I was in my office, leaning back in my chair shooting wads of paper at my wastebasket contemplating my choices of taking a nap or if I should switch over to wasting paper with aeronautical endeavors, aka paper airplanes.
My life can be so stressful sometimes.
My parchment predicament was put off by a knock on the door. Not having a gorgeous blonde secretary or even a front desk to seat her at I simply yelled. “It’s open.”
I watched the lady enter sizing her up out of habit, in her fifties, economically well off, some sort of professional’s wife, but clearly on vacation right now and a big Disney fan from her clothing, she was not wearing ears of anything but the clothing was right out of Bay View Gifts, expensive but very Disney right down to the handbag.
“Are you Miles Mitchell?”
“Yes I am.”
“You are the private detective that specializes in case at Walt Di”
I held up my hand and interrupted her. “I handle all types of cases, all over the Greater Orlando area.”
“Oh, I see.” She said a bit confused and unsure of where to go now. I motioned for her to seat in the chair across my desk.
“Now what can I do to assist you Mrs.?” I said noticing the wedding ring next to the large diamond ring next to it. The wedding ring was old the diamond ring new, I was guessing a thirty-year anniversary present.
“Mrs. Shultz, Sharon Shultz. Well it’s my husband.”
I opened my big fat mouth sticking my size ten and half’s in up to the laces. “You think that he is having an affair.”
An angry glare crossed her face and I immediately knew I was being stupid. “Oh no not anything like that, Howard would never.”
I mumbled out an apology then motioned for her to continue. Mrs. Shultz did so, her annoyance fading quickly. “My husband is a good man, a loving man, we share so many interests, but unfortunately he does not share my one of my biggest, Disney.”
I nodded thoughtfully.
“Howard has been a great provider, so much that we are DVC members and have been for about seven years.”
I nodded again showing I understood. Disney Vacation Club, or DVC as it is commonly called, is a time share. You own part of a Disney hotel and can vacation in it once a year, that is the simple version.
Mrs. Shultz was warming up now and I let her go with just the occasional nod from me. “Howard has come on most every trip, with me and the children, and even after the children were gone he paid for my twin sister and I to visit,” there was a brief moment of sadness that crossed her face at this. “Howard has attended all the shows and backstage tours with me. He never complains, he never says no, he even in his own way enjoys it to a degree. Although he takes a lot of naps and reads a lot by the pool when I am off trading pins.”
“He sounds like a real good guy.”
“He is.” Sharon Shultz said. “A wonderful man, a good father and a great husband, thru good times and bad.” The bit of a sadness came back again but it passed quickly.
“So why do you want to hire me? Most people only hire a private investigator when there is a problem.” I asked while leaning back in my chair steepling my hands.
“Well I had an idea, it came to me as I was helping Howard download his books onto his new Kindle, he reads spy novels, Vince Flynn, Robert Ludlum, Brad Thor. He is a voracious reader, sometimes on a vacation he will read two or three of them.
“Okay?” I said questioningly.
“I would like you, to set it up so he could experience a spy story on Disney property.”
I nodded and thought about it. Disney did not care that I worked on property, I never interfered with their business and as far as I could tell they never interfered with mine. They allowed unofficial scavenger hunts if they were not disruptive and what Mrs. Shultz was asking would not be disruptive except maybe to Howard’s reading schedule.
“Would Howard like that kind of thing?”
“I don’t see why not; he loves going to escape rooms and we have been to several dinner party murder mysteries we even hosted one in our house.”
I nodded, it sounded like Howard might enjoy this. “Okay I think we might be able to work something out.” For the next two hours we worked out the major plot points, Mrs. Shultz paid for my next 10 days without batting an eye. I told her there might be a few extra expenses due to me having to compensate some other people for their time and she approved a figure I could spend, billing her later. Mrs. Shultz left happy, I was left with a lot of work to do and a lot of meetings to set up with errands to run. Hopefully, some of my buddies would help me out.
The next day I was hanging out in the lobby of the Boardwalk Resort sitting on a couch waiting for my client and her husband. Normally when doing surveillance, the acquisition of the target is the hardest part, you may know where they live but you don’t know when they are leaving or which direction they will go once they leave. Then you are never quite sure you have the right person, the target as it is, unless you have a darn good picture, a solid description and a unhindered view of them in five seconds before they climb into their car and drive away.
But not this time, I had a great series of photographs of Mr. Shultz, and thanks to his wife I knew exactly where and when he would be so I could start tailing him. Heck thanks to Mrs. Shultz I knew where he would be for all meals for the next ten days. These first two days of the little game we had set up was about setting the tone. The tone was to make him notice me, getting him in the mood for playing a spy.
There was no way he was going to miss me, I was wearing the loudest Hawaiian shirt I could find, bright pink with neon green flowers and aqua blue leaves. I was also wearing a Detroit Tigers hat. Mr. Shultz’s favorite team according to the misses. To complete my ensemble, I wore the typical tan cargo shorts and athletic walking shoes. I wanted Howard to notice me, multiple times throughout the day and in those clothes, it would be hard to miss me.
The plan was working just as I planned Howard noticed my ball cap, most people look for things they like, he liked the Tigers so he would most likely see the hat.
I had done my research on the Shultz’s and Howard in particular. The man was an insurance salesman, and not the typical sell you the Car, Home and Life. Howard sold insurance policies on businesses, so if your business burned down, Howard’s company would pay. But Howard did not even sell to businesses directly he sold bundled packages to banks who insisted whoever took a loan out have some sort of insurance on their property. I fell asleep three times trying to understand his business. I did not expect Howard to be the most observant person on the planet. But two days of following him in this outrageous shirt I was sure he would notice me at least once or twice.
The plan was when he mentioned the strange man in the loud shirt seemed to be following him to his wife, she would let him know about the spy mystery he was part of and then we could get into the plan of counter surveillance, dead drops and mysterious meetings with clandestine figures. These first two days were meant to make him get into the idea before he knew there was a game to be played.
The first day I held back, never closer than fifty yards, sometimes I would be waiting in the vicinity of the exit of a show or shop. The next day I moved in closer, sometimes I would be leaving a restaurant when they were coming in or across the way in a store when he was browsing, and on the afternoon of the second day I was directly across from him at the pool so when he looked up from his book there I would be.
It was kind of fun. Normally I try not to be seen when doing surveillance, now I was trying to be noticed, just not too much, it was a nice change of pace.
It was on this second day of pseudo surveillance that I noticed something, or more importantly, someone. Mrs. Shultz had walked Howard down to the pool and kissed him before leaving to do some shopping and I had noticed a woman, wearing muted colors standing near the gate of the pool. She was not coming in or waiting for someone, she looked like someone who was tailing someone. When Mrs. Shultz came back after several hours there was the same woman, neither coming nor going, just sort of in the area.
When Mrs. Shultz came back it was my cue to leave. Howard had definitely noted me, I caught him staring at me several times, I could see he had questions about me but like most sane people he could not bring himself to think he was being followed in addition most people are too polite to just come over to ask me a perfect stranger a the question, “Are you following me.” Mostly because they also do not want to be perceived as being a nut.
I knew my mission was complete because as soon as I walked by him and his wife sat down, I heard the phrase I knew was coming. “Did you see that guy that just walked by?”
I turned the corner out of view and took off the stupid shirt, fished out a plain t shirt, another pair of sunglasses this time with red frames and mirrored lenses out of my bag. I left by a back gate and circled around the pool out of sight. I had some time to kill before the next step in the spy show was set in motion and I was a little curious about the woman who seemed to be following Mrs. Shultz. I kicked my surveillance mode into covert gear and began watching the muted tone lady.
She was watching someone in the pool, I even figured out from her angle of observation it was someone on the same side of the pool as the Shultz’s. Luckily, I knew where the happy couple were eating at tonight, so I pulled back and waited and watched.
Right on time, the lovely couple left their room and strolled to the Katsura Grill, in the Japanese pavilion in Epcot. I hung back, not keeping the couple in view I wanted to see if the lady in muted tones was tailing them. I did not have long to wait, the lady in muted tones came along keeping them in view and she was joined by a tall young man who while too old to be her son, was too young to be a romantic partner. I watched them, they hung back enough, and I did not see any communication devices, so they were not working with anyone else. They passed thru Disney Security with no hold ups, so they were not carrying any weapons which is good to know. Then they planted themselves outside the Japanese restaurant. Meanwhile I had gotten a text from Mrs. Shultz to start phase 2 of our little drama for her husband. The envelope.
I gave the plain large envelop to the maître-de and asked him to give it to Howard. Inside the envelope were detailed instructions for a covert meeting with one of my friends at the lighthouse across from the Boardwalk at precisely twenty-two hundred hours tonight. I added the military time for realism and I even threw in a sign and countersign phase for a Cold War feel just like in the movies. There my friend would hand him a briefcase full of more of the story we had set up for him, including clues as to who and where to deliver the briefcase to the next day.
But now I had a new wrinkle in the story. Who were these people and why did they seem to be conducting surveillance on this nice couple from Louisiana?
I got a text from Mrs. Shultz, Howard loved it. I watched the two watching the door and when the couple left the restaurant, they followed them, this time closer as it was getting darker and the crowds were getting heavier due to the firework show coming up. When Howard left Sharon to go to his meeting with my friend, I knew then that they were not following Howard but Sharon. I was not needed for the meeting with Howard, but now I wanted to know why someone was following my client, a housewife who was president of the local PTA.
I watched from a safe distance, they never lost sight of Sharon, and I never lost sight of them. They followed her back to the hotel and when she entered for the night, they terminated their surveillance. I followed them to their car, I did not get the whole plate number but I did see it was a local one, they also had a save the manatees sticker and organ donation sticker on the bumper. I did not have my car handy otherwise I would have continued to follow them, but I knew the Shultz’s schedule tomorrow so I would be there early to see if the tail returned.
I did not sleep very good that night, wondering what I had missed about the Shultz’s in my background check, something personal I guessed, maybe Mrs. Shultz was not as nice as she seemed on the surface. Although I would have bet my favorite rubber ducky that she was exactly what she seemed, a devoted happy wife with a Disney obsession.
So why was someone following her.
The next day I was up early, at least early for me, the game play with Mr. Schultz was not due to kick off until one o’clock but I knew they were going to breakfast at the Magic Kingdom at ten. To get there they would have to catch a bus in front of their hotel, I planned on seeing if the tail was back in place and hopefully tail them for the rest of the day to see what the strange couple was up to.
I got a good parking spot early on and waited. I only waited an hour till the same car entered the parking lot and they parked only two rows away from me. They seemed to be having an argument of some type and it finally ended when the young man, in his twenties got out of the car and went to the lobby, I imagined to try and acquire the Shultz’s as they left the hotel. Meanwhile the lady stayed in her car with the engine running. From where I was sitting, I got a fairly good view of her and what she did next sort of surprised me, she started crying. They type of crying you do after a long time, one of frustration and sadness.
I was confused and continued watching. It was not long before the Shultz’s appeared and I watched them waiting and the tall lanky kid boarded the bus right behind them. Then crying woman followed in her car.
Now tailing a Disney bus is not too hard, but they can also go places an automobile cannot, like into certain restricted lanes and turnoffs.
Clearly this lady did not know this as she followed the bus into the turnoff for the Magic Kingdom and was promptly chased out by Security. I parked and was waiting when the Shultz’s made it thru Security, with Howard carrying the spy game briefcase. Howard had figured out the meeting with my friend Daniel Dewey was to take place on Tom Sawyer Island so he would head there right after breakfast. I watched them go up Main Street, USA with the tall lanky fellow, in a Lakeland Flying Tigers ballcap shadowing. Poorly I might add, at one point he bumped into them and said sorry. Now some suspicious person might have thought he did this on purpose, lifting a wallet or something, I could tell from his expression and personal experience it was totally accidental, the kid was horrified that he had blown it.
The Shultz’s had brunch, I kept watch outside, as did the tall lanky guy. In a little while he was joined by the crying woman. There was something different about her now, as though the crying had changed something, given her a new purpose.
Soon the Shultzs were on the move again. I knew that they had early dinner reservations at Liberty Tree Tavern where the couple would meet and compare notes about what I had set up for Howard. Now I had a part to play, I threw back on the Hawaiian shirt and Detroit Tigers hat and began tailing Howard again, he spotted me just as I missed the raft to Tom’s Sawyer Island where he was scheduled to meet my friend Daniel Dewey.
Daniel is my oldest friend, and probably knows more about the Disney Parks and the Disney Company then maybe anyone else on Earth. He is a trust fund guy who still lives with his aunt and uncle so any money he makes from trading in information on the web simply is spending money or to finance his trips to other Disney Parks around the world. His task today was to accept the briefcase from Howard and send him out to find a my friend Clarissa dressed in a leopard print dress that evening, that person would then provide a clue to a hidden object which Howard would retrieve then return to Daniel at a time to be named later.
I of course was playing the counter spy in this scenario and would stop at nothing to prevent Howard completing his mission.
This was going to be tricky to carry off but what made it even trickier was the real-life surveillance of Sharon Shultz and the strange couple that were following her.
I made an appearance on Tom Sawyer island and pseudo chased Howard thru the Injun Joe’s cave, just in time for him to hop on the ferry boat taking him away while I stood on the dock shaking my fist, metaphorically of course.
But once Howard was away and I presume looking for my other friend Clarisse who would not be on a bridge to be found until 6 pm. I turned my attention back to The Pair. Luckily, I had Sharon’s number and contacted her to update her on Howard’s progress and discovered she was in Main Street, USA.
Now some people do not consider Main Street to be its own land mostly because it has no rides, but there they would be wrong. It has rides, they are just not big and splashy. First off you have the Train Station which circles the park, then you have the Main Street Vehicles which only travel the street when the crowds are light.
I was back in covert mode and found the tailing couple easily. They were still nearby, but as they watched Sharon, I could not see any malice in them just something I would consider reluctance, maybe. I needed to know who these people where and what the connection or relation was to Sharon Shultz.
So, I did something I had not done for years, I lifted the kid’s wallet a skill from a misspent youth. I took a quick peak at his driver’s license then put it back hoping no one saw me. I called Millie, my girlfriend, and to run the information including the full license plate number.
Let me just say something about Millie, she is probably my greatest asset, a fantastic sounding board and a great researcher. She called me back within fifteen minutes and told me what I needed to know. They were an Aunt Nancy and Nephew Gary Foley, who lived in the same house in Kissimmee. Millie would have done more but she had a diner to run and an order of hamburger meat was just delivered.
But the names and addresses were a great start and more than I needed.
I went to one of my favorite places to do research. The Celebration library which had all the internet I needed, which was more than my office at the moment as I had not paid the bill in two months. It was either that or the brakes on my car. I chose stopping in traffic, safety first.
When Howard was scheduled meet with my friend Clarissa on the bridge between France and England in EPCOT. I planned on being nearby, but I was going to have a discussion with the Foleys. Howards meeting went off without a hitch getting his next clue. Sharon was looking on from where I placed her and the Foleys where exactly where I thought they would be. I came up behind them and then I texted Sharon to mov into the little English park area where Mary Poppins hangs out. Sharon moved, I moved right behind the Foleys. Just as they entered the park, I tapped both on the shoulder, I was that close.
“Hi there Nancy and Gary, can I have a word with you two?”
The startled look on their faces was all I needed. They were not hardened criminals or even soft criminals, in fact I had a rather good idea what they wanted to Mrs. Sharon Shultz, PTA President, wife to Howard and the surviving twin sister of Sheri Benoit.
That afternoon I discovered Gary was a fairly good baseball player, playing for the local minor league team the Lakeland Flying Tigers, that was until he was in an accident, an accident that resulted in him needing a cornea transplant.
At the same time Sharon and Sheri were making one of their frequent trips to Florida and Sheri passed away due to an undiagnosed brain aneurism. Sharon following her sisters wishes made a complete organ donation including eye tissue. The next year Gary was back at third base, with a respectable batting average of three fifty.
I motioned for the two to sit down at a nearby bench and we talked. We talked about gratitude and recovery time and how they had uncovered who the Shultz’s were and how they knew they would be here. I nodded, there were some strict rules about transplant receivers contacting the family of the deceased donor. I am not always the hugest fan of rules.
The next day I arranged a meeting, it kind of ruined the game, as I would not be the “mysterious chasing stranger” any longer in the scenario but I figured that I should be there in person for the meet up. There were a lot of tears, everyone shed some, maybe even a hard-boiled private investigator.
Howard was happy with how the who thing turned out. He was pleased that I was able to not only keep his game going, but that I was looking out for his wife at the same time. A nice bonus let me catch up on my internet bill. To keep my karma good, I donated to the Orange County library.
Howard Shultz was minding his own business on vacation when he was caught up in a dangerous case of mistaken identity. Receiving a briefcase from a stranger near a lighthouse he pieces together he must delivers it to the man in a white suit on an island all the while being pursued by a man in a very loud Hawaiian shirt. The white suited man instructs him to meet up with an exotic lady on a bridge and she would tell him the hiding spot of the thumb drive containing the missing defense plans. After recovering the thumb drive Howard returns the plans to the man in the white suit on a ferry boat crossing a lagoon.
Other Miles Mitchell Cases: