Roland and his companions made it back to the boardwalk with our makeshift door and bicycles. Once they returned to the boardwalk, Roland felt weak. It was then he realized he hadn’t eaten in a while and his stomach was growling. He wondered the boardwalk it was nighttime and the lights were beginning to shut down. Roland spotted a couple on a bench struggling to finish their garlic fries and hotdogs. The couple must have noticed him staring because they looked over at him. Roland felt a wash of shame
“God, I’m probably making them feel so uncomfortable…i should go.”
“Excuse me, sir?” Roland turned toward the voice. Man stood before him thin with black hair “Were you hungry?” The man offered his garlic fries and half of his hotdog. . Roland nodded he tried to be respectful as possible but still feeling ashamed. “We couldn’t finish and my wife hates to waste food so she suggested we give it to you”
Roland thanked the man. And the man wished him well. Once the couple were out of sight Roland devoured the leftovers like an animal and fell asleep on the beach….
Roland woke up in the sand just as the sun was rising. He sat up watched the sunset…and cried.
“Is this it?, will I always beg for food and sleep on a beach? Will I ever see Grace and Sam again? Would they even they recognize me If I did find them. Has Sam remarried??? How was Graces first day at school?”
This was the first time Roland had sat and thought about his old life since being reminded of it when he spoke to the Autumn Queen. He felt like a failure. He had failed his family in the biggest way possible by abandoning them. He had to find them.
Roland started walking to his old home. He didn’t quite remember where it was but he kept to streets that seemed familar to him. After a few hours of walking he was able to reach what looked like his old house. It was a little different, The paint was a new color and there was a satellite dish on the roof. His hand were shaking and the garlic fries were not sitting well. He had walked all the way over here, he had to knock on the door.
“_Would she take me back? What if a man opens the door? What if it’s her new Husband? _
Roland pushed those thoughts to the back of his mind and headed to the front door. He clinched his fists and knocked 3 times
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
“Just a minute”
The voice was male. Roland’s heart dropped. His greatest fear realized Roland thought to run, but he heard the door starting to open. A man in his late twenties opened the door he was tall about an inch higher than Roland and fit. He looked like he was in his physical prime.
“Can I help you?”
Roland took a deep breath.
“Is Samantha home?”
The man looked at him very strangely. He took a good look at the small brown trench coat Roland was wearing and made a turned his nose up at it.
“How do you know Sam?” The man asked not ready to admit whether Samantha was home or not.
“I’m an old friend of hers, I haven’t seen her in about ten years. I was just wondering if she still lived here, is she home?”
The man looked very puzzled. “I’m sorry that can’t be possible”
“And why not? She had a life before you came into the picture, buddy. Is she here or not?” Roland was getting angry.
The man put his hand on the door ready to close it “I don’t think you understand, sir. Samantha is-”
“-She’s here!” Roland felt overjoyed “Where is she? can i see her?”
“Im sorry but Samantha is my Labrador, I’ve had her since she was a puppy.” The man whistled down the hall and out came a Golden Lab whose tags read Samantha. Roland’s heart sank he was breathless.
“I see, I apologize for the confusion, sir. I’ll leave.”
As Roland walked away the man called out to him. Roland turned back toward him. The man was holding a business card. “Maybe this can help, He’s a private investigator maybe he can help you track down your Samantha.” The card read: Daniel Morrison P.I it was a plain card with an address on it. “The office is in Downtown it a little bit of a walk but i think you can make it there before he closes up shop” Roland thanked the man and headed out to his destination.
The building was falling apart not unlike the hotel. It looked like a apartment building. Roland opened the front door and saw a directory and found the name Daniel Morrison, Room B-1. Roland went up the stairs and found the office and knocked on the door.
A voice boomed from the other side
“You coming in or checking for studs in the wall?”
Roland walked into the office. Daniel was pudgy man he was wearing a shirt and tie with his pants held up by suspenders. He was in late 30s early 40s balding a bit on top. The office smelled like cigars and burbon. “_private dicks, their all just walking cliches”_
“Jesus kid, you look like you just ran up shit creek with no canoe. (sniff) GOOD LORD! and you smell like it too” Daniel reached for his bourbon.
“I’ve had a rough week, and I’m looking for my…some old friends.”
Roland gave Daniel their names and his former address in hope Daniel might have something to help him
“Hmm…I know that address just a second” Daniel stood up and looked through a filing cabinet next to his desk. “Here we go…yup, in 2007 that place burned down. Don’t worry
no casualties. Family of three makes it out just fine. Insurance covered the damages house was rebuilt in 2008 and the people you’re looking for moved out in 2010. No known address. Sorry kid trails gone cold.”
“Gone cold..? ever hear of a phonebook Dan?”
“Look kid, since no one is paying me to look, I aint lookin. If your so smart why don’t you look..OH WAIT. Because it’s 2016 and nobody uses the damn things anymore, you been living under a rock? Unless you got some money, there’s the door. I’ve up to my neck in shit and i gotta keep the lights on in this place”
Roland was getting angry. This pretender was no real detective, He had no interest in helping anyone just getting a check. Roland stood up.
“You’re a joke, I trained my whole life to make detective. and bullshit pretenders like you just want to play dress up and get paid. That’s not it works. Like it or not, you’re in this business to help people. You bring the justice to the unjust and seek truth in the darkness moments. You’re not a detective you’re a fraud!”
“A FRAUD HUH?, Well buddy, if you think you can do better why don’t you try it?” Daniel got up and grabbed a case out of his filing cabinet and threw it at Roland. “Here, this case was already solved by one of my competitors after the client left our agency, what do you think?”
“Why did they leave your ‘agency’?” Roland asked holding up finger quotes
“NEVERMIND THAT, JUST LOOK AT THE DAMN FILE”
Roland looked at the case file. It was a missing persons report Female late 20s . Last seen, on the boardwalk. Case opened up by a greaving father. Roland looked over the file a few then asked “Where was the mother?” Daniel almost choked on his hooch.
“The Mother was always out according to the Father. Making arrangements for a funeral. She didn’t want to be around any of it. Too distraught.” Daniel went back to his bourbon
“…and that doesn’t sound odd to you? why would she plan for a funeral if it wasn’t confirmed that she was dead. Unless the mother knew that she was dead. What was her profession?”
Daniel thought for a second “…she was…a..ACTRESS! yeah thats it!”
Roland went back to the report. “According to the father the victim idolized her mother and wanted to be just like her.”
“A parents dream, right?” Daniel set the bourbon down and stared and Roland intrigued.
“Not all parents. Vanity can do awful things to a person. Looks like you went down to a local studio where she had auditioned and asked a casting agent about her?”
Daniel’s eyes lit up “Yeah! I did. Apparently she had just got the part in a upcoming sitcom. Truly a tragedy. The agent gave me the casting list since foul play was suspected.”
Roland let out a heavy sigh “….and you didn’t notice the mother’s name on the list? and didn’t think she was a suspect? You can’t be that dense” Daniel gave him a hard look “No I’m not, When i went to question the mother she insulted me like I was insulted a moment ago..by you she kept blaming a boy her daughter had been seeing. After that the Father left and went to another agency.”
“..So what happened?”
" I was right, the mother was seen at a nightclub where she was celebrating getting a part on a new sitcom and had a little to much to drink. There she openly admitted to the murder to one of my competing P.I’s…lucky break. The police found the murder weapon and after digging up the floor boards found the body" Daniel was very solemn having to relive a failure of his. He grabbed his bourbon again “Listen, this business is tough sometimes your right on track, but the client doesn’t want to hear the truth. The father came by and apologized but it’s doesn’t keep this place open. Lucky for me, I charge hourly so i was able to stay in business for the time being. But its getting to be a lot for me. I’m getting older and I can’t chase down perps like I used to. what I could use is partner. Someone to lighten the load ya know?” Daniel opened a folder "You really do have knack for this, you said you were training to be a detective? Well it just so happens I have a opening these cases are piling up and don’t want them to get picked up by my competitors or worse for the trails to go cold. I can pay ya, and from the looks of it you need a place to stay, you work for me you can sleep here. " This was the best thing Roland had heard in days. This was a no brainer. “Of course, As long as we can look for my friends as well.”
“You do that on your own time! You can use the resources here If you want but when I’m here you work for me, Now fill this out and give me some ID.” Daniel looked up at Roland expecting something but Roland had nothing. " I don’t have anything like that"
“Well whats your name?” Roland had to think hard about this, He couldn’t just tell him his name. If they did find his family it would be awkward seeing two Roland’s. So he spit out the first name that came to mind
“It’s Arin” Roland blurted out.
Daniel looked at him doubting that was his real name
“Ok Arin, Got a last name?”
“Oh yeah…its..uh.-” Daniel cut him off “Ya know what? I can tell your lying so why don’t i just fill this out for you, I can tell you’ve been through a hard stretch, and i dont know who the hell is looking for you but i don’t care, I need all the help i can get. I have a friend in the know he can get you some IDs and make a fake file for you. Nothing that can pass advanced FBI scrutiny, but enough to get you by and get you out of traffic stops.”
“Thank you Daniel, I appreciate this opportunity” Roland said
“Don’t mention it. To anyone. Ever. word of this gets out. Ill be out on the streets with you. And we’re partners now, Call me Danny”