Chapter III:

I’m A People Person

I stumbled into my office and fell asleep on the cot in the back. I generally only got back to my apartment to sleep or change clothes, and my office was closer.

My apartment is not much more than a box the size of a prison cell with a bed, large cabinet, and adjoining bathroom. I pay extra for the included shower. Business class they call it; probably because the thing is all business and no pleasure. Still it’s mine, and it’s better than one of those multi-tier parking garages repurposed for living space.

I slept till ten because my police contact worked the night shift. Hopefully I could get more info from him and a bit more direction. But before I headed out, I had to spend twenty minutes uninstalling the overcharge mod on my sidearm, because I would have to check it in to get a license to buy more shots. Sifu came in earlier and watched me intently while I worked and gnawed on week old jerky.

I left Sifu at the office and made the trip to the local precinct. Once there, I checked my gun with the desk officer and told her I was there to see Sergeant Holding.

Seargent Holding; you would know him as the fat tub in Larceny Division. Too devoted to quite. Too lazy to get promoted. We’re good friends.

She plugged my gun into a terminal and asked why three shots were fired in the last eight hours. Maintenance and practice I told her, and she buzzed me through.

Sergeant Dan Holding and I go back several years to when I was just starting out, and he was just a beat cop, though we both took our beatings. The years may have treated him better, but I still enjoyed my job.

“What can I do for you, Nick?” Holding said from behind his desk.

“I’m working a Missing Persons. Wanna get some background info.”

“Alright,” Holding said turning to his terminal, “what’s the name?”

“Simon and Delia Crabwack. Married. Simon’s been missing a month. Delia says you guys didn’t find anything.”

“Hmm…” Holding frowned. “Spell the name.”

I did.

“I’ve got no Missing Persons report on file. There’s a Simon Crabwack. Mother Noreen, sister Constance, but no Delia or wife.”

“I thought there was something up with her story.”

He showed me pictures of Noreen and Constance but neither of them looked like they’d even be related to “Delia”. The family looked upper middle class, but not close enough to the nobs Delia was trying to be, or the gussied up gutter girl she more likely was.

“We’ll make contact with the family.” Holding says.

“It might tip Delia off that we’re on to her.”

“Not much I can do about that, Nick. Gotta follow protocol.” Which was code for I have nothing better to do today, Nick. How can I step on your toes with the minimum of effort?

“Give me their info. I can check in too.”

“Anything else?”

“I need license to buy more shots for my gun. I’m almost out.”

Holding raised his eyebrows at me. “Shot at anybody lately?”

“Not at any body.” I replied.

“Watch yourself, Nick. I’d hate to see you wind up in one of these Missing Persons reports.”

“Don’t worry, Dan. I go missing, it’s because I want to.”

* * *

Holding gave me the Crabwack’s address and the address of the allegedly-missing-Simon’s apartment, which ended up matching the home address Delia had given me earlier. Thing is Noreen and Constance lived on the other side of the city, so it was no wonder they didn’t file a Missing Persons.

I went and got a late dinner then brought a burger and pickles back to the office for Sifu. He was asleep but still thankful for the grub in his own quiet way. We stayed up watching an old Douglas Welch movie on my desk projector till we both fell asleep. I guess Sifu had a day as long as mine. And when he woke me up in the morning we had cold cereal and played chess while we waited for someone at the Crabwack’s to answer the phone.

I got lucky at 11:30 right as Sifu was wrestling with my checkmate.

“Hello?” a young voice on the other end of the line said.

“Constance Crabwack?”

“Yes. Who is this?”

I introduced myself in my usual charming fashion.

“How can I help you?”

“I’m working on a case that involves your brother.”

“Did something happen to Simon?”

“I’d prefer to discuss that with you and your mother in person. Could I come over so that we can meet?”

“Um…Yes. We’re both here right now. When can you get here?”

“I’ve gotta cross town. I can be there in two hours.”

“We’ll be waiting Mr. Cypher.”

The faire over to the Crabwack’s was expensive, which was just one more thing for Delia’s bill, and I had half a mind to add the cost of the two magazines of shots I bought as “incidental expenses”. After all, I’d fired my sidearm while on the job, despite the fact that I was drunk at the time. I might as well have added the bourbon to her tab as well. I had receipts and could count Papi as an outside consultant I pay in tips.

What can I say? Being self-employed is expensive and I have to take care of my over-head. Private Eyes are one part cop, one part thug, and two parts businessman, but call me a mercenary and I’ll show you a pocket full of lint…then I’ll punch your lights out.

The Crabwacks lived in one of your standard housing towers. Apartments of all shapes and sizes cram as much potential out of as little space as possible. Where your floor plan was an indication of your wealth, but you don’t ask your neighbor for a cup of milk because they might be a drug dealer, middle management, or prostitute. The last two would charge you, but the first would come by later to see how you liked it.

I knocked on the door; Constance answered and invited me in. In the living room her mother was sitting on a couch knitting for the sake of knitting. Constance joined her mother and folded her hands in her lap all prim and proper. Their place looked clean and maintained. Family pictures decorated the walls and shelves like these people had never heard of a photo album. The money they could have saved on print and frames by storing all this digitally could have afforded them a larger floor plan but that’s not how these people thought. The prideful poor point out their possessions to illustrate how well off they are. They were a typical clan of city dwellers, and if it wasn’t for the bowl of nearly fresh fruit on the coffee table, I was sure they would have been baffled by the concept of botany.

Both mother and daughter had long auburn hair pulled back in ponytails and the pale complexion and defeated look of office workers. The drones of modern civilization. Noreen looked to be in her early fifties, while Constance must have been around twenty-five, but I doubted they could have had more than ten years of life experience split between them. Now they were both devoted spinsters despite the obvious fact that Noreen, at some point, once had a life.

“You said there was something about Simon?” Noreen asked.

I removed my hat and sat down in a chair opposite them supported me like the faded green jelly-filled sack it was. “When was the last time you heard from your son?”

“He called two weeks ago for my birthday.”

"How did he sound?"

"Fine enough."

“Did he tell you where he was, or what he was doing?”

Noreen’s brow furrowed in confusion. “No. It was a short call. He said he was busy and couldn’t talk long, but it was still nice to hear his voice.”

This supported my theory that Simon was hiding from something; I just still wasn’t sure exactly what.

“Are either of you familiar with a woman calling herself ‘Delia’?” I asked, and watched as immediately both mother's and daughter’s expressions turned sour. “Does she have a relationship with Simon?”

“Simon was doing her taxes.” Constance said indignantly. “We all met for dinner once two months ago. We didn’t really care for her. She’s not Simon’s type.”

”And what type is that?”

”Respectable.” Noreen replied without holding back any perception of superiority.

I was getting the feeling that no matter what I asked I’d get the same answers out of both of them, an instinctive dislike of anything different. People like these don’t have generations, they have carbon copies. No wonder Simon lived on the opposite side of the city.

“Delia came to me yesterday and said he has been missing for the last month.”

There was a combined harrumph from the Crabwacks.

“Well,” Noreen said, “I’m glad he was able to lose her.”

“The fact is, ma’am, I’ve been employed to find him. Do you know of anyone who would want to hurt Simon?”


“Do you have reason to believe that Delia is dangerous?”


Neither did I…Yet.

“Do you know her last name?”


“Alright.” I said, then stood up and let out a sigh. “If either of them contacts you, please give me a call.” I handed Noreen a business card. “The police should be in contact with you about filing a proper Missing Person’s report. I’ll show myself out.”

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