The McKenzie Case
My intercom chimed and flashed. I pressed the button to receive.
“Miss McAllister, there’s a Mrs McKenzie here to see you,” said Tiny, my general factotum. “She doesn’t have an appointment but she says she knows you.”
The name didn’t ring a bell, but I’d reached that point in the day when any interruption would make a welcome break.
“Thanks, Tiny. Show her in.”
The door opened and in walked the person I had least expected to ever see again. Apart from those who were dead or in prison, of course. I recognised her as if it had been yesterday. She was well-groomed and well-dressed; she’d obviously done well for herself. Nature had been kind to her too: her figure would put most glamour models to shame and I would bet it was all natural too. When I’d known her before, the breasts had been far less spectacular. And the blonde hair had been more of a dirty blonde; she was probably getting some help from a bottle.
“Hello Jocelyn,” I said. “So it’s Mrs McKenzie now.”
“Hello Rose,” she replied nervously. “They told me you’re the best but I wasn’t sure I’d be welcome.”
“Water under the bridge.” That might not have been true. Truth is, I didn’t know how I felt about her. “How have you been?”
“It was bad for a while. I was taken into care and shunted around from foster home to foster home. I had to have years of counselling. But I’m on an even keel now.”
Jocelyn didn’t elaborate. I had read in the local newspaper about the decorated war hero being arrested for raping his preteen daughter. They hadn’t mentioned any names, supposedly to protected the daughter, but it could only have been her.
“What can I do for you?” I asked.
“It’s my husband, Ray,” she replied. “I love him with all my heart and he’s helped me lead something like a normal life.”
“Sounds like a good man,” I commented.
“He is. I think. But I’m starting to have doubts. He travels a lot for work and sometimes he seems to be away longer than necessary. A couple of times the firm he works for has called while he’s been away, asking to speak to him. They didn’t know he was still on the road and he wasn’t answering his cellphone.”
“Do you think he’s having an affair?”
“I don’t know. He never even glances at another woman when he’s with me. But what if I’m too damaged for him and he needs a normal woman?”
“You want me to find out?”
“Yes.” A small voice, almost a whisper.
“I’m not cheap.” I handed her a copy of my charges.
“My husband is Regional Manager for Office Automation Products. I can afford it.”
I took down Ray McKenzie’s details, including his regular movements and when he was next due to go on the road. Jocelyn had the forethought to bring a recent photo of her husband. I asked her to let me know details of his itinerary when he next went on the road, then showed her out.
Did she whisper, “I’m sorry,” on the way out, or was it my wishful thinking?
“Are you okay?” asked Tiny. “You look as though you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I think I just have.”
“What did she want?”
“Thinks her husband might be cheating. Wants me to find out.”
“That sounds routine.”
“The job’s routine, the client isn’t. We have a history.”
“Oh! Enough said.”
I liked that about Tiny. He knew when not to press.
I hadn’t realised I had been staring at the door until Tiny cleared his throat.
“Ahem. While you’re standing there, would you like me to start a file for the client?”
“I’m contemplating whether I want you to take me to a bar and get me blind drunk or take me home and fuck my brains out. I might as well start the file myself while I’m trying to decide. But you can run off ten copies of this photo for me.”
I set up a new entry in our customer database and typed in the details I had elicited from Jocelyn. When Tiny brought in the photocopies of her husband’s photo, I scanned the original into the computer and attached it to the file. Then I ran off a hard copy. I had never trusted computers sufficiently to do away with paper backups.
“Have you decided?” asked Tiny, after I put the paper copy in a filing cabinet.
“What the hell, let’s do both. Unless you have other plans.”
“No, nothing that can’t wait.”
What I knew about Tiny’s history was limited. At 6’ 3””, Jackson Scott dwarfed my 5’ 2”. And he must have weighed over 200lbs, most of it solid muscle. Not being quite good enough at football to become a professional, he had joined the army instead. Most of his army career was classified, but it must have been bad because I saw the look on his face sometimes when he was having a flashback. I suspected he had a drawer full of medals that few people were allowed to know about, and I wasn’t one of them. Eventually his luck ran out; he lost his lower right leg to an IED and was invalided out of the army.
I’m still not sure how he came to work for me. I was good at my job as a Private Investigator, too good in fact. Realising I needed help in the office, I advertised for a receptionist/administrator. To prove I wasn’t hidebound by gender stereotyping, I gave Tiny an interview when he applied. And he passed with flying colours. His prosthetic didn’t hamper him, he had a good telephone manner and he was as gentle as a lamb, except when circumstances dictated otherwise when his exceptional armed and unarmed combat skills came into play. In short I got a bargain. In fact I couldn’t understand why Tiny would want to work for me. I could have found out, but that was something I wouldn’t do to an employee except under extreme circumstances. My curiosity didn’t count.
Right from the day I decided to hire Tiny, I resolved not to have a relationship with him. That had lasted until our first major success together. Our celebrations had carried all the way through to bed. Tiny was a considerate lover: he had to be because his size was in proportion. He had to indulge in a lot of foreplay to make me sufficiently aroused for penetration, and even then his size meant that it was uncomfortable for me.
Since then our couplings had been infrequent and only on special occasions. I kept suggesting to Tony that he find a nice girl and settle down, but he seemed uninterested in long-term relationships.
In the end I took Tiny to a decent restaurant and treated him to a huge steak; his appetite was also in proportion to his body size. Then we hit a bar where I proceeded to get only mildly drunk. And back at my apartment, Tiny got my motor running then, at my request, fucked me hard. He was too big for me and every inward thrust made me wince, but it was a good, cathartic pain after meeting the former Jocelyn Millbrook again.
When I woke up the next morning, Tiny was gone. Even with his prosthesis, he insisted on getting up early to carry out his daily exercise regime, for which he needed the equipment back at his own apartment.
A few days later, Jocelyn called me with Ray’s itinerary. On Tuesday he would leave his office at lunchtime to drive to the city of Abernathie, where he was booked into a hotel. He would spend most of Wednesday in the company’s office in Abernathie then drive to Brownsville, where he had another hotel booked. A day in the Brownsville office would be followed by a drive to Checkfield and another hotel. After a day in the Checkfield office, he would drive home, arriving some time Friday evening.
I tailed Ray pretty carefully, supplementing my limited sleep by grabbing naps during the day. He had to be the most boring man I’ve ever tailed. Work and rest but no play. His single vice was a nightcap in the hotel bar after his evening meal. He rebuffed both the working girls and the businesswomen who were using the bar to hook up for a night of casual sex away from their husbands.
Friday morning Ray checked out of his hotel in Checkfield so I was pretty sure this trip would be a bust. I watched him leave the Checkfield office, get in his car and set off in the direction of home. I lost him in the weekend exodus from the city, so I drove home to my own apartment.
After several days of living out of my car, I treated myself to a long, hot shower. Then a decent meal. Okay, it came out of the freezer and it was heated in the microwave, but it was decent compared to what I had been eating. And I slept for twelve solid hours.
I went into the office the next morning even though it was Saturday. Tiny had anticipated me by leaving notes about anything that needed urgent attention. Fortunately the list was short and I cleared it within a couple of hours. Then I thought to browse through the answerphone messages. The most recent was from Jocelyn saying that Ray hadn’t returned home the previous night. He had called her to say that something had come up in the Checkfield office and he was staying another day.
“Hi Jocelyn,” I said when she answered the phone. “I’m sorry I didn’t return your call earlier, I’ve been catching up on things in the office. Is Ray back yet?”
“No,” she replied. “If he keeps to his usual schedule, he’ll be back tonight. But I thought you were tailing him.”
“I was, until Friday evening. The good news is that in all that time, Ray didn’t so much as look at another woman. But I lost him in the rush hour traffic leaving Checkfield. When is his next road trip scheduled?”
“He’s supposed to visit three more offices next week: Dennisboro, Ellesworthy and Fairfax.”
“I don’t think there’s any point tailing him to Dennisboro or Ellesworthy. I’ll pick him up at Fairfax. And I’ll use technology to make sure I don’t lose him again, that’s if you’re happy for me to stay on the case.”
“Yes please, I have to know what Ray is up to.”
Next I called Tiny.
“Hi Tiny, sorry to disturb you on a day off but I lost Ray McKenzie yesterday in heavy traffic when leaving Checkfield. I’m going to tail him again next week. Can you get a tracking device for me to put on his car?”
Tiny knew his way around bugging and tracking people, presumably as part of his classified roles in the army. And he knew where to buy the hardware, even when it wasn’t legal.
“Do you want a standard tracking device where you have to stay within a hundred yards or so of the target, or do you want something with a longer range?” Tiny asked.
“Longer range, definitely.”
“I can get a standalone GPS tracker fairly easily. Because it’s not tied in to the car’s electrical system, the tracker is easy to fit and remove. The trouble is it uses so much power transmitting all the time that the battery could last as little as 24 hours. There’s a cellphone app to show you where the target is, and you can track the target anywhere in the country.”
“That’s good enough. I plan to put it on Ray’s car while he’s in the Fairfax office so I can find out where he goes to Friday night and Saturday.”
“I should be able to pick it up for you on Monday for you. My supplier usually keeps them in stock.”
“Thanks Tiny, see you Monday.”