In case you want to find me live and in person, my offices are right on Route 192, below me an Indian restaurant, next door a shared wall with a place that rents machine guns to tourists who want to play Rambo. Of the two, the Indian restaurant is the one that is the most annoying; the smells that permeate the air are so enticing, and for a perpetual broke guy like me it is torture.
But the Walk Away case came in on my landline (I really do not know why I keep it except that it came with the office and I did not have the money to upgrade the system to something more modern). The voice on the phone was pure upper-class white woman, North Eastern US prep school and rich (I am really good with voices).
The whole conversation lasted about fifteen minutes, but the summary is this: Mrs. Rich Woman, also known as Mrs. Janet Armstrong from Connecticut, wanted to hire me to tail her husband and prove that he was cheating on her with some doll here in Orlando. A typical infidelity case; find the husband, catch him doing the horizontal mambo with his side piece, and I would be eating for a month.
Mrs. Armstrong was smarter, or at least more devious than most wanna be ex-wives who already had a divorce shyster. She had installed tracking software on her husband’s phone, and she was also the person who made all his travel arrangements. What I initially thought was going to take a couple of days was most likely only going to take a day at most, depending on his libido. Well, I remember what my mother used to say, ‘don’t count your fried eggs before they are on your plate’.
Have I told you before that my mother is a bit of free spirit and doesn’t really go along with convention?
But she sent me a link on my cell phone after I embarrassingly told her she was talking to me on a landline and gave me a password to track her husband’s cell phone.
The suspected Mr. Armstrong was staying at one of the convention resorts on Disney property, the Coronado, probably one of the biggest ones by my guess. So, I went home, got a pair of pressed chinos and a dress shirt (typical convention wear here in Florida), and headed for the resort. Parking was never a problem here, as most attendees to conventions are bused around and never bother with a rental car, so I was able to park my car close to the convention hall.
I pulled up Mr. Armstrong’s location on the app Mrs. Armstrong sent me and noted he was in a room. I walked by it hoping I could catch a glimpse of him, and if I was lucky with his lady friend. I met with no luck, but I did note that I could sit nearby on a bench and casually monitor his room, so I sat down for a long wait.
Mr. Armstrong was out in less then a half hour, dressed not for a convention like most other corporate drones, but in a Duck Tales t-shirt and cargo shorts. Okay, I thought, maybe he is going to meet his girl in a park, so I did what I was hired to do: follow him.
Eight hours later I returned home, hot, tired and sweaty. Mr. Armstrong had toured the Animal Kingdom park with a vengeance, and after passing thru the touch points he had headed into Guest Services, not wanting to tip him off that I was following him I hung back. Over the next couple of hours I figured out what he had done in Guest Services: he had paid for a service to give him Fast Passes to every major attraction in Animal Kingdom. Expedition Everest, Flights of Passage, and Kilimanjaro Safari (he did that one twice). I was able to keep my eyeballs on him at Festival of the Lion King and the Finding Nemo show. No one joined him the entire day. No cute girls, or guys (not that I would judge). He was alone throughout the entire day. From what I saw he never took a single call throughout the day. I had thought he was some big wall street guy, but I never knew them to not be on the phone from morning till night.
It was nightfall before he returned to his room. I could see he was dragging butt as much as me, so I figured he was not going to have company for the night. Being the diligent investigator I was though, I set myself up on the bench near his room for an hour afterward and made sure he did not leave again or have a visitor.
Nothing, nada, zilch. I did not believe anything would happen, but it was billable hours. The guy was slightly older than me and I had caught him napping a bit on the bus on the way back to Coronado Springs. I checked my notebook to make sure the receipt for the thirty-dollar t shirt I had bought in the park as camouflage was still there. That was going in my bill to Mrs. Armstrong as well. I headed out when I saw the lights go out in Mr. Armstrong’s room. I could still track his phone, so if he went out, I would know it.
I went home with the best of intentions to be back at it first thing in the morning. That did not happen.
Okay, I overslept. A bad habit I know, but I rationalized that it was okay. I still had the tracking app and I could pick him up whenever I chose.
Unfortunately, Mr. Armstrong was not as weak as I was. Over a rushed egg sandwich from a convenience store I saw Armstrong was on the move and had been for two hours. Damn, the guy had been at rope drop for Hollywood Studios! Now I would have to spot him, but I did not know what he was wearing. What I thought was going to be difficult turned out not to be; he was making a remote controlled toy in Galaxy Edge at Build a Droid, and I knew I would have no trouble tracking him the rest of the day, seeing as he was dressed like a rebel fighter pilot, orange jump suit and all. Then, after build a droid, he had the backpack holding a droid and a fancy new light saber strapped to his back. The rest of the day was spent similarly to the day before, rides, shows and attractions along with stops for popcorn, churros and Mickey shaped ice cream bars.
Armstrong was not attending the convention; he was on vacation. He never talked to anyone for very long, he never talked on his phone and he sure never met up with a lover. He was just a guy having a good time.
While he was in the Frozen Sing Along show, I sat outside the exit reviewing my notes. His wife said he had come down to Orlando six times in the last year. She said he stayed at a resort with a convention hall every time. I was beginning to wonder if something else was going on here besides an affair. I reread my notes from yesterday to see if I had missed something, when it occurred to me. When I had followed him into the Animal Kingdom yesterday, I was like five people behind him in line. But it was the Annual Passholder line, not the buy a ticket for a day, or even the buy a ticket for vacation line, but the Annual Passholder line. That was for people that had a serious thing for Disney, multiple times in the parks throughout the year. Or the rare instance like me, someone with a lifetime pass.
Interesting. A picture was beginning to form in my head, but it was interrupted by the crowd coming out of the Hyperion Theater. I looked at my watch as we headed toward the Tower of Terror. I thought he was heading towards either getting back on that ride or maybe the Rock N Roller Coaster, but I was wrong. My orange armed and legged prey was heading towards Fantasmic, a large stage shows with characters, projections, fireworks and music. I knew from experience if he was meeting someone they would most likely meet up outside the show, as finding anyone inside was problematic. I gave up at this point, knowing the park was going to close while the show was going on. I headed towards my car and parked at the nearby gas station where I could follow Armstrong via his phone app without having to fight the crowds. Over a Yoo-hoo and a Slim Jim, I watched Armstrong’s dot move from the amphitheater, to the bus loop, then via Disney bus back to the Coronado, where I was now waiting. The middle aged Padawan got off the bus as predicted and I tailed him back to his room.Within a half an hour the lights were out, and Armstrong was out as well. At least I hoped he was; this guy was in hardcore vacation mode and I did not think I had the energy to follow him anymore. Just watching him have all this fun was tiring me out.
Locals like me do not spend all day at the parks. We might spend a couple of hours, do what we want to do, ride what we want, eat at a specific restaurant watch a show, then go home. We are not crazy like this guy or pressed for time like most guests.
I was outside of his room bright and early the next morning. This time I was prepared for a day in the parks, with comfortable shoes, shorts, three t shirts and two hats in my bag to change my look, and numerous snacks. I was going to try and get up close and personal with him today; if he was in a boat at Pirates of the Caribbean I would get splashed with the same mock cannonball, and if he was flying on Soar ‘in at Epcot I would be the fool kicking my feet a few seats down from him.
But like everything in this case it was not going according to my plan. I kept his room under surveillance for two hours before he emerged and damn it if he was not wearing a beautifully tailored pin strip suit with highly shined shoes and a very professional leather binder with gold clasps.
I looked down at my tan cargo shorts and decided they just would not do for whatever Armstrong had planned for the day. Luckily my chinos were laying flat on the back seat of the car and were not too wrinkled. Maybe I could blend in wherever he was going. So, while he was eating a safe non dripping breakfast of coffee and toast, I ducked into the gift shop and bought a very expensive golf shirt, another receipt to add to my billable expenses.
Another curve; instead of stopping in the convention center and talking to his peers of high finance, the perfectly coiffed target walked out the front door and got a cab. I tailed him and he ended up at Casting. Casting is a building that on the outside is styled with an Alice in Wonderland theme with funny doorknobs to match, but inside it is pure Corporate Disney Personal, or Human Resources, or whatever the corporation lingo is for a hiring center.
As I parked my car in an adjacent lot, I wondered what this very high-priced stockbroker was doing walking into Disney. Surely if they were recruiting him, he would not be walking in like a schlub off the street looking for an hourly job. There would be recruiters involved, lunches over lobster, and meetings at the corporate headquarters, not Casting across from the Disney Employees Credit Union.
I took the plunge and walked into the building. I had lost sight of my quarry, but he was in here somewhere and I was curious about what he was doing. I was approached almost immediately by a smiling, seemingly overly happy intern with an armful of clipboards.
“Are you here for the job fair?” she asked in a bubbly manner.
“My buddy came in before me, about so tall, and wearing a real nice suit.” I said, acting like I was looking for someone, which I was.
“Oh, your friend went up the ramp to the job fair, are you going to that to?”
I nodded yes and she gave me a clipboard with a Disney pen attached.
“Okay just head up the ramp, fill out the form and hand it in at the podium.” she said, smiling in a way that I am sure if I had tried to return it would have hurt my face. Taking the clipboard from her hand I went up the ramp surrounded tastefully with Disney characters.
The room was full of people sitting in chairs working on the aforementioned clip boards, and the only seat was right next to the most professionally dressed guy in the room. You guessed it: Armstrong.
The next ten minutes were filled with silence while people were filling out the forms and looking on their phones. I looked over the form myself. It was an application for an hourly position in Disney Transportation, bus driver to be exact. I pretended to fill out my form, but I was covertly looking over at Armstrong’s. The man was filling it out with the intensity similar to that of a gambler studying racing forms when he is down to his last two bucks.
I put some nonsense on my own form, and followed Armstrong as he placed his clipboard on the podium before we resumed our seats. He did not take out his phone. In fact, he did not do anything to kill time as most people do in similar situations. He just calmly took in the room, the pictures on the wall, and the people still working on the forms. I took my phone out but did not really do anything with it but check the weather.
“Is it going to rain today?” Armstrong said, looking at my phone.
I laughed. “It’s Florida in the summer, it rains every day, if it doesn’t its news,” I said.
“Lived here long.”
“All my life,” I responded.
“Me, I want to move down here.”
I wanted him to talk, so I just responded. “Oh?”
“Yeah, tired of the rat race. I’m tired of going to a job I hate, to spend time with people I hate, to make money for reasons I lost track of.”
I decided to go for the subtle interrogation route. “Your wife tired of it all too?” I said, motioning towards the ring on his finger.
“No, she loves it all, the country club life, the shopping for things she really does not need, the whole thing.”
“Sounds like you two have a difference of opinion on what life is about.”
“I’ll say,” he said. Then he paused for a few minutes as we both watched people move around the room turning in their clipboards and getting called in for interviews. “If I get this job here today do you know the first person I am going to call?”
“Your wife?” I guessed, not believing that was the answer.
He chuckled. “No but it is about her. I am going to call my lawyer and have him execute some instructions I gave him. He will start divorce proceedings, giving almost everything to my ex-wife, my cars, my savings, the house almost everything. I keep a small bit to be comfortable, move into a nice condo down here and drive a bus for Disney and not worry about the stock market, or whether or not I can get the next biggest corner office on the higher floor. I am going to walk away from it all and as Thoreau said, ‘Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.’
I was about to say something sarcastic I guess but I did not get a chance, because just as he finished his statement his name was called and he stood, turned to me and said, ‘good luck’.
I sat there confused for a few minutes unsure what to do. That is when the name I put on the clipboard was called. “Leo Grant, Leo David Grant.” That was my cue to leave I did not have the ID or the inclination to apply for a job as Leo Grant or anyone else for that matter.
I waited outside in my non air-conditioned car to see if Armstrong came out and if I could read on his face how it had gone. I did not have long to wait, as an hour later he came out with a big sappy smile on his face. I even overheard him on his phone talking to his lawyer telling him to put the plan into effect.
I reported my findings to Mrs. Armstrong the next day. I was too late; she had been served the divorce paperwork the previous night, along with the deed to the house, the title to the BMW, the Lexus, and the Land Rover. She informed me she would not be needing my services any longer and then promptly hung up on me.
A month later I got my bill returned from Mrs. Armstrong for the third time. I knew she was never going to pay me. I did get some satisfaction on the case though; I rode a Disney bus later that week and I had the happiest bus driver on property, a former stockbroker, now with a simple name tag that said, ‘Charlie’.
Other Miles Mitchell Mysteries: