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Friday, October 27, 2023

F³ Wrong Venue 36

             Nikki came in a Jaguar, a car I had always thought about wanting to drive, but there was no way on what I made. And while I was sure she would let me take the wheel, tonight, it was also the completely wrong car.

            “What’s this?” I asked, after opening the door. Or rather, I would have if my jaw hadn’t dropped at seeing her in a rhinestone-studded gown.

            “I should ask the same. Where is your tuxedo?”

            I squeezed my eyes shut to keep from rolling them. “Okay, clearly we’re miscommunicating on this. You think we should go back to the Club, presumably to search for whatever was dropped off.”

            “Correct,” she nodded.

            Her hair was perfectly style in long curls, and they bounced with unnatural springiness at her nod.

            “You know, I would love to do that, and especially I would love to dance with you dolled up like that, but that’s not the play.”

She compressed her lips to f a flat line that demanded explanation.

            “Right, so, we’d have to break into storage units or you’d have to find out who stashed what where in order to find out who got what and what’s in it. That’s a lot of haystacks for a few needles. If they got a shipment of something exotic from overseas, it likely came from the docks.” I pulled out my phone. “I’ve got a list of the ships that made port this week. We can check their docks and find the truck. If we’re lucky, we can even question the driver, and maybe even see what else the ship might be carrying. There’s a good chance that there will be other shipments off those boats that go to the club.”

            “I shall need to change.”

            “I’ll watch,” I quipped, grinning.

            Now she smirked. “We both know that I have invited you to do so before, but you adhere to some strange chivalric code that your detective heroes did not. But I encourage you to do so.”

            One of these days I’m going to learn not to spar with her like that.

Friday, October 20, 2023

F³ Optimal Recognition 35

             It was back to more surveillance. A couple of weeks went by as I tracked vehicles, but nothing tripped any alerts. I was beginning to feel stretched out by having to comb through so much footage, even at fast forward. Plus, life just went on. I had other cases to take in order to keep paying the bills and not go insane by focusing exclusively on Nikki’s stuff.

            Finally, at about three pm on Wednesday, a semi-truck arrived. It was a completely plain truck, only marked by looking like the old-school Optimus Prime flat-faced cab. But those style of trucks weren’t popular much, anymore. It might be enough. Oh, and the truck decal number emblazoned on the cab and trailer. I sure didn’t have Department of Transportation record privileges, but I didn’t need them in order to match up the numbers.

            I took screenshots and forwarded them to Nikki.

            She texted me back, right away. ‘Tonight, midnight.’

            ‘Really? Cliché much? Some of us aren’t immortal vampires and need sleep.’

            ‘We dare not wait for the trail to go cold. Must move on this.’

            ‘Sure, but you know, maybe we could do it much earlier? How about 8? ;P’

            ‘I’m not sure I approve of you using emojis, Matthew. It lacks a certain sophistication, or at least an old-school charm, which you’ve come to represent.’

            ‘Cassie’s a bad influence. At least I’m not shortening words to a single syllable.’


Friday, October 13, 2023

F³ Goose Chase 34

             Martin handed me the printouts. I asked to see pictures of the cargo crates, which were non-descript, refrigerated cases. The units plugged into the plane’s power to refrigerate the contents, and were all locked. Next, I checked the bills of lading, which were also pretty sanitized of any real clue of what was inside. Any kind of chemical, dangerous item, or perishable that would have red-flagged customs was omitted from the description.

            “You got a blank client contract?”

            Martin shrugged, then nodded, calling up a pdf file.

            “Print it, please.”

            I started skimming each page as it came off the printer. While I didn’t have the legal training, contracts were helpfully labeled by section, and I finally found what I wanted, the language about dangerous cargo. Quite clearly, the company wouldn’t transport anything that might be considered dangerous with regards to risk of explosion, toxic exposure, or other kind of hazardous material, nor would they transport living cargo. And that left only the most probable thing a bunch of snobby rich people could want from Europe.

            “We’re all done,” I told Martin. “Thanks.”

            Nikki opened the office door, looking decidedly unhappy.

            Nikki and I got back in the car, where she finally let it out. “Foie gras,” she seethed. “Caviar, unpasteurized milk and cheese, and other rare and exotic foods.”

            “Yeah, afraid so,” I said. “It’s been a real wild goose chase. Or maybe duck.”

            Despite how bad the joke was, Nikki’s lips quirked, fighting the smile. “That was terrible, Matthew.”

            “I know, but sometimes that’s all we’re left with after chasing a lead. How about some dinner?”

            “Yes, but we shall not be having French.”

            “Fine by me.”

Friday, October 6, 2023

F³ Unexpected Cargo 33


We followed the guy in, where a couple of other guys poked their head around pallets of crates they were sweeping around.

            “We may need to speak to your crew, too,” I said.

            Nikki gave me the side-eye. “Just a few questions,” she added, “nothing time consuming.”

            “Russ, Javier,” he beckoned them with the tablet. “These officials have a few questions for you about recent delivery to the Fairhaven Club. Hey, while you’re asking them, can I look up the files on the computer for you?”

            I glanced at Nikki. I wasn’t sure how well her trick with wrapping a person up in her will worked on people away from her.

She nodded to the man. “That will be fine.”

“I’ll lend you a hand,” I said.

I followed Martin—I finally just asked for his name and gave mine as Jimmy Freeman, what was already listed on my inspector ID—into the office. Barely more than a closet, it was clear the space was just for one person to do computer work and not for any kind of meetings, unless it was by phone.

Martin started clicking and typing away, searching for deliveries by address, in this case, the Fairhaven Club. Up came a list as long as my arm. The originating address came from about a dozen places spread across European countries and Canada. The address didn’t come with any business names for the originating address, but the client account that paid for shipping was there. Unfortunately, there were a couple of dozen of those, as well.

“Can you print these for me?” I asked.

He nodded, then clicked on the options.

I’d be able to chase down the names of businesses later.

As the printer whirred, something stood out to me on the screen. “This column, what does R mean?”

“That column’s for special handling instructions. You know, fragile, any possible dangerous warnings. The R means refrigerated?”

I looked down the list. Every shipment to the Fairhaven Club was refrigerated.

“Huh,” I said.

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