He writes in his notebook:
Day One –
The client contacted me two days ago, asked to meet at a bar twelve miles from what I consider my office. The client, male, was very apologetic when he arrived late, which led me to believe that either he was very polite, or that he was desperate. Or both. I’ve learned in my short career that most people in need of investigators are swimming – drowning – in desperation.
From what I can tell, he was twenty five years my senior, with signs of life’s fuckups in and around his face and frail body. There was a small crack on the left lens of his eyeglasses that I think he didn’t realize. He ordered two beers for us without asking me if I wanted one, which I was grateful for, but wanted something that came in a rocks glass. I asked him why he would choose someone as inexperienced as me and that surely he had looked around for other more experienced P.I.s. He said that he thought it would help if the P.I. he commissioned was a lot closer, age-wise, to the person he wanted followed. I wanted to say that it wouldn’t help at all, but I needed the gig and remained silent. He considered my silence as a sign of agreement.
According to the file handed to me by the client, the subject, Jessica Jester (very likely not her real name,) whom from here on out will be referred to as “JJ,” is aged twenty-eight. Five feet six inches tall. Long dark hair. Light brown eyes that, from what I observed from the attached photo, was seemingly unnatural. Ethereal even.
Along with where she was going to be the next day, that was all the information that was given to me. It wasn’t exactly a file, but I do treat every document, no matter how limited the details are, as important.
The job entailed following and observing the subject, JJ, and writing down all observances in a yellow legal pad every three days, digitally scanning the papers, then emailing it to an email address that I had committed to memory. Why this was such eludes me, but I theorize that the client is an avid fan of graphology. Or that he has an odd sense of humor that I could chalk up to one’s quirks.
I can’t complain. A paying job is a paying job.
Day Two –
The weather forecast called for rain, so I thought following JJ around was going to be a challenge. She spent half the day at a café reading a book. I spent a solid five hours in the car parked perpendicular to the café.
By dinner time, I was positioned at a bistro across, and I had a clear view of whatever she was doing. The bar’s al fresco area was filled with people. I managed to bribe the maître d’ for a table. Six tables all in all. A family of three occupied the first to the left. A couple, who were likely having an affair because of the wedding ring on the gentleman’s ring finger (none on the woman’s,) on the second table. On the third table, a lonely middle aged woman smoking slim cigarettes, waiting for no one. On the fourth, a man in his 30s with his toy dog, a Chihuahua named Spot, beside him. On the fifth table was me, scoping JJ while pretending to do yesterday’s crossword. On the table behind me, the sixth, was an elderly couple who were fixated on their smartphones, excitedly showing each other their digitized photos from their glory years.
JJ was still reading the same book. It wasn’t a thick book. From what I saw in my camera lens when I was taking photos of her from the car, I could surmise that the book was a hundred and twenty pages long. She’s a fast reader. She must have read it thrice over on the course of two large paper cups of black coffee. Her smartphone was left untouched on the table all throughout her stay. Whether it was off or on silent mode, I couldn’t tell. It was bothering me. I wanted to go inside the café to check, but that wasn’t the job.
At exactly 8:56pm, she pocketed her smartphone and placed her book in her bag (black, leather, classy,) stood up, and walked out the café’s door. I’d already paid for what I ordered (chicken marsala w/ mashed potato on the side, double shot of bourbon) in advanced for an easy exit.
JJ, upon opening her red umbrella, hailed a cab as soon she stepped on the curb in front of the café. I was inches from my car, my eyes subtly still on her, when she lowered her hand and decided to walk the slippery sidewalk. Towards my direction. I panicked.
I pretend to answer a phone call in a timbre of voice that would not draw any attention to me. My body faced towards the car’s windows, I caught her reflection passing by. Her head was facing forward, not noticing the man paid to follow her. Her perfume still lingered in the air even though she was already ten meters away. I pretended to end the call and resumed following her. The scent of her perfume acted as a rope, a leash, that dragged me along. She was making it easy for me. Too easy.
We must have walked two kilometers when she stopped in front of a condo building. After reaching for her smartphone to check the time, she went inside where she was greeted by the doorman. It was a familiar greeting like she’s been there before. Could it be her place of residence?
I was about to follow to confirm when I got a text from the client. It said “That’s all for now. Thank you. Daily pay was deposited to your account.”
I looked around me to see if someone was watching me. From what I can tell, there was no one. Around twenty people within my vicinity. Ten or so were on their phones. No one looking at me. All are going on about their lives, walking, rushing, towards God knows where.
I wrote down the building’s name for reference. I walked back to my car with the gut feeling that I’m being played. Again.
This case just might be Iligan all over again.