A Thief in Search of a Baby
Lydia knew the woman was looking for her. The woman did not look like the type of person who typically paid for Lydia’s services, which meant more work for less pay or the possibility of pro bono work. On the plus side, Lydia didn’t need the money for rent or food, but on the other side, the Houdini Challenge was in a month and she didn’t want to take a job which would interfere with her plans to compete in that.
The bartender kept shaking his head, but the woman persisted. Finally, the woman managed to convince the bartender of her need, or he decided he wasn’t getting paid enough to be harassed, he pointed to the booth where Lydia was sitting. The woman left the bar and approached.
“Lydia Sumerton?” the woman asked once she was standing beside the booth.
“Maybe,” Lydia replied, “Why?”
“My name is Elizabeth James,” the woman moved her hand as if she was wondering whether she should hold it out to shake, “I need your help.”
“I don’t offer help,” Lydia said, “I am paid for my services.”
“Tyler Durand sent me to you,” Elizabeth twisted her fingers, “He said you would help me if I offered to pay you for your services. I don’t have much, but I will pay you what I can.”
Lydia studied Elizabeth for a very long minute as Elizabeth continued to twist her fingers.
“How do you know Tyler Durand?” Lydia asked.
“We went to school together,” Elizabeth answered, “We have kept in touch over the years. When I told him my situation, he suggested I come to you.”
Lydia studied Elizabeth for another minute before nodding toward the vacant side of the booth. Elizabeth sat down quickly as if she was scared Lydia might change her mind.
“What are you looking for exactly?” Lydia took out her notebook, sipped her drink, and waited for Elizabeth to start. Elizabeth hesitated as she took a deep breath and readied herself.
“My baby has been stolen,” Elizabeth said, “And I need to get her back.”
“This sounds like a job for the police,” Lydia said.
“I filed a report and they have been working on it,” Elizabeth said, “But months have gone by without them finding anything. The more time it takes to investigate the case the less time and energy they have to put into it.”
“And you think I can help?” Lydia asked, “I am not in law enforcement or any other profession, which would be useful to your situation. There are plenty of agencies around who can help you.
“I have been to many of them,” Elizabeth said, “And they try, but really they can’t help.”
“So, why me?” Lydia asked.
“Tyler said you are a thief,” Elizabeth answered, “Which means you can go places and get information unavailable to the public. You can find out what happened to my child.”
“I’m an independent contractor with certain moral ambiguity,” Lydia said, “But I don’t think that will help you much.”
“No one else has been able to help me,” Elizabeth’s voice caught in her throat and she took a deep breath before continuing, “I promise to pay you for your time.”
Lydia was quiet and sipped her drink. Elizabeth clasped her upper arms and waited. Occasionally she would let out the breath she was holding. Lydia waved down the server for another drink and did not speak until it arrived.
“Tell me what happened.”