Jonathon Marcus, Private Investigator

Out Of The Comfort Zone

It was eleven in the morning when the telephone rang.  Startled somewhat by a sound I had not yet become accustomed to; the contraption having only been installed the week before, it took me a moment to work out exactly what was happening.  Finally remembering that Gracie had talked me into “getting with the times” and that this could help business I rescued the shrilling beast from its cries and placed it to my ear.

“Hello?”, I grunted.  The idea of speaking to something I couldn’t see was disconcerting.  I just hoped I was speaking into the right end.

“Is this Marcus?”, came the sound of hesitant voice on the other end.  Apparently I had it right.

“It’s Jonathon Marcus, actually.  Don’t worry, lot’s of people get that wrong.”  Actually, I hated it when people called me by my surname but in my line of work you get used to that kind of thing.  Also, since I hadn’t actually worked a case in a few weeks it likely wouldn’t pay to snap at a potential customer.

“Ah, yes.  My apologies, Mr. Marcus.”  There was a pause on the other end where perhaps he was waiting for me to accept the apology but I wasn’t going that far.  It’s wasn’t THAT alright, after all.  After a embarrased sounding cough he continued.  “I wish to hire your services for a very special case.  One that you come highly recommended for.”

My eyebrows raised at that.  Last I heard, my name wasn’t worth a can of beans to those that could make a difference to my career.  Most certainly not from somebody who could give me enough cash to keep this shoebox of an office going and buy dinner at the same time.  However, something in his voice sounded sincere so I didn’t think it was McGuverly and his buddies having one over on me.  Not this time, anyway.  Trying to keep any sense of desperation out of my voice, I told him that he had my attention and invited him to continue.

“Unfortunately, I am unable to give you details over the phone.  But please be assured that you will be paid your usual rate plus bonus and additional travelling expenses.”

That statement gave me pause.  Bonus!  Here was a client in a hurry to get a job done.  But then something else he said hit me.  “Travelling expenses?”, I inquired.  “How much of the city do you expect me to travel?”

“Oh no, Mr. Marcus.  This case is not in the city.”

No longer left simply to pause, I was completely speechless.  Not in the city?  I had never left the city my entire life.  Born, raised, educated and employed all within its boundaries.  Never saw any need to leave, and as a matter of fact the idea of going any farther north than the 401 always kind of gave me the creeps.  However, moneys money and if I ever wanted to take Gracie back out for a nice night on the town It would be a bad idea to turn down a client.

“So, up in one of the outlying towns, is it?”

“No sir.  I require you to come up to Lake Papineau.”

Papi..where?  Something about the name seemed familiar, but otherwise I had never heard of the place.  “Sorry, my sense of geography may be a little weak.  Could you expand upon that please?”

“It is just under 200 miles from where you now sit.  I will arrange for a float plane to bring you up so you don’t need to drive.”

A plane?  Never been in one.  Kind of redundant when you had no need to travel.  The aspect of being in one of those set my nerves on edge, and I realized my mouth had gone very dry.  Attempting to clear my throat, I croaked out, “Excuse me sir, are you quite certain you have the correct private investigator?”

The voice gave an unusual slight giggle but then went stone cold serious.  “I am most certain that you are exactly the kind of man we need for this job.”  He then provided some travel details (how I shuddered at that word) which I wrote down diligently and said with a sense of finality, “Good luck, Mr. Marcus.  I am counting on you.”

I wanted to ask him for what exactly, but the line had gone dead.

I sat at my desk for about an hour, just looking at the details the voice had provided.  No name, no background, just information about where to catch my plane and the value of my potential bonus.  Highly unusual on so many levels.  To be honest, I was scared out of my skin more than any gangland shootout could ever affect me.  200 miles away?  What exactly was it about me that he needed.

I was sorely tempted to just ignore the case.  Grab my last few dollars and head down to the bar for a couple drinks…but the kind of dollar figures that I found my pen circling over and over again was far more than I had made in the last five years combined.  It could set me up for life, maybe even be able to convince Gracie to settle down with me.

Coming to a decision, I locked up the office, worked my way down the stairs and hailed a cab.  I had a plane to catch.

To be continued.

Music playing while I wrote: Robert Plant/Alison Krauss – Raising Sand
Podcast of the day: Skepticality