Rachel Cord, PI   A fictional private detective
Confidential Investigations Mysteries
'Life's a Bitch. So am I.' Excerpt

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Chapter One


My curse preceded me into the squad room. I hate it. A dozen faces swiveled, work ceased, sound stopped. A dozen mouths gaped in slack-jawed awe. It’s a reaction I get all the time. I hate it, but it’s the albatross I bear.

Polite people say I’m buxom. My breasts are huge. I didn’t ask to be built like an unmilked Guernsey. The weight and strain can leave me in tears. I keep promising myself I’ll get them cut down to a modest C-cup. Or better yet, a B. That would be heaven. Meanwhile, they’re a pain I live with; especially when they don’t get me the kind of respect I feel I deserve.

I walked over to the first occupied desk. The nameplate read “DET. JABLOWSKI.” I didn’t wait for the fat slob sitting there to force his eyes up to my face.

“Is Captain Rodecker in?”

“Who wants to know?”

“I do.” I handed him my card.

“Hey, Carson,” he said turning to his neighbor. “Check this out. We got us a dickless dick.”

Jabba the Hutt thought he was cute, but I’d heard it before. That and other tasteless comments. That’s one of the things I mean about no respect.

“Better than being a useless one.”

I let him cogitate about which one I meant—in his case it could be either. I don’t take crap from anyone, especially men.

Before the slob thought of a comeback, Carson got up, took my card, and read it as he came around the desk. It’s a nice card. Crisp, white, high-quality cardstock. Black lettering. Engraved, not raised. It has my name, Rachel Cord, Confidential Investigations, an address and a phone number. Very professional. Just like me despite my affliction. Oh, yes, one more thing—my agency motto: “Life’s a bitch. So am I.”

I don’t claim originality for the phrase, but the motto fits my attitude. When I chose this business, the detective who taught me said I’d need an attitude to survive. Life’s difficult at best, and at times it’s downright nasty. When things get tough, I try to be tougher.

Carson’s eyes went directly from my card to my eyes without a pause along the way. I raised him a rung on the evolutionary ladder.

“Is Captain Rodecker expecting you, Miss Cord?”

There was a bit of questioning emphasis on the "Miss." I didn’t see a wedding ring so maybe he was wondering if I were available. Not my type, but let him wonder.

“No, but I think he’ll see me if he’s in. We used to know each other.”

“I’ll check if he has time to see you.”

Carson headed for a glass-walled office with its blinds closed. Jabba gave a last glare before pecking at his computer keyboard. Everyone else went back to doing whatever it was they were doing before I walked in. Two “ladies” handcuffed to a bench seemed to be comparing my attributes to theirs and probably discussing the business pluses of getting implants. I wanted to tell them it wasn’t worth it, but, hey, who was I to judge.

Captain of Detectives Rodney Roderick “Hot Rod” Rodecker III came out of the office with a big grin on his face. He hadn’t changed a whole lot since our Army days during Desert Storm: hair thinning, maturer maybe, but all in all the same rock-hard force of nature I remembered.

“Rachel Cord, it’s great to see you. Come on in.”

I noticed several interested stares as we went into his office, which was half the size it needed to be and overflowed with paperwork. He closed the door and offered me coffee. Then he sat behind his desk and I took one of the chairs facing it.

“God, you bring back memories. Your card says you’re just across the river. What took you so long to look me up?”

“Serendipity. I didn’t know where you were until I read about your recent promotion. How many Rodney R. Rodeckers can there be?” Besides your father and grandfather, that is. “I don’t usually work outside the city, but I needed to come over here. It seemed pleasantly fated that you were here too.”

“What, you don’t think we’re a city? We’re thirty thousand strong and shrinking. ”  Rod flashed his grin again. “Anyway, how long’s it been?”

“Twelve years. Not since you shipped out for OCS.”

“Right. I remember hoping you were my going away gift.”

“It wasn’t in the cards, ‘Hot Rod’.”

He blushed and raised his hands. “Please, easy with the ‘Hot Rod’ stuff. I hope I’ve left that reputation behind. But I may have trouble with the rumor mill I think you just started.”

“Okay, Rod. But first, settle one question I’ve always had. Was I the only female on base you didn’t bed?”

“You and the African Queen.” He tried to be glib, then turned redder.  “Seriously, Rachel, there must have been two hundred women there. I couldn’t possibly have slept with them all.”

True, but not from lack of trying. Rod was wild and carefree back then—a nineteen-year-old, long-horned, Oklahoman stud fresh off the range—sniffing at anything that showed an interest. How he avoided court-martial or paternity was anyone’s guess. “Hot Rod” did not refer to Rodney, Roderick or Rodecker. Not that I was any less randy—truth to tell—just more discreet. Many of those women he failed to entice were curled in with me.

Oh, and the African Queen. There’s a sweet memory. Captain Helen Abernathy, the toughest, stracist MP commander any soldier would wish to follow. And I would have followed her to bed if she’d been bent the right way. She encouraged Rodecker to apply to OCS. She also convinced me, in a motherly and subtle way, that no matter how good a soldier and cop I wanted to be, the Army was not the best career choice at that time for someone of my persuasion.

There were a lot of us in uniform then, men and women, who were gay. I’m sure there are even more now. We were proud to serve, “to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies.” But Captain Abernathy was right. Even after “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” went into effect, it was too hard, at least for me, to live a lie and pretend I wasn’t what I was—or too scared of getting caught.

Funny, I hadn't seen Abernathy or Rodecker in more than 10 years and they were both, now, successful civilian cops. Yet within the last six months, I had spoken with Helen looking for someone and here I was with Rod looking for another.

“The reason I’m here, Rod, I’m looking for a girl. No wise-ass remarks are necessary. She’s a fourteen-year-old runaway her family wants found.” I gave him two photographs from my shoulder bag.”

“Missing Persons is down the hall.”

“I know. I filed a report with them before coming in here. I’m hoping to spread the interest. The portrait is this year’s school photo. The other was taken last summer. She’s been missing three weeks.”

Rod stared at the photos: a close-up of a blonde freckled serious-faced teenager and another full-length of the same girl in a bathing suit.

“Did you look like this at her age?”

“Same hair, same eyes, same bosom. Which is partly why I want to find her. I think she’s ripe for exploitation. You know what I mean. The longer she’s out there, the more dangerous life can be. Her family’s worried and wants her home. I’ve been working it nearly a week but haven’t found her yet on my side of the river, so I’m trying over here.” 

“What’s her story?”

“Her name is Linda Miller; small town farm girl. Again, a lot like me. She started blooming in sixth grade. Her father had a hard time resisting what he saw and started sexually abusing her when she turned thirteen. I’m surprised he waited that long. It went on for months before anyone found out. The bastard’s in prison now. The girl was in therapy and living with her mother and grandmother when she ran away. She thinks it’s her fault that 'Her Daddy' went to jail. Last week she called a friend from the bus station. That’s when the family hired me to find her and get her home. I’m hoping she’s still somewhere in the area.”

Rod focused on a picture on his desk. It was of a nice looking woman and three young children. Two girls and a boy. Was there another Triple-R out there? Rod’s expression said he’d like to kill someone. I would too, but I could only wish.

“Is this just a job or a personal quest?”

“The grandmother’s ill. There are three younger daughters. The mother’s hanging on the best she can. With 'Daddy' in prison, the farm’s suffering. I may charge them expenses, but I’ll probably waive my fee. You saw her picture—she has the face of a young kid but is built like a brick you-know-what. What you don’t understand is what she’s endured: the teasing at school, the come-ons from older boys and men, the trauma of being a pedophile’s victim. Yes, it’s personal. I could easily have been her.”

I left it there. I’d never been sexually abused, luckily, but I knew all about runaway. My last time was the day I turned 18 and ran off to join the Army.

“I’ll put the word out. See if we can get a lead on her. Can I keep these?”

“Sure, but I had these made to pass out.”

I pulled a packet of 4x6 photos from my bag and put them on the table. Her school portrait was inset in one corner. The swimsuit shot filled the frame. On the back were personal details and contact numbers.

Rod looked at my card again. “Is your license any good here?”

What license? Another reason for lack of respect. My state doesn’t require one and Rod wouldn’t be overly impressed with my city-issued business license or my SAPI membership card. The State Association of Private Investigators has been lobbying for licensure for years to no avail. Maybe someday.

“No, but there’s no law against a private citizen looking for someone or asking questions. I won’t misrepresent myself on your turf, Rod. That’s not how I do business. That’s why I came to you. If I can find her, I will. If I need legal back-up, I’ll call you. I’m no Lone Ranger.”

“Okay, Rachel. We’ll help as long as you know the rules. I can’t cut corners for old friends. I’ll call as soon as I find out anything.”

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