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Blank, milky eyes stared up at me. A face hardly recognizable; the skin dangling off the bones in shreds. I doubt that this was the guy I was searching for. My first clue was the eyes, George’s eyes were brown not blue. My second clue was the fingernails. George was known for getting manicures. These nails hadn’t seen tender care in a while, the cuticles were hardly distinguishable. The clothes were hardly something comparable to 5th Avenue clothing. Definitely not George Van der Smeet.
Two and a half weeks ago, a well-dressed woman stalked into my office in Queens. No, let me rephrase that... Very-well dressed, I’m talking about a floor length fur coat, probably mink, and a fox fur shawl to go along with it. In all honesty, all I could do was stare, because I was jealous. I would love to have a fur coat. I haven’t had a customer look this rich in… well forever. When she coughed expectantly I knew she meant to ask me something, probably directions on how to get back to Broadway, so I didn’t get my hopes up for a job.
“Excuse me dear, my name is Victoria and I seem to have misplaced something very dear to me, and I haven’t a clue where to locate it. Would you be the person I speak to, or is there someone higher up?” With this comment she glanced around my crowded office, with papers stacked upon the only customer chair I had, and sniffed as if my office smelled.
“Well,” I scampered out of my seat to clear off the only other available chair in the room for her. Let me tell you, she may have dressed elegantly, but this woman was big, and trying to get around her in the already too small office was very difficult. “If you’ve come here, this is as high as your gettin’. Now you can tell me what you’re looking for, and I can find it for you, or,” I really didn’t want to be rude, but she took my seat as soon as the other was cleared, and that is MY chair, not hers. “You can go find someone else to find this ‘object’ of yours. My name is Melissa Fox, and I can definitely try to help you.”
Apparently, she didn’t like my answer too much, because she sniffed her little sniff, and grunted.
“This object we are discussing is my husband, George Van der Smeet. I tried informing the police of my problem, but they referred me to you.”
“Oh.” That was all I could say to her. When she first announced her problem, I thought she had lost some jewel, or another such frivolous item that she could probably replace if she dropped another 3 Gs. And I could only think of one cop that would refer anyone to me, and that was Officer John Zinser. He would only refer someone to me if he really didn’t like them, or he didn’t think the problem was that important. Yeah, when you hear rumors that NYPD isn’t that great, thank my stepdad. When it finally clicked that she meant her husband was missing, I asked her to tell me everything that she could remember of the last time she saw him. Let me tell you, she definitely didn’t leave anything out.
I don’t even want to go into the details she told me about the last time she saw him. Believe me, they involved a bed and some sort of red silk rope, it wasn’t pretty. The only things that I found useful in her really unabashed story, was that her husband was 5’ 11”, he was muscular, had graying brown hair, and brown eyes. Oh and that he has a mole on the side of his neck, the left side. There were more moles that she told me of, but if I found George alive, I highly doubt I’d be looking for them. She also gave me a recent photo, it was his gym membership. He was kind of hot for an old dude.
“Okay ma’am, thank you for taking time out of your obviously busy schedule…” I said that only because she looked extremely bored to be sitting in my chair. With that statement she seemed to perk up, like she thought I finally realized she was to be reckoned with. “…and informing me of your problem. If you would so kindly fill out this paperwork, I can get started on your case as soon as possible.” Yeah, as soon as possible meaning as soon as she left the room. Having an office in the middle of Queens isn’t exactly great for business. How she found me, with John’s directions, I have no idea. As she got started filling out the sheets, I stepped out of my office and whipped out my cell phone. There was only one person I needed to call to get help with this case. Giuseppe De Luca.
Unfortunately he didn’t pick up. So I left him a voice mail. He looooves listening to those; only because he gets about 25 every day before lunch time.
“Hey, Gi. I’ve got a case. Maybe we can meet at my place tonight and review it together. I’ll bring the drinks if you can get dinner. Okay? Call me back… Oh, by the way, it’s Lissa.”
Now with that phone call out of the way, and Mrs. Van der Smeet walking by me with a little sniff, I could relax.
“Melissa Fox, Private Investigator. You lose it, I find it!”
“Melissa? It’s Officer Zinser, over in the 115th precinct. We just got a murder call in, I was wondering since you probably have nothing going on, if you wanted to join us at the scene. Supposedly it’s pretty gruesome.”
Oh great. If it was any other person from that department I probably would have said no, but since it was John, I really couldn’t say no. He’s my stepfather. Honestly, I don’t understand why he calls himself Officer every time he calls. He knows that if he just said John, I’d know who it was.
“Oh, let me check my schedule…” At this point I riffled through some papers on my desk just for the added affect. “You’re in luck John! I have an opening right now! What street we talkin? 36th Ave? King Rd?”
“Oh, I’m sure you do have an opening. No, it’s over on Farrington. Let me tell you, from what Johnston just told me, you would love to see this.”
Well, this is exciting. It may sound weird, but I really do enjoy going to crime scenes. I love making hypotheses about how the victim died. I usually take out bets with the CSIs too. Nine out ten times I’m the one who’s correct.
For the past two and half weeks, since John released on of hell’s hounds in my office (Vicky), I’ve gotten calls like that. Each one resulting in me staring into the eyes of a dead man. I would’ve enjoyed it more, if the eyes were the ones I’m supposed to be looking at. But at least I got some money out of it. Two and a half weeks of random dead men, no leads, and no dinner dates to “review my case” with Gi.
Four weeks have passed since I saw John at the first murder scene he called me to. I have yet to find any new developments in my Van der Smeet case. Believe me that is very unsettling. I’ve sent dogs around Central Park, where George used to run daily. I’ve hired a chopper crew with divers to look in the Hudson River. I’ve still got nothing.
Well, I did get one thing. I finally managed to get Gi alone one night about a week ago. He acted kind of strange throughout the whole thing though. Every time I mentioned something, thinking I was right, he would say that I was completely wrong and that I should do something else. I’m surprised I could even concentrate on what he was saying. His grey-green eyes just engulf me. Looking at his arms make me want to curl up by his side and wrap myself like a blanket in his warm embrace. His brown hair is just long enough to flop into his eyes, and he has to do a cute little flip of his head to correct his line of vision.
Oh, listen to me, I sound like a girl with a crush. My stepfather introduces me to one of his officers and I’m drooling like a baby for him. I’ve been dating Gi for about a month now, but that doesn’t mean I see him all the time. Plus, he’s usually busy pulling double shifts for the force, or working out. I don’t fault him for that; I’m just as busy…. Well, maybe not. But, don’t get me wrong, I haven’t given up one my case yet. Gi said that I should try outside the City. And while that may be a probability, I highly doubt George would travel too far away from his precious Victoria. If I were him, I would have, that lady scares the poo outta me. One thing that confuses me about their relationship is that Victoria didn’t report his absence for a whole two weeks after he went missing. It strikes me as odd that a couple that is that in love would dismiss an absence for that long, when they are usually inseparable.
The night that Gi was over, he and I reviewed my case until I’m sure that both of us could recite it verbatim. One thing that Gi thought was odd was that George never told Vicky (that’s what I call her when she’s not around) that he would go for a run at night. Apparently George was in pretty good shape. According to Vicky’s very descriptive report, George would leave their penthouse apartment at 6 p.m. sharp without a shirt on and run down to Central Park and be back at 8 p.m. After that she just rambled on about how the sweat pouring from him made her fantasize…. And yeah it’s really gross. But, back to the point, he never told her the destination of his adventures. So, she might think that he was going for a run, but he could’ve been creepin’ behind her. Wait, now I have my motive! Vicky killed George because he was cheating on her.
Now that I have an idea, I have to find the body. So, I took Gi’s advice. I started looking in places outside of the city. I contacted the Police Chief in Newark, NJ, and I sent a canine team to the Hamptons. The Van der Smeet’s were extremely well known there. Hopefully, someone knew where George had been. Logging onto my office computer, I looked up George’s company he owned, and started to jot down the number when….
“Melissa Fox, Private Investigator. You lose it, I find it!”
“Hello, Melissa.” A cold voice said on the other line. Chills ran up and down my spine. He continued, “I just want to inform you that George is closer than you think.” His cold harsh voice rasped.
Ummmm, okay that was really weird. As fast as I could, I hung up my phone and dialed *69 to find out that number. Damn, it was restricted. I hate people that do that, it makes my job as a PI hard. Ugh. So, I called Gi. Multiple times.
“Oh my goodness, you finally picked up! I just got the weirdest phone call!”
“What do you mean weird? Why’d you call me about it? I didn’t do it.”
“Dude, seriously chill, I wasn’t blaming you. But, this caller mentioned that George was closer than I thought.”
“That’s absurd. Why would anyone think that he was close to you? No one has seen him for weeks. He obviously isn’t in the city. That’s why I suggested you look in New Jersey and upstate.”
“I know, I know. But, maybe this caller was right, and George is right under my nose.”
“That’s ridiculous, Lissa and you know it.”
For the rest of that conversation Gi acted really strange. Maybe I caught him at a bad moment. Although he did invite me to his place tonight for drinks after he got off his shift. That should prove to be productive. Maybe I can persuade him to put a tap on my office phone.
I am so glad that Gi gave me a spare key, or I would’ve been waiting for him forever. I’ve been in his apartment for the past two hours and he still hasn’t showed up. I even lost count on how many times I’ve tried to call him. Oh well, might as well start the party without him. Now where does he keep his wine?
Looking through his kitchen cabinets I found absolutely nothing that would even hint at a trace of alcohol. So, I decided to look in his room. Maybe he took up my habit of keeping a bottle next to the bed so as to help him drift to sleep. I started looking in his closet, and what I found there was kind of weird. I found clothes that a police officer should never have been able to afford. I saw Saks pants, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Dior, and Givenchy. I am so jealous right now, that the thought of never seeing him in these clothes never crossed my mind. Finding no wine in there, I checked his dresser. In the first drawer I found several pieces of John Hardy jewelry, and a couple of Rolexes. I even found a shark skin wrist bracelet. I moved onto the second drawer, hoping to be more successful. All that contained was papers; business papers, receipts, and previous case forms. Something caught my eye though. George Van der Smeet’s name.
I pulled that paper out as carefully as I could. It was a birth certificate dated June 14, 1965. That’s Gi’s birthday… But this is George’s birth certificate. I riffled through more of the papers. I found George and Vicky’s marriage license from the early ’90s. I also found two pictures. One of George, and Gi, like a before and after picture you get after a major surgery of reconstruction… OH MY GOD!!!
“Hey, Lissa! Where are you?”
Oh god, he’s back! I put away the stuff away as quick as I could without him hearing me. I could hear him walking down the hallway towards the bathroom. Good, that meant I had one minute, maybe two. Slipping out of his room, I fled to the living room where I pounced on the couch.
“I’m in the living room!”
“Wow, I walked right past you.”
As he walked into the living room, I saw him in a new light. Even though his face was different, Gi held himself with an air that said, “I’m better than you, kiss my feet.” I wanted to vomit, but had to delay that motion because at that very moment, Gi was sweeping me up into his warm bear-like embrace. I could feel myself melt as those reassuring hands cradled my face and he leaned his head towards mine, and gave me the fiercest kiss we have ever shared.
As he pulled away, he looked into my eyes. I had to look away. His eyes were like burning leaves turning to ash, the look of lust obvious on his well-defined features. Then the thoughts of what I had just discovered came rushing back into my head, and I pushed away from him. A look of concern crossed his face.
“What’s wrong Lissa?”
“Who are you?”
“What are you talking about?” With this, a nervous look crossed his face, and I knew at once that I was right.
“Don’t you dare play your mind games with me, Gi? Or should I say George?”
At this the look of lust that was on his face completely disappeared. It was replaced with pure anger and hatred.
“Who have you been talking to?! What have you learned?!” After he said this he grabbed my neck and started choking me. I have never been so scared in my entire life. With my store of oxygen depleting rapidly, I realized that he didn’t have my arms pinned down, so I reached behind and felt the cool smooth surface of my semi-automatic. Feeling extremely relieved, I pulled it out of my waist band and fired a single shot.
Gi, or George, I really wasn’t sure who he was right now; fell to the floor with a scream.
“You b****! I can’t believe you shot me!” Then he pulled out his gun. Aiming it square at my forehead.
That time I fell to the floor and I lost consciousness. When I finally came to, I realized that Gi was dead. I got my shot off first, and hit him in his left arm. My second shot was the lucky one. That one hit him in the throat. He did get to fire his weapon, but luckily because of the recoil from my gun I fell to the floor and out of harms way. I took out my cell phone and called John over in the 115th letting him know that I just took down one of his officers. Then I made on other phone call before curling up on the couch to cry.
“Hello, Mrs. Van der Smeet. This is Melissa Fox. I’ve found you husband.”