Here is the first post in a NEW series of fresh local lit. My loyal contributor Amanda Hester has written an awesome short story which will be released to you every Sunday over the next 6 weeks. The story is based in Halifax and will keep you on the edge of your seat!
Case of the Missing Councilman
By Amanda Hester
The first time Samantha Daniels met with Sydney Wolfe it was at a small diner in the West End of the city. He was roughly 40 years old and had shaggy, greasy hair the colour of dry autumn mud; it was thinning and he pulled it back behind his ears whenever it fell into his face. He had on a worn corduroy suit, which she would see again in subsequent meetings, and his white shirt looked slept in.
Sydney Wolfe P.I. did not immediately inspire confidence. He was clean shaven, with sporadic patches of missed stubble. He was lean, average height, he slouched. His green eyes were tired and cynical, and hung heavy in his face. As Samantha walked into the diner, she found him sitting at the bar with a half drunk cup of coffee and a half eaten turkey sandwich. He was dumping the tobacco that remained in smoked cigarette butts onto a small piece of ‘roll your own’ paper, which early on in their conversation she would watch him roll and smoke.
“What inspired you to become a private detective?” She asked, trying to make conversation as she ordered herself a cup of coffee.
“I hate people” He answered without specific intonation, in the same voice that he ordered a piece of apple pie.
“My fee is $75 per day plus expenses, I find out you’re lying to me my fee is $100. So don’t lie and it’ll save me time, and save you money. You can tell me everything you got to say here, Martha’s about as dumb as she is deaf, and me, I don’t judge” He said all this in a rolling monotone, nodding at the waitress, and stopped when he had finished without giving any sense that he waited for a response, or even that he had spoken at all. He just continued his business with the cigarette ends and finished his sandwich. Looking up at Martha he ordered another coffee.
When Samantha began to speak he looked at her evenly with his tired eyes, listening to what she said. His pupils remained fixed, his breathing even. It was disconcerting for her that he showed no sign, no recognition, or awareness even, of what an attractive woman she was. She spoke nervously at first, trying to lure him into some sympathy with her plight, but he just looked bored and began to tackle his pie.
After a while he turned to her and began to smoke.
Martha called from the back room “Oy! Syd! There’s no smoking in here. Put that out!” He ignored her.
“So, you can cut the pretty ingénue act, I’m not buying it. I’ll tell you later if I need any back story, you just cut to the chase and tell me what you’ve got going on.”
Samantha looked at the dirty little man, her face flush. She sipped at her coffee and said, “Alright then”. The man summoned Martha who poured them more coffee and they moved with it over to a booth in the corner, where the man, continuing to smoke, pulled out a dingy looking note pad with a broken wire. As Samantha spoke he wrote on it with a stubby pencil and she noticed his hands were narrow and feminine. She wondered if he had ever been anything other than what he was now.
Samantha Daniels’ story was more or less exactly what one might expect. The pretty daughter of a successful lawyer, she had grown up smart and arrogant, and in society. She’d married young and married well, and soon after had grown bored with her friends, her money, her husband, and her life. Now in her mid to late 30’s (an age she never admitted to) she struggled with ennui and a mild addiction to prescription drugs. She had affairs, but her husband didn’t care. He had affairs and she didn’t care. She generally tended to dislike everyone she met, but then she generally disliked herself. Having graduated with a degree from Yale, she was a part-time investment broker and held the chair for various women’s clubs and societies. She was an extremely competent and composed person; she was also profoundly unhappy.
As she spoke quietly to the private detective she played unconsciously with her fingers in her lap.
“My husband, Councilman Daniels, has been having an affair with his secretary for about six months now. While I hardly care about that, I have recently had it from a good friend that the girl in questions, a Miss Sally Shields, may have a disreputable past that, were it and the affair to get out, could significantly damage the chances for my husband’s re-election.”
“When I spoke to my husband about it a few days ago he became enraged, quite uncharacteristically so. But then, he has been acting strangely for months now. He has been moody and irrational. I have encouraged him to go and see a doctor, but. . . I especially worry about his heart. He has been so odd lately, sometimes pale and sweating, and the next day flush and feverish. At any rate, if he has been to see a doctor, he’s not informed me of it. But I do know that he went, after we spoke last, to go and see that woman. I know it because he told me that was where he was going. I don’t know whether he went to break it off, or to carry on with her, but I know he went to see her. . I even followed him . . . out of concern . . . he went to her one-bedroom on Charles St. . . After I saw him go in, I left.”
“The thing of it is . . . is that this was three days ago and I have not seen or heard from him since. I have left tentative messages with all of our friends and at his office, and as far as I can gather he has disappeared. What is strange, however, is that his secretary, Miss Shields, has been in to the office every day. I went in yesterday and asked if she had seen him and she lied to my face that she hadn’t seen him since Monday, which is the day before I followed him to her apartment. I asked her if she could account for his continued absence from the office and she said she could not, but that maybe he had gone out of town on business and just failed to let either of us know.”
“Is that likely, I mean, has your husband ever done anything like that in the past?” The detective asked this unobtrusively. He watched her calmly, his head tilted slightly forward.
“No. No, that is just it, not at all. It is not something Herald would ever do. He is not absent minded or thoughtless. It is all a very great mystery. I am, indeed, beginning to become quite worried. But you see, especially with the possibility of the Shields girl being involved, I hesitate in going to the police, because of the publicity and the questions. It is very important that I understand better just what is going on, before I involve anyone in an official capacity. That is why I have come to you.”
Samantha Daniels took an envelope out of her bag and handed it to the man across from her. “Here. This is $500 and my private number, it should cover your costs to begin with, I imagine. I’ll expect to hear from you in the next day or so.”
The man took the envelope and, folding it, put it in the inside pocket of his jacket. “Yes, thank you. That’ll be enough for me to start. Where exactly are your husband’s offices and what was the address on Charles?”
Samantha wrote these down for him on a clean page in his dingy notebook. After a few moments of silence she pulled her things together and made to leave. “If that will be everything Mr Wolfe, I really need to be going. Thank you so much for taking the case I suppose.”
He looked at her again, with those inscrutable eyes. “Yes, of course. One last question Mrs. Daniels, have you ever known your husband to take drugs of any kind?”
“No, of course not, it would be absolutely out of the question for him. He has a career in public office, and he is simply not that sort of man.”
She put on her coat, smoothing the front of it, she put on her gloves. She was unruffled, composed. Nodding farewell to the man in the worn corduroy who still sat in the booth, she calmly left the diner and hailed a cab to take her up town.
I told you you would love it! Part 2 coming next Sunday!