I spent the rest of the night chilling on the roof, watching the cops go about their investigation. It is really quite amazing to see, but few people get the chance. If you ever get the opportunity to watch a full investigation, do it. It is not like the stuff you see on CSI: New York or NCIS (I heart Gary Sinise and Mark Harmon). With all their gadgets and gidgets (yes, I know “gidget” is not a real object. But it's such a great word, it shouldn’t be confined to describing a fictional 1950s girl from Malibu), they do not leave a stone (or bed sheet) unturned. The attention to detail a murder investigator possesses is rivaled by no one in the mortal world.
Bob the Bastard’s investigator was Detective Bertrand Armstrong Fisher, a fairly young, but graying gentleman. His family hailed from upper-class England and he had the manners and to-die-for accent to prove it. He had the finest education their money could buy and he thoroughly disappointed every last one of them when he chose to be a detective in New York City. As a child, Bertrand was obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and he always knew what he would be as an adult. Obviously, as a young school boy, he couldn’t share his dreams with his parents, grandparents, siblings, or anyone but his closest boyhood friend, Adam. Detective Fisher played his role as the perfect upper-class gentleman until he was finished with his law degree at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He met and courted the lovely young Amelia Alexis Alton, daughter to the most wealthy and powerful corporate attorney in the United States of America. As every young man of his station should, a year before receiving his degree from Harvard, Bertrand proposed to the beautiful, voluptuous Amelia on a cool night in October, on the balcony of the finest restaurant in Cambridge, with the stars shining down on them. Amelia gladly accepted, as any young woman of her station should do, and they went about playing their parts.
By the end of his last year at Harvard Law, Bertrand was one hundred and ten percent certain that he did not want the life his family had laid out for him. He had secretly been researching police academy programs throughout the country and applied to several, in places like New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, all of which accepted him immediately. After filling out the appropriate paperwork (and secretly taking a trip to New York for the civil service exam), he secured himself a seat at the most prestigious police academy in the country.
The day before he donned the black robes of a Harvard Law graduate, Bertrand decided to tell Amelia of his decision. He had already been given a position at one of his future father-in-law’s law firms, but had been dragging his feet on filling out the appropriate paperwork. His family and dear Amelia (who, by the way, is about as smart as a slug) assumed (and he did not tell them any different) that he was just swamped with schoolwork, trying to maintain his top spot as valedictorian of the class, which he was, so that wasn’t a lie. He also did not want to be committed to something he did not want to do. So on the eve of his graduation, Bertrand took Amelia to one of his favorite restaurants, a little mom and pop hole in the wall that no upper-class gentleman would be caught dead in. It wasn’t much to look at, but Mom and Pop were absolute sweethearts (nearly the only ones in Cambridge who knew of Bertrand’s true plans) and the food was beyond anything he’d ever had at even a fancy four star restaurant in Paris.
Amelia’s distaste was evident as Bertrand (who we shall call Bert from here on out) parked the car on the side street in front of the little diner. Her cute little button nose curled up at the smells emanating from the deli next door and she pulled her wrap a little closer around her. When Bert (who she always called Bertrand) had mentioned taking her to his “favorite restaurant,” she had naturally assumed it would be some upscale to-do in the finest part of Boston. And here she stood, on some dirty side street in the middle of lower-class Cambridge, looking at a dirty dump of a place that appeared to serve food. She looked down at her thousand-dollar leather pumps and her three-thousand-dollar LBD (little black dress, for those who are versed in the terms of fashion), then glared at Bert. It was only then that she noticed his jeans, which weren’t exactly clean, his scuffed sneakers, and his dirt brown blazer.
“Where are we?” she spat.
“My favorite restaurant.”
“When you said your favorite restaurant, I assumed we were going to Boston. You always said you loved that restaurant there.”
“I like it, yes, but It is not my favorite. This (with a wave of his hand) is my favorite. The food is absolutely fantastic, and you can’t beat the atmosphere. Plus, you’ll love Mom and Pop. They’re great. They’ve saved the best booth for us. It is right there, near the window in the corner, so we can watch the people walk by. I have sat there for practically days for the last few years to do my homework.”
Amelia turned her back on him and marched toward the door, her blood boiling and her upper-class snobbery showing its full effect. Bert followed her and greeted Mom and Pop warmly. Mom showed them to the booth, which had been thoroughly cleaned since the last time Bert was here and decorated with beautiful, but cheap, plastic flowers. Mom was delighted with the set up, until she looked at Amelia’s withering glare and lost her pride.
Amelia slid into the booth on the far side of the table, keeping her wrap tight around her and pulling on her little black dress so that her legs did not stick to the cheap vinyl too badly. Bert looked at her stuck up little face and immediately decided he was going to dump her rather than share his future plans with her, which is why he had brought her here in the first place. He realized he did not want to spend the rest of his life catering to some dumb bitch whose only goal in life was to marry some rich man so she could spend all his money and put him so far in debt he would have to commit suicide to get out.
Bert got up and went over to Mom and Pop at the counter. In a hushed whisper, he told them he had changed his mind about Amelia and he was going to break up with her. Mom quietly gave her whole-hearted approval, and then poured two cups of coffee. Bert picked up the cups and took them back to the booth.
“Amelia, we need to talk. I do not think-“
“You are damn right we need to talk. How could you bring me to a place like this? It is atrocious. The windows have streaks on them, and there is some disgusting stain on this seat. I do not even want to know what that is. What if people see us? My god, what if someone tells my family we’ve been here? Do you know what people will say? Your parents will be so mad at you. We have a reputation to keep, Bertrand. Did you forget that? I can’t believe you brought me here. Ugh.”
Bert let her finish her bitchy rant, and then looked straight at her. “Yes, I know what they would say. Let them say it. I do not care. They are all stuck up, conceited, half witted, dip shit snobs. YOU are a stuck up, conceited, half witted, dip shit snob. You do not even know these people and You are being a total bitch to them. Do you realize how excited they were to meet you? They’ve been preparing for this day for two weeks now. They cleaned the entire place, top to bottom, and learned to make some ridiculous, stupidly expensive appetizers so you would feel more at home.
These people are more my family than my blood relatives ever have been. Mom and Pop listen to me, they care about me. They help me when I need help and listen to me when I need to talk to someone. They know what I really want out of my life and they do not try to make me into someone I do not want to be. I’m going to be a detective, Amelia, not a lawyer. I’m going to do something useful with my life. I am going to help people who need helping. Not rich, pompous douche bags who only care about themselves and their overloaded bank accounts. I have already applied to the New York Police Academy. I start next month.”
Amelia sat there in stunned silence. No one had ever called her a half wit before. Conceited, yes. Snobbish, yes. Dip shit, well, yes, that one gardener who her daddy promptly fired had. But never a half wit. She wasn’t sure what it meant. She would have to ask the maid when she got home. The maid was surprisingly smart for being such low class.
“Bertrand, if you do that, I do not think we can get married. My daddy would never allow it. And aren’t detectives poor? How will you afford my Gucci bags? What about my Prada shoes? I can’t be seen wearing last season stuff, or, heaven forbid, knock-offs.”
“Oh you do not need to worry about that. We are not getting married. I am not going to have a wife who looks down on everyone and everything. I want someone who is going to be supportive and who cares about more than money and what clothes are in season. I want a wife who will raise my children herself, not pass them off to a nanny so she can spend her days spending the money I bust my butt to earn.”
“How dare you speak to me like that? I’m calling my daddy right now! Your reputation will be ruined, I tell you! Ruined!”
As Amelia pulled out her phone to call her father, Bert made his way back to the counter, where Pop had a shot glass with some cheap Vodka waiting. Gotta love Pop. Bert took the shot, then watched Amelia stalk outside to wait by the car. She was out there for a good while, and Mom tried desperately to convince her to come inside and wait at a booth, but Amelia refused, calling Mom a low-class peasant who did not know Prada from Louis Vutton. That last part was true and did not offend Mom at all, but she was pretty pissed about the peasant thing, so she left Amelia to rot.
By the time Mr. Alton arrived with his driver, Amelia was chilled to the bone and her feet were getting blisters from her ridiculously high heels. As soon as she saw the car turn the corner (it was obviously her father’s car because no one in this area even knew what a Lexus looked like, or so she thought), she immediately worked herself into a frenzy of fake tears and tried to look thoroughly beaten. Her father got out of the car, listened to her sobbing explanation, where she spit out the word detective like it was poison, and then put her gently in the back seat, promising to “get to the bottom of it.” With a quick glance behind to make sure she wasn’t going to follow, he stepped inside the diner and went to the counter, making sure he was out of his daughter’s line of sight.
“Hi Mom, hi Pop.”
Mom flew around the corner and wrapped her arms around his neck in as tight a hug as she could manage.
“Oh, Jamie! You came back! We haven’t seen you in so long. We’ve been keeping tabs on you, you know. We cut out every article in the newspapers and try to watch the news as much as possible when you have a big case.”
Bert was a bit taken aback by seeing his nearly future father-in-law, who he’d always imagined as a stuck up, pompous prick, caught in a bear hug by the woman who had been his surrogate mother for the last six years.
Jamie noticed Bert’s bafflement and stepped out of Mom’s embrace. After trading a quick hug and handshake with Pop, who seemed nearly as overjoyed as Mom, he sat down next to Bert to explain.
“You know, Bert. Can I call you Bert? Bertrand just seems so… so… pompous.”
“Of course. I prefer Bert.”
“Good. So Bert, as you can probably tell, You are not the first member of a prestigious Harvard Law family to make your way to this little back alley diner. Like you, I balked at the chains of upper-class society. I knew there was something more out there, something better, something that wasn’t so self-centered… elite. Elite isn’t the right word, but you get the point. I would wander the streets of downtown Cambridge, avoiding the places where all my fellows would gather, searching for something more meaningful. I found Mom and Pop’s place here, and immediately fell in love. The smells and the atmosphere can’t be beat. I would spend hours on end in the corner booth with my school books, pouring over crap that I never even wanted to study in the first place. Mom and Pop were wonderful, always refilling my coffee cup and never kicking me out, even though I did not buy much and would stay long after they were technically closed.
“They became like a new family to me. I had my blood family, who wanted me to excel and become a famous, rich lawyer. Then I had my real family here, who wanted me to succeed in something I enjoyed, even if I did not make a lot of money or become famous. They talked to me for hours on end about what I wanted to be and how I wanted to achieve that. You know what I really wanted to be? A teacher. I wanted to teach history to middle school students. I wanted to make a difference in some child’s life, change their world, and encourage them to be the best they could be when no one else would. I wanted to chaperone school trips and cheer them on as they strove to win football games and soccer games and field hockey games. I wanted to be someone I could be proud of. I wanted to be able to tell my kids that I became who I wanted to be, despite all the odds being against me.
“But when I told my dad what I wanted to do, he almost had a heart attack. He went on and on for days about how our family had a reputation to uphold and how he had always raised me to be the best I could be. He did not want his son to be a poor, ‘good for nothing’ teacher, as he put it. He promised to disown me if I chose that route, and, of course, I chickened out. Instead of leaving Harvard and finding a school with a good education program, I stuck it out and went to Harvard Law, graduating near the top of my class. Mom and Pop here supported me like a true family, no matter what I did, even though they knew I wasn’t following my dream.
“After I graduated, I took a job at my father’s law firm and met a beautiful girl from a high society family, just like I was supposed to. Amelia is just like her. They both spend way too much money and care about no one but themselves. She was definitely raised in her mother’s image, which I thoroughly regret.
“So, Bert, I guess what I am trying to say is, do not make the same mistakes I did. Do not do what you think you are supposed to do, just because people tell you it is what you should do. Do not become a lawyer if it is not what you want, because I guarantee you will hate every minute of it. I hate my job with a passion. I will be completely honest with you. I hate it so much, it makes me cry. I own a small apartment in another part of town, far away from the prying eyes of anyone who might know me or want to ruin me. I go there, and I cry. Take it from me. This life is too short to do something you hate. Pursue your dream. Amelia babbled something about a detective?”
“Yes, sir. I want to attend the New York Police Academy and become a murder investigator. I have already been accepted. I start next month.”
“Good. Do it. And do not let anyone change your mind. If your family can’t accept your decision, so be it. I will be here for you no matter what and so will Mom and Pop. We will be behind you the entire way, no matter what you need. If you need money or anything at all, just let me know. You will have the chance to become the person you are meant to be. I promise you that.”
“Thank you, sir. You have no idea how much that means to me.”
“Oh, I think I do. Now, enough sentimental crap. Mom, do you still make that absolutely wonderful apple pie? Have you had Mom’s apple pie? I do not think even Paula Dean makes a pie as fabulous as Mom’s.”
At that, Mom blushed and went into the back, returning with a fresh apple pie (she had made one for Bert and Amelia). She pulled out four plates and put a large slice of pie on each, topping it off with some homemade vanilla bean ice cream and a dollop of fresh whipped cream. After another half hour or so, Amelia banged through the door, clearly upset that her father was taking so long. Seeing him at the counter digging into his slice of pie set her into a bit of a fury.
“Daddy! What are you doing? You were supposed to tell Bertrand off and then take me shopping so I can feel better!”
“Come sit down, Amelia. And stop being such a bitch. There is no need for it.”
Her father had never spoken to her that way before, and it shut her up pretty quickly. She meekly made her way to a seat next to Jamie and sat down. Mom gave her a warm smile and served her a piece of pie. After turning her nose up a bit, she took a tentative bite. Then she took another, and pretty soon she was inhaling the pie. She was so intent on eating that she did not notice the ice cream had dribbled down her chin onto her little black dress. No one bothered to tell her.
For the next three hours, Jamie sat in the little diner catching up with the two people who had been his support system all through college. Bert learned more about the man most people knew as Mr. Alton than he ever imagined, and his respect for Jamie grew ten-fold. He had always seen him through the veil of Mr. Alton, a pompous, respected, talented lawyer. Tonight, he saw Jamie, a respected, talented lawyer whose heart was really quite big. Jamie secretly had his paws in charities all over the city, doing what he could to allow those less fortunate that him to achieve their dreams. He kept most of his volunteer work and donations under wraps, so they wouldn’t be seen as an attempt to make himself look better. He wasn’t doing it to further his career or social status, like most people did. He was doing it to make himself feel good, and to allow others to feel good with him.
After graduation the next day, Bert told his family his plans. While they were less brutal to him than Jamie’s father had been to Jamie, they still were not happy. He was not disowned, however, and with the help of Jamie, Mom, and Pop, Bert became one of the most respected, talented detectives in New York City.
And it was quite a joy to watch him work. While this case was, by all appearances, cut and dry, Detective Bert was no less thorough. He’d been present at quite a few of the murder scenes I’d arranged. You could tell by the look on his face that he wasn’t convinced this was a case of Darwinism, but he had no evidence to the contrary as of yet, so he went about his investigation, treating it as an accidental suicide.