The wooden rolling pin and promotional pamphlet, spotted with blood, landed in the trash with a thud. James Smith slipped off the gloves and tossed them in as well. He’d burn them tomorrow. He tossed the clothes into the lower unit of his top and bottom washer/dryer and stepped into the shower.

He stood beneath the hot water, sighing as it reddened his skin. Pricks of painful heat subsided and a dull warmth consumed him and wiped out what remained of the chill from the winter night. The chill inside remained. Time passed, the water cooled, and he stepped out.

Sweats on. Back to the computer. Back to the search.

Credit reports. Old addresses. Phone numbers. Relatives. It was all there. Out on the web. Waiting for him to find them.

He opened up the requests. The freelance tracking that paid the rent. Deadbeat dads. Bail jumpers. Missing heirs. All the same. Took an older one.

“Douglas McEvoy. Six months child-support in arrears.” James pulled up the logs. Dialed some numbers.

Mom. No Answer. Sister. No Answer. Cell. Disconnected. “Oh, well.”

On the usual places. Facebook. Twitter. Searched the name. Compared profiles to the picture from the client. Found him. Tagged the page. He’d get the info later.

He glanced over to the trash. His guilt called. Pulled at his gut. Another asshole got bloodied because he couldn’t be a decent human being. He’d given the guy a chance. Explained that he thought the lease-buyback scheme on the house sounded fishy. Guy kept with it. Money over people.

James clocked him. Had to. People were suffering. Losing homes. Too many vultures looking for a score. Tied him up while he was passed out. Waited. Told him what he needed to do. Told him to give himself up to the Feds. Sell the company out. Give up the scam.

Broke the guys nose and dislocated a kneecap to make sure he knew what would happen if he didn’t comply.

James had to stop them. Had to stop them all.

Eyes back to his desk, he lingered on the picture of the van. Ford Econoline. Model Year 2005. White.

Once it was his white whale. He looked for the car for a month. Got nowhere. His boss at the bank told him to move on, but he couldn’t. Did the other accounts, but he kept at it. Finally found it. Tracked it from the background in pics the owner put on facebook while asking for money.

He was proud. Record intact. Repo men took a week to bring it in. James asked what was up when it finally hit the lot. They told him they had to wait for the family to take off. Tough to repo a home.

He got sick. Quit soon after. Couldn’t work. Couldn’t stand the sight of the cars, the repo guys, or the lists of people just waiting to have their cars found.

Left to freelance. Find people worth finding. It was better. But the guilt stayed with him.

The white whale was an albatross. Hanging on him. Dragging him down, but he didn’t dare let it go. If the guilt left him, he knew that would mean he’d returned to that soulless place. No. He’d keep it close.

He searched again. Credit reports. More cars in repo status for too long. Picked a name. Started the work. Seemed okay. Nice people. He’d make some called. Figure out the situation. Too many people to help them all. Had to pick the needy ones, but had to work fast.

Needed to find the car before the repo guys.

He always found what he was looking for. Kept the record going.

~ fin ~

R Thomas Brown comments on short crime fiction at Criminal Thoughts at and strives to write things as good as what he reads.