Personal Business, Chapter 1
Forgotten loves are like time bombs waiting to explode. The trouble is they don't always pick the best of times to detonate.
The idea of a forgotten love, while romantic, is a misnomer. Real love is never forgotten, so by its very nature those that are weren't true love, but infatuation. Or obsession. Or any one of a dozen other nomenclatures. A rose by any other name…
If you truly loved someone, you wouldn't forget. I never forgot Jeremy. Even to this day, I think about him, wonder how he's doing. Is he still married? Does he still pretend to love her? Do they have kids? You don't have to love someone to give them kids, or sleep with them. Any port in a storm, as the sailors like to say.
He made his choice, and it wasn't me. It was her. He denied who he was in order to hide that person. To pretend to fit in so that he could do what society considers normal and proper—i.e., get married and procreate. How ironic, since it's society that prevents guys like us from getting married in the first place, when there's nothing I'd rather do.
Yeah, I admit it. I want to find Mr. Right, settle down, get married and build a future. White picket fence, 2.5 kids, dog, the whole nine yards. Okay, maybe I'd rather have a cat, but that's beside the point. I can't have that because of who and what I am—a gay man in a straight world.
If it were the other way around… If the straights were in the minority and the gays the overwhelming majority, do you think we'd bother to deny them the benefits and joys of marriage because of where they choose to dip their wicks? Hell no, why would we? What goes on in other people's bedrooms is no one's business but theirs. I wish the heteros saw it that way.
Did Jeremy ever love me? Truly love me? He said he did. He swore it with every breath, kiss, hug, caress. Every moment he stole to be with me. With every beat of his heart, every throb of his cock, every earth-shattering climax proclaimed his love and adoration.
And yet, he left me for her. Was it love? Was I so easily forgotten?
Maybe that's part of why I became what I am. Holden Heidegger, private investigator. Delver into secrets and illuminator of lies. The nastier the truth, the harder I work to unearth it.
My father always said that detective work suited me, that I was made to seek out the truth. Even as a kid, I was obsessed with knowing what was real and what wasn't. Not that I think things can't be real even if they aren't. I mean, stuff like Santa Clause or fairy tales. There's a difference between using one's imagination and lying, although I've been told on good authority by some of my writer friends that that's a very thin line indeed.
He was proud of me, my Pop. He knew I was gay shortly after I did, because I told him. He never thought less of me because of it. Said he was proud that I knew myself well enough to be myself. I still miss him, even though he's been gone for seven years. I always will. So do the guys down at the station, the ones he used to work with. They treat me like their kid or something. When I pop in, often doing some routine investigation, they're always helpful, never give me the runaround. And usually the conversation, once it's run its official course, winds up being about my Pop.
Mom I never knew. She was gone before I was aware she'd ever been there. Do I miss her? How can you miss what you didn't know? Pop did, I know, whether he admitted it to me or not, 'cause he didn't. Admit it, that is. But you don't keep photographs of someone you don't think about or care about, just because you hate them. He loved her 'til he died. Did she love him? I couldn't say. If she did, I guess that makes him her forgotten love.
A lot of my clients are women. Most, in fact. They want to check out the men in their lives. Make sure they're on the level. See if they're what they claim to be. So I follow their guys and see what secrets they're keeping from them. Mostly it's two-timing with some other chick. I've taken so many pictures of motels, I could print my own brochure of the best places to stay in the tri-state area. If you're into sleaze, that is. Most guys who cheat on their women don't do it at the Hilton or the Ritz. For one thing, those aren't cheap places. For another, those are charges that might be difficult to explain on one's credit card bill. Places like Bill's Hideaway or Pete's Discreet demand cash and get it. No questions asked.
Sometimes the men that I shadow are thieves, stealing from their employers, or from other people. One guy turned out to be a cat burglar. He told his wife he worked at a security job, but in reality he was doing B&E's in upscale homes on the West side. He might have gotten away with it longer, if someone hadn't turned in an anonymous tip regarding his illicit activities.
C'est la vie.
I'm kicked back at my desk, resting my feet while I mull over a few things. Like if I need to bring someone else into the business. Not as a partner, more of an employee. I'm getting more and more jobs these days; it might not be a bad idea. But do I trust anyone enough to do it?
The door to the office stays open, naturally. Can't expect clients to deal with a locked door, so naturally they come in at any time, in order to conduct business. That's why I have a secretary, just so people don't walk in on me. Normally she sits in the outer office and handles the walk-ins. I'm guessing she's stepped out for a minute.
I try not to choke on the bottle of root beer I'm guzzling. Pushing back my chair, I plant my feet on the floor, set the bottle on the desk and take a quick swipe at my mouth.
"Yes, ma'am. Holden Heidegger." I rise, wiping my damp hands on my trousers, then hold one out to her. She takes it without reservation.
She's not a bad looking woman. If I were into women. I can see where guys would be attracted to her. She's a little over five feet—maybe five three or so. Dark curls frame a heart-shaped face. Pale complected, like she doesn't get out much. Cupid lips with a light coating of gloss, just enough to produce a shine. She's wearing a dress. You don't see that much in young women nowadays. It's mostly pants and T-shirts. Don't think I'm complaining, 'cause I'm not. I just notice things. And no, I'm not particularly into fashion, one way or another. Still, you can tell a lot about a person by the way they dress. In my line of work, powers of observation are handy to have.
She's married. A quick glance at her ring finger confirms that. Not surprising. Like I said, many of my clients are women looking to catch their spouses doing something they shouldn't.
"Won't you have a seat, Mrs…?" I wave at the chair on the other side of my desk, and she takes it, crossing stockinged legs, setting her handbag beside her on the seat.
"Call me Pamela, please, Mr. Heidegger."
"Then make it Holden." I offer her a smile, trying to set her at ease. I know it's not an easy decision, digging up dirt on one's mate or potential mate. The lucky ones do it before they tie the knot. Some women need to get their eyes opened first, before they realize there's anything to worry about.
"How can I help you, Pamela? Would you like something to drink? I have some root beer. I can make coffee, if you prefer."
"No thank you, Holden." She leans forward, wringing her hands in her lap, twisting at the wedding band nervously.
"I came… that is, I was told… A friend of mine recommended you. Margie Dunwood. Do you remember her?"
Margie Dunwood. Ah yes, the wife of the financier who was not only spending his evenings diddling an associate on company property, but he had her cooking the books for him and putting some of the profits in his pocket. Ironically, his mistress became my client too, when she suspected he was cheating on her. What a shock it came to her when she found out his wife hadn't died, as he claimed.
I nod. "Yes, I do remember Mrs. Dunwood. How's she doing?" Last seen, she was well on her way to a rather beneficial divorce which promised to yield a great deal of money. Sometimes those pre-nups can work in a woman's favor.
"She's doing better. Found herself someone else who treats her like a queen. Mr. Heid—Holden… I think he's cheating on me. I'd like you to follow him, please, and let me know what you find out. I just want the truth, that's all. Only the truth."
She fumbles with her purse, setting it onto her lap. It's a small red clutch. Doesn't look very practical, unless you don't need to carry a lot of things. She rifles through it, before pulling out a photo, laying it on top of the desk.
"Here he is. I just know he's seeing someone, but I can't ask him about it. I'm afraid to. Can you help me?"
I pick up the photo. This won't be the first or the last time I've gotten one of these. I have a collection of them too. Regular rogues' gallery of cheating hubbies.
Handsome guy. Very nice looking. I frown at the photo, holding it up to catch a better view. Is this someone I've trailed at some time in the past? Maybe he's been married before and I've already done this? Repeat business isn't impossible, not in my line of work. Some people get married the way other people eat candy. It's all in the adrenaline surge that comes from that happy ever after feeling when you tie the knot. Or so I've been told.
"Who's the lucky guy?" I ask, squinting into some damn pretty eyes. And he's got one of those chins, you know the kind. With the dimple in it. Something about those drives me crazy.
"Jeremy Daniels," she says, just as recognition washes over me.
The time bomb has just gone off…
to be continued
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