I once had a relationship, of sorts, with Nipples Nowitski.
Now before you start jumping to any conclusions here, let me tell you that this is not the kind of story you may suspect. It is more of a mystery story, with a twinge of the noir, but I am not a detective, or a cop, or any type of interesting person so don’t get your hopes up. I’m just a lawyer, in my own office, who has been around a while, and I am known to know lots of people.
So Nipples – ya know, I have to stop this here and now. Her name was – still is, I guess – Irene. So Irene worked for one of those big law firms downtown, where they still make the men wear their jackets when they go into the hallway. Irene was a paralegal, an assistant charged with a variety of duties that required some organizational skills, some intelligence, and a comfort level with repetitive boredom in exchange for a modest regular paycheck and the assurance you would never miss a date for an early movie by reason of any work requirement.
One day Irene’s mind wandered; not far, but far enough. She was filling out a report to be sent to a government office in some obscure place, Idaho or Newark or some place like that, and her eyes fell on the wrong list to copy from the client’s company records. Instead of listing the directors of the company, all of whom were upstanding citizens (or at least a decade away from jailable derelictions), Irene blithely typed in the list of shareholders, some of whom truly relied on the fact that no one knew they had anything to do with that business. The document was mailed on June 23 of last year. Irene went home that night and did her laundry and then unsuccessfully searched a dating website called Christian Mingle.
Last Fall I was reading the paper in my office one morning when Claire buzzed me. I am in one office of a large suite occupied by a couple of lawyers, a CPA, and a few consultants; we share a receptionist, conference room and coffee machine. Claire is everyone’s assistant.
“There is a young lady here to see you, Mr. H. She doesn’t have an appointment but she says Lou Carter from Hathway and Jencks sent her over; Ms. Nowitski.”
“Is this Miss Nowitski selling something or what, Claire?” I was tired of being pitched for every conceivable software system that had nothing to do with my actual needs.
“I think it is a client matter, Mr. H. Do you want to see MS. Nowitski now?” Claire hissed the “Ms” so I would not get that part wrong again; Claire was the helpful type.
“Sure, let me clear some of this off my desk and I’ll come out and pick her up in a minute.”
“I’ll get her a cup of coffee, take your time.”
I had two matters spread out over my desk. Lawyers can’t let one client see the business of another so I started re-assembling papers into their folders. Mrs. Lyon’s complaint about defective aluminum siding on her archaic Victorian went carefully into her file; the papers from my own annoying IRS audit I stuffed into an unnumbered red file folder and squeezed it into a desk drawer.
Ms. Nowitski was an open-faced woman with smooth skin over a bit too much flesh, the kind of look that flattens those little age lines around eyes and the corners of mouths. She might have been 30, but maybe 40. You couldn’t miss her figure, though; her blouse buttons pulled across her chest, opening modest dark little tunnels into whatever lurked beneath the fabric. She walked ahead of me, slightly pigeon-toed on low heels with her legs pushing against her skirt that managed to be tight and short and still uninteresting. A couple of steps ahead of me, she left a faint aroma of shampoo in the air.
Irene sat erect in my wooden guest chair and shimmied her skirt down a couple of inches. Her voice was pleasant and flat, without that annoying upwards questioning tone at the end of sentences, a speaking style so common these days. There was a mild occasional whistle through the small gap in her top teeth.
“Thanks for seeing me. Mr. Carter, I told him my problem – he’s one of the partners I work for – and he said maybe I should ask you for some advice.” She paused, eyes down. “I didn’t want to involve my firm in my – problem.”
“Well, I’ve known Lou a long time, it’s nice he sent you over and I will certainly try to help,” I said softly, then paused to wait for the story. Seemingly I needed a more affirmative cue for Ms. Nowitski, who was admiring the texture of my old oriental rug at the moment.
“Oh…. Well it is embarrassing really and probably nothing but – I think I am being followed.”
“Someone is following you?” I immediately panicked at the thought, I did not do that kind of work.
“No. Not exactly. I am being followed.” Ms. Nowitski looked up, her eyes now wide open and addressing my own. Her gaze was direct, matter-of-fact. “I mean people are following me. Not all at once of course; different people at different times, but there is someone almost all the time….” She trailed off in embarrassment.
“How do you know this?’
She inhaled, exhaled and launched into a detailed soliloquy. One can sense these things. Someone in the aisle at Whole Foods where she goes every Saturday for groceries although it is pretty expensive. Someone always in the Laundromat late Tuesday night now where she went because it always used to be basically deserted and she could get the machines she wanted. She and Evelyn, that’s a friend from work, went to the movies and Evelyn asked ‘do you know that guy, he is sort of staring at us’ and I looked up and did not know him and he looked away but next week she was walking from the bus and she was sure he was walking just behind her. There is a dark-haired young woman with a beaky nose who is always at Starbucks in her neighborhood. And – hesitation – the other night she was sure that someone had been in her apartment although the door was locked when she got home and nothing was missing but it just felt funny, little things she could not put her finger on. And one lunch she left her cell phone by accident on her desk, and when she got back she could not find it, but she figured it would show up even though it was not where she always put it, but then after break she got back to her desk and there was the phone in the metal basket where she always put it but it sure wasn’t there when I got back from lunch and did I think that was possible, that people were following her even in her office?
“I don’t really know, really can’t say.” Pause. “Anything is possible of course.”
She looked at me as if I were going to say something else, so I did.
“I would like to help but I am not sure, frankly. Not sure why Lou suggested you see me. Maybe the police, or even a private investigator. I could make a referral, this is not what I usually do, you see?”
Ms. Nowitski looked at me in a factual, nonpleading way. “I am not sure about this. I don’t want to go to the police. Mr. Carter, Lou..” slight blush and quick look down, “he said you know lots of people, you could ask around.”
I pretended to write something on the pad in front of me while I thought of something to say. What I did say surprised me, although apparently not Ms. Nowitski. “I can make inquiries, yes I can. I can do that. Are you sure you want to incur a – uh – legal fee for this? The police can be most helpful, and you don’t seem to have done anything wrong.” I started slightly, leaned forward: “That’s right, yes? You are not aware of any reason someone would be following you? Something, well….”
She bailed me out. “I can’t imagine. I haven’t done anything. My old boyfriend is married and moved to Los Angeles. There is – no issue currently with anyone. I do know how lawyers work of course. I can pay a fee – if it’s not too, you know….”
“Ms. Nowitski – Irene – I do not know how much I can help you but I will try. Fill out this form with your contact information, give me a few days. I think it best if I do not call your office, unless you think calling your home is too – intrusive?”
She put down her particulars and her cell phone number. I asked her for $500, promising that if I just hit a dead end I would refund the part I did not use. She said that was fair – at her firm, $500 doesn’t even get you the key to the men’s room – but she gave me two checks for $250 and asked me to hold one until the following Friday so her pay check would hit her account. We shook hands, she turned with a slight wobble and I followed her out through my office door and watched her walk down the hall and disappear in the direction of Claire’s desk, her tight skirt hitching slightly higher with each hurried step.
I put both checks in my desk drawer and pulled out my IRS file. I had no idea what to do next, but solo lawyers in this city take anything they can get.
Next morning I called Tewilliger. Lyle and I met years ago at a bar association committee meeting. He was a good guy, career assistant DA, I saw him now and again at events, and we helped each other out in various simple questions in areas where one of us was marginally more au courant than the other.
“Let me buy you some lunch, Lyle.”
Affably: “What do you want?”
Me: “Advice on a case and I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Lyle: “Sure, Thursday or Friday, you pay.”
That Thursday we met at The Sizzling Burger. I briefly considered going to some nice discreet place where we could talk but then thought that would make this “matter” seem heavier than it was. Besides, nice discreet places cost more money and I was paying. The advantage of The Sizzling Burger, aside from price, was that it was so noisy that no one was going to overhear us; the real question was whether we could hear each other.
Lyle was trim when I met him and stayed that way over, maybe twenty years. One of those guys with no butt, wiry and with a greying crew-cut, no bald spot. I recall once he mentioned working out at the police gym a few times a week. Here he was spearing salad greens dripping with low fat vinaigrette dressing at The Sizzling Burger while I un-notched my belt to accommodate the “Big Moo,” blue cheese on top, a healthful slice of tomato on the side.
“I have someone who came to my office who says he is being followed. Swears doesn’t know why. Swears didn’t do anything wrong. Swears not a domestic thing. I don’t do this kind of stuff. If I gave you his name, can you find out if it’s the government? You guys, the State, the Feds fer God’s sake?” The Big Moo let out a squirt of warm fatty blood and began its rapid descent down my chin, headed for my necktie.
“Maybe. Tell me more about it.” Tewilliger jabbed an elusive carrot shard. “What’s her name?”
So I told Tewilliger the story. I did not waste time asking how he knew “he” was a “she.” After all, Tewilliger is a public servant, he only gets 55 minutes for lunch. He said he’d check discretely. He said he’d call my office. He said that if he called and said that he could find out nothing that might mean that he could not find out or he could not say what he found. In any case, this conversation never happened. “Thanks for the salad,” he said.
I called Irene the day after she came to my office; she picked up her cell on the first buzz, she was sure she was still being followed, the same guy kept showing up on the sidewalk, the same woman with the beak nose at her gym. Did she ask the front desk of the gym who she was, how long she was a member? No, maybe she should have but…. No, I didn’t have any word, but soon.
Next Monday it was, Tewilliger called; it was after lunch so I figured he didn’t have much or he would have wangled another salad in exchange for the information. “It’s not anyone at this end as far as I can tell,” he said. “Certainly not the DA or cops, and I don’t think it’s the Staties because since the 9-11 thing we coordinate pretty well. My buddy at the DOJ says it isn’t Federal. Justice is clued into the SEC, the tax people, drugs and firearms. He can’t be sure on the FBI and Homeland Security people, says their long-suit isn’t updating local authorities, but I did make one call to someone who would usually confirm a name and he said it was news to him. Unless it is a really heavy thing, I’d say it’s not the Feds either. My best guess is, whoever is breathing down on your client isn’t from the law enforcement community.”
We exchanged a thanks/anytime thing, and since it was getting more difficult I took one of the checks out of my drawer and filled out a deposit slip for the first $250 and then call Moe Lipschitz. Moe did the investigations for my occasional divorce case, drove by the houses of new clients to see if they were playing touch football after they hired me to handle their disability claims, things like that. Moe had a license and was sufficiently nondescript to be overlooked, which made him perfect for light jobs. Also, he was inexpensive. He offered a day of following Irene for $250 and when I told him I got a total of $500 for the whole case he rolled his eyes and said that for me, he would do two days for $300. So now I am in the hole for $50 because I am not ready to declare Irene a big deal case and take her second check. I figure, it’s a nice thing to do, and if I can figure out the case then cashing the second check later will not feel so – greedy.
Moe tells me I am a schmuck for not getting a picture of my client, but calls back to say that she is on Facebook so no problem. I cringe that I never thought of that angle as a source of a stalker, but when I log in it is hard to imagine someone following Irene based on a photo that takes a straightforward looker and turns her into a click-though.
Moe is going to do Saturday and Monday and call me Tuesday. I consider telling Irene but decide not to, she is liable to start looking around even more than I suspect she is, which will cause total strangers to start staring at her, which will simply prove to her she is being followed even if she isn’t. You can see that I am not exactly sure-footed in these kinds of matters, but my heart is in the right place and my client is skating on MY fifty bucks so I figure I am entitled to my opinion.
I am absorbed in another case –I actually do work for a living and for the alimony check I send each month – and have my calls held Tuesday until I finish some papers for court. Claire has left a small pile of phone messages on white tear-off sheets in my mail slot along with a lawyer’s newspaper and a couple of bills. Nothing from Moe, which is strange, he is fastidious with his commitments if not overly skilled at his craft. No answer on his cell, so I leave a message and go home to watch the hockey game and eat my reheated raviolis.
No answer Wednesday; I called Irene who said there was nothing new and when would I hear anything. I told her that I had had someone observe her for a couple of days but don’t look around now because it is all over, and I will get a report and then we can chat. I suggest she not come to the office again in case she is being followed; she asks if I think using a cell phone is so smart and maybe she should give me her office number after all; like lots of cell phone people, she has no land line at home. Another thing I should have thought of, her cell phone being vulnerable. I took her number and promised.
Next day I am at Starbucks. The coffee is okay, their baked goods not so much. I am eating a yellow slice of pound cake with those little dark seeds when I have to stop chewing because there is a squib in the Herald about this guy Moe Lipschitz turning up dead of unknown causes while sitting in his car somewhere, under investigation, he leaves no close family and he is — was –52 years old. I would have guessed 65 at least.
All of a sudden I want to give Irene back her second check, tell her it isn’t the government and she should therefore go to the police. All of a sudden I am particularly interested in not meeting Irene again. But then I figure, I can call Tewilliger and poke around. Will he relate an inquiry about Lipschitz to this small time investigator I am asking about? Likely. Do I care? I don’t know, it is beginning to feel uncomfortable and complex.
I think I may need a lawyer.
I repress that sardonic thought and leave my pound cake and now-tepid coffee, scoop up the paper and head to my office.
I am trying to get back into my client’s aluminum siding complaint as a life’s work when Claire tells me that Lyle Tewilliger is on the phone.
“Hey, Lyle, I was just thinking about you,” I said in most upbeat voice of modest jocularity. “Whatcha got?”
“I got a dead guy with a wallet containing about twenty bucks and a check from you for three Cs.” This was followed with the kind of pause we professionals describe as pregnant, as you wait for the jerk to be made nervous by that silence and tell you something that he was not going to tell you, oh no never that, a mere ten seconds beforehand. But I too am a trained professional, not to be sucked in.
“This could be a bad conversation,” said Lyle in a measured voice. “This about the girl? Just tell me.”
So I told him. He promised to hold the check as evidence so at least while I was scared I was sort of solvent.
“Irene, is this a good time to talk?”
“Sure; I can take my break now. I may just stop talking for a minute if someone stops by my desk but we can talk. What do you want to tell me?”
“Irene, the police want to speak with you.”
There was a gap of a few seconds, and then a low and measured, “You told them about my problem?”
“No. Well, actually yes, I told them about your problem – but not everything,” I lied.
“I said I did not want to talk to the police. I hired you so I didn’t have to do that.” Calm, factual, controlled; better than I anticipated was her control of herself.
“I know. But something came up. As best I can tell, if you were being followed it was not by a policeman or anyone like that. No one from the government. So I asked someone to – observe you, like I told you. And he did. And then he – well, he just died sitting in his car.”
Long silence. “Oh,” Irene said. Long silence. Then, “how did they know to call you?”
“He – this dead guy — had my name on his person when he was found.” No need to get into the check business. “It was just their routine, I guess.”
Quietly: “Do I HAVE to go – talk to the police?”
That was an interesting question for me, a lawyer who should know the answer and didn’t.
“Irene, that’s not the point. This may be serious. It may be nothing. We don’t know. Maybe we should bring in a criminal lawyer.” Pause. “I’ll pay for it, don’t worry about that,” I said. Then, “Irene, I don’t want to mess this up. Maybe we should talk in person.”
She said, “what about here in my office. I can reserve a small conference room. No one would care; sometimes I do that if I have a client coming in to give me some papers. I could even tell Lou if that were better….”
“Good idea. Can you do it at 4 today, I’ll walk over. We should talk. Okay? Good, I’ll see you then.” I paused. “Maybe you should eat in today? Did you bring a lunch maybe?”
“I’ll have a banana. It’s fine.” Pause, then a small snort, almost a half-laugh: “I should be watching what I eat anyway.”
It was a pleasure to work until 3:30; I picked up my attaché case, put it down and started to walk out, then figured it would look more normal if I carried it, went back to pick it up, silently chastised myself for over-thinking whether I should carry a prop with me, and walked out the door.
“Claire, gone for the day. See you tomorrow in the AM.”
I turned down Third, walking quickly, then drew a breath and consciously adjusted myself to a slower pace. I did not notice the man in the sports coat who slipped into step behind me.
I got as far as just before Chestnut when someone gentle touched my shoulder. A slight fellow, blue blazer, open-throat button-down blue shirt, loafers and no socks, a very Ivy looking guy. His English was flat, mid-western.
“Can I have a minute, counsellor?”
I couldn’t place him and I’m pretty good with people and faces but no one’s perfect. “If you walk along with me, sure; I’m going to an appointment. Where did we meet before, excuse me I do not recall.”
He moved next to me, curb-side, and slowed down some more and I found myself keeping pace; no worries, I had plenty of time. “I don’t know that we’ve met. But we know about you. All good things, I hasten to add.” A bit formal, I thought; not a lot of people “hasten” these days, even as part of a trite idiom.
“You know about me?” I was nervous, but only slightly. So far.
“No, actually, Mr. H, I do not know about you. As I said, we know about you.”
I stopped to face him. “That’s an odd thing to say. Who the hell is ‘we’? Are you with a law firm or something? What’s this about?”
He smiled and started walking again, slowly. “Let’s walk while we talk. You don’t want to be late for your appointment.”
I had taken a few steps but then stopped again and just stood there. He had to turn and go back about three paces, which he did in a smooth and natural round-about swoop.
“How do you know I have an appointment. I didn’t say anything about an appointment. Look, this is a strange conversation. Call me tomorrow in my office. Do you need a card or do you know my phone number already, part of the things that the “we” knows?”
“I think we should chat now, while we walk. You don’t want to keep her waiting, do you?”
“Look,” I was getting angry about my wasted time, “I don’t know why you think I have an appointment or that it is with a woman, but ….”
“Mr. H, please, I don’t mean to hassle you. I just wanted to make sure you asked your client if she ever spoke to anyone outside her lawfirm about Jarell Services Corporation? Do you think you could ask that and just let me know on your way out?”
I was about to say I was getting pissed off and that this conversation was certainly over when he gently tugged at my sleeve. “Of course, I would be pleased to wait for you in the Hathway Jenks building lobby.” A small smile cut off any reply from me. I looked at him, he looked back, I turned to continue my walk and then he was no longer at my side.
I crossed Elm, went into the Hathway building and up the elevator without ever looking around.
Irene came out to reception and walked me wordlessly to a small conference room with one window looking across to an opaque window of another office across the alley. There was a little left in an oldpot of coffee, and cups with the logo and law firm name on them; a far cry from the unmatched mugs I kept in my cabinet for when a client came to call. I made a mental note to upgrade.
She looked pretty good today, an unworthy thought that found itself, unasked, sitting in the front of my mind. Seated across the table, all I could see of her was her face, of course, and a good deal of her upper body, seemingly trapped in a stretched white top with scooped neck and a hint, an ample hint, of the infrastructure. I am sure she saw me looking, though I did make sure to look away and not repeat myself.
“What do you think we should discuss? I am pretty confused.” Her brow was knit, the horizontal lines on her forehead the only place where her skin was not plumped out. She looked confused. In thinking about it, I wanted to play poker with Irene; whatever she was thinking always could be read in the flat planes of her face, although pretty often it was clear she wasn’t thinking about anything….
“I think we have to stop over-thinking things, and stop seeing bogy-men everywhere. And stop focused on being followed — even if we ARE being followed. At this point, what’s the sense? We should talk to the police. At a minimum should also help solve the “following” problem, I am sure they would follow up on that. I don’t think we have any downside, Irene.” (I reached for a stern and certain tone here, almost an avuncular aspect.) “We didn’t do anything wrong, you were followed, or thought you were, you hired a lawyer which is still not a crime around here, and I hired a known investigator and — well, that’s where our story stops, well short of a problem for us.”
I was pretty happy with how it came out. I almost added at the end “unless you had something to do with the death” but that seemed silly and melodramatic, so I did not.
“Well, can you come with me?”
“Sure, I’m your lawyer, if you want me….”
She sighed primly; her lips puckered slightly, then parted; the space between her teeth was really pretty small, I thought her lisp more like an accent than a problem. Then I remembered my walking companion.
“There’s one thing I did want to ask you, though.” Her chin stayed down, her eyes looked up. It could have been sultry and it wasn’t. “Did you ever hear of something called Jaret or Jarell Something, a company.”
Irene’s head jerked up now and her eyes widened and she showed me the teeth and let out a low sound that could only be thought of as a groan. I was most unhappy to see her recognition of the name, and I thought of my Ivy-League walking buddy who suddenly acquired an entirely malevolent persona.
“I need to ask Lou, Mr. Carter to join us,” she said in a near-whisper and before I could say that it was a bad idea she was out the door, which closed with a mild swish behind her. I looked out the window at the nothing, poured the rest of the coffee into my cup, was glad to find the smaller decanter contained real cream, and filled the ten minutes with blowing, sipping and worrying.
“Hey, H, how they hanging?”
“Lou, good to see you. I’m sorry to get you involved – actually not my idea, but this thing is really pretty unclear….” I looked up, hoping Carter would bring all the strands together in a few simple sentences but – well, life often disappoints.
“H, this –matter—is getting a little out of hand. I suggested that Irene contact you because, well, it is sort of a personal kind of thing and she didn’t want to get the police involved and—anyway, now it looks like it involves a possible client of the firm and I want to ask you how that happened.”
“Lou, can I get another cup of coffee?” I wanted a few minutes think. “And is Irene coming back in here or…”
“No, actually I suggested that you and I could chat first. How do you want your coffee?”
“Creamer is fine. So is this Jaret or Jarel a client of the firm or what?”
Lou looked down. “You know, whether or not someone is a client is itself confidential, you know that.”
I didn’t look down, but tried to engage his eyes: “And Lou, any information about my client and her personal case, and between her and her lawyer, is also confidential, you know that.”
Lou was not amused, but he did pick up the phone and asked someone to bring me more coffee so I figured we were going to have a conversation after all, with each of us breaching our ethical obligations but in a good cause, I was sure.
“So Jarell Services is — was a big client of the firm. My client actually. They – changed counsel several weeks ago when we made an error, not seemingly a big error but we filed the names of stockholders with a government office and the names of stockholders are not public. It was a mistake by a paralegal; actually, it was Irene who did it. I explained to the President—by phone actually, I never had met him, he came to me as a referral. I told him it was just a clerical error. He said something like “some error” and next thing I knew they took their files away. Didn’t tell me to forward them to another lawyer, just box them and send them back to home office.”
“Did you mention that the filing was made by Irene?”
“Hell, I don’t know, I didn’t take detailed notes. I am sure I said it was a para’s simple mistake. I might have mentioned Irene’s name, I really don’t remember.”
Lou leaned forward. “Your turn, counsellor.”
I told him about the guy on the street. He looked at me suspiciously; I did not blame him, it was such an improbable moment that I barely believed my own recollection. “Don’t look at me like that, if I wanted to make up a story for you I would have come up with a much better one than that,” I said.
We sat in silence. I got my coffee from a young woman in very high heels and very low neckline. I had no idea what to do next.
“Lou, I am going to walk out of here and this guy, I bet he is going to ask me what happened. He’s going to ask me if I asked Irene the question about any contact with someone outside of the firm about –Jarell is it? I really do not want to tell him I did not ask; don’t want to tell him I did or didn’t ask but it isn’t any of his business. Then I gotta tell Irene something and probably take her to the police who will want to know everything including this conversation.”
“Shit, H, don’t do that. We – let’s both of us talk to Irene now, find out about this.”
“Can’t let you do that, Lou. I can’t let someone listen in on my conversations and advice with a client. In fact I do think I need to talk to Irene, and would appreciate doing it now, without you in the room, even if it is during working hours and you could likely just say no to that, at which point I would have to go outside and talk to my buddy and tell him I was going to ask Irene but then this partner named Lou came into the picture and told me to take a hike….”
The pause hung heavy for a few seconds, and then Lou said he would get Irene and he turned and left without a good-bye or a handshake.
An hour or so later I stepped out of the building, I was surprised to see that evening was coming on, the old “time flies” thing. I didn’t start looking around, I fought down the urge to hop into an empty cab at the stand right in front of Lou’s building, and started walking back to my office.
“Long meeting, counsellor?” I had gone a couple of blocks, and was not surprised to hear the polite voice that had fallen in step to my right.
“The answer is no.”
“No what,” he asked.
“You wanted me to tell you if she had spoken to anyone else about Jaret or Jarel. She got spooked. Seems she made some mistake about a company with that name, whatever. She said it was just a mistake. I had to ask her three times if she had spoken to anyone outside of her firm about that. She said she hadn’t, didn’t understand the question.”
“Interesting. So Nipples denies it….”
I stopped. “Beg pardon? Denies what? Who’s Nipples?”
My new friend smiled. “That’s just what we call her. Great bod, don’t you think?” His eyes slightly narrowed and he turned to face me, stopping my progress. “You think that’s the truth, counsellor? Just your opinion, you know.”
“Yeah. Yeah I do. What the hell is this about? Because when my client meets with the police there are going to be lots of questions.”
“No need for that. Why would she need the police?”
“Because,” I said, “she was being followed, or thought so, and hired me to look into it. Was that you? Following her?”
“Mr. H, no need for the police. Let’s say she no longer will get the feeling she is being followed, what do you think?”
“Not so easy. Seems a private detective I hired to look into this turned up dead and the police put me together with him and they are sort of insisting.”
My friend leaned close into my chest and said slowly and quietly, “that wasn’t us. We were not happy about that.”
“Look – sir– this is very uncomfortable. I am going to my office. This conversation is over. I assume you don’t want to give me your – business card, do you?”
A friendly smile traced a thin line above his chin. “Maybe some other time.”
I turned to walk away, and I did. After about a dozen steps I glanced around and saw his back halfway down the street.
“I am telling you I do not know any more than that.” The detective was seated at his desk in a communal room with perhaps five or six other desks and some through-traffic.
“So you called her and she just didn’t answer?”
“Yeah. Not the first time, not the tenth time. I told you everything. I told you I will look at your mug shots for that guy in the street. Hey, ask her law firm.”
“We did first thing when the two of you didn’t show up yesterday as we arranged. Said she quit, just like that, no forwarding address. Today we went to her apartment. Furniture and pots and pans there – we ended up needing a warrant to get in – but no clothes, no cosmetics. You sure you don’t know where she is, right?”
“Right. Look, this is weird. Ask the law firm who the hell is Jaret or Jarel, why the shareholders are so upset that someone might know who they are. Run the names for crooks or cons or Mafioso or something. I do not know what this is about. I got $500 in this case to do nothing useful and I need to get back to work and earn a living. Talk to Lou Carter, take his time, he’s a partner in a big law firm, he can afford to do this.”
“Mr. H, my people tell me you’re okay, but please can the shit. I got a dead guy and no leads except you so we are going to talk as long as I say we are going to talk. Got it?”
So we talked. That day and a few times. And through a bunch of mug shots and two sessions with a police artist. And then it was over.
My two checks from Irene bounced, account closed. The IRS clipped me for a few grand, no records to document my expense deductions. My former wife remarried so I save on alimony. I stopped going to the gym; I am now a 48 portly suit size but I am very happy. My law practice supports me. I have a girl friend who happens to be a para at Irene’s old firm; no one has heard from her. The cops never solved Moe’s murder; his daughter who lives in Philadelphia called me once to ask me about my “involvement” but that was it.
About three years after all this, I got a postcard stamped in Los Angeles. On the front was a picture of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. On the back it said, “Regards, Nipples.”