I had a request that I continue my series of chapters from one of my older books. The name of that book is "D Is For Doxy" and features my detective Steve Randall. This manuscript has not been published anywhere else, so please enjoy!
I had just bit into an extra-juicy Rueben sandwich, with cottage fries on the side, when the door to my office popped open. I wasn’t expecting anyone, at least not during my lunch. The woman that walked into my sanctum sanctorum had the look of client written all over her. But, that wasn’t the only thing I saw. I sat my sandwich back down and wrapped it up because she also had the look of a nasty divorce case and those always take too much time. So much for lunch.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against a good divorce once in a while. When the client has some dough, that is. But, usually, they don’t. And here lately, a lot of my cases had been the plodding, messy mix-ups that ordinary folks working for ordinary wages seem to have a lot of. I get called in to get the lowdown on the other spouse, get in, get out, and hopefully pick up enough bucks to keep two steps ahead of the finance company. It looked like I might make it this month. I refocused my attention from my Rueben to the woman.
“Excuse me,” she started, “are you the private investigator, Steve Randall?”
“Yes, ma’am, I certainly am. One hundred percent all me. Won’t you sit down?” I indicated the lone chair in front of my desk.
As she sat down, I took a quick opportunity to look her over. You can’t say enough about your powers of observation when you’re in the line of work I am, and so, I always make the most of my eyes. She was about five feet five or six inches tall and it seemed a lot of it was leg. Not that that’s all I noticed. She had fairly short black hair; round, full lips; a small nose and a healthy constitution, which caused her chest to heave with every breath she took. See, I told you that wasn’t all I observed. She had a round box-like hat perched on the top of her head that matched the color of her dress – maraschino cherry red. The same color she chose for lipstick. She wore black high heeled shoes and perfect fishnet stockings, also of black. And the seam was perfectly straight. I noticed that when she came in. She straightened her dress, sat her purse down and began her story.
“Now, you’re totally confidential, I trust?”
“Completely. Anything you say in this room, stays here.”
“Good, I thought as much, but I had to ask.”
“No problem. Confidentiality is one of the services you get when you hire me.”
“I suppose you’ve handled many different types of problems before?”
“Ma’am, I’ll be frank with you. I’ve been all up and down the steamier side of life, and nothing you could say to me would shock me. So, why don’t you just tell me what it is you need.”
“Well, I suppose.... oh, very well. I know my husband has been cheating on me. And I want you to get some proof of it.”
I nodded my head. “That’s certainly to the point, all right. Now, who exactly do you suspect? Is it anyone in particular?”
“I don’t suspect anyone. I know. It’s that shapely brunette he calls his secretary.”
“I see. You’re fairly certain about this?”
“I should be. I’ve been married to him for nine years.”
“What gives you the idea that he’s seeing her?”
“He never used to work this late before and when he finally does get home, usually after midnight, he’s too tired for me. I can tell you this, if you were a woman, you’d know.”
“Ah, I suppose I see your point. How long has this been going on?”
“At least a month, for all I know.”
“You would know,” I mumbled under my breath.
“What did you say?” she asked.
“I said, you’d be the one to know. You’re closest to him.”
“The next thing I need to know, is how do you go about these things?”
“Well, you have to tell me where he works, your address and maybe some places he likes to hang out, when he’s not at home. I’ll check around and see where he likes to spend his time. It’s only a matter of time, then, until I catch him spending it with the brunette.... uh, his secretary. That’s how I usually work these kinds of cases.”
“Whatever, that’s your affair. How much do you charge?”
“I get seventy-five dollars a day, and expenses.”
“That certainly is a lot.... how many days will it take you?”
“Now, there, I can’t say. But, I will tell you that I won’t be working on your case everyday. There’s only so much you can do at a time. And I’ll only charge you for the time I’m actually on your case. Usually, about a month, month and a half and I’ve found out the person’s habits. Sometimes sooner, if I’m lucky. All in all, it probably won’t be over five, six, or seven hundred dollars. Approximately.”
“Oh, well, if that’s all, it’s worth it. He works at a pretty big place downtown and I will of course have to have quite a bit to live on when it’s over with. Okay, do whatever it takes. Here’s some money toward my account.”
She pulled a couple bills out of her purse and placed them on my desktop – two fifties, a twenty and a five. I let them lay there while I came around to walk her out.
“If you’ll just write out his name and any pertinent addresses for me....”
I waited beside her while she did. When she had finished, she took the slip of paper, now filled with writing and laid it on top of the money. Then, she stood up. I saw her to the door.
“Oh, ma’am, I failed to ask you your name.” I looked expectantly at her eyes.
“It’s Celeste. Celeste Baker. Baker is my husband’s name.”
“I’ll keep you informed as I make progress. Can I find you in the book?”
“Yes, but only call at day. I don’t want my husband finding out, you know.”
“Farewell, Mr. Randall.”
I watched her exit my office in a flurry. Whew! Now there was a piece of goods. I don’t think I’d ever want to be her husband and make her mad at me, though. There was no telling what a woman like her was capable of.
I came back to my desk and sat down. I counted the money for good measure, and slid it in my pocket. I might as well finish my cold sandwich and see what I could find out about Mr. Baker.
Later that afternoon, I drove by the address where their house was located and by his place of work several times just to get acquainted with the surroundings. It shouldn’t take me very long to find some sort of pattern to his peccadilloes. And from that point, it was a short hop to catch him in the company of his secretary. Too bad Mrs. Baker didn’t have a photograph of her.
After an hour and a half behind the wheel of my sedan, I stopped off at Louie’s, a bar I hang out at in my neighborhood. It was still pretty sparsely populated, so I sat at the bar and ordered a single scotch. Louie kept my preferred brand in his stock as a favor. Sometimes, I could just kiss him.
After I got my glass, I decided to start watching Mr. Baker tonight. So, I downed my drink, paid for it and got out of there. I got some sandwiches and coffee on the run and then parked near his office so I could see him if he came out. I looked at my watch. It was almost five o’clock. I settled in for a potentially long wait.
I was hungry, so I decided to eat one of the ham sandwiches I had brought. But, before I could get it the rest of the way unwrapped, I saw a man come out of the building. From the picture Mrs. Baker had shown me, I recognized the man to be her husband. He came out alone and walked to the side of the building to a parking lot. He got in a two-tone late model sedan and pulled it onto the street. I let him get a half block lead, and then I nudged out behind him.
I followed him for a couple of blocks before I realized he was going home. True to form, he drove straight there, and I went by slowly as he got out and went in. He didn’t notice me. Most likely, he wouldn’t be going out again, so I might as well call it quits for the night. I went around the block and drove back to my office. There would always be tomorrow night.
I spent the next morning paying visits to the finance company and my bank. The hundred and twenty-five bucks didn’t last very long. After that, I was in the neighborhood of my newest case, so I waited for Mr. Baker to go to lunch. If he went out, that is. He did, but was alone, so I didn’t get any further along on the case. It didn’t really bother me much, because I knew these things sometime take awhile to develop. Mrs. Baker might not like it, but I didn’t have to report to her everyday.
I stationed myself by his office again about quitting time, and waited for him to reappear. This time, the surveillance was much longer. He must’ve been working late, because he didn’t come out until 10.30. I didn’t see anyone else come out with him, so I wondered if there was a back exit or if Mrs. Baker had an overactive imagination.
Sooner or later, I’d find out one or the other.