Read The Shoulders of Giants Online
Authors: Jim Cliff
The Shoulders of Giants
Copyright 2011 Jim Cliff
If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
Isaac Newton, 1676
The call came on Sunday.
I picked it up on the third ring and said, for the first time, “Abraham and Associates, Jake Abraham speaking.”
“Hello,” said a gruff voice on the other end. He paused after every few words. “My name is Gregory Patterson, and I have a matter I’d like to discuss with you.”
I’d never actually spoken to a client before. I wondered if there was anything special I should say next. I went for “Please go on.”
“Perhaps we could meet up and talk.” He sounded highly strung.
“Sure, you can come to my office or...”
“Do you know a bar called Flanagan’s on Larrabee Street?” he interrupted.
“Yeah, I know it.” I said. Actually, I didn’t, but it would be simpler to look it up in the phonebook than have him direct me there.
“Okay, meet me there in an hour.” He hesitated. “Do you know who I am?”
I assured him I did, and he hung up. The question was kind of redundant. You’d have to be living in a very deep hole not to have heard of Gregory Patterson – a year before he was barely out of the papers. Captain Gregory Patterson of the Chicago Police Department, 15th District. At the tail end of 2004, just as the ball was dropping in Times Square, he was arrested on racketeering charges and put on trial along with three high-ranking members of the Irish Mob. He was accused of tipping them off to raids, tampering with evidence and, most famously, giving up the location of a Federal witness. A witness who later died alongside three FBI agents when the safehouse they were in was blown up. The evidence they had was circumstantial, backed up by testimony from convicted mobsters, and ultimately the jury found there was reasonable doubt and he was acquitted. Of course, it was too late, since he’d already been tried by the media and found guilty in the court of public opinion. Most people assumed he was guilty and got lucky. Some were angry at the jury and felt he got special treatment because he was a cop. I must admit I thought he probably did do it, but I believe in the system and from what I read I didn’t think there was enough evidence for a conviction beyond reasonable doubt. Naturally, his career was over, his private life turned inside out and laid bare in the press. They went on and on about his youth in Bridgeport, his childhood friendship with future mobster Jimmy Moran, his drinking problem, his citation for using excessive force. It was brutal.
And now he wanted to speak to me. Gregory Patterson wanted to meet with me, in my professional capacity as a private investigator. I panicked about whether I was dressed smartly enough, which was dumb, seeing as a client could walk in at any time. At the moment, I had on light slacks, a blue button-down shirt and a suede jacket. I looked a little like Don Johnson in
. I checked the address of Flanagan’s in the phonebook and decided I had time to go home and change.
In my apartment on Halsted, I put on a light gray summer suit, and a tie with little turtles on it. I looked in the mirror to check my guns didn’t show, and left.
As I walked into Flanagan’s, I saw Patterson sitting at the bar. I’d remembered him from a thousand newspaper articles, and he hadn’t changed much in a year. He was about fifty, had lost weight, and I could see in his face there wasn’t much fight left in him. On the way to the bar, I wondered what he wanted to talk to me about. Did he want to hire me to clear his name once and for all? To find out who set him up?
“Hi, I’m Jake Abraham.” I said, as I approached him, “We spoke earlier.”
Patterson finished his drink and ordered another. A double scotch on the rocks. I ordered a Coke, no rocks. Never drink in front of a client. If I’d had time to formulate a set of rules, I’m sure that would have been one of them. Our drinks came and we moved to a booth at the back of the bar. Patterson spoke first.
“I’d like to hire you,” he said, “to find my daughter.”
I took out a notepad and pencil, and this seemed to encourage him to elaborate on his situation.
“Susan just started her sophomore year at UIC.” He took a photo from his wallet and handed it to me. She was very attractive. She had long dark hair, large doe eyes, and Liv Tyler lips.
“How long has she been missing?” I said.
“She was supposed to come round last night. When she didn’t show up I called her roommate, who said she hadn’t seen her since Friday evening.”
“Where did she go Friday night?” I hoped I was asking the right questions. I’d never interviewed anyone officially before.
“She went to a bar, or a nightclub. You’d have to ask Denise. That’s Susan’s roommate. I’ll give you their address.”
“Well, she hasn’t been gone long. Have you thought maybe she met someone, and forgot she was supposed to come see you yesterday? You know what college students are like.” I wondered if he did.
“She didn’t forget.” He took a deep breath. “Yesterday was my fiftieth birthday, Mr Abraham. Susan had planned a big surprise party at my house. When I got home at six, all the guests were waiting in the street. She should have been there at five to let them all in and set everything up. They were all very embarrassed, and told me what they were doing there. I said not to worry, she was probably stuck in traffic, and that we should wait for her before starting to celebrate. We waited. She didn’t come. She’d been planning it for over a month. She didn’t forget.”
“I’m sorry” I said, “What about the police? Isn’t this more their field of expertise?”
“You said on the phone that you know who I am, Mr Abraham. I don’t have any friends in the Police Department anymore. They ostracized me quite effectively. I’ll file a missing persons report, but I don’t trust them to put every effort into finding Susan, let alone keeping me informed of their progress. I called a few P.I.’s I used to know before I called you. The polite ones just put the phone down when they heard it was me.”
“I see. Okay, I’ll need to keep this photo, and I’ll have to take Susan’s address, and a few more details. I get $250 a day plus expenses, and I’ll need five days in advance as a retainer.”
“So you’ll take the case?”
“Yeah.” I said, “I’ll take the case.” Before I left, I got a check, and some more information from Patterson, such as Susan’s full name, date of birth, Social Security Number, and the name of the bookstore she worked part-time in. That’s about all most parents know about their kids. I’d find out more by talking to her friends.
I decided to start straight away, even though I wouldn’t be able to cash my check until morning. Since she’d been gone less than forty-eight hours, there wouldn’t be much of a paper trail to follow just yet, so I headed over to speak to Susan’s roommate, Denise Everett.
Susan and Denise’s apartment was in Greek Town, on West Van Buren. I buzzed their apartment, third floor, and a voice answered.
“Who is it?”
“My name’s Jake Abraham, I’m a private detective.” It was the first time I’d actually said that. “I’m working for Susan’s father and I’d like to ask you a few questions.”
“Come on up.”
The door buzzed, and I pushed it open. When I reached the top of the stairs, Denise was waiting for me by the door. She was taller than me, and wore jeans and a baggy gray sweatshirt with the University of Illinois logo on it. When she talked, it was with a southern drawl.
“Come in,” she said, “can I get you anything? Coffee? Juice?”
“Thanks, I’m fine. I just want to ask you a few questions about Susan. Do you know where she went on Friday night?”
“Yeah, she said she was going to Dutch’s. It’s a bar on the North Side. I don’t know how long she would have stayed there, though.”
“Did she go on her own? Was she meeting friends there, her boyfriend?”
Denise laughed out loud. “I’m sorry,” she said, when she had recovered, “Susan don’t have a boyfriend. She’s gay. Dutch’s is a gay bar.”
“Does her father know that?”
“That she’s gay? Sure. He’s cool with it”, she said. I wondered why he hadn’t mentioned it.
“Okay, does she have a girlfriend then?” I asked, shifting gears expertly.
“Nah, not at the moment. Far as I know she wasn’t meeting anyone, just there for some fun.”
“Do you have any idea where she might have gone? Do you think she would have missed her father’s birthday without a reason?”
“She has a good relationship with her old man, you know? They’re pretty close these days. I was real surprised when he called me up and said she wasn’t there.”
“Tell me a bit more about her. Does she have any close friends, other relatives she mentioned, ex-girlfriends maybe she went to visit?” I was running out of things to ask before the old favorite ‘Can you think of anyone who might want to hurt Susan?’
“I don’t know, she don’t have a whole lot of friends. I guess maybe I’m closest to her. She’s a quiet person. Keeps to herself, mostly. I think she just prefers her own company. As for ex-girlfriends, there’s only one she’s ever really talked about, name’s Abby something.”
“Can you think of anyone who might want to hurt Susan?”
“No, like I said, she don’t have too many friends, but she don’t have no enemies either.”
“Okay, thanks for your help. Do you mind if I take a look in Susan’s room before I go?”
“If you think it’ll help. I sure hope she’s alright.”
Denise showed me to Susan’s room and I gave her one of my business cards, with instructions to call me if she remembered anything she thought might be useful. She left me alone.
The room was a complete mess. At first I thought maybe someone had broken in, searching for something, but I figured Denise would probably have mentioned that. I guess she was just messy. I started sorting through some piles on the floor, but it seemed they were just made up of various articles of clothing, so I moved to the desk.
I couldn’t actually see the surface of the desk, as it was covered in paper. There were empty envelopes, course notes, letters from her father, a checkbook, old pay stubs, and some more University paperwork. Underneath the mess was an old-looking address book, and a desk diary, still in its plastic wrapping. I took a look in the address book. Most of the names had been crossed out, but one caught my eye. Abby Dexter, presumably the ex-girlfriend; the address was out in Oak Park. There were few other entries, but I pocketed the book rather than transcribe what was there. I could always put it back later. The checkbook showed that if she’d paid for hotel rooms, car hire, or airline tickets recently, then she hadn’t paid by check. I saw from the course notes that she was taking some psychology courses. I wondered if any of my old professors taught her. It took me another couple of minutes to locate a class schedule. I recognized several of the lecturers’ names, but one brought back the strongest memories. My old tutor in Abnormal Psych, Dr Aronson. It’s a small world after all.
A laptop PC perched on the edge of the desk, the encroaching lava-flow of paper threatening to topple it onto the floor. I lifted the lid and fired it up, hoping Susan didn’t favor password protection.
I worked through her emails, her Favorites folder and her Internet history and came up empty. No evidence that she had contacted anyone about making a trip, or booked any travel or accommodation. No threatening emails, demands for money or ultimatums. I wrote down the name Anjali Sharma, who she seemed to exchange emails with about her Psych courses. I found no signs that Susan had succumbed to the temptations of Facebook or MySpace.
The online resources exhausted, I turned to her hard drive and looked in her ‘My Documents’ folder. True to form, the files were not organized into sub-folders, meaning I had to wade through a virtual bucket of university related Word documents before one filename caught my eye. Diary.
Susan’s diary, it turned out, was the one file she had password protected – the 21st century equivalent of one of those lockable journals favored by teenage girls. I tried ‘password’, ‘abby’, ‘susan’ and her date of birth but had no luck, so I went back to the emails. Tucked away in her Deleted Items, which by the look of things she had never emptied, was an email from an online bookshop. When Susan had registered they had sent her confirmation of her username and password. Most people can’t remember more than a few passwords, so they tend to choose the same one for everything and, sure enough, when I typed ‘folderol’ into the password screen I was granted access to her deepest thoughts.
The diary was not a small document. Susan had typed anywhere between a paragraph and three pages per day for about the past 18 months. I started at the last entry, under Thursday’s date. Half an hour later I closed the file and the laptop lid, infuriated by Susan’s writing style. She had no apparent concept of what separates an anecdote from just something that happened, nor the prescience to highlight items which might be useful to my investigation. A cup of coffee was described in Michener-like detail over the course of one full page, including an in depth analysis of whether the brand of artificial sweetener available had more or less aftertaste than the one she was used to. Conversely, the entry for Friday the 7th, one week before she went missing, read simply