boys had a crush on her.

It was, now, embarrassing to think about, but it was a long time ago, and she had been with his father for a long time and was now fortyish, but just as attractive, if not beautiful, as she was then.

Harry made it to the middle of the magazine before she came out into the foyer.

“Harry.  What a pleasant surprise.”

She had a way of making spines tingle when she spoke.

“Merilyn.”  Once Harry had turned twenty-one, he had graduated to calling her by her first name.  Before then, as good manners dictated, she was Miss Watson.

There was a hug involved, and then he untangled himself.

“Your mother called and asked me to talk to you.  I was astonished to discover you are a private detective, and, it seems, a good one too.  Your father has spoken favorably about your work.  Come, let’s go somewhere more private.”

Harry followed her into the main office, equally as unsophisticated and heavy as it was outside, with a series of offices down once side, and several larger rooms with double doors on the other.  

The center was given over to the clerks and secretaries, though he doubted that’s what their titles were these days.

Harry noticed that his two brothers, Jeremy and Robert’s doors were closed.  Either they were in and hiding from him, or not.  He would drop in on them after talking to Merilyn.

They went into one of the conference rooms and sat on opposite sides of the large board room type table.  On the sideboard, there was a large jug of cold water and crystal glasses.

She sat attentively and waiting for him to speak.

“My mother seems to think my father has gone missing.  Apparently, he left a note which was rather enigmatic.  What did he tell you, if anything, about his forward movements?”

Whilst it sounded quite good in my head, Harry didn’t think it came out quite the same in reality.  Too starchy, too formal, perhaps.

“Nothing.  He just said he would be out of the office for a few days, chasing down some documents relating to one of the cases he’s working on.”

“Do you know which one?”

“Reynolds, perhaps.  I know he was having some difficulty with it.”

“Did he say where he was going?”

“Philadelphia.  He said to call and leave a message on his cell phone if anything came up that either of your brothers couldn’t handle, and that I was not to worry if he didn’t answer it directly.  It would make sense if he was looking up archives.”

Indeed, it would.  And it seemed that Merilyn was not in the least worried about his absence.

“What was the Reynolds case about?”

“A land title dispute. 

“Here or in Philadelphia?”

“Here, I think.  He didn’t say much because the case is in its early stages.”

“Are my brothers working on it with him?”

“No.  He’s keeping them amused with a few less arduous cases.”  When she said it she smiled.  Harry knew his father could be condescending at times, and he suspected the cases he’d given them wouldn’t be very important

He was still unsure of their capability to handle anything larger than land transfers and probate.  And drawing up wills.

It was clear to Harry his father had not told her anything, perhaps not to worry her, or, more importantly, to worry the clients who would eventually notice his absence.  He had other partners, but he was the mainstay of the practice.

“Are you likely to complete your legal exams any time soon?” she asked him, changing the subject.

“I’m not planning to.  I find it more interesting in helping others in a more practical sense and have a touch of danger to spice up the day.  Here, I think the work would put me to sleep.”

“It is what you make it.”

“That’s what my father says.  No.  I won’t be working here any time soon.”

“Pity.  You always had such grandiose plans when you were younger.”

Indeed.  He was going to conquer the world, and, at the very least, become a politician who would try to change the world.  How silly people were as children, and so naive as to how the real world works.
His father had plans too, but these seemed to be dashed at every turn.

“You will let me know if he calls, or returns, won’t you?” he asked.

“Of course.”

Somehow, Harry didn’t quite believe her.

© Charles Heath 2020

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Case 2 - Episode 1 - Back within the hallowed walls

Harry was once again standing at the front door to the offices of Walthenson, Walthenson and White.
He’d often wondered why Legal Practices had such long names, and who the people were behind those that had names like in his father’s case.
The story was, Harry’s father’s father, old man Walthenson, and Granddad Wally to us founded the practice with his then-girlfriend, Giselle White, when they were fresh out of law school.
Back then it was simply Walthenson and White, Attorneys at law.  It was a humble office, off the main street, and they used to deal with minor legal issues.
Then, one day, his grandfather got a ground-breaking case, one that had huge ramifications, one that had set a precedent that still stood this very day, and had ignited his legal career.
It was, sadly, what eventually contributed to his early death.
But, in the great traditions of passing the mantle from father to son, Harry’s father became a lawyer, as did his brother and sister, and then in turn, his two brothers.
Harry was the odd man out.
His Grandmother, who would always remain his grandmother long after his grandfather had divorced her, still worked in the practice, and, in her 80’s, was still the sharpest mind in the group.  Well, that was Harry’s opinion, but no one else seemed to agree with him.
Harry’s other grandmother, what you might call step-grandmother, Alicia Wentworth, was the same age as Harry’s father, also a partner, and trouble. 
And, try as he might, Harry’s father could not remover her.
Perhaps as part of Harry’s rebelliousness, he was able to like her, because unlike his father, what you saw was what you got.  Straightforward, and often one to speak her mind.  Even Harry’s real grandmother liked her, and that was saying something.
As for Harry’s brothers, both could use an imagination, but since they hadn’t, being a lawyer was the next best thing.
And, since he had an imagination, and a rebellious streak, they hated him.
But Harry had a job to do, charged by his mother to find his father, and this was the first port of call.
How much Harry would find out from any of the employees and partners would remain to be seen, but he wasn’t going to shirk his responsibility or put up with their bad attitudes.
He took a deep breath, and went through the door, a portal he used to call it in younger days, to a place that was different to anything he had known before.

It was not a modern office, but one with deep carpet, and wooden walls, and, in the foyer, dimmed lighting.  There were plants, comfortable leather lounge chairs, and an old coffee table with magazines on it, some from a period very few could remember.
It also had an aroma, Harry’s father refused to call it an odor, of old age, just short of musty.
Harry always thought he had stepped back in time, to the 1930s, a sort of art-deco before it’s time.  It was just a pity his father didn’t take up space in the Empire State Building when he had the chance.  This office would blend in so well there.
The receptionist was new, a young woman of about 30, whose name according to the plate on the desktop was Millie Blaxland, and whose hair was blonde with streaks of, Harry thought it was purple.  She had a bright smile and made him feel welcome.  She was, also, according to his mother in one of her rants, the daughter of one of his father’s flings.
She clearly didn’t know Harry, not surprising since the first time he had seen her.
“Yes, can I help you?”
“My name is Harry Walthenson.”
The name was not lost on her and elicited a change in expression.
“A relative,” she asked.
“Son, the miscreant one that I’m sure my father never told anyone about, or if he did, in very scathing terms.”
“Oh,” she said, back to her bright self, “the private detective.”
“No doubt my father would have been more disparaging in his description of me or my profession.”
“Oh, no.  Not at all.  He seemed to think you were quite good.  Has he called you in for a job?”
She was almost in conspiratorial mode, voice lowered, and closer to him.  Was he supposed to answer in a lowered voice?
“No.  I’m looking for him.”
“He’s not here, not in today.  Taking a few personal days.  Is there anyone else I can get for you?”
“His personal assistant, Merilyn.  Is she in?”
“Oh, yes.  Take a seat and I’ll tell her you’re here to see her.”

© Charles Heath 2020

Case 2 - You can't pick your relatives - 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.

The following is a short resume of several more of his family members:

Walter Walthenson – grandfather – dead

Left a ghastly mess when he died before he had managed to get the affairs of the practice or his life in order.  He had a heart attack, suspiciously thought to have been brought on by his new 21-year-old wife, Alicia.

Married to and divorced from his first wife Giselle White, after 55, years, married a second time to Alicia Wentworth, a 21-year-old who was accused of being a gold digger.

Strange then that her husband died exactly one year after they were married, and at a time when Walthenson was in the process of changing his will, but hadn’t, and had left just about his entire estate to Alicia, including the most important, the whole practice.

Giselle White – grandmother

Walter Walthenson’s first wife, and whom he started the practice with, in those days called Walthenson and White.  

She refused to leave the practice after the divorce, and after reaching retirement age, took over the library and filing department, and now resides in the equivalent to what might be called a basement.
She was acknowledged as a better lawyer than her husband.

Unlike Harry’s mother and father, Giselle didn’t have a problem with Alicia and the two get along reasonably well.

She takes a very close interest in Harry’s business, to the extent she had arranged for one of her friend’s children to become Harry’s personal assistant so she could monitor his activities.

Alicia Wentworth – step-grandmother

Decided early on in her life that if she was to make something of herself, she had to make it happen.  Studied law, putting herself through law school, chanced upon a vacancy at Walthenson and White and then proceeded to ‘steal’ Walter away from Giselle.

She succeeded and on her 21st Birthday married Walter Walthenson.

A Year later Walter was dead, and she had a large percentage of the practice and all of his money, causing no end of resentment from Xavier, and his brother and sister, both of whom left the practice in protest.

Alicia is very straightforward, and a 'what you see is what you get' person.

© Charles Heath 2020

Monday 4 May 2020

Case 2 - You can't pick your relatives - 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.

The following is a short resume of each of his immediate family members:

Xavier Walthenson – father

A parent who had strong feelings about his children following him into the legal profession, as Harr’s brothers, Robert and Jeremy, did.  He freely admitted to Harry that he had dealings with Jones brothers, and Harry discovered, has something to do with the mysterious vacant block at the docks.

He has been acting oddly and has now disappeared.  Or not.  It’s hard to work out if he has just gone off like apparently, he does sometimes, or he has actually gone.

He has had more that one affair and Elsie has known about them, which gives his wife the leverage to do what she wants.

Has in the past organized a number of charitable events on behalf of the Prenderville Charity, in conjunction with one of his golfing partners, Emile Florenz.

Elsie Wilkinson – Mother

Harry’s mother, and as equally as disinterested in Harry’s activities, and did not raise an eyebrow when Sykes went to visit Harry’s parents to tell them Harry had got into serious trouble.

She was a law student herself and will meet several of the characters in the latest story that relate to those days, including one who was an old boyfriend.

She comes from a very old family from Boston, the Wilkinson’s, who are very, very wealthy.

She comes to Harry after receiving a note from her husband that purports to tell her that he is leaving and not to try and find him.  She has no idea where he’s gone, but Harry thinks it has something to do with the vacant block of land.

She has no interest in working in the legal practice and spends her time working on her ‘projects’.  She, too, has had affairs.

Robert Walthenson – Eldest Brother

Robert is Harry’s older brother, and the prodigal son, the one who will inherit his father’s share in the legal practice, i.e. keep the Walthenson name in the practice name.

He is exactly like his father, down to having affairs with married women, and not being the best lawyer in the practice.  He had nothing but contempt for his brother Harry.

He also has a ‘thing’ for his father’s personal assistant, Merilyn Watson

Jeremy Walthenson – Middle brother

Less dedicated to his job, Jeremy is more the party boy, that needs to be censured every now and them.  For him, working in his father’s practice is a necessary drudge, he is envious of Harry’s good fortune to escape the legal ‘prison.  He has a thing for Sandy Worstfold, brother Robert’s personal assistant.

Corinne Walthenson – Younger sister

Corinne’s parents have no desire for her to become a lawyer, and, in fact, it is her mother’s idea that she should marry well, and become a mother, something Corinne cannot understand.

University student, and part time investigator, having forced her way in the door.  She and her friend Milly, from University, are impulsive, and, at times, careless.  Going to visit the vacant site in the dock area was a bad mistake, leading to Felicity accidentally shooting a man who had been looking out for visitors and reporting back to an unknown person.

That single act is going to bring her unforeseen trouble.

© Charles Heath 2020

Case 2 - Prologue - Harry's mother has a problem

Harry went home, not to his parent's house, but to his office, where he was looking forward to rest on the couch.  Felicity came with him, more out of concern about the physical state Harry was in so close to being released from the hospital.  Harry was glad she did.  He was very tired, and still feeling the effects of the sedatives Edwina had used on him.

They walked slowly up the stairs and then stopped outside the door to his office, and Harry looked, once again, at his name still newly painted on the opaque glass.

The light was on behind it.  Someone was in his office, or someone had forgotten to turn off the light after them.

He tried the door.  It was unlocked.

Someone might be inside, waiting for him?  Was it the people who had tried to kill him, or the people who searched the office?  Or the cleaner?

Harry looked at his watch.  No, the cleaner had come and gone.  Maybe he forgot to lock the door on his way out again?  It was getting to be a bad habit.

Note to self: he needs to get a gun, if only for protection.

Harry cautiously opened the door and pushed it partway open, staying outside the threshold in case trouble was waiting on the inside.  The door swung open with a creaking sound, to display an empty room, as empty as he could see within the arc.  There was no telling if anyone was waiting behind the door.

He took a deep breath, counted to five, and walked slowly in, keeping out of range of the arc of the door should it suddenly close.

There was nothing behind the door, and no one in the office.

Felicity made sure Harry was comfortable on the settee with a blanket covering him and went to make coffee.  He looked around the room and then at the ceiling, not looking at anything in particular.  Perhaps Sykes was right, and it was time to consider some other occupation.

Then his thoughts strayed back to the case.  How easily fooled he’d been.

Edwina; she had never looked the murderous sort, more like the little old lady who drove once a week to church and wouldn’t hurt a mouse.  Who could have known what was hiding under a benign exterior?

Or behind a pretty face?  Harry was going to have to be more discerning about the women he worked for and if he was going to be successful in this business.

Then he saw something, perhaps an envelope, almost under the cabinet behind the door.  He got off the settee and went over to look.  It was an envelope with his name on it.  It must have been pushed under the door, but not all of the way, and got caught as the door opened and slid across the floor ending up almost under the cabinet.

It felt quite thick, and pliable.  Documents?  Perhaps from his father.  His name was written on the front, and it looked like his father’s writing.

Harry opened it and two thick wads of notes fell out.  Money.  $100 bills.  $20,000 to be precise.
Felicity came back, kettle in hand and saw him staring down at the wads of cash.

“What have you got there?”

“Money.  A lot of it.  Twenty thousand dollars to be exact.”

“From who?”

“My best guess, Jennifer and Edwina.  There’s no note or letter with it, just used hundred-dollar notes.  We need it, so it’ll be going into the bank.”

She was about to say something when there was a very loud thumping on the door.

They were both taken by surprise.

Another round of banging followed by, “Are you in there Harry?”

His mother.

Harry went over and opened the door, and before he could open it properly, she had pushed past him, almost knocking him over.

“The bastard’s gone,” followed quickly by, when she saw Felicity, “Who the hell are you?”

Felicity smiled.  “I’m Harry’s girlfriend.  He said I would meet his mother one day, just wasn’t expecting it to be so soon.”

His mother shook her head and give him a glacial stare.

“What do you want, Mother?” he asked calmly.

“The bastard’s gone.” 

She held out a piece of paper, one that no doubt she’d screwed up in a temper, then smoothed out again.

“Which bastard?”  Harry asked, expecting it to be one of his brothers who had been acting strangely.

“Your father.”

Red-faced, and very angry.  He’d not seen her like this before.  And her hand that held the piece of paper was shaking.

Harry took the sheet from her and read the hastily scrawled note aloud,

“Due to some unfortunate business transactions, I find himself in a serious situation where the only choice I have is to leave.  This is of his own free will and is as much to protect you and the children as it is to protect himself.
I apologize now for the hardship you will suffer because of me and try not to believe what will be said about me, and the company, in the following weeks.  Most of it is not true.
Do not call the police.  Do not try to find me.  Simply tell everyone I have left you for another woman.”

It didn’t take much for Harry to join the dots after the last time he spoke to his father.  It was the business regarding the vacant block down at the docks.  And, if he was not mistaken, his father was connected to the people who’d tried to kill him.

“What do you want me to do?” he asked.

“Find the bastard.”  No mistaking her intent in that statement.

“He said not to,” Harry said.

“Of course, he would.  But I don’t care what his reasons are, I want you to find him.”


“So I can kill him.”

Then Felicity piped up and said, “I think I might have some useful information about that.  Does anyone know of a man called Florenz?”

His mother answered, “That’s one of his golfing partners.  “Why?”

“It’s a name that I heard in passing that might be connected to your husband.  As I’m sure there are many others,” she added hastily, just in case his mother decided to pay the man a visit.

“Last person I would connect to his disappearance.”  It was the way that she said it, and the haste, that made him think there was more to it than a tenuous connection.  It would, he thought, have to be handled with care.

“Well, thanks for the job.  Now, if you don’t mind, I intend to get some rest and start first thing in the morning.

“How about right now?”

“I’m tired, and another day isn’t going to make much of a difference.  I’m sure this isn’t the day after you noticed he’d gone, or that you received this note.”

She didn’t answer and that was answer enough.  Relations between them had graduated into acrimonious over the last month, so he could have been missing since the day after he left Harry’s office.  Either way, as he said, another day wouldn’t make much difference.

Felicity levered his mother towards the door, assuring her that Harry would be on the job first thing in the morning, and then closed the door and locked it.

No more visitors.

And on her way to the coffee machine, she said, “Never a dull moment with you, is it?”

Harry didn’t hear.  He was asleep.

© Charles Heath 2020