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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Drama · #606237
An over protective mother hires a private eye to investigate her daughter's fiancee.
Fitting in

The key to success is fitting in. No matter the circumstance, work or play "fitting in" is required. People must believe you belong before they ever consider giving you an opportunity to try. Kids picking teams for baseball or basketball or whatever pick other kids who "look right". Adults do it too, employers hire people who look like they can "conform" to the group dynamic, regardless, sometimes, of what they look like on paper. Sticking out isn't always a bad thing, so long as you stick out for a good reason, like being built like the best athlete or Miss America or something. But sticking out because you look or sound or seem a little to "different" is a harbinger not only for potential failure, but also for general harassment from the unwashed masses all the way up to the cops and beyond.

I have been and am very fortunate in my life and line of work. In high school I was voted into the Homecoming Court so I certainly did fit in with the majority of kids in my class, and my current job allows me to continue hiding among the majority. I am an Independent Investigator, and I use my looks to tease information out of unsuspecting men when necessary, and tone them down to blend in when needed. Mark my words, right now my work is my life and "fitting in" is definitely required

I have been investigating David Robiceaux for almost three weeks now at the request of his future mother-in-law, Mrs. Alberta Dearborn. She was a rebel flag waving Daughter of the Confederacy and a member of what can only be called small town Southern aristocracy. I didn't know that until we had our first face to face meeting.

Our initial contact was over the telephone. She had been referred to me by William Renfroe, a lawyer I worked for on an as needed basis. When she called she made her needs clear. She believed her future son-in-law had a secret, and she wanted to know what it was before he married her daughter Betty. When he declined to escort Betty to her cousin Francine's wedding with a vague "prior commitment" excuse she became suspicious. If he were going to marry into her family he would have to learn to be more forthcoming with his excuses and to put family first. "The stain of a young man's past or that of his family, cannot be allowed to tarnish the Dearborn name."

I informed her that what she wanted was a background check and that was well within my capabilities but that I wouldn't start working on her case until I received a retainer. She asked where I did my banking and said she would call me back in approximately ten minutes. I didn't expect to hear from her again, people often make inquiries without following through on them. Just as I was beginning to get involved in another project (balancing my checkbook) the telephone rang. It was Mrs. Dearborn again. She informed me that my retainer had been deposited directly into my account and that she expected some information post-haste. She then gave me the little information she had regarding David Robiceaux and gave me her contact information. She hung up leaving me with the impression that she was going to be a very involved client. I checked my account balance via computer and discovered that the money had indeed been deposited. It was time to earn that retainer so I put down my checkbook and got to work.

After two days of chasing paper I was prepared to meet Mrs. Dearborn with some preliminary information. She lived in a neighborhood that was better than "well to do" in a house that was unbelievable. As I knocked on the door I could hear voices as footsteps approached the door. " but Mama we've hosted the 'Athletic Scholars' banquet since forever." A young man said as he opened the door. Before the last sentence died on his lips he asked, "may I help you?"

I gave him a polite professional smile and said, "Ms. Dearborn please."

"Come on in," he replied. He escorted me into the living-room and said, "please have a seat, she'll be with you in just a moment."

I sat down on the nearest chair to wait. Before he was completely out of the room he resumed his previous discussion. In an effort to not eavesdrop I perused my notes.

"This will be the first time in over twenty years that we didn't have the banquet here. God Mama, we've even hosted it when no one in the family was one of the scholars." He said petulantly. "Why must we stop this year, my year?"

A woman's voice, not unlike the one I heard over the phone two days ago, answered him. "There are special circumstances this year, Justin. You know that."

"Ben, Mike, and Isaiah are not special circumstances! They're teammates and they've maintained the same outstanding grade point average this year that every other 'Athletic Scholar' has for the last fifty years!" The young man responded angrily. "They deserve the honor just like everyone else has!"

"I never said they didn't I never said they shouldn't have a banquet. I merely said that we were unable to host this year." She responded calmly.

"Why not?" The young man demanded.

"Justin," the woman said, exasperation coloring her tone. "Your father and I raised you to be respectful of others and to judge others by what they do not what they are. But there are some boundaries you do not cross. We can't give those boys any reason to believe they are our social equals. Suppose we did have the banquet here. The blacks that do the serving and cooking and cleaning would be misled. It doesn't help them and it doesn't help us. Hosting the banquet would be socially irresponsible to everyone."

"The staff won't be misled, they know the difference between friends and employers," he said quietly. "Your appointment is here."

There were several long moments of silence then a door opened and closed audibly. I kept my eyes focused on the notes I had open on my lap. I refused to look up until Mrs. Dearborn addressed me directly.

"Miss Davis," she started. "Sorry to have kept you waiting. Can I offer you something to drink?" She finished.

Excellent, we were both going to pretend that I overheard nothing or that there was nothing to overhear. "Thank you, Ms. Dearborn, no" I answered.

As she sat down on the couch facing me directly and primly crossed her ankles, she chuckled softly and said, "Mrs. Dearborn, dear. I like to put emphasis on the MRS. so as not to be mistaken for some wayward feminist ready to replace a warm a man with a cold turkey baster. What do you have for me."

Two days worth of telephone and paper investigation reveals more about the investigator than the person being investigated. It was quite literally "show time". I gave Mrs. Dearborn a manila folder rich with information. I talked her through each page, explaining any detail she saw fit to question. I then outlined my plan for further investigation. In the end she seemed pleased and I was cleared to continue.

Three weeks later and my investigation of David's background revealed nothing negative. In fact it was all essentially good. His family, long term residents of Oak Woods Township, going back roughly eight generations, was a pillar of the community. His parents and paternal grandparents were active members of Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow Catholic Church, the rather exclusive Oak Woods Country Club, and the local Lions Club. Both his High School and College years were unremarkable except for one small indiscretion. David and his mother had a rather public argument in the Country Club parking lot David's freshman year and somehow the local authorities were involved. His Law School years were less remarkable socially than all the others combined. David looked almost as good on paper as he did in person. It's the weekend of Francine's wedding that was the problem. Checking his telephone records for the last year revealed weekly calls to a Jenna Arroyos in Eldridge, Massachusetts. Examining and monitoring his credit card purchases exposed a round trip ticket to Massachusetts leaving the Friday prior to the wedding, and returning ten days later. The ticket was purchased one month in advance. There was no charge for a hotel.

Upon hearing this, Mrs. Dearborn demanded to know more about Jenna Arroyos and her relationship with David.

Given a name, published telephone number, and time, an investigator can began prying into a person's life. In the short amount of time I had to work with I discovered Jenna Arroyos' home address, credit history, educational background, and work history. I also discovered she had never been married and she was a mother of two. It was the last fact Mrs. Dearborn found interesting, so she sent me here, to Eldridge, Massachusetts, to do what I do, spy.

Working with the information I had so far it seemed a safe bet that David would be staying with Jenna. Rather than follow David and risk being discovered while flying between New Orleans and Boston, I flew out Wednesday morning and arrived in Eldridge late that evening. I had reservations at a Bed & Breakfast that had once been the home of a wealthy shoe factory owner. It was a grand Victorian with an unobstructed of Eldridge Pond. It had a long private drive that kept the daytime traffic noise at a comfortable distance and the nighttime traffic headlights out of the guest bedroom windows. The front door led into a well-lit foyer. Against one wall was a rack with brochures for various tours in and around Boston. On that same wall was a bulletin board covered with fliers advertising local concerts, plays, and festivals. Beyond the foyer was an area that was half living room half check-in where I was met by my hostess, Mrs. Lowell. She gave me the run down of the "house rules of courtesy", the continental breakfast schedule, and the names of a couple of local eateries that served brunch, lunch, and dinner. She went from food directly into entertainment. She was an absolute fountain of information regarding the local goings on. She talked as she escorted me to my room. More words came out of her mouth than I could possibly hear. The natural course of events took Mrs. Lowell and her words away and in blissful silence I fell onto the bed with a sigh. There was much to be done the next day and no time to waste. I got up, pulled out a map and Jenna Arroyos address and started looking. Much to my surprise, Eldridge was relatively small and the house I was looking for was barely eight blocks away. Next step, looking for Jenna.

Thursday came and I spent that morning in my rent-a-car looking for the house of Jenna Arroyos and learning to navigate the narrow streets of Eldridge, which were crowded, choked with cars and friendlier to pedestrian traffic than vehicular. Once I found it, I parked where I had a pretty good view of the house, and spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the neighborhood to familiarize myself with the Arroyos house and immediate surroundings before David arrived. My walk took me around Eldridge Pond Park where stages were being set up and areas roped off for one of the activities Mrs. Lowell went on about when I first arrived. As the afternoon eased into evening, I sat in a café watching the pedestrian traffic thicken with school children and teenagers. I considered this a good time to return to my car to begin my study of the house. Given my size and dressed I thought I could probably blend into the teenage crowd to the casual observer. I made it to my car without incident. Once inside I did my best to look like someone confirming an address before getting out of the car. I did this until the street was empty of children. Then I eased my way into the backseat. All of the windows, with the exception of the windshield, were tinted so, I couldn't be seen unless someone looked directly through the front. No sooner had I settled into the backseat than a car pulled into the Arroyos driveway. A small child, about six or seven, exited the backseat on the passenger side, ran around the front end of the car, up the stairs to the porch, and to the front door where he waited impatiently. A woman with shoulder length dark hair exited the driver's side, opened the backseat door behind her and pulled out the sleeping form of a toddler. Holding the child up on her shoulder with one arm, fumbling with keys with the other hand, she ascended the porch stairs, unlocked the door and walked through. This had to be Jenna and children. The only thing left to do was wait for David and observe.

David's flight wasn't due in until early Friday evening. I wanted to witness the initial greeting between Jenna and David in hopes that it would reveal the nature of their relationship. Thursday evening I left the car parked where it was so as not to lose my observation site. I snuck back into the car Friday afternoon. If Jenna left to pickup David I would follow. If he came in by taxi or car rental, I would be here, at the house to witness the moment. I sat and waited.

As the hours crept by it became clear that Jenna wasn't leaving to pick David up so I settled in for a longer wait. It was a relief not to have to follow someone through airport traffic. A few more hours crept by and darkness fell. I checked my watch and the notes I made regarding David's flight and knew he should have been here by now. I called the airport and asked if his flight had landed. It had. I called the airport again, trying to sound like a worried girlfriend, and asked if he had been on the plane. They kindly informed me that they couldn't give out that kind of information. I was dumbfounded. I didn't know what to do next. If I didn't have some concrete information for Mrs. Dearborn the expenses for this trip and my fee would be loss. That thought made my head hurt with anxiety. Perhaps David had taken a later flight. I chose to wait and see if he would show up before nights end.

While I waited, as the night grew older, the yellow lights of activity in the houses around me, including the Arroyos house, were replaced by either blackness or the blue-gray glow of television. I called the B&B and told Mrs. Lowell I had gotten lost and that I would be late getting in. She thanked me for my call and promised to wait up to let me in. I waited another ninety minutes before giving up. It was late and I was depressed which added weight to the fatigue I felt. I drove back to the B&B through streets so empty and quiet that it was possible to believe I was in a different city. The hustle and bustle of the day had gone to bed with the citizens of Eldridge.

The light in the foyer glowed beautifully through the etched opaque glass in the front door and spilled out onto the steps and walkway, like splinters of golden glass. Several heartbeats after ringing the doorbell a tall broad blurry figure approached the door blocking out much of the light. When the figure opened the door and backed under the light I looked up to say thank you and stopped short with a gasp. It was David Robichaux. He had a cell phone up to his ear and he was saying, "...meet you at 11:30 at the carousel sculpture,...okay,...'bye."

He turned and walked back into the house proper while talking and I followed him in. Composure was easy to regain with his back turned. He snapped close his cell phone, turned to face me, held out his hand and said, "hi, sorry about that..."

Before he could finish his sentence I interrupted him and said, "no problem, I could see you were on your cell. Where's Mrs. Lowell?"

"I'm right here dear, just helping Mr. Robichaux get settled for the night." The hostess answered from behind a small desk in the checkin area.

I peeped around David and said, "I'm sorry to have kept you waiting. I really appreciate it. Goodnight." I scurried out of there as quickly as courtesy would allow. I didn't want David to see any more of me than he already had. Fate had saved me or at least had given me another chance to complete this assignment. All I had to do now was follow David and hope he didn't notice.

There were no new rent-a-cars in the B&B's parking area, so David would either be walking or calling a taxi cab. I spent the early part of Saturday morning waiting to follow David. I killed time by picking at a giant muffin while pretending to study a handful of brochures regarding local tours. Mrs. Lowell bustled in and out of the room with a tray of bagels and muffins one moment and an armful of flowers the next. Upon noticing my reading material she said, with great enthusiasm, "you should skip the tours and go to the Grand Fete today. I was just telling Mr. Robichaux last night..." she continued as she wandered out of the room.

Eventually David made his way downstairs and to the breakfast buffet. While he ate I eased my way out of the house in an attempt to go unnoticed. I waited in my rent-a-car hoping I wasn't going to have to follow a cab. It wasn't long before David came out and headed straight down the drive making it obvious that walking was his decision. I couldn't follow directly behind him and not be seen so I waited, counting seconds until he turned the corner. I ran down the drive and saw that the street was full of people. After a few anxious heartbeats I saw him cross the street in the direction towards the Park. It seemed he and everyone else was on his way to the Grand Fete. I nearly lost him to a reckless driver running a red light. The car swerved and hit a parked car instead. David never noticed.

The construction I saw Thursday had developed into an elaborate stage, neighboring stalls filled with Carnival games and vendors, and small rides for children. David walked past all of this without seeming to notice any of it. He walked towards a sculpture of three carousel horses, each prancing at a different height. Draped across the back of one horse was a young man, his arms cradling his head as it lay upon the saddle. Children tossing a frisbee back and fourth accidentally bumped the young man and he slid drunkenly to the ground. Leaning against another horse was a small African-American woman oblivious to the activity behind her. David called out, "Jenna." She turned, smiled and walked into his arms. It didn't appear to be a "lovers embrace" but they held each other a long time, long enough for me to take a picture. They walked away from the sculpture deep in conversation.

Where was the woman I thought was Jenna? Who was the woman I thought was Jenna? Where are the children and whose children were they?

I followed David and Jenna back to the area in front of the stage. There were hordes of people sitting on blankets and milling about waiting for music. The area was to open I had to hang back and track them with my eyes. Then I saw them, the woman I thought was Jenna and the children. I was closer to them now than I was when I observed them from my car and it was obvious that the children were African-American. The boy looked up from where he was playing, saw David, and jumped up and ran to him. David caught the child and held him in a long hug then swung him up in the air as if he were as light as a doll. I took pictures until he put the child down. Jenna had already gone to the blanket and sat next to the other woman. The toddler, in an attempt to emulate her older brother ran to David and jump into his arms. He held her in a long hug then swung her around just like he did with the boy. He sat down on the blanket with the toddler in his lap and the boy leaning against his side. The woman I thought was Jenna pulled out a camera and took a picture. I took the same shot then realized that these children were his. The boy looked just like David except that his skin was brown.

I continued watching this "family" throughout the rest of the afternoon. Bands came and went all day on that stage. Music ebbed and flowed like waves on the beach. David played with the children, Jenna and the other woman danced with each other, with the children and with David. I burned almost four rolls of film watching them, and I had to conclude that David and Jenna were not lovers. That wouldn't matter to Mrs. Dearborn. What would matter were those children and their connection, however loose it might be, to the Dearborn name. They couldn't fit in.
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