Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Bird In The Hand (Part 1)

The following is the first of two excerpts from A Bird In the Hand by Ben Shakey. It will be published by Will Jordan book in April 2009.

Private detective work is basically sitting in a car and taking pictures of cheating spouses.

There is no jumping from bridges onto ferries. No screaming “Don’t you die on me!” at a fallen partner.

A more important skill than shooting a moving target is the ability to drink enough coffee to stay awake with having to go to the john.

There isn’t even any suspense. Once someone feels the need to hire a private detective it’s likely that their spouse is playing in the off season.

All the suspense I encounter is in Ross MacDonald books while sitting in a car up the street and feeling my ass grow wide with drive thru food.

So he seemed like any other schlub when he entered my office in the strip mall.

He wandered in through the back alley entrance that was open due to the lack of AC.

“Hey there,” he nodded once and sat down with an air of comfort like he was sitting in his living room.

He looked like any other retired guy old enough to remember black and white TV. He wore a windbreaker and an old Texas Rangers baseball hat. He wore sunglasses that made him self conscious and blue jeans that didn’t fit right in either the waist or leg or possibly both.

“Do I know you?” I asked.

“Yes, “he said “You probably do but I am not sure if you are Ian Rogers.” He reached over and picked up one of the business cards of my desk. “Yep, guess you are.” He said and put it in his pocket.

“You still haven’t told me who you are.” I said

He took off his hat and glasses, raised his eyebrows at me as if posing a question and smiled at me.

He was George W. Bush.

“You’re the President.” I said.

“Was the president.” He said “and I got some unfinished business. Just between you, me, and the wall, the mission was not accomplished.”

“So you’re hiring me?”

“Yep, to find Osama Bin Laden.”

“This is ridiculous. Quit wasting my time. I work hourly so get out.” I’ve seen enough YouTube clips of Borat and Howie Mandel making someone look foolish because they didn’t want to appear rude. I swore if it was me I wouldn’t play along.

“So if you don’t believe me maybe some other presidents will do.” The line sounded over rehearsed and he seemed very pleased with himself. He tossed a brown paper bag on the desk.

“There is $4000 there. I can offer you whatever amount you need to finish this job. This rat has been off the leash too long. I can’t use intelligence anymore and I was close. No offense, but I can’t even use the best P.I. for the job. Gotta go mid level or it will draw too much attention to me. Hell, the fellas think I’m eatin’ at the Fish n’ Chip place next door. Had to sneak out back and then into here.”

I wanted to ask why a rat would be on a leash.

“I don’t know what someone like me can do.” I said “I can’t really start tailing some guy that lives in Afghanistan.”

“No I want you to follow this woman.” He handed me a piece of paper with the name Jill Flynn and an address on it. “She is believed to be distributing Osama messages in the U.S.A. on cassette tapes. Very old school.”

“Okay” I said and suddenly agreed to this without realizing it.

“I have a cell phone number. It’s the only way to contact me. It’s a pay as you go thing I bought at a 7-11. I’ll pitch it when we are done. Totally untraceable. I can’t let anyone know I have a connection to this. Understand.”

“Yep.” I said. I was starting to talk like him. We were like two comedians doing bad impressions.

“I’ll meet with you every morning at the MacDonald’s across the street. People will think I’m jogging.”

He got up and walked out to the back alley, never looking back once.

That night I parked down the street from Jill’s house. Nobody came or went but she looked out the windows a lot, almost like she was watching for someone.

I read a Bob Woodward book, eyes straining to grasp some light from a street lamp while realizing I missed a lot over the last two terms. It was easy to forget that this guy was more than a collection of mispronunciations.

In the morning I followed her to the call center she jockeyed the phones at. Then I went home, shaved, and drove to Mickey D’s.

The President was sitting in a booth looking like any other senior grabbing free refills. The Mayor MacCheese statue seemed more presidential than him.

I gave him a few details picked up over the night but nothing that could make her look like a terrorist mastermind. He was impressed anyway.

“You are a regular Magnum P.I. there, I gotta be careful you don’t tail me.”

I thought about that after as he was jogging away.

Maybe I would see if I was good enough to tail the President.

He ran two blocks to a parked Volvo. He then drove across town to a duplex townhouse with an above ground swimming pool in the back yard. I parked up the block. There were no secret service men about.

He returned after the news, sports, and weather on the radio. Listeners called in very upset that on Sunday a man dropped a football and they had seen this. He was now wearing black pants and red vest. He drove to large stationary box store.

I waited in the parking long enough for the morning DJ duo to announce the celebrity birthdays today and then sing a Doors parody called “Drivers on Cell Phones”. Then I went in.

“Can I help you?” asked a kid in vest.

“Uhmm, I’m looking for George W. Bush?”

“Oh,” he laughed “You must be looking for Ken.”


“Ya, he works part time as a George Bush impersonator.”

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