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LANEY

i mean, if you could. money was never a strong suit for you.

a sudden knock on the door makes you sit straight up, slamming both hands on your wooden desk. both a pen and a lighter fall onto the floor, and in your haste to open the door, they stay there.

you give the worn doorknob a jiggle and open the door, half expecting a bearded gentleman or a young, petite woman– you know, the usual types to come to a private investigator. but all you see is the blank and desolate hallway.

that is, until you feel a little tug on your pants.

you hiss at the young boy. after all, he did just interupt your thoughts.

"what do you want?"

he looks slightly shaken at your anger, but brushes it off. "my ball," he squeaks. "my baseball."

you deadpan. "in my office?"

"in the back," he explains.

behind your small office is a huge lot of grass and dirt. they demolished a building there, but never made a new one– some complained it was too close to the streets of the neighborhood that sat a few miles back.

return his ball

tell him to get it himself

you step back, cocking your head in a intruiged manner. "is there... something i can do for you?"

the boy gives a hint of a smile. "my ball. it's behind there."

sure enough, when you stand up tall and look out the slender window above your desk, you can see a baseball. it's nestled in the tall weeds, and looks pretty easy to grab.

return his ball

tell him to get it himself

you nod at him, going out the front door and taking a turn to the fenced off area. the young boy follows you.

there's a chance you can jump the fence, though it seems like a risky task. the safer option would be to kick in a part of the fence that seems old and worn, but there's also a chance you're misjudging it.

kick down the fence or jump the fence?

there's nothing to do but wait.

the clock that had been ticking in your office for about three months and fourteen days broke after a nasty collison with the marble floor, and now the only use it serves is as decoration. there's a wristwatch settled on your right arm, but sometimes you forget to check it, as looking up at the now broken clock was more of a habit.

guess you're gonna have to fix that.

huh. so there is someone here.

you look down and see a young boy, perhaps ten years of age. he is holding a baseball bat and looks completely downtrodden, like someone just ran over his parents.

that's probably not the case, though. before you can say something, he points into your office, and looks in your eyes.

you're utterly confused.

what do you want?

is there... something i can do for you?

just stand there and wait for him to talk.

you step back, eyeing the part of the fence that's darker than the others. the boy watches you, uncertain of what you're about to do.

you kick the fence in. wood splinters and cracks, and you see the boy jump out of the corner of your eye. you brush the broken wood chips off your pants and step into the fence, grabbing the ball and throwing it back.

the kid smiles. 'thanks!'

you notice that the kid's right arm has a long scar. it doesn't look deep, but it looks recent.

ask his name or ask about the scar?

you scale the fence, the old wood digging into the palms of your hands. you unceremoniously topple to the ground, getting a face full of dirt in the process. the boy laughs, and you cringe. at least you're over the fence.

you grab the baseball and chuck it over the fence the best you can. you hear the boy catch it and mutter a 'thank you'!

you smile, then turn to the fence...

how, exactly are you going to get back in your office?

through the window

the same way you got here: over the fence

you deal with a few more people as the day goes on and grab a few new cases. by the time the day ends, you've got two actual cases.

as you're setting up to leave, a hurried couple rushes through the door. they stop you in your tracks.

"detetctive lupo," the mother says, and grabs your hand. "detective lupo."

talk to her.

This is the second passage, which readers proceed to by clicking a link in the first passage.

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act one

you sigh and lead her to a chair, letting her sit down. you point to the other one, but the man who came with her shook his head.

what is it?

she sobs.

"my baby boy," she chokes. "my baby boy, he's gone-"

you pat her shoulder, trying to console her the best you could. you've had a few cases like this, but you've never seen someone so shook up about it. you suppose you would be, too.

it takes a while to calm her down,(and you've shot the husband some dirty looks- i'm a detective, not a therapist, why don't you console your wife?) but when she does, she manages to tell you what's happened.

his name is..

you shrug. you don't know what he wants, and you're not good with kids either. your best bet is to get him talking and then quickly shoo him out. "it's adult business, kid," you'd say. "better to keep your nose in a book then in other people's problems."

he stands there, looking for the right words to say. "my ball. my baseball's behind you."

you point behind you. "in my... office?"

"outside!"

of course. why the hell would it be in your office? he looks at you impaitently.

return his ball

tell him to get it himself

you should be able to get through the window, right? you can remember a time you've done it before, but that was long ago. you crack your knuckles and get ready to jump.

the window opens as soon as you jump and you tumble onto the floor. the pen you dropped eariler stabs you in the stomach and you bolt up.

the boy laughs at you, and you realize he's the one who opened the window.

god, kids these days. you get up and usher him out of your office, but something catches your eye– on his right arm, there's a scar, long, not deep, but it looks recent.

ask his name

ask about the scar

you sigh and lead her to a chair, letting her sit down. you point to the other one, but the man who came with her shook his head.

what is it?

she sobs.

"my baby boy," she chokes. "my baby boy, he's gone-"

you pat her shoulder, trying to console her the best you could. you've had a few cases like this, but you've never seen someone so shook up about it. you suppose you would be, too.

it takes a while to calm her down,(and you've shot the husband some dirty looks- i'm a detective, not a therapist, why don't you console your wife?) but when she does, she manages to tell you what's happened.

his name is...

"you can go get it yourself," you grumble.

he goes to speak up. "no i can't... i can't get over the fence..."

"if i can do it, you can do it." you close the door, leaving him outside.

a few minutes later you hear him climbing the fence. you pay it no mind, as you've got more important matters to attend to. you deal with a few more people as the day goes on and grab a few new cases. by the time the day ends, you've got two actual cases.

as you're setting up to leave, a hurried couple rushes through the door. they stop you in your tracks.

"detetctive lupo," the mother says, and grabs your hand. "detective lupo."

talk to her.

"say, what's your name?" you look down at him.

"can't talk to strangers!" he confides, and does a little wave. before he can reach for the door, you stop him.

"if i tell you my name, can we be.." you look for a word. "fri... acquaintances?"

he tilts his head in confusion.

"friends. we won't be strangers anymore."

he smiles. "tell me! tell me your name, then!"

"it's sam. sam lupo."

he says it again, but adds an extra 'o' on the end of lupo. "lupooo."

you hold back a chuckle. "now, what's your name?"

he seems to dwell on it for a moment.

"james o'riley!"

you recognize that name. o'riley and co. sell the best whiskey in this town. it's been a favorite of yours ever since they came around. you nod, and then usher him out the building. he thanks you and runs away.

"say... what's that on your arm?"

he looks at the scar, then looks up at you. "can't tell. you're a stranger."

you sigh. "er- and how would we... not be strangers?"

"by being friends!" he grins. "what's your name?"

"it's sam. sam lupo."

he says it again, but adds an extra 'o' on the end of lupo. "lupooo."

you hold back a chuckle. "now, what's your name?"

he seems to dwell on it for a moment.

"james o'riley!" he gives a small thumbs up. "i got this while playing outside a few months ago! mommy says it's one of my battle scars."

you squint. you've seen a lot of wounds in your life, and you're sure that's not a scar from months ago- looks more like a week ago.

before you can call him out, he's out the door. you take off your now very dirty coat and watch him as he runs away.

you swear you've never jumped a fence this many times in your life. (except for the felix hunter case- but it doesn't really count when it was way back then, does it?).

you climb over the fence, your lanky legs and arms making you look somewhat like a monkey, and you pray to god that nobody sees you. you vault yourself over, falling on your knees.

when you get back inside, the boy is sitting on your desk. you shoo him off, but while doing so, you notice a fresh scar on his right arm. he didn't get that while he was with you... did he?

ask his name

ask about the scar

@klaushargreeves on instagram

BAD LUCK, DETECTIVE!

"his name is jack o'riley." she gulps, and you realize that you've heard that name before. it's the boy with the baseball... the boy you saw.

end of act one.

"jack o'riley."

you know the o'riley brand. it's a extremely popular whiskey, and as you look at her husband, you realize that he is the o'riley that made it.

end of act one.