A new way to get into the Miles Mitchell Mysteries. Miles is a Private Investigator and has become the go to guy who specializes in case around and about Walt Disney World.
Read by my good friend Dawn K.
More Miles Mitchell Mysteries.
Read by my good friend Dawn K.
More Miles Mitchell Mysteries.
I walked into the diner and found my favorite seat at the counter unoccupied and better yet with no one else sitting at the counter. I sat down and my second favorite employee there immediately placed a gorgeous steaming hot mug of joe in front of me. I smiled and she rolled her eyes. I was obviously not her favorite customer, but she was a damn fine waitress, so I put up with her occasional moods.
“Pie for the P.I?” She asked in a snarky tone.
“Whatcha got?” I said just to antagonize her.
Again, with the eye roll. “You know what we got, just tell me.”
“My memory is slipping, remind me.” I said after taking a sip of the hot dark goodness that was one of the essentials of my life.
She sighed. “This is Tuesday, so we have cherry, raisin, apple and blueberry.”
A voice came from somewhere in the back. “We are out of blueberry; the last three pieces went to the nuns in section two.”
I had noticed the humbly dressed table of ladies in the corner booth when I came in but now, I turned and raised my coffee cup to them. The noticed my motion. “How is the blueberry pie Sisters?” They were too polite to yell back at me, but they gave me a thumbs up in response. I turned back toward Daphne. “Daphne how about you bring me a piece of your delicious raisin pie.”
“Ala mode?” Was her only unsmiling response.
“Oh, better not, watching my pennies.”
As she walked away, I heard her mumble under her breath. ‘When aren’t you?’
A few minutes later I was happily and slowly eating my piece of pie, handmade on the premise by my favorite employee of the diner, Augustine one of the finest bakers I have had the fortune to meet.
I sat and observed the people at the diner, just enjoying the ebb and flow of the place as I killed time waiting, never getting quite to the bottom of the cup, mostly due to the professionalism of Daphne rather than her love for me personally.
In less than a half an hour I was joined by my favorite person in the diner. She was not an employee, she was the employer, the owner, the manager and the chief bottle washer of closest non chain diner to Disney World my gal, Millie Mauser. She did not ask me about my pie, my cup of coffee or even the service, she knew they had all been spectacular as that was her standard and her people always met her standard. “What is the plan for tonight Miles?”
My gal, always looking ahead. “Well I figured a movie and maybe a stroll over to that new resort area maybe hear some live music.”
Millie nodded. “So, the typical Tuesday night, a cheap flick then you seeing if you can get us in somewhere for a free show.”
“Only the best for my girl.” I said kissing her on the forehead. She loves me, and she knows I would spend money on her if I had it, but she knows my business is slow, but she loves to get in a few jabs at me once in a while, it keeps our relationship fresh.
She was about to say something snarky when Daphne called out from across the counter. “Boss, Mr. Box is back is it okay if I give him the big table in the back again?”
We both turned towards the door where an older gentleman dressed in business casual attire had just entered carrying a cardboard filing box had just come thru the door.
Millie looked around the diner than at her watch and nodded. “Sure, if he asks again, we should not need it on a Tuesday night.”
Daphne simply nodded and approached the man. We silently watched the exchange and then Daphne led the man towards a large meeting room in the back where a table capable of seating ten was located.
“What is the story there babe?” I asked with my head nodding towards the back.
“Oh, he has been coming in here like clockwork the last couple of nights. Saturday night he stayed in a booth and spread his paperwork out, the next night he asked for a larger table but we could not accommodate him but last night we were slow and let him spread all his paperwork out on the table in the back.”
“Receipts?” I asked guessing he was trying to figure out his taxes to avoid paying money to Uncle Sam.
Millie shook her head. “I don’t think so, I checked on him once, and all the paperwork looked like letters, like he was trying to find something specific in them.”
My curiosity was piqued, and my wallet was dying of hunger from lack of feeding, I wondered if there might be case here. I stood up and that is when Millie grabbed my arm. “I thought we were going out tonight?”
“We are, I am just going to introduce myself and see if he needs any help?”
Millie harrumphed and then stood up and joined me. “Okay but if he needs your help, you start the case tomorrow.”
We never did go out that night, in fact I never left the restaurant till the next morning.
“Hi Millie.” The old man said looking up from his piles of papers now spread out all over the large table.
“Charlie this is my boyfriend Miles he is a Private Investigator and wondered if you need any help?” Millie said sweetly.
Charlie had stood up and reached across the table to shake my hand. It was warm and strong, and I guessed he was in his 70s, dressed in a golf shirt and khaki pants I could tell he was a northerner by his lack of tan.
“Oh, I don’t think so, not unless he is an expert on Walt Disney World.”
I let out a low chuckle. “Well maybe not an expert but I do know a lot about the place and its history.”
Charlie looked a bit surprised but went with the flow. “Well then maybe you are the man for the job.” He motioned towards the papers spread out. “Why don’t you two sit down and I will tell you what I am doing down here in Florida with all this.”
I pulled out a chair for Millie and then sat next to her across the table from our impromptu host.
“I am from Michigan, but I lived down here once. After me and my buddy Frank got back from Vietnam, he had a friend down here working a huge construction job. Iy was Walt Disney World. We had been Sea Bees in the Navy, so we worked from Admiral Fowler dredging the Seven Seas Lagoon and putting in the central pillar in the Contemporary. We worked down here until the place opened, by then I wanted to go back to Michigan, but Frank stayed on. He did all kind of things for the company, but his favorite was building the tracks and then getting the train operating he even worked on the monorail for a bit.”
Frank took a second and took a sip from his cup of coffee. “Me and Frank stayed in touch, Frank was really great, he would write me a letter at least every other month.” Charlie said motioning towards all the papers spread out over the table.
I spoke up. “So, what are you looking for in these letters?”
Charlie smiled. “I like that nice and direct.” He tapped a stack of letters closest to him. “Frank passed away last year.”
Millie made a sad noise. “Sorry to hear that.”
Charlie waved her off. “Frank had a great life, the letters were always positive, he had a lot of friends, traveled a lot, loved the jobs he had for Disney and fished an awful lot.” He smiled at that. Charlie looked as if lost in thought.
“So, what are you looking for in these letters?” I asked softly.
“Well Frank donated his body to science and the medical school recently finished with him and per the agreement he was cremated, and I was contacted about disposing of the ashes.
I looked at him hoping he was not going down the path that I knew the Walt Disney Company would not like. Numerous times throughout the year in the parks rides and areas of the park were shut down due to someone spreading their loved one’s ashes. I had friends on the Custodial staff, and they had to get extra training and use a special vacuum and basically it is just a big pain. The place ashes were most commonly dumped, The Haunted Mansion, some people just took the ride too literal. People are weird. Luckily for me, otherwise I would be out of a job.
Charlie continued. “Frank was a company man and would not want his ashes scattered that would cause a disruption in the parks.”
I gave an internal sigh but kept my face neutral.
“But he said he wanted his ashes scattered at and I am quoting this. ‘I want to be scattered on the water near where old number 4 broke down so often. Take the panic azimuth from the biggest tree and you will find the spot. I watched the 4th of July fireworks from here many a times.
I shook my head that did not make any sense.
I nodded. “The train tracks don’t go any where near the water, let alone a good place to watch the fireworks from.”
Yeah, I know, I have ridden that train, several times over the last couple of days.” Charlie replied.
“What is he talking about the ‘panic azimuth’?”
Charlie laughed. “That was an inside joke between the two of us, we were going thru a land navigation course before we went to Vietnam and the instructors told us if we ever got so lost all we had to do was head on a bearing of 360 degrees, in otherwise due north, and we would find ourselves on a major road and we could walk back to base.” Charlie looked wistful for a few seconds. “Well every time something went crazy over there,” He motioned outside towards the west. “one of us would ask the other which way the panic azimuth was. It always made us laugh.” Charlie smiled again.
I nodded. “I had inside joked like that with my Army buddies.”
Millie looked at me surprised, I knew why, I hardly ever talked about my time in the military.
The table got silent for a moment, so I tried to get us back on track. “So, from the train tracks head due north from the biggest tree to the water.”
“I think.” Charlie said sounding tired.
I racked my brain trying to puzzle it out. I knew The Property pretty well, having grown up around it, and I think I have been in just about every part, but this did not make any sense.
“I was thinking there was a clue in his letters, he wrote about building the train tracks, and he helped build the monorail as well, that is near the water.”
I shook my head, none of this sounded right, I was missing something. “Would you mind if I sit with you for a while and looked over his letters.”
Charlie nodded and I heard Millie give out an angry sigh that I was sure only I could hear. “I tried to sort them by year, but Frank never dated them, and I threw out the envelopes that came in so no post mark. I think I got them sorted roughly by years, but I am not sure.”
Millie got up. “Well you boys are going to need some more coffee and I guess I will send Daphne home; it looks like I will be closing up tonight.”
For the next two hours all I did was try and come up with a system of sorting, which meant reading the letters and making sure they were in the right order. At one point I think Millie came by, handed me the keys and had me lock the door behind her. Charlie gave up an hour later and he went back to his hotel room. Me I stayed and read and sorted and read some more. Luckily for me they were all typed, on an old manual typewriter at first, and sometime in the 80’s old Frank switched to an electric. I read about construction projects and opening day attractions and tearing down old rides to make way for new ones. It seems Frank was a huge part of Walt Disney World construction history.
Unfortunately, he also rambled and did not stay consistent with his story line. So, it was not until I got to the most recent letters that I figured out what train he was talking about.
I took a short nap in a nearby booth and was woken up by Augustine the greatest baker I had ever known and my favorite employee in the diner. “Cinnamon roll?”
I sat up and rubbed my face, she had already poured me a cup of hot joe. “Augustine will you marry me?”
She smiled. “I am already married to Maximillian you silly boy.” She said and went to get me the promised cinnamon roll.
I made my way into the bathroom and cleaned up, when I returned to the large table the pastry was sitting on the table along with a carafe of coffee. I shuffled the papers a little bit more, cleaning them up, putting them in the best order I could, then packing them into Charlie’s cardboard box. I had just gotten to the warm gooey center of the roll Millie and Charlie had joined me.
“You were here all night?” Millie said not really asking.
I nodded not wanting to talk with my mouth full.
“Did you figure anything out?” Charlie asked.
I nodded again and took a sip of coffee. “I think I have an idea where Frank wants his final resting place to be, do you have a good pair of shoes, if so don’t wear them, this may get messy.
An hour later we were at Fort Wilderness the Walt Disney World campground looking for the abandoned railroad tracks. Charlie had been both a construction worker and an engineer on the Fort Wilderness railroad and had been there on opening day in 1974.
The Fort Wilderness railroad was an actual steam driven locomotive that moved guests from the front of the campground to the rear, while the campground was only a mile deep the campground covered about 700 acres of woodland. The problem was it was rather inefficient and a little unsafe, so it was only open about six years and the last couple only on special occasions. Sadly, it was replaced with bus service, which while more efficient and probably cheaper did not have the style of a real live steam train. I think Fort Wilderness lost something when it ended, and I would have liked to have ridden it, but it was before my time. I guess that is why I had forgotten it ever existed, but thanks to Frank’s letters and a couple of videos I found online I was able to guess where Engine number 4 broke down most consistently.
Breaking down was not exactly true more like running out of gas, due to having to refill the fuel tank and water tank to make steam and having a limited time in each stop to refuel while loading passengers at the same time, the most common place for all the engines to quit was just approaching Bay Lake, the largest natural lake on Walt Disney property.
It took me and Charlie a couple of hours of tramping around the woods to find the old railroad bed and then a couple more to find the biggest tree that might have been there when Frank was driving the train. It would have been a little shorter, but Charlie left his compass back in his hotel room and I am a city boy and the only way I know north is if it’s on street sign.
In the end Charlie was sure, deep down in his heart that the little stretch of beach is where Frank would want his ashes to be scattered, but he thought it might be best if he did it first thing in the morning just as the sun was coming up.
Charlie and I got back onto Ft. Wilderness early the next morning and as the sun came up over the Cypress trees Frank was placed gently and with love by his best friend into the water. I stood back and let the man have his moment with his friend. I thought to my own friends and hoped I was a good enough friend to them that they would go through as much trouble for me when I died.
A couple of weeks later Millie got a letter from Charlie thanking both her and I for our help, he also sent me a nice check. It’s Tuesday again, Millie thinks we are going out to the cheap movies, she is wrong though, I am taking her to a real nice sit-down meal and then a movie.
Other Miles Mitchell Mysteries:
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 to catch him in the act 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 spirt and doesn’t really go along with convention?
But she sent me texted 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 on the biggest ones by my guess. So, I went home a 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, most attendees to conventions are bussed 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 by 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, 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, 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) but he was alone throughout the entire day. From what I saw he never took a single call throughout the day, and I thought he was some big wall street guy, I never knew them to not be on the phone from morning till night.
But 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. But being the diligent investigator, I was, 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 he would, 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, 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 occurred to me. 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 but the crowd coming out of the Hyperion Theatre. I looked at my watch as we headed toward the Tower of Terror, I thought it was either back on that ride 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, 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, and I would not have 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 get 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 hope, this guy was in hard core 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 and 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, comfortable shoes, shorts and 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, 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 on the outside is inspired by 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 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 clip board 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, which I am sure if I tried it would 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, of people filling out the forms and looking on their phones. I looked over the form 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 a gambler studies the racing forms when he is down to his last two bucks.
I put some nonsense on my own form, and I followed Armstrong as he placed his clipboard on the podium and then we resumed our seats. He did not take out his phone he did not do anything else to kill time as most people do in those situations he just calmly took in the room, the pictures on the wall, 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 am 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, 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 hm 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, 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:
My 1996 station wagon squeaked to a stop in front of the house. It really needed a lube job, and I suspected a brake job, and I did not even dream about my AC fixed this year. I looked down at my phone then up at the pony express box and confirmed I was in the right place. These people had some real money, this was both one of the oldest and most expensive neighborhoods in Orlando and somehow, I had been asked to come and investigate a theft. Walking up the sidewalk I automatically added another zero to my retainer cost and hoped it would not sour the deal.
The lady of the house opened the door before I could ring the bell which I was sorry about because I really wanted to hear the doorbell, I bet it was one of those big gonging things like the Adaams Family.
I followed Mrs. Lafluer into the house, from the short tour of the digs the inside matched the outside, highbrow and expensive.
“I do not believe I have ever met a Private Investigator before” the very distinguished looking grey-haired man said rising from the sofa and extending his hand.
“And I am sure I have never met a brain surgeon before.” I said shaking his hand it was warm and firm and I wondered how many brains these fingers had touched.
“We prefer Neurosurgeons, it shows you have an open mind.”
I heard his wife groan at his joke, it was one I am sure she had heard couple thousand times. I supposed old married couples do that, I did not have any personal experience with that, my mother’s longest relationship was with a couch she had for fifteen years. They motioned for me to sit we got right down to the case.
“We had a break in last month.”
My face must have shown some shock and Mrs. Lafluer noticed. “Oh, it was an organized ring, they broke into a series of house around here, but they were caught last week.”
“I had not heard anything about it.”
Doctor Lafluer. “It was kept quiet they are still trying to recover some property.”
“No all of ours was recovered waiting to be sold.” Confusion must have shown on my face. “Everything except one item.” The doctor added.
“And what was the one item?” I asked.
“It was a collectable, a family memento really.” I nodded and then volunteered. “Something connected to Disney?”
The couple nodded then Mrs. Lafluer spoke up, “It would probably be easier to show you.” The three of us rose and I followed them to an upstairs hallway. I noted several framed collages of what appeared to be Disney ticket stubs, park maps and small souvenirs, all mounted tastefully behind glass.
“One is missing.” I noted motioning to a spot on the wall that was slightly discolored, the void had once held a similarly large sized collection I guessed.
“Yes, that one had opening day memorabilia from Hollywood Studios.”
I nodded and Dr. Lafluer continued. “My daughter was working there opening day as was our future son in law Justin.
“They each received opening day pins and assorted things that they both saved. When they got married, we framed it all and gave it to them as a wedding present.”
“I see.” I replied. “And it was taken in the burglary but was not recovered with your other things.”
“And you want me to see if I can find the collection.”
They both nodded eagerly.
“Well folks, this is kind of a tricky thing, if those pieces are valuable to a collector the collage might have been broken up already. If I take the case, there is no guarantee I will be able to recover any of the pieces.”
Dr. Lafluer nodded and spoke in a serious tone. “Son there are no guarantees in life, the only thing we can do is try. We are just asking you to try.”
I nodded back. I quoted my price and they agreed to it easily enough and then gave me a check for my retainer along with a folder containing detailed descriptions and pictures of all the framed items. I left the house promising to update them daily. Halfway to my car I was kicking myself for not asking for more, but a deal was a deal. Rich clients someday I was going ask for too much and be thrown out on my ear. But not today.
My first stop was the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, Property Crimes Division. I caught up with a buddy and told him I was working the case, he moaned about the paperwork of the recovery, tagging and categorizing all the recovered property.
I usually don’t have much sympathy for flat foots when they complain about shuffling papers, they knew it was in the job when they took it, but I humored him and listened. It was about a half an hour of his belly aching before I got to the crux of the matter of the missing keepsakes. He said there were two problems with that case, one the LaFleurs did not discover the missing frame until a day after the initial report and in the other burglaries nothing like the memorabilia had been taken.
The crew that had done the burglaries only took cash, jewelry, some easily stolen high end appliances but no paintings, collectables or things of that nature. My buddy had interviewed the guy that turned on his co-conspirators, there is no honor among thieves, and he had told them the deal, fast cash, easily sold things that were hard to trace.
I drove away from the Sheriff’s office with more questions than before.
Why the collection? Why the delay in reporting? If it was the 2nd story crew had one of them taken a personal fancy to the piece?
I needed to know more about the items stolen, maybe I was missing something, maybe those pieces were more valuable then any of us knew. Time to consult an expert.
Tuesday, that meant I had to go to Epcot.
Epcot, a park that was utterly different than Walt’s vision for his world. The name itself stood for Experimental Prototype of Community of Tomorrow, and it was meant to be a planned community with underground roads, incredible public transportation and beautiful landscaping.
Now Epcot was simply a theme park, a thrilling and educational one, but when boiled down, a theme park. One of the biggest ‘what ifs” in Disney history, mostly because it was Walt’s last big proposed project.
Personally, I had my own ideas, and they were just as valid as anyone else’s, meaning pure malarkey.
My expert was at Epcot so that is where I went. He was a man of strict habits, looking at my watch I knew he would be somewhere in the International region of the park, either Germany or Italy.
After walking past China, which was the closest, I would ever get to the real place, I kept my peepers open, my expert would most likely be sitting at a table with his laptop.
Predictably I found him in the sit-down restaurant in Italy a few empty dishes around him at this which I am sure he had instructed the staff not to take away. He was a great tipper and so for him to monopolize a table while annoying was made up for with cold hard cash, he was also my oldest friend.
I had met Danny Deww a long time ago when we were both kids, his relatives did not know what to do with a 12 year old genius who loved Disney, so they dumped him off in the park with a credit card and annual pass. My mom would do the same thing, but with no credit card and never enough cash in my pocket to feed me. So, one day when borrowing snacks off people’s parked strollers I met Danny. We literally ran into one another. There were other kids like me who ran in packs around property and somehow, he had run afoul of them and they were chasing him. I hate bullies, I dealt with them and me and Danny have been friends ever since. Disney has since cracked down on those hooligans, but it gave me my best friend.
I picked up his old beat up backpack which occupied a chair and moved it to the next seat. He looked up from his laptop and frowned at the intrusion, but I saw a very brief smile, which turned back to a frown, a total put on I knew.
“Daniel.” I said in greeting.
“Miles.” He said making some notation on his ever-present notepad.
“How is business?”
He responded with a so-so hand gesture without looking up. Daniel’s business was information. He was the unknown research man for a variety of publications, blogs and even some business interests, people that wanted to know what was happening at the House of Mouse that were not in the press releases. Daniel knew more people that worked behind the scenes at Disney than anyone else, he gathered information and dispersed it to numerous contacts around the world. Not that Daniel needed to work, he was a trust fund baby and if he stayed healthy and living with his aunt and uncle he was set for life.
“How are the Ganders?”
Daniel answered. “Good enough, they took up yoga, they have some young chippy come to the house everyday and help them get into downward dog. Aunty says it helps fight her arthritis, I think Unc goes along with it just so he can see this hot blonde in his house every day.”
I shrugged, rich people problems. “Eh, whatever gets you through the day.” I responded.
“What can I do for you?” Danny asked, glancing at the screen. “I have a conference call with someone from Saudi Arabia in ten minutes.”
“Anything to give me the brush me off, so I don’t bring up the money you owe me.” I added.
“No one can pull a straight flush without cheating.” Daniel said.
“People can and I did,” He was about to interrupt when I held up a finger. “I did not come for my money you old miser, in fact you help me out with this case, and I will call us even.”
His eyes narrowed. “What do you need?”
I pulled the folder out. “I need to locate these items, stolen in a burglary the thieves were not targeting memorabilia, this was just a whim, so if they are trying to sell them I do not think they would have any connections so I am thinking the public sites or maybe private sites that you would know about.”
Danny looked over the file for a few minutes. “Have these ever been sold before.” The confused look on my face must have answered his question. “Original owners huh.”
“As far as I know, they got them on opening day.”
He nodded then he closed the file. “Well I will do some research, but this is not really rare stuff, in fact except for how pristine the pieces are there is nothing really remarkable about them. There is some value to them, but any good thief would be disappointed in the price he got for them.” He said handing the file back to me. “The frame and glass were not left behind; the burglars took everything together?”
That was not something I had really considered, I looked at the main list of things stolen, most of the items could be easily stashed in a large duffle bag, but this framed thing was not easily moved, it was bulky and fragile. A new question and no answers yet. I looked over at my friend who had his headset on, and I bid a silent goodbye to Danny.
I continued to my trip and found myself at the Living Seas. I ran over the questions I had in my mind. Why did the thieves steal the memento when they had not done so before or after? Had they broken their own rules and taken the whole framed piece from the house. Why did the Lafleur’s add the item to the stolen list a day after the initial report? The LaFleurs where not someone I would peg for padding an insurance claim.
And lastly, where were the items now?
After turning the problem over many times in my head I realized I needed more information, or at least a second look at the crime scene. I called the LaFleur’s and set up an appointment.
This time I vowed to arrive a little earlier to ring the doorbell, I wanted to know if it was a big gong like I hoped.
I arrived ten minutes early for my appointment with the LaFleurs, but as my finger was less than an inch from hitting the button and appeasing my decidedly over developed curiosity the door opened wide by the hand of the good doctor. A small voice like Snidely Whiplash in my head said, ‘Curses foiled again’.
I got down to the heart of the matter sitting on the same chair with the good doctor and his wife on the couch. “I have a question, on the initial police report you did not list the memorabilia as missing, then added it the next day.”
The Doctor looked a little embarrassed. “That was my fault, she was out of town and all I saw was the missing appliances, when she got home, she noted it was missing right away.”
Mrs. Lafluer patted him on the knee. “It was easy to overlook with everything else missing.”
“You weren’t home when the burglary occurred?” I said puzzled.
“No, I was at my daughter and sons-in-law house.”
“The same ones the had the memorabilia from opening day at Studios?”
“Yes.” Mrs. LaFleur answered but I caught a glimpse of discomfort on the doctor’s face.
I recalled something from the first interview. “Didn’t you say the piece was a wedding present to them when they got married? I hate to be indelicate folks but if it was a wedding present, what was it doing in your home?”
The married couple exchanged chapters of information in just a short glance at each other. “A couple of years ago, they started to have trouble, our daughter and her son moved back in here for a while, she brought the piece with her, recently they have been repairing the relationship, in fact they are in the process of moving back in together.” The doctor stated.
I nodded. Then without pausing to think ahead my mouth formed the words. “Where is their son now?”
“Tommy is staying with us for the summer.”
“Was he here at the time of the break in?”
“No, he was at a day camp, he came home just as the police were taking the last of my statement.” The doctor answered.
“Yes, that is when I called with the good news that Tommy and his mom would be moving back in with Justin, that is how I found out about the break in.” Volunteered Mrs. LaFleur.
“Is he here now?”
“Yes, I believe he is up in his room. Why are you asking about Tommy?” Mrs. LaFleur asked with the hint of protective mama bear coming out.
“Just a hunch nothing more, can we talk to him?”
A glance again and then he nodded.
Tommy’s door was directly across from where the framed memorabilia had been hanging. The grandmother knocked on the door. A muffled ‘come in’ was heard and we entered the room of what I pictured a normal ten-year old’s room looked like. Legos, sport posters and a rumpled bed. Tommy was sitting in a chair playing a handheld game. He stopped when he saw both his grandparents and a stranger. “Hi.”
“Hi.” I said back taking command of the conversation. “I am a private investigator your grandparents hired me to look into the burglary.”
“You mean like Magnum P.I?”
“Sort of but without the cool car.” I looked around the room. “You know about the missing keepsakes.”
I watched him closely, his eyes went to the bed and not the closet.
“Yeah.” He said but not as casually as before.
“Do you know anything about the stuff?”
Again, his eyes went to his bed and he simply shrugged.
“It was right across from your room; you must have seen it every day.”
I saw the tear start to form at his eye, at the same time the lower lip started to quiver. “I am sorry, I thought if they didn’t have the keepsakes they would not fight anymore. They always seemed to fight around it, I thought if it was gone, they could start over again and not fight so much.”
He really did not say all that at once, there was a lot of crying, blubbering and nose wiping before we got the whole story out of the kid. The burglary just coincided with the news they were moving back in with his father. No grand conspiracy, no higher malice, just a kid who did not want his parents to fight anymore. The framed stuff was under the bed, and the LaFleurs stated the keepsakes would stay in their house and not go back to Tommy’s house.
The important part, I got paid a big bonus for getting it back in one piece. I did not tell them they would have eventually found it when someone vacuumed under the bed.
I do sometimes know when to shut up.
Rain pounded against my window, but it would clear up in a minute then the humidity would be higher than Russian sauna. I was on my second glass of whiskey and contemplating how long I could sleep at my office before the landlord got wise that my office was now a residence. I could not make my apartment rent for the third month in row and there was a suspicious red envelop on my front door which I had avoided like a sinner avoiding church. That is when she walked thru my door. She was brunette with long legs and a face that would have would make John Smith question his love for the beautiful Disney Pocahontas. My front door was open, and she sauntered in like she owned the place, and for an hour of staring into those big brown eyes I might have given her the keys.
“Are you Miles Mitchell the Private Investigator?” She asked in voice that could easily be confused for an angel but gave the hint of knowledge that would make a demon blush.
“That’s what it says on the door, but my friends just call me Mitch” She smiled with ruby red lips but not with her eyes. “Have a seat Mrs.?”
She sat down in the seat in front of my desk with the smooth motion of a ballet dancer. I envied the arms of the chair as she placed her dainty hands on them.
“It’s Miss Fowler. Miss Felicity Fowler. I understand you specialize in cases concerning people involved with Disney World.”
I chuckled. “Specialize might be too strong a word, but I have had some success in Walt’s back yard.”
She nodded thoughtfully. “I want you to find someone, my younger sister, Fiona.”
I nodded and she continued. “She came down here for an Internship, but she had been talking about taking a job with Disney afterward.”
“The internship was over five weeks ago and she has not called or communicated with anyone in the family since. It is very important that I contact her soon, our mother is a very sick woman and wants to see her.” Her voice had the telltale quiver that comes right before a crying jag, so I grabbed a box of tissues from my drawer walked around the desk and offered her one. I did not return to my seat but leaned against the leading edge of my desk till she got herself under control.
“You say she has not communicated with anyone in your family, how about her friends, have they heard from her?”
Felicity looked up with a sad look on her face. “Fiona and I are not what you call close, she was away at school for the last four years and we have drifted even further apart, I don’t know any of her friends and she has not used any of her credit cards, I had our accountant check.”
I nodded knowingly. Not that I ever had an accountant, I had taken my tax returns to H&R Block last year and they felt such pity for me they took up a collection in their local office.
“The police, Orange County Sheriff’s Department?” I asked but knowing the answer before she gave it.
She waved her finely manicured hand dismissively. “They said that since no foul play was suspected, and it was not a crime for a girl to not call her family it was not their concern.”
“Do you have her local address, where she was staying?”
Felicity pulled out a small notebook from her purse and handed it too me, I gently brushed up against her fingers when the exchange took place and her fingers were warm to the touch. “Your hands are very cold Mitch.” She said.
“Well you know what the say cold hands, warm heart.” I said smiling. I took a few minutes looking over the notebook, it was all laid out for me there, Fiona’s information, the accountants name and number, it even listed the kid’s shoe size, a narrow size five. I was not sure how that would help but you never knew I looked up from the notebook. I quoted my billing price and my initial retainer, and she agreed to it without batting a pretty little eyelash taking five crisp one hundred dollars out of her purse. She got up to leave and I saw her to the door of my meager little office.
“I am staying at the Gaylord Hotel; do you know it?”
I nodded. I knew it. I had been in there a couple of months ago simply to use the bathroom and I swear security followed me around like they knew I was up to no good. Which was true I was a looking for a boss who was stepping out with his secretary but the staff at that fancy hotel had no way of knowing that. “Please if you have any questions or you make any progress, please do not hesitate to drop by.”
I informed her I would be by with regular updates. She shook my hand it that fantastic ladylike way where I was unsure if I should shake her hand or kiss it. I stuck with the shake and she turned walking away in that red dress making me glad I was a man.
After the elevator door was closed, I walked to the hallway window that looked out onto the parking lot just in time to see a large flunky shut the door to a black town car, undoubtedly with Miss Felicity Fowler in the back.
An hour later I was on the case, after a quick trip downstairs for some Indian food. The smell had been tantalizing me for a couple of days and having my office above it was torture when all I had was two lonely George Washingtons in my money clip. But now fortified with savory Mango Chicken Curry I dug into the case. I did the easy stuff first, phone calls and computer checks. Miss Fowler was correct Fiona had not been active on social media in about four weeks though, that is when she stopped posting on twitter and Instagram. I made a few phones calls to the boys in blue, old friends whom I owed a thousand favors to, no cases involving her, no reports filed with her name in them either. I thought about that, no reports, Felicity had said she talked to someone, usually they at least put the name in their database. Maybe it was nothing, slow paperwork, lazy civil servants.
Nothing I did was ever easy, and this case was not turning into the exception to the rule. I knew checking out her housing when she was a Disney Intern was pointless. That place had both tight security and high turnover, even if I was able to get in all they would tell me is she had moved out and I already knew that. So, I decided to head to a place I thought someone might have a personal relationship with her.
The Magic Kingdom, Walt’s bigger version of Disneyland copied and expanded in a Florida swamp. I had a lifetime pass, through no effort of my own, unless you call being born an accomplishment and where I was born was my mother’s call. Mom as far as I can tell was always a bit strange, doing crazy things and not caring what anyone thought. She had been pregnant with me, her one an only child and she decided she wanted to give birth at the Happiest Place on Earth, so when her contractions started she hoped in her car and even though it was closing time she somehow snuck down into the tunnels till the park was empty of guests. She then emerged and by the time maintenance heard her giving birth it was too late and I was born in Fantasyland right in the Teacups Ride. Which teacup I am not sure of because she tells me a different color every time.
My story might have just been an interesting side note in the history books, but Disney had a new CEO who was visiting the parks for the first time and he made a big deal of it and bequeathed to me a permanent lifetime pass. Not many people recalled the story any longer and for that I was grateful. There had only been on media reprisal of the story, and that is when I turned ten and there was a lavish birthday party at Pirates of the Caribbean, my favorite ride, with accompanying pictures.
I can’t give it away and I sure as heck can’t sell it, so I use it when I am working, like today. I arrived at the Ticketing and Transportation Center, parked my car in Hook and walked with the rest of the guests to the screening area. I went thru the no bag line, did not see anyone in blues that I knew so I took the ferry across the Seven Seas Lagoon to the Happiest Place on Earth.
I walked Main Street USA to the last place Ms. Fowler had worked. I surveilled the store for a while occasionally looking at the faces of the cast members. When she was active on social media Ms. Fowler had taken pictures and posted them online of her friends working in the Emporium. It was then that I got a shock, there was Ms. Fiona Fowler, helping restock a display of stuffed animals. I watched her for a bit, made a pass checking out her name tag. The name tag read Chris from Orlando. I chuckled, it was Cast joke, if you forgot your name tag managers had a bunch of spares in their desk drawer, all Chris, a nice non gender specific name, and everyone that worked here at Disney technically lived in the Orlando area.
Despite the name tag I was sure that this was the younger Ms. Fowler, she matched the photographs perfectly right down to the costume she was wearing.
I looked at my watch and hoped she would take her lunch soon or maybe she would get work so we could talk.
“Hi Ms. Fowler, you don’t know me but.”
In that split second I said her name I saw several looks cross her young face, the first shock, then anger, and finally resignation, as if she knew this was something unpleasant, she was going to have to deal with. She held up a hand to stop me. “My stepsister sent you, didn’t she?”
“Stepsister? Yes, she is worried about you?”
This was met with a quick snort, one that I am sure she had used before when talking about her sister. “No what dear stepsister Felicity,” She said the words stepsister like it was a curse word, “wants is my money and my approval for the sale of my father’s company.”
“She also said your mother is sick.”
Again, a quick snort. “What my stepmother is sick about is not taking the company jet to Paris but having to fly first class commercial. Do you want to see her protesting texts from her where she pled with me to be irresponsible with the company funds and use the jet for her personal travel?”
I was about to ask her if we could talk somewhere when Fiona beat me to the punch. “I get off in thirty minutes, Gaston’s at two?”
I agreed and killed the next thirty minutes navigating around the castle and crowds via Liberty Square, I avoided the Teacups whenever I could, not for the reason you would think though. I was walking by the ride one time and a queasy teenager came off the ride and created a code V right on my shoes. The stain on my shoes showed he had been eating a lot of cotton candy.
I grabbed a very expensive Coke and took a booth in the back and waited. With ten minutes to spare the younger Ms. Fowler showed up, sans costume and in street clothes. We talked for the next fifteen minutes, she told me of her father, his company, his 2nd marriage which came with a new stepsister, Felicity. She explained that her control of both the company and the family fortune was not contested and she had no intention of turning control of the company over to either her gold-digging stepmother or her minion Felicity. Fiona did not beg, she did not attempt to pay me off, she simply asked that I do not report my findings to her sister. When I was non-committal about what I was going to do Fiona gave me a phone number to text and tell her my decision. I promised her I would.
I got back to my car via the ferry boat, walking to the top deck for the most air flow to clear my head. By the time I got back to my 1996 Buick station wagon I had come to a decision, I had taken Felicity’s coin to do a job, I had done the job and she would get her information at least what I had gathered so far.
I navigated to the Gaylord Hotel and smirked at the on-duty security manager when he pointedly asked what my business was. When I mentioned my client was waiting for a report in a suite upstairs, he nodded curtly and with his eyes pointed towards the elevator. I was not happy that the job was over so soon, but hey maybe something else would pop up to keep the wolves at bay.
Knocking on the door I heard a bit of shuffling in the room and then the beautiful Ms. Fowler answered the door. I followed her into the room glad she was still wearing the red dress. She sat in the living area of the suite and asked me to do the same.
“I did not expect you so soon Mr. Mitchell.”
“Remember you can call me Mitch.”
“Of course, Mitch. I hope you have good news.”
I looked into those beautiful brown eyes and realized that hopeful look she had in her eyes currently might be greed and wondered if they would be so beautiful when I told her I was dropping the case. “I found your stepsister.” At the words stepsister the eyes opened a little wider, I was not sure if it was anger or surprise, but I continued. “She is fine, she is now working full time for Disney in retail but.” That one word ‘but’ confirmed my earlier suspicion she it was greed. “she does not want to have any contact with you except thru her attorney’s.” Felicity’s lips said a word that would never be said in a Disney movie and she stood. I stood as well.
“I am taking it you no longer wish to work for me.” She said in hostile tone.
“No nothing more to report.” I was about to turn when I saw her eyes flick to something over my shoulder and that is when the lights went out.
If you have ever woken up after being knocked unconscious let me tell you I do not recommend it, but it is better than not waking up at all. Luckily, I had some experience with it and wisely stayed very still and kept my eyes closed. There were two voices in the room with me. The one was Felicity and the other was a man with a heavy New Jersey accent with the warmness of a gravel truck barreling down a mountain road with bad brakes. He sounded like the kind of a guy who would cold cock a guy from behind.
“That was stupid.’ Felicity.
“He knows where she is and now, and now she knows we are looking for her.” Gravel truck said.
“And how was clubbing him in the head going to fix our situation?”
“I can make him tell us what else he knows.” Gravel truck said and I heard his voice coming from somewhere over of me. I decided at that point to remain ‘unconscious’ because it was hard to question a sleeping person.
“And when we get what we want from him?”
“I get him out of the hotel, the security manager is one of my guys from back in the day and this private eye becomes gator food.” There was some movement around the room. “Time to wake this bum up.”
I thought quickly about my options and moaned when I had made my plan.
“I think he is coming around.” Felicity said.
I risked opening my eyes knowing the pain it was going to cause. Sure enough, pain shot thru my eyes directly into my skull and I let out a moan, but I was rewarded with seeing the legs of the man coming towards me. I know my next move would have to work otherwise I was going to end up in the belly of a gator, so I did what came naturally and something I had been suppressing since I came to. I created my own code V all over the man’s shoes.
“Son of a.”
“That is gross.” Felicity said from across the room.
I agreed with her my lunch of curry and now digestive juices was now all over this guy dress shoes. Luckily this distracted him and I moved quickly but painfully, desperately kicking and knocking him down. I got extremely lucky and he fell, head hitting the edge of the coffee table. I hoped he would get a concussion and a headache like the one I was going to be fighting. I stood over him, waiting for him to get up, but he did not but he was breathing. Felicity was running out the door, I was in no shape to give chase but found my phone and dialed 911.
Six hours later I was back in my office with a bottle of aspirin and an ice pack. Felicity had gotten away and the cops were looking for her. It seems there was a warrant out her and Gravel truck up north, something about counterfeit Disney memorabilia. Gravel Truck was now sitting in the Orange County Jail but Felicity had gotten away. There was talk of a reward, but I was not counting on it.
The phone began ringing and I began cursing the noise, but I picked it up anyways.
“Hello Mr. Mitchell?”
“This is Miles.”
“This is Fiona. I understand that my sister is on the run again?”
“Yeah but her partner was arrested.”
“I also heard you were injured was that because you did not tell them where I was?”
“Just a little but no big deal in the greater scheme of things.”
“Thank you anyways.” There was a pause. “The real reason I called was I wanted to know if you were available to work for a friend of mine, they want to hire you to find something that was stolen from them are you available?”
My ears perked up. “A job, sure I am available.” I smiled even though it hurt. Maybe I would be able to afford another bag of ice.
Other Miles Mitchell Mysteries:
He had been both lucky and cursed the day of the crash. The ship had buried itself so deep on this small remote island that none of the natives noticed it. It had taken him a long time to dig his own way out from the wreckage, luck because he should have been dead. Cursed because with each clump of dirt he moved the certainty that the ship would never leave this planet grew. His wonderful organic ship was dead but the prisoner it was transporting was not. The prisoner he left exactly where it was, deep in the ground secure in the stasis chamber.
He looked toward the sky knowing that is where rescue should have come from, but after a hundred or so revolutions around this star he knew it would not be coming. He still had an oath to live up to and keeping the prisoner secure thus keeping this planet safe and by extension the rest of the galaxy from the monster’s rampage was how he would fulfill his oath.
This place was cold and strange and if he disliked it then the prisoner would hate it. Of course the prisoner hated everything. That hate had fueled a wide swath of killing and destruction across the galaxy before he had been captured. After it had been determined that the creature could not be reasoned with or changed a prison had been constructed for this prisoner, balanced on the event horizon of a collapsing star making escape impossible. It was on the way to this specially constructed prison that the crash has happened.
He had worked hard to blend in with the new local population and bought supplies and materials with scavenged parts of his ship and with those crude tools he had further entombed the prisoner, even harnessing the ocean in this simple one person penal institution. He patted the bare earth one more time with his shovel, the prisoner was as secure as he could make it. The monster was so deep now no sane creature would ever dig here without a good reason. He had even harnessed the cold, salty ocean in a manner to keep the prisoner deep underground.
He looked up at the final tool that was to be removed to erase all evidence of his efforts here. A primitive block and tackle that he had been using to place the final barriers in place, obstructing access to the vault he had constructed below. He had to make one more trip back to the mainland to retrieve the beacon he would place high in the tree. The last remnant of his ship, would be a safeguard to warn other travelers what was buried below, in addition it would send out a harmless tone that would make this weirdly uncomfortable to the local sentient life forms. Once the organic beacon was in place he would take the pulley system down. The beacon would be come part of the tree and eventually part of the island itself, giving a steady warning to stay away from this place.
“Did you hear about the accident in Chester?” Daniel McGinnis said pulling on the oars.
“You mean the one with that old man getting killed when that freight wagon broke loose.”
“Yeah they said he was crushed flat and there is not enough left to bury.” Vaughn said jumping into the conversation.
“Didn’t he live out this way somewhere?”
“No one seemed to know much about him, he was crazy hermit.” Smith added.
The three boys stopped their conversation as they landed on the shore and McGinnis lead them to what he wanted to show them. He had convinced them to bring along the shovels but he had not told them why. “There it is.” He said pointing to the branch.
“Strange place for a block and tackle.” Vaughn stated and Smith nodded in agreement.
“And look underneath it.” McGinnis said excitedly standing directly underneath the block and tackle.
Vaughn and Smith looked down to where their friend was standing. The soil was soft as though the ground had recently been filled in. “I think we have found Captain Kidd’s buried treasure.” McGinnis said pointing down with his shovel.
Smith and Vaughn looked around as if saying the pirate’s name would make him appear.
McGinnis looked at his friends. “Can you think of another reason anyone would be out here digging on Oak Island.”
A story I wrote a couple of months ago and submitted to a writing contest. Today I was notified it was not chosen, so I can release it to my dear readers.
“Wait let me stop you right there, yes I am smuggler, and yes I am old, but I am not an old smuggler.” The young person across the table looked at him with a blank stare. Garak shook his head when he realized I would have to explain this. “An old smuggler implies that I have been doing this a long time, and while I have been smuggling for a couple of years now, which might seem like a long time to you, it is not to me, and while I am an old guy that does not make me an old smuggler.” He decided to stop when he saw the light go off.
“I am sorry for the confusion Mr. Garak.”
“Hey drop the Mr. part, it is just Garak and you know that is an alias right?” The youth nodded his head. “Okay what was the question again.”
“You are a smuggler.” The young person looked at him. “And you are kind of advanced in age to be one, most people your age are retired and leaving comfortable lives.”
Garak shook his head. “Life is not about comfort son, it is about grabbing as much experiences as you can, it is about making a difference as you see fit and hopefully helping people along the way make as much as they can with their dash.”
The interviewer looked up at the last part. “Their dash?”
Garak nodded. “Their dash, the time between their birth and death, signified on their headstone with a dash.”
The reporter made a face of recognition and then continued. “So why are you a smuggler?”
“That is a good question.” He paused. “I guess you can say my personal convictions.”
“Can you please explain that.”
“Of course, you see when they started passing more and more laws infringing on personal liberty, with California leading the charge, then Utah. It happened when the church got a new prophet and with the boys in DC losing control that joker started exercising more and more wacko based control in his home territory. All of it disgusted me, and since I had time on my hands and the ability, meaning the freedom to do something about it I decided to get into the smuggling business, moving objects from one place to another making things available to people that they should be allowed to have.”
“So you do this because you hate the system?”
“Well that is an oversimplification, I love people, I respect people and believe they are born with the natural right to pursue their own happiness as long as it hurts no one else.”
“But aren’t some of the things you smuggle hurting people?”
“I thought you did your research on me fella” Garak said looking at the reporter. “I guess you did not do a good job.” The kids face flushed.
“I did you are a two way smuggler, you smuggle straws, guns, slingshots, red meat, and paint into California and you then turn around and smuggle weed and booze into Utah back and forth, back and forth.”
“Don’t forget the lingerie, those holy rollers polygamist wives in Utah really love that Fredrick’s of Hollywood stuff, pretty tame stuff, no leather or pvc, they typically keep it to lace and silk. I guess that is a way to keep the husband interested. So what is hurting people bub?” Garak said lighting a cigar with a match. The kid leaned back away from Garak as the smoke drifted towards him. Garak chuckled.
“You are going to claim the guns don’t hurt people, the straws and the paint hurt the environment and the slingshots well that could easily hurt people.”
Garak shook his head beginning to regret doing this interview. “The guns are bb guns,” The blank look came back on the kids face. “Pellet guns, using compressed air, not gun powder and while there is some danger inherent with all projectile weapons, the most the could happen is you’ll shoot your eye out kid.” Garak waited for a laugh, maybe even a chuckle or at the least slight smile, nothing.
“Okay but what about the paint and the straws, surely you see how that is hurting the environment.”
Garak shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I know all about the straws and them hurting the sea turtles, I was fifty when that ban started, you were what ten?”
” Mean while everything and anything was wrapped in plastic. Instead of rewarding business who reduced, recycled and reused with tax breaks or something sane. They outlawed straws making it a criminal offense to give them out throwing the a caterer in jail, for three years.”
“But he won on appeal Garak.”
“Tell that to his family that went three years without a father because he made straws available at a kid’s birthday party he was catering. They destroyed his business and bankrupted the family. Luckily they got help and are now living in Colorado I actually met him nice guy.”
“So you don’t believe you are hurting anyone with your smuggling?”
Garak shook his head. “I don’t move addictive substances across state lines, and most of these things were legal until someone made an emotional filled video which was then seen by some meddling politician who held his finger up to the wind and then decided he knew what was best for everyone and wrote at law that the news media covered with the same emotional video that started the whole thing. Then they sent people with guns to enforce those law. Most of the time there was no reasoned debate, no scientific study, no search for an alternative answer. Not even a debate about personal freedom and personal responsibility. Just a rush to make something ‘illegal’ as though that made it bad and it would solve the bigger problem.”
“So you do all this out of the goodness of your heart and just to say ‘screw the system’?”
Garak shook his head slightly. “Heck no kiddo, I get paid on both ends of my run, and very well thank you very much.” He said smiling as a brief look of disgust crossed the teenagers face, Garak decided to twist the knife a bit more. “I am a capitalist after all.” The undisguised look of disgust now came on the face full force.
“So you do this for the money then?”
“No, kid like I told you I did this because I am idealist. I don’t need the money except to cover my expenses, you have no idea how much I spend in gas and maintence for my vehicle driving back and forth between those two states, not to mention the gifts I have to give some people to operate.”
“You mean bribes.”
“You say tomatoes I say tomatoes.” Garak said waving his cigar in the air.
“But you make a profit from the smuggling?”
“I would not be a very good capitalist if I didn’t.”
The kid took a deep breath and regained his composer. “So what makes you such a good smuggler, according to all my sources you have never been caught, let alone arrested and charged in either state or by the federal authorities?”
Garak chuckled. “First I am an old man, no one thinks old people, especially in the youth culture of California think old people can do anything, except maybe be experts on the early bird special. Secondly I spent all of my adult life in either military intelligence, law enforcement or private security, I can read signal and communications traffic like a road map, so I can avoid spot searches and other ‘imperial entanglements’. Garak looked for a bit of recognition, none. “You are not a movie buff are you son?”
The kid shook his head no.
“So why interview me kid, it is obvious you don’t like me and are working on this interview with your own bias fully intact.”
“I am not biased I am a reporter.”
“Saying you are a reporter does not automatically eliminate your bias boyyo. Like I said kid I used to read people for a living. It is obvious you don’t like me for several reason,” Garak held up a finger. “I am a money grubbing capitalist.” He held up a second finger. “You disapprove of the things I smuggle into California but not the things I smuggle into Utah and thirdly you wince ever so slightly every time I call you ‘son’, ‘fella’ or ‘bud’ but not ‘kid’. Are you one of those new eunuchs I have been reading about?”
“The term is ‘new person’ if you must call us anything.” The young person said defiantly.
“Hey that is cool pal. You are not hurting anyone but yourself, and you don’t even see it that way, I guess, so the more power to you and all.” Garak said shrugging his shoulders. “I just assumed you were a guy, no offense meant, I am old and all and I don’t speak this new language. I mean it is kinda like when you get senorita and senora mixed up down south, nobody really gets bent out of shape because at least you are saying por favor when asking for a cervesa which means you are trying to be polite. Now that I know I can just call you…” Garak faded out the last part looking for an answer. Then he heard the whine of a hovercraft approaching the building.
There was silence in the dusty barn as Garak stared in shock at the kid who was smiling broadly. “Just call me Special Investigator Tinsome and you Garak are under arrest.” There was a loud crash as several armed officers crashed in the doors of the dusty barn. Garak look of fright faded away as he reached down to the table and grabbed his matches and relight his cigar. “You are under arrest for bringing illegal substances into the Three Sovereign States of California and in addition subjecting a citizen to second hand smoke.” Special Investigator Tinsome said waving his had at the smoke that was coming towards him.
“Two questions before you take me away.”
Tinsome nodded as he was flanked by two heavily armed officers who had Tasers and handcuffs out.
“Why do you guys still have three states in your name, I mean you became three states, then you all succeed from the Union, why not just go back to one state, why keep the full title, The Three Sovereign States of California, just go back to being California, a lot simpler that way.”
“We are trying to be inclusive, is that really your question Garak.” Tinsome said.
Garak nodded. “You are right more of an observation. Okay here are my questions. How dumb do you think I am, and you guys know there are other ways to transmit information over long distances other than just wireless?” Garak said smiling, then blinked out of existence. Tinsome and the other officers faces showed a look of surprise, they were even more surprised when Garak reappeared a full fifteen seconds later. This time wearing a yellow t-shirt with the phrase ‘don’t tread on me’ on it. “Kinda of figured that this ‘interview’ was a set up so I ran a fiber optic cable into this place, I only buried about five hundred yards or so, the rest is just lying on top of the sand. So while you boys were scanning for a transmission coming in to this place we sent the signal to the projector via cable. I have been sitting outside of your scanning area thanks to some friends. I was surprised you did not pick that up, I mean you waved at my cigar smoke and it did not move, let alone that you could not smell it, pity it is a good one, nice and robust.”
Officer Tinsome muttered something under his breath.
“Well time for me to retire, catch you on the other side Mr. Tinsome, oh and I was streaming this to the internet so your cover as a ‘reporter’ has been blown, you guys are going to have to think of another scheme to entrap people.”
Tinsome looked at the man as he faded from view.
“Oh and one more thing, you guys can go to hell I am going to Texas.”
For more pop culture references see this story The Place to Go for Answers.
For another short piece on my Libertarian views read We Need A Monster.
*Influenced by Abrams, Adams, Asprin, Assimov, Beck, Bradbury, Bryson, Cussler, Carlin, Cosby, Disney, Heinlien, Hemingway, Henson, Joel, Lewis, Lucas, Marvel Comics, Mccaffrey, Niven, Robinson, Rodenberry, Ringo, Seus, Schulz, Smith, Spielberg, Spirko, Serling, Stirling, Tolkien, Twain, the U.S. Army, Verne, Watterson, Wells, and the World Book Encylopedia.
25th Formal Remembrance of the Battle of Mogadishu
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