Her daily excursion
She called it her 'daily excursion', a two hour walk to clear her head and get some exercise, or at least that's what she told her husband.
This was my first case. Within five minutes of posting my profile on www.newyorkdetective.com I'd received an email from him, my first client, Don Quinn his name was. We exchanged a few emails, agreed fees and terms and he told me the details of the case, sent a few pictures of his wife and details of where they lived on West 13th Street. Within half an hour he'd posted a $100 deposit in my bank account.
I never even met the guy.
I started that same day, just before 2.00, when his wife usually took her excursion. I allowed plenty of time in case I had problems finding the house, as a result of which I arrived about 45 minutes early. I had a second lunch in a diner round the corner. It's a trick I learnt from reading detective novels, you always end up spending longer than you think on a case and your judgement starts to slide as you get hungry. I wasn't going to make such a basic error.
Though I did make another basic error, I spent so long in the diner I almost missed her as she left the house. In fact I only caught the back of her as she turned out of her driveway. Another ten seconds I wouldn't have known it was her, would have had to run down the street, turn round and look at her.
I wouldn't make another mistake though, I'd eaten, been to the toilet and had a bottle of water in my pocket, plus a map of New York on which to plot her movements.
She walked down 5th Avenue a few blocks, through the arch into Washington Square Park and sat down on a bench.
This was the key point, I figured. Either she'd be meeting someone in the park, or she was just going to sit there, watch people going past, feed the birds, clear her head. This was the guilty or not guilty moment.
Or so I thought. But after a few minutes spent just checking messages on her phone, she got up and started striding confidently down Waverly Place, turning right down Broadway. I was struggling to keep up with her, as there was a sudden surge of people and I had to break almost into a run to make sure I didn't lose her at the lights.
She crossed and turned left down Prince Street, striding across several blocks until tuning down Bowery and right into Rivington Street. Funny, this was exactly the reverse of the route I'd taken. Sure enough, two blocks down she turns into Forsyth Street, crosses over to the same side of the road as my office. Holy mother, has she found out about me?
I watched her cross the street and go into my block. It could be a coincidence, I guess, there are a lot of flats in my block.
I went up the stairs, three flights and opened the door to my office, sure enough she's perched behind the desk, natural as if she'd been born there.
"Afternoon Mr Jones," she said, just a few messages for you. One new email from NewYorkDetective.com - a man who says he's the grandson of a mafia boss, he wants you to help him find some hidden money. And a Mr Candido rang, said he'd like you to stake out his wife's house tonight.
"Thank you Doreen," I said, noticing that she acknowledged her name. We were clearly both playing the same game.
"How long are you here to today, Doreen?" I asked, though she turned her back to me as I did so, rising from her seat and heading towards the kitchen.
"Just the usual two hour shift, unless there's anything special Dan?"
"No, nothing unusual. Any checks come in?"
Whatever game we were playing, Doreen was better at it than me. After making coffee she presented me with a pile of mail, six letters in total, including two checks, both from names I'd never heard of, a thank you letter from another stranger, two bills and a political fundraising letter. Nothing unusual, except the fact I'd only started the business a few hours previously.
I looked round my office for clues. To be precise, my office was the lower floor of my two-floor apartment. I couldn't afford to rent an office, but had wanted to create an impression, should I ever meet any clients. To be honest, it was still decorated like half an apartment, the massive kitchen at the back that was clearly too big for a business kitchen, my office to the right, which, to be fair, I'd been using as my home office for a number of years. The reception area was hastily converted from the lounge space by means of a large desk, but still with the same purple carpet. Other than Doreen's physical presence, and the paperwork she'd presented me with, there was nothing to suggest that she was there.
The phone rang and Doreen answered. "Hopeless detective agency," she said. Hopeless? It was Jones and Son, admittedly there was no son, I just thought it sounded better.
"No, I'm afraid Mr Hopeless no longer works here, I'll put you through to Mr Jones, he's the Head Detective now."
She pressed hold and whispered to me, as if not trusting the 'hold' function. "It's my husband Mr Jones, he wants to know if you you've found out what I'm doing."
Damn, of the people who could call, this was the one client I didn't want to speak to, but I couldn't avoid it, otherwise what would Doreen think of me.
"Put him through to my office, Doreen." I had approximately five seconds to either work out what the hell was going on, or come up with a tale that satisfy Mr Quinn enough to justify his fee. The phone in my office rang, I picked it up and said the first words that came into my head.