Chapter 1 - Theo
The large man burst through the door of the wood-paneled office with a victorious flurry, “Hello Doris!” he trumpeted with a wide grin.
The woman sitting behind the oversized computer monitor looked like she was hungover from drinking a little too much at her 150th birthday party last night. “You got ‘em then sir?” she croaked, her voice was evidence of her recently escaped smoking habit. She gave up smoking a few years ago and now she just chomped on gum like it owed her money.
“Of course I did Dorris, don’t you know who I am?” Theo sighed as he plopped onto the leather couch and began to prop his feet up on the neighbouring coffee table as he leaned back contemplating his success.
Theo was in his mid-30s and just over six feet tall, his daily uniform usually consisted of brightly colored Hawaiian shirts, cargo shorts, and flip flops. He had shaggy light brown hair and scruff covering the lower half of his tan face.
Right in the middle of reclining, he saw an ancient hand come from behind the astonishingly outdated monitor and snap once. He immediately took his feet off the table and placed them on the floor and cleared his throat, “It was the alligator wranglers dentist”.
“Called it. Where’s my money, sir?” Dorris croaked popping a hand out to receive her winnings. Theo fumbled in his pocket and produced a $1.00 bill, then gently placed it in Dorris’ weathered but rock-solid grip. “You did” his eyes narrowed, “how do you always do know?”
“I don’t always know, I just only bet when I’m sure. Also, TV” she shrugged. Theo looked across the room to the small antiquated TV set that set on a wooden TV tray. It was in fact playing some old murder mystery show like it always was. “With that one done, we have enough money for the end of the month”. Then without smiling or breaking eye contact with Theo, Dorris fidgeted in her front desk drawer until she found what she was looking for, she brought her hands above her head and tugged on the string of a mini pull-string confetti cannon raining miniature streamers all over her hair and desk.
“Well, I’m not the one buying confetti cannons” Theo smirked then broke into laughter as Dorris cracked a smile. “Well, is there anything else on the docket?”
“There are a few; a cheating wife, a cheating husband, another cheater, hit and run, cheater..” She listed as she flipped through dusty files in the lower drawer of her desk.
“Good lord, is there anything that won’t, I don’t know, destroy what little faith in humanity I have left?” he moaned
She flipped through the files for another few moments then picked up one, only to read it silently and slide it back into its original position. She continued, looking at 4 more files before replacing them until she came to one towards the back of the drawer. “Here’s a murder, a patient in a, oh what’s the term, I think it’s ‘institution” she finally produced.
“Wait, did the patient murder someone or did the patient get murdered?” then he thought about it for a second and mumbled to himself “does that even matter?”
“He got killed in a” she raised both hands and mimicked parenthesis “seclusion room” she put her hands down and flipped through more pages in the file. “It looks like there was no evidence of entry or exit, no weapon, nothing on the security footage. The police are lost, but” she read on silently then remarked, “Yeah you’re doing this one. The guy who died was a Walcott”
Theo who had slumped on the couch lamenting the future of the cheating world suddenly perked up. “NOPD couldn’t figure it out? How did he die?”
Ignoring his question and replying to the one she wanted him to ask, she insisted, “Yes, the rich family in New Orleans, the ones that own the French Quarter, that family”
“I know who they are, I just don’t care. Tell me about the case. It could be an interesting one if the almighty New Orleans Police Department couldn’t handle it” he mocked
“Fine, I wish you did care a little more about how we make money, but it was a small circular puncture wound to the heart and no weapon or any kind of evidence was found at the crime scene, and yes, the NOPD has given up. The very rich family is willing to pay anyone who can find who killed him”
Theo rose to his feet smirking, “ok, I guess I’ll just have to show them up then”
“Not like that” Dorris said looking down at his clothes.
He looked down at his Baby Blue flamingo button-down, “Like what? What’s wrong with this? I always dress like this?”
“Honey, the aliens on the moon don’t even need their binoculars to know that you wear that mess every day, and even they laugh” she gestured dismissively towards his shirt.
“It’s comfy and classy” he straightened the cotton collar and ran his hands down the front of the shirt exhibiting his immaculate taste.
She stood up from her chair raising a full two feet taller than she was and locked eyes with Theo. Her voice rose and adopted a tone that resembled a mother scolding her child. “You are not wearing that for this case young man. This case could put us in the black, so if you’re going to play the part of a professional private investigator, you best look it.”
Theo’s lower lip actually stuck out for a millisecond before he realized that his face was moving without his permission, he sucked it back in and straightened his back “I just had the best idea, you know what would be good for this case? A suit.”
Dorris smiled knowingly, “I think that is a wonderful idea sir”
Theo rented a small apartment above a mobile wedding service, it had a small living room with a kitchen to the left and a bedroom to the right. Of course, the last time anyone had seen the floors of his bedroom was when they were installed. The hardwood was littered with dirty clothes, discarded snack wrappers, and to-go containers. The messes centered around the main areas he resided in. The bed was covered in what the very brave would call ‘clean laundry’ with heaps spread around the floor of the room in piles indicating their level of cleanliness, the desk in the living room was surrounded by a concerning number of to-go containers, empty cups, and boxes of old case files with photographs taped to every inch of the wall. On the opposite side of the living room also was a comfortable looking sofa with a cushioned ottoman in place of a coffee table and a large television sitting on a stand in the corner.
The small kitchen was the cleanest room in the house, the sink was full of empty coffee-stained mugs, and dust-covered most of the remaining surfaces excluding the ragged coffee maker which looked like it was on its last leg. The floor was tiled in a black and white checkered pattern that would hypnotize Theo as he paced contemplating his cases.
As Theo walked into his apartment, a photo of a young girl with blond pigtails and a smile that dripped with joy caught his eye. He stopped moving leaving the door wide open for a few moments, paralyzed, No, that is in the past. I don’t have time for this right now he thought to himself. Then forced himself to look away and headed to his bedroom with a purpose.
He entered the bedroom and lunged over the ‘definitely dirty’ pile of clothes on the floor and reached into the top of his closet producing a warn suitcase. It was brown and covered in patches from all of the places he visited. He reached into the ‘clean pile’ of clothes on his bed and grabbed a handful of brightly colored cotton. He continued with the rest of his necessities, going through the motions as if on autopilot. He had to leave town for his job frequently, he had the motions of packing down.
He walked into the shockingly pink bathroom adjoining the bedroom and turned on the light. He saw his reflection in the small mirror and studied it for a few seconds then nodding, he said aloud to no one in particular “ok, I see it now”, and started the shower. When he was finished washing himself he stepped back in front of the insulting mirror and grabbed a comb. He combed his hair to the side, then deciding that he wasn’t the kind of person to have a comb-over he ran his fingers through reinvigorating the curls. He trimmed his beard to an acceptable amount of gruff then brushed his teeth. Once he’d combed and washed everything he looked back into the mirror and gave it an award-winning smiled. Then glimpsing the closet in the background, his smile abruptly disappeared. He grabbed his toothbrush and soaps with a frown and walked over to the suitcase. As he was zipping the suitcase up, he looked over to the closet with dread again. He hated suits.