The above link is to the blog post by Chuck Wendig that has the story prompt in it!
Also, this short makes me want to pick up another story I was working on before my arm problems got bad and then during my arm problems etc. Also Rig Farrow is an older character of mine who I constantly look for a place for. She may turn up in a vastly different book or something in the future I don't know. I hope you enjoy this short!
"It hurts you know? But then, many things do. This is just...not quite the sort of pain I expected. I guess I was expecting something a little more normal and a little less..."
"World crushing?" I offer.
She nods before gazing back at the photos and files I handed her an hour ago, "Yeah. That works."
The woman, Nancy, hired me to check on her business partner, Benny. She was worried the man had crossed someone or owed someone money since Ben had gotten evasive recently. What I discovered while tailing him was...unexpected to say the least. I mean, I figured he was having an affair, either with her wife or with someone else's husband. That's the sort of thing one would expect when someone starts missing meetings or showing up in clothes they slept in.
What I found was...frankly? Weird.
Nancy stares at the files with her mouth open. She is careful to peep at the photos before slipping them back under the write up.
"I don't understand why he didn't trust me with this," she finally says.
"Maybe, because it's so personal?"
"Personal?" She winces as if stung. Nancy shakes her head, "I just, don't know when he could have started doing this. Why? Was the business not exciting enough for him? I don't get it."
I sip my coffee before I speak. "My investigation leads me to believe he was doing this well before he partnered with you to start your company."
"But why didn't he tell me, then?"
"I thought that would be obvious. What he's been doing is very dangerous. The fewer people who know the better. I'm sure he withheld the information from you to protect you and your wife."
She doesn't seem to follow, or at least doesn't accept that as she shakes her head again then stabs a finger at the papers on the table before her. "You're telling me he didn't tell me to protect me? What about the business? What am I supposed to do if he winds up dead in an alley somewhere?"
I sigh, "What anyone does when their business partner winds up dead in an alley."
Nancy scoffs at me, "This is no joke. How could you say that?"
I polish off the last of my coffee but continue to keep my hand on my cup as if it still holds some warmth. I shouldn't have given her the real information. I should have just lied to my client. Told her Benny's dad was sick or something. But if I had done that she probably would have hired someone else to follow her business partner around and that someone else may not have had the skill set I do that kept me from dying in an alley.
"Ma'am," I finally begin. "What you do with this information is up to you. I would suggest that you do nothing." She tries to interject but I cut her off and keep talking. "What your partner is doing is something he's done for a long time. Someone doesn't just start doing that sort of thing as a mid-life crisis. He had to feel strongly enough to partner with you for your bakery to do that and what he was already doing. It's not your place to tell him to stop."
"But it's impacting the business," she objects.
"Is it?" I ask. "As I understood it reading over your business agreement he financed the bakery. Helped you secure a loan and what not. He checks in regularly and sits on meetings. He has been late and disheveled to a few, yes. BUT I couldn't find any evidence that what he's been doing has negatively impacted anyone. If anything he's made a positive impac-"
"No." Nancy cuts my words in half before she gathers up the files and shoves them into her purse. "No," she shakes her head. "He needs to know when the party's over."
I get up from my seat, "What? No. No, no no. There is no 'party' to be over here. He doesn't do it just because it's fun. It's incredibly important."
She shakes her head before pushing past me, "No."
I stand for a moment and watch her leave the coffee shop before I return to my seat with a sigh. I may have just made a huge mistake, but at least I can do one worse. I pull out my cell phone and type in the number of the man who's life I just laid bare. After it rings several times he answers. His voice is strained as he tries to catch his breath.
"Now is a bad time," he says.
"I know," I reply.
"Who is this?"
"This is Rig Farrow. I'm a private eye. Nancy hired me to look into you," I bite my lip and shake my head. "I'm sorry."
"She knows everything," I say.
I hear a noise over the phone like a tree cracking in half, which may be just that considering what the man does in his spare time. There's some shuffling. Distant shouts and a roar. After a few moments he's back on the line.
"Who else knows?"
"Just Nancy," I say. "Honestly, I thought she'd take it better but she's pissed. Thinks you're betraying the bakery with...your uh other...job."
"Did'ja tell her I've been doing this for years?"
"Of course, I'm pretty thorough."
He lets out a huff I'm not sure is of amusement or exertion before he speaks again, "You've really been following me?"
"Yes," I say.
"And I didn't notice you?"
"It didn't seem like you did, no."
"Huh," he takes in a breath. "How much do you run?"
"How much do you run? To hire you?"
"Uh, about fifty an hour."
"If you were able to spy on me you're certainly not 'average' anything. How'd you like to be my sidekick?"
A distant booming voice growls over the phone, "Don't think you've won, Captain Megaton!"