The Deep End – Chapter 4

The man, Jeff, as his name tag indicated, looked at Dean like he knew it was a dodge. “Listen, you looking for him because he stiffed you or something? I know him and he wouldn’t do stuff like that. He’s a good worker. Polite and conscientious. He’s never caused any trouble.”

Dean nodded then pulled out his investigator’s license, and showed it to the man. “I’m looking for a missing girl. This guy is described as the last one who might have seen her. Is there a name and address I can get from you so I can talk to him?”

Jeff’s attitude shifted. “A missing kid? How do I know this isn’t come kind of scam?”

Dean stared at the man. He understood that Jeff set a good deal of trust in this other young man, that he liked him, which made him wary of doing anything to cause his associate trouble. In books, it’s always easy for the hero to stumble across things that pushes them towards the climax. In the real world, that line is a lot wider grayer, and much more intensely personal. A person tends to see it as a personal situation rather than as a plot in a story. So you have to address those fears and anxieties, or all that happens is the person shuts up, unwilling to put themself, or others at risk.

“I know this sounds bad, and you’re right, it is. There’s a girl missing, and from her friends. He, whatever his name is, was the last one likely to see her. All I want to do is talk to him about when he saw her last, and if he saw anything that might help in finding her.”

“Vlad. His names, Vladimir, but he tells everyone to call him Vlad.”

Jeff leaned towards Dean, his features tightening.

“You swear to me all you’re going to do is talk to him?”

Dean nodded. “All I want is to find the girl. But, I can’t swear to you that’s all I’ll do. I wont lie about something like that. You like him, that’s obvious. you don’t want to see him in trouble. I get that. I don’t want to cause trouble. I just want to find who I’ve been asked to find.”

Dean’s statement seemed to have the man vacillating back and forth between a desire to help and fear of getting Vlad in trouble that he might not be part of.

“He works from six until close tonight. Come talk to him then.”

Dean nodded. “I appreciate that. Thank you.”

He left the store, and wandered across the street to window shop while he considered if he should stay or just return to the shop in five hours when Vlad was supposed to report in.

The building had a sign, “Coster’s Outdoor Supply” over the glass double doors. The silver of the brushed metal didn’t quite blend with the red brick of the storefront. The main window was a three meter wide by two meter tall pane of glass, that had a small stage set at its base, which showed off clothing, fishing, and hunting supplies.

I could use a few things for this winter. A couple trap lines would be a bit of extra cash for emergencies.

Dean glanced further in and spotted in the back corner, a security camera pointing back towards him.

If that was active the other night, it might have caught a picture of Maren. Thin chance, but better than no chance.

He walked through the door, the small bell anchored at the top of the doorway tinkling as the door bumped it into motion. A heavyset gentleman in brown pants, white shirt, and a bright neon orange vest came out of a doorway underneath the camera. He waddled gracefully past the tight rows of fishing rods and camping gear, ambling to Dean. He proffered his hand.

“Hello, I’m David, and welcome to Coster’s. Is there anything I can help you find today?”

Dean smiled and nodded. “As a matter of fact, there is. I’d be wondering if I could talk to you and your manager about looking at some security footage from the other night?”

“Ah, what? Security? Why?” His smile had faded to a tenuous twitch of the corners of his lips.

“Take me to your manager and I’ll explain why. Oh, wait a minute.” Dean pulled his wallet out, then opened it. He grabbed the gold colored investigator’s license out and handed it to David.

“I’m working a job I was hired to do. Who I’m trying to find is a regular over at the Kwik-Way. The camera behind you points out that way. It might have recorded something that could help me find this person.”

David nodded, jowls jiggling as he did. He turned, and led Dean back to a small closet-sized office. The door slid into the wall, while the manager, who, if possible, was more rotund, than David, sat at a table that went wall to wall with an all-in-one computer screen on the desk. The manager was using an ancient keyboard and a wireless mouse to work on the computer. He looked over at David, then at Dean.

“Customer with a complaint, David?”

David shook his head no, and handed the investigator’s license to the Manager. He looked at the license, then handed it back to David, who in turn handed it back to Dean.

“So what are you here for, Mr Investigator?” His smile didn’t reach his grey-blue eyes.

“I’d like to look at your security footage on your cameras that cover the street, and the one in the back.” He pointed in the direction of the indoor camera. “They may have recorded something that could help me find someone.”

The manager had a sly smile form on his lips. “I’d be glad to help, but a request like that does tie us up, what with inventory and billing. It’s going to cost you for the inconvenience.”

Dean grimaced, and dug in his pocket for his wallet. He pulled out one hundred twelve dollars, as that was his entire wallet. The two men glanced at the money, then the manager stepped aside as he held out his hand.

“The PC’s all yours for the day. I hope you find something useful.” They wandered off into the store while Dean maneuvered into the broom-closet office and sat down at the makeshift desk. he pulled the door shut, then took a moment to look the computer over.

The manager had apparently pulled up the camera folder for him when he’d been conversing with Dean. the folder was on the computer screen and it was a simple double click to open it. he spent the next two hours going through the four cameras, and managing to find two intriguing pieces of recording.

The first showed Vlad, and someone that Dean guess could be Maren from the time stamp on the video They got out of a car that matched Maren’s missing Volkswagen, and walked into the Kwik-Way. The second was vaguely ominous, as it showed Maren walking back out, then getting in her car, and driving off.

As she left, a car that had been sitting at the curb near the driveway of the convenience store, flipped on its lights as the Volkswagen made a right and drove off screen to the left. As it turned, a dark colored car flipped it’s lights on and pulled away from the curb right behind Maren’s car.

Dean got an uneasy feeling at the coincidence of the action, and decided to check if there were any other cameras across the street that might have caught a better view of the car and it’s license plate, or if he was really lucky, maybe the interior showing faces clear enough to take to the police department and look at mug books online.

Amongst the discarded food wrappers and open notebooks, he uncovered a plugin drive. Dean fitted in the universal slot, hesitated. He opened the door, and started to walk around the counter as David approached him.

“All done?”

Dean nooded. “Can I borrow that mini-drive on the table? I found some pieces that could help me out. Is there anything on it that needs to be saved?”

David chuckled. “Not a thing. I feel kind of bad about Mark doing that, so, at least from my view, you paid for the drive too. I mean they’re only like a couple bucks.”

“Thanks, I’ll copy stuff over and be out of your hair.”

Dean went back to the computer, and plugged the mini-drive in, and soon had his own copies. He pocketed the drive, then walked outside and back across the street. The weather bit through his clothes as the wind picked up, coming from the Northeast. The promise of rain was suddenly a storm bearing down on Halifax.

This is the one time I’d rather not have to work in a blizzard. This job looks like it’s going to be a lot of footwork, and a storm is the last thing I want to contend with.

He turned his collar up and sidled over to the Yarn shop and went inside. A woman with a blue smock holding a pair of scissors was busy chatting with a younger woman, who was dressed in blue jeans, a green sweater, and wearing a front-mounted baby pack. The child, dressed in a pink jacket, was sleeping as the two women chatted.

Dean waited patiently at the front of the store until the two women finished their chat and began walking to the register, which Dean happened to be standing by. The woman in the smock was older than he first thought. Her hair had been colored brunette, but it was the heavy makeup hiding the wrinkles that told her age.

The young mother was chatting about making a comforter in some bright colors for her daughter. The proprietor, or so Dean guessed, smiled widely and looked at the mother and child as she held up the colors that the mother had chosen, proclaiming them to be ideal for the baby. She rang up the purchase, which the woman paid for by passing her wallet over a sensor, which recorded her information and debited her purchase.

The woman turned to face Dean, her smile pleasant as she said, “Welcome stranger. What can I help you find?”

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