The meeting with Sarah Golden had quickly made me realize how much I could make off this one case, and how much work it was going to be. For years my career had been spying on unsuspecting people - and all of the sudden she entrusted me with finding a missing person. I had never done any case remotely close to this job. Frankly, I was ill-prepared for it. For the first two days I did my usual cruise for information - I went into the east-end bars and scrounged for clues, for people with bad blood... but it didn’t take me long to conclude that the shady-types I usually found myself associating with simply were not high profile enough to have anything to do with Golden himself - some not even knowing who he was.
I was only two days into this case, and already it seemed hopeless. Here I was, the thought that this was the case I was ‘waiting for’, and that it may be unsolvable. After all, who was I kidding? I knew this city inside and out but Mr. Golden went missing somewhere between this city and Buffalo... or Detroit. Sarah had been exceptionally useless in giving me any followup information as to what her father did - but I simply just did not believe her story. I knew that she was hiding something; I wasn’t sure if what she was hiding from me was as big as I hoped it was, but it was extremely suspicious that Golden would keep his daughter, who was entitled to 50% of his fortune, completely in the dark about his business and his partners.
What was just as confusing about this case was why Sarah was the one to approach me, and not her brother. In our initial meeting Sarah had told me that her sibling Paul was much more versed in the dealings of the company and much closer to Golden than she could claim to be. Paul was the golden boy, no pun intended, of Golden Holdings. I’d heard of him before - a few years back he’d been nailed for a DUI - the kid had shown that he loved to drink and get into trouble - a man after my own heart. Hardly the person I’d want to be training to take over my mass fortune, though. . . good thing I didn’t have one.
Naturally, Paul was completely unavailable for me to ask him anything. The Golden kidnapping hadn’t hit the news yet, so Paul had conveniently buried himself in something important with the company, playing status-quo with the outside world to keep suspicion from building. As far as any of the investors of the company knew, Mr. Golden was on an extended trip and his son was filling in for him in the meantime.
I had just left Shady’s, a bar I frequently got my first clues for other cases, feeling down. The roll of bills Sarah had gave me still sat in my pocket, as I had yet to find a reason to try and bribe for answers. When money is involved, everybody suddenly has information they’re willing to share at a price. It’s when you start asking questions to a person that clearly has something to say - if they’re playing hardball. . . if they know the information they’ve got is important to you, but they don’t know you’ve got money - that’s when the money in my pocket starts flowing outwards.
I walked down the street to my car, and looked around the area. Derelict buildings that somehow hadn’t been condemned were a staple of the east end’s ‘shopping’ area. People shuffled in and out of those buildings, homeless wandered around the streets and back alleys. . . it was strange that I liked the east end. I’d never lived there - I resided in the south end - but the east end was a place that I always felt at home in, where information was as easy to extract as a beer from a tap. The residents were mostly the ‘undesirables’ of the city: laborers, factory workers, construction workers, unemployed, drug dealers. . . but apart from the occasional fight from an unruly drunk, I got along just fine with them. And like any city, those that were useful typically stood out in some way or another - either as a person others gravitated towards, or one that people kept their distance from except when they needed something. Easy people to read, easy people to deal with.
But today, these people had provided nothing worthwhile. I opened up my car door and sat inside, rolled down the window, pulled out a cigarette, and took a nice, long drag. The smoke billowed up and out of the car before the breeze whisked it away. I turned and looked through my notes of the last two days. Scribbled and unorganized, written in all directions on the paper, sometimes figuring out what I had wrote was just as time consuming as getting the information.
“There’s got to be a starting point here,” I said aloud to myself, running my finger across the words on the pad. I searched for a little, enjoying my cigarette - my first of the last two days - before it reached the butt and I tossed it out the window. My notes were just names and places right now; all information Sarah had provided me. Over the last two days, smaller scraps of paper had been sprinkled with little tidbits of extra info, but I had essentially discounted all of it as useless.
I looked over the note one last time before going to turn the ignition on. However, one name caught my eye on the pad, and I had an epiphany. Paul Golden.
Who had the most to gain from this whole debacle but him? He was in line to take over the company, his sister as a co-owner. However, if Golden was indeed gone forever, it wouldn’t be hard for Paul to convince the board to get Sarah to sell her ownership and just walk away with the money. Sarah didn’t know about the company, and had been sheltered from it by her father - but in the meantime, Paul knew a lot about where the money was going. . . maybe he wasn’t happy with something his father was doing, and just maybe he saw an opportunity to seize control.
Of course, for him to do that, he would have to overcome a bunch of hurdles - the buyout of his sister, the funeral, the full scale of what Golden Holding’s owned, how all the money flowed, and last, but not least, the actual disposal of his own father. It seemed ridiculous to even suspect him - and no doubt, Sarah wouldn’t take it too kindly. However, I was very curious as to why Sarah seemed to be scared in my office - and what if she thought someone was watching her? What if her and Paul had a rocky relationship? Why, out of an entire family and large company, did nobody but her seemed concerned as to a sudden disappearance of Mr. Golden?
Every question seemed to revolve close to Paul’s actions. In order for Golden Holdings to just continue operating like usual, the board must not suspect anything - and that would come entirely from Paul’s reassurances to them. Then there was the nature of what he was working on, and with who. . . could this removal be an inside job? I smirked at the thought. Everything was a conspiracy theory in this case; I just had to choose the best one to chase.
I had to do something, though. And Sarah would have to sign off on it. But I needed to put in a backup plan. I knew right there that if my suspicions about Paul could yield anything useful, I would need to talk to him - that’s where Sarah would come in. However, it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye on him from afar as well. I pulled out my cell phone from my pocket and dialed a familiar number.
“Hello?” The young, nasally voice answered on the other end.
“Richie! It’s Sam.”
“Yeah, what do you want?”
“How’d you like to do a little off-the-record surveillance?”
There was a pause before he responded. “What are we talking about here?”
“Nothing difficult,” I said as I pulled another cigarette from the packet. “You’ll have no contact with the person, just watch them and keep notes. I’m working on a lead with this guy and I want to cover up any loose edges on him that might help me out.”
“I don’t know, Sammy. There’s a lot of shit when you’re following a guy. How big of a profile is he?”
“Known to the public, but not well. Could be in line for a lot of exposure real soon though.”
Richie’s voice picked up. “Is that so? Well that does change things. But you know that this will cost you.”
I sighed. “Yeah, yeah. Look, what are you doing right now? Let’s meet up and talk about what I want you to do.”
Not 30 minutes later, I was sitting in dark corner of another, far more empty east-end bar with Richie across the table from me. A middle-aged waitress came around with two pints of beer from the local brewery, flashing a nice, toothy smile to me as she lowered the beers onto the table. At the same time, she noticed my eyes wander to the generous portion of cleavage she was revealing with her low-cut shirt. I looked back to her eyes, which had the look of excitement rather than offence, and left a generous tip.
My eyes followed her hips as she walked away, and a smile crept over my face. Meanwhile, Richie was throwing daggers at me with his eyes, clearly repulsed by my attraction. “So, Sammy, you want me to spy on this suit?”
I refocused my attention on my business partner. “Yeah. Just make sure you’re never noticed.”
Richie smirked. “My specialty.”
I handed him a small camera to take pictures with. He took it from me with his clawlike fingers, and stuffed it into his jacket pocket. Richie was about eight years younger than me, a few summers removed of a business degree at the University in the north end. He was very much an odd-job kind of guy, picking up cash here and there to run errands for people. Most of his jobs involved driving and deliveries that were legal, but he was also an excellent creep, the kind of guy that could lurk around at night and watch people or things. And he always seemed to find himself in the right place at the right time, falling into high-paying gigs or cushy deliveries. To top it all off, the bastard was handsome and charming, and always got all the girls throwing themselves at him. It made me wonder why he worked for me, but I always figured that he just liked being an amateur spy. More often than not, he’d return from a job I sent him on with a camera filled with sex pictures - some very explicit, others not.
Fortunately for him and I, we always reached an understanding. He liked money, and I was willing to pay. Almost all of my payments to him were deferred to after the job was done, but he never seemed to mind.
In this case, I’d asked him to spy on Paul Golden. The residence that Paul lived in was just north of the city, a giant behemoth of a mansion that was like Fort Knox to get into. Richie exhumed that arrogant confidence that no lock could stop him, no wall could not be scaled, and no person could not be spied on. So, I barraged him with what I knew of Paul, rather than trying to reduce his already excessive self-confidence in his abilities.
After our chat, Richie guzzled his beer and took off, leaving me alone with half a pint. The waitress strolled back over to my table, making me realize I was literally the only one in the bar during the middle of the day.
“So, what is it that you two boys were talking about?” She asked, scooping up the empty glass across from me.
I took a sip. “Just business, dear. Always business with me.”
She gave me a sultry grin. “Oooh, a busy man, always on the go? What kind of work do you do?”
“I’m a spy,” I responded with a devilish grin on my face.
She laughed a deep laugh, pushing out her chest as she did. I took the moment to admire it, and the rest of her body. For a middle-aged woman, she didn’t look half-bad. “A spy? Like, for the CIA?”
Now it was my turn to laugh. “No. Even if I was, do you think I’d tell you?”
Her smile faded slightly. “Then what do you spy on? Animals?”
“People. Other people hire me to watch people.”
She gave me a blank look for a moment. “So, you’re a PI?”
Another person walked into the dingy place, and she turned her head to the person as he sat down at another booth. “Oh well, Mr. PI, looks like work calls.” She flashed another grin, and grabbed my now-empty glass before turning away. I looked down at the table, and noticed a receipt on the table. As I picked it up, I saw a number on it with her name beside it. I tucked the paper into my pocket and made my way for the door. “Bye, Karla,” I said to her as I hit the outside world, a spring in my step. It’d been awhile since a woman had come onto me.
However, I had to get my mind back on the task at hand. I drove back to my office, my old car rumbling under the street’s cracks and holes below it. I immediately picked up my phone and dialed Sarah.
“Hi Sarah, it’s Maxton. Can you come down to my office today? I’ve got to talk with you about a possible lead.”
Her voice just melted in my ear, reminding me of our first meeting together. “I won’t be available until later tonight. Can I come around 9 o’clock?”
“Absolutely. Although it might be easier just to meet at my place at that point. Is that okay with you?”
There was a hesitation in her voice. “I guess so. Would it be easier to talk tomorrow?”
“I suppose it could wait, but I’d rather not. You’ll want to hear what I have to say.”
Another hesitation. “Okay then. 9 o’clock. Where do you live?”
When I have no leads, I create my own.