The SIn of Hope - Sample Chapter
If I don’t get to kill someone soon, I’ll probably lose my temper. One more cheating husband and I’m likely to beat him into a coma, just to alleviate the boredom. If I had another way to pay the rent, there’d be a sign outside saying no infidelity cases, but that way lies unemployment. At least this time, I only need pictures and brief notes for the client. Certain jobs require proper reports, legal-like. The mystique of this job lasted maybe a week, and that was a few years back.
Still, at least an infidelity case is something to do. It beats sitting around, which looks like what I’ll be doing after I finish this report, and is probably why I’m dragging my feet. But rent’s due, so I should try and get to it today. At some point.
A knock on the door brings some hope. Things look up further as she steps in. It’s not just her being out of place in this neighborhood that stands out, and I can’t even say that’s the first thing that strikes me. Her elegance is a marked contrast to my usual clients, and she stands in the doorway with poise. Her straight, shoulder-length red hair lounges on the smart, tight suit that poses little danger of concealed weapons. Safest to do a quick scan, though. Just in case. The suit says she’s professional. The cut says she’s successful. And the lack of a ring, or any hint of a shadow caused by one, says this probably won’t be an infidelity case.
I realize it says something when my first thought on seeing she doesn’t wear a ring isn’t that she’s single, but that she probably doesn’t have a cheating husband. This seems to be what my life has come to.
Her eyes scan the room, and she manages to suppress her dissatisfaction with the décor, which I’ll admit is lacking.
The light green paint needs a new coat. Possibly a new wardrobe. It’s been on the agenda for a while, but some clients seem to find the low-rent look reassuring, meeting their idea of what a detective should be, so I’m reluctant to change it. In no way am I making excuses to avoid doing the painting.
The only furniture in the place is my desk and a cabinet in the corner behind me, next to the window that actually catches a narrow ray of sunlight for ten minutes in the afternoon. The door to my right leads to a small closet, containing little of interest. The couple piles of folders on the desk are mainly for show, and the landline next to them is equally useless but gives the impression of an old-fashioned detective. Apart from the phone in my jacket, I’ve a few in the closet, burners I can dispose of after using.
Her gaze, having taken in the surroundings with some dismay, lands on me. I’ll admit mild surprise when she doesn’t quickly turn and walk out, and I have to wonder what that means. Desperation, or am I what she’s looking for?
Her sharp green eyes fix mine in place, her gaze as judgmental of me as it had been of my office.
“You’re Daly?” she says, her tone caressing every syllable, placing them with calm precision. Held by her eyes, I find the words almost hypnotic.
My instinct is to say, “Regular as clockwork,” or something similar, but with a rich-looking client, I don’t want to get too flip or informal until I’ve gotten a better reading of her. I nod, not fully trusting myself to respond in a non-embarrassing way, and sit forward, waving toward the chairs. “Please have a seat?”
She gives the chairs an appraising glance, but my diligence in making sure they, at least, stay clean, leaves her with little fault to find there. She sits. Her eyes quickly return to mine.
“Diana Freeborn. I wish to hire you to find someone.”
A missing person case. Thank God. As long as she doesn’t say it’s her ex-husband, ex-boyfriend, or anything like that.
I refrain from saying, “Anyone in particular?”
“The matter has a certain degree of urgency,” she says. “Can you start immediately?” She examines my desk.
Her eyes are flat, her mouth an elegantly impassive line. I’d hate to sit across a poker table from her.
“I’m just finishing up paperwork. What’s the urgency?”
“The person in question moves about a lot. I know he’s currently nearby, but have no idea how long he’ll remain here.”
“And how can you be so sure he’s here?”
“I’ve had other detectives trace him here.” Why does it sound like she meant proper detectives?
“They can’t pinpoint him?”
“They suggested someone with local knowledge might be better able to determine his exact location, and recommended you.” She avoids another judgmental glance around the room, but only just.
So, I was recommended. Why? And why couldn’t the previous detective locate him? Still, it makes the case sound potentially interesting, and that’s one thing I’ve been looking for in this job: a sense of excitement. I’ve no doubt it’ll eventually turn out to be bland, and maybe the detective in question wouldn’t deign to slum in this part of the city, so they picked my name out of a directory. But for the moment, there’s the possibility of excitement, and that’s enough for me. Also, I don’t have much else to do at the moment, and it’s a paycheck.
“Who’m I looking for?”
“His name, the one I know him by, at least, is Aaron Travers. He uses a number of identities, though.” Reaching inside her jacket pocket, she withdraws a photo and hands it over. “He occasionally changes his appearance, but this is a relatively recent picture.”
Tall and faintly gangly, with long blonde hair, Travers has the wary look of the eternal prey, always on the edge of running. Not what you want to see in someone you need to find, and it means I’ll have to be careful not to spook him.
“I also have a list of other identities he’s been known to use, as well as other information from the detective who tracked him here.” Holding up a flash drive she gives the desk a dubious glance.
I hold out my hand and, with a little reluctance, she drops the flash into it.
“What do you want with him?”
“Mister Travers was witness to events that saw my father betrayed and ended with his unjust incarceration. Travers can prove the truth of the matter.”
“You just want me to find him?”
There’s a slight pause as she seems to gauge my limits, but little judgement shows on her exquisite face. “I want you to arrange a meeting between us. Given Travers’ jumpiness, that might be difficult, but I want the chance to meet him face-to-face, talk to him, and try to convince him to come forward with the truth.”
She seems genuine, and I’m generally a good judge of that kind of thing, even when distracted by beautiful women. I’m also sure there’s something she’s leaving out, although I can’t tell what it relates to.
“Okay,” I say.
“You’ll take the job?”
“Thank you.” She stands, handing over a check. “This should cover your retainer, but let me know if you need more to cover expenses.”
I manage not to make any overt, and potentially embarrassing, signs of surprise as I read the amount on the check. How expensive is she expecting this case to be that she doesn’t think this’ll cover it?
My eyes are dragged, reluctantly, from the figure as she also holds out her business card. “Given the urgency, I’m sure you understand that I’d like to be updated as to your progress when you find anything.”
I nod, making the right promises, then see her out. After watching her leave, I return to my desk to stare at the other figure.