Finding myself alone with some deep thoughts, I did what I always do when I find myself alone with some deep thoughts — I opened the top right drawer and pulled out a bottle of scotch. Taking the inverted tumbler off its neck, I half filled it and sat back in the chair to think.
Losing the Robinson case was going to be problematic. Bill had given me a decent retainer along with a weekly “allowance” (as he insisted on calling my weekly rate). All I had to do was find out what the hell his wife, Margaret, was doing on Fridays. He didn’t suspect she was having an affair. Her secretiveness, he told me, wasn’t “personal enough.” In some odd way I knew what he meant, and furthermore, I believed him. Nevertheless, she had a Friday evening routine that she wouldn’t tell him about and he dearly wanted to know what it was. My job was simple. Follow her four or five Fridays and see what she was up to.
I’d started last week, sadly with little success. They lived in a co-op on Augusta Street, slightly north of Queen Street. Since she never took the car, I had to follow her on foot. To do this, I took a book and sat on a bench in the Randy Padmore parkette, which is across the street and a tad south of their building. I saw Margaret come out at 6:45 and head down to Queen. After giving her a few seconds to get farther along Augusta, I got up and began strolling along behind her about 40 feet. When she reached the corner a street car stopped and she got on. Before I could even begin to run it had taken off again.
I mean, who gets that lucky with street cars? Seriously.
With nothing more to do I headed home, stopping for a quick KFC along the way.
I’d warned Mr. Robinson that I may lose her sometimes.
Listen, I don’t care what you’ve seen in the movies, trailing someone properly requires at least two people, one in front and one behind. Subjects have an annoying habit of doing unpredictable things, such as going around corners and popping into one of several available doors before you can get there. Or hopping on convenient buses or street cars. It’s fine if you can walk ten feet behind, but at that short distance even the most unobservant subject is going to start noticing. Twenty feet is a minimum, and when a man is tailing a woman, 40 feet is safer.
So losing her on my first day wasn’t that a huge deal. But losing her and then dropping the case three days later — well, that just didn’t feel professional.
I looked at my scotch, raised my glass to Kim and thought some more, this time about my visitor.
I hadn’t lied to him; I was going to drop the case, and part of the reason for this was that I didn’t want to get beaten up. It might be cool in movies, but suffering from contusions and possible broken bones is no fun in real life. But I figured the chances of this happening were pretty remote: my “gangster” had struck me as decidedly non-violent.
Despite his efforts to portray himself as a real bad-ass, he’d come across more like Andrea the Giant in Princess Bride: no real menace. For one thing, his hands showed no signs of callouses, bruising or cuts. Furthermore, his tough-guy talk was way too cliched. He’d be laughed right out of the underworld using words like “kisser.” His attire appeared to be more of a costume than something he wore on a regular basis, as though he’d studied old movies in order to find out how to impersonate a tough guy. And that “bouncing ball” remark was straight from the Veronica Lake film.
Then there was the overpowering evidence of a keen intelligence and a good formal education. When not following his script he was remarkably articulate. Furthermore, not only had he caught my paraphrased quote, he’d been able to place it as being from Romans, expressed his knowledge in a clever bit of word play (well, fairly clever) and also picked up on a small logical discrepancy.
I didn’t know what he did normally in life, but it wasn’t anything criminal, and I doubted that it was even slightly shady. He gave off more of a Sunday-school vibe.
I was quite sure his only intention was to protect Margaret Robinson — although why and from what I had no clue. And while I was positive he wasn’t a violent man, his protectiveness, whatever its cause, might lead him to do things we’d both regret if I refused his request to step aside. Which was why I’d backed down.
One thing I would do, however — when I called William that evening to let him know I was dropping the case I’d warn him that other parties were taking an interest.
And in doing so I would try to avoid opening with the line, “Warning, Will Robinson! Warning!”
I shook my head and dropped the matter. My deep thoughts over, I reached into the drawer again and pulled out a stainless steel funnel which I used to pour my untouched drink back into the bottle.
Scotch. Nasty, nasty stuff. However much I wanted to be a scotch drinker as part of my private eye persona, I simply couldn’t stand it. Beer, wine, even a good vodka screwdriver. But straight scotch? It made me shudder for a good five minutes after drinking it.
I screwed the lid back on the bottle, turned the tumbler over its neck again and closed the drawer.
With one source of my weekly income suddenly gone, it was even more imperative that I keep on top of what remained. With a sigh I picked up the phone to call Paula so we could iron out the details of our sting operation against my insurance scammer, Mr. Stanton.
There are notes to this chapter, which can be found by hovering over the “Story Notes: No spoilers” tab at the top of the page.
Warning — Read the chapter first, otherwise the notes may be an inadvertent spoiler.
This is my fourth entry in the February writing challenge, “30 Minus 2 Days of Writing: III” (or 30M2DoW) issued by We Work for Cheese, the rules for which, such as they are, I am completely ignoring — except the attempt to post each day during the month.