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Sometimes that’s all you can ask for


CRAZY DEADLY COOL, continued...

“Let’s go.” He said to the girl without looking at her. He glared at me, giving me those cold, dumb eyes. Letting me know he was a mean dude, that he was choosing this, and that me and my gun had nothing to do with this. Letting me know that if he got the chance, he’d show me who was boss. He backed up half a dozen steps out of the parking lamps before turning and walking away. I don’t think I ever look that cool when I run away.

“You got yourself a real winner there, Caitlyn. Maybe you ought to reevaluate before you get yourself into real trouble. A pretty girl like you can do better than that.” I had a bad feeling they were going to get themselves into trouble tonight, maybe every night from now on. “You need a lift home?”

The girl stood there watching me for a moment, her eyes cool but not without interest. She did a three-point look. A glance at the car. A quick check to see if Shawn was waiting, he wasn’t. Then back to me. Weighing the situation or just curious, I wasn’t sure.

“Nah, I’m good. Later, mister.” 

Then she turned and went after her date. She glanced back at me once and I gave her a wink. I got a smile in return. You can’t save all the people all the time, but if you try you can save some of the people some of the time. Just not this time.

Carver stepped around the corner and said, “Oh, this must be that new toy of yours. Very nice.” He ran a hand across the fender admiringly. I let him soak it up. “This is real nice Josh, real nice. Too bad it’s all wasted on somebody like you. A hardworking, family man like me would really appreciate this.”

“You drive a 25-year-old pick-up and won’t even drive your wife’s new SUV to the store. You’ll understand how I might doubt your appreciation being greater than my own.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean me. I’d look like an idiot in your orange hotrod. I’m not ready for a midlife crisis yet. Besides, I’d get a Mustang convertible,” he popped the door open and took a seat. “So, what was that all about.”

If I knew Carver, and I was pretty sure I did, he’d probably been around the corner watching that whole scene. Gauging the dynamic. Ready to step in with badge and gun if things went wrong. Of course, he’d also have waited until I’d taken a few hard hits, just to make sure I fully appreciated his help. There’s nothing better than watching a buddy get smacked in the mouth for being cocky. I felt like I had handled things, wish I hadn’t flashed the gun, but it was an effective short cut.

“Just a couple of hoodlums out making mischief. If you hurry, you can probably get your antenna back.”

Carver looked from me to his truck, saw the missing antenna, swore, and jumped up to see where the vandals had gone. Probably ducked into an alley or scampered around a corner, because they were nowhere to be seen. He swore again and slapped the side of his truck hard. That had to hurt and couldn’t be good for his serve. I patted him on the shoulder, tough break big guy, and slid into my new car.

“Somebody ought to do something about the crime in this city.”


FOUR


Erin Upheim had given me a nice summary of her husband’s life. Job, car, the works. Everything the internet told her I’d be asking for. The internet is a wonderful tool and one that you’d think would make my job easier. In many ways it does, but in this case, I’ve still got to check everything out and confirm everything she told me. It’d be a bad thing if I took her at her word and it turned out that she’d given my bad information. Might make me look like a hack investigator, or worse.

I pulled a file folder out of my desk and wrote ‘Upheim’ on the tab. Into it I placed the client agreement. I took the envelope that Mrs. Upheim had given me and pulled from it a single sheet of paper containing a summation of her husband’s life in a crisp Ariel font that you only get from a laser printer. A nice bullet pointed list.

Geoffrey Upheim worked at the law firm of Fritsch Upheim Leiser and Rexroat right here in downtown Jacksonville. It didn’t say as much, but I felt it was a fairly safe assumption that he was the Upheim in their namesake, so he was most likely a lawyer and a partner. It was a firm I wasn’t familiar with, but there are a lot of those. I’d check that out later.

The happy couple lived in Avondale, an area southwest of downtown that bordered the river and is known for its historic nature, quiet tree-lined streets, and quaint homes. Not the grandest of Jacksonville’s neighborhoods but solidly upper middleclass. So they were doing alright for themselves.

I pulled my laptop out of my bag and put Geoffrey’s addresses, both work and home, into Google Maps. His office was only three blocks from me, and their home was only six blocks or so from the river and looked like it backed up to Boone Park. I saved both addresses for future navigation.

The Upheim’s had three cars, a two year old silver BMW 328 that Mrs. Upheim had mentioned was driven by her husband, a green 1971 MGB with a vanity plate, T0PLE55. I thought it was a clever plate for a convertible and certainly made more sense than most of them, but I was a little surprised that the state had let that one pass. The also had a charcoal grey Cadillac SRX, which I thought was an SUV. The last must be the chariot of my client.

I spent a few minutes thinking about the vehicles and what that said about these people. A Cadillac, a BMW, and a vintage roadster. Probably, the first two were leased so they could turn them over every couple years and keep up with the neighbors. I was curious about the MG, was it a project car or was it bought restored? Either way, it spoke to me of memories of somebody’s first car. His or hers? I’d have to ask.

In addition to the addresses and the vehicles she had included a short list of places that her husband frequented for lunch. There wasn’t a fast food restaurant on the list. It was all sit-down places that would serve you a drink and leave you alone to do business. Let’s call them, client friendly. None of them were far from the office. Two bars, a country club, and a gym rounded out the list.

Neither of the bars were dives I recognized. A couple minutes on the internet and I decided that I would put them in the client friendly category along with the restaurants. I had looked into his gym a few years back and decided that it was too rich for my blood. The country club was for golf, these guys all love golf. Nothing quite like chasing a little white ball around. Also, client friendly.

That MG was the only thing here that didn’t strike me as work related.

Erin Upheim had included a summary of her husband’s routine. It looked like it matched up with everything else on the list. Boring. Gym first thing, then to the office, lunch break which sometimes turned into golf, back to the office, bar a couple nights a week, and more golf on the weekend. I know it’s not original, but if this guy wasn’t screwing his secretary, I’d eat my hat.

I glanced at the coat rack, yellow fedora, Detroit Tigers ballcap, cape and cowl of The Batman, blue, not black. I did not want to eat any of those. I know, it’s corny, but I like what I like. Besides, it gets people talking. They let down their guards a little bit at the absurdity of the whole thing, the office, the props, the secret door. Sometimes it backfires on me, but mostly I can tell who gets an appointment here and who gets to sit in the stale lifeless office next door. 

A lot of our work comes in over the phone. By the time they see this place, I’ve already wowed them with my detecting, or they’re intimidated enough by Lucy that they’re just happy to be dealing with me. She’s good. Very good. Also, a bit more intense that you should be in the customer service industry. 

I peeked out to see if she was back yet. Nope. I was safe. It felt too late for lunch and too early to call it a day. I checked Upheim’s schedule and decided to take care of some other business and then head out and follow him around after work. The lady had already paid, I might just as well get started.

---//---

I was parked at the curb half a block from the Upheim house writing down a few observations and finishing off my value meal when the lady of the house pulled in the driveway and then into the garage. I put the Camry in gear and eased a bit closer.

The office stuff hadn’t taken as long as expected. Phone calls made, reports written, still no Lucy, and I had two more of those mysterious phone calls. I decided that enough was enough, finished up the invoice I was typing, turned on the answering machine, and got myself out of the office. Which gave me plenty of time to grab some food and swing by to have a look at the Upheim estate.

It wasn’t much of an estate. A big house on a big lot in a small neighborhood. The realtor would describe it as exclusive. I would agree. Not gated community exclusive, but pretty nice. Which confirmed that the Upheim’s were doing well for themselves.


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