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RotW&AotS Issue #3: Those to be Forgiven

Ellio Lee

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1st third of the first chapter.  It's a little... different to what you may be expecting but to quote Lester Freamon "All the pieces matter."


So... Where do you want me to start?

Where do you think you should start?

Heh!  That’s the thing isn’t it?  I don’t know that it matters.  You think I’m batshit crazy anyway.

I don’t think you’re… crazy.

You think I’m either insane or a liar.  That’s the only reason you want me to go over everything again.

I want you to go over everything so that we can have a clear understanding of what happened.  So that we can get to fully discern what brought you here today.

Really?  For who?  For you?  For the the press?  For the cops?  I’ve been following this trail for what feels like forever, I’ve overturned more dirty little secrets than anyone thought was possible in the forty years after this case went cold and all it’s gotten me is a seat across the table from you.  You’ve seen my files, read my notes.  The interviews I conducted and the reports I made.  You already know as much as I do.

But I don’t do I?  Your files are very interesting but they’re presented plainly and while they do reveal as much detail as I would expect from someone in your profession, they don’t actually reveal a great deal about yourself or what you were feeling during your involvement with the case.

You want that?  You’re concerned about my feelings? 


Fine.  So again we’re back to where we were.  Where do you want me start?

How about you start at the beginning?

David Copperfield style?

If you think it would serve your version of events.

My version of events?  Yeah… my version of events… Mine are the only version of events.  Everyone else is either dead or gone to ground.  OK OK… How about the moment that the brother walked into my office?  Shall we start there?


I was wrapping up a standard Disability claim.  Burroughs, Cooper and Mishima were the law firm that had me on retainer at the time, but you already knew that.  One of their clients smacked into the back of some guys pick-up with his jeep and the plaintiff was trying to sue for serious injuries: Whiplash, neck strain, back pain brought about from damage to the spinal cord by displaced bone fragments...  The claimant was also playing for emotional damage and loss of future earnings.  Seriously by the time his shit show of a law firm tallied it up - the defendant was looking for a payout of sixty million.  Even for the sorts of men and women that can afford to hire Burroughs, Cooper and Mishima - that ain’t exactly pocket change. 

He was faking it by the way - the injuries I mean.  I found the guy trying to pick up some girl who was young enough to be his daughter in a bar down town.  No brace, no crutches.  He was trying to dance with her - you know the way those guys operate.  Total sleaze.  I say some girl but she worked for me.  I’ve got an eye for the type of cooze any guy will go for -  and the minute I saw this fella - even trussed up with his fake neck brace on - I knew that Janette would be the girl he’d risk it for.  I wasn’t wrong.  I don’t tend to be.  Anyway - she recorded him talking about money that he was going to be coming into pretty soon - trying to impress her with wealth that wasn’t his yet.  He had claimed it was on an investment that was gonna pay out.  He’d been speaking to her for all five minutes and already he’d invited her on a trip to The Bahamas with him in a month's time.  Guy’s are like that you know?  Easily cunt struck by the right kind of girl paying the right kind of attention.  Would he have gone for any of the others I have on regular stand-by?  Mischa with her flowing red curls and that perfect pout?  Beth, who looks like she breaks hearts with every corner she turns?  Maybe.  But like I said.  I can pick them.  I’ve an eye for the perfect Honeytrap.

The girls?  They’re all respectable women that I find out of a temp agency.  Wannabe actresses mostly who’ll happily play a role for a couple of hours to get me what I need.  I pay them well and don’t ask them to go any further than the bar.  I’m not a pimp.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah.  So I’m putting the finishing touches on a few of these documents - signing this and that and there’s a knock at the door.  Yeah my office is like that.  Real Sam Spade kinda stuff.  I dig that you know?  Always have.  It’s why I do what I do.  I’ve got the door with my name on the pane of frosted glass - the desk overflowing with papers - filing cabinets against the wall with little in, short of some old case files that I couldn’t quite piece together, and a bottle of malt whisky next to the Glock .22 in the top drawer of my desk.  That desk even has a replica Bankers Desk Lamp over the laptop - you know the kind - brass stand and a green satin glass shade.  Like I said - I dig the aesthetic.  The laptop?  Well I do own a typewriter but it sits in my office at home - an Underwood Golden Touch.  It’s a beautiful piece of machinery but you’ve gotta move with the times and clients expect some sort of modernity.

So there’s a knock at my door and I look to the hands of the ticking clock on my wall.  It’s out of office hours and I should have finished up thirty minutes before but it could have been any number of people and I was in no rush to get home. So I call out for the shadow on the other side of the glass to come in. 

The door’s got a real creak in the hinges - it’s heavy too so the that the bottom scuffs the floorboards.  I keep meaning to get it fixed but in truth - I mostly don’t really notice much anymore.  Yeah, that was him.  That was the first time I saw the brother.

Thomas Baldwin was as handsome as a man can look in his condition.  In his mid fifties his hair had turned a little gray and his eyes were a little heavy, he carried a spare tire around his waist that suggested too many late nights with beers and pizza - but considering what he was bringing me that wasn’t too much of a surprise.  Carrying an Aspinal briefcase and wearing a dark gray Brooks Brothers suit, I could see he had money - looking a little closer though the suit was off the rack and the briefcase: a few years old.  Maybe he had money or liked to create the illusion of it.  It was the red tie that stood out more than anything - I immediately spotted a stain on it from a desk lunch: could have been soy sauce. 

“Are you Ramsay Quaid?” he asked.  He looked nervous.  No.  Not nervous.  Shaken.  A little defeated maybe.  Eager to get over with what he had come to see me about.

“That’s the name on the door.  Something I can help you with?”  I flipped the manilla cover of the file and popped it into the bottom drawer of my desk before leaning back in my chair. 

“I hope so.  Can I sit down?”

I motioned for him to sit on the battered green leather chair across the desk from me.  I’d picked it up out of a second hand furniture place on 3rd Avenue - it had a rip in the arm that someone had tried to cover with electrical tape and a few dinks and dents here and there.  It worked with aesthetic of the office.  Getting it up the stairs wasn’t easy…

“So what can I do for you Mr…”

“Baldwin.  Thomas Baldwin.”  he leant across the desk and offered me a faintly sweaty hand which I shook before leaning back in my chair.  “I work at Burroughs Cooper and Mishima.”

“A lawyer?”

“Yeah.  But not one of the big guys.  Mostly taxes.  My office is on five so I don’t really see the interesting stuff.”

“You want me to dig into someone’s spreadsheets?  That’s not really my thing.  I’m sure you have accountants on the payroll...”

“No.  It’s not for the firm.” And there he was looking nervous again.  Like he was going behind someone’s back.  “I wanted to hire you privately.”

“Well that’s a little more interesting.”  I opened the top drawer of my desk and pulled out two crystal tumblers and the bottle of 12 year-old Strathisla.  I poured myself a glass and motioned toward him.  He nodded so I let the golden rye splash into the other tumbler and passed it over.  “What have you got for me Mr. Baldwin?”

His hand shook as he took the glass and sipped at the honey coloured liquid.  It’s a good whisky - the Strathisla.  Not the best but you save the really good stuff for special occasions.  This wasn’t that.  Not that I could see anyway. 

“I’m sorry to come at you like this Mr Quaid.  But I’ve exhausted all other options.  One of the guys I work with suggested you.  He said that you’re the best independent Private Investigator that the firm uses.

I took the compliment.  “And you’re happy to employ me?  Knowing that I do a significant amount of work for your bosses?”

“It’s a personal matter.  It’s not work related I mean.  You’re discreet?”

“I pride myself on it.  Would’ve been out of a job by now if I wasn’t.”

“I take your point.”

He downed his drink and put the tumbler on my desk letting the sound of the heavy glass hitting the desktop fill the silence. 

“Have you heard of Donny Baldwin?” 

I thought but nothing came to me;  “No bells ringing.  A relative?”

He reached into his wallet and pulled out a folded photograph.  A boy - real handsome kid - blonde hair the colour of ripe corn, an upturned button of a freckle dappled nose and a smile that could light up a room.  “My brother.  He was abducted July 31st 1977.”

Suddenly something clicked.  It had happened three years before I was born but news like that has a habit of hanging thick in the air over close knit communities:  “Staten Island.  I grew up not a few streets shy of where it happened.”

He nodded at me like he knew I was Shaolin born and raised before I mentioned it.  I didn’t ask how he knew - everyone’s an amateur detective at heart.

“He was thirteen years-old when he went missing and the cops... the cops didn’t seem to do anything… they hadn’t organised a single search at first.  I remember the neighbours having to coordinate civilian search parties...  It seemed like, for a while atleast, that the whole of Staten Island was out looking for him.  Truth is that the cops didn’t care.  They just kept asking my mom if he’d ever run away from home before.”

“I remember seeing her on the news in… shit... must’ve been ‘87?  Yeah, it was ten years and there was still no trace.  Your mom and dad were still doing the rounds, still trying to find him.  He had a friend didn’t he?  Your brother?  Saw him talking to someone by the roadside?”

“Mikey O’Hare.” he nodded.

“Black kid with a Irish name.”  I remember seeing him on the news and thinking about how names fit faces,  or don’t. 

“He saw a car.  A silver Ford LTD.  It circled the block and passed him and Donny a couple of times.  It stopped on the corner after the two of them split to deliver their papers to different areas of the neighbourhood.  Donny was doing his paper route.  We shared a room… I remember him getting dressed that morning and waking me when he knocked over a tower of wooden bricks I’d built.  I was so mad at him.”  The brother caught himself before he could really choke up but the waterworks were there just under the surface.  “In ‘87 they did Sally Jesse Raphael and a few other tabloid talk shows.  Talked about police incompetence and how they knew he was still alive.”

“So what’s this then?  You want me to investigate a missing persons case from 40 years ago?  I’m good, Mr Baldwin, but forty years is forty years.”

“After ten years I had given up hope.  Didn’t think we’d see him again.  The stress that something like that… A missing child… puts on a relationship…  eventually my parents split.  Dad tried to move on but only found comfort in the bottom of a bottle.  Colon cancer got him about five years ago.  Mom kept trying: she was a regular at the police station trying to get them to chase new leads but she died last year...  You move on Mister Quaid.  I’ve a family of my own now.  A wife, a daughter who just turned thirteen last month…”  He reached into his wallet to show me another photograph but I waved it away without looking.

“Why are you picking at old scars now Mister Baldwin?”

I watched, as with shaking hands he pulled his briefcase onto his lap and popped the latches - poured him another glass of the Strathisla to see if that wouldn’t help his nerves.

“Last week  I got these in the mail.”


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