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 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 Walk Away Case, A Miles Mitchell Mystery

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In case you want to find me live and in person, my offices are right on Route 192, below me an Indian restaurant, next door a shared wall with a place that rents machine guns to tourists who want to play Rambo. Of the two, the Indian restaurant is the one that is the most annoying; the smells that permeate the air are so enticing, and for a perpetual broke guy like me it is torture.

But the Walk Away case came in on my landline (I really do not know why I keep it except that it came with the office and I did not have the money to upgrade the system to something more modern). The voice on the phone was pure upper-class white woman, North Eastern US prep school and rich (I am really good with voices).

The whole conversation lasted about fifteen minutes, but the summary is this: Mrs. Rich Woman, also known as Mrs. Janet Armstrong from Connecticut, wanted to hire me to tail her husband and prove that he was cheating on her with some doll here in Orlando. A typical infidelity case; find the husband, catch him doing the horizontal mambo with his side piece, and I would be eating for a month.

Mrs. Armstrong was smarter, or at least more devious than most wanna be ex-wives who already had a divorce shyster. She had installed tracking software on her husband’s phone, and she was also the person who made all his travel arrangements. What I initially thought was going to take a couple of days was most likely only going to take a day at most, depending on his libido. Well, I remember what my mother used to say, ‘don’t count your fried eggs before they are on your plate’.

Have I told you before that my mother is a bit of free spirit and doesn’t really go along with convention?

But she sent me a link on my cell phone after I embarrassingly told her she was talking to me on a landline and gave me a password to track her husband’s cell phone.

The suspected Mr. Armstrong was staying at one of the convention resorts on Disney property, the Coronado, probably one of the biggest ones by my guess. So, I went home, got a pair of pressed chinos and a dress shirt (typical convention wear here in Florida), and headed for the resort. Parking was never a problem here, as most attendees to conventions are bused around and never bother with a rental car, so I was able to park my car close to the convention hall.

I pulled up Mr. Armstrong’s location on the app Mrs. Armstrong sent me and noted he was in a room. I walked by it hoping I could catch a glimpse of him, and if I was lucky with his lady friend. I met with no luck, but I did note that I could sit nearby on a bench and casually monitor his room, so I sat down for a long wait.

Mr. Armstrong was out in less then a half hour, dressed not for a convention like most other corporate drones, but in a Duck Tales t-shirt and cargo shorts. Okay, I thought, maybe he is going to meet his girl in a park, so I did what I was hired to do: follow him.

Eight hours later I returned home, hot, tired and sweaty. Mr. Armstrong had toured the Animal Kingdom park with a vengeance, and after passing thru the touch points he had headed into Guest Services, not wanting to tip him off that I was following him I hung back. Over the next couple of hours I figured out what he had done in Guest Services: he had paid for a service to give him Fast Passes to every major attraction in Animal Kingdom. Expedition Everest, Flights of Passage, and Kilimanjaro Safari (he did that one twice). I was able to keep my eyeballs on him at Festival of the Lion King and the Finding Nemo show. No one joined him the entire day. No cute girls, or guys (not that I would judge). He was alone throughout the entire day. From what I saw he never took a single call throughout the day. I had thought he was some big wall street guy, but I never knew them to not be on the phone from morning till night.

It was nightfall before he returned to his room. I could see he was dragging butt as much as me, so I figured he was not going to have company for the night. Being the diligent investigator I was though, I set myself up on the bench near his room for an hour afterward and made sure he did not leave again or have a visitor.

Nothing, nada, zilch. I did not believe anything would happen, but it was billable hours. The guy was slightly older than me and I had caught him napping a bit on the bus on the way back to Coronado Springs. I checked my notebook to make sure the receipt for the thirty-dollar t shirt I had bought in the park as camouflage was still there. That was going in my bill to Mrs. Armstrong as well. I headed out when I saw the lights go out in Mr. Armstrong’s room. I could still track his phone, so if he went out, I would know it.

I went home with the best of intentions to be back at it first thing in the morning. That did not happen.

Okay, I overslept. A bad habit I know, but I rationalized that it was okay. I still had the tracking app and I could pick him up whenever I chose.

Unfortunately, Mr. Armstrong was not as weak as I was. Over a rushed egg sandwich from a convenience store I saw Armstrong was on the move and had been for two hours. Damn, the guy had been at rope drop for Hollywood Studios! Now I would have to spot him, but I did not know what he was wearing. What I thought was going to be difficult turned out not to be; he was making a remote controlled toy in Galaxy Edge at Build a Droid, and I knew I would have no trouble tracking him the rest of the day, seeing as he was dressed like a rebel fighter pilot, orange jump suit and all. Then, after build a droid, he had the backpack holding a droid and a fancy new light saber strapped to his back. The rest of the day was spent similarly to the day before, rides, shows and attractions along with stops for popcorn, churros and Mickey shaped ice cream bars.

Armstrong was not attending the convention; he was on vacation. He never talked to anyone for very long, he never talked on his phone and he sure never met up with a lover. He was just a guy having a good time.

While he was in the Frozen Sing Along show, I sat outside the exit reviewing my notes. His wife said he had come down to Orlando six times in the last year. She said he stayed at a resort with a convention hall every time. I was beginning to wonder if something else was going on here besides an affair. I reread my notes from yesterday to see if I had missed something, when it occurred to me. When I had followed him into the Animal Kingdom yesterday, I was like five people behind him in line. But it was the Annual Passholder line, not the buy a ticket for a day, or even the buy a ticket for vacation line, but the Annual Passholder line. That was for people that had a serious thing for Disney, multiple times in the parks throughout the year. Or the rare instance like me, someone with a lifetime pass.

Interesting. A picture was beginning to form in my head, but it was interrupted by the crowd coming out of the Hyperion Theater. I looked at my watch as we headed toward the Tower of Terror. I thought he was heading towards either getting back on that ride or maybe the Rock N Roller Coaster, but I was wrong. My orange armed and legged prey was heading towards Fantasmic, a large stage shows with characters, projections, fireworks and music. I knew from experience if he was meeting someone they would most likely meet up outside the show, as finding anyone inside was problematic. I gave up at this point, knowing the park was going to close while the show was going on. I headed towards my car and parked at the nearby gas station where I could follow Armstrong via his phone app without having to fight the crowds. Over a Yoo-hoo and a Slim Jim, I watched Armstrong’s dot move from the amphitheater, to the bus loop, then via Disney bus back to the Coronado, where I was now waiting. The middle aged Padawan got off the bus as predicted and I tailed him back to his room.Within a half an hour the lights were out, and Armstrong was out as well. At least I hoped he was; this guy was in hardcore vacation mode and I did not think I had the energy to follow him anymore. Just watching him have all this fun was tiring me out.

Locals like me do not spend all day at the parks. We might spend a couple of hours, do what we want to do, ride what we want, eat at a specific restaurant watch a show, then go home. We are not crazy like this guy or pressed for time like most guests.

I was outside of his room bright and early the next morning. This time I was prepared for a day in the parks, with comfortable shoes, shorts, three t shirts and two hats in my bag to change my look, and numerous snacks. I was going to try and get up close and personal with him today; if he was in a boat at Pirates of the Caribbean I would get splashed with the same mock cannonball, and if he was flying on Soar ‘in at Epcot I would be the fool kicking my feet a few seats down from him.

But like everything in this case it was not going according to my plan. I kept his room under surveillance for two hours before he emerged and damn it if he was not wearing a beautifully tailored pin strip suit with highly shined shoes and a very professional leather binder with gold clasps.

I looked down at my tan cargo shorts and decided they just would not do for whatever Armstrong had planned for the day. Luckily my chinos were laying flat on the back seat of the car and were not too wrinkled. Maybe I could blend in wherever he was going. So, while he was eating a safe non dripping breakfast of coffee and toast, I ducked into the gift shop and bought a very expensive golf shirt, another receipt to add to my billable expenses.

Another curve; instead of stopping in the convention center and talking to his peers of high finance, the perfectly coiffed target walked out the front door and got a cab. I tailed him and he ended up at Casting. Casting is a building that on the outside is styled with an Alice in Wonderland theme with funny doorknobs to match, but inside it is pure Corporate Disney Personal, or Human Resources, or whatever the corporation lingo is for a hiring center.

As I parked my car in an adjacent lot, I wondered what this very high-priced stockbroker was doing walking into Disney. Surely if they were recruiting him, he would not be walking in like a schlub off the street looking for an hourly job. There would be recruiters involved, lunches over lobster, and meetings at the corporate headquarters, not Casting across from the Disney Employees Credit Union.

I took the plunge and walked into the building. I had lost sight of my quarry, but he was in here somewhere and I was curious about what he was doing. I was approached almost immediately by a smiling, seemingly overly happy intern with an armful of clipboards.

Are you here for the job fair?” she asked in a bubbly manner.

My buddy came in before me, about so tall, and wearing a real nice suit.” I said, acting like I was looking for someone, which I was.

Oh, your friend went up the ramp to the job fair, are you going to that to?”

I nodded yes and she gave me a clipboard with a Disney pen attached.

Okay just head up the ramp, fill out the form and hand it in at the podium.” she said, smiling in a way that I am sure if I had tried to return it would have hurt my face. Taking the clipboard from her hand I went up the ramp surrounded tastefully with Disney characters.

The room was full of people sitting in chairs working on the aforementioned clip boards, and the only seat was right next to the most professionally dressed guy in the room. You guessed it: Armstrong.

The next ten minutes were filled with silence while people were filling out the forms and looking on their phones. I looked over the form myself. It was an application for an hourly position in Disney Transportation, bus driver to be exact. I pretended to fill out my form, but I was covertly looking over at Armstrong’s. The man was filling it out with the intensity similar to that of a gambler studying racing forms when he is down to his last two bucks.

I put some nonsense on my own form, and followed Armstrong as he placed his clipboard on the podium before we resumed our seats. He did not take out his phone. In fact, he did not do anything to kill time as most people do in similar situations. He just calmly took in the room, the pictures on the wall, and the people still working on the forms. I took my phone out but did not really do anything with it but check the weather.

Is it going to rain today?” Armstrong said, looking at my phone.

I laughed. “It’s Florida in the summer, it rains every day, if it doesn’t its news,” I said.

Lived here long.”

All my life,” I responded.

Me, I want to move down here.”

I wanted him to talk, so I just responded. “Oh?”

Yeah, tired of the rat race. I’m tired of going to a job I hate, to spend time with people I hate, to make money for reasons I lost track of.”

I decided to go for the subtle interrogation route. “Your wife tired of it all too?” I said, motioning towards the ring on his finger.

No, she loves it all, the country club life, the shopping for things she really does not need, the whole thing.”

Sounds like you two have a difference of opinion on what life is about.”

I’ll say,” he said. Then he paused for a few minutes as we both watched people move around the room turning in their clipboards and getting called in for interviews. “If I get this job here today do you know the first person I am going to call?”

Your wife?” I guessed, not believing that was the answer.

He chuckled. “No but it is about her. I am going to call my lawyer and have him execute some instructions I gave him. He will start divorce proceedings, giving almost everything to my ex-wife, my cars, my savings, the house almost everything. I keep a small bit to be comfortable, move into a nice condo down here and drive a bus for Disney and not worry about the stock market, or whether or not I can get the next biggest corner office on the higher floor. I am going to walk away from it all and as Thoreau said, ‘Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.’

I was about to say something sarcastic I guess but I did not get a chance, because just as he finished his statement his name was called and he stood, turned to me and said, ‘good luck’.

I sat there confused for a few minutes unsure what to do. That is when the name I put on the clipboard was called. “Leo Grant, Leo David Grant.” That was my cue to leave I did not have the ID or the inclination to apply for a job as Leo Grant or anyone else for that matter.

I waited outside in my non air-conditioned car to see if Armstrong came out and if I could read on his face how it had gone. I did not have long to wait, as an hour later he came out with a big sappy smile on his face. I even overheard him on his phone talking to his lawyer telling him to put the plan into effect.

I reported my findings to Mrs. Armstrong the next day. I was too late; she had been served the divorce paperwork the previous night, along with the deed to the house, the title to the BMW, the Lexus, and the Land Rover. She informed me she would not be needing my services any longer and then promptly hung up on me.

A month later I got my bill returned from Mrs. Armstrong for the third time. I knew she was never going to pay me. I did get some satisfaction on the case though; I rode a Disney bus later that week and I had the happiest bus driver on property, a former stockbroker, now with a simple name tag that said, ‘Charlie’.

Other Miles Mitchell Mysteries:

The Case of the Missing Mementos 

The Missing Heiress 

The Lost Train

The Faux Surveillance Case.

Posted in A Miles Mitchell Story, Outrageous Lies and Tales

The Case of the Missing Mementos, A Miles Mitchell Mystery

1" x 2" Blank Roll Tickets

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; I did not even dream about getting 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 (I was sorry about this because I really wanted to hear the doorbell; I bet it was one of those big gonging things like the Addams Family).I followed Mrs. Lafluer into the house, which from the short tour of the digs the inside matched the outside in that it was 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 a couple thousand times. I supposed old married couples do that, but I did not have any personal experience with it; my mother’s longest relationship was with a couch she had for fifteen years. They motioned for me to sit, and 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 houses around here, but they were caught last week.”

I had not heard anything about it.”

Doctor Lafluer. “It was kept quiet, and they’re still trying to recover some property.”

Yours?”

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 collectible, 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.”

Correct.”

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, then they 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 other was that the crew that had done the burglaries only took cash, jewelry, and some easily stolen high end appliances, but no paintings, collectibles 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 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 was not in the press releases. Daniel knew more people that worked behind the scenes at Disney than anyone else, and 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, and 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 that were stolen in a burglary. They 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 that 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, and she brought the piece with her. Recently they have been repairing the relationship, and 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’s how I found out about the break in.” Volunteered Mrs. LaFleur.

Is he here now?”

Yes, I believe he’s 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.

The 1st Miles Mitchell Mystery, The Missing Heir

The Walkaway Case

The Lost Train

The Road to a Wedding Case

The Faux Surveillance Case.