| It was summer, 1963. Kennedy was president, everybody smoked cigarettes, Vietnam was just another foreign place and no one had heard of the Beatles.
I had an office downtown in a small Midwestern city. The name was not important; it was a town just like all the others. It was sweltering hot during the day and the nights were worse.
It was the kind of summer that a guy, long divorced and pushing forty, realises that he could be living just anywhere and wonders why he is not able to move on.
I was the only detective in my little agency. My secretary went to school in the morning, started at one in the afternoon and looked after the office until late, which suited me just fine. I would go for a bite to eat when she turned up and then on to whatever jobs I had managed to find.
Mornings I was always there. And one morning, just like any other morning this woman wandered in.
She was a tall blonde. She had a classy dress on and wore her hair the way woman used to do in the sixties; piled up on the top of her head.
‘Good morning,’ she said. ‘Are you Mr. Wood? Daniel Wood?’
She had one of those accents that at first made you think she was English, but then you figured she was an American who somewhere along the line had had elocution lessons.
‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘that’s me, all right. How can I help you?’
I stood up and gave her a chair. She sat down and took a silver case out of her purse, pulled out a cigarette, put it in her mouth and seemed to wait for me to light it. Which I did, of course.
I sat down at my desk and looked across at her. She smiled.
‘My name is Amelia Greene. I asked for the name of a reputable detective agency at the hotel and they mentioned this one. Before I begin can I ask about your fees?’
I told her my daily rate plus expenses and what she had to pay as a retainer.
She opened her purse again and took out some bills which she placed on the desk. There was a lot more than what I had asked for. I was curious but gave her a receipt first before she went on to tell me what she wanted.
‘I want you to follow someone. That’s all.’
‘Who would that be, your husband, a boyfriend?’
‘No, a woman. Her name is Linda Cylkowski. She lives here in town I’ll give you her address and a photograph. I want to know where she goes, who she talks to and what she does during the day and at night.’
‘Can I ask you why?’
‘No,’ she said. ‘I just want to know what’s she’s up to. There’s nothing mysterious here, but I was told you were discreet and I’m willing to pay over the top for your services. But I won’t give any explanations. Is that clear?’
It was quite a lot of money and business had not been great recently. I did not want to press her. I could already imagine why she wanted the woman followed. It was not a big deal.
Linda Cylkowski lived in an apartment over a store. The store sold books and across the street there was a little Chinese place. A counter, and two tables. It was lunch time and a guy was eating crispy chicken and French fries at one of them. You could see that it was not really a restaurant more a place to order food and take it home. I asked for a cup of coffee and a ham sandwich, sat at the other table and was able to get a good view of Linda’s apartment.