Of all the reasons that I became a PI, few had much to do with the realities of investigation. As a child, I spent many Sunday afternoons watching film noir with my father. As an adult, I am the only leggy blonde that darkens the door of my office. The rumpled, cigar-smoking men are usually my clients—unless one of their lumpy, worn-out wives is coming to hire me to investigate a suspected affair. I try not to take those cases. Most likely, the husbands are spending Saturday afternoons on the golf course, Wednesday nights at the bowling alley, and happy hour most weeknights getting a round with the guys before going back to the nagging at home. Speaking of reasons, there are a few reasons I’m not married. Rumpled, balding men don’t do it for me, and I’ll never become one of those lumpy excuses for womanhood.
The part of real P.I. work I enjoy most is that point in an investigation when a piece of evidence changes everything. In my personal life, that evidence emerged two days after my father died.
The night before Dad’s funeral, his two youngest brothers, whom he had practically raised and who idolized him even before his premature death, were fondly reminiscing about him when my mother’s anger stage of the grief cycle kicked in. “Don’t try to canonize the man! My husband was an unfaithful S.O.B.”
Another reason that I’m a P.I. instead of a politician or a social worker is that I believe the majority of society’s ills should be prosecuted. My mother’s attitude toward my father has generally fallen into this category. When Mom stormed off to bed that night, I would have thought her outburst just another bipolar delusion had my sister-in-law not muttered, “She’s lucky it was just the one time.”
My jaw dropped. Michael, my twin brother, who was well on his way toward becoming one of those rumpled, middle-aged men, suggested we take a walk—just the two of us.
I learned a lot that night, although the details wouldn’t come until later. Sidney, my older sister by six years, and her husband had walked in on the argument when Mom first found out. Michael and I had left for college a month prior, so we hadn’t been privy to the initial upheaval. Michael found out a decade later. For years, Mom had hassled him about being just like Dad whenever his devil-may-care attitude annoyed her. During one of her rants, she let word of the affair slip, positing that Michael was unfaithful just like Dad.
I processed the information rationally. Dad had cheated on Mom–once. I might think that after 20 years she’d let it go. Frankly, she’d always been out of his league. He’d been tall, muscular, handsome in the face. She was squat and toad-like even in her younger years, and all her nagging is probably what drove him away in the first place. Michael’s wife was right. Mom was lucky it only happened once.
Since Dad died, I’ve plunged headlong into my work. Long days make sleepless nights shorter. I miss him dreadfully—especially on Sundays. One morning, another leggy blonde walks through my office door. Her London Fog coat and dark glasses make her look like one of the actresses from those old movies Dad and I used to watch.
“I’m sorry to hear about your father,” she begins when I greet her. “I still work in human resources at James McHugh. That’s where I met him. We were . . . close.” As she slips off her coat and settles into the chair opposite my desk, I realize I am about to close a case.