I could understand it when some of my clients checked up on me a lot, or had a real sense of urgency. Most of ‘em were worried about court dates or other time-sensitive type deals, but others…others just wanted something so bad they couldn’t leave it alone.
“Got my best guys on the case,” I promised over the phone. Again.
It wasn’t a lie…except I only had one guy. “Best by default” still counted, yeah?
The guy started showing up in person more and more, but I didn’t mind. My pops said it was like a sickness, back when he was trying to help Ma with her case–he couldn’t think about anything or anybody else. It wasn’t like that with me and my client, but I could tell he wanted answers bad.
And being a private eye was pretty lonely work. Guy could get kinda touchy-feely, but Daze was like that too.
“No dice on the old ButlerQuest dev,” I said. “Never replied to my emails. But I found a couple forums–one pretty dead, one a little less dead–with some old players. I can start asking around, find out if anyone remembers a Leonidas. Hell, the guy himself could be on there.”
“I’d like to find him as soon as possible,” my client said. “My little sister keeps trying to arrange a date for me.”
I laughed. “Her roommate.”
Never thought I’d be grateful for workplace small talk, but it wasn’t so bad. But at least when I was alone, I could go back to wearing casual home office attire.
And as much as we vented about our families sometimes, I was always glad to help my sister out. She was house-sitting one weekend and asked me to drop off some stuff from the local farmers’ market at her apartment. Her roommate probably wouldn’t be there, but she told me to knock before letting myself in, just in case.
No one answered when I knocked, so I let myself in and set everything out on the counter…
And then got distracted when I met one of her roommates.
We’d never had pets growing up, living in a San Myshuno apartment with two parents who could work odd hours, but I liked animals just fine. They didn’t ask for much.
…And then I saw…her.
“I’ll gouge my eyes out,” I promised. “I swear I didn’t see anything.”
…Or maybe I hadn’t said that. Why would I promise to gouge out my eyes if I hadn’t seen anything? I couldn’t remember what I said, but I knew it had to have been the wrong thing. It always was.
Galatea Straud…I never thought I’d see her again. Or see so much of her. It was like she was…flaunting everything, even as I tried to keep control over myself…
I always thought she was really, really into hair dye. So either she was so into it that she dyed everything, or…
I tried to look at her face, if I made myself look at anything at all, but…
I’m only human.
And then she had to go talking about Daze… I knew she was lying about part of it, since I’d babysat her–shit, I’d babysat her–for all those years, but she was a Straud. Her dad…everybody knew what her dad did.
But to come into her apartment and accuse her of corrupting Daze for no reason…that was on me.
Money, she’d said, all those years ago, or sex. Was she showing off like that because she’d gotten into the industry too? And…had she gotten my sister into it alongside her?
Should I tell our parents, or respect my little sister as an adult and trust her to make her own decisions…? And what if I saw her–or both of them–online? Shit, Galatea Straud even managed to ruin lesbian porn for me forever.
After I escaped Daze’s apartment that day, I tried to put it all out of my head. I kept working on the butler case, scouring forums and posting in as many places as I could…
In between posting, checking my email, and waiting, I’d relax and watch whatever game was on.
I started channel-surfing during a commercial break.
Ma and Daisy’s favorite show was on–some old-timey romantic-type deal with fancy clothes they squealed over while Pops and I watched football.
I was about to switch back to the game when Rhys Straud’s name made me stop. There was an “exclusive preview” for his new show… Did my finger stop on the remote because of Daisy’s relationship to him–or Gal’s?
Chess and vampires. No reason for me to watch. Ma said everybody got vampires wrong anyhow.
But I wasn’t expecting genies…
Holy shit. So she was acting–real acting, not…what I thought. If I’d known, and she hadn’t been naked, I would’ve congratulated her. She’d wanted to become an actress for as long as I’d known her, and I guess her dream came true.
If she was wearing something like that for work every day…
Maybe she was finally comfortable in her own skin. If only the rest of her personality had changed too.
…Why was I rewinding my DVR?
She wasn’t a porn star, asking guys to look at her like this. She was just an actress on another low-budget vampire show, probably hoping creeps didn’t upload pics of her feet to one of those celebrity foot fetish sites or stalk her while she tried to buy lady-products…
But I couldn’t stop rewinding, or even bring myself to mute her as she told me to shove a magic lamp up my <bleep>. (Maybe it’d be uncensored if it aired during primetime.)
You’re going straight to hell, I told myself, if you’re not already there.
…At least good news came later that day, when I got a really late reply back from that ButlerQuest dev.
Sounded like my emails had ended up in his spam folder–and when he found them, he wasn’t sure if he should get back to me, since it probably wasn’t completely legal to pass around old account info…
But neither was running an emulation of an old game, and he’d met his wife in an online game way back when, so he promised to look up “Leonidas” and send over whatever limited info he could.
I was tempted to call my client, tell him I had a lead…but when I finally got the name of the ButlerQuest account holder, I was glad I waited.
But I had nothing else to be glad about.
Isla Straud. Of course I recognized the name right away–and I knew it was probably just her name on the credit card used to pay for the game subscription.
…Which left her kids.
I wasn’t sure which was worse: my sister’s celebrity crush or her roommate. And wasn’t there a third Straud kid…? Pops would know.
And now I had a choice–tell my client the truth and keep digging, or let it go and say the trail had gone cold.
He was a good guy–an earnest guy, the way he professed his undying love to an internet stranger in front of a guy he’d just met. Gal would tear him to shreds and laugh in his face, and her hotshot actor brother…thanks to the internet, it didn’t take too long to find out what kind of guy he was.
Ignorance is bliss, or so they say…but was it really better to lie?