Max discovers all may not be what it seems.
Max Seydoux, PI
Mr Bennedetto had provided a photo of his wife, Georgia. Someone in a blue sweater had their left arm around her shoulders and Georgia, red locks blowing in a beachside breeze, was laughing at the camera. Whoever the other person was I couldn’t tell. Their identity had been ripped away along with the other half of the photo.
According to Mr Bennedetto, Georgia was a daily regular at no less than three places: A particular chain coffee shop, an exclusive gym, and her office. Office jobs make people easy marks. You don’t have to follow anyone. You just sit at their office and wait for them to come to you.
I pulled into a parking space a few rows back from the entrance to her office, some generic tech support firm called Almakala Global, and waited. At the end of the work day Georgia exited the building. I scooped up my DSLR camera with its mounted telescopic lens and began firing away at anyone she so much as smiled at.
For forty-eight hours I followed Georgia, taking snaps of every person she met, but not once did I witness anything remotely nefarious. No one visited her at home and her longest public conversation was with a barista. She seemed just a woman living her life.
Mr Bennedetto had been tight-lipped, but one person doesn’t pay a PI to follow another unless something clandestine, even iniquitous or downright diabolical, is suspected. So, maybe there was something I was missing behind closed doors. A little role play would help me find out.
Sifting through a bag of clothes stowed in the trunk I located a t-shirt and a pair of yoga pants from a time when I’d been under the impression gym memberships were for me. I’d been wrong. At least the clothes were useful. Using keen acrobatic skills I changed in the car. One old pair of sneakers later and I was ready for a potential-client guided gym tour.
I met my perky young tour guide, Rhonda, at the front check-in counter. She was kind enough to lead me around the whole place. The gym was enormous. Two stories of pristine workout equipment, closed rooms for exercise classes, a pool, a lounge, and a private track out back. There was even a small café. Rhonda’s tour made it easy to keep an eye on Georgia and no one seemed to mind the photos I took with my phone. A special thanks to social media for making seemingly random phone photos an act of normalcy.
Georgia passed the time on a treadmill sweating buckets. It wasn't until she’d shed the cardio and moved to a weight machine I realized I had missed something. Or, rather, she was missing something.
No wedding band.
Some people remove jewelry when they workout, though. I informed Rhonda I’d think about a membership and headed back to the car. Both of Georgia’s hands were visible in the photo provided by Mr Bennedetto. Sparkling on the ring finger of her left hand was a handsome wedding band, which looked a match for another on the ring finger attached to the arm around her shoulders. I flipped back through the DSLR’s reel and scoured each photo for evidence of a ring. Any ring at all. There was none.
When Georgia left the gym I was waiting with my telescopic lens. I zoomed in on her left hand. No ring.
After she’d reached her car I snatched up my phone’s car charger and jogged back inside the gym to the check-in counter. Rhonda was manning the desk’s computer. I had already forgotten which fake name I’d given her earlier.
“Oh, Mrs McClain! Have you decided to join us?”
“Sorry, no, Rhonda. I saw an old acquaintance of mine, Georgia, outside just a moment ago. She dropped her phone charger and I couldn’t catch up to her before she left. Do you have her phone number?”
Rhonda’s fingers skittered across the keyboard.
“Yes, I do have a phone number for Mrs Fine. But, I’m sorry, I'm not allowed to give out personal information.”
“Oh, of course not. Could you call her and let her know about the charger?”
“Certainly, Mrs McClain.” Rhonda plucked the phone’s receiver from its station and began to dial.
“Oh!” I chuckled. “I'm so silly, her phone’s battery is probably dying. Why else would she have her car charger out? Do you have a phone number for her husband?”
Rhonda hung up the phone and dug through the gym’s database a second time.
“I'm sorry, I don’t show another phone number by the same name.”
“Try looking under Bennedetto instead of Fine.”
“No, I’m not showing anyone by that name either. Would you like to leave the charger here at the desk for her to retrieve on her next visit?”
“No, thank you, Rhonda.”
“Okay, Mrs McClain. Have a great evening and I hope to hear from you soon!”
As I turned for the door my smile dissipated. Inside my head a symphony of red flags were whipping. Maybe Mr Bennedetto didn’t work out or, if he did, maybe he used another gym. Or a different surname. That wouldn’t explain why Georgia wasn’t wearing a wedding band, though. Intuition told me her ring wasn’t lost or at a jewelry store being cleaned. Eccentric and weird customers were one thing, but why would someone lie to a private investigator they’d hired?
To Max Seydoux, PI - Chapter One: http://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2094998-Max-Seydoux-PI-Chapter-1