Genre: Fantasy, Humor, Detective
Type of Short Story: Novella
Summary: Nick Flebber, a PI with a knack for landing unusual cases, gets hired to follow a husband suspected of cheating. Instead of finding a mistress, he winds up dealing with corporate espionage, street crazies and very illegal aliens.
Frankly, business had suffered an uptick as of late; I had just finished up the DesRoches affair. Man claimed someone had stolen his wife’s identity. Wanted me to find that person and stop her. Found her and brought her in. Mr. Desroches decides she makes a better Mrs. DesRoches than his wife, so they ran off together. He actually skipped out on me but I still had his Social Security number and bank information, so I just wired myself my fee.
Then there was the Cariello business. A movie studio called me in to track down some internet troll called “The Spoiler.” Kept posting reports on their latest movies to the web and giving away the endings. Was really cutting into their receipts. Had to do a lot of leg work and check a lot of mothers’ basements before I found him and presented him with a “Cease & Desist” knuckle sandwich. Heard he’s now pushing language courses online, offering studies in Nigerian to better communicate with spammers. This is the kind of work I do. My name’s Nick Flebber and I’m a private eye.
Things were getting busy and I lost a lot of my “me time.” Since your more upscale (read “successful” and/or “reputable”) private investigator firms have a “staff” of “employees” who keep an eye on “things” while the detectives went out and detected stuff, it was decided I had to go and hire myself a secretary what doubled as a receptionist and visa-versa.
Yeah, yeah, it’s not what you think. Now that I was in a mainly monogamous match-up, I wasn’t about to hire some professional party girl. Not with my dear Sandra Claus and her uncanny ability to know when I’m sleeping and know when I’m awake. Not to mention that whole naughty/nice paradigm. She gets that from her dad, a Christmas icon whom I met on a case not so long ago. Yeah, I managed to rescue him from a crazed retailer. Got me in good with the lassie. Sandra’s a wonderful gal but she still lives with her folks up north. But she’s a wonderful gal. So there would be no femme fatales lurking about on her watch. Anyway, that’s what Sandra told me on her last visit down.
“How many people applied for the job, Nick?” Sandra asked.
“A lot more than I thought would.” I knew times were tough, but I didn’t think they were so tough that people were looking to hook up with a one-horse detective agency.
Sandra worked her way through a pile of resumes and cover letters. “Why do some of these include head shots?”
“I think I posted the job on the wrong Craig’s List. Some of them might think it’s an audition for an acting job.”
“That might explain why this resume says she’s willing to work au naturale.”
“It might be.”
Sandra began gathering her stuff together. “I have to get going, Nick, or I’m going to miss the 5:20 sleigh.”
“You brought the sleigh??”
She gave me a hug and a peck on the cheek. “For a hard-boiled P.I. you are so gullible. No, I didn’t take the sleigh. But I have to get back. Now then, you have that list of names?”
I nodded. Again.
“Good. Vader needs them checked.”
“Who calls him that? Luke Skywalker?”
“South Africans. As I was saying regarding the list; apparently there are a couple of border line cases and he’s trying to cut back on the coal. You know, improve his carbon footprint.”
“I’ll check ‘em. Twice.”
“As per usual,” she smiled back.
We both had our jobs to do: Her back home, me down in the states. Talk about your long distance relationships. I did miss her (and frankly, I still couldn’t fully comprehend our relationship: she’s a Scandinavian sweetie, and I’m a rough-hewn mug who resembles an extra in an old Warner Bros. gangster movie), but there were a lot of people that needed my help here. Not to mention that the Big Guy liked having a pair of boots on the ground points south. We shared one last kiss and she headed out.
A nanosecond later I heard voices in the small reception area I was preparing. Peeking out, I saw that a woman had entered. The term that leapt to mind was “hausfrau” as I was in a rather continental mood. Not exactly the type you normally found in this part of town. She had timidly approached Sandra, clutching her cloth coat to her neck and keeping her pocketbook tight in her armpit. She looked out of place and out of sorts.
“May I help you?” Sandra asked her.
“I need to hire a private investigator. Are you a private investigator?”
Even I could make out the lines of worry etch-a-sketched across her brow. “Not I, but we have one. A very good one. He’s in his office,” Sandra responded. “Is everything all right?”
That’s when the woman started weeping. “I don’t know. That’s why I need to talk to a private investigator.”
Sandra turned and called, “Nick!”
I was out before she could finish the syllable.
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