My New Career
Lately I’ve been thinking about choosing private investigator as my long term career so I’ve been talking about it, bringing it up in conversations as often as I can. I’ve talked about making detective (like the police say in those movies) enough that it became one of my defining features at my present job. Coworkers started giving me advice, like ‘first become a cop or ‘take night classes at an institute’ or ‘do something else like be a process server, and have you considered nursing?’ My supervisors heard about my ambition, and although honestly it’s not a very interesting trait word somehow spread to other departments and so at the end of one day as I was walking out a woman I never talked to but had seen around stopped me and asked me to spy on her boyfriend.
“I heard you want to make detective.”
“I…guess.” I didn’t have a snappy response. I thought she was being mean. I remembered hating high school.
“It’s that…I heard about you and I think my boyfriend is cheating on me and so maybe I could just pay someone to find out without going to some agency or sneaking around myself? I don’t have time for that.”
“Oh sure that sounds great.”
Sitting in a Dunkin’ Donuts later waiting for the boyfriend (Dennis) to leave her (Chantal) apartment I wished I had been cleverer. She was nice looking and could be single soon. I sat there for an hour before she called me to say that Dennis was going to spend the night with her.
At lunch the next day Chantal suggested another time and date and told me to take pictures of whoever he hung out with. This was annoying. I wanted to be asking her questions, catching her in evasions and untruths and revealing a web of lies concealing something terrible, not just stalking her boyfriend. But she was paying me $200 a day so what I said was “Sounds good, thanks.”
After work I followed him. I followed him from East Williamsburg onto the M and into Manhattan. He made his transfers, and so did I and after getting off at Grand Central we walked a few blocks to an expensive looking fake-Mexican place I would never think to go into by myself but figuring my client would foot the bill I took a seat at the bar, ordered a $12 drink and tried to look at him in the reflection in the window near the bar as he sat with his friends. I couldn’t manage it and feeling conspicuous I called a friend and offered him $50 if he would help me blend in. I convinced him but then they all left together and took a cab somewhere.
My friend came, I told him to get the $12 drink with the odd name, we thought that was good fun so we tried out other weirdly named drinks like ‘Sombrero Punch’, ‘Puebla Sunset’ and ‘Honduras Death Squad.’ (It was light and sweet)
At lunch the next day Chantal was less amused than someone should be by a Honduras Death Squad.
“Steal his laptop. I don’t want to waste money having you watch him drink with his friends. Get me proof.”
I just looked at her, wondering if refusing would put an end to the job and her money, because I’m not getting charged with theft and furthermore I don’t have a good background in that sort of skill set. It was as if my day-job employer asked me to do something technical in Quickbooks and if I failed I would spend time in prison.
“I would…I would pay a $1000 dollars for it. And if you got caught, just say I told you to, he wouldn’t charge me, he would drop charges, he wouldn’t dare.”
“Still, I don’t think this is… like, it’s as if you asked me to do something technical in Quickbooks which I’m not familiar with and-"
“It’s his work laptop and he never lets me see it. It’s strange. I know he has something incriminating there, saved pictures, something.”
“Let me just…try and get you pictures myself, of, y’know if I see him kissing another girl, pay me like a bonus, but until then reduce my rate or something…”
“Fine. I think if I had the laptop it…but fine.”
She looked unhappy with my compromise and I was suddenly a lot less annoyed with this case. ‘She wanted the laptop all along and something else is going on!’ Ah-hah!, yes, yes.
They had plans to go out together, or stay in together or something, because the next night there was no Manhattan-Brooklyn-Manhattan boomerang stalking, today was Google search day. The finds were disappointing; neither looked the type to be travelling the dark edges of the corridors of power. No news articles, names in shady think tanks, nothing. They were on Facebook, and Chantal hadn’t set her privacy very high. Her profile was normal, it declared she was in a relationship with one Dennis D., whose profile was private. Nothing juicy about that, and the full-body shot of him in cargo pants on a hiking trail didn’t tell me anything.
I called Connor over but he had nothing to add. Before letting him vent about his girl troubles we went over what I knew, and decided my unofficial entry in the private-eye world was pretty ignominious. I had watch Dennis drink with his male friends, I had no idea if there was another woman, and if Chantal was using me in some double game to steal a laptop this seemed a counter-intuitive way to do it.
“He’s going to Rochester this weekend. He says it’s a conference but if there’s any place he could see her without me knowing that would be it.”
“Oh…that’s annoying. I’m sorry.”
“I can pay for bus tickets and a hotel room. Do you have a driver’s license? Because now would be a great time to get those photos.”
I thought it strange she was throwing money around like this. I don’t even have a cubicle at my job; I have a space at a desk, a flow of documents to scan, data to enter, and packages to send. Something as simple as buying a new $169 flatscreen TV with HD that worked with my Xbox was something that required thought and planning, even with Chantal splurging on me. That a worker in another department (not even a boss) could drop a few thousand on a hunch about a boyfriend, not even a husband, was humiliating on top of the strangeness.
“Have you thought about just, uh, being sort of upfront? Ask him to be honest?”
“Hah, uh, yeah? I can tell you have never been cheated on because they always tell you this is something they’re above, don’t worry, I would never hurt you. Then they hug and kiss. No, I’m not going to ask this time. This time I’m going to get him.”
I borrowed Connor’s car, sort of, he decided to come along for the adventure which I think he did so he could talk more about his girl problems. I dealt with that by blasting Lil Wayne, then blasting cock-rock, nodding to both the music and whatever he was saying about Jill, how she was unfair, he was so nice, but yet, and she said this but that contracted her ideals on this, when you think about it, and…
Dennis wasn’t lying to Chantal about a conference in Rochester, anyway. He went from one hotel to the meeting room of another, and I followed if only so I could get look at what he worked for. It seemed to be a butterfly conservation conference, which was surprising. My expectations keep getting dashed, there is no way this a secretive meeting of international weapons-manufacturing firms, or lobbyists planning to derail regulations. Connor pointed out that if I only asked Chantal what exactly Dennis did I wouldn’t get so let down. It was a good point. Why didn’t I think to ask her that?
I was taking pictures on my phone and talking with Connor as Dennis ate a sandwich at a deli with mixed gender company when Dennis unhurriedly crossed the street as if walking to an ATM, came up to us and grabbed my phone. “Um hey!” I said as he flicked through the history of photos, from reflections in that Mexican bar, the back of his head at a conference and him at the deli. He handed it back to me gently.
“You don’t scare me. Who are you? What are you doing?”
“We shouldn’t scare you.”
“Who are you guys?”
“Uh…Who are you?”
“Who am I? Who are you, following me around all week?”
“Maybe just tell him?” Connor interjected. I hoped Dennis would ask if some third party I didn’t know had sent us, someone trying to disrupt butterfly conservation in New York State and was stonewalling for this unintended confession.
“I think he knows. I think he knows exactly who we are.”
“No. I have no idea. I see you near my house, I see you at a bar, I see you taking of pictures of me just now and I have no, absolutely no idea, what anyone would stalk me for. What. What the fuck?”
I didn’t have any names or organizations to say I was a part of, and I didn’t want to expose Chantal.
“Exactly, Mr. Davis. What the fuck?” And with that Connor and I tried to walk away as coolly as possible, Connor ruining the effect by looking confused, and headed into a parking garage. I hoped Dennis would stand there dazed and angry, but he started following us. His friends left the deli and were coming to see what was going on. There were five of them, two women, and the two other men looked suddenly looked more threatening. Tanned, outdoorsy biker conservation dudes. More healthy and rugged than hard-edged and dangerous, but Connor and I were pasty and slight office workers.
I was trying not to seem panicked but I didn’t want them to follow us and see what car we used. I swiveled around to give them a look, and I saw it.
One of the women was asking Dennis what was going on, or something. Her eyes were tender. She was touching a shoulder and a bicep and I could see she was letting part of her breast press into the back of his arm. Was this normal feminine tenderness? The other woman wasn’t getting this close, although she was visibly curious.
“AH HAH, MR. DAVIS!” I yelled as loud as I could. Startled, she squeezed onto him like I hoped and I snapped a picture, swiveled back around and broke into a run. I ran to a pillar, ducked behind a car and sent it to Chantal. Getting up to run again I felt a force on my back and a car window rush up and crack itself on the side of my head.
“Chantal was right, huh?”
Then the wind decided to exit my body and he took his fist out of my gut and around my phone. He lost his previous respect for private property, smashed it against an elbow thrown up to protect my head and then threw it at Connor.
I felt wonderful. Chantal wasn’t manipulating me to devious deeds on the behest of some knockoff Bildenburg Group and my prospective investigative career was off to a relatively good start. The Other Woman had herself draped comfortingly around a shaken Dennis Davis. I sat down on the pavement, rested my head against the car and imagined comforting Chantal in my manly, bruised state. I win, I said.