Archie was hiding behind a rock in his suit and tie. He thought to himself that this might well be the crappiest job he had ever done. It was hot. I mean, kill-your-family hot. Hot was expected, him being out on the beach and all, but this hot was un-plum-thinkable. And him in a suit. Everyone else as far as he could see was pretty much naked, and here he was in a suit.
What was he thinking?
He hadn't been thinking, see—that was the problem. Archie was a private eye, mostly doing wife chases for rich
but insecure husbands. This case was one of those. Archie was an affable guy, and he'd figured out in his first five years doing this dirty work that he was not the brightest P.I. in Jersey City, but he got jobs because he was a guy's guy and they knew him around the bars. Whatever gets you work, right?
He had been trailing this lady, a Mrs. Greenman, for about five days. She was about 33. Not a bad looker. Her husband felt sure she had something on the side somewhere and wanted him to figure out who. So Archie had been tailing her and boring himself to tears. How could anyone spend so much time at salons, he wanted to know? This woman was a walking cliché, though that's not how Archie would have put it.
Anyway, every day she went to the beach. Different times, but she always ended up at the beach at some point. Usually just for an hour or two. Archie hadn't seen any good way to tail her at the beach and didn't see what trouble she could get into there. So he'd go off and take a lunch break then and come back and sit around by Mrs. Greenman's car sipping soda until she came back to it. He'd been in bed last night thinking over the day and remembered, suddenly, what a queer smile she had had on her face when she returned to the parking lot.
Hadn't she maybe looked like that every day?
So now he felt stupid. Again. He had to continue the tail onto the beach, no question. She could be somehow getting her piece of action out there. Some of them sand dunes get pretty high. So that's how he ended up sitting behind the rock in his suit. He'd been too busy berating himself for not going onto the beach that he’d forgotten to bring any sort of bathing suit to continue the tail in. At least he wouldn't get sunburned, right?
For two hours he had been peaking over the big boulder at the foot of the boardwalk, only to watch her building a big sand castle with a bunch of little kids. She had on her baby blue bikini, a great big hat and sunglasses. That said, she didn't look a Jackie O Type out there at all. She was all covered in sand and water and dirt. She skipped around the castle, helping the boys and girls build. Taking out special tools to add design and texture. Laughing when towers fell down.
Three hours later she was still building sandcastles when Archie decided to get up and leave. It was the longest he'd seen her stay at the beach, but all she did, that he saw, was help a bunch of squirts build sandcastles.
As it happened, he had a meeting with her husband that night to give a progress report at Kroeger's Bar on Thornton. He told him all he'd seen and all he hadn't seen. He glossed over the fact that he'd skipped out on the beach part of her day four days running, but made the day he did go sound as heroic as it had been. Mr. Greenman looked really thoughtful through it all. Then when he finished the man sat there thinking, not saying a thing, for a while. Archie knew enough just to shut up and wait though. He wouldn't bug the guy again unless he got up to leave.
"Yeah," Mr. Greenman said, starting slow, in the tone of voice that Archie had come to recognize in the forlorn husband as the one they use before they tell him to have his secretary fax theirs an invoice - case closed, "she always did want kids."
Brady Russell has been writing stories since Elementary School. He especially liked to make up impossible stories about quests and adventures. Since then, he has written a fair amount of opinion work for his college paper, Moxie Magazine, Skirt Magazine and WireTapMag.Org. His fiction has been much more rarely seen, but it is his primary interest. His work runs either very short, or very long. By day, he works in politics as a lobbyist for Pennsylvania ACORN. He is a member of the Underground Literary Alliance. His website, which includes recordings of him offering prayers to God for the strangeness of the world, can be found at www.thistoowillpass.com.
Photo Courtesy of morgueFile.
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Story Copyright © 2006 Brady Russell. All rights reserved.