Pay Forward

Iris Stewart

Copyright 2013 by  Iris Stewart


Photo of a briefcase full of money.

 Everything can be justified and we all deserve. Perhaps in confirming our justification in an undeserving world, we begin to lose ourselves, the part that controls our conscience. My job required ethics, but I was the wrong person for the job. I had lost the gene for compassion, perhaps I never owned it. Ultimately, greed and my lack of empathy will destroy others in my path and many innocents will pay the price!  
Just as the door opens, the insect flies up my nose. I'm forced to remain still giving little sniffs as I feel it travel to my brain. My target, the woman in the pink dress, walks to the car. Thankfully, after a bit of fumbling and a fresh application of lipstick, she drives off.
I come to my feet, index finger buried up my nostril, the camera still on the ground. An old woman with a dog passes by, a look of utter disgust on her face. Once again, I consider quitting. It’s all too humiliating.
I’m a Private Investigator, a job I've been doing for the past two years. At the time I accepted the position had sounded a lot more interesting then the stage acting roles I performed every Friday at the Theater.
It had begun with the advert in the local paper. Private Investigator Looking for graduate to do some private investigative work. Free training. I had applied, not really expecting a response. When it came I was totally surprised. For the interview I dressed up in a two piece pin- striped suit borrowed from my flatmate. She never knew. I was determined to look the part of a PI.
The building was old, the office even older and yes the ‘boss’ the oldest. I had neatly prepared my certificates in a folder which I never got to produce at the interview. After answering questions mostly on my ability to ‘duck and dive’, Eddie the founder of the Agency offered me the job. He seemed surprised when I accepted. I was surprised when I accepted! After 6 months of training on Investigative and surveillance techniques, I officially became a junior private investigator at Edward Thornton PI Services.
Most of my days were spent on tracing missing pets, background checks and making countless cups of coffee. Sometimes, like today, I got to do real detective work, ‘surveillance’,on a cheating spouse. Unfortunately, many of our caseloads were on errant spouses.
Two years later, as was then, I still desperately need the money. Besides, I reflect,  hours spent ducking in bushes and laying in the sand, insects crawling up secret places did pay my rent and put food on my table.
As I enter the office, Eddie comes through his door, smiling, beaming from ear to ear. ‘We got a big one’ he says, a big fish ’

Sure, I think we probably got upgraded from investigating sleazy cheaters to finding stolen cars.
Eddie goes back into his office. I follow. ‘It s murder he says. We got us a murder!’’
I’m not sure whether I want to laugh or cry. Laugh because we are blessed with a murder or cry because someone got murdered. I start to work out a possible commission in my head. Surely this one is big money.
Who got murdered? ’ I ask finally feeling rich.
It’s the husbandEddie says. ‘Same old story, cheating spouse, but this time someone decided to take the old man out!’

He hands me several papers. ‘I need you to start surveillance immediately’. He says. ‘I’ll do thebackground investigations. If we nail this one right imagine how many other murders we can get ’

Yeah I think, this is our break! After years together, I’m as sick as Eddie.
Eddie and I spend the rest of the day going through the paperwork. Our client is the brother of the victim and he suspects the wife. She’s young and a cheater, the victim was old and rich. The Brother calls in and we debrief him on the case. He casually opens the silver briefcase he carries. It’s filled with money, fifteen thousand dollars! A deposit he says. You can smell the money its straight from the bank, clean and crisp. Just like his suit. He promises the same amount, the balance payable once we give our last report  to promote a conviction. Money is no problem he lets us know, but we need to nail the Wife!
I've never seen so much money in my life, neither I’m sure has Eddie! As the Brother speaks, we both continue to stare at the suitcase each locked in the reality that impossible dreams would soon be realized!
The victim’s brother has conditions. Only Eddie and I are to know about the money, only Eddie and I were to know his address. He signs the papers confirming that he has hired our services. He is strange, but his money speaks volumes. After seeing the money we don’t mind strange. We would agree to do a circus act if he asked us to. Eddie and I are definitely ready to solve this one!
Day 1. I make an early start. Its 4.30 am and I’m already parked outside the townhouse. Hours later, a young woman steps out. From a distance I cannot see her face but recognize the long blonde hair from the photos. It’s the wife. She jumps into a white Lamborghini and pulls off. I follow at a safe distance in Eddies Chevrolet. I remember I should have put fuel. The woman stops at a gym. I fill the tank at the petrol station across the road and then park the car near the door of the gym. For several hours I’m slumped in my seat watching the door I’m starting to get cramps in my legs and my feet are cold. After a while I can’t even feel my feet. I need my feet.
After ten hours she comes out and jumps into her car. Who does ten hours of exercise! I follow trying to safely keep up. Eddies car is no help. If only I had feet.
Arriving back at the townhouse, I record my surveillance notes for Eddie and call it a day. I need to be better prepared tomorrow.
Day 2. I’m early again, this time well prepared. A full petrol tank, sandwiches and socks. I wait but the woman doesn't appear. Fifteen hours later I call it a day.
Day 3.  I arrive early.  The place is surrounded by police. The neighbors are all out. Someone points in my direction. A policeman comes over and before I realize what is happening, I’m in handcuffs.
What’s going on? ’ I ask. Eddie hadn't trained me for this.
You tell us’ says the Policeman.
What do you mean? ’ I ask. Now I’m really afraid. ‘What happened?
There’s been a murder’ says the policeman, ‘neighbors say you been hanging around!’’

Who got murdered? ’ I ask.
The young woman in that townhouse’ he replies.
This is serious. I’m scared, really scared. Do I ask for my last meal or my one call? I've lost my appetite so I go for the call. I tell the policeman. I hope Eddie remembered to put on his earplugs.
Eddie collects me from the police station after clearing my name. He carries his Security Authority licence and the papers from the first victims brother as proof as to our presence at the crime scene. I’m severely traumatized. Turns out the wife was killed on the evening of the first day of surveillance. No wonder she hadn't appeared the following day. We go back to the office. Victims are piling up. Eddie tries to call the brother of the victim, the first victim, but his phone is not available. We starting to feel we were set up!
Day 4.  Eddie keeps checking the money in the safe. He’s feeling uneasy. Eventually I convince him to give me the combination to the safe. Eddie agrees that he’ll feel safer if we both watching the money.
Day 5.  Eddies late.  Eddies never late. I try his phone several times. It rings and goes to voice mail. I’m scared. I check the money in the safe, it’s all there. At 12 o clock in the afternoon, I call the police. I tell them with all that’s been going on I’m worried about Eddie. I don’t mention the money in the safe as was agreed with Eddie and the brother. I give the policeman Eddies address.
I’m at my desk when two policemen walk into the office. They ask me to sit down, the news is not good. Eddie is dead. He has been strangled. Someone screams, it’s me, and then I black out.
Day 6.  I’m under sedation in the hospital, still in shock. When I’m released I’m taken to the police station. They insist I need to get away, I could be the next target. Both victims, Eddie and the wife have been strangled. They suspect the brother. The one that hired Eddie. He’s disappeared. He had motive to kill the wife, and maybe Eddie found out. Of course they don’t know about the money.
I make a decision to leave town. The policeman takes me to my bedsitter to pack. I tell them to leave me at the office. I need to collect a few things before I leave. The policeman escorts me to the office. He is reluctant to go. I’m sobbing, holding the picture of Eddie. I can swear I see tears in the eyes of the policeman as he leaves.
I pull the curtain gently aside and peep through the window. The police vehicle is pulling out of the yard. Finally I’m alone. With a smile, I wipe away the tears. The acting lessons are paying off big time. I make my way to the safe. I open it. The money spills out, I can’t believe it all belongs to me. I neatly pack the crisp bundles of bills into my suitcase. My passport and travel documents were prepared days ago. I had been very cautious.
I notice the book tucked in the small compartment of the suitcase. How to get rich in 10 days it reads. I've proved there’s a quicker way, I got rich in six!
The past days have been very hectic, but I was no stranger to hectic. I didn't know what I had planned to do until the moment I arrived at the door of the brother, on the pretext of getting further information. That was on the same day he had hired Eddie and I. He was surprised but let me in. The house was quiet. I confirmed he was alone. I remembered in his paperwork he had said that he was only renting this condo for a short time following his brother’s death. He would be returning to Italy soon. It was perhaps the element of surprise that made it easier to lift the statue, hit him over the head, and strangle him. I had hid his body in the basement. He was heavy, that’s why my legs and feet had ached.
On the evening of the first day of surveillance, I had secretly returned to the townhouse to confront the wife. I told her we knew that she had killed her husband but that I could help her as we were working with the police. I lied, it was an investigative technique. After denials she suddenly broke down, it was when she had buried her head in her hands, full of remorse, that I hit her with the vase then strangled her. How pathetic she was. After all, she had started this. If she had not killed her husband, everyone else would still be alive. I remember how she had held onto my hands trying to loosen my grip. It reminded me of my flatmate those many years ago. The one who owned the pin-striped suit. If she had just giving me the money I wouldn't have had to get rid of her! The things people do!
The following days I reported for surveillance duty early making sure the neighbors saw me parked outside the townhouse.
And then there was Eddie, poor Eddie, but I had to do what I had to do! He had to be killed off too! I don’t think he would have agreed to go along and besides, I would have only got commission from the money. No doubt a large sum as Eddie promised, but I deserved more, much more. By now I deserved all! 
Eddie had been good to me. For that, I had waited till he was comfortably in his chair, beer in hand. He didn't know I was behind the chair, belt in hand. I felt justified that I had treated Eddie fairly.
The money is all packed in my suitcase. Neat bundles still crisp and clean. I close my eyes and breathe in. Slowly I exhale. For the first time in many days I am calm and at peace. This time tomorrow the only sand on my body will be from the sea.
Time to go! I look at my watch. I gasp. My wrist is empty. Where is it? Where is my watch? Where did I leave it? When last did I see it? Was it when the wife grabbed my hands?  And’s got my name inscribed at the back! I’m starting to sweat, I’m having a panic attack. After all I have gone through I don’t deserve this!

What’s that I hear? Please what is it, is it.....sirens? 

My home is in Zimbabwe and I am an Independent Recruitment Consultant. I love Writing, English, Art and being creative. Gifts I inherited from both my late Father and Mother. I love you both and  I am grateful!

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