Excerpt from “Cambria Conundrum” by Dave Hovde
Big Peak Press, 2012
He was early, and took a seat in the corner of the bar and began to survey faces for what he was not exactly sure. Someone was watching, he knew it, they had to be, he was too close. There was the French couple in the corner he noticed right away having overheard them speak and noticing the woman when she walked in had on tiny yoga pants for her even more demure derriere which made them sadly baggy, a glace too long and Stongman was certain it would have been burned into his retinas and he would never be able to have sex with a woman again. But she was not carrying a gun, he was certain of that. The husband was dressed too well, it was conspicuous for San Luis Obispo. But the French couple never looked back. It was not them they had sent. It was someone. Farah was late, the waiting was intense.
The case had reached a critical point and the evening meeting with Farah Sanders made his pulse quicken. They had seen each other only 48 hours earlier but had their individual missions to accomplish. Farah had to go back to her cover job at the financial firm and continue to gather the evidence she claimed would bury Don Andeson or “the velociraptor” as they both had come to refer to him due to his aggressive and unpredictable behavior. Farah only had time to report she was on “lockdown” and Anderson had become suspicious of her poking around. Farah admitted that the last time she was caught in his office she had to “turn on the waterworks” with a story so complex even she couldn't remember it anymore but it involved a car accident and a Mexican drug cartel. It didn't make sense at all if you thought about the story. But it didn't matter now, she was either days from leaving or being caught.
They agreed to meet at Gusippie's an Italian restaurant in San Luis Obispo, it was open, you could see people coming but it also offered easy escape should it come to that. Strongman's skin still tingled from the adrenaline from an hour earlier having broken into a Cal Poly dormitory. He and Farah had gotten too bold and gone shopping. Their relationship had changed from when they first started working the case. Too many days in the dark recesses of financial intrigue had them stir crazy, how would shopping hurt? The answer came too quickly: photographed by Cal Poly freshmen on a treasure hunt or were they? Strongman had to find out to protect the case, to protect her. Now that job was done and his body heat waned, where was she? And where was the waitress with his order of hot dogs it was taking too long.
Finally Farah walked in. She was too pretty for undercover work. Despite pleas to dress incognito she couldn't help but wear heels, everywhere including on an ill-fated surveillance mission that nearly cost them their lives. No one has ever died on the Pismo Beach RV campground from exposure but Strongman and Sanders nearly did. Stumbling out to a darkened highway one with battery-drained phones and out of sushi they vowed never to run such risks again, yet they still did and this meeting proved it.
Sanders said she would clean up after a day at work and dress casually but her leopard print pants and pink lipgloss gave her away. Strongman again looked around the bar to see who was looking, now everyone was and it would be impossible to tell if they were being surveilled.
“Did you take care of the picture?” Farah Sanders said when sitting down.
“Yes.” Strongman said as the waitress returned. He turned his head with a glare, “Where are my hotdogs?”
“I told you sir, we don't have hotdogs and we don't have Pabst Blue Ribbon either. We are an up-scale Italian restaurant. Did you have a chance to look at the menu?”
“I will just have a glass of the Chronic Cellars and a 7-up chaser,” Strongman said perhaps too loudly. The waitress nodded with resignation.
“And for you ma'am?”
“I am no ma'am,” Sanders said also too loudly and curtly. She then ordered a drink and an appetizer following an exacting discussion of what exactly was in a fish taco. With a few additions but more subtractions the order was complete. “Nothing creamy,” she demanded as the waitress continued to scribble the order while walking away.
“What did you do about the picture?” Farah asked while leaning closer. Farah didn't want any floating around, due to her cover or so she said.
“I found the camera, and deleted the picture.” Strongman had lied, he had first copied the picture before deleting it. “Did they know who you were, or me?”
Strongman told her they didn't but he was not sure. He was the only private investigator with ten billboards and television advertising running 24-7. “Kids don't watch TV.”
(for more buy the book)