Richard Butler, PI – Chapter 4 (a merry dance)

Richard Butler and Clancy peered through their hiding spot behind the bushes. Completely still and silent, they watched as Harrington walked down by the lake, and finally settled on a pier overlooking the water.

“Bu—” Clancy started, before being silenced by the sudden appearance of Butler’s hand over his mouth, as clear a sign as any that it was not time to talk.

Cautious as ever, Butler didn’t feel the need to give their position away. Two hours of following Harrington — O’Connor’s business partner and their current lead suspect — did not need to go to waste. The tailing had gone well, as well as any tail could go shy of actually gleaning some information. Butler and Clancy had managed to stay close without being noticed, and even followed Harrington into town. This was especially noteworthy given the difficulty of this particular tail, as Harrington had a habit of moving quickly, whether when walking or driving. They had to pull out all the tricks, from the old “hiding behind newspaper” trick to the classic “follow that cab!” move. Butler felt good about how they performed. The only thing missing was something to show from it — they had learned nothing, other than the fact that Harrington preferred his eggs over-easy and his milk non-fat.

“I think it’s time we talked to him,” Butler whispered to Clancy, “just make sure he doesn’t know he’s being questioned. Don’t say anything that may suggest he’s our suspect. And don’t say anything about the chemicals. Or, for that matter, the suicide note…” Butler waited while Clancy processed the instructions. After seeing the muddled expression on Clancy’s face, Butler adjusted the plan: “on second thought, why don’t we leave the talking to me?”

“Good plan,” Clancy agreed.

The private detective and his sidekick surfaced from their hiding place and inconspicuously made their way over to where Harrington sat, now setting the bait on his fishing rod.

“Nice day for some fishing,” Butler announced nonchalantly as he strolled over beside Harrington, hands placed casually in his pockets.

“Well,” Harrington answered, “I’m not sure I’d ever call this day ‘nice’…”

“Oh,” Butler responded awkwardly, realizing the implications of what he had just said. He attempted to salvage the situation: “I was referring to the weather.”

“Yeah, the sun’s out…” was Harrington’s uttered reply. The private detective, his assistant, and the businessman sat in awkward silence for a full minute. It had been a long time since Butler had experienced awkward tension thick enough to stop a bullet. He remembered the last time vividly, and would not allow this time to end the same way.

“I’m sorry… you lost a good businessman today.”

“Albert O’Connor was more than a business partner!” Harrington contested, “he was a friend.”

“Excuse me, I misspoke,” Butler apologized. Butler was about to prompt Harrington into elaborating on his relationship with O’Connor, hoping he would slip up and give Butler a lead. However, he didn’t need to, as Harrington spoke on his own.

“He always hated talking business off hours… no matter how urgent the matter,” Harrington said nostalgically, “a good hunt always comes first, Al would say! I remember this one time,” Harrington chuckled to himself, reaching the punch-line in his mind before even beginning the story, “we were on a hunting trip recently out in Montana. We had terrible luck that day! Just awful!”

“What kind of bad luck?” Butler asked, intrigued by the possibilities of what Harrington said.

“Well, there was no game out that day. We were hoping for a moose or a deer or something, but we didn’t find any. Why, the forest seemed completely empty, aside from the two of us.”

“So then,” Butler prodded, “I guess that gave you two lots of time to talk, right? Without a hunt, you’re free to discuss anything, even business, for example.”

“Well, I wouldn’t say there wasn’t a hunt. Just not what we expected or planned for.” Butler leaned closer to listen to Harrington’s cryptic words. Harrington continued: “see, we were looking for some game — any game, by this point — when Albert spotted, out of the corner of his eye… a goose!”

“A goose?” Butler asked, seeking assurance that he hadn’t misheard this from something more incriminating. “What happened then?”

“Well,” Harrington continued as he cast his line out into the river, “we followed it. Albert and I were not much into birds, but as I said, we hadn’t even seen anything else that day. This goose was quick, too. Pretty soon, we weren’t following this thing so much as chasing it.

“Did you catch it?”

“Hold on, Butler, I’m getting there,” Harrington said, enjoying the telling of the story perhaps more than the punch line. “we followed the goose for a long time, until it finally slowed down and stopped. At this point, Albert snuck up behind it, very quietly. Once he was within a few feet, he jumped at it!” Harrington and Butler both cracked up laughing, Harrington at the memory and Butler just at the thought of the large man attacking a goose.

“Just imagine,” Harrington managed to squeeze in-between chuckles, “Albert O’Connor, on the ground wrestling a goose — and that thing was wild, too, it was no easy task!”

After a few minutes to calm down, Butler asked: “so, what happened next?”

“Well, we decided to let the goose go. It was a little scrawny anyways. After that — whoa!” Harrington’s story met an abrupt end as he felt a tug on his fishing pole. Butler and Clancy watched the battle with almost as much attentiveness as they had listening to the story. The fish pulled this way and that, before Harrington finally made it bow under the strength of his arm. Harrington’s face lit up as he pulled the fish up from the water.

“Aha!” he exclaimed, “A red herring, I haven’t caught one of these guys in a long time!” And with that, Harrington made his exit.

Butler and Clancy stared as Harrington walked back towards the mansion, both mentally reviewing what they had just listened to. After a moment to let things settle, Clancy asked:

“So, any new leads? What’d we learn from this?”

“Absolutely nothing, Clancy,” Butler sighed, “complete waste of time.”

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About thomasbwhite
Writing, Photography, Jamming, Violin-ing, Hiking, Musing, Reading, Learning, Sketching, Frisbee-ing, Rambling... just a few of my favorite things.

2 Responses to Richard Butler, PI – Chapter 4 (a merry dance)

  1. Jeff says:

    Keep it going. I’m enjoying it. As to poetry – it took me awhile to really appreciate Psalms – but eventually I did.

  2. thomasbwhite says:

    I feel really good about this chapter. Chapter one is easily my favorite, but I think this one came close. The literal red herring was one of the first ideas I got when thinking up this story.

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