An excerpt from The Throuple Private Eye—Business is Booming (WIP7)
CHAPTER 3—Two weeks earlier.
An older man walked into the Central Chicago Jewelry Store. He wore a facemask and had a baseball cap pulled over his head. There were few people in the store and everyone was wearing facemasks. “Can I help you?” the manager asked through a facemask.
“Is Charlize working today?” the gentleman asked. “She was recommended to help me.”
The manger nodded to Charlize who walked over. “Yes, sir. What are you shopping for today?”
The gentleman looked over toward the manager who was now busy helping another customer. In a low voice, the gentleman said, “I not shopping today. “I just need to talk with you about this.” He laid two fake credit cards on the counter. “Are you’re really Kyra Birchfield?” He pointed to one of the cards. “Or are you Jerome Meserly?” He pointed at the other card. “or maybe you’re Francesca Martin?” He laid down a fake driver’s license.”
Charlize was stunned. “Sir, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She said with a whimper through her facemask.
“I think you do,” the man answered. “I took these from your apartment. Relax, I’m not the police.”
Charlize felt her knees shaking. She tried to recover her composure. “Sir, I don’t know who you are, but I’ll pay you back whatever I took. I swear.”
“Relax. Relax. Like I said, I’m not the police. I just want to talk with you. Meet me at the coffee shop across the street in ten minutes. If you don’t show, then I’ll go to the police.”
“Okay, ten minutes,” Charlize replied as she reached for the cards. The man was quicker and sweep them up.
“Ten minutes” the man said. “Don’t be late.”
Charlize told her boss that she needed coffee and she walked over to the coffee shop. She saw the gentleman in the far end of the shop sitting at a small table. He had removed his facemask and was eating a pastry. Charlize saw that he was clean shaven, maybe in his forties. She sat down opposite him. He shoved another pastry toward her. She noticed a laptop in front of him that looked like hers.
The man saw her glance at the laptop. “Yeah, it’s yours,” he said. “I took from your apartment along with some of the fake credit cards you made. I also ordered some food so we can remove our masks.”
Charlize removed her facemask but didn’t touch the pastry. She frowned. “Are you going to report me to the police?”
The man shook his head. “My name is Jimmy Richards. Does that ring a bell?”
Charlize remembered the name as one of the identities she recently stole. “Oh shit,” she said. “Look Mr. Richards, I’ll gladly pay you back. How much do I owe you?”
Jimmy laughed. “No, no. I don’t want you to pay me back. Keep it. My wife won’t miss it.”
“What do you want?” Charlize asked as her hands started to shake.
“Oh, it’s really simple” Jimmy said with a smile. “I want you to keep spending on my wife’s credit card. Just limit it to under $500 a month.”
“You don’t want me to stop?” a surprised Charlize asked.
“No, no. In fact, if you don’t spend $500 per month, I’ll go to the police with all this evidence.”
“You want me to keep charging on your wife’s credit cards each month? Why?”
“That’s none of your business. Just do it or I go to the police. Understand?"
Charlize didn’t understand but she agreed to it. Richards finished his pastry and put on his facemask. Without another word, he stood up and left the coffee shop.
Later that evening Charlize told her boyfriend, Maury Fincham, what had happened. They had been living together for two years and ended up quarantined together. The fact that Jimmy knew where she lived and had broken into her apartment and taken her laptop scared the crap out of Charlize. She couldn’t stop shaking. “What do you think?” she finally asked Maury.
Maury thought for a moment. “It sounds as if this guy Richards wants to convince people that his wife is here in Chicago spending money.”
“So, what do we do now?” Charlize asked. “He has my computer with all my stuff. I could go to jail if he gives it to the police.”
“Charlize, this guy maybe is setting up an alibi so he can get rid of his wife.”
“Get rid of her? You mean kill her?”
“Yes,” Maury answered. “In fact, he may have already killed her. I think that at some point, he may come back to kill you.”
Charlize was really scared now. “Maury, what can I do? He has my laptop. All my fake IDs are on there. If he goes to the police, we’re both going to jail. He knows I can’t tell anyone. If we do what he says, he might kill us later. Oh, shit.”
“Yeah,” replied Maury. “He has us over a barrel. We need to find out more about him. He has either killed his wife, or he’s planning to kill her. What do we know about him?”
Charlize began to calm down. She sat back and thought for a moment. “Well, I know about his wife. Her name is Biyu Richards. It’s an odd name, don’t you think? I was able to find a picture of her. She’s Chinese or oriental. I have her post office box address. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.”
“Okay, that’s a good start. You have security cameras at the store. Tomorrow, see if you can get a screen shot of his face. It might come in handy. Meanwhile, get on my computer and find out whatever you can about this guy. An address would be helpful.”
“He wore his facemask in the store… and a hat,” Charlize said. He took them off in the coffee shop but I doubt the coffee shop will let me have their tapes. I can try.”
“Do it,” Maury replied. “We might find something to distinguish him even with the mask on; a birthmark of something.”