The story of Guard Dog, a transgender black-market criminal detective who grapples with life and death mysteries, namely how to make peace with his estranged, adopted Asian daughter, Catherine.
"Officer Dowes!" Charlie's crackling voice over the intercom blasted into my office, where I had been taking a much-needed midday nap across my desk. I lurched upwards, startled by the urgency in his voice, only to knock a full cup of coffee onto the scattered stack of papers I had been sorting.
I muttered a few choice words under my breath as I scrambled to collect the soggy pages and mop up the spill with my other sleeve. The clock above the window read 3:05, but evidently no one had come in to check if I was dozing off. As much as I resented having to make my office in a supply closet, I was suddenly grateful for the isolation.
"Officer Dowes, is everything okay in there?" Charlie belted over waves of static.
"Yes, fine!" I yelled back, a little too forcefully. "Just...looking through my accounts. What's going on?"
"Someone is here to see you. A young lady. Says it's urgent."
Catherine! I thought to myself, my heart suddenly warming. She must have come to apologize! "Send her in!"
"Right away, sir," said Charlie, and the crackling stopped.
I began to search frantically around my office for something to conceal my coffee-soaked sleeve, and my eyes landed on a yard of tangled adhesive bandage wadded in the corner by the trash. I scooped it up, smoothed it out, and wrapped it several times around my sleeve until it covered the stain. Then I leaned back and breathed a sign of relief, just before I heard a timid knock on my office door.
"Catherine, love? Come in!" I forced an exaggerated smile.
The door creaked slowly open. I felt my face fall in disappointment as I saw that my visitor was not Catherine, but rather a petite, blonde-haired young woman, who looked to be about eighteen or nineteen years old. She stepped gingerly over the nearest pile of clutter and turned to face me, staring meekly at the floor. Without a doubt, she was utterly unlike anyone I had ever had in my office before, but no matter. A client was a client, and surely she had some dark mystery that needed my attention.
"Hello," I began after an awkward pause, trying to sound as official as possible. "Your name, please?"
"I'm...uh..." The girl stammered and stared around my office at the barren brown walls and stacks of boxes. "Am I in the right place? Are you 'Guard Dog'?"
"So I'm called," I answered, my curiosity rising. My code name was strictly for the "underground" business, for the large men who needed me to spy and threaten and decode and sometimes kill. For people who had been wronged, betrayed by the law. Never before had my secret identity been uttered by such a meek little creature.
"My name is Miranda Rhodes", she said in a surprisingly abrasive voice. "I want to hire you as a private investigator. I've been through the system--the legal system--no leads, no personal information, nothing--and I've heard that you can help me."
This was sounding more and more interesting. "What is the nature of your case?" I asked.
She sat down in front of my desk, pausing to brush particles of dirt off the seat of the chair. "I was adopted when I was only a few days old," she explained. "I'm eighteen now, and I want to find my birth parents. But I don't know their names. Or where they are. And the government won't help me. That's why I came to you."
I blinked as my mind absorbed her words. "No, I'm sorry," I said quickly. "I don't do that kind of work."
Her face took on a look of confusion, then anger. "What? Of course you do. You've found people before. I've talked to...to someone, and he was quite adamant that you can help me. I'll pay you generously."
I thought of Catherine, and our last fight, months ago. "You're not my mother, or my father!" She had screamed. "I'm going to find my real parents! At least they're normal people, wherever they are!"
"I'm sorry, I can't," I repeated, wincing at the memory.
"Fine." Miranda sounded angry. "Then I guess I'll have to tell everyone about your little "business" down here. I know what you've done, who you've helped, and who you've screwed over. I could get you thrown in jail or beaten on the streets."
I stared at her.
"Or," she added sweetly, "You can help me find my parents."
I sighed heavily. The ones we underestimate are always the most dangerous. "Fine. I'll help you. Tell me everything you know."