I wrote all that and a lot more down, before I left his car. His car was actually my old minivan, which was actually Jen’s old minivan. We might have gotten the only dependable Chrysler ever made, but it had been a good van.
Lucas dropped me at the office a little after noon. I had in fact ridden with him to serve a few papers. It wasn’t fun, but the conversation had been. Process servers have stories just like the cops, and the EMT personnel. Swapping stories about the mooches was like fishing stories. The best ones were about the ones who got away.
“So, let’s not let this one get away,” He knew that I was talking about James Smiley aka the bastard.
“Not sure what we can do to him, but I’m sure you will think of something.” Lucas said. “So what’s first on your list of things to do now?”
“I’m going to talk to the ex-wife. I’m glad you found her. They usually love to trash the ex,” I said smiling.
“That would have been my first thought as well. Save the current girl friend until you have something solid. Then maybe she will be willing to talk to us.” I was glad that he was beginning to get invested.
“I would love to find some of his former clients. I wonder how we could go about that?” I asked.
“We find out how long his receptionist has been with him. Then find out who the last one was, and where she is now. She might like to give her opinion of Mr Smiley.
“Call me at five, I’ll see if I can round up some more leads for you,” Lucas said. When I exited his van in the parking lot of his office, that’s how we left it. I missed not having an office of my own for about a second.
Back at my apartment, I began making phone calls. “Ms Smiley, my name is Maxine Stone, I am an investigator in Aster. I wonder if you might have a few minutes this afternoon to answer some questions about your ex husband James?”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that. It was part of our divorce agreement that I not discuss him with anyone.” She informed me.
“If I get the police to come ask the questions, could you answer then?” I asked. I had no intension of doing it, I was just curious how serious she was taking the agreement.
“Actually, I would have my divorce lawyer discuss it with the police.” she replied. She was actually very nice, just not very cooperative.
“If you were me and wanted information about James Smiley, where would you go?” I asked.
“Well, he and Barbara had words, when she left to get married. I’m not sure what it was about, but it might be of interest to you.”
“So what is her full name, and where do I find her,” I asked.
“Her name is Barbara Reece now and she works for an insurance agency these days. Reece and Holifield, I think it is,” she said.
“Sounds like she owns the place,” I said while I tried to find them in the phone book.
“Her ex husband’s Daddy, I think. Anyway ask her. It’s all pretty confusing, if you ask me. The worlds shortest marriage I think. It lasted about a month, and she winds up working for his dad. That’s just plain strange.”
I found them in the phone book, then I said thank you, and hung up.”
“Reece and Holifiled,” the female voice said.
“Barbara Reece please,” I asked.
“This is Barbara,” she said very upbeat and friendly. I wondered how much she would change with my next question.
“Ms Reece, my name is Maxine Stone. I am a private investigator in Aster. I was wondering, if you might have some time to answer a few questions for me.”
“I know who you are Ms. Stone. I have seen your short bits on the Internet. I’m looking forward to your TV show. What kind of questions do you want to ask.”
“I have a few questions about James Smiley, and his business operations.” I suggested.
“Why don’t you just meet with him?” she asked.
“Oh I plan to do that, but only after I know exactly what to ask him. My client is thinking about having Mr. Smiley do his reports and manage his accounts. He wants to be sure Smiley is the man for the job. So I’m just looking for people, who know him in a business sense.” Keeping it confined to his business was more likely to get me the interview. I could branch out to personal questions as the interview moved along.
“I don’t suppose there is any harm in that. I can give you some detailed information. There are some things you might want to ask him about.” She suggested. I caught a little edge to her voice. She might turn out to be the perfect confidential informant (CI). She might have an ax to grind, but even those people pointed investigators toward areas that need to be explored.
“So when would you like to do it?” I asked.
“Why don’t you meet me after work. You can buy me a glass of wine, while we talk,” she suggested.
“That sounds like a plan. Tell me where and when, and I’m there,” I said in agreement.
“Do you know where the White Water Lounge is located?” she asked.
“No, I have no idea, but I do have GPS, so give me an address.” I said.
“It’s in the basement of the Downtown Motel in Tryon. It should be easy to find. It’s on their main street.”
“That’s fine, but I thought you lived in Aster?” I said.
“I do, but if you want the dirt on Jimmy, it’s going to cost you,” she said with a laugh.
“Oh, do I need to wear a cocktail dress and bring the title to my car?” I asked smiling.
“No, but they won’t let you in wearing jeans. I hear that is your normal dress,” she said.
“All right then, little black dress and padded bra,” I laughed as I said it.
“Good choice,” she replied. “Be there at six and I’ll be in shortly after. I’ll look for the little black dress and the padded bra. Would you like to email me a picture, so that I will recognize you?”
“I thought you had seen the show?” I asked.
“Okay, I will recognize you. I just wanted the picture, but never mind.”
I had time to call Lucas and add some new information to the file. It was mostly names and phone numbers. Unlike Lucas, I wrote them in a notebook made of real paper. Even after that I had time for a little review of Sarah’s file. Yes I was calling her a client. It took me about five minutes to realize I needed to bring Jen on board. I dialed her cell phone, not the office phone.
“Maxine what the hell is with you. Why didn’t you don’t call, when you got the new client?” she asked.
“Hon, I just now decided that there was something I could actually do for her. So how did you know?” I asked.
“Gwen called. She wants me involved to give you cover. Actually I guess the network wants this sanctioned. So as of now Sarah is my client and you are working for me. So go find out what the truth is and pin someone’s ass to a wall.” she demanded for the TV audience.
“Right, you are the boss,” I said. What that phone call did was give me the legal right to not answer police questions. I know you have the right to remain silent, but it sure makes you look guilty. It is much better to lay it off on a lawyer, that way I could keep my good relationship with the cops. To do that I had to throw them an arrest now and then. That was usually pretty easy, since the law was the best place to take the bad guys. I really didn’t want to kill them all.
I took a long bath soaking all of me except the one leg. The awkward bath reminded me that I needed to make an appointment with Jeff, so I made the call from my tub. After I set the appointment, I finished my bath. I washed the area around the wound with antibacterial soap. I would put antibiotic cream and a fresh dressing on it before I tried to dress myself.
Dressing was no easier, than it have been previously, exept that I was wearing a dress. Getting into a dress was easier, but the bandaged leg was even more noticeable. It was a good thing that Barbara knew who I was, I’m not sure I could have hidden it from her anyway.
As I had promised, I wore the padded push up bra. If I had to wear a dress, I wanted cleavage damn it. The drive to the Downtown Motel was uneventful. It was always a good thing when nothing unexpected happened. Oh course it was also boring as hell.
I managed to work my way down the steps to the White Water Lounge. As I should have expected, it had a nautical theme. Ropes and boat shit hung everywhere. I waited almost half an hour before the woman approached my table. She was ten years younger than me but also a hundred pounds heavier.
“Barbara?’ I asked.
“Yes and you of course are Maxine Stone. I have been so excited since you called.” she said.
“I can’t imagine why, I nobody special,” I suggested.
“Of course you are. You have the kind of life most women can only dream of having. You go places, do things, and are completely liberated from the female stereotypes.” she said.
“Well, not all of them,” I said with a smile.
“Anyway, it is so cool to meet you.” She got that in just before the cocktail waitress arrived. The W hie Water Lounge was not my kind of place, but I decided to make the best of it.
“I would like a glass of white wine,” Barbara said to her.
I gave the waitress a second to digest it, then said, “Just coffee for me. I have a long drive home.”
“Maybe not,” Barbara whispered after the waitress left.
“Before we discuss anything else, let’s get the case of James Smiley out of the way.” I demanded.
“Okay, what do you want to know,” Barbara asked.
“Well first of all where does his money come from. The business seems to cover his life style, but if he has any real money, it is coming from somewhere else. There is no money left after paying for his lifestyle.”
“My you have done your homework, I am impressed.” she said. “Is this going to be just between us?” she asked.
“It can be, not the information, but where it came from,” I said as a compromise.
“That will do, he will know, even if no one else does. I don’t mind, if he knows.” she said.
“Good, so where does his money come from?” I asked.
“He raids his client accounts to make very short term investments. Currency exchange that kind of thing.” she said,
“How does that work?” I asked.
“You can buy foreign currency and hold it a few days. Sometimes the value goes up a few points. Of course sometimes it doesn’t, but you can aways sell it for close to what you bought it for in the first place.” I looked bewildered I’m sure. “It’s not like stock, where it will fall like a rock. With currency you don’t make huge profits, but if you are using your clients money, you need to be able to get it back quickly.”
“So he is playing fast and loose with his clients money?” I asked.
“That’s one of the things he does to earn extra money. He just isn’t able to borrow enough to hit it big as he says. To do that he would need to have more or bigger clients.” She smiled at me as if she was expecting something in return for her information. Fortunately for me there is no code of ethics in my business.