Solitaire, Part 3

Eddie ran into some trouble on the case, getting his butt handed to him by a burglar who also made off with all the documents Eddie needed.  What’s a bruised-but-not-beaten private eye to do?  Check back tomorrow for part 4!

* * *

I slunk into my office the next morning in a pensive frame of mind and a hung over state of being.  I had no idea where to start the search for the missing papers, nor who else might want them.  Was that burglar from Vellum’s office hired by Pennington himself?  Or maybe even Vellum?  Did the ex-Mrs. Pennington hire the burglar as a backup plan in case I couldn’t cut it?  Who knew.

I mean, not me, obviously, but hopefully someone out there knew.

“How’s the case going, Eddie?” I heard Miss Typewell, my secretary/personal assistant/head researcher/person-who-knows-where-everything-is asked.  Her blue hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail, a pair of archaic reading glasses hung around her neck on a thin chain, and she wore a wooly cardigan of bright orange.

“A bust so far,” I replied, shrugging out of my jacket and doffing my hat.  “Someone beat me to the punch at the lawyer’s office.”  And then just plain beat me, I added silently.  I gave Miss Typewell a brief rundown of what had transpired at Vellum’s office the night before, skipping over most of the details of the beating I’d suffered.

“Going to try Pennington’s personal files next?” she asked when I’d finished.

“Gonna have to,” I replied.  “Think they’re hackable?”  I knew a fair amount about technology, but not nearly as much as Miss Typewell did.  She was my go-to with technical questions like this, though her answer was often not quite what I was hoping for.

Miss Typewell looked thoughtful for a moment, then said, “I can probably get in no problem, but I doubt it’ll be to Mrs. Pennington’s satisfaction.  Digital documents are too-easily forged and faked these days.”  True to form, then: an answer, but not one that was all that much help.

“True,” I said, my thoughts drifting off.  “Maybe we should try a different approach.”

“What do you have in mind, Eddie?”

“Well…I know that the reason I didn’t get the stuff last night was because someone got there ahead of me,” I said, pacing across the reception area of the office.  “Can you do a search to see if there’s been any other robberies of this type in the city lately?”

“Sure, gimme two minutes,” Miss Typewell said, flicking vid windows across the space in front of her with the deft movements of a trained professional.  She tapped away at buttons on various panels for a minute or two, lost in concentration, then I got bored and wandered into my office and sat down.  I pulled up a new game of solitaire and was halfway through losing game 2,138 when Miss Typewell’s face popped up in a vid window next to my game.

“Found a pattern, Eddie,” she said.

Oh yeah?” I replied, not taking my eyes off my game.

“Yes.  Six similar burglaries in the past three weeks, all in the same district.  Looks like they’re all done by the same person, a burglar who goes by the name Red Ace.”

I glanced toward Miss Typewell’s screen.  “You’d think they’d at least have some red in their outfit, then,” I said, frowning.  “Any idea how we can use this?”

“Well,” she replied, looking away at a different vid window, “it looks like all of the jobs were commissioned through a bulletin board for underworld types.  The Boss set it up a few years ago to make contract jobs with freelancers outside of the Organization easier to arrange and control.  Arcadia PD hasn’t been able to do anything about it because the boards just set up electronic communication between the two parties, they don’t actually plan the jobs there on the boards.”  I nodded thoughtfully.  The Boss – the head of Arcadia’s massive crime syndicate, the Organization – was a shadowy but powerful figure who loomed over the city of Arcadia.  Anything he put together would be tough for Arcadia PD to even chip away at, let alone dismantle completely.  Be that as it may, the bulletin board did provide us with an opportunity to track down our burglar.

“Hmm…a plan comes to mind, Ellen,” I said, stroking the stubble on my chin.

“Already way ahead of you, Eddie,” she replied.  “I’ve set up a post on the bulletin board. With any luck, we’ll hear from your mystery burglar soon.”

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