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Friday, September 22, 2023

F³ Stakeouts Will Never Be The Same 31

             After that first night, Nikki didn’t join me on the stakeout. I didn’t blame her. I decided to take some of Nikki’s fee and go hi-tech. On Ira’s recommendation, I got a couple of good night-vision cameras and set them up. I had a down the street shot and one from above on the roof of the building across from the dock. The hardest part wasn’t climbing up the fire escapes, but remembering Ira’s instructions for setting them up.

            I didn’t even have to change tapes or memory cards as they uploaded to the cloud. From there, I could watch the cameras on fast forward, going through an entire day’s recording in about two hours. Stakeouts would never be the same.

The angles got me company logos and truck numbers, but nothing stuck out. Most were local places, bringing in the food, merch, and laundry for the club, which made sense. But then, on day four, I caught a break.

            Two box trucks came back-to-back. They turned out to be from a cargo place that worked out of the Belport airport. I had been expecting the port, especially if they were bringing it in from Japan, China, and Russia, but the airport was plausible for other kinds of goods. I wouldn’t put it past some private charter plane to slip things past customs.

            I called up Nikki. “You ready for the urgent part?”

Friday, September 15, 2023

F³ Detective Drudgery 30

             “Matthew, wake up.”

            Nikki’s voice was distant and jarring as it broke the dream I was having. The sensation of floating disappeared and I felt the weight of my eyelids as I forced them open, and tried to get my neck to work. It was sore from the angle my head had flopped at.

            “What is it?” I croaked. My mouth was dry.

            “A large truck just turned down the street. This could be the one.”

            I rubbed at my eyes, trying to force them to focus, then pulled up my camera. I had to blink a couple of times, but finally zoomed in on the truck’s logo to snap a picture. I did the same for the license plate. I couldn’t make either, out, but the camera could had a low-light function the same as any smartphone, the difference being my camera did it in about a tenth of a second instead of taking 10 seconds.

            Everything looked promising as they slowed down when they came up to the docks, but after about thirty seconds, they drove on, going two more streets down before turning a corner.

            “Sorry, toots, they don’t always pan out.”

            “I’m beginning to think that I should have left the drudgery to you.”

            “Yeah, stakeouts are definitely drudgery, but that’s detective work for you.”


            “What do you mean ‘Ha’?” I asked.

            “Matthew, your detective work has been anything but drudgery for many years. Vampires, a mystical serial killer, succubi, witches, wizards, and mystical artifacts. Hardly drudgery.”

            “You have a point, but then you generally are only aware of the terrifying parts. Even in all that there’s legwork and drudgery.”

            “But that time should have passed as you’ve already done it.”

            “Hate to break it to you, Doll, but even if that truck had stopped at the docks, the drudgery would continue. We don’t know if it’s that truck, or even if there’s only one. And there’s more drudgery after that.”

            “I had thought asking a detective to untangle political intrigue would be more . . . urgent.”

            “Only in the movies. Got any more coffee?”

Friday, September 8, 2023

F³ Probabilities 29

             Nikki had also brought gyros from Kairos’s, just a couple blocks away from my office, which, if she hadn’t been a vampire, would have been enough in my book to make her a saint.

            “However did you discover these loading docks belonged to the Fairhaven Club?”

            I took her through my bureaucratic adventure at the city planner.

            “And you are sure that work was done to connect them to the club?”

            “Uh-uh,” I said with a mouthful of gyro. “I love this tzatziki sauce. It’s good enough to be a drug.”

            “So we are relying on your detective acumen in deduction for this?”

            “Pretty much.”

            “Please tell me you are not going to quote Holmes, now.”

            I shook my head. “Holmes had it easy,” I said after swallowing. “Sure, you always have to eliminate possibilities, but when you got five suspects because they’re locked in a mansion, train, boat, whatever, it’s pretty easy. I can’t eliminate all the possibilities or impossibilities, especially when dealing with the supernatural. But I can look at what’s probable. Let me ask you, what’s more likely, a super-secret warehouse a mile away with an underground railway to the club or a speakeasy-era tunnel that used to smuggle booze and now smuggles antiques and artifacts?”

            “I see your point. Well, we should see the arrival of these trucks over the course of the night, correct? Darkness for dark business, as it were?”

            I shrugged. “Maybe, but then again, maybe not. Depends on how well they dummy up the paperwork for customs. Can you imagine a better way to get the stuff here than to have regular union guys doing all the work? If we get people coming at midnight, then they know what it is they’re bringing in. Not saying that’s the case; I’m sure some of the guys in your secret club are brilliant criminal masterminds, but I’m sure some of them are not very bright.”

            “And what makes you say that?”

            “Well, they kept you out of it, for one thing.”

            She smiled at that.

            “Any chance you brought more coffee?”

            She produced a large thermos from the bag from Kairos’s.

Friday, September 1, 2023

F³ The Way to A Detective's Heart 28

The Fairhaven Club was just that, a club; well, they would no doubt call it a private society. Semantics aside, they didn’t do that much business. Even Nikki’s Blackthorn Club boasted a higher number of people that used the place. And no matter how much merch the Fairhaven Club had, no matter how much food and booze they consumed, they didn’t take in that much in deliveries, so there was no need for loading docks. But if the members were filling those storage rooms underneath, then they were using the place to smuggle stuff in. Antiques and artifacts, especially, would take up a lot of room, like on a freight truck.

The building with the loading docks had once been a furniture place with its own shop to actually make the stuff. But they went out of business decades ago, and, like lots of places that had been upgraded over time, the original building had been sliced into pieces with partitions put up, converting them all into little shops. The shop with the docks was the smallest of the bunch, and likely why it was just a kitschy souvenir shop.

            My jaw cracked as I yawned again, covering my mouth with the back of my hand. Stakeouts were very boring. It was even worse when I had only gotten a few hours of sleep. After I was done at the city planner’s office, I needed to be parked somewhere inconspicuous with an eye on the street accessing the Club’s loading docks. For once, something was in my favor.

Fairhaven was an old town. Not as old as those in my old stomping grounds of Boston, but old enough to predate cars. A lot of the streets were one-way because they were narrow; large trucks needed wide lanes in order to back into the docks. This street wasn’t that wide, but it did have signs that prohibited street parking on that particular stretch. However, I was parked on the connecting street with a clear view of where any trucks could turn into those loading docks.

Unfortunately, there was no way to know when, or how often, a freight truck would drop something off at the docks that the Club had appropriated. I spent all day watching and tracking the trucks. Mostly it was the usual suspects, UPS, Fedex, Amazon, DHL, and a couple of local places, Speedway, OnTime, etc., but I saw a few private delivery trucks, too. These were the smaller box trucks, but they could have the stuff I was looking for.

It was evening, and I swear I had only closed my eyes for a minute when there was a knock on my window. I thought I was going to have to explain to some cop why I was there, but instead it was Nikki, bearing coffee.

At first whiff, I said, “I love you.”

“Had I known I would receive your affections just for coffee, I would have provided you all that you asked,” Nikki said after passing me the extra-large cup.

“I was talking to the coffee,” I said.

Friday, August 25, 2023

F³ Useful Bureaucracy 27

             Low on sleep that night, I dragged myself to the City Planner’s office in the morning. I waved to Patty as I came in.

            “Another case, Mr. Allen?”

            “Yeah, you know how it is.”

            “Nope, I just work for the city, but know the drill. Listen, they upped the price for copies, again, especially if you want the city’s seal,” She pointed to a sign giving the prices.

            I nodded. It seemed the city was always trying to make a buck.

            “Any idea when they’re going to get all of these online?” I asked.

            She shrugged. “Not exactly a budget priority.”

            “Yeah, guess so. Anyway, thanks, Patty.

            I sat at one of the computers and began searching. While the full plans weren’t online, except for the most recent ones which were all filed online, they had a database that made it possible to search through to find the records. Most libraries tended to have a better interface, but with the instructional handout taped to the desk, I could muddle through.

In the movies, blueprints or some contractor’s order would show a hidden tunnel. I knew that wouldn’t be the case; the Club would bring people in to dig it in secret and keep it off the books. Likely, some of those were dug during Prohibition. The tunnels wouldn’t be in the plans, but they couldn’t hide something big and out in the open like loading docks.

It was slow going, though. I had to look up properties by their addresses, which, helpfully, I could get through online maps. Unfortunately, the satellite pictures on the online maps couldn’t show the loading docks. Like most old, urban buildings, they built them up a few stories, covering the docks up. I probably could have figured it out by driving around, but didn’t want to risk my car being seen in the area, too much.

So I took the slow way, looking up addresses and plans. On the way, I made notes of the current owners of the properties. I suspected most of the owners were shell companies, but it might be useful information later on. It would be nice if they were sloppy enough to have the same company as owner of the Club and associated buildings, but I wasn’t that lucky.

From there, I went back to Patty and asked her to pull the plans for me. I didn’t bother to ask for copies. I just used my phone to take a picture. I wouldn’t need them as evidence in court or anything, just as a reference on where to park for the stakeout.

Friday, August 18, 2023

F³ Special Occasion 26

             Nikki and I got into her car, laughing until her driver had gotten us out of the parking garage. Once done, I sighed, and took out my notebook, furiously scribbling down what I observed from the members and the hostesses. I didn’t know if it would actually be useful, but since we seemed to be tackling a large chunk of the Fairhaven Club, I wanted to cement the information in my brain.

            Fortunately, Nikki gave me the time and space to get everything down. Only when all of that was done, did I look up.

            “Where are we?” I asked.

            “Currently, we are returning to my club,” she said.

            “You can just drop me back at my office.”

            “Were I to do that, the people following us would no doubt conclude that this was more of a professional matter than personal, and report back to their masters, accordingly.”

            I glanced back through the window. The dark tint didn’t make it easy. All I could see were headlights since it was night out.

            “Which one?” I asked. I was better at tailing cars—only marginally better—than spotting a tail.

            “I have no idea. There could be multiple spies. I’m only certain that I would not let us go unwatched from the club. So we will have to spend a little more time at the club just to make sure that our uninvited guests fully believe you are my boy toy.”

            “You got a movie in mind?”

            “Venusian Vampire Vixens. I’ve been saving it for a special occasion.”

            “Guess I better call Cassie and tell her I’ll be even later.” I pulled out my phone.

Friday, August 11, 2023

F³ What We're Good At 25

             The three of us ambled our way to the club’s entrance, Nikki linking arms with me on the right and Sonia on the left. There were whispers, laughter, and Nikki offered up some very frank innuendos to Sonia, giving the appearance of being drunk. I played my part as well, occasionally stumbling and slurring my words for dramatic effect. I had long-since given up my wild youth, so was acting purely on memory. It was actually pretty difficult to find some kind of balance. Whenever I got drunk, I tended to be philosophical, thinking—what I thought at the time—deep thoughts of the universe. But that wouldn’t work here, so I had to try and be like my brother Paul, who had been more of a free spirit while drunk.

            “You remind me of a girl from Nantucket!” I said loudly to Sonia. Hard as it was to believe, Paul had picked up his future wife Connie with that line.

            Nikki let out a peal of laughter, stumbling into me and dragging Sonia with her. The three of us veered hard to the right, almost crashing into a knot of four men in top hats.

            “Beg your pardon, Gov,” I said with a bad British accent. “Hey, is the governor here? I bet he could give us a pardon!”

            Nikki dragged us back on course, still laughing, while Sonia looked somewhere between amused and horrified.

            We took the final escalator down, me in front. I felt Nikki turn around, playfully bumping my back with her rear. I heard whispers to Sonia, but couldn’t make them out. No doubt Nikki was seducing the young girl even further, creating quite the spectacle as I saw at least three hostesses coming up the other side with their eyes locked on Sonia and Nikki.

            Nikki is really skilled at this. She didn’t need me hanging around. Guess I should be glad I’m not good at political games.

            Instead, I did what I was good at, and observed, cataloging reactions of others, especially those hostesses, noting the names on their tags, too.

Friday, August 4, 2023

F³ Improv Act 24

             It took us almost an hour to lay the plans, which brought us close to the room deadline. Fortunately, we could make that part of the plan, too. As the deadline loomed, Nikki sent a text to Sonia, asking her to come by again. Nikki and I set about staging the place. The wine bottle was empty and on its side. Nikki’s lipstick all over the glass. The pull-down bed was in place with the sheets suitably rumpled and pillows disheveled. I had a double of the Laphroaig that Sonia had gotten for me, and sadly poured half of the rest of the bottle down the drain. There was just no place to store it.

            The timid knock announced Sonia’s return. I left the open bottle next to the sink and dashed for the padded chair. Nikki quickly assumed her seat on my lap, letting out silver laughter, calling out, “Come in!”

            Sonia timidly entered, darting in and shutting the door behind her to prevent prying eyes from seeing what they weren’t supposed to. On the surface, the Fairhaven Club had to respect member privacy above all else, but like any place, gossip would spread, anyway.

            “Ah, Sonia, good to see you again. I trust you are suitably recovered from our . . . assignation?”

            Sonia, who had likely witnessed and endured much debauchery within the club’s walls blushed furiously. While I didn’t know for sure that Nikki had taken blood from the young woman, I well knew the effects Nikki could have on a person. The feeling of being enveloped in a vampire’s will was powerful, and not soon forgotten.

            “Y-yes, Ms. Alexander. I-I—thank you.”

            She had taken a tentative half-step forward at the end, before cutting herself off. Clearly, she was smitten with her experience.

            “Well, you shall have to attend me again, soon. Perhaps all of us, together.”

            Sonia nodded rapidly while Nikki continued.

            “Sadly, our time tonight is at an end. Would you have my car brought around. I’ve had enough business for the evening. Time now for more pleasure.”

            I snaked a hand around her stomach, and tilted in to kiss her neck. “Laying it on a little thick, aren’t we?” I whispered.

            But then I couldn’t argue with the effect on Sonia. She stood and openly looked with longing, her mouth slightly open. It might’ve been my imagination, but I thought her legs quivered, slightly.

            Maybe it’s the heels, or maybe it’s Nikki’s will.

            Nikki patted my hand wrapped around her, then swiftly rose, gliding over to Sonia and bending to whisper in her ear. This hadn’t been part of what we had discussed. I wasn’t crazy about Nikki improvising, but then most of my plans were improvised.

Friday, July 28, 2023

F³ Planting Seeds 23

Nikki sat back down, elegantly. “Tell me more.”

            “So, this place is nothing but maneuvering and scheming for power, which is why I don’t care for it. Your meeting earlier was those smug SOBs refusing to divulge their plans, but they were likely talking about them somewhat openly because that’s what this place does.”

            Nikki nodded.

            “Okay, so, they have likely picked up that you want to know their plans.”

            “Very likely, yes, since I all but directly asked them.”

            “Did they kind of do the same with regards to your plans?”

            “Yes. It is the expected norm in this establishment. In particular, they were interested in the proxy vote you delivered and what I might have behind it all.”

            “And you didn’t give that away, I’m sure, but did you hint at anything else?”

            “Not as such, no, namely as I have no current scheme. Well, not when it comes to making arrangements through the Club.”

            “That’s exactly what we need to do, then.”

            “You wish to get in on one of my schemes, and facilitate it here at the club?”

            “Well, no. I don’t know, I don’t’ want to know, and certainly don’t want to be involved in such, even if you had one ready to go. But we don’t have to have a real scheme. In fact, it’s better if we don’t. We only want to make it look like you’re making plays.”

            For the first time since we arrived at the club, Nikki’s smile became mischievous. “Now you have my complete attention.”

            “Right, so, you’re going to need to fill me in a little bit about these people so we can come up with moves that they’re going to buy into.”

            “Your brand of chess again, Matthew?”

            It took ma second to make the connection, then I nodded. “Yeah. Strategy for the player, not just the game.”

            “You owe me a rematch, you know.”

            “Maybe, but after tonight you’re going to know a lot more of my moves.”

            “Then let us begin.”

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