A Suitcase and a Fan.

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It’s not much to go on.

No name and no crime to speak of, but Sam had the sinking feeling that usually preceded a particularly messy case.

It started out as a routine ‘find this bloke and tell me where he lives’. Not glamorous, but then again neither was a ham sandwich, and if Sam’s fortunes didn’t change very soon he was going to be eating them on a regular basis, without mustard, and on stale bread to boot.

The ‘bloke’s’ abode was easy enough to find but said ‘bloke’ was long gone, and all that was left was a fan and a mostly empty suitcase. The place had been cleaned to within an inch of its life and Sam wondered why it didn’t fall down now that all the accumulated grime had been scrapped away. Most little houses in this suburb would have fallen over years ago except that the junk stored inside them held them up in one last act of defiance. A final ‘fuck you’ to the urban planning gods who had decided that this particular suburb should no longer be in favour. A hundred years ago maybe, but not now.

The fan was old enough to be almost valuable and the suitcase had once been a very fashionable one.

It’s not easy to trace the former owners of an antique Westinghouse fan, but Sam did it. Sam knew a lot of people and some of them had strange hobbies and for ‘a case of this’, or ‘a bottle of that’, they could be persuaded to part with their knowledge.

The entire history of the fan was asking a bit much, but its recent history revealed itself through a police report of stolen goods from a house in Toorak. The heist took place about two months ago and the perpetrators were well known and both of them were in custody on an unrelated matter, but neither of them could shed much light on the life of the fan after they sold it to a local ‘fence’. The light-fingered gentlemen were more than a bit peeved to find out that both items were ‘collectable’. They had parted with them along with a whole bunch of other stuff that was probably worth a lot more than they got for it. These blokes were not very bright, but they were friendly enough. Sam gave them the name of a good barrister. It was his way of saying thank you. His mentor told him never to underestimate anyone and never to leave a trail of angry or disappointed people in your wake. You never knew when you might need a favour. Your life might depend on some lowlife who has the exact piece of information you need. “Being tough is not the same as being an arsehole”.

Nelly Touraville was a wise and good friend and Sam missed him every day.

Being the good citizen that he was, Sam handed over the fan and the suitcase to the police. They then proceeded to lift fingerprints which linked the bloke that Sam was sent to find to a particularly nasty murder.

The ‘bloke’ in question had called in a firm of cleaners, ‘Maids on the Run’, who specialise in ‘squeaky clean’ makeovers for dubious crime scenes. The missing bloke was a bit forgetful and left the fan and the small suitcase sitting where he had put them during his final preparations to ‘disappear like smoke up a chimney’, as he so eloquently put it to his mates at the pub on the corner.

He knew he was a bit forgetful so he made lists, just like his dad taught him when he was a little tacker. Unfortunately, the list was titled ‘Preparations for moving permanently to Wollongong to escape being caught for the murder of William Fisk.’

It was also unfortunate that this ‘missing bloke’ chose to leave the list with its illuminating title inside the small suitcase, which he forgot to take with him.

Just to add a little icing to the story, the police didn’t know that William Fisk had been murdered. They didn’t think he was even missing. Mrs Fisk had not said a word, but she did manage to cash his unemployment checks.

As with most things in life, this case looked straightforward enough but it ended up with a few twists and a smile. The blokes at the corner pub thought it was typical of their friend and they decided not to attend his trial; unless he pleaded guilty, which would not eat into their drinking time.

Sam eventually got paid, but he had to ask three times because his client didn’t feel as though he got value for money. Sam pointed out that he was hired to find the ‘missing bloke’, which he did, and tell his client where he was, which he did. It wasn’t Sam’s fault if the ‘missing bloke’ was in jail where Sam’s client couldn’t get at him.

His fee kept Sam in Ham sandwiches for many a week, and not long after, business improved enough so that Sam did not have to accept ‘find this bloke’ assignments. But, it did make an interesting chapter in Sam’s second crime novel.

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