Posted in A Miles Mitchell Story, Outrageous Lies and Tales

The Faux Surveillance Case, A Miles Mitchell Mystery

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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 making judgements about 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 from me she took it.

“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 grandparents 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’s Adventure
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:

The Missing Train

The Walkaway Case

The Case of the Missing Mementos

The Missing Heiress 

The Road to A Wedding Case

Posted in A Miles Mitchell Story, Outrageous Lies and Tales

The Road to a Wedding Case

A Miles Mitchell Mystery

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Most cases I get are local, right around the corner, or in my case in my backyard, the number one travel destination in the world, Walt Disney World.  Now some are initiated from far away, a phone call or e-mail.  One of the few cases that required me to travel started in Salina, Kansas.  I am sure it is a fine town, but I met one of the ugliest persons I have ever met there.  Not ugly on the outside, the old dame I am sure was fine looking for her age but let me tell you if  ugly manifests on the outside as to what was in this lady’s inside Hollywood would not even hire her to scare people.  

She had contacted me for a job, with a nice fat retainer in advance, so to Salina, Kansas I went, flying then driving in a cheap rental car and meeting with her at her office above a carpet store.  The sign outside said largest carpet company in the tri state area.  I was shown up a set of back stairs to the wondering all along which three states the sign was referring to as Salina if not the dead center in the state it was pretty close. 

The client in question was a Mrs. Wendy Nelson, after noticeably short pleasantries, in which she barely offered me coffee she got down to business.  Her granddaughter was marrying a man she did not approve of for two reasons. The first he came from a competitor’s family, the largest tile floor company in the tri-state area.  I was not able to ask my question, which three states, and the second was when Mrs. Nelson showed her ugly side, the groom in question was of Asian Indian descendent.  Mrs. Nelson used some really disgusting terms when mentioning the man’s lineage.

Now I don’t like this type of person, they are mean and stupid. They are also the most terrible thing I can think of boring due to their closed mind.  But since I had traveled so far, I did not have a return ticket together with the fact I had already spent her advance on silly things like rent, utilities and trying to catch up on my phone bill I had no choice but to accept the job from the old woman.

But I was not going to like it.

She explained that the couple had decided to get married at Walt Disney World, that is when she started scheming, she was going to have me drive the wedding party to Orlando in a big custom RV while along the way I was to investigate the groom for dirt. My report would be due on the day of the wedding.

“Can you drive a forty-five-foot motor home?”

Now I have driven a lot of vehicles over the years, but never anything that big or even close to that big, but one glance at the lady, then a quick check of my bank account, which had a lot of empty space in it I answered her question in the only sensible way I could. “Of course.”

“You understand your job, get in good with the groom and dig up some dirt that I can use to end the marriage before it happens.”  

I nodded. 

“No one knows that you are a private investigator, they just think you are hired to drive the bus and assist them with errands for the wedding when you get to that god awful place.”

“Your will report to me on the day of the wedding.”

The old lady had a few nasty racial slurs thrown in about the groom, but I am going to leave them out and just say that I accepted the job.  She handed me a large envelope of cash, a credit card for gas along with the keys to a large RV which she said was parked out back near the loading dock.  She also gave me an address to pick up the happy couple along with their friends at tomorrow morning.

The rest of the day I spent driving the RV around empty parking lots getting a handle on driving the big box around.  I am very proud of my accomplishments with the vehicle I never had a ding or a mishap with the big old thing until I was a scant three miles from Walt Disney world, and then I only lost the passenger side mirror.

I was at the pickup spot the next morning with fifteen minutes to spare and a sizable dent in the credit card, I was glad the cash I was given was not to fill up the RV. The pickup spot was the groom’s family store with a huge banner declaring that this was the largest tile and floor covering company in the tri-state area. My hand started to rise up like we were taught in school, but there was not one around to answer the three-state question which had been vexing me. Soon there were multiple cars pulling in and I was greeting the bride, the groom along with wedding party and all the parents.  Everyone seemed joyously happy about the whole thing.  I saw the two-future father in laws kidding with each other and comparing golf swings.  It was obvious to a trained observer like me that these two families really liked each other and got along great. The temperature dropped a few degrees when my client, the grandmother showed up, the laughing stopped, the kidding stopped, the old lady’s disdain was obvious.  It was at this point that I was pulled aside by the groom’s uncle, Uncle Samuel.

“I understand you are a private eye hired by the old battle-axe.”

I just shrugged playing stupid, although some people say it is not an act. 

“No one else knows who you are, the old broad’s secretary slips me a little info on the sly every once in a while.”

Again, with the stupid look on my face along with the shrug.

“I like a professional but let me tell you are not going to find anything on my nephew he is a good kid.”

I gave a slight no committal nod.

“But that nerd he wants to marry, she is no good for him and my stupid brother wants to go into business with that moron.”  He said motioning over towards the two subdued men who if the hype were to be believed could solve all your floor covering needs with either carpet or tile in the tri-state area.

Not looking at the guy, I continued to observe at the gathering of the happy couple, their friends and families but talked to him in a low voice. “What if I am, what do you want?”

The guy caught what I was doing and looked casual as well.  It has been my experience that the only people that can do that are people who practice deception on a regular basis, either for good or bad. “I need access to her laptop; she is the accountant for her father’s firm, and I need to prove to him that joining the businesses are a bad idea.”

“And you think she is going to take her computer on the trip, you want me to do what steal it?”

“Oh, she will take it with her, the kid’s a workaholic, loves the numbers.”  The guy paused handing me some expensive whiskey, in its own box and everything, very fancy. “Inside the box is a thumb drive, just insert it in the computer when its turned on, leave it there for five minutes it will do the rest copying all the Excel files, I will have my own accountant go over the books and stop the merger.”  He paused again. “There is a check in the box, dated after the wedding if the job is done.”  He quoted a figure, which while not as big as the amount given by the bigoted grandmother was a healthy number.  I took the bottle then nodded. This was an interesting development.

After another 20 minutes of loading the bus, goodbyes and ‘see you in Florida’s’ I started up the bus and began the route programmed by the bubbly happy couple.  First stop Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee. Six Hundred odd miles, me, a huge RV, a bride, and groom to be with six of their best friends.

The trip was a little dull from my point of view, I was expecting to have to clean up empty beer cans along with Code Vs from drunken kids, but this was much better, dull but better. I was driving interstates, while the kids in back played Trivial Pursuit (the Disney version, I chimed in when no one else knew a history question) then they settled in to watch some movies on the large screen tv.

We arrived in Memphis about 8 pm, the kids checked into the Radisson, paying for my room. They went out to see the night life of Memphis, I opted to stay in as I was beat from the drive.  

Early the next day we all went to Graceland, The King’s Home.  I love Elvis so it was a real treat for me, I joined them on my own dime. I even bought myself an Elvis beach blanket.

We were back on the road by noon, I would have loved to stay longer but I was on the clock.  Eight hours to Panama City Beach, Florida, an overnight stay in another Radisson, the wedding party hit the beach.  I took care of the needs of the RV.

I had learned a lot about the happy couple. They had met as at the Wald Disney World College Program; kids get some work experience while learning the fundamentals how Disney does business.  It was love at first sight, both were in Retail, her at Main Street Emporium, him at the Pirates of the Caribbean Gift shop. They met during orientation and dated the entire time of the program.  Five months of forty plus hour workweeks, riding the bus back to their overcrowded dorms, then cramming as much fun on very little sleep in as possible, they both graduated from their respective schools the next year and he proposed soon afterwards.

They were a nice couple. I kind of felt unclean looking for dirt on both, but a job is a job.  So, look, listen, and investigate I did.  I talked to the bride about accounting, I talked to the groom and his buddies about old girlfriends, it was not the most conducive environment for covert questioning but I learned things, nothing I could report to my separate clients but I was building rapport. As for her laptop, she never left it unattended where I could access it, so I bided my time on that front.

As far as I could tell, he was devoted to her and her him. I watched him and I never saw him even look at another girl. She was a workaholic, while watching a movie going down the road, I could see in my rearview mirror that she was working on spread sheets.  I did learn one thing while talking to her, she was not only working on the books for her family’s business but also for the groom’s family.

We arrived in my stomping grounds later that night.  They were asking for someplace to eat before they checked in and since they knew I was from the area they asked for a non-chain place.

I knew just the place and drove just a few miles off our planned route and took them to my gal’s diner, Millie’s Place.

The kids loved the diner and I was glad to see Millie. I got a slice of pie and a kiss to go. It would have been a wonderful reunion if I had not hit a light post and lost the passenger side mirror while pulling out of the parking lot. So much for looking suave and debonair.

The kids stayed in two separate cabins at Fort Wilderness, I parked the RV at a nearby campsite. 

The next day I helped the kids rent a van and started playing chauffeur taking them to the Disney Wedding planner and doing the thousand and one things needed for both a wedding.

Now I love going to weddings, everyone is typically in a good mood, there is good food and drink usually paid for by someone else, but I think that arranging a wedding is a particularly nasty torture designed by an evil Disney villain like Cruella De Ville. Ten thousand decisions, what kind of cake, what color of; flowers, bridesmaids’ dresses, icing on the cake.

Disney is not above trying to cash in on someone else’s miseries. One of the CEO’s of Disney decided to open another income stream for the parks, another way to cash in on a (hopefully) once in a lifetime experience. Thus, Disney Fairytale Weddings and Honeymoons came into being. Disney weddings officially started in 1991, but I knew there were ceremonies going on in the parks before that.

As an adult I have never even attempted to break any rule on property, but that was not always true as a youngster. I worked as an assistant to a Very Unofficial Wedding Coordinator, by the name of Clarisse, who carried off covert weddings all the place.  I would run errands, be a lookout, and other little chores.  The craziest nuptials were in the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.  To facilitate this Clarisse had me I fake an injury on the steps leading up to the treehouse.  This stopped all traffic going up and giving the wedding party enough time to state their vows. Unfortunately, I did my job a little too well and I had to hitchhike back to the park after taking an ambulance ride and then sneaking out of the ER. I made Clarisse fork over another twenty bucks for my trouble on that one.

These kids were troopers taking every hurdle, delay, difficulty, frayed nerve in stride with grace and style. I saw what I considered to be minor dust ups which were solved easily within a couple of hours.  My investigation into the groom was coming up dry, he was a solid guy, treated everyone great, tipped well and one time I even saw him helping the cleaning staff at the cabin pick up trash from a ripped bag. I thought my only chance to get some dirt on this kid was at the bachelor party on Friday night.

I did overhear something from the bride one morning before starting our day of errands, she was talking to one of her bridesmaids, a cousin to the groom and she had her laptop out. She was asking her about payments to a glue company and they seemed to be more frequent and at strange intervals. The cousin who was only peripherally affiliated with the business was not sure but told her to not worry about it. I could tell by the look on her face before closing the laptop it was not going to leave her mind.

I was tasked with picking up the mothers and fathers from the airport. The Wicked Witch of Kansas carpeting, aka grandmother, was not due to arrive until the next day and I was not picking her up, she was not staying on Disney property but at a hotel off property. I listened to the future in-laws as I drove, learning nothing.  It was not till I was helping the father of the groom unload his golf clubs that another piece of the puzzle fell into place.  He took a call on his cell and heard him arguing with someone telling them, no more payments until the books were reviewed. Then I heard that name again, Thoroughbred Adhesives and Fixatives.

The group had dinner plans at Hollywood Studios, the package deal at the Brown Derby with VIP seating at Fantasmic. I completed one of my tasks that night, the bride left her laptop in the rented van and I slipped the thumb drive in, after the prescribed five minutes the light on the little device stopped glowing and I pocketed it.

After that bit of luck, I used the down time to run to my office and turn on my own computer for some research. I mulled my results while watering my spider plant that had a serious dry spell and throwing out some old Chinese food, I think it was growing into a new life form in my temperamental ice box.

I had sent out some e emails and hoped they would get back to me.  I had only two days, till the wedding and maybe my hunch would pay off.

Another night of shows and dinner this time at Epcot and little old me was not invited except for chauffer duty, which was just as well as I had more work to do.  One of my e-mails was responded to and it made me happy, not as happy as a certain unnamed Dwarf but at least as happy as a father getting a nap on a Disney vacation.

The final day before the wedding was organized chaos, but thanks to the Official Disney Wedding Coordinator everything was going to be ready and in place.  I just had to survive the constant requests to run this person to a local pharmacy or that person to grab something from the supermarket. No problems, although I did almost run out of gas. I hung out in the parking lot while all important parties had their rehearsal and then their rehearsal dinner at Wilderness Lodge. Then I was tasked with taking the groom and his three buddies on a secret bachelor party that the Best Man would not tell me its location until they were all in the van. I had my covert camera all set up, no flash, highest resolution in dark settings so no matter what dark den of sin and depravity we ended up at I would be able to document it for my client. 

Sometimes I hate my job. 

But not that night, I drove the boys to an axe throwing place, then Machine Gun America where you can shoot honest to goodness automatic weapons without having to enlist in the armed services.  I got some great pictures of all the activities. We finally ended the evening back at Millie’s Diner where the boys gave the groom an honest to goodness Darth Vader collectible lightsaber that they had pitched in and bought.  These were good, morale Midwestern kids and the groom was the best among them and I was going to be happy telling that to the grandmother tomorrow morning.

Whether she would be happy I did not give a flying fig, and I had already been paid.

The next morning came way to early after the previous nights subdued debauchery. Luckily, the only people I had to run to the Wilderness Lodge where the ceremony was to take place were the groom and his buddies, the bride was getting a limousine.  I ran errands for the family and then set up a meeting of my own.

I had called Uncle Samuel and asked him to meet me in the lobby of the Villas, the Vacation Club area of Wilderness Lodge, it is kind of secluded with all kinds of little nooks and crannies perfect for a covert meeting away from people.

Uncle Samuel was a little late in getting there which was fine, he was busy tying his tie when he entered the alcove where I was seated in the main area. I motioned for him to sit.

“Well did you do it, did you plug it into her laptop?”

“Oh yeah its done.” I said holding up the drive.

“Well hand it over, then you can go cash the check.”

I shook my head and palmed the drive. “The families seem pretty successful, I did some research, both your companies do tile and carpeting in fifty-seven school districts in the Midwest.” 

“Yeah so.” He said eyeing me suspiciously.

“But you only own what five percent of the business, and if the merger goes thru your stake will go up eight percent you will be getting a bigger piece of the pie.”

“Yeah so.”  I could see his wheels spinning.

“So why would you not want the sale to go through?”

“I told you, their carpet business is crap.”

“The numbers don’t lie, both businesses are rock solid, but you know what I learned about mergers?” I paused for effect and I could see the gears engaging in his head. “A review from top to bottom of all assets and labilities, including a review of accounts payable.”  I saw the wheels grind to a halt then I watched the man deflate in front of me.

“You figured it out.”

“Not totally, but enough not to give you this drive. I am not going to help you cover up theft or should I say embezzlement.”

That was when the soon to be Fathers-In-Laws appeared from a small nearby room where they had been listening to the conversation thru my cell phone which was sitting on the table in a basket of pinecones.

When Uncle Samuel saw the look of disappoint on his brother’s face he started to sob. It all came out; Samuel was billing the company with a made-up company; he would pay off the invoices, but he swore he was going to pay it back.  His make-believe company was called Thoroughbred due his losses at the horse track. I thought his joke was in particularly bad taste he billed the company for glue. They have not made glue out of horses in about a hundred years, but I still consider it bad form.

His brother said he would take care of my bill, as the check Uncle Samuel was paying me with probably worthless. It was agreed all around no need to get the cops involved in this family matter. I excused myself and found myself to the main lobby to meet my other client.

The wedding was scheduled for three pm at Storybook Dining, halfway between the lunch rush and dinner rush, it was where the Bride and Groom had first said I love you over appetizers.  The only thing they could afford as College Program kids.

The grandmother was the last to arrive.  She walked into the lobby and I swore some of the small woodland creatures carved out of wood in the support posts shrank back trying to hide. She barely looked around at the absolutely glorious lobby and saw me sitting down. She walked over and stood over me.

“Report.”

One word. No hello or how was your trip, so I obliged her. “Investigation complete, ran his credit cards, looked over his driver’s license and social media, made other inquires and watched him this past week. The kid is good and decent, a total boy scout and you should be happy your granddaughter is marrying such an honorable man.”

She glared at me. “Anything else?”

“That is all I am going to say at this point, you wanted me to dig up dirt, no dirt to dig.” I smiled; she had already paid me. No need for me to stick around except to twist the knife a little more. “Wendy, I hope they have a long happy life together and they bless you with lots of great grandchildren.”

She put her hands on her hips fer face turning red and I could tell she was going to say some very nasty words, but her daughter came along in time to save me.  I stood up and put the keys into her hand and walked away.

The job was over, Millie was waiting outside in her convertible and I even filled up her tank on the way to the beach that day. We even used my new Elvis beach blanket.

Other Miles Mitchell Cases:

The Missing Train

The Walkaway Case

The Case of the Missing Mementos

The Missing Heiress 

The Faux Surveillance Case.

Posted in A Miles Mitchell Story, Outrageous Lies and Tales

The Lost Train, A Reading of a Miles Mitchell Mystery

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.

The Missing Heiress

The Walkaway Case

The 2nd Miles Mitchell Mystery, The Case of the Missing Mementos

The Lost Train

Posted in A Miles Mitchell Story, Outrageous Lies and Tales

The Lost Train, A Miles Mitchell Mystery

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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. They 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 premises 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, owner, manager and chief bottle washer of the 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 also knows my business is slow. She loves to get in a few jabs at me once in a while anyway; 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.

Millie looked around the diner, then at her watch, and nodded. “Sure. Even if he asks again, we shouldn’t 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’s 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, and the next night he asked for a larger table, but we could not accommodate him. Last night we were slow though 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 to join 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 Charlie.”

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 also 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 spread out papers. “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. It was Walt Disney World. We had been Sea Bees in the Navy, so we worked for 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 getting the train operating. He even worked on the monorail for a bit.”

Frank paused 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 decided to speak 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 he fished an awful lot.” He smiled at that. Charlie looked as if he were lost in thought.

So, what are you looking for in these letters?” I asked softly.

Well, Frank donated his body to science. 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 to deal with. The place ashes were most commonly dumped: The Haunted Mansion. Some people just took the ride too literally. People are weird. Lucky for me; otherwise I would be out of a job.

Charlie continued, “Frank was a company man and would not want his ashes scattered, as 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, ‘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.

Something wrong?”

I nodded. “The train tracks don’t go anywhere 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 through 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 other words due north, and we would find ourselves on a major road where 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 jokes 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 went 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’s 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’m not sure.”

Millie got up. “Well you boys are going to need some more coffee, and I guess I’ll send Daphne home. It looks like I’ll 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 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 as she went to get me the promised cinnamon roll.

I made my way into the bathroom and cleaned up, and 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 when Millie and Charlie 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 used an actual steam powered locomotive that moved guests from the front of the campground to the rear (while the campground was only a mile deep, it 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 rides were allowed 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 life steam train. I think Fort Wilderness lost something when it was decommissioned, 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 the problem, it was more 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 engines most frequently quit when the train approached 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 taken a little less time, but Charlie left his compass back in his hotel room and I am a city boy, so 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 he found 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, in addition to sending me a nice check. It’s Tuesday again. Millie thinks we are going out to the cheap movies, but she’s wrong; I am taking her to a real nice sit-down meal and then a movie.

Other Miles Mitchell Mysteries:

A Road to a Wedding Case

The Walkaway Case

The Case of the Missing Mementos 

The Missing Heiress 

The Faux Surveillance Case.