This week we visit “The Right Idea” – Detective Jimmy Delaney story #3.
I wrote “In a Flash” as a standalone short story, and thought that was it – but then Jimmy said “Hey, what about this other case, and “Mixed Signals” came to be. But once I let Jimmy in he wouldn’t go away.
Subliminals came into my mind (pun intended) while wondering how on earth a majority of the electorate could be conditioned to not see what they were really voting for. And when mind control came in, so did Jimmy with “The Right Idea.”
Here’s the Blurb
When Jimmy left the force and started his “Delaney’s Investigation Company”, he expected to be living the life of Riley. A few months later, and the dust still hasn’t had time to settle from the Preiss and Simms murders, but Jimmy’s ongoing divorce has swallowed his imagined riches. What would Jimmy do without the city’s thriving blackmail industry? That may go away, as candidate Mathews is promising to clean up Barnstow; but Jimmy isn’t sure Mathews has the right idea. Read “The Right Idea” and see if you agree.
“The Right Idea” is a detective story with sci-fi elements, and follows “In a Flash” and “Mixed Signals” as the third Jimmy Delaney story, and is also available in “Broken Down: Detective Jimmy Delaney Collection #1.”
And Here’s This Week’s Excerpt
Jimmy waited in his corner office for the scumbag who threatened his client. The blackmailer was clumsy – everything that had happened on this case so far told Jimmy he was dealing with an amateur. Good thing – he needed this to go well, needed a good payday at the end of it all.
“You want another beer, Jimmy?”
He looked up at the imposing figure of Pete Kaczmarek, owner of the bar that he had been officing in for the last three months. Jimmy shook his head, and then pointed at the miniature sandwich board on the table that read: D.I.C.
“Oh – sorry, Jimmy; didn’t see the door was closed,” Pete said, without a hint of sarcasm as he turned and walked back behind the bar.
Pete’s a good guy, Jimmy thought. He had been bending over backwards to help Jimmy, wiping out his bar tab, letting him run his fledgling Delaney’s Investigation Company out of Kaczmarek’s. Of course, part of the reason that Pete was being so helpful was his guilt over what his cousin Max had done; Jimmy had told him to forget about it – it wasn’t Pete’s fault that Max had framed Jimmy, let alone shot and tried to kill him. He didn’t like feeling guilty about Pete feeling guilty about it, but at the same time he was grateful for how Pete was defraying his expenses. Now if only that blackmailer would show up, he could…
A smallish man in a suit walked into the bar, spotted Jimmy, and pointed at him as he walked over to the table.
“I thought I would find you here,” Martin Stein said as he slid into the booth alongside Jimmy. “I have some papers for you to sign.”
“Hey, can’t you see I’m working here?” Jimmy said, tapping his D.I.C. sign.
Martin raised his eyebrows as he glanced around the empty booth.
“You could have fooled me,” he said. “Jimmy, you can’t keep dodging the divorce – you’re sabotaging my ability to protect your income.”
“Can’t it wait?”
“Not if you ever want to move up, and out of this booth.”
Jimmy knew he was being foolish not signing the papers; Jill was done with him, but as much as he had screwed up their marriage, it was hard for him to put pen to paper and make it final. As a result, Jill’s lawyers at Bailey, Jeters, & Marston had secured liens against Jimmy’s recent earnings; he was receiving no benefit, neither from the settlement with the city of Barnstow over his wrongful dismissal, nor from the insurance finder’s fee for proving Roger Danford had murdered the Barnstow Bulls’ star quarterback. Jill had even filed a claim on the reward money from the Sisters of Solace; ironic that B, J, & M could take the hooker guild’s money with one hand while they beat Jimmy up with the other for his totally platonic involvement with the Sisters.
“The sooner you sign these papers, the sooner you can dig yourself out of the hole and get on with your life,” Stein said.
A nervous-looking, pimple-faced teen with a laptop bag slung over his shoulder came in, glanced in Jimmy’s direction, then took a seat at the bar, doing a poor job of seeming uninterested.
My blackmailer, Jimmy thought. Finally.
“Okay, let’s get on with this,” he told Stein. “Show me where.”
Jimmy kept half an eye on the kid at the bar as he traded papers with Stein and signed and initialed all the spots that his lawyer indicated. The kid wasn’t going anywhere; a more seasoned professional would have walked out as soon as he’d seen that Jimmy wasn’t alone, but this one was too eager to get paid. He was also too tight to buy a drink – just sat there looking out of place. This should work in Jimmy’s favor.
“There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” Stein said as he put the papers back in his briefcase and stood, “I’ll go email these to B, J, & M now.”
As soon as Stein left, the kid stood up from the bar and approached the booth.
“Who do you think?” Jimmy asked, tapping his sign, but the kid ignored it.
“I recognized you from NewsTube,” he said as he sat across the table from Jimmy.
Jimmy needed to overcome his notoriety if he was ever going to succeed in the private detective business. Most clients wanted a degree of anonymity in their dealings, and he had become so high profile between the Yon scandal, the Simms and Preis murders, and his suit against the City of Barnstow, that his name was enough to drive off a good portion of potential clients. It also caused difficulties when tailing people – not quite as bad as being one of those reality TV personalities, but close. Sometimes he felt like he might as well have a camera crew in tow; if he wasn’t so sick of his pseudo-celebrity he’d consider shifting to the entertainment racket.
“Well, I don’t recognize you,” he said to the kid. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Steh…,” the kid began, but then realized what he was doing. “You can call me Web.”
“Short for Webster or just a nickname?” Jimmy asked, but although Web flinched, he didn’t take the bait this time. Inexperienced, but teachable.
“So, what do you have for me, Web?”
“Have a look,” Web said.
He pulled the laptop from his bag, set it on the table and took it out of sleep mode, but as he tried to turn it around to where Jimmy could see it, an attractive woman in a blue blazer and skirt entered Kaczmarek’s carrying a small cardboard box. She waved to Jimmy as the suit accompanying her walked over to the bar.
“Hey, partner,” said Allison March as she came to the booth.
Web had to pull his fingers back to keep from getting pinched as Jimmy popped the laptop closed.
“Hey, Al,” he said, then pointed at the suit at the bar. “Did you have to bring Simpleton along?”
“Singleton’s a good guy, Jimmy,” Al said. “I wish you’d stop calling him that.”
“Alright, Al, but just for you; he is your partner, after all.”
“He’s not my partner anymore – they moved him back to Vice.”
“I didn’t think he was up to Homicide.”
“Mark handled Homicide just fine, but it’s against department policy for two detectives in the same section to date.”
“What? You and Simpl…,” Jimmy stopped himself as Al scowled. “You and Singleton?”
“Yes, me and Mark. I’m just dropping off some stuff you left behind at the department,” she said, setting the box on the seat next to him. “Do give me a call, sometime, though, so we can catch up.”
His eyes followed her as she walked to the door and left, with Singleton right behind her. Jimmy had been avoiding his former police partner since all the mess with the department, and he felt especially awkward with what Diana Lang had pulled with him, on video, but with his marriage to Jill all but officially over, he’d thought he might…, well, it looked like he’d waited too long.
“Could we get back to business here?” Web asked.
“Sure – go for it.”
Web woke the laptop again and pushed it over to Jimmy.
“Just press enter to see the show.”
Jimmy watched the video – fairly good quality, definitely aerial, but enough detail to be sure that it was Mrs. Lewis in the alley, very actively involved with someone who obviously wasn’t Mr. Lewis. She wouldn’t want this to go public.
“That’s decent video,” said the balding black man who had walked up to the table while Jimmy was focused on the laptop. He shifted the old camera bag he wore over his shoulder as he turned to Web. “Did you shoot that from a drone?”
“Well, yeah,” said Web, looking annoyed.
“An S3 Hummingbird,” Web answered.
“So – you’re a club member, are you?” the black man asked.
“Hey – who invited you?” Jimmy asked, closing the laptop.
“I figured it was almost time for our appointment, so you wouldn’t mind.”
“Well, I do mind, Marco,” Jimmy said.
“Marco’s an Italian name,” Web said. “You don’t look Italian.”
“On my mother’s side,” Marco said.
“Give us some space, Marco, would you?” Jimmy said.
“Somebody’s touchy,” Marco said, but he went two booths over, sat down and busied himself with his cell phone.
“Sorry about the interruptions,” Jimmy said.
“I don’t know how you ever get anything done like this,” Web said. “Don’t you have somewhere more private…?”
“No,” Jimmy said. “So, you want twenty-five thousand for the video? That seems like a lot of money.”
“I’m sure it is to you, but it would cost Mrs. Lewis a lot more if her husband finds out.”
“True, but how can she be sure he won’t see it even if she pays up?”
“She gets the laptop – it streamed direct to there from the drone,” Web said. “That’s the only place the video lives.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” Marco said. He’d come back from his table, cell phone in hand.
“Could it wait, Marco?” Jimmy said. “I’m trying to finish up here.”
“I think you need to see this first,” Marco said.
He set his cell on the table between Jimmy and Web so they could both watch the ‘Mrs. Lewis and friend’ video that was playing there. Web looked stunned.
“How did you get that?” he asked.
“How do you think your club makes their money?” Marco said. “They tell you you’re streaming independent of the web, but they get copies of everything, and if they think it’ll get them enough traffic, well…”
“But how did you…?” Web asked.
“They ought to outlaw digital cameras; they’re bad for business – can’t trust people who use them,” Marco said, then opened his camera case and pulled out a vintage Konica. “Now, you see this camera? It’s an authentic MR70, old-style, uses 35mm film. No digital crap, no bits flying unsupervised onto the World Wide Web. You give me money for the pics I take with this, and I can guarantee you nobody else has them! The only way it gets seen is if you don’t pay up: that’s when it just might change into your worst NewsTube nightmare. Think about it.”
“This is very disappointing, Web,” Jimmy said.
“I don’t know what this old man is pulling,” Web said in a panic.
“I’m not pulling…,” Marco began.
“Would you please,” Jimmy said, pointing at Marco’s table.
“Just trying to help,” Marco muttered as he went back to his seat.
“I swear, it’s only on the laptop,” Web said.
“Sorry Web, I’ve got to believe my own eyes,” Jimmy said. “Now I’ll have to figure out how to keep the club from going public. Our deal is off.”
“Even so, it’s still on the laptop,” Web said. That’s got to be worth something.”
“I suppose,” Jimmy said. “Look, I feel bad for you, this being an obvious rookie mistake. Hopefully, I’ll be able to work something out with the club, so I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’ll give you thirty-five hundred for the laptop and the video, as long as you promise me you didn’t keep any copies for yourself.”
“I swear I didn’t,” Web said.
“You better not have, because if you’re lying to me, I’ll find you, and it won’t just be for a refund. Capisce?”
“Oh, come on! I know Delaney isn’t Italian,” he said, but then wilted under Jimmy’s glare to a “Yes, sir.”
Jimmy pulled the fee he had agreed to with Mrs. Lewis out of his jacket and counted out a portion of the bills in his lap, then put the remainder back in his pocket as he handed the folded payment under the table to Web, who slipped it in his pocket as he rose.
“Now get out of here,” Jimmy said. “And don’t forget what I said.'”
Marco walked over and sat across from Jimmy as Web slumped out of Kaczmarek’s. Once Jimmy was sure the kid was gone he pulled five C-notes from his envelope and passed them to Marco. He frowned at the little bit that was left before he shook his head and put it back in his pocket.
“Pretty smooth,” Jimmy said. “How’d you manage it?”
“The kid left his bluetooth on – it was a cinch to hijack the video. Amateur,” he said, glancing at the bills before he pocketed them.
“Well, Mrs. Lewis will be happy we were the only professionals she was dealing with – quite a bit cheaper for her.”
“You have anything else for me?”
“Not yet,” Jimmy said. He stood, folded his D.I.C. sign, and placed it in the box Al had brought him. “I’ll let you know if something comes up.”
He was almost out the door when Pete called from the behind the bar.
“Hey, Jimmy – got a sec?”
“Now I do.”
Jimmy walked over to the bar and took a seat, just in time to catch the beginning of another of Mathews’ annoying campaign ads.
“Not too long ago, gambling and prostitution were illegal in our fair city. Then we were sold a bill of goods about how it was impossible to stamp out activities that have been around for all of human existence. We were told that legalizing immorality would help reduce crime, but look where it’s gotten us. Families breaking up. Our young people corrupted. And the same criminal elements are still running these industries, and they’re flourishing at our expense.
“I’ve seen this all first hand as your Chief Prosecutor. It’s time to end this scourge. I’m Jeb Mathews, and I’m running for mayor.”
“I still can’t believe that control freak is running,” Jimmy said. “I’m going to have to register just to vote against him.”
Jimmy had always thought of Prosecutor Mathews as an annoying hack, and that was before Mathews drove Jimmy off the force over the snafu with the Yon case.
“He has the right idea, though,” Pete said as he prepared a drink.
“I can’t believe you’re saying that,” Jimmy said.
Jimmy will find the repetition of this phrase more and more disturbing, although he will be distracted by murders and other points of interest along the way. “The Right Idea” is available at many online retailers, including, but not limited to:
The story is also available in Broken Down: Detective Jimmy Delaney Collection #1, which is again available at – and still not limited to – the following retailers:
Smashwords (at 67% off using coupon RAE50): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/449196?ref=NoTimeToThink
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William Mangieri’s writing has been published on Daily Science Fiction and The Arcanist. His ninety or so short stories and related collections can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
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