“Anyway, I think I’m pretty damned near the bottom of this,” Blakley seemed to conclude after having droned on for whatever approximation of time one can reasonably estimate when going by the nonstandard unit of measurement consisting of cigarettes smoked and coffee consumed. He’d been going over the most recent developments in a missing persons investigation of a peculiar nature. Three different clients had all reported persons going missing under similar circumstances, and none of them wanted to involve the police for some reason. So they chose to keep the affairs private by hiring Blakely, a man known for his thoroughness and discretion, his being tight with the right law enforcement officials, while still being allowed the loose luxury of operating somewhat outside of the law. Qualities which made up for his general lack of protocol and basic humanity. Blakely had managed to connect all three cases to one young woman, and had been regaling his ‘business associate’ with all the intricate details of his genius at a diner just a few blocks from her residence before he’d planned to go question her.
“Everything leads to her and seemingly stops with her, so either she has a pretty crowded basement by now, or, more likely, she’s just the tip of the iceberg, and going through her, we’ll find out where they all went. Either way, I’ll have her. I just need to pop over to this darling member of society’s house and apply a bit of pressure, and boom!”
He punctuated his closing statement by flicking the tip of his probably-fourth cigarette hard, dislodging the whole ember instead of merely ash and sending it flying into the leather clad breast of the jacket being worn by the person across from him, much to the displeasure of the somewhat tired and very much distracted young man.
“Sunava bitch!” Jones swore, patting the now-plentiful bits of ember and ash off of his jacket before they could do any more damage than time and neglect had already done to the dingy thing.
“If you’d been paying attention, you’d have seen that coming.”
“If I’d been paying attention, you wouldn’t have fucking done it.”
“So, you admit that this is your fault. Anyway, if you caught any of that, I’m headed to her place now. I just need you to hang here and back me up if I need it. But I don’t think I’ll have any problems. Should be able to manage her just fine. I’ll phone you when I’m ready for pickup.”
“What if she doesn’t tell you anything? I mean, you always refuse to do this shit straight, and she’s not going to invite you in. So unless you--”
“I’m not a fucking vampire, kid. I don’t need an invitation. Besides, I’ve got two people willing to say they saw the last victim enter her residence less than a day after the last time he was seen alive. I’m sure that’ll rattle her enough to at least be a little cooperative.”
“You’ve got one guy. One poor addict. That guy’s ‘testimony’ isn’t worth its weight in the plaque caked on his meth-addled teeth. And the ‘reputable’ neighbor didn’t see shit. He was just affirming your leading questions so you’d leave him be.”
“She doesn’t know any of that.” Blakely seemed to consider something for a moment, but then simply rolled his eyes and shrugged. “Whatever, all she needs to know is what people are willing to say they saw. Would you just shut up and mind your damn phone while the boss does business?”
“It had better be business, because I swear to God, man, if this shit ends up anything like that slimy stunt you pulled with that witness in the extortion case…”
“What, you gonna rat me out? Huh?” The pair of them just stared silently at each other for a moment. The younger man cleared his throat like he was about to respond, but Blakely cut him off. “You think I can’t play dirty, too? You ain’t the only investigator at this table, and you’re half as good a sleuth as I am a mean bastard. I didn’t think I’d have to explain it to you twice what would happen…” Blakely trailed off menacingly, his implication clear. Jones had lied as instructed to the police to cover his ass last time under a fair bit of duress. In the end, Blakely had indeed managed to convince the much younger and much greener private investigator that it was in his best interest to forget about the whole thing. Jones met his stare for a moment, and relented.
“No. But I’m not bailing you out again,” he finally said. “I mean, Jesus, man. I’m your partner. I respect your experience. But we aren’t above the… we can’t just… I mean…” His knuckles were turning white as he tightened both hands around the cold porcelain of his coffee mug. He lowered his gaze, seeming to focus on nothing in particular as he reminisced. But the young man was simply too cowardly to challenge the seasoned veteran, no matter how unorthodox his methods, because he really was convinced that this man could ruin his career and his life if he decided to put his mind to it. Jones was no boy scout either. He didn’t have a perfectly clean slate, and he know that Blakely could use that, even if his own crimes were petty by comparison.
“Hey, kid. Relax. I’ll do it straight. ‘By the book,’ even. Alright? Just…” He stood up, placing a large, calloused hand onto Jones’ shoulder. “Mind your phone. Daddy won’t be long.” He chuckled and placed his hands in the pockets of his own oversized leather jacket, and sort of strutted in his too-big-for-this-room sort of manner out of the diner. Jones shivered from the feeling of having been touched by the man. Blakely really gave him the creeps. He was dirty, and Jones would be happy to be free and clear of the man at the first clean-cut opportunity, if such a thing ever presented itself. And the way things seemed to work in this town, opportunities were slim. He sighed deeply, sinking into the booth a little, and took a sip of his pretty-cold coffee.
“Just mind my phone. One thing at a time, one day at a time.” He stared out the glass doors into the snow, wondering if his partner would be likely to do things ‘straight.’ More likely, he’d resort to his old-fashioned tactics of coercion, violence, or something even worse. He swore quietly, practically whispering into his coffee, and waited impatiently. He was actually worried about the girl, suspect of kidnapping or not.