Saturday, May 25, 2013

Investigative Dating

            I was in my office organizing files when my assistant, Ginger, came rushing in late.
"Ginger, you are half an hour tardy."
"I know. I apologize. I had a 27 page paper due in my criminology class, and I had to turn it in before 10am."
Ginger is a junior at the local university, and to be flexible for her this term, we don't usually start work till 11 in the morning. This gives Ginger the ability to go to her morning class, and it gives me a few hours to do my exercise routine (just 18 laps in the pool, some kick boxing, and then benching 250 to stay toned).
Ginger has been working for me for about year. She comes to the office (which is conveniently located in the spare bedroom of my house) three times a week to help me with cases. She's very competent.
When the detective agency is slow, Ginger helps me with my work with children, cutting out lamb shapes from construction paper and buying Goldfish crackers in bulk at Costco. See, I am a part-time detective but I also teach children about Jesus four days a week. Once I walked in to teach 8am Bible Club while I was still wearing my fake mustache from an early morning surveillance route. The kids laughed and thought I wore it to be silly. But really I wore it because I didn't want Mr. Delvino to recognize me while I followed him to Wal-Mart.
"Ginger, today I have some lions for you to cut out for the Bible Club craft, I need you to put together an Elijah costume for Sunday School, and then I need you to see what new leads you can pull up for the Teverson case.”
“Okay, no problem. Do you want me to find a beard for the Elijah costume?”
“That would be great. There should be one in the disguise closet.” That’s the great thing about working with children and being a detective. My disguises pull double duty. It’s what I call a good investment.
At one o’clock we took a lunch break, and I decided to ask Ginger about what had been on my mind.
“Ginger, what do you think about on-line dating?”
“Oh, I’m not sure. One time I tried it, but the only men who contacted me were 30 years old and lived in Fiji. Thankfully soon after that I met Brian in the student union.”
I contemplated this, then took a moment to look up information about Fiji. It could be a nice place to visit. The reason I had been thinking about it was because last week my best friend suggested I try on-line dating. The reason this would never work out is because potential love interests would be all “what do you do for a living?” and I would say I’m a detective. Then they would get freaked out and think I’m an obsessive person who is going to start following them secretly, which would lead to them not replying to any of my messages and we would never even go on a single date.
Truth be told, I was asked out on a date two weeks ago while doing some investigative work. I had to turn the guy down because at the time he knew me as Darla, a blond flight stewardess from Texas. I couldn’t just meet him for dinner that weekend without the southern twang and golden locks. He would have thought I had schizophrenia.
“I don’t know, Detective Rossen. Maybe you should try it. I mean, what’s it hurt to at least take a look?”
“Ginger, how many times do I have to remind you? You can call me Joelle. And I guess maybe you’re right. Messaging unknown, attractive men found on internet websites never got anyone kidnapped for human trafficking or anything.”
So that evening I spent three hours looking at profiles of men who fit my search criteria. I did this instead of spending time prepping my Bible Club lesson, and I went to bed without showering because it was so late. That just goes to show that on-line dating sites suck up all your productivity and personal hygiene habits. I was pretty sure the Lord was not pleased with my decision to put profile trolling before my responsibility of preparing an engaging, well-planned, age appropriate, spiritual growth-based lesson for the children who live in a neighborhood where 75% of all the city’s drug houses are located within two blocks of the school.
The next day I put aside all thoughts of singleness and becoming a 40 year old cat lady who wears blue velour stretch pants and focused on the job that Jack Teverson hired me to do: spy on his employee candidates.
Jack is president of a company called Biomed International and he is looking to hire a few new employees. Mr. Teverson is very picky about the people he hires, especially after his 2006 incident with a Japanese finance manager who caused the company to lose two million dollars.
Right now I am investigating Jack’s top three candidates. I do things like rifle through their trash (because a person’s garbage can tell you a lot about them), follow them to work, interact with them while in disguise, call them pretending to be a computer technician in India, and interview their dry-cleaner. I’ve been compiling a file of their full profile for the past three weeks. After a lot of observation, I told Jack Teverson not to hire Kareem Larson because he frequently refers to himself in the third person, which is sign of douchebaggery. And nobody wants to hire a jerk.
So now I’m focusing my attention on Colby Delvino and Kirk Patrick. You might say to yourself  “why doesn’t Mr. Teverson have any women on his top candidate list? Is he chauvinistic and sexist and oppressive?”  Jack did have several women on his list. I just eliminated them. I’d tell you why, but that’s confidential. Trust me though, it was a good decision.
What was on my list for today was to attend Kirk Patrick’s hair cutting appointment. I was hoping to gain a lot of useful information from this short event. First of all, the type of place a person gets their hair cut can tell you a lot about them. For example, do they go to Supercuts or a fancy salon down town? Do they go to a traditional barber shop with the white and blue spinning thing and a quartet, or do they have their mom/wife/girlfriend give them a haircut?
It’s also known that people are gossips in a salon. Either the hairdresser tells you everything she knows about everybody in town, or you spill all your business and complain about the people you know. When I go to get a haircut, I’m a listener. Or I’m content just to sit there in silence. One time I had a stylist who told me all the intimate details of her personal life and the break up with her boyfriend. I didn’t even know her. Another time, I went to a salon in my hometown and heard all the mom-age gossip from the other ladies in there getting highlights and perms. I never went back, but that was mostly because the hairdresser didn’t even blow dry my sopping wet hair. Just cut it and said I was done. I had to go to a meeting looking like a drowned rat.
My point is, this was going to be a very telling moment for Kirk. Either he was going to complain and gossip, or he wasn’t. He was going to get his gray covered or he wasn’t. Through my technological abilities, I was able to access Kirk’s on-line calendar and discovered that the appointment was for two o’clock at The Wild Hare. I conveniently made an appointment for myself at the same time to get a Keratin deep conditioning treatment. At first I dropped my jaw when the receptionist told me it was going to be $80, but then I remembered that technically this appointment was work related, so I could write it off on my taxes as a business expense.
While I was eating a vegetarian, protein-rich lunch, I decided to visit again and look a little bit more to see if the love of my life might be a 35 year old man in Fiji. I really wasn’t having any luck. All the guys had scruffy, unkempt beards, or they were balding, or they were missing teeth. “Ginger, is there a way to filter this site so that people who horrify me don’t keep showing up?”
Ginger stopped eating her noodles and came over to take a look. “Joelle, you’re looking at the Marion County Inmate roster. Those are their mug shots. All of those men are criminals.”
“Whoops.” Turned out I had like five open tabs and got my work research mixed up with my love life. I decided to get off-line and review the files I had for the Teverson case.
I left for the salon at 1:15 and arrived at The Wild Hare a bit early, so that I could observe Mr. Patrick’s behavior when he first arrived. While reading a copy of Vogue, I peeked out to the side and saw him check in with the receptionist. Then he sat two seats over from me. I made a mental note of his politeness and friendliness towards the receptionist. Just as I was reading an article about Jennifer Lawrence, Mr. Patrick’s phone rang.
“Hey….yes…I told you that deal needs to go through today.”
I perked my ears.
“Have Cindy call Marco… Just make sure it happens…We can recoup the costs later…Okay. Ten a.m. Thursday. Bye.”
“Alyssa?” A hair stylist appeared.
I popped out of my chair. Alyssa was my alias for today. I smiled and walked forward. After getting a cape draped over me, I was led to the sink for a shampoo. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Kirk Patrick shake his stylist’s hand.
Once my hair got rinsed, I got to sit back down in my swivel chair. Luckily, Kirk was in the seat next to me, so I had the perfect location for listening in and observing.
“You sure have a lot of hair,” my stylist, Shelby, said as she clipped my locks up to get to the bottom layers.
“Yeah, I know,” I said. “My lion mane makes extra work for everybody.” Shelby started to apply some goop to my hair. Then she turned me in my swivel chair to the right and my jaw just about fell off.
It was him. A greek god from Mount Olympus come to earth to mingle with the mortals. I saw the profile of his perfect nose and his strong jaw. I knew I had seen this face before. It was one of the guys I had viewed during my three hours of time spent on searching for a lover (not a criminal). And here he was, getting his locks buzzed off like he was about to join the army.
Noooo, I wanted to scream. What will my fingers have to run through now? But then I collected myself and remembered that this guy hadn’t even asked me out to coffee yet. In fact, he hadn’t even seen me, as far as I knew, because he was looking forward into the mirror and engaged in a conversation with his hairdresser.
Shelby applied another pile of goop to my hair. And that’s when it happened. I looked into the man’s mirror and locked eyes with him. It was a second of breathlessness, and then he grinned. He let those sparkling white teeth shimmer at me. If you are familiar with Song of Solomon, you might say his teeth were like a flock of goats. If you are familiar with modern dentistry, you might say his teeth looked like four years of expensive orthodontic work, Crest toothpaste, and diligent flossing. I bet he never had a cavity in his life. We were soul mates. Or could be.
I thought about giving a seductive look, but then thought better of it. I remembered a story my friend Leslie told me about how she tried to give guys in college seductive looks. But they would just look at her terrified and turn away. She tested her sultry look in front of a friend and discovered that the look she thought said “come hither” actually conveyed “I am about to murder you.” I didn’t want to scare off my subject, so I gave a small smile instead.
Then I remembered that I was there to spy on Kirk Patrick and not to make passes at perfect strangers. So I turned my attention to the grey haired executive getting the back of his neck shaved. I perked my ears and listened to what he was taking about: his newborn grand-daughter. I took this as a positive sign of his character.
After my deep conditioning Keratin treatment was finished and I had learned ample details about baby Olivia Patrick, I went to the front desk to run my card.
I signed my name on the receipt and turned to leave when the receptionist said, “Oh yeah, this is for you.” She handed me a folded piece of paper.
I opened it up and read:
Have time for a cup of coffee? I’m around the corner at St. Arbucks waiting for you.
“The guy who was just in here left it for you.”
I was hoping she was referring to Mr. Greek God and not 50 year old Kirk Patrick. Cautiously, I walked to the corner edge of the block. When meeting strangers, it’s important to take safety precautions, even if you meet in public. I was wearing my grey lace up boots—the ones with the side zipper, and I checked to make sure my hidden knife was still there. I paused on the sidewalk and applied some lip gloss as well. I stealthily peeked around the corner and into the window to see if I could spot Mr. Patrick. Thankfully, he wasn’t there. Instead I spied the closely shorn head of the physically fit mystery man who was waiting for me. I took a deep breath and walked in.
It’s common knowledge that I am incredibly awkward around attractive men (probably the result of being home schooled or growing up without any brothers), and every once in a while I decide to be brazenly awkward. For example, once I was on a ferry boat traversing the waters from Washington to Canada, and sitting across from me was an Orlando Bloom look-alike. I decided to stare at him a good long while, and when he looked up at me I didn’t look away. My efforts resulted in dinner for one.
I pushed open the door of St. Arbucks and went straight to the counter, not even bothering to look towards the guy. “Can I get a chai latte, please?” I don’t drink coffee. Ever. Mostly it’s because during my time in Colombia I was held hostage on a coffee bean plantation while trying to expose some drug smugglers.
After getting my drink, I went to an empty table that was rather near Mystery Man’s. I sat down. He looked up. I stared into his eyes, which were the color of the sea after a storm, just like Wesley’s from The Princess Bride. He tilted his head to the side and gave a half smile, like he was trying to figure me out. Then he stood up, walked nine steps forward, and sat down right across from me.
“Hey,” he said. “I like your hair.”
Words jumped out of my mouth before I could stop them. “Do you know that every time Brad Pitt gets a haircut, he asks for his hair to be swept up, put in a bag, and given to him so that people don’t try to sell it on eBay?”
He laughed. But it was that awkward little laugh, the kind you do when someone tells you their dog died but it’s okay because he chewed on the furniture anyway.
“What’s your name?” I said.
“What’s your last name? I need to know in case you try to kidnap me later.”
“Are you related to Scarlett?”
“Well, Peter Johansson, I’m Joelle.”
“Joelle, I promise not to kidnap you later.” He chuckled. “Have you been kidnapped before?”
He was probably joking about the last part, so I decided not to tell him about my time in Colombia. Besides, you can’t just go around blabbing to everyone that you are a private detective. Not only does it blow your cover, but it makes them jumpy.
“So Peter, what’s your story?”
“You don’t remember me, do you?”
“Well, I saw you in the salon like thirty minutes ago…”
“No. Not from the salon. From Albuquerque. We flew from Albuquerque to Portland on Southwest Airlines and you couldn’t put your carry-on in the overhead bin because you were too short and I offered to help you. But you said no, that you could do it. Then your suitcase came tumbling down, spilled open, and some wigs fell out. And you shoved them back inside quickly and told me—”
“—that I’m not a stripper. Yes, I remember. That was you?”
“Yes. I sat in the seat behind you and the whole way I listened to you tell stories to the person sitting next to you, because you were so funny. I wanted to say something to you when we got to Portland, but I lost my courage.”
“You should have posted a Missing Connections ad on Craigslist.” I check the Missed Connections at least once a month, mostly for entertainment value.
“So Joelle, may I ask…If you’re not a stripper, why do you travel with so many wigs?”
“I’m afraid I can’t answer that. You haven’t even bought me dinner. I can’t reveal all my secrets to you when you haven’t even asked me out on a proper date.”
“Alright. Fair enough. Will you go to dinner with me?”
“Don’t ask me unless you mean it.”
“I do mean it. I want to take you to dinner.”
“Okay. Now I’m getting nervous. What should I wear? I’ve never been on a real-life dinner date before.”
Peter laughed. “You should wear whatever the heck you want to wear. You can wear what you’re wearing now.”
“I should hope not. I’ll probably write about this date in my diary later. I don’t want to record that I wore five year old jeans and my Berkeley sweatshirt.”
“Then wear your favorite outfit.”
“Okay.” I took a sip of my chai.
“Peter?” I asked.
“I better get going. I still have some things to do for work, and then I have to figure out which one of my wigs goes best with my favorite outfit.”
“For reals? You’re going to wear a wig?”
“Guess you’ll find out at dinner. And besides, who said I’m not wearing one now?”
When I got out of the coffee shop I dialed Jack Teverson. “Mr. Teverson. I have results for you. My recommendation for hire is Kirk Patrick. If you want a full review of the reasons, we can meet next week. I can’t meet today though, I have a hot date to get ready for.”

Recommended reading: Snoop: What You’re Stuff Says About You by Sam Gosling

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