In thirty-five plus years of life, I've been doing P.I. work for the last ten, seven of which in my own practice. The glamour of the job had worn off after the first domestic case. The woman who had hired me took the shocking news about her husband's infidelity out on me with the coffee cup she held in her hand. The scalding hot liquid had certainly burned the skin, while the stain from the horrid mud ruined my favorite gray sport coat, tarnishing my attempted G.Q. image. Her itemized bill not only included the cost of the jacket, but the shattered cup as well.
Getting out of the Mustang, I noticed him; the young lad sitting at the top of the stairwell. To describe him as a boy would have been unfair, though he wasn’t quite a man either. He appeared to be fifteen, possibly sixteen years old. As I approached, he rose to his feet, my detective eyes deducing that he stood about 5’7”, with around 150 pounds of solid athletic build. Dressed in faded blue jeans, LeBron James T-shirt and sneakers, the young African-American gave a cautious smile. He appeared to be a bit nervous.
"Good afternoon," I said cordially. "Waiting for someone?"
"Do you work here?" he asked.
"Do you need a trim?" I said, referring to my upstairs neighbor, the hair designer business which was closed on Sunday and Monday.
"No," he stated while pointing at the sign.
"Beautiful, wouldn’t you say?" I remarked. "Draws in the clients from miles around!" I wasn’t trying to be snarky—just my usual banter.
"Are you a private detective?" he stated with no conviction in his voice.
I found it difficult to believe he couldn't tell. My current appearance apparently didn’t present itself as tough enough for the line of work. Most people think we wear leather from head to toe—fedora, jacket, pants and boots. I wore an old brown leather jacket on my fit torso, which was all the cowhide I could afford besides my tennis shoes. Black denim jeans and a gray sweatshirt didn't ideally give me that macho tough guy look. With my sarcastic sense of humor, he probably thought I did standup comedy, which is a common mistake many folks made.
"When there's private detective work to do," I replied proudly.
"You look different than the actors on television." More disdain in his tone.
"Just don't tell my mother. She wanted me to be a doctor. I wore a stethoscope around my neck when she used to come to visit." Not even a smile crossed his face. The humor seemed lost on him.
"I hoped you’d be available to hire as I have a lost possession, I need your help locating."
I looked him over carefully. He seemed like a polite and sincere person. I was currently in between cases, which is normal if the truth be known. It wouldn't hurt to hear what he had to say. The possibility of making money always got my attention.
"Come on inside. You look cold without a jacket. It's warm out, but not that warm."
Down the steps to the lower half of the building took us to where I lived and conducted my business. The big-time detective agencies have large fancy buildings, with lobbies, elevators, and secretaries. My lobby was an outdated kitchen, though it was for the most part clean. I had a secretary for about two weeks once, an old girlfriend who helped me out. Unfortunately, she found out I slept with another woman and quit on me in a fit of fiery anger. For some reason she never used me as a reference. Today my only secretary turned out to be a fifty-dollar digital answering machine. It was always on time, polite to the customers, and couldn’t care less if you didn't feel like talking after intimacy. Though the black box certainly wouldn’t look or smell as lovely and it was hardly enticing to curl up with at night.
The little red light wasn’t flashing, which meant no one wanted my services. The LED would last forever, for it rarely blinked. Apparently, the snappy greeting scared people off before they spoke. A masterfully designed website would be cool, while my Yellow Pages advertisement should be larger than one line, but cost remained an obstacle. I could have politely turned the lad down. With nothing of importance going on today, I'd hear him out and see if he'd surprise me with the case of the century.
"I'm Jarvis Mann," I proclaimed. "Have a seat."
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