Friday, October 16, 2009

Female Christian P.I.

Editor’s Note: Several days ago, Rachelle Gardner tweeted that she’s looking for complete manuscripts suitable for Christian fiction having a female P.I. I don’t have one and by the time I could create one, I’m sure she will have moved on to something else, but I couldn’t help but wonder what my version of such a story might look like. For today’s post, here are the first three pages.

It wasn’t a big storm—some dark clouds, a little rain and one lightning strike. That one lightning bolt killed my father. He was sitting in his office, working at the computer, when it happened. That left me to clean up the mess.

I asked my mother to help, but she washed her hands of my father after the divorce. I never understood why. Mom raised me. Dad raised my brother. The girl with Mom and the boy with Dad, I suppose, but it should have been the other way. I wanted to be like Dad and my brother—well, I don’t even know what happened to my bother. He got married and moved off somewhere. He’ll show up someday.

Other than the burned out computer, his office looked normal when I opened the door. I hadn’t seen him for several weeks, but it looked exactly like I remembered it. He always had papers covering his desk. He had a file cabinet, but he had filled it up a long time ago and rather than purchase another, he stacked folders on a table that sat off against one wall. There were stacks and stacks of folders as well as piles of papers without folders. I could never understand his system, but he always knew how to find the information he needed. A client would call. Dad would walk over to the table, pull a folder from the middle of a stack and got back to the phone to talk about the case. To me, it looked like a jumbled mess and it pained me as I realized I would have sort through this mess. I stood there in the center of the room, looking at it. It wasn’t just the stuff on the desk and on the table, but there was stuff under the table and on the floor near the desk and folders on the chairs. I don’t know how long I just stood there.

I heard the front door open. I looked out where the receptionist’s desk sat and saw a man a few years older than me. I guessed him to be twenty-eight or twenty-nine. He wore khakis and a polo shirt with a brass name tag, like he worked at one of the stores in the area. He ignored the empty receptionist’s desk can came through the door to Dad’s office. Dad had never had a receptionist. The desk was just a feature of the office suite when Dad rented it.

“Are you the owner?” the man asked.

“No,” I said, “This is my Dad’s office.”

“I know,” the man said. “I knew your Dad pretty well. He was one of my customers. I own that computer repair shop down there.” He pointed and as he did, he walked toward the window.

I walked over to the window and looked to were he pointed. On the other side of the parking lot I could see a business nestled between an Italian restaurant and a bicycle store. The sign read “Bill’s Computer Sales and Repair.”

“Are you Bill?” I asked.

“That’s me,” he said. “I’m really sorry about your Dad. I know he was looking forward to you coming to work with him.”

“I never told him I was going to,” I said.

“I must have been mistaken. I thought you might be taking over the business.” Bill said. He looked out the window for a moment and then turned around. “I was the one who called the paramedics. I’ve never seen lightning strike the side of a building like that. I guess when it’s our time it’s just our time.”

I sat down in Dad’s chair and looked at his computer. The plastic around the monitor was black and melted. “Can you fix this?”

Bill looked at it. “The monitor’s shot, but I won’t know about the rest of it until I open it up. I can take it back to the shop and we’ll see what we can do, if that’s what you want. I’ll give you a reasonable price.”

He headed off in the direction of the elevator, so he could get a cart from his store. He must have met someone getting off the elevator, because he hadn’t been gone long when one of Dad’s clients came into the office. She was the kind of woman you knew had money. It wasn’t just the way she dressed, but the way she carried herself.

“I’m here to pick up those pictures he promised me.”

How was I supposed to find anything? I didn’t even know for sure that she had been his client.