An aging detective takes on one last case.

SHADOW

“Mr. Voss, thank you for coming so quickly,” said the prim and proper Mrs. Satterwhite.

“You made it sound urgent. And as I was nearby. . .”

Mrs. Satterwhite showed her guest into the living room. “Even though we live just four doors away, it seems strange that we haven't met before now, but everyone tells me you're the best detective in the business.” She looked down, as if embarrassed. “I find myself in need of your services.”

“Glad to help. What seems to be the problem?”

“May I offer you tea or coffee?”

“Some coffee wouldn’t go amiss. Thank you.”

As Mrs. Satterwhite excused herself, Voss glanced around the room. The furniture was long out of date but appeared of good quality, leaning toward antiques depending on its age. Dominating one wall was a heavy Victorian-style breakfront with intricate carvings. A gilded ormolu clock sat on an upright piano against the front wall. He noted that light from the beaded lamp shades did little to brighten the room while the wall-to-wall oriental rug muted all sound.

Seated on an uncomfortably hard chintz-covered wingback chair, Voss considered how most of his cases began in the same manner: nervous clients struggling to explain their predicament to a stranger and often withholding vital information while imparting too much personal and superfluous details.

Momentarily, his mind drifted back to how he got started in this business. He’d spent five years on the force working traffic. After passing his sergeant exams, it took another ten years as a detective with the burglary squad to realize he would never advance to the senior ranks–office politics being his greatest hindrance.

He’d always wanted to go into business for himself. He didn’t mind working the tough cases from dawn to midnight, whatever it took to solve a puzzling case, but in the end Harry Voss always delivered the goods. And clients were willing to pay handsomely for his sterling services.

One case in particular always came to mind; his last as a police officer. A raid on the estate of an über wealthy stockbroker, Stanford Silverstone III, had disappeared several million dollars’ worth of collectible antiques, oil paintings, and a stash of jewelry that would make Cartier’s mouth water. It was also the final straw that convinced Voss to go into private practice.

His superior, Captain Wilson, had usurped his investigation at the critical stage. Voss had traced the thieves to an abandoned warehouse where they prepared to ship the contraband out of the country that very night. He was about to send in the SWAT team when Wilson stepped in and asserted command authority over the raid.

The notoriety from the successful recovery of the stolen goods and the widely broadcast press conference that followed failed to mention Voss’ contributions. Silverstone himself had thanked the captain for his leadership, however, that glory hound, Wilson, never once acknowledged his lead investigator.

Now on his own, Voss had built a reputation as the go-to guy whenever total discretion and total success was the sole option. Clients paid big bucks for his expertise and positive results.

While much of his practice involved mundane domestic cases, the bread-and-butter of many investigative firms, he’d handled his share of big cases that challenged his detective skills requiring all of his keen intellect, powers of deduction, patience, and courage. In every instance, Harry Voss had demonstrated he was the right man for the job.

He was justified in recounting with pride his many accomplishments. His colleagues and business associates—heck, even his own family—had warned he was better off staying with the police force, but he was adamant. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, he had been proved right. He had bucked the system, challenged the odds, and came out on top as the number one private investigator in the entire area. In retrospect, he should have thanked Captain Wilson for that final ‘nudge’ that propelled him to branch out on his own. His natural entrepreneurial spirit, combined with the captain’s intervention, proved to be the right recipe for a long and successful career.

In the last several years, however, he’d become more selective about which cases he accepted as he cast an eye toward retirement. His competitors suggested he’d become a shadow of his former self. To the contrary, the great Harry Voss, as he was still known in the trade, remained a force to be reckoned with when handling delicate situations, a fact borne out by continued demand for his services. However, the time was fast approaching when he could hang up his spurs.

He considered that this case could very well be—probably should be—his last case spanning a long and distinguished career. If this was to be his swan song, he decided he would go out in style; one last satisfied client spanning a lifetime of successful cases.

The rattle of china brought him out of his reverie. Voss quickly stood to assist Mrs. Satterwhite as she struggled with the tray crowded with a steaming pot, cups, and a plate of glazed raisin buns.

Mrs. Satterwhite poured coffee and offered him a dainty cup balanced on a cookie-sized saucer. She took a small sip. Her hand trembled as she set her cup down. She folded her hands in her lap and leaned forward, at last ready to unburden herself to the one person who could help with her problem.

“They say you’ve solved every single case you’ve ever handled, no matter how important or how small.”

Voss smiled modestly. “I like to think that my years of experience give me an advantage whenever I’m working on a case. Not to brag, but no one has handled tougher cases than me. It’s just a simple fact, and I stand on my reputation.”

She began hesitantly, “I didn’t know where to go or who to call until my neighbor, Mrs. Craig, suggested I contact you.”

“Yes, I know Muriel. I’m glad you called. What seems to be the problem, dear lady?”

“It’s my Arthur,” she began, her voice cracking under the nervous strain. “It’s been three days since he wandered off and I’m beside myself with worry. Please, you must find him!”

A missing persons case; nothing too strenuous, Voss thought to himself. With his vast experience, contacts, and calculating mind, Voss was already grappling with the myriad details of launching a search throughout the surrounding area.

“Please calm yourself, Mrs. Satterwhite, you have nothing more to worry about. Harry Voss is at your service, and I assure you I’ll have things wrapped up in no time at all.”

Relief flooded the old woman’s face as she visibly relaxed and sat back in her chair.

Voss reached inside his jacket pocket to retrieve a pen and notepad. “How long has your husband had memory problems? Has he done this sort of thing before?”

Mrs. Satterwhite blinked owlishly behind her thick lenses. Looking perplexed, she said, “I think we’re talking at cross purposes, Mr. Voss. Arthur is my cat.”

 

Terry Adcock © 2023

 


Submitted: January 24, 2023

© Copyright 2023 Terry Adcock. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

charlamaye

Nice job Terry (-:

Tue, January 24th, 2023 11:45pm

Facebook Comments

More Mystery and Crime Short Stories

Other Content by Terry Adcock

Book / Mystery and Crime

Book / Mystery and Crime