I followed him through the garage into the backyard. A worker cut wood on a table saw. Another measured marble tile sitting on the lawn where I used to play catch with my dad. There were no eaves to clamp a spotlight. There would be soon. Different eaves.
Bob lead me over to a makeshift table of composite wood laid over two sawhorses. Blueprints were spread out next to a wall safe without a wall connected to it.
"Here it is." He pointed at the safe. "Found it in the closet of what was probably the den when you and your family lived here."
My father's den. No one had been allowed in there. Not even my mother. When I was about ten, I found my dad's extra set of keys in his bedroom dresser while he was at work. I snuck into the den and found a ledger with dates and dollar amounts written down in the closet. Nothing else interesting. I didn't remember a wall safe. It wasn't until years later that I figured out that the ledger contained payoff amounts from the mob. Probably for my dad. I'd always held out hope they'd been for someone else, but hope is often just a lie you tell yourself.
"Thanks." I walked over to the makeshift table.
The safe was about eighteen by fifteen inches and three or four inches deep.
"It was hidden inside a false wall behind a shelving unit." He smiled like he'd just opened King Tut's tomb. I doubted I'd find any treasure inside. "The last owners didn't even know it was there. My realtor found your mother and late father's names as the original owners. Your mother told me to call you."
He did. She didn't. Fine by me. My mother did tell me that whatever was in the safe was mine and she didn't need to know its contents. Through an email. The intimacy of modern technology.
The safe was beige and had a round dial combination lock in the middle of the door. I'd been paid cash out of wall safes a few times
for my job as a private investigator. They all had digital keypad locks. This safe was probably at least twenty-five years old which would fit into my father's timeframe.
"Can I pay you for your trouble?" I asked Bob Martin.
"Oh, no." He smiled. "It wasn't any trouble at all. I just hope there's either something valuable in there or a keepsake that will bring back some good memories."
I wasn't sure the safe was old enough to contain any good memories. I thanked Martin and picked up the safe. Heavy. Weighed about twenty-five pounds.
The past weighed a lot more.
My black Lab, Midnight, met me at the front door of Cahill Investigations' home office. Also known as my home. I was the agency's owner, investigator, and sole employee. Kept complaints about the boss down to a minimum. Business had been good for a while. I'd been the news media hero of the week about a year back and it had been a marketing bonanza. If the media had dug deeper, I could have been the villain of the week. That might have been even better marketing.
I was between jobs right now, but not worried about making my monthly nut like I would have been a year ago. I had savings. I had options. I had a twenty-five-year-old safe without its combination from my late father's den.
The safe. I knew how to pick a lock on a door, but not a safe. The pick set I kept in the trunk of my car would be of no use. I lugged the safe upstairs to my office. Midnight followed me and found his spot under my desk. My cell phone rang while I'd checked my mental rolodex for former clients who could crack a safe. None.
I looked at the incoming call. Kim.
My ex-girlfriend whom I hadn't talked to in almost two years. Since she'd gotten married.