San Francisco, 1989: Perhaps it was reading all those mysteries, late night and eyes gritty, and the sounds of the night outside. Maybe the accident of meeting Fay, in that seedy part of town just off the waterfront. Maybe I just worried about getting fat, and thought if I was a Private Eye, I’d be the Thin Man.
Whatever it was, I became a Private Investigator.
For a while.
The business card of The Ashford Agency referred to me as “Dr. Detecto”. Adrienne kept calling me Defecto, but that was just her tough-girl style. The card had a picture of a dragon circling a castle spire beneath the moon, and a story …
“During the middle ages, a monastic order known as the Cistercians became prominant, spreading throughout Europe and the English islands. The Cistercians had an organization which allowed local control of each monastery, but an annual convocation of all abbots that they might remain united in theology and purpose.
“The order was known to be hard-working and honest, stressing simplicity and truth, and they preserved many manuscripts which were already ancient. One such obscure manuscript appears to be an account of a Dragon which lived nearby and spoke with men, although the time of this Dragon was already long past by the time of the Cistercian manuscript, which is circa 1272 A.D. —
“In Ashford Tower upon the plain,
In Time of Auld did Dragon dwell.
In knowledge were He Deep and Fair,
In Visage Dark and Fell.
“The Ashford Agency has chosen this ancient image as a symbol of the eternal search for truth and man’s endless struggle to pierce the veil of illusion, to perceive life as it is, and the ultimate victory of love and hope over the forces of evil.
“The Ashford Agency is licensed by the State of California Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Collections and Investigations.”
Isn’t that just swell?
Alas, my agency and my P.I. career fell quite short of these lofty goals, though I did manage to investigate a traffic accident, serve papers on a couple of guys, wear a disguise, and attempt to tail somebody to their hideout in order to find where they’d hidden the assets. I also got a job to recover funds from some scam boys, but scam boys were way better than me, and remained unfound.
The job did give me a reason to grow a moustache, and to buy a grey surveillance vehicle and a Minolta camera with fancy lenses. The camera turned out to be great for high-speed shots of skateboarders, and for close-ups of the roses in Golden Gate Park in the Spring.
Fay, who helped me set up The Ashford Agency, on the other hand, eventually uncovered an extensive murder ring among a family of gypsies. Honest to gosh, she actually did.
But that’s another story.