Nothing says alcoholic like thanking a bottle of whiskey for the conversation it just gave you. It was the first thing Van thought of when he woke up. This being the last thought he had before passing out and waking up with half his body on the bed and the other half on the ground, all while clutching a bottle of Evan Williams like it was his lifeline. A phone call pierces his ear, he digs through a pile of clothes that he may have been wearing at some point to find it.
He answers his phoned disgruntled.
"Van? Holy shit, you asshole its one a clock in the afternoon, where the fuck are you!"
Squalled a familiar voice.
"Now Margaret, is that any way to talk to your boss?"
He beamed sarcastically.
"You're making us look bad ya old sonofabitch, get down here now!"
He knew she hated that name, especially when he used it. Van stood up to catch his bearings and almost fell over again.
"Be there in twenty"
He said as he hung up the phone.
"Who is she calling old?"
He mumbled to himself and tossed on a pair of khakis while stumbling toward his coat rack. He thinks twice about grabbing a coat as he sees himself in the mirror and decides to do something about the haggard man staring back at him. A quick shave and a hat thrown over his head is all he decides to do about it. With his bearings on straight he grabs his favorite black pea coat and exits through the door.
Margaret was the office help to his PI business, she was young but she was a lot more organized and strong willed than he ever was; she had taken the job to pay her way through a law degree and figured that it would also be good experience for the time being. Van was somewhat of a local celebrity in the area, after the job that involved a Russian crime syndicate branch which was prominent in the city. Van didn't really care for it, he feels like it was more happenstance than anything. He did enjoy the recognitions sometimes though. Margaret always went by the name Mags; Margaret Fuller was her mother's name and there is only one thing she hated more than her mother, and that was being called by that name.
As he was driving to the office Van had a truckload of thoughts in his head, much like he always did after waking because he spent most of the nighttime drinking to forget everything he had on his mind. Much like Mags he hated his name, but not because of any association with his parents but lets face it he didn't like the fact that his name was associated with something that was used to pick kids up from soccer practice by a school-mom.
His father insisted on giving him this name because of his Japanese descent. Not that the name was of Asian descent but it had gained popularity in the culture because of the fact that his father as well as many other people of his time had a fascination with Germanic mythology and anything associated with it. So there he was with the name Van Matsumoto, being as white as he was a lot of people wondered if his name was fabricated or changed by him at some point.
His father was also something he didn't like to think about either, he was a hard-ass, strict, Japanese immigrant who spent most of his adult life in the States but after Van's mother disappeared he felt the need to return to the homeland for some spiritual reason or another. Needless to say that they weren't in contact much these days.
As Van neared the office he saw the familiar palm tree which he insisted on planting in a giant pot in front of the office. He immediately felt more at peace and his hangover seemed to subside a bit. Van explained to anyone who asked that the plant reminded him of good memories but never really shared why. He parks the car and strolls into the office casually.
"OK kid where's the fire?"
He asks while entering
"Who are you calling kid old man! We have had a customer waiting for the past 45 minutes for you hurry in here!"
"Wow, thats surprising"
He said as he flashed a pleased smile, business had been slow lately and the diminishing savings account made him worry a bit, although he was doing just fine for the moment.
"Yeah I wanna make sure you have work so you can keep paying me, I do more work than you do around this joint anyway, maybe I'm gonna change the sign to Mags F. P.I on the front when you're not looking.
"Well, business has been slow, what do you want me to do about it"
"Advertise! put yourself out there, do something!'
"Isn't that what I'm paying you for?"
"Well maybe I will get to that after organizing all of your files and keeping this place clean after you decide to trash it."
"You're useless, I should just fire you."
"You would go bankrupt."
Mags said as she was walking away with a disorganized mess of papers. She was right, Van thought, he was notoriously bad with money and keeping track of it, she was the one that kept his books. To the untrained ear this display of harsh words would make it seem like those two hated each other.
As he walks in through the double glass doors to his office, something else he insisted on having because it "made it seem more professional", he notices the "client" who was a smoking hot thirty-something wearing an almost skin tight red dress. Not the kind that a stripper would wear though, this one was classy and expensive looking and didn't show off too much skin except it was somewhat short so it showed off some leg but even most of that was covered up by the long coat she wore.
Van didn't say anything and found himself getting lost in an old memory.
"Yeah, thats me sorry, its been somewhat of a rough day so far, I apologize about the wait I was caught up with something. "
"I heard you talking with your secretary, did I intrude on a lovers quarrel? I could come back later."
"Me and her?
He chuckled heartily.
"God no, she's barely 21! Shes just a mouthy employee, something of a charity case, Either way mis.."
"Rachael, Rachael Valentine"
She extends her hand very professionally. Van meets it with his and notices a strong grip for such a small frame. She couldn't have been more than five-six or five-seven.
"Ok miss Valentine, now that we're properly acquainted, what can I do for you?"
Calling her miss was Vans slick way to see if she correct him and say Mrs.
She didn't, so she was either a flirtatious housewife or she was single either way, he liked it. She seemed to be the more honest type, despite the tight dress she seemed to wear it with class and a hint of self consciousness. Not that a lot of people would notice the self conscious bit but Van prided himself on reading people well.
"Well, I found your add in the yellow pages and I have been worried about my father recently. He has been missing for about a few weeks now, he was supposed to be on vacation in Santa Cruz but I have not been able to get hold of him and he checked out of his hotel a week ago."
"I'm going to assume he is not at home?"
"No, I checked his house, I have the spare key. It doesn't look like anyone has been there for weeks."
"Has he been known to disappear like this before?"
"Unfortunately yes, he is still quite impulsive for his age and he does go off without telling anyone first. He does however always call me after he leaves and lets me know where he is. He knows I worry about him and that he isn't a young man anymore. The other thing that worries me is that I called the resort he was staying at and they found his cellphone in his suite."
This struck Van as strange as he thinks of his father and how much he always forgets his cellphone everywhere.
"Is it uncharacteristic of him to do that?"
Asked Van with a secret hint of sarcasm.
Rachael said with a louder tone.
"Hes like a teenager, that I-Phone is practically glued to his pocket, he keeps better track of it than his own children!"
Said Van, thinking that the old coot probably just left it there and ran off somewhere with some young gold-digger after his money. Which he assumed is how Rachael got the expensive looking dress she was wearing, daddy's money. Must be some designer crap that he doesn't know much about but he has seen similar dresses in stores on the boardwalk for thousands of dollars.
The same piercing sound that Van awoke to this afternoon broke the conversation.
"Sorry I have to take this."
"Hey, you need to come down to the station right now, I have something I need you to look at."
The voice belonged to Coleman Briggs, a personal friend Van had in the LAPD. He was someone Van had known since grade school and they sometimes had to butt heads in their professions. However they managed to remain fairly close.
"Can it wait, I am kinda busy."
Cole said sternly, Van recognized this tone, he didn't have to ask any more questions he just had to say yes or no.
Van said as he hung up, he had the habit of ending phone calls without a formal goodbye but Cole was used to that.
"Rachael I apologize something has come up, may I take your card so that I could contact you tomorrow and we can go over more details about your case. Maybe even take a look around your fathers place?"
This was another one of Vans ways of cleverly getting information about people, he was testing to see if she was a person who carried a business card, this spoke a lot about peoples character.
"I don't have a card but I can give you my cell phone number, so does that mean you will take my case?
She didn't have a card, he liked that.
"I wondered if you would catch the subtlety of that yes."
"Great! Thank you so much for your time, please call me as soon as you can."
"Of course, let me walk you outside I am in a bit of a hurry."
They walk out of the double doors together.
"Hey where are you going boss!"
"Errand to run, keep doing what you're doing, I will be back soon"
"Ok slacker, looks like I'm holding down the fort again."
"Try not to burn the building down, I don't have insurance"
Van says with a grimace.
Mags shoots Van a look that just says "fuck off".
Van walks Rachael to her car, which is a newer model Audi, classy, Van thinks although he doesn't know the model.
They exchange goodbyes her eyes don't leave his for a while. He can't decide if it was attraction or whether this was just how she was. This one was hard to read, he thought to himself.
"I hate those kind."
He mumbled as he closed his car door and headed toward the station.