Written in third person. A jilted lover employs a private investigator to tell her what went wrong with her last relationship. Meanwhile, she is assuming a new identity and using the investigator's advice to pursue her old boyfriend as a different woman entirely.
Chapter 1: Dirty Laundry Money
Midnight, sky noire. It was a high-security facility. The hall held rented offices, and the sign on the door read, 'J. Buchanan' and below that, 'Private Investigator'.
The spacious office was dark, yet not empty. The only light came from the flat-screen monitor of the computer, barely illuminating the two faces whose bodies sat in the adjacent chairs.
"I want to know," a woman's voice, harsh and demanding, why he doesn't love me.
"Very well," answered her companion, a man, whose tone was cautious yet somehow amused. "But I assure you, there was no infidelity."
Barely lit, her head nodded.
"That is," he added, "on his part."
She grimaced, dark red lips contorted. I didn't pay him to investigate me, she thought to herself.
"Let's go back to the beginning," he told her. "Tell me exactly how the two of you met..."
He knows I'm going to lie, she realized.
He continued, "And I'll tell you precisely what I know. I'm certain I can tell you exactly why he doesn't love you."
Too much, Mr. Buchanan. You know too much, she thought. "Tell me what I did wrong, and how to avoid it in the future."
"Whose future?" he moved an inch towards her, involuntarily, as he asked, wondering, What is that wild aroma?
Curiosity. Cat. Death. She pretended to hesitate, and then, "I don't pay you to ask questions, Jonathan," she snarled.
He hit a button on the computer's mouse, and his application began a slide show. The first picture was a sheltered bus stop on a main street, downtown.
She recognized it, "That's not where things began."
"Oh?" he paused, hoping her face might betray a lie, "Have I missed something?"
"The laundry mat, across the street," she told him. Is this guy worth so much?
His eyes widened, nostrils flared, "A woman of your class, in a laundry mat?"
She smiled, eyes half-closed, "I followed him by chance, at the same time every Saturday, until one day I decided to go in there with him. I read him as the type I couldn't pick up in a bar. And I wanted him, Jonathan, I wanted him so badly..."
"I'm surprised you're using the past tense," said the investigator. "You have your doubts, don't you?"
"About what!?" Bitter anger.
"Whatever purpose my findings will serve you."
"Fine," she admitted. "Give me some reassurance."
"When you met him, he worked for an escort service."
She was startled and jumped out of her chair, "No! No fuckin' way!"
"As far as I know, though, he never lied to you despite that little secret. You just never asked the right questions. But please, Flora, we must begin at the beginning. Now, Flora, tell me about these laundry mat encounters with Randell."
It was noon on a summer's day. The sun outside was beating straight down against the pavement. The white walls of the big room and the machines inside reflected all of it, making the room seem larger, warmer.
A woman, in her late twenties, was busy stuffing her clothes into the nearest washing machine when she pushed a little too hard and knocked the coins off the edge of her machine, down into a dark, thin crack.
"Dang it!" she swore, as she suppressed a smile and began to try to dig her hand between the washer and the drier beside it. No success.
"Excuse me," she said, trying to get the attention of a young man who wore a bathing suit and a tight, black t-shirt. When did he get so tan?
He smiled meekly, lifted up his sunglasses and tucked them in his short, brown hair, "Can I help you?"
"I dropped my change, I'm such a clutz, would you be so kind as to pull this washer to your left, just a bit?" One finger played with a curl of red hair, and two perfectly white teeth bit at her lower lip when she had finished talking.
He nodded, obligingly, pressed a button on his own machine, and knelt down beside her machine which was, fortunately, at the end of a row. All right, Randell, time to impress the pretty lady.
Unbuttoning her light blouse just a bit, she moved behind him to get a better view. And while she pushed her bra up just a bit, she watched him struggle and groan with the heavy machine until he'd gotten it five whole inches away from its neighbour, unhindered by whatever plumbing connected it to the building's water system.
And between the two machines, in the gap he'd created, were several dirty coins, a fifty dollar bill, a gold necklace, a dead rat in a mouse trap, an untarnishable silver choker and someone's dusty, diamond engagement ring.
He watched as she scooped it out, onto the carpeted aisle. Then he spoke, "Wow, too bad the lost and found here donates everything to the Salvation Army."
She handed him the silver choker, "Here, try it on."
He hesitated, almost said something, and then she tied it around his neck.
"Mirror," she said, ushering him to a wall with a broken mirror nailed to it.
"Wow," was all he could say. There's something almost familiar about her.
"Yeah, hot stuff," she blurted. Then, "Oh, I'm sorry, I probably meant the jewlery."
"What's your name?"
"Donna," she told him.
"Can I have your number?" he asked her. "I'm Randy, by the way."
"First of all," Jonathan Buchanan began, "you shouldn't have gone in there wearing your rich and fancy clothes, looking like you didn't belong. Secondly, you shouldn't have helped him move the washer. And then, in the gap, there should have been something for him, not just your money and a clump of dust."
Flora sat across from him, chagrin beneath shadow, and nodded.
"Ideally, you would have had him wanting to ask for your number, not the other way around. But he had self-esteem issues and an intraverted personality, so it would have been hard to pull off. Now, let's move on."