Before I share with you Ethan's 5th case log, I should tell you about a friend of mine who directly inspired this story. This case is a collaboration, of sorts, with my buddy. He wrote a short story which featured my character Ethan McCormick. When you're finished reading this case log, head over to his Facebook page here and read his short story Rub-A-Dub-Dub.
The bizarre facts of this case are disturbing. If you're offended easily, I suggest skipping this post. Had I known it would have been unsolved and horrifyingly gruesome, I would have turned it down immediately. Unfortunately, I did not turn it down. So here, I present to you my case.
After the missing child case, I've seen an increase in my business. I guess word travels fast. One woman in particular came to my door and explained how her husband vanished, seemingly into thin air. As I always do with these cases, I advised her to seek the help of the Miami Police Department but she said they had already dropped the case.
"They claim he ran off with some woman at his office." She told me.
"It's often the case with these matters."
"My husband didn't run off with some slut. We had a good marriage."
"I've seen it many times before. One spouse is unhappy but the other is completely unaware. I'm sorry to say, but the police are most likely right in this case. It's hard to hear-"
"Mr. McCormick, something is seriously wrong. I need your help."
I agreed to help her but I kept my assumptions. Loved ones never want to believe they weren't considered loved ones anymore. Sometimes the truth is hard to hear. Regardless of my feelings, I began investigating the facts.
Cory, the missing husband, was last seen at work. I checked at his office and did learn one vital clue. A woman named Pam had stopped coming to work the day after Cory disappeared. I figured the police had already looked into her as a suspect during their investigation and had probably come to the same conclusion I already had. Cory ran off with Pam.
Next, I tried to find this Pam woman. But that's where things began to get strange. Pam couldn't have been her real name as I found nothing about her. The social security number and driver's license number her employer had on file were both fake. The address on her license led me to an empty home for sale. I checked with the owner of the property but she was clean.
After hitting what seemed like a dead end, I turned to social media. Maybe Pam was using a fake name and identity but if she had contacted Cory on social media, I'd have some sort of trail. Unfortunately, there was nothing on his page from anyone out of the ordinary. Certainly no one named Pam on his friends list.
A whole week went by without any leads. I apologized to Cory's wife and explained it might be a case I would not be able to solve. But before I could give up, I decided to try one last thing. I checked Cory's phone records. All of the numbers he had been in contact with were explainable, wife, mother, job, etc. But there was one that didn't check out.
He had received the call during work hours on the last day before his disappearance. The call was extremely short, only about ten seconds long. Whatever Cory was talking about with this mystery caller couldn't have been much. I wondered if the police had found this clue or if they had even bothered to check his phone records.
When I looked up the number, I learned why the police didn't bother with the lead. It was a burner phone. No way to track down who it belonged to. But I wasn't finished there. Instead, I headed down to the police station and sat down with my new friend Detective Winchester.
"Can you trace a phone number for me?" I asked him.
"Normally I'd say no, but with your help on the Wilson case, I'm in. What's the number?"
I handed him the phone number and told him when the call was received by Cory's phone. Winchester was then able to trace the signal to the nearest cell tower and gave me an approximate location to check. Unfortunately, that was the best he could do.
"Wait," I stopped. "What about the GPS?"
"It's a pay as you go phone. People leave those features off. Kind of the point of a burner, you know?"
"Can we try it?"
"If you want to waste the time, sure."
I watched him run a GPS location trace and his jaw fell open. It seemed as if the GPS was switched on during the time of the phone call.
"This makes no sense," Winchester explained. "Why use a burner if you're going to use the GPS function?"
"Maybe they wanted to be found. Thanks Winchester, I'll call you if I need anything else."
With that, I left his office and headed off down the road. I had to keep myself from calling Cory's wife and informing her of my new lead. I didn't want to get her hopes up. Instead, I drove towards the location Winchester had given me.
Luckily, it was a home in the suburbs. Easy enough to find. I knocked several times and called out for Cory to no avail. Slipping my lock pick from my right shoe, I let myself in. A nauseating smell hit me in the face like a brick and I nearly doubled over. I had smelled rotting flesh before but somehow this was worse.
Covering my face with my arm, I proceeded down the hallway. The smell grew in intensity and I held back bile in my throat. When I reached the bathroom, I knew I had found the source. Pulling back the shower curtain, I could no longer hold down my lunch.
Sticking out of a blood filled bathtub, which looked more like sludge, were human appendages. A few arms and legs from different people. The smell was nearly toxic. My eyes burned. Coughing, I left the house and dialed Detective Winchester.
The crime scene investigation unit cleaned up the mess and bagged anything that could be considered a clue. Unfortunately, there wasn't a single piece of usable evidence. They found no finger prints, no fibers, nothing. They were, however, able to identify one of the bodies in the tub as Cory. It was my sad duty to share this depressing news with his widow.
For now, this case remains open. I have no clue who committed the murders or why. My instincts tell me the mystery woman known only as Pam has something to do with it. I'll update my findings if the case ever makes any motion.
It wasn't too long ago I was contacted by a man named Sam. He came to me with tears in his eyes. Sam had started to suspect, as a lot of the clients I deal with do, that his wife was having an affair. Naturally, I took the case.
Gathering up whatever useful information about the man's wife I could, like her schedule, I waited for night to fall. That night Sam was leaving for the weekend on business and he suspected she would have her boyfriend over. At first, I parked my car down the street and watched the house. Minutes turned to hours before anything really happened.
I watched as the next door neighbor walked out of his front door and straight to Sam's. One knock and Sam's wife, let's call her Daisy, answered the door. From my angle, I could see she was wearing a robe and probably nothing else. Before I could snap a picture, she had pulled him inside.
It was obvious Daisy was having an affair now, but my problem was the proof. Walking up to the window would be too suspicious and I didn't see any good vantage points from the street. I had to get that shot.
Exiting my car with camera in hand, I walked down the street. Desperately, I wanted to find any sort of spot to snap a photo or two and run. There had to be something. On the second story a light switched on. I could only assume it was the bedroom. There would be no chances after this.
Looking behind me, I noticed the house directly across the street was for sale. I hoped it would provide a better vantage point. First I tried the front door but found it locked. Craning my neck all around, I was satisfied I was alone. Fishing my lock pick from my right shoe, I went to work on the knob. Within a minute I was in.
**I suppose I should make a quick statement here, for legality reasons. I did not trespass on private property nor do I admit to breaking into any building or home in the Miami area. Some parts of this story may or may not be fictionalized.**
That should do it. Carrying on, I went upstairs and found the bedroom facing the street. Staring at the bedroom window across the street, I noticed the curtains were open enough to see in. However, the bed was off to the left and not visible from the window.
Luckily, for my client, I did not give up there. Using my camera, I zoomed in on the bedroom window and noticed something glimmer along the far wall. Through my viewfinder, I saw a mirror with two nude bodies twisting and turning on the bed. Snapping a few pictures, I had clear proof his wife was having an affair, with the neighbor no less.
A couple days later, I decided to meet Sam at a local diner early in the morning. He was there before me and looked utterly distraught. Making that long walk from the door to the table, with the manila envelope in my hand, was heartbreaking. I didn't want to give this man the bad news, but that's my job. He took it about as well as you'd expect. Tears ran down his face in the middle of the diner. I looked around to make sure his scene wasn't attracting attention. When he calmed down, he pulled a wad of money from his pocket and stuffed it in my hands. I said something I hoped would make him feel better, knowing it wouldn't, and headed out of the diner and on with my day. I think I'm getting better at the bad news.
I think this may have been my favorite case so far, though I've only had a few. It was evening when my smart phone buzzed to life on the end table next to me. I was watching a television show while I scooped popcorn from a bowl. Wiping my fingers on my jeans, I snatched up the phone to read the text message.
Mr. McCormick, I was hoping to hire your services for a very important and personal matter. It's in regards to my son whom I haven't seen in years. I was hoping you could help me find him.
I quickly responded, saying I would be happy to meet up. We agreed on a coffee shop downtown first thing the next morning. When I arrived the following morning, I wasn't sure what to expect. It occurred to me then that I had failed to ask the person's name. Now I would have no idea who I was waiting for. It was a bit sloppy, but what can I say. I'm still figuring this detective business out.
It didn't matter, however, as the client ended up meeting me instead. He was a large man with a full head of hear and a gleam in his bright blue eyes. He looked older than he actually was, his skin beginning to tighten and wrinkle like old leather. He licked his lips nervously and approached.
"Mr. McCormick?" He asked, proffering his hand.
"Please, call me Ethan." I replied, taking it.
We sat down at the table and ignored the other patrons as we got down to business. "My name's Carl." He said. "Like I told you on the phone, I haven't seen my son in about ten years. I wanted your help to track him down."
Pulling out my notebook, I said, "I'll do what I can. Tell me everything."
"Sure. I was married to a wonderful woman, beautiful and bright. She was the light of my life. We had a young son together and had a wonderful life watching him grow. When he was about eleven years old, things got a little rough for me. I had lost my job, my parents died, and a host of other problems struck almost at once. I didn't cope well. I started to drink.
I started to drink so much that it got in the way of my relationship with Stacy. Which, of course, put a strain on my relationship with my son. Anyway, things got worse as I spiraled downwards. Stacy tried to get my friends together for an intervention but I stormed out in anger. Eventually, I become unbearable. We fought, sometimes in front of Blake, I'm ashamed to admit. To keep a long story short, things got a little violent one night and Stacy took Blake out of our home and I never saw them again."
He sighed and sat back in his chair. I continued to write notes in my notebook as he did.
"I think she moved out of state and I was served divorce papers soon after. At the time, I blamed her. I refused to sign. I got angry. I drank more. And I lost even more. My house, the job I was barely holding on to as it was, all of my friends. It was a living nightmare. As the years went by, I started to clean up my act. I went to an AA meeting and haven't looked back since. I wanted to prove to Stacy I was worthy of seeing my son again. I couldn't bear being away from him for one more minute.
Then the unthinkable happened. Stacy was killed in a car accident. Blake was all alone. Of course, he was an adult by this time and I think he moved away. He didn't know where his father was and he probably didn't want to see me. I reached out to family members, but never learned where he was. Now, I just want to find him. I want to show him I've cleaned up and I want to make amends. It'll be his choice. If he never wants to see me again, I'll understand."
The man's story was a sad one. I had to give it to the man. Most people wouldn't have owned up in that situation but he had. He was doing whatever he could to rekindle his relationship with his son. I agreed and went about my work, looking for his son.
The hunt for Blake was not an exciting one. I spent most of the time on phone calls, checking with local records or family members of Blake. I had to lie a couple times to get the information I needed. Finally, I got an address. It turned out, Blake had moved to Miami only a few months prior. I'd like to think he was there looking for his father.
In the end, I was able to arrange a meeting and the two men sat down together. I haven't checked in with Carl, but I'd like to think they worked things out. After all, the last thing I saw after I left the two together was the warm and welcoming embrace Blake gave his dad.
People never cease to amaze me...
A few days after working my first official case, I was contacted by a rather frantic woman. She claimed her husband was having an affair. I told her I could help with that and agreed to meet her right away. We discussed the case and she gave me all of the details. Her husband, Rick, had been spending a lot of late nights away. He would claim he was at the bar with friends but she did not believe him.
One night, while going through the laundry, she found a pair of red panties that did not belong to her. Her heart sank, utterly crushed. There was no more denying it. Rick was having an affair. Naturally, Jenny confronted him about it. Instead of owning up to it, he lied once again. He said he had no idea what they were and insisted they must have been an older pair of hers she forgot about. "They aren't even my size, Rick." she told him. In fact, they were bigger than her size. Jenny had never been a bigger woman, they could not possibly be hers.
The suspicion drove her mad. She knew Rick was lying about the affair but couldn't prove it. That's where I came in. She wanted me to snap a photo of Rick committing adultery so she could finally confront him about it. Jenny said they might see a marriage counselor and try and put the broken pieces back together.
I accepted, of course, and went about my routine. With my camera and other items, I went about tailing him one Friday night. He did, in fact, go to the bar and hang out with some friends. I started to wonder if he was telling the truth after all, though it didn't explain the underwear.
Around nine at night, he climbed in his car and drove off down the road. This is where I would catch him. I picked up my cell phone and called Jenny. "He's leaving the bar right now. Give him a call and see what he tells you." She did. He said he was still at the bar with his friends. Now I knew something was up.
Rick pulled up to a club that I didn't recognize and gathered up what looked like a duffel bag. A few minutes later, he walked inside the club. After a few minutes, I realized I had to go inside. Unfortunately, I would have to ditch my camera and rely on my smart phone. No big deal. It would get the job done.
I walked up to the front door and started to notice something peculiar. There was a major shortage of women walking in and out of the club. Shrugging, I stepped inside. Then it hit me like a semi-truck. I was stepping foot in a gay bar. Maybe he was having an affair after all, but with a man? I pushed further into the club, looking for Rick.
I approached the bar and ordered a drink. The bartender politely mixed the drink and slapped it down in front of me. Taking a sip, I pulled out my phone and showed him a photo of Rick. "I'm looking for this guy. His name is Rick. You wouldn't happen to have seen him, would you?" I realized I was acting too much like a cop but it didn't matter. The man's eyes lit up, then he smiled.
"Yes and no," he said. "He doesn't go by Rick here, though."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
Again, he smiled and pointed over towards the main stage. Taking my drink, I wandered over. A crowd of people gathered around the stage as if waiting for a show. The lights dimmed and a fog filled the stage. People cheered and hollered. I scanned as many faces as I could but didn't see Rick, or whatever alias he went by in the club.
"Please welcome to the stage," an announcer called. "Lady Lori!"
The crowd went wild. I stared at the curtain as a man dressed in drag emerged. It was Rick. I recognized him right away. He wore a red lingerie outfit with a long, flowing white wrap. He danced around the stage and put on quite a show. I snapped a picture with my phone and slowly made my way out of the club. I wasn't sure if Jenny would be relieved or angry to learn he dressed in drag and performed for men. At least he wasn't having an affair.
I waited with her until Rick got home. He stepped inside and saw me. Hesitating for a moment, he looked upset. "Jenny, who is this man?" He almost seemed jealous and hurt.
"He's a private detective I hired to follow you. After I found the underwear, I couldn't get passed it. Why didn't you just come clean about it? Why did you make me do this?"
"Honey, I don't know what this man has been telling you, but he's lying. I'm not having an affair."
"Oh, I know, Lady Lori." She held up her phone with a picture of him mid-dance, half naked in bright red lingerie.
He seemed taken aback by this and hung his head in shame. She had learned his "terrible" secret and he was surely afraid she would leave him for it. I remained silent and watched it all unfold. "I admit it. The panties you found were mine. I dress in drag and go to the G-bar downtown. It makes me feel special. I don't know. I'm not gay, though. And I'm not having an affair!"
Tears welled in her eyes and she ran to him. She threw her arms around his neck and planted a kiss on his lips. "I don't care. As long as you're not having an affair. If this is who you really are, I want to be there with you. I want to support you."
Now, he looked shocked. Not a lot of women would have understood. I wasn't completely sure if I did. But I was glad she accepted him for who he was. Saying my good-byes, I walked out into the night and headed home. It seemed the cases I had taken so far were never as they appeared at first.
*Foreword* Ethan McCormick is a special character for me. He's one I've been developing over many years. He started as an English project in High School and over time became one of my main characters as a writer. If you haven't met him yet, he's an ex-Miami Police Officer turned private detective. I thought it would be neat to start a series of blog posts which outline some of the cases he works on between novels.This will be the only time I issue a foreword for "his" blog posts from here on out. I hope you enjoy these mini stories. If you like them, let me know in the comments below or on my social media pages. If you haven't read Ethan's adventure yet, you can pick up To the Wolves and learn what pushes him to become a private detective. His new adventure will be out later this year! Without further delay, here is Ethan McCormick's case logs.
It's been a few months since I left the police department for certain reasons. If you've watched the news lately, you'll know why. If you haven't, go ahead and look it up. I won't outline it here. I'm starting this blog to keep a public record of the cases I take. Names will be changed in order to protect everyone's identity.
I received my first real case only a few days ago. It was a fairly straight forward one. I was contacted by the manager of a local restaurant. One of his employees had filed for worker's compensation. He wasn't so sure the claim was legit. Since he can't straight out call him a liar, he did the next best thing. He hired a private detective to prove he's faking. This was my first case since leaving the department, mind you. I've still got a lot to learn.
The first night, I set up shop outside the man's home. I had my camera, my thermos of coffee, and a pair of binoculars. Watching him practically all night, I fought off the urge to sleep. I guess I had seen too many movies because night was the worst decision ever. I needed to try and catch him out in the middle of the day, walking on two legs instead of one in a cast and on crutches.
So, the next day, I grabbed my camera and drove to his neighborhood. Parking a few houses down, I got out and went for a walk. After a few passes by his home, he finally came out to get the mail. He hobbled on one leg, fighting with the crutches. I immediately believed he was actually injured. The way he struggled with the crutches seemed realistic.
I took a few snapshots from down the street and set off towards my car. I stopped in my tracks when another vehicle pulled up in front of his house. It was a bright red Mustang with a convertible roof. Out climbed a stunning woman in a skin tight, black dress. I don't know what compelled me to stay, but I ended up snapping a couple photos of the two of them sharing a passionate kiss in the front yard. After, she helped him inside.
Shrugging off the encounter, I made it back to my own car and tossed the camera inside. From there, I drove straight to the restaurant with the evidence that his employee was telling the truth. Frank, the manager, was actually relieved. He liked his employee, Daniel. "He's a good kid," he said. "But I heard rumors he wasn't actually hurt. Gotta look into it, you know."
The most interesting thing happened when I decided, for reasons unknown, to share the last photo of the kid I had taken. "Yeah, he seems nice and he's got a hell of a girlfriend," I told him as I passed him the camera. I have never seen a human being turn the shade of red Frank did. His face was the same color as a firetruck. I thought he was going to literally explode.
Just as I was about to ask what was wrong, he yelled, "That's my wife. That little bastard!" Daniel had met Frank's wife at the restaurant one afternoon and bought her a drink. Frank was in the back doing paperwork and the two flirted lightly. One thing led to another, and Daniel started to sleep with Frank's wife. I guess it went on for quite some time. Worse, he really was faking the leg injury for the worker's comp money. It turned out, he and Jessica were planning a trip together and planned to "make Frank pay for it." It gave them more time to fool around while he was out of work for his "injury."
Needless to say, it was a funny one. It seemed open and shut and yet there were layers to it that I could not have fathomed. It never ceases to amaze me what some people will do. But, without those type of people I would be out of a job. So I guess, thank you Daniel and Jessica, in a sort of messed up way.
Evan Bond, author of To the Wolves and Death Can Wait, is a thriller/suspense author. When not writing, he can be found hiking or camping in the beautiful state of Florida.