Dime Store Detective – Part Six

Ben Van Dongen

The office was quiet. It was usually quiet, but after his first case, Thomas could feel it. He sat at his desk, thinking over the events at the school, looking for what he did wrong. Letting his target get away was eating at him, but not as much as Diaz not caring.

A knock at his inner office door made him jump. He saw the shadow of Rachel in the window before she walked in.

“I brought you a cup of coffee.” Rachel walked over to the desk and gingerly put down a brimming mug.

“Do I look that pathetic?”

She put her hands on her hips. “I just trying to do something nice.”

Thomas rubbed his chin. “Sorry. It’s that phone call. I can’t shake it.” He picked up the mug and sipped. “The only thing I can come up with is Diaz knew more than he was telling me.”

“Don’t tell me you’re shocked by that?”

He waved her off. “No. They’re a big company, bound to protect their interests. But if they already knew, why did they need me?”

Rachel walked around the desk and leaned against it. “It seems to me, either they knew everything other than where she was, or they knew that too and needed you to flush that poor girl out.”

Thomas rolled his eyes, but stopped when Rachel caught him. “If that’s the case, she must have had something keeping them away.” Opening the file, Thomas drew a line from Diaz to himself, then Diaz to the girl. “Of course it’s just a hunch, but that gives me a place to start looking.”

“Good, because one case isn’t going to pay the bills Holliday.” Rachel pushed herself away from the desk and walked to the door.

Thomas stood and followed her. “I’d better go to Dr Simonson’s office and see what I can find.” He passed her and left the office, heading for the train platform.

While sitting on the train, heading to Diaz’s headquarters, Thomas flipped through the notes he and Rachel had collected. Rachel had indexed all the information on the tablet, so drawing the connections was easy, though he wasn’t sure where it was leading him. Like he had done with the school, he moved forward hoping the direction would show itself.

The train moved quickly through the city, connection cars coming and going, transferring passengers. It was nearing the end of the day, so the train was full and the movement of people was fluid, like an organized dance. The low sun reflected off the mirrored surfaces of many buildings, shining in Thomas’ face from several angles. As they zoomed along the track, the sun was briefly blocked by the buildings, causing a strobing effect of bright light and shadowed dusk. The intermit light reflected off Thomas’ tablet, making it difficult to read. He put it down and rubbed his eyes, stifling a yawn.

Thomas stretched and scanned the train. Looking down the back of the car, he saw a woman duck behind a seat. He only saw her for a moment in the sporadic light, but she looked like his target. Turning to face forward, he focused on the seat in front of him, not wanting to let her know he’d seen her, if it was even her at all.

He had a hard time believing he had accidentally gotten on the same train at the same time as the woman he was looking for, but they were headed to where she was made and being as confrontational as she was, she may be crazy enough to go there.

Scratching his chin, Thomas decided he had to find out if the woman he saw was her before he made any move based on conjecture. Several people on the train were standing. Thomas looked for someone he could offer his seat to. A few seats away, a man held a heavy looking box. Thomas pushed his way over to him, excusing himself as he bumped into several people.

“That looks heavy, why don’t you take my seat?” Thomas pointed to where he had been sitting.

The man looked him up and down, sneering. “No thanks.”

“Really, it’s not trouble. I’ve been sitting all day.”

The man turned away. “I’m fine.”

Thomas leaned to look him in the face. “I insist. It’s OK, really.”

“Listen weirdo, I don’t want your seat. Just buzz off!”

Passengers nearby watched the outburst, some of them snickering.

“I just wanted to offer you my seat. No need to yell.” Thomas shifted to block himself from where he thought his target was.

Someone tapped him on the shoulder. “You’re seat’s gone.” She pointed to a young man with his feet up on the back of the seat in front of him, dressed like the kid’s he had seen on the platform the day before.

Thomas thanked her and rolled his eyes. He had accomplished his goal, making a reasonable case for leaving his seat, but he had caused more of a seen then he liked.

Moving further down the train, he positioned himself so he could get a better look at the back, keeping bodies between himself and the woman. His eyes struggled to keep up with the flickering light, making his observation a challenge. Through the crowed he saw flashes of her, hair, right eye, hand on the seatback in front of her, profile as her attention was drawn to that side.

A connector car came and went, shifting the population, some leaving, others getting on. The large body Thomas used for most of his cover was gone, forcing him to move and lose his view. He looked out around the shifting people, seeing what he could, moving further back when the crowd thinned, keeping out of sight.

Through the dimming light, Thomas noticed they were closing in on Diaz’s building. He thought, if she was heading there, he should get off a stop before so she wouldn’t notice him at the same stop. When the car came, he shuffled along with the departing riders, ducking low. When they disconnected and the train sped off, he spotted her through the window staring directly at him.

“Shit.” Thomas’ outburst startled a woman standing close to him. She backed away, face in her tablet.

Thomas scratched his chin and looked down sheepishly. Gritting his teeth, he took out his own tablet, downloading a map of the streets between where he was stopping and the building where his target was going. There were taxi stands, but in the rush hour, they would be busy. Zooming in and out on the screen, he read out turns under his breath, finding the quickest way to run there. The map program marked a red line on the path he chose, making suggestions of restaurants and stores where he may want to stop along the way. He ignored them and reread the turns so he wouldn’t have to stop and look at the map.

The car slowed as they approached the stop, people stood, collected their things, and prepared for their final leg home from work. Thomas repeated the turns and considered calling Diaz to warn him.

He shook his head, skipping a left and started from the beginning. Diaz hid things from him and may use the warning to cover things up, if they weren’t already.

The station, like most of them, was on the fiftieth floor of an impressive building filled with residential units, stores, and businesses. The population boom Toronto experienced in the early 2000s hadn’t slowed down. Thomas pushed his way to the door of the car, ignoring the dirty looks. The building enveloped them and the car swiftly stopped. As soon as the door opened, he ran out, heading for an elevator. A few kids were hanging out at the platform. To Thomas, they were indistinguishable from those who loitered at his building’s station.

The rest of the floor was empty, and Thomas managed to get the first elevator to himself, being so far ahead of the commuters. He scratched his chin and winced, touching a sensitive spot. He ignored it and said his turns out loud, preparing for the long run.

Concluded in Part 7

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