Dime Store Detective

Ben Van Dongen

Thomas rested his eyes. He pulled the authentic fedora down and put his feet up on his real wood desk. He hadn’t had a case in months, not that he expected any, but he was getting desperate. He didn’t need the money, the buyout he got when his tech start up was aquired gave him more than he could spend if he tried. His detective business was a dream that the extreme money and young retirement allowed him to fulfill. Thomas’ skills were with genetic programming, but his passion was detective novels.

The collection of folded and faded paperbacks was considered and eccentricity that kept other literary zealots away, but the genera fascinated Thomas. Using his time and wealth to recreate the office of his favourite detective and actually opening for business made him a kook, but he had the money to not care. Thomas even sprung for a human secretary. Big shots, like the CEO of Fresh Choppers, the top conglomerate in the world, didn’t hire humans, and Thomas’ did accents. He had insisted on having a woman, just like the books, but the old Bronx dialect was a bonus. He smiled thinking about it.

The afternoon quietly napped with Thomas. He considered heading down to the local watering hole to get the word on the street. The friendly neighbourhood bartender, paid by Thomas to play the part, kept his ear to the ground. The robotic ones never talked. He contentedly listened to the whir of the fan and the sound of his secretary randomly hitting keys on the typing machine. He swore it was called a typewriter, but she insisted it was a typerator.

Thomas decided to skip the trip to the bar and ride out the rest of the afternoon in the office. At five his secretary would come in and complain about how slow it was and about not getting paid. Thomas would assure her he would come up with the cash, though her fee was promptly transferred to her account weekly. The guys would be at his place for poker by the time he got there, then he would end the night by chronicling his adventure in his own detective novel.

With a stretch, Thomas sighed. It was in the slow afternoons that building and selling his company paid off.

“Mr. Holliday? Rachel, his secretary, called over the antique intercom. Her voice sounded tinny and hollow over the speaker, but the high-pitched nasal quality was all hers.

“Yes Mrs. Horowitz?” Thomas let his feet drop and leaned into the intercom.

“There’s a man here to see you. He says he has a case for you. For your sake, you’d better take it. You still owe me three weeks pay.”

Thomas smiled. Rachel was worth every penny he paid her.

Fixing his hat, Thomas stood to meet the man. “Send him in.” He took off his jacket and tossed it on his chair before the inner door opened.

Rachel led the man in. “Can I get you anything, coffee?” she said to him.

“No, thank you.”

“I’d like a coffee,” Thomas said.

“You can get it yourself.” She closed the door behind her as she left.

“Every penny.”

“What was that?” The man was tall and broad. His suit was fashionable and expensive. He looked like the people who bought Thomas’ company.

“Nothing, sorry. Mr.?” Thomas gestured for the man to sit.

He sat and crossed his legs. “Diaz, Please call me Jose.”

“Like Diaz Research?” Thomas sat on the edge of his desk.

“Exactly.”

“I used to work in the field.”

“I know. That’s why I’m here.”

Thomas stood and walked to the window. He looked down, but the street below was like a toy model. There weren’t very many short buildings left in Toronto, so he had to make due. “I’m not interested.”

“I’m sorry?” Mr. Diaz straightened his jacket.

“It may seem silly to you, playing pretend, but I worked hard for this life.”

“I’m not here to offer you a job.”

Thomas walked back to the desk. “Oh?” He tried to cover his face reddening.

“It’s not that I wouldn’t be happy to have you working for me. Your a rich man for a reason. I’m actually here to hire you as a private investigator.”

The words sounded rehearsed to Thomas, but they were exactly what he was waiting to hear.

“Your knowledge of the bioengineering, the players, will be an asset in this matter. It’s a lucky happenstance that you have chosen this life Mr. Holliday.” The businessman smiled and winked.

“What can I do for you?” Thomas sat back at his desk. He pulled his jacket out from under him and threw it at a coat rack standing near the door, and missed.

The smiled faded. “A researcher of ours, a Simonson, has caused a lot of trouble. He used our resources for an illegal and immoral project. Completely unsanctioned by the company, I assure you.”

“Go on.” Thomas leaned in and grabbed a notepad and pen.

“It seems he has tried to augment a human, give them abilities beyond the UN Humanity Standards commission.

“He’s tried to create a super human.”

“Yes.”

Thomas had heard of attempts made before, he even knew the theory behind it. Augmentation was a wildcard when it started, but most countries and the UN had since defined what a human was, making experimentation illegal.

“How’d he do it?”

“He started with an adolescent, his daughter. He used a mixture of surgeries and chemical implants.”

“Hybrid augmentation? That’s –”

“Monstrous.”

“You don’t mean actual surgeries?” Thomas covered his mouth and swallowed hard.

“I’ll save you the details. It was barbaric.” Diaz looked down and shook his head.

“I assume the subject died?”

“I’m afraid not. It would have been humane.”

“Simonson?”

“Dead. We found him in his lab. He was trying to use the procedure on himself.”

 

“When did you find out what he was doing?” Thomas stretched his writing hand.

“Not until last week, when we found him.”

Thomas scratched his chin, searching for his next question. “How did you find out about the girl?”

“From his data coil.”

“That’s a requirement? Recording your employees?”

“That’s right, for some time.”

“Seems like you needed something more to keep an eye on what was going on.”

Diaz sat upright. His face was rigid. “It hasn’t been an issue until now. Our security is taking new measures.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you, I’m just getting a sense of the situation.” Thomas put up a hand.

“I need you to find the girl. We can clean up the mess in-house, but we have no idea where he stashed her. She would be in her twenties by now. ”

“The police?”

“Have been informed and are content to let us handle the situation. International law is still fuzzy.”

“One more question.” Thomas pulled his hat down the way the detectives in his books did.

Diaz leaned back again. “Yes?”

“What happens to the girl?”

“That’s for a UN committee to decide.”

Thomas stood and put out his hand. “Alright Mr. Diaz, I’ll take the case. I need you to send all the information you have on the girl and Simonson, to my secretary. I’d like to see his data coil too.”

Diaz stood too, and shook the offered hand. “Some of that data is confidential.”

“Send me what you can.”

“Done.” Diaz tapped at his wrist and turned to leave.

“There is the matter of my fee.”

“I’ll pay what it takes.”

“Fifty dollars a day, plus expenses.”

Diaz looked back and squinted at Thomas.

“I’m not in this for the money.” He smiled and they shook again.

Thomas waited for Mr. Diaz to leave the front door before he jumped around and soundlessly screamed. His secretary came in and smiled, watching him.

“We got a case!” He grabbed her hands and danced around.

“I got the file transfer and uploaded it to your network,” Rachel said between bounces.

“Thank you, thank you.” He stopped, wide eyed. “I have so much work to do.”

“I’ll put on some coffee and cancel your poker game. We’ve got a long night.”

“You don’t have to stay.”

“I don’t mind. Besides, I have to make sure you don’t bungle this case, or I’ll never make rent.”

Thomas smiled and poured two glasses of whisky from an old bottle he kept in his desk, and handed her one. “You’re the best.”

“I know.”

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4 comments

  1. Hey Ben, that was fantastic. I love that you are continuing to explore all of these different sides to Science Fiction with your writing, taking concepts from Detective Stories and putting them in a world layered with amazing Sci-Fi concepts. Love the little wink towards Indy (I know he is one of your favourites lol). I’m also loving how you are amalgamating your stories with Christian’s in a way (Fresh Chopper) it feels like that interconnected world we dreamed up those many years ago. Cannot wait to see where you take this. Keep Pushing Forward my friend, JC

    1. I know you have the same kind of eclectic tastes Justin. It is so much fun to explore different aspects of the style of story you enjoy. You’ve done that a few times. I can’t wait to see what you are cooking up right now.

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