Henry sat behind the solid oak desk in his office. He stroked the finish, thinking about how he would miss it. He was piling his personal effects into a box, when a rap came at his door. His secretary had already been given her severance, and left while he tied up the loose ends of the business. He didn’t know who had come knocking.
“Come in,” Henry said.
Jimmy appeared. At thirty one, he was twenty years younger than Henry, but had a lifetime of troubles.
“How can I help you, Jimmy?” Henry asked.
“I need you to find my wife,” Jimmy said,
“Ex-wife, and I already did that,” Henry said.
“She’s missing again. And nothing is official yet.”
“Did you ever think that maybe she doesn’t want to be found?” Henry asked.
“I’ll pay you triple,” Jimmy said.
“Not worth it,” Henry said. “I’m outta the game. No more cases. I’m sorry for your loss. But I’m done.”
“What if I made it your problem?” Jimmy asked.
“And just how would you do that?” Henry asked.
“I know that you did some less then legal things to find her last time. My guess is that you do that sort of thing a lot.”
“You don’t have any evidence,” Henry sneered.
“I’m not saying you’ll be convicted. But you’re surely be inconvenienced. And it’ll be a black mark on your name.”
“You’re a real jerk,” Henry said.
“I’m just looking for answers,” Jimmy said.
“Fine. But you’re still paying me triple.”
Jimmy extended his hand to Henry. Reluctantly, he took it. Looked like retirement was going to have to wait.
Over the following week, Henry worked his hardest. He was ready to be done with this life, and if it meant closing one last case, then he would move the earth to get it done, if that’s what it took. Using the best of his skill, and the extent of his contacts, he got a lead. That lead led him to an answer. It was one that he didn’t like.
Henry walked at a slow and even pace as he made his way through the junkyard. Islands of refrigerators to his right, a smoldering pile of tires to his left. And his client, Jimmy, trailing behind him. Henry hardly noticed the smell of rotting trash and decaying metal, but Jimmy had to hold his shirt over his nose to keep from retching.
The wind kicked up, billowing Henry’s long, brown jacket, and causing a rusted tower of debris to groan. Henry kept his course, rounding the corner at the wavering pile. Jimmy followed more cautiously. Henry knew his way through this maze, as this wasn’t the first case to bring him here. He was headed for the auto section.
Compacted cubes that were once cars had been stacked atop each other, creating a series of walls. Right, left, another left, they were almost there. They reached the end of the neatly organized cubes. An empty space led to a pile of vehicles that had yet to be crushed. Henry stopped at the tail end of an early nineties model sedan.
“Are you certain that you want to see this?” Henry asked.
Henry produced a crow bar from his trench coat, and wiggled the trunk open. It popped open easily, having forcibly opened at least twice before. A stench erupted from the car. Jimmy doubled over, and vomited. Perhaps it was the smell, even through his shirt, or the sight that caused it.
Inside the truck was the body of a woman. She was three days dessicated. The ligature marks around her throat suggested that she had been strangled. Once it was clear that to Henry that Jimmy couldn’t stomach the site, he slammed the trunk shut. The latch struggled to hold on, and it bounced open once more. With a greater force, and pausing to be sure it took, Henry tried again, succeeding this time.
“What do you want to do now?” Henry asked.
“Can you keep them from crushing this car?”
“Not without raising some suspicions.”
“Do it anyway. Let’s leave her here a couple more days. Then we’ll call the cops,” Jimmy said.
“I don’t get you. Do you love her, or not?” Henry asked.
“Both,” Jimmy said.
“I’ve got to call the police now. Why wait?” Henry asked.
“I just have some things to get in order,” Jimmy said.
“Like her will?”
“Yeah, sure. Gotta find that thing,” Jimmy said.
Jimmy started to walk away.
“What about the letters?” Henry asked.
Jimmy stopped in his tracks and turned back to Henry.
“I thought those were all gone,” Jimmy asked.
“Turns out she kept hard copies,” Henry said.
“Those letter are old,” Jimmy said.
“Not all of them. You didn’t ask what happened to her. But I’m guessing that’s because you already knew,” Henry said.
“Your crazy, man,” Jimmy said.
“What happened? Couldn’t get her declared legally dead without the body? Didn’t know where the killer you hired ditched her?” Henry asked.
“You can’t prove anything,” Jimmy said.
“I think I can. Your letters threaten her. They printed out with the IP address. I hacked into your system from there. Probably shouldn’t have corresponded with him through that. You might think you deleted everything, but it always stays in the computer, somewhere, if you know where to look.”
“I can make that all disappear. You too. Don’t think I won’t? Wouldn’t be the first time,” Jimmy said.
“It’s not smart to threaten me,” Henry said.
“Or I could do worse. It’s just your word against mine. Maybe you planted that evidence. You’d know how to set me up,” Jimmy said.
“Why would they believe I’d do that?” Henry asked.
“Maybe you killed her? Brought me here to rub my nose in it, kill me, too. Until I fought you off.”
“Good luck,” Henry said.
“What’s the police going to think when they find out that, not only did you find her, but waited to call it in? Even brought me here, corrupting their crime scene?”
“There’s where your story falls apart, Jimmy. I didn’t wait to call them. They’ve heard every word you’ve said.”
Jimmy nearly jumped out of his skin. He took off in a dash, but didn’t get far. An officer tackled him to the ground, and quickly restrained him.
Henry watched from a distance as it went down. He didn’t have the best history with law enforcement. Private detectives and cops often had problems of turf and glory. It didn’t matter to Henry any more. This was their day. Tomorrow, when he could finally retire, would be his.