“Thanks, Paul.” Jack exhaled slowly, and rubbed his temple, non-existent wrinkles on his face slowly coming into being. Not that Jack minded too much. He was finally starting to look like he was in his late twenties. At some point though, the stress was going to stop beneficially aging him and just make him look worn out.
He could not remember the last full night of sleep he had gotten. Between the office and the house, bills were starting to pile up. At this point, he was grasping at straws to survive. He nodded, scanned the paper, and replied, “Thanks for the heads up, I’ll have to look into that...I know,” he lifted his feet onto the desk. A late electric bill slipped on to the floor. The lights were still on, so he let the slip of paper lay there.
“That is exactly what I said. Killer instinct, you know...and yeah, I love the app. I’m thinking of upgrading to the gold plan...Yeah, trying to diversify my portfolio.” Day-trading was his new grand scheme. Someway, somehow, he was going to ride this out and come up on top. Even if his checking account held a big fat zero. He flipped the page, nodded again thoughtfully. “Yeah, thanks man. Talk to you soon.”
The hollow laminate door swung open with a bang. The dent from the handle was getting bigger from all the abrupt entries. One more thing that needs money and attention. Jack was stretched thin as it was. He had picked up some useful skills working for his Alma Mater in the maintenance department. But now it wasn’t just about saving money on labor--he couldn’t afford the parts or material anymore. The office was starting to get a decrepit look that was bound to be a turn-off for potential clients.
“Yes, Pete?” Jack looked up, cigar in mouth, grey eyes full of attention. He must have been waiting in the hall for the phone call to end. This better be something good. I could use some good news for once, Jack thought, disappointed about his conversation with Paul. Pete drummed on the door frame excitedly. Since his divorce with Carla started, he had come to live with Jack. That was almost a year ago. Now he was Jack’s business associate.
At least, that was how Jack introduced him. He was really more of a glorified secretary. Without the pay. He lived for free at Jack’s place and helped with handyman work. But he loved the job. Pete was a perfect fit, as an extrovert, and a great counterbalance to Jack. Right now he wore his signature goofy grin on his face.
“We have a client.” His voice went up at the end and his eyebrows followed. So did Jack’s. Now all of him was full of attention, from his questioning eyebrows to his mouth with lips parted, open enough for a cigar to slide right out. It landed on his desk, but not before depositing ash everywhere on the journey down.
It had been almost six months from the end of of last case, and that one didn’t pay very well. His last major case was over a year ago. He had been asked to help find a local runaway. Missing person cases were his specialty, but he dabbled in everything as a way to make ends meet. Over five years in the industry, and his last few cases were petty theft and one paranoid wife. The paranoia wasn’t misplaced, but the pay was a major downgrade for Jack. Private investigations didn’t pay as well as the overload cases the police passed on to them. If it was big enough to go to the police, it often had a handsome reward tied to it. People kept cases on the down-low if they were involved in shady activities. Jack could have made a killing on blackmail, but that’s also how you wind up with a target on your back.
“What?” He asked as he absentmindedly brushed at the ash on his shirt.
“She just called in and is coming by in about an hour.” Pete stood with his hands on his hips, proud to be the bearer of such good tidings. They hadn’t had a client in weeks, and the Lakewood Police Department had slowed the stream of cases that came to them. Jack wasn’t sure if that was because they were getting a handle on criminal activities or if they were tightening up their protocols.
“What did she want?” asked Jack. His mind raced with possible case details. It must be big, for her to come in right away. Murder? Kidnapping? Something that would put them back on the map. Pete brought his thoughts crashing back into reality.
“Something about a ring that was stolen two months ago.” Jack’s chest deflated. Of course, the ring could be something special, family heirloom maybe. But maybe not big enough to land them the steady stream of clients they needed.
“Two months! Why would they wait so long? The culprit probably pawned it and is in Mexico by now!” His outburst was mostly due to the cold case. Who cares what the culprit did with the ring. Their chances of finding it looked slim from the outset.
Pete looked at Jack the way older siblings look at younger siblings. “I’ll bite. Why Mexico?”
“True. Well, they had an emergency and called 911, I guess.”
“Rookie mistake.” Jack cleared a spot on his desk and put a blank yellow legal pad and a brand new pen there. “Can you get the file from Kevin?” Kevin was the local officer who had been on the case with Jack involving Denver’s Russian mafia a few years ago, and was usually good about helping him out when protocol would let him.
“Already called, he’s bringing it by on his lunch break. Seemed relieved, too.”
“Is that all?” Jack rubbed his open hand from his hairline to his temples and let it rest there. Pete had been a big help, and he hadn’t meant to use that tone with him. It wasn’t Pete’s fault that Jack’s stars were unlucky.
“All for now.” Pete sat on the edge of the desk. “So, what did Paul want?”
“Just to let me know that now is the time to buy stocks in Google. They just doubled, and he thinks they will only go up from here, which is, incidentally, the same thing I told him last week when I was thinking about buying stock. I wanted to wait and see what the market would do, and should have just gone for it. Now he is trying to pressure me into committing today. What do you think?”
“I don’t see them leaving the scene anytime soon, so if I were you, I’d go for it. Plus, with them listening to your calls, reading your emails, and tracing your searches, you might want to be on their good side when they take over the world.” Pete said with a wink. “It is inevitable. I’ll show her in when she gets here”
Jack shook his head. “Thanks, Pete. Look over the file when Kevin brings it, will you?”
“Sure thing, bro.”
The door closed with a thud, and Jack could hear Pete whistling down the hall. He eyed his phone suspiciously and went back to researching market trends.
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