The Double Cross

Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry 

Joe Dobleu took a bite out of his cold ham and cheddar cheese sandwich while managing to keep his eyes on the house across the street. It was all a game.

Nothing happened all night, and now the sun was slowly crawling into its place in the sky, while Joe was chomping down on his sandwich. As he chewed the front door opened and a man walked out.

He swallowed the remainder quickly and straightened up in his seat. Joe was in a new white Nissan Rogue with windows tinted black all the way around. The man across the street was checking his mail box. Joe picked up his camera, rolled down the window, and took a few quick snapshots. For the record.

He watched the man walk back into the house while sorting through a pile of mail. Taking out a notepad from the glove department, Joe jotted down some observations. It had been a week now.

Each day he waited in another type of car. Parked in a different spot. Starting down the end of the street, his daily progress forward eventually aligned him directly across from the house and it’s inhabitant on the seventh day.

Joe picked up his cell phone and called the person who hired him.

“Hello…Ms Bradley?”

“Yes,” the woman on the other end answered impatiently.

“It’s me. I’ll drop off my final report and notes to you today.”

The tone of the voice on the other end softened, “So…can you give me a brief summary?

“Your son leads a very quiet life. As far as I can tell he doesn’t have any friends. Male, or female. He goes to his office every day and is quite punctual. He stopped at the grocery store twice this week and bought food and drink. No alcohol.”

“That’s all? He didn’t go anywhere at night during the week, or this weekend? I know the little bastard is plotting to put me in a retirement home and take my money,” she groused.

“No. I’m a night owl. Between my partner during the day, and myself at night, we’ve had eyes on his place around the clock as requested.”

“Thank you. The money will be transferred to your account this afternoon – as per our usual arrangement.”

Joe smiled and rolled the window down. Derrick Bradley, the object of his wealthy widowed mothers constant scrutiny, came out the front door and walked up to the car.

“Hey Joe!” he said in a jocular voice, without a worry in the world.

“Always nice to see you Derrick.”

“Here’s a cashier’s check. I’ll continue to pay you twice as much as my mother in order to gain my privacy. I gotta hand it to you,  going through the motions for her…just in case.”

“You can never be too sure. Like I told your mother, ‘Your son leads a quiet life,'” Joe chuckled.

He watched Derrick get in his new Cadillac ATS-V Sedan and pull out of the driveway, wondering how long his lucrative business arrangement could last. The private eye business was slow lately. Real slow.

If it wasn’t for his connection to Ms. Bradley, and her son, he’d have to tell his partner it was time to close up shop. At least once a month she paid them to spy on her son. He was never really sure why, but didn’t question her about it.

The son, Derrick, was a pretty clever fellow himself. He figured out Joe was watching him the first time he staked out his house. Rather than get upset however, Derrick made a counter offer to protect his privacy.

The arrangement was a year-old when things started to go bad.

Derrick, who was in fact a drunk, was starting to become ugly and accused Joe of being a parasite, and a lot worse things. The writing was on the wall. The arrangement was shaky and likely falling apart.

Joe would have to tell his partner, John, their cash cow was gone, and it was time to retire. Once he made the decision he felt better. Ms. Bradley seemed miffed that he was no longer going to continue with the job, but thanked him for his services and promised a good recommendation should he need one.

Feeling relieved, he went to Derrick’s house a few days later to inform him of his decision to move on. He knocked on the front door. No answer. Without thinking he tried the door knob and it opened.

Derrick! It’s me, Joe!

Beyond the open entryway he could see the living room and Derrick’s body sprawled out on the carpeted floor. His head was twisted at a funny angle. His open eyes seemed to accuse Joe of the crime. He turned and ran out of the house!

The police came while Joe was waiting for his car to be serviced the next day. They were reading him his rights as they escorted him to the police cruiser. On the way to the jail Joe badgered the officers, “What did I do?”

“Like I said when I read you your rights, you’re being charged with the murder of Derrick Bradley who resides at…

Joe didn’t hear the rest. His mind was racing. What was going on?

When they got to the station house he was escorted into a little room with a table and two chairs. When the detectives came into the room, Joe was still trying to figure out what they knew that incriminated him.

He knew he was innocent. How could this have happened?

One of the detectives sat down across from him and laid out a folder with photos and notes in it. It was Derricks house.

“Have you ever been to this house?

“Yes…but…

“Did you kill Derrick Bradley?”

“No! wait! You don’t understand! I’m a private eye. I was on a case for a client.” 

“Did the client hire you to kill Mr. Bradley?”

“No! Of course not…”

“What then? Did you have a grudge against him?

“No! Damn it! His mother hired me to watch him. That’s all it was. She just wanted to know what he was doing with his life!”

The two detectives looked at one another.

“Mr. Dobleu, would you like a cup of coffee? We’re going to verify your story. It shouldn’t take too long.”

When they returned four hours later they both looked grim.

“I want to read something to you Mr. Dobleu. According to this statement Ms Bradley has been concerned for sometime that someone was stalking her son. When these photos were given to her it was proof that someone knew where he lived and could hurt him at anytime.

“In the statement she testified you threatened to kill him if she didn’t give you a monthly allowance!”

“No! You have it all wrong! I want a lawyer!”

A mansion in North Hollywood

Ms Bradley sat back and sipped her tea as she watched the television. Joe’s partner walked into the room and sat down next to her.

“Dear John…” she said, whatever would I do without you?”

As It Stands, sadly, money means more to some mothers than their own children.