Fashion PoliceTerry Adcock
The Fashion Police
“You’ve come to the right place alright,” I said as I sized up the potential client. I noted the well-tailored suit, polished loafers, and Burberry slung over one arm.
So unlike the unkempt cadre of characters who paraded through my door. Nervous Nellies, all of them. Impatient to learn whether their drunken spouses had been unfaithful. Or indignant businessmen, reluctant to confirm the obvious truth, but quite certain they had been embezzled.
Going over past cases in my mind, I had to smile. Even prim little old ladies called round, each insisting upon complete discretion, because they were anxious about (or perhaps hopeful for) peeping Toms lurking outside their bedroom window.
From where I sat, things were definitely looking up.
He said, “I heard you’re the best snooper in town, Mr. Smith. That’s your real name, I take it? Anyway, I need your help.”
It was then I noticed the haunted look around the eyes. The nervous tick at the corner of his mouth. “Argyle Smith, private eye, at your service. But, let’s be honest, Mr. –?”
“Prescott. Frank Prescott, Esquire.”
“If you want my help then let’s start by being honest with each other. You’re here because you probably heard I work cheap,” I said. I held up my hand when Prescott started to protest. “Let’s not quibble. I get the job done, but I do things quick and on the cheap.”
“I need someone I can depend on to be absolutely discreet. In our respective fields, we’re both bound by client confidentiality. Can I rely on you?”
“Of course. I may not run the fanciest outfit in town, but discretion is my middle name. How can I help?”
“I’m being blackmailed.”
I gave a start. What could this dapper-looking lawyer possibly have gotten himself into that was serious enough to warrant blackmail? Several thoughts came to mind that I immediately dismissed. No sense in going down that rabbit hole.
“Can you elaborate?”
“A month ago while playing golf at my club, my car was broken into. Some . . . sensitive items were taken.”
“I take it these ‘items’ were of an embarrassing nature, something you’d rather not have anyone know about?”
“You got it in one.”
“Am I allowed to know the nature of these items?”
“I’d rather not say. It’s really too embarrassing.”
“I’m not one to judge, Mr. Prescott. But it would help to know. Perhaps you were relieved of some compromising photographs?” I said, hoping to elicit a response.
“I wish that was the worst of it, but no.”
Getting information out of Prescott was like chiseling granite; one small chip at a time.
“C’mon, Prescott. Quit fooling around. What about the goods, and who do you think stole them?”
Prescott wiped a hand across his face, then came to a decision. “Okay. But there’s nothing illegal about what I do. It’s just that I’d be humiliated if word got around.”
“Out with it already!”
Prescott hesitated before blurting out all at once, “My new wardrobe was stolen. I had recently acquired . . . a new dress. Also a jacket, some shoes, a new purse, and . . . well, some lingerie.”
A cross-dresser? I’d never have pegged the suave-looking attorney as the type, but then it takes all kinds to make the world go round, as they say. And besides, what people did in the privacy of their own homes was their business. Since I wasn’t in the judgement business, I left that to others.
Personally, I didn’t care. Not my choice of hobbies or whatever. I preferred the old adage ‘live and let live.’
“Now that we’ve finally got that out of the way, you said you’re being blackmailed. How bad?”
“The first letter demanded a hundred grand, else they’d tell everyone I knew. So I paid up.”
“You said the first letter. Have there been others?”
“A week ago the second note arrived demanding another hundred thousand. And today, there was a third. I can’t keep this up. They’re bleeding me dry!” Prescott cried out.
“Take it easy. Who do you think is behind this? Someone at your club? A valet or grounds keeper, someone who inadvertently found out your particular pastime?”
“I don’t think so. It’s got to be someone who knows me personally. They called me names, a pig, a cheat, and a perv. The notes threatened to tell everyone I know from family and friends to my co-workers. My firm would drop me in a minute if this came out.”
“Does your family suspect your secret?”
“I don’t know. I’ve tried to be careful. I keep a condo in town for the times I have to work late. That’s where I stash my ‘personal’ things. Only this time, I was running late for my tee time and didn’t have time to drop off the packages at my place.”
“Anyone else besides you have access to the condo?”
“Okay. I’ll take it from here.” From what he told me, I had a pretty good idea who was behind the blackmail.
I headed over to Prescott’s house. The good-looking babe who answered the door had to be the Missus. I explained who I was and why I was bothering her.
“Those blackmail notes – the specific insults had the ring of a hurt, angry spouse. It was you, wasn’t it?”
The woman didn’t bat an eye; just gave me a steady look while I summed up my suspicions.
“You can call me Darla. You’re a clever man, Mr. Smith. Yes, I found out Frank’s secret. Things haven’t been good between us for a long time, and now it’s time that I moved on.”
She crossed the foyer and opened the door to the hall closet. She pulled out several packages, each featured the logo of a swanky upscale ladies shop.
One by one, she laid out for me the cache of clothes she’d pilfered from her husband’s car. Somewhere along the way, Prescott had developed an eclectic taste in fashion.
“Now I understand. You found out about his preferences and decided to extract a little bonus ahead of the divorce.”
“Don’t shed any tears for him; Frank can well afford it. It’s hard to believe he’s hidden something this significant from me for so long.”
“He wasn’t likely to shout it from the rooftops. Everyone has their secrets. Maybe he just likes pretty things,” I said, not sure why all of a sudden I was defending the guy’s behavior.
Darla said, “What would you do in my place? How can I stay married to a man who’s unsure of his masculinity. And these clothes – ugh!! Take a look at this horrible dress!”
She held it up and then let it drop as if it were some vile, disgusting thing. “My husband is heading for a fall, but I’m getting out before it all hits the fan.”
What could I say? It was only a matter of time before Prescott’s secret got out. Client or no client, I happened to agree with Darla. I mean, Prescott may have had good taste in women’s clothes, but you wouldn’t catch me dead in that outfit. Not with those shoes.
Terry Adcock © 2022
Author Notes: Thanks for reading my story. Any comments or suggestions gratefully accepted.
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