Monday, August 31, 2015

Fifth Monday Fiction

Chapter 6, What’s a PI, from the novel Frank O’Hara – The Last PI

By D. Michael Pain

[In Chapter 5, published here on May 30, Frank O’Hara met with Kim Dawson in a restaurant and agreed to help investigate the death of her friend Brenda. They’ve just parted in the parking lot.
    Editor’s Note: As private investigator Mike Pain, the author is mentioned in various chapters of Jim Rix’s true-crime book
Jingle Jangle.]

Frank had been a private investigator for 30 years – often wondering what the hell he was doing in such a business. And he was wondering this more now than when he was new at this profession...if it could even be labeled such. It was true, they really couldn’t teach a class in private investigation...though sometimes on TV, a commercial would say they did.
    You either had a knack for it or you didn’t. The “knack,” which Frank personally understood and accepted, was his ability to operate his mind on two levels at the same time. It was much like a piano player doing “boogie woogie” when the left hand was going much faster than the right hand. It was two different sets of instructions being sent to two different places at the same time by one brain. His brain could flip back and forth. Someone could ask him a question in the middle of a thought that he might not answer then, but when they broke a silence later and said, “Frank, did you hear me? Are you paying attention?” Frank could say “yeah” and easily repeat the question and answer it as though it were just asked. But in reality he was thinking of something else entirely throughout the whole process – and only he knew it.
    His career was much like a roller coaster – often, in earlier times, high and fast and now in his older years often low and slow. Lately he had been stuck at the gate...waiting for a passenger. Today, the good-looking, blue-eyed girl in the red sweater sitting across from him was looking like the only one wanting to ride with him.
    You might very well be thought to be manic or have attention-deficit disorder or or some other weird mental thing if you were successful as a PI. It seemed to be an essential element that no one had ever studied. He had been told by a psychologist one time that there were close mental ties between cops and criminals – but at some point the cops turned one corner and the criminals went straight ahead. To his knowledge no one had done a study on PI's. Such a study wasn’t a high priority in the scientific world. The gift of his brain being able to be at two places at the same time was invaluable when interviewing a witness. He had to be able to process information just discovered in one brain locker while continuing the interview, knowing he could go back and open that locker when needed. He rarely ever carried a note pad and pen. It was a gift that he thanked God for, along with apologizing for wrong things that he had done.
    Frank was uncomfortable when a stranger asked him what he did for a living. His usual reply was that he was a high-priced “gopher” looking for people and records for attorneys. He found that most people had an opinions of PIs formed over years of television shows featuring such characters. He knew it wasn’t like that at all. He didn’t carry a gun, and the last time he followed some errant husband for a worried wife was many years ago – and he wouldn’t touch a case like that again. Frank knew the technology had passed him by a few years back. Now you just put a GPS device held by a magnet under the guy’s car and went home to the comfort of a computer, and all the information where the guy went and how long he stayed was right in front of you at your cozy desk. No need to follow them anymore.
    He had also stopped taking child custody cases. They were unhappy circumstances from start to finish. Neither the mother nor the father – nor most important the child – came out winners. He had seen such cases destroy families, who all loved the children in question but were willing to destroy each other for the right to have them.
    He had spent the last years taking lots of photos of wrecked automobiles, interviewing people who saw the accident, hunting for a witness the attorney or the insurance company involved couldn’t find. He was good at finding people. Computers had made it difficult for people to hide. Now there’d always be a trail you could follow. It might take longer for some, but sooner rather than later a computer record of some kind would provide a lead.
    Most cops Frank talked with referred to a PI as a “cop wannabe” who couldn’t make the grade to the real thing. For Frank, cop was the last occupation he would ever be interested in doing. He didn’t like conformity – could never wear a uniform or answer to some figurehead in charge of him, and the biggest drawback would be having to explain why he was late with his paperwork, or asking for some more time to find the citation book he had misplaced again. And oh, let’s not forget, the police car keys?
    As a PI, Frank was trying to live a life with character and ethics and remain an honest guy inside despite getting paid for lying to people and getting them to trust him with their darkest secrets that he would put into a report for others to read the next day. But this was getting tougher on his brain and his soul. Fifty percent of the people who were part of a case he was working didn’ t like him, about the same as lawyers.
    The business was getting harder on him as he got older. In truth, he had no way of knowing it, but he and the professional hit man were both thinking the same thing: how to get a little place on the beach and leave their current life and occupation behind. The only difference was that Frank didn’t have any secret bank accounts and knew he would never be able to afford such a place.
    One of his biggest fantasies was to meet Paris Hilton someday in a remote bar and offer to buy her a drink…and she would be somehow, someway attracted to him and want to take him home to her place on the beach where she would shower him with tender care. She would say tenderly that his hazel eyes reminded her of sunflowers, that she loved to rub her fingers through his gray hair and thought his little stomach paunch was cute. Other than that, it was keep working and hope they keep raising social security.
    He knew in clearer thinking times he was the only one giving a fat-ass thought about him or his future. He had pissed off not all, but most of his friends by the divorce and the younger woman, whose name he could not bring himself to say anymore. Those few friends who remained on his side of the ledger knew better than to ever bring her up in any conversation.
    But at this point in his life he was still too proud to get on his knees to his family and ask for forgiveness or help or to be welcomed back. Every time he got that thought, he would think and even say out loud, “Screw them.” But he always knew he was wrong.
    He frequently found himself alone, and lately he occasionally realized that he more often than not enjoyed the solitude. He played the piano...strictly for himself. In the middle of a night when sleep was hiding from him he would go to the piano and play some of the best blues no one would ever hear but him. It was a way to express the feelings that roamed back and forth on a road from his brain to his heart.

He took the card Kim had written two numbers on and slid it into his shirt pocket. He thought of the last instructions he had given her in the parking lot: “I’ll do something, meantime keep your mouth closed. Let’s assume Brenda’s advice is right on. Don’ t mention anything to anyone. Even about speaking to me.”
    He knew there were two reasons for that last bit of advice. One he had learned long ago, that in this line of work you needed some secrecy, and secondly, if her story was even remotely true, he wasn’t going to get a bullet in his head by possessing this legal envelope. From what Kim had just told him, someone else had already demonstrated how much they wanted it.
    He had gotten enough information from Kim to call her after he examined the documents and made some calls to some people he knew. Actually, he had no idea what the hell he was going to do first…but that’s how he always started a case.
    In the meantime he had suggested that she stay with a friend or, better yet, go to a hotel and register under a different name and lay low. “Don’t talk to anyone, not even your mother or priest.”
    He had again let her know that they would have to contact the police...there was no way around that.
    She had said she understood and would be waiting for his call. She had thanked him again and driven out of the parking lot and turned onto Camelback Road.

He didn’t know completely why, but that primeval gut instinct that tells us to be careful, there could be a snake in the grass, kicked in and he caught himself looking around as he got into his car. He put the file in the passenger seat and then pressed the button to put up the top.
    He decided to drive to his office and see just what was in this envelope and maybe find out why someone might have died just for having it. He would have to ask Norma to come in. He called her at home.

Copyright © 2015 by D. Michael Pain


  1. Good reading this morning. Great job Mike looking forward to reading more.

    1. Ed, Mike's wife has informed me that Mike's book has gone through the editing process at the publisher's, so printed copies should be available "before too long."