Nicoli Hunter Mysteries
It was early May and eighty degrees in the shade at ten o’clock in the morning. I was grateful that I lived on the water where the wind picks up in the afternoon.
My name is Nicoli Hunter. I’m a Private Investigator, licensed in the State of California. I specialize in covert restaurant and bar surveillance, including quality of cuisine, ambiance, and employee performance. I’ve been a PI for five years now, give or take. Licensed and on my own for almost three. I became a PI because of my compulsion to see that justice is done and my need to protect the innocent, because I need to be my own boss, and because I’m obsessively curious.
I live aboard a forty-six-foot Cheoy Lee Motorsailor at a marina in Redwood City, halfway between San Francisco and San Jose. I also rent a ground floor corner office in the marina complex where I live. It’s a beautiful complex made up of five two-story office buildings, lush and casually manicured grounds, and six gates or docks which house approximately five hundred yachts. More than half of the yachts are owned by individuals and families who choose to live aboard, as I do.
I’m thirty-six years old and five foot seven in my bare feet. I have long, curly, chestnut brown hair and dark blue eyes. I’ve been married and divorced three times and I have no children, but I do have a wonderful dog.
I was in my office with the doors and windows open and a table fan laboring on high, doing my best to concentrate on reports for my regular clients, when the phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number.
“Hunter Investigations,” I answered.
There was silence on the other end of the line.
“Hello?” I said.
“Is this the answering service?” asked a male voice.
“No, this is Nicoli Hunter, in the flesh,” I said. “What can I do for you?”
“Um, I need to make an appointment.”
“In regard to … ?” I prodded.
“I’d rather not discuss it over the phone. Are you free this afternoon?”
“No, I’m not.”
Actually I was, but with the air conditioning on the fritz, I didn’t want to be inside when the real heat of the day hit.
“I can see you this morning,” I offered.
“Um, I guess I can do that,” he said, though he sounded uncertain.
“May I have your name?” I asked.
“Montgomery,” he said.
“Is that your first name?”
“No. It’s Cliff. Clifford Montgomery.”
Seriously? I wrote down the name, automatically transposing the first and last. Montgomery, Cliff.
“Okay, Cliff. Do you know how to get here?”
“I have your address,” he said.
“That’s a start, but the layout of the complex is a little confusing.”
I gave him detailed directions and hoped he was taking notes.
“Can you be here by eleven?” I asked. “I have an appointment outside the office at noon.”
“Yes, I think so,” he said.
“Great. I’ll see you then.”
Cliff and I ended the call, and I completed the reports I was working on. I printed some of the reports, e-mailed others to my more technologically tuned in clients, and stuffed the hard copies into envelopes along with invoices.
I considered walking down to the boat and changing into something a little more businesslike, but decided the shorts and Hawaiian shirt I was wearing would have to do. It was too hot for anything else. My dog, Buddy, was at my side and when I set the outgoing mail on the corner of my desk he raised his head and chuffed. Buddy is a ninety-five pound Rhodesian Ridgeback and Golden Retriever mix, and chuffing is his way of saying, “I need a walk.” It also means other things, so you have to pay attention to the context. I hooked his leash to his collar, closed the sliding windows, turned off the fan, and took my boy for a walk.