The Manifest

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Chapter 19

     When things didn't make sense, he knew the best way to find out what didn't fit was to keep digging until you found that one piece of information that made everything make complete sense. Mr. Smith knew the answer was just waiting to be found, he just had to do a little digging to find out what it was. To him the current story didn't make sense. Private investigators don't turn on a dime for no reason at all. Jessica Johnson didn't win any lotteries in the last day or two, so what was Edgar Willis' reason for his sudden change of heart? They were confident that a lack of funds would encourage all the PI's to turn her away because they didn't have the manpower or the resources to conduct that kind of search without good financial support. Ms. Johnson still doesn't have that kind of finances, so what changed? Did Edgar do a little research of his own and become sympathetic to her cause? It's very possible and wouldn't be the first time it happened to the program either. Not the kind of PI they want on the case, a believer. Edgar Willis didn't at first seem to be that kind of guy, so if he's not a believer and not a member of the good will, what is driving him to dig into the case and help her out? These were the questions that kept him up at night, and determined to find the answer, Mr. Smith called in a few favors to audit a few accounts and find out what or who might be paying for this adventure. Someone had to be paying for it, and if wasn't Ms. Johnson it had to be someone else because Edgar Willis didn't seem like the kind of guy would eat that kind of bill. His partner was too cheap to let something like that ruin their already fragile financial state. The answer was out there and he was determined to make sure this reason wasn't going to be a serious threat to the program. After waiting hours to hear back from someone who owed him a few favors, the email he had been waiting for finally arrived. Mr. Smith eagerly opened the email and started to scan the details he had asked for, which were delivered without a single question. His contacts knew better to ask, and whenever they were in a bind… he made sure he did whatever was in his power to return the favor. As he was scanning through the numbers on the email, he came across something that just jumped out at him. Like a naked guy in a crowd with his hair on fire, the numbers in the account changed everything. It was the reason he had been looking for, and it was disturbingly large number.

     A number large enough to disturb the boss about as Smith flipped open his cell phone and immediately contacted his boss, "Mr. Carlson, I believe we may have found the reason for Edgar Willis' sudden urge for charity."

     "I'm listening." the voice on the other end said.

     "Less than 48 hours after Ms. Johnson showed up for her second interview, Willis and Tucker's firm got a massive payday from a company called Dryden Suppliers. We're talking high seven figures, very close to becoming eight. This would explain why someone like Edgar Willis would take up a charity case. He and Tuck suddenly have the financial security few PI agencies have to work with."

     "This seems too good to be true." the voice of Mr. Carlson responded, "Should we knock this sudden payment to coincidence? This is rather convenient for Mr. Willis to get enough money to take on Ms. Johnson's case mere days after she first arrives."

     Mr. Smith had the same feeling, "Do you want me to trace this company and try to find out who authorized the payment?"

     "Alright," Carlson approved, "But while the size is massive… PI's have a habit of being paid late by some clients. For all we know this is a back payment for years of work that was never compensated. This kind of payment isn't uncharacteristic for that particular industry, but it does concern me a little." He said with a tone that confirmed his feelings.

     "How so?" Smith asked, somewhat curious.

     "Because this could mean Edgar might have taken the case for personal reasons rather than for money." Carlson paused for a moment, "I want you to search the manifest. Find out if either Mr. Willis or Mr. Tucker has any connections to any of the residents under our care."

     Smith thought that seemed pretty reasonable but it was never something he considered. That's why the old man gets paid the big bucks, "I'll get on it immediately." he paused for a moment himself before finally admitting something, "I had their office bugged so we could find out how involved they are with Ms. Johnson."

     "Isn't that a tad premature?" Carlson said with a somewhat disappointing tone, "When did you have this done?" he asked before Smith had a chance to give an answer for the previous question.

     "Well, after Ms. Johnson left last night after her second visit. I authorized the men watching the building to tap the place. She had been in there for over three hours. The next time she visits I want to know what she's talking about and what they think about it." Smith tried his best to think of what to say next, and word it carefully, "It would be good to know how involved they're going to be in the case and if they present a threat to the program."

     "Well, what's done is done." Carlson said not nitpicking over spit milk, "Just don't do anything else over there without prior authorization."

PJ Lowry

Edited: 07.11.2019

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