Chapter 7…

” And how’s Aunt Mary doing these days?” I felt a little apprehensive about the possible answers.

” She’s doing OK. Good and bad days, but not complaining too much.”

” That , I think, is a victory unto itself. Please give her my regards, although I didn’t ever actually meet her.”

“I will, but she might not have ever realized where the pants came from. Sorry, but it wasn’t that important who got them. As long as someone did her bidding.”

“Well, glad to have helped, anyway. But now, can you tell me what’s been going on? And in return, I’ll tell you very honestly if there’s any way I can help you. ”

” Yes, I need to tell someone this. No one knows I’m here…I just found the card in Jenn’s purse… and that’s the first thing. Where would she have gone without her purse? Or her phone, either.”

“Yes. I recall that…she used to walk in to work in the morning with a Bluetooth on. I hate those things. But Jenn without a phone…impossible. Where did you find them?”

” In her car, in the driveway. The doors weren’t locked.”

” Car keys?”

” In the ignition. And the house was locked.”

” Do you know if Kendra was home? She might have heard something.”

” No, it was last Tuesday, she was staying at her dad’s.” I remembered that…divorced parents alternating nights of custody. The main reason that Jenn used to go out so much. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.

” And has this been reported yet?”

“No…but her friend the detective knows. He said he wanted a day or so to check a few things first.”

So Jenn had been missing for three days, and the only person supposedly doing anything about it was a police detective who was probably an on again/ off again love interest.

And… he’s also the one guy who would know how critical the first 24 hours are in abduction cases. And he wants to wait a few days…no red flags there…

” Janice…I can try a few things of my own here, but I’ll need just a few hours. And then I think you should report this right away. Can you spare enough time to give me a quick tour of North Smithfield?”

” Yes, I can do that. I’m parked over by PPAC.”

” Better if I drive. No one knows me or my car out in the country. That’s two zip codes from here, may as well be on the moon.”

So now there were two guys looking for Jenn…a real detective, albeit one with a boatload of motive…

And me. Amateur part-time sleuth.


Chapter 6….

There were essentially two ways to confirm this girl’s identity; I could take the direct approach, and ask for two forms of ID. Some people found that to be somewhat insulting, and it was generally not a good idea to imply a lack of trust so early on. So I opted to diffract the request by approaching it from another direction. I decided it would be a safe bet that I knew more about this girl’s family than she would have thought.

“Do Jenn and Kendra still live at Aunt Mary’s house?” I asked as I got up to open some 9-Lives for Roland. I could tell that he was impatient to have a quick bite and get right back to cat heaven. I sometimes thought that food and cat heaven were all he really cared about. Actually, I knew that was all he really cared about.

Jenn and Kendra had moved into Aunt Mary’s just after Jenn had started managing security at Metlife. Aunt Mary was in her eighties, and the family had found a reliable assisted -living facility for her to move into. But Jenn had to promise Aunt Mary that she would stay in the house until she got back from her adventure. Of course, no one else really expected her to return; that, and the pants.

” How do you know about Aunt Mary?” I had definitively seized her attention. Take that, Roland.
” I’m the guy who found the pants.”
” That was you??” You could see the dots connecting in her eyes.” You were quite the hero. Jenn told us all about it, and Aunt Mary never would have budged without the damned pants. That was really funny. ”

And there it was.This was definitely Jenn’s sister. She couldn’t possibly have responded to that otherwise.

Aunt Mary had refused to go without new pants. And there was only one kind she ever wore; elastic-waisted uniform pants like you would have in a marching band. God only knows why. And they had to have the piping down the sides.
Jenn had skipped out of work early on several occasions and scoured the planet looking for them to no avail. No one could find them. She finally gave up altogether, and said that Aunt Mary would be dragged off to her new home the next morning, pants or not. She couldn’t afford any more time to look.

I found the pants online at work with a few Google searches. Sometimes you just have to know what to ask for.

Aunt Mary wore her new pants proudly into her new apartment, Jenn moved in, and we joked about that for some time afterwards. And they were right; it was really funny.

So this was Jenn’s sister. Now to find out what exactly had been going on.

Published in: on March 25, 2014 at 6:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 5….

“We didn’t even know that you were a private detective. I found your name on the back of one of Jenn’s old Allied business cards that she gave to me a few years ago, when she was seeing a guy by the name of Richard Vinhatiero.”

My internal anxiety meter shot right into the red zone. I really hated when that happened. Never a good omen.

I had another of Jenn’s cards in my wallet to this day…and it had the very same name written on the back.

I had asked her at the time to write down the name of the guy who had frightened her so badly. I had promised her that I was not prying into her business, but that someone should know in case anything ever happened. That was such an unusual request to make of Jenn, who was typically supremely confident of herself. And that is precisely why I asked her. I was quite suprised when she readily complied.

For those few days, she had driven into work in a different car, parked in a different spot, wouldn’t take outside calls, and wouldn’t take her usual afternoon walk around the grounds.
She forwarded all her office calls out to me, and I was ordered not to even indicate on the phone that she was in the building. And, I used security cameras to track her back out to her car when she left.

To make matters a little extra sticky, she actually had another friend staying with her at her house for protection…the other Richard…the North Smithfield detective.

Of course, I couldn’t let on about any of that right now. I could scare her sister to death.

Anyway, I had no way to be sure if any of that would be pertinent. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t yet even presume that the person sitting with my cat on her lap was Jenn’s sister at all. I had some discrete fact- checking to do.

First rule of semi- professional detection; presume nothing, check everything.

With that said, Roland jumped down and went to check his dish again. You never know, someone may have crept in while he was in cat heaven with designs on increasing his cholesterol level.

Chapter 4…

” You’re Jenn’s sister? I haven’t seen her in…three years, almost. How is she?”
” She hasn’t been home for three days now. We are very worried.”
Sudden anxiety confirmed.
” Has anyone heard from her?” I knew that Jenn would never go more than a few hours without checking in with her daughter Kendra. ” Is everyone else OK?”
” Yes, everyone’s fine. Kendra, her daughter, is very upset, and it’s become difficult to comfort her. We are taking turns staying with her now.”
” Local police informed?” That would be North Smithfield. Jenn”s whole family were lifers there. As a matter of fact, the last time I had seen Jenn, she was dating a North Smithfield detective. ” Is she still seeing…Richard, was it?”
” Yes, and no… not seeing Richard much lately. She has continued to meet guys that she finds on the internet. Richard wasn’t real comfortable with that.”

It had been years since I had worked for Jenn with Allied Barton security, and I could clearly remember being worried about the internet dating thing myself. Jenn would not only meet two or three new guys a week, she sometimes met two a day. I remembered being genuinely perplexed at that… how she could continue to go through that uncomfortable process so often. Such a bother. But she liked it. She almost always found much fault with her suitors, often informing them quickly of their failings as prospective dates.
I felt sure she must have made a few enemies along the way, especially if this had been constant this whole time. As a matter of fact, I knew of one particular guy from back then that actually frightened her very badly, and scaring Jenn was not a very easy thing to do. But that was years ago.

Still, I felt as if I had a very good starting point, were I to be involved in this.

” I’m truly sorry to hear of this. How can I help?”

Published in: on March 16, 2014 at 2:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 3…

Noting the growing volume coming out of the only other occupied space on my floor, I got up and closed the outer office door, “..whaddya mean? this is a genuine 58 Les Paul!!!” this last screeched at a pitch that made volume seem unnecessary, issuing from Sil’s Loan and Pawn shop just across the hall.

” So with whom does my shameless cat have the pleasure of extricating completely undeserved attention from? Being an advocate of full and total disclosure, I feel compelled to inform that given the absence of classic beauty to prey on, Gil the janitor has often served in your stead. Would you like a cruller and some coffee?
Honeydew, not Dunkin, and handground Colombian, not…Dunkin…so much weaker now than they were at one time, don’t you think? Two espresso shots just to get back to where they used to be. And don’t even mention Starbucks…I hate those guys…most days, anyway…oh, sorry. I’ll stop talking now. Always a bit nervous in the presence of unsuspecting royalty. At least I can remember my name right now, which is more than I can say for Roland, I can assure you.”

She responded with a smile that fairly illuminated the far corners of my humble workspace, dark and dreary.” But then Roland doesn’t have his name on the desk blotter, does he?”
” Damn it all. Caught. Bagged. Found out…”
” Jenn once said that you were good with a story. I’m her sister, Janice… DiFranco.”
A fragment of a shadow crossed her countenance as she spoke…
and I suddenly suspected just what this was going to be about.
She reached across the corner of the desk without disturbing Roland.

Deftly humbled, and not even 9 am yet…
I knew I should have gotten the plain crullers.

Roland sighed contentedly.

Chapter 2…

” I’m sorry. I was looking for a detective agency. My mistake. I must have misread the directory in the lobby.”
” No, no. You’re in the right place. I’m just having a little joke. Please, sit down. I’m Roger Coyne.”

There were two chairs in front of my desk. One held my coat and a briefcase, and the other held Roland the Watchcat, sprawled out in his atypical nap pose. The girl stepped into the room, and I reached over to nudge Roland from his favorite spot.

As few people are aware, cats actually have very expressive countenances. The look of utter disdain and disrespect for me in those venerable feline eyes was unmistakable, and yet she took no notice. Maybe I could shoo him from the chair, or maybe I could lose a hand. It was a choice I considered several times a day. I usually let him keep the chair.

As the girl stepped closer, Roland rolled over on his back and stretched out to full length. Another half- inch and he would have slid off the chair altogether.

His cheap ploy for attention worked. She leaned in and rubbed his stomach with a perfectly proportioned porcelain hand, and then gently nudged him to the floor. He responded by rubbing against her leg as she sat down, and then with a smugly satisfied sidelong glance, sauntered off towards his other favorite place, his food dish. There may have been a few molecules of 9-Lives yet clinging to its surface. Always worth checking.

And then, as I knew he would, he doubled back and jumped up into the girl’s lap. He quickly settled in, while she rubbed his neck and ears.

I knew this had little to do with advancing my failing detective agency’s agenda. He had established a pecking order. I would work for the girl, and the girl would work for him.

And now that things were decided from the feline perspective, I thought I might determine why this magnificent creature had appeared in our doorway.

It was, after all, my name on the sign in the lobby.

Published in: on March 10, 2014 at 7:13 pm  Comments (2)  

A Precarious Perch…

Of all the grimy, gritty third-floor corner offices in this urban wonderland, she had to walk into mine.

She stood in the doorway, waiting for me to notice her. With a figure that added an extra proton to every atom within a 50-yard radius, that didn’t take long. I pride myself on my professionally- honed powers of observation.

She was wearing a white pleated skirt, black sheer nylons with that seam in the back, red spiked heels that matched her lipstick, and a cashmere sweater that may have been used in place of a skin graft. And she was holding a small patent- leather pocketbook, where she likely kept her white gloves. I presumed that the black veiled hat was still in the car. She would want to be careful not to overdo the effect.

I discretely looked down to scan my name from the desk blotter, put my coffee mug down, and tried to swallow the sizable chunk of powdered cruller that had lodged itself just behind my sinus cavity. Hoping to summon a voice that was roughly an octave deeper than the one I was born with, I risked speaking.

” Hello. Welcome to the Law Offices of Spade, Spenser, and Coyne. Please come in.”

As soon as I opened my mouth, I immediately knew two things; crullers taste much better with that extra proton added in, and it is almost impossible to be wry and devilishly charming with powdered sugar all over your face.