Tuesday sunrise broke bright and cheery — or at least I supposed it had. It was certainly bright and cheery enough when I got up at 10:00. After the events of the previous day I thought it wise to sleep in and miss the chance of being threatened in my office first thing in the morning. Besides, I’d not gone to bed until well after two o’clock. It had taken me a long time to convince the Whitewaters that hiring someone to follow a 14-year-old boy just wasn’t destined to end well. Not for the person following, and not for the people who hired him.
After leaving the Whitewater’s place around 11:00 I’d gone to the Plaza Hyatt at Avenue and Bloor. Often I went up to the hotel’s Prince Arthur Piano Lounge to hear Sulemon, the blind pianist, but last night I hadn’t felt like piano music. It would have been a too-bitter reminder of the money I’d just turned down. Instead I’d gone next door to Birdy’s English Pub.
Tucked between The Plaza and the building next to it, Birdy’s is one of Toronto’s best “long bars.” Although it doesn’t date back to the opening of the hotel, it has nevertheless been around for a long time. During the changeover of ownership when the Park Plaza was becoming the Plaza Hyatt, plans to demolish Birdy’s for additions to the hotel were thwarted by a collective outcry from its patrons.
Little ever changed at Birdy’s. The thick pine tables were still carved with cartoons, jokes, and various initials declaring their love for each other. The old bartender, Joe, had long since retired, and the faces of the regular crowd renewed as time went by, but the atmosphere and conviviality of the place stayed the same.
Since I was on my own, I took a seat at the bar, ordered a draught and some chips from Bill and settled in for some serious comfort food and drink. Bill and I talked off and on, as his time permitted, and a couple of regulars stopped by for a quick chat. Mostly, though, I just munched, drank and pondered the imponderables of life.
Birdy’s closes at one, and I’d had a pint of beer around 11, so I felt safe getting into my van. Once again it gave an Academy Award-winning performance of a machine in the last stages of death, but in the end it finally agreed to drive me home.
So I woke up late on Tuesday and after taking time for a real breakfast, I arrived at my office around noon to find it refreshingly free of wannabe gangsters. I also found a message on my machine. It was from a Mrs. Pennington asking if I could help find her brother whom she hadn’t seen in over 20 years. She left his full name, Theodore Michael Fitzgerald, and his last-known city of residence (Boston). Before calling her back I did a quick Google search and found a Ted M. Fitzgerald on Endicott Street in the West End of Boston. A little more digging turned up a phone number and I gave him a call. He answered on the second ring. (Whatever else he might be, Mr. Fitzgerald was obviously not a beautiful, blonde Scandinavian girl.)
“Is this Theodore Michael Fitzgerald?” I asked.
“Yes,” he answered. “Who is this?”
“I’m Robert Fielding and I’ve been asked to locate you by a Eustace Pennington, maiden name Fitzgerald.”
“Eustace?” he cried. “Good lord, I haven’t heard from her in ages. Is she all right?”
“To the best of my knowledge, sir, she’s fine. Would you agree to letting me give her your contact information?”
“Oh, definitely! I’d love to hear from old Eustace again. It’s been years.”
“Thank you sir, I’m sure she’ll be in touch shortly.”
I then phoned Eustace, agreed to look into the matter of finding her brother, and we arranged suitable compensation for my efforts. This called for a celebration, so I went across the road to the King’s Plate for a roast beef open-faced sandwich (with gravy, peas and mashed potatoes). When the last bit of gravy was sopped up and my coffee cup drained, I went back to my office and gave Eustace the good news that I had found her brother.
“Oh, you’re an absolute marvel!” she gushed.
Even Murphy takes a day off now and again.
Since there was nothing else to be done, I called Paula and we arranged to meet that evening for a night-walk around the city. This was something of a tradition with us, started when I was still “introducing her to Toronto.” I spent the rest of the day reading a Stephen King novel in my office, then once more over to the Plate for dinner before heading out to meet Paula.
Deciding to avoid the regular shopping district, we chose a route down University Avenue, and as we passed the Boer War memorial at University and Queen, Paula was delighted to see that the fountain in front was working again. It was a warm night, so she shook off her shoes and convinced me to go wading with her, getting herself soaked in the process. She was wearing a dress similar to the one she’d worn for our ill-fated sting operation (possibly the one she’d mentioned on the phone), and I found the rest of our walk home a bit troubling since it was hard not to look at her as it clung to her figure as though it had been painted on.
Wednesday was pretty uneventful until the evening when I got one of my calls from Mr. Williams. Unlike Mr. Robinson, Williams was quite sure his wife was having an affair. She would frequently tell him that she was “going shopping” in the evening, generally about half an hour after the phone had rung three times and then stopped. Whenever these hang-ups happened, Mr. Williams would call to let me know and I’d head over to follow as she left the house. I’d trailed her a couple of times the week before, but in each case she’d done nothing more sinister than spend a significant amount of Mr. Williams’ money at Yorkdale Plaza.
I convinced my van to start, then drove to the Williams’ house near the corner of Gerard and Pape. His wife must have been in a hurry this time because I’d barely arrived when she came out of their house, got into her car and left. She also took a different route, which ended up at the Executive Motor Hotel on King, just a bit west of my office building. She pulled into the lot, and I parked across the street while she went into the admissions office. A few minutes later she came back out, and I photographed her as she let herself into one of the rooms, turning on the light as she entered. About half an hour later another car pulled in and a man emerged, only to go straight to the same room. He too was photographed in stunning detail through my lovely telephoto lens.
To kill time I took some photos of her car in the lot from an angle allowing both her license plate and the name of the motel to be visible in the same shot. This took getting out of my van and crouching down behind her car, but it turned out quite nice. Almost artistic. Sometime later they emerged together and I took another series of shots while they said a very enthusiastic goodbye to each other. With that, my job was done — as was, I presumed, the Williams’s marriage.
I turned the ignition to go home and nothing happened. No complaints. No rattling. No coughing. Just — nothing.
“‘Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal,'” I quoted, and pulled out my phone to call CAA.
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 seventh 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.
I have a car you can buy for the guy you’re writing about.
Thanks, Miriann, but the van still has a role to play.
My apologies for today, but we’re moving back to our own apartment after two months of cat and house sitting for friends and it’s going to be a very busy day of cleaning, packing and making several trips with a loaded car. I won’t be making the blog round or responding to comments until much later tonight.
How does one ponder imponderables?
Imponderably, of course.
Is Robert Fielding any relation to Henry Fielding?
Yep. Well, so to speak. Henry Fielding set up the first police force in London, so “Fielding” seemed fitting for someone involved in pseudo police work. Robert is just a variation on my middle name. (Real middle name.)
Things are going well for private detective Fielding, in spite of (or maybe because of) turning down the rich couple.
I think Fielding’s life tends to reflect the old adage, “No good turn goes unpunished.” But yeah, he’s doing a bit better today than he has been recently.
I’m glad he’s had a good week. Poor Paula and her hinting. Our guy is still a bit clueless.
Good Luck with your move.
Mostly done now. We’re back in our real place and looking forward to staying — for a week. Then it’s a week away to sit cats for friends again, but only for a week. And then we’re going to refuse all cat sitting requests for a long time.
I have a car with the same kind of temperament as Fielding’s van. Damn thing won’t start unless I do exactly what it wants and then some. But it’s a good listener, so I’m keeping it.
I have to admit loving my own car, although it’s a bit temperamental. Also, she tends to click a lot — like the turn signal but faster and relatively constant. My wife says it’s just her chattering away about her day.
You know, if your detective isn’t ever going to get a clue about Paula, do you think you could introduce a character who will… maybe a dark-haired Montréal woman with a taste for adventure?
I’m starting to get jealous. She’s my Paula! Mine!
“Paula was delighted to see that the fountain in front was working again. It was a warm night, so she shook off her shoes and convinced me to go wading with her, getting herself soaked in the process.”
I wonder… would YOU go wading in the fountain? I loved this part of the post… it made me smile!
I did. Or at least I think I did. I can’t remember now whether or not we just sat on the edge and dangled our feet in (not a big deal back in the ’70s when you just had to shuck off your sandals.)
I love it when my office is refreshingly free of wannabe gangsters. Gives me the time and space to ponder the imponderables.
Gangsters do get in the way of pondering, don’t they?
Good old Wash. That was the perfect time to reference that line.
Watch him float like a leaf.
I hope CAA is better than my last interaction with AAA. 🙂
I’ve had two occasions when I had to call CAA, and in both cases they were really helpful and nice.