This case has everything, red herrings, jealous brothers, femme fatales, and at the heart of it all, greed.
An excerpt from the book:
When Harry took the time to consider his position, a rather uncomfortable position at that, he concluded that he was somehow involved in another case that meant very little to him.
Not that it wasn’t important in some way he was yet to determine, it was just that his curiosity had got the better of him, and it had led to this: sitting in a chair, securely bound, waiting for someone one of his captors had called Doug.
It was not the name that worried him so much, it was the evil laugh that had come after the name was spoken.
Doug what? Doug the ‘destroyer’, Doug the ‘dangerous’, Doug the ‘deadly’; there was any number of sinister connotations, and perhaps that was the point of the laugh, to make it more frightening than it was.
But there was no doubt about one thing in his mind right then: he’d made a mistake. A very big. and costly, mistake. Just how big the cost, no doubt he would soon find out.
His mother, and his grandmother, the wisest person he had ever known, had once told him never to eavesdrop.
At the time he couldn’t help himself and instead of minding his own business, listening to a one-sided conversation which ended with a time and a place. The very nature of the person receiving the call was, at the very least, sinister, and, because of the cryptic conversation, there appeared to be, or at least to Harry, criminal activity involved.
For several days he had wrestled with the thought of whether he should go. Stay on the fringe, keep out of sight, observe and report to the police if it was a crime. Instead, he had willingly gone down the rabbit hole.
Now, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, several heat lamps hanging over his head, he was perspiring, and if perspiration could be used as a measure of fear, then Harry’s fear was at the highest level.
Another runnel of sweat rolled into his left eye, and, having his hands tied, literally, it made it impossible to clear it. The burning sensation momentarily took his mind off his predicament. He cursed and then shook his head trying to prevent a re-occurrence. It was to no avail.
Let the stinging sensation be a reminder of what was right and what was wrong.
It was obvious that it was the right place and the right time, but in considering his current perilous situation, it definitely was the wrong place to be, at the worst possible time.
It was meant to be his escape, an escape from the generations of lawyers, what were to Harry, dry, dusty men who had been in business since George Washington said to the first Walthenson to step foot on American soil, ‘Why don’t you become a lawyer?” when asked what he could do for the great man.
Or so it was handed down as lore, though Harry didn’t think Washington meant it literally, the Walthenson’s, then as now, were not shy of taking advice.
Except, of course, when it came to Harry.
He was, Harry’s father was prone to saying, the exception to every rule. Harry guessed his father was referring to the fact his son wanted to be a Private Detective rather than a dry, dusty lawyer. Just the clothes were enough to turn Harry off the profession.
So, with a little of the money Harry inherited from one of his aunts, he leased an office in Gramercy Park and had it renovated to look like the Sam Spade detective agency, you know the one, Spade and Archer, and The Maltese Falcon.
There’s a movie and a book by Dashiell Hammett if you’re interested.
So, there it was, painted on the opaque glass inset of the front door, ‘Harold Walthenson, Private Detective’.
There was enough money to hire an assistant, and it took a week before the right person came along, or, more to the point, didn’t just see his business plan as something sinister. Ellen, a tall cool woman in a long black dress, or so the words of a song in his head told him, fitted in perfectly.
She’d seen the movie, but she said with a grin, Harry was no Humphrey Bogart.
Of course not, he said, he didn’t smoke.
Three months on the job, and it had been a few calls, no ‘real’ cases, nothing but missing animals, and other miscellaneous items. What he really wanted was a missing person. Or perhaps a beguiling, sophisticated woman who was as deadly as she was charming, looking for an errant husband, perhaps one that she had already ‘dispatched’.
Or for a tall, dark and handsome foreigner who spoke in riddles and in heavily accented English, a spy, or perhaps an assassin, in town to take out the mayor. The man was such an imbecile Harry had considered doing it himself.
Now, in a back room of a disused warehouse, that wishful thinking might be just about to come to a very abrupt end, with none of the romanticized trappings of the business befalling him. No beguiling women, no sinister criminals, no stupid policemen.
Just a nasty little man whose only concern was how quickly or how slowly Harry’s end was going to be.
© Charles Heath 2019