“Well come on in, I know you aren’t in a bikini, but it’s still cold out there,” I said. “Are you a coffee drinker?”
“No, I don’t like coffee,” she said.
“I have iced tea and diet coke, you pick it,” I suggested.
“Iced tea then,” she said.
I went to the frig to remove the gallon milk jug thing filled with Helen’s iced tea. Helen gave me a deal on it, but I still spent a lot of money on her tea. She offered to give it to me, but I refused. Everyday I had Cheryl bring me a gallon of what was left at the end of the sit down spot’s day. If there wasn’t anything left, I didn’t get my tea fix for that afternoon and evening.
Once the tea was in her hand, I asked Sarah. “So what is it you wish to talk about?”
“The man today brought back some really bad memories,” Sarah said.
I wanted to tell her to get a therapist, I didn’t care about an 18 year old’s bad memories. What I said was, “I’m sorry to hear that Sarah. If there is any way I can help, let me know.” I wanted to, but did not follow that up by showing her the door. Instead I drank my coffee and waited for her to continue.
“I saw what you did to the man on the boat who tried to rape you, and I have heard the rumors about Cheryl. I feel ashamed that I didn’t do anything. I didn’t even tell anyone.”
“How long ago was it?” I asked. By that time, I admit, that I was a little more interested.
“Two years, I was sixteen and in high school.” she said.
“Was it a student at your school?” My interest was only slight, sixteen year old girls lose it all the time.
“No, it was my mother’s boy friend,” she said. Then she burst into tears. At that point I got seriously interested. I was sure that Gwen and Mike would be as well. They were going to have to get her permission to use the story. I was sure as hell going to verify everything before I made an ass of myself.
“You had to have kind reason for not telling your mom,” I suggested.
“Mom knew he was flirting with me and did nothing. He was good looking and had money. She was willing to overlook a lot of things, I guess.” Sarah was really shaken by that time.
“I can’t believe she wouldn’t have cut his ball off, or at least gone to the cops. Why didn’t you tell her?” I was pushing her in a corner, but I needed to know the truth. I just couldn’t buy into it somehow.
“He told me that if I told her, he would have to stop seeing her. If that happened, she would always blame me for it. Maybe not openly, but in her heart she would know that it was my fault. I had caused it by flirting with him. I told him that I never flirted, but he said to ask myself who mom would believe.”
“So what ended it?” I asked.
“After he tried it again, I told grandpa that I hated him and mom loved him. I didn’t tell him why I felt that way but I asked to come live with him and grandma. I had been living with them until I came here to live and go to school.” she said.
“So where is the boyfriend now?’ I asked.
“He and mom broke up a few months after I left. I don’t know what happened to him.”
I went to the desk. From it I removed a spiral notebook like the ones kids in school use. I found a blank page. I returned then I handed it to Sarah. “Go home and write down everything you know about your mom and the guy. I want both of their names, addresses and phone numbes, if you know them. I want to know where they both worked at the time and what their hobbies are. I want to know everything, and I mean right down to their favorite meals. After you have done that, forgive yourself. Whether you believe that you have anything to forgive or not, do it. Put this all behind you Then maybe I can even the karma thing a bit. That might help put it all behind you.”
After Sarah left with the notebook, I began to think about my own life. What if at sixteen I had the same thing happen to me. Since I was screwing at fifteen, it might not have effected me as much. To be told that your mom loved him more. To have reason to believe that it was true, would have been heartbreaking for anyone. If the prick really did what she said, there should be a way to make him pay. Preferably pay legally, I could always resort to framing a guilty man. It wouldn’t be the first time it had been done. Not even the first time by me.
My first problem was the TV show. Not just them following me around, because I could make damn sure they didn’t get in the way. That was in our agreement. My problem was going to be that people everywhere suddenly seemed to recognize me.
If you had something to hide, and the star of Meet Max, took an interest in you, it might be a good idea to shut up and leave town for a while. That was going to be the problem. How to gather intelligence, if everyone recognized me. Without good intelligence it was all a waste of time.
Yeah, I knew someone who would be thrilled to help out, actually I knew two. If I asked them to help, I expected that they would drop everything, but at what cost to them. The word floating around was that Lucas was bored to tears. I had managed to keep him out of the more dangerous but exciting bounty hunting business. Ed told me he was ready to crawl, if I would let him go back to chasing skips. A contract was a contract, I no intention of letting him get killed by some mooch on crack. However a little part time investigating would be of interest to him, I was sure. I put him down as a resource with whom I needed to make contact.
The other resource was Cheryl of course. She was smart and seemingly fearless. The latter was not always a good thing, but being a dynamite looking woman, who was also street smart, and able to take care of herself, were extremely important assets to an operative. The cost to her might be losing her job with Helen. It was important that she have honest work in her life. She didn’t need the money, but she needed the since of purpose and something to show her parole officer.
I was sure that I could recruit more as I went along, if the need arose. The trick to intelligence is not what you know, or even what you don’t know. It is in knowing what it is that you need to know, then figuring out how to find out those things.
In the case of Sarah’s mom’s boy friend, I wanted to know if he was involved with anyone at the moment. Even more important I wanted to know if that someone has a teenage girl. Once I had Sarah’s notebook entries, I would need to speak to a computer nerd.
The best I ever knew was Lucas, a close second was Mike. Mike was not available, but I would have bet my ass that Lucas was. The first order even before we hunted down the bastard, as I renamed him, was to verify as much of Sarah’s story as possible. That was just computer checks of dates and places she provided or we dug up for her to back verify.
Before I fucked the bastard up, I wanted to know for sure that he truly was guilty of something. It could be no more than a case of false memory. Some trauma was masked with a different story. I wanted to know Sarah wasn’t doing that. Using a lie to cope with a harder truth. Thee were so many possibilities.
I decided to make a call. I knew I needed one person for sure. After I dialed the number I regretted it, but I was determined to follow through. “Lucas it’s me Maxine, I need some help with a situation. I need a computer whiz and I’m all out. I wondered, if you might like to make a few extra bucks and maybe have some fun in the process.”
“Maxine, I should say no, but to be honest I am bored as hell. Maybe I can convince you I’m competent enough to work skips.” he said.
“You know that has nothing to do with it. It’s about experience and keeping your lilly white ass virginal.” I said with a laugh.”
“So, what’s the job,” he asked.
“We are going to be chasing down a two year old statutory rape. Then we are going to figure out how to make him pay.”
“I assume you don’t mean in money?” he asked.
“Whatever we can get from the bastard,” I said.
“Okay, count me in. I will work it into my exciting life as a process server.” he actually laughed when he said it.
“Well, I will take the laughter as the sign of a healthy mind,” I said that with a laugh of my own.
My next call was to my lawyer and friend Jen. “Hey slut how they hangin’?” I asked.
“Hey bitch, yo da slut here and they be hangin’ to my waist. So ho, what you got on yo nasty lil mind?”
“Is my investigator’s license still up to date?” I asked.
“Now you know I’m not going to let that lapse. About the only thing that can get it pulled, is if you should a bus load of school kids,” she said.
“I think I can avoid that. Okay thanks.”
“Now hold on there chickie, you can’t ask me that, then run off. What are you planning that requires a PI license?”
“I’m going to investigate a possible client, then maybe a statutory rape from two years ago.” I suggested.
“That is going to be impossible to prove?” she said.
“So they say. We will see.” I admitted.
My next call was probably the most stupid call I ever made. I called Jerry my last police contact in Aster. “Jerry,” I said when he answered. “Blevins introduced me to his new partner, but I can’t remember his name. Could you help me out here? I need a contract in the the Detective Division,” I said.
“His name was Bobby, I think, but Blevins ran him off. Do you remember Margaret Hunsinger?”
“Only vaguely, somewhere around forty with bleached hair?” I asked.
“Yeah, she took over for Blevins while he is on leave. You could ask her, I’m told she is homophobic, so I wouldn’t try to charm her. She also thinks she is Dirty Harriet, she might like your reputation. Anyway ask her to help, she might do a tit for tit with you.” He laughed then said, “I got to go.” the phone went dead instantly.
My last contact had to be Cheryl. She would be sleeping. Getting ready for her early morning shift, so I decided to hold off on her. Half an hour later I was glad that I had held off. I spent that half hour taking a real look at what the possibilities might be. If we got in trouble I was a pro, Lucas was a pro as well, Cheryl on the other hand was on parole. She was also a bit of a wild card. If I didn’t start training someone to help, what would I do when that stupid TV show hit the air for real? People would watch it just because it was filmed in town, if for no other reason. My anonymity was gone for sure. I decided that I would look for alternatives before I talked to Cheryl. I still thought she would be an asset, but maybe as soon as that body aired on TV, people were going to remember her even more than me. That could be an asset as well though, if I worked it right. If they noticed her, they might not notice me. Especially, if I wasn’t the me that they expected.