When I met Bruno Cavelli, I was pretty much at rock bottom in my life. I was unemployed, living with my parents, and recently dumped. My life sucked.
The unemployment was my own fault. I’d quit my first job as a journalist when I realized that the most I was able to report on was the weather or the recent Mime invasion. I had become disillusioned with my career choice when I realized I wasn’t doing what I wanted, which was to investigate injustices and expose them to the world to instigate change.
My dads said I hadn’t given the job enough time. They thought I was being childish and selfish wanting to quit what I had started.
“You don’t always get to do what you want, Sasha,” Daddy told me. “Sometimes life just isn’t fair.”
“But you always said I could do whatever I wanted. I thought you’d agree that I could be doing more than reporting on the largest kitten litter in the Sim nation. Who cares about that when there are real issues going on!”
“You don’t get to cover the ‘real issues’ until you have made a name for yourself, Sasha. Most jobs are like that.”
I just couldn’t make myself stick it out to see if I would be able to actually do the kind of reporting I had always wanted to do. Linc had planted the seed about becoming a police officer in my mind.
I know he and Daddy were both surprised that I actually thought I wanted to be a cop, but I figured that Linc was right. At least as a cop, I’d be making a difference.
What I hadn’t counted on was the sheer physicality of the job and that I lacked the athleticism and cop mentality that successful cops had to have. I’d barely made it past the academy, and afterwards, I’d only stuck it out because I was too stubborn to quit. It was only after my ineptitude had cost us a sting operation and my partner had been shot, that I accepted the inevitable—I wasn’t cut out to be a cop.
I hadn’t been fired. Daddy was going to have me transferred to a desk job. I’d be filing police reports for the rest of my life. Instead of letting that be my lot in life, I resigned. I’d rather figure out something that I’d like better and be more successful at than punish myself at a desk.
Living with my parents never really seemed like such a bad thing. It wasn’t like I couldn’t move out if I wanted, but why bother? Dad and Daddy had never asked me to leave. I made sure that I did my share of the housework and that I didn’t do anything that was too far against their rules. Having Linc stay over while they were out of town wasn’t exactly against their rules—they had agreed that he could stay with me just in case a burglar tried to rob us. It wasn’t like I just lay about the house doing nothing.
It wasn’t until I was unemployed that living with my parents became a problem. I was going through a funk. I was depressed. Dad and Daddy were understandably upset with me when I did start neglecting the house, and I did spend all of my time watching TV or just lying on my bed staring at my walls.
“Sasha!” Dad pounded on my bedroom door. “Get up! It’s after 2pm and you haven’t even come downstairs.”
Another time Daddy caught me watching TV after he got home from work. “Have you been here all day?” he asked me, noting that I was still wearing my pajamas. “Have you even taken a shower?”
My depression was the reason Linc dumped me. I’d stopped returning his phone calls. I just couldn’t talk to him. I felt like I’d failed him since he’s the one who told me to be a cop. He was so successful at the job, and every time I talked to him, I felt more and more worthless.
Linc came over to the house to check on me before going to work because he’d left nine messages on my voice mail and I hadn’t answered him.
“Sasha, are you home?” Linc called as he pushed open the door Dad and Daddy had left unlocked. I’d heard him knock, but I hadn’t gotten off the couch to answer the door.
I was on the couch watching the news. I’d gotten dressed that day, but was wearing the nastiest pair of sweats and the rattiest t-shirt I owned. I’m not sure if I’d combed my hair.
“Sasha! Didn’t you hear me knocking?”
“What?” I answered. “I guess not. Sorry.” I continued to watch TV. I didn’t even offer Linc a seat or move over to let him sit next to me.
“I called you,” he said.
“I know. I was going to call you.”
Linc seemed to know this was a lie. He pursed his lips and his eyes tightened. “You must be busy looking for a new job,” he said.
“No,” I answered. “I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I’ve been trying to figure it out.”
Linc said nothing to this. He watched the news with me a for a minute or two before finding the remote and turning the TV off. “Come off it Sash. You can’t sit here sulking all the time. Get over it. Go out and find a job to do.”
“Now you sound like my dads. I’ll find work soon. I’m still figuring things out.”
“Bullshit. Your dads are worried about you. They say you either sit here all day or stay in bed.”
“So what? I’m not hurting anyone, am I? I’m not a menace to society, am I?”
“Jesus Sasha, stop feeling sorry for yourself. It was an accident, what happened to Bull. It was a shitty situation that got shittier. You two weren’t even supposed to come under fire.”
“Don’t try to placate me, Linc. I know I screwed up. Even Daddy knows I screwed up. Probably so does Bull. Actually, she definitely does.”
I grabbed the remote and turned the TV back on. I stared at the TV, not really seeing it, until Linc got up and left.
The next day he came back. I was in my room.
“Get up,” he ordered.
“I’m tired,” I said, pulling my pillow over my head.
“Get up and get dressed. You won’t like it if I have to pick you up and throw you in the shower.”
Reluctantly I got up. Linc followed me to the bathroom and made sure I showered and then got dressed.
“We’re going out,” he said.
“I don’t want to go out.”
“I didn’t ask you. You haven’t left the house in two weeks.”
So he dragged me to Hogan’s Diner for burgers and a milkshake. I refused to talk to him the whole time. I barely touched my burger and only took a few sips of my milkshake. I was the worst date ever.
Linc didn’t even bother trying to take me somewhere else after the disastrous meal. When we got back to the car he said, “I fucking hate this silent treatment Sasha. If you’re mad at me, say so. If you blame me for what happened, tell me. I didn’t make you become a cop.”
I blinked at him, confused. Did I blame him for what happened? No, I blamed myself for that. I wasn’t mad at him either…was I?
When I didn’t say anything, Linc sighed. “Fine. You’ve made your point. I get that you don’t want to go out with me. Fine. I don’t think I want to go out with you right now either.”
“Are you breaking up with me?” I managed, unable to say any of the other things I had on my mind.
Linc shrugged. “I can’t be with you like this, Sasha. It’s too hard to figure out what you want from me when you refuse to talk to me.”
“I just need to figure things out,” I said.
“Well, you’ll have to do it without me.”
If I hadn’t blamed Linc before for what a mess I’d made of my life, now I did. I couldn’t believe he was dumping me when I needed him most. I knew I’d been a horrid date, but didn’t he understand that I was depressed? that my life was shit and I didn’t know how to fix it? That I felt like an absolute failure? Him dumping me made everything worse. It was one more thing I had failed at.
The funny thing is that Linc dumping me was probably the best thing to have happened to me at that time. Yes I was devastated. When he dropped me off at my house, I went inside took one look at my dads cuddling on the couch and started crying.
I hadn’t cried once after quitting my job. I hadn’t cried when Bull was hurt either. It was like I’d opened the flood gates and I was crying about everything. When I finally stopped, my dads were with me.
“You can let this defeat you Princess,” Dad said, “or you can let it empower you.”
“Yes,” Daddy said. “Don’t be discouraged. Fight for what you want. Get angry.”
“But I don’t know what to do,” I wiped my nose, which was red from crying.
“You’ll find something. Go wait tables or work at the book store part time before you figure things out.”
“Do both, if you want, Princess.”
“What about Linc?” I hiccupped, my eyes starting to tear up again. I felt like I’d ruined our relationship forever.
“If Linc is the right guy for you, then he’ll be back.”
“But he dumped me!”
Daddy patted my shoulder. “He’s just giving you time to figure things out. When you have, you’ll both be better off. Maybe you’ll go out again. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll find someone else.” Daddy gave Dad a wistful smile which Dad returned.
“Sometimes you aren’t meant to be with the first person you fall for. Sometimes a great love comes to you later,” Dad said.
So I determined to straighten my life out. I went to the bookstore and asked for my old job back, but it had been filled by a student and they had no other work. Discouraged, I went to the Hole to wait tables like Daddy used to. My uncle Mick used to own the place, but he’d moved to Sunset Valley long ago and it was under new management.
Bruno Cavelli was a regular at the Hole. I noticed him the first night I worked. He sat alone and watched all the people in the bar. At closing time he was one of the last to leave. Bruno seemed to notice everything and everyone. That’s something I picked up on right away. His eyes were always scanning what was going on around him. I used to make a game of watching him watch everyone else. I liked to see what caught his interest and try to figure out what made it so interesting to him.
One night he caught me watching him. “New girl,” he waved me over. “I got something on my face?”
“Um, no sir,” I stammered.
“Then quit starin’ at me. Gives me the willies. Bring me another Spine Reticulator.”
I picked up the glass he had and brought him a new drink.
“This ain’t no Spine Reticulator,” he said when I sat it down in front of him.
“I know sir,” I said. “You never drink those. You always get the Fizzy Bangwaller.”
I knew I had passed some sort of test when he just gave me a half smile and sipped the drink I’d given him.
A different night he said, “New girl, what’s the bet that leatherneck gets a drink in the face?”
I’d noticed the group of military men in the bar, too. One of them was getting quite rowdy, hitting on the ladies and behaving inappropriately. I figured I’d have to ask his friends to escort him back to the Base before too long. The dude was talking to a couple of the regular blondes who hung out here. I knew the girls.
“Na,” I said. “I bet she slaps him. She’s not a drink throwing type.”
Leatherneck, as Bruno called the military dude, continued to hit one the blondes until the skinny, small one let out a high-pitched screech and hauled off and hit him. You could tell that she’d made his head spin a little bit. I wasn’t sure, but I’m sure she insulted his manhood before grabbing her friends and leaving the bar.
I went over to Bruno. “Pay up.”
“Lucky guess,” he said, chuckling. I’d passed another test.
“Whacha doin’ here, New girl?” Bruno asked me a few nights later.
“Handing you a fizzy drink, duh,” I answered.
“No really. Whacha doin’ here? I know who you are and who your daddy is…an’ the other daddy, too. Whacha doin’ here?”
“I’m serving drinks,” I said, stubbornly. I wasn’t sure exactly what he was getting at, but I didn’t like his tone.
When I brought his second drink, he said, “Look. I know you’re waiting tables, but why ain’tcha doing something else? You wrote them stories ‘while back an’ I heard you went to the Academy.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “You heard I got fired then, I guess. Got my own partner shot. Nearly flunked out, too.”
“You quit. You weren’t fired.”
“You’re a nosy bastard,” I hissed at him, slamming his drink on his table.
When I left that night, Bruno was waiting outside the bar.
“Back off, asshole,” I warned him when he approached me. “Just ‘cause I flunked out of the academy doesn’t mean I can’t defend myself.”
“Calm down girl. No harm doin’. Just wanted to give you my card.” He held out a small white card. “Check out my website.”
“I do not look at internet porn!” I sneered, refusing to take the card.
“Grow up, girlie! It ain’t no porn website. I’m a P.I. Take the damned card.” He shoved it at me and I reluctantly took it.
“Fine. Now go home. If you follow me to my car, I’ll take you down.”
He left and I went home. I didn’t look at his card until I was getting dressed for my next shift. It was a pretty plain card. All it said was “Bruno Cavelli, Private Investigator” and it had his website, address, and phone number.
Thinking “what the hell,” I logged into my computer and checked the site. It was also done in a plain style, but it had a lot more information. Mr. Cavelli investigated everything from corporate to domestic cases. He called himself a sleuth and a finder of lost things. I was intrigued, in spite of myself.
That night, when I handed Bruno his usual drink, he asked, “You interested?”
I set the drink on his table and tried to read his face. What exactly was he asking me. He wasn’t really looking at me, instead doing his usual scan of the bar. When I didn’t answer his question, he asked again. “I know you hit the site. You interested?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said.
“Don’t be dense, girl. I can track who checks the website. Easy enough to do. Your IP was pretty simple to track down. So I know you checked me out. I am wondering what you think. Are you interested?”
“Am I interested in the fact that you are an investigator or the fact that you have horrid taste in graphic design?”
“Don’t be smart, girl. I watch you watching me an’ everyone else. Seems t’me you see as much as I do. Perceptive, it’s a good quality in a P.I. So I ask again: you interested?”
“You think I should be a P.I.?” I asked. “Are you offering me some sort of job?”
“Sure. I know you know how to get information. Your little high school hobby showed me that. I know you know how to defend yourself (if not that well) since you did graduate from the police academy. I know that you’re an observer. I figure you’re slinging drinks ‘cause your daddies don’t like you sittin’ around the house like a slob, but you don’t seem the type to make a career of it. So, I’m wondering if you might be interested in P.I. work. I am looking for an assistant.”
“Wouldn’t it have been easier to take out an ad in the paper?” I asked.
“And waste my time interviewing potential failures? Nah. I see you and know you could do it. So again I ask: you interested?”
I found myself intrigued, despite the oddness of Mr. Cavelli’s recruitment methods. He described all of the things I really was good at and made it sound like I’d be able to do all of them as a P.I. What would it hurt to find out? If I hated it, I could just quit. I was pretty good at quitting.
“Sure, what the heck,” I said.
“Knew you’d do it. Meet me at the park at 10:30 tomorrow.”
“10:30? Why then? And why the park?”
“Questioning already. Good.”
“But you’re not answering. Why mid-morning and why the outdoor public location?”
“You think about it, girl. When you come up with the answer, let me know. Let’s see how smart you really are.”
“Fine,” I said, glaring at him. “Drink up. I’ll be back for your refill later.”
“Good. And watch that college kid over there. He’s hustling that other dude. My bet is that he gets his ass handed to him when the dude figures it out. Never pick on someone who could take you. That’s what I always say.”
“That guy is a fat slob. He is too stupid to notice the kids’ shtick. He’ll walk out of here $100 poorer and never once realize he’s been conned.”
Bruno won that bet. The heavier guy was upset when he lost and accused the kid of cheating. Dave at the bar and Randy, our bouncer, had to toss the guys out before it escalated into a bar fight. What happened outside the bar was anyone’s guess.
“See you in the park tomorrow,” Bruno told me when he paid his tab and I acknowledged that he’d been right about the hustler.
“I’ll be there,” I huffed, wiping down his table. “You better make it interesting. I don’t usually get up before noon.”
I met Bruno at the park just like he asked. We sat at one of the park benches and watched the people pass by for a bit. He didn’t seem inclined to talk much, and I regretted coming, but I was determined not to be the first to speak.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t hold out. I started squirming on the bench, uncomfortable with the silence. “You asked me to meet you here. Are you going to tell me why now?”
“Girl, it’s a beautiful day. Enjoy it.”
I glared at him. “I didn’t come here to enjoy the day. I could do that at home. What do you want from me?”
“Fine. If you’re so eager to start, I have a job for you.”
“Great.” I sounded less than enthused. Bruno handed me a file.
“Our client thinks that he is being hacked. Let’s see if your friend Ian taught you anything about computers. I want you to hack the hacker. See if you can find proof that she really is hacking into my client’s files to undermine his business.”
“That’s it?” I was disappointed. I thought I’d be doing something really covert…maybe conducting a stakeout or following someone.
“Got to start somewhere.”
“Why aren’t you doing this? You’re the great hacker, or so you said when you admitted to snooping into my IP address.”
Bruno looked disappointed at me and I knew I’d failed one of his tests. “I told you. I need an assistant. I have other cases. This is an easy one. Let’s see how you do on it.”
“Fine. Want me to call you when I’m finished?”
“Nope. Just meet me here tomorrow. Same time.”
I rolled my eyes. “How ‘bout I give it to you at the bar tonight. I am not quitting my real job just yet.”
“Too many people there,” Bruno said. “’sides. I’m not sure I’m coming.”
I was so shocked by this, I sat back hard against the bench as Bruno stood. “Good luck girl. See you tomorrow.”