Weeks go by, and there’s no progress. The detective sends you regular reports, daily at first, then weekly as there’s nothing to report. He combs the streets, grills the busdrivers, the car rental agencies, the cabbies, the airport; finds nothing. He traces the girls backwards, calls their families, their friends, meets their lovers and asks questions until they throw him out, but nothing. You get some good stories out of it, especially from one ex-lover, a wily English soccer player that plays a cat-and-mouse game with the detective for days before he’s finally cornered in a blind alley. The detective’s reports get more speculative, more fanciful, and eventually make the leap into complete fiction. They’re beautifully written, and haunt your dreams.
The detective resigns from the case, returns all your money, says he’s decided to become a writer. Keep the money, you say, you’ve earned it, but he won’t, he’s gotten too much out of the case. He gives you a hug and a Bugs Bunny kiss, pow, right on the lips, wrings your hand until your joints creak, cries on your shoulder, in general carries on like a man in love with a dream. Then he’s gone. You go back to his office the next day, because you’ve noticed an odd pattern in the reports, some characters that appear again and again like flowers in spring, but he’s gone. The door to his office is unlocked and unpainted. You walk in and a real estate agent pokes her head around the corner. She offers to show you the space. It’s a great deal, and a fantastic location, the old tenant broke his lease suddenly, she’s already had three offers on it. You look around: the flies are gone from the windows, the fan doesn’t rock anymore. How much does it cost to rent it, you wonder. The deposit is just exactly the amount of money you have left.