A Potential 28th Client, a Medium-to-Acute Gross-Out, and a Tantalising Whiff of Back-story
I was spared the effort of trying to convince Creepy to never say ‘spanktastic’ ever again by the phone ringing once more.
“Creepy and Hatboy Private Investigations,” I answered on the second ring. “Soulmates-”
“Yes, is this Creepy and Hatboy Investigations?” a man’s very agitated voice interrupted me.
“Unless we got a crossed line in the half-second since I said the words ‘Creepy and Hatboy Private Investigations’,” I replied, far more politely than I felt this question warranted, “yes.”
“Great!” I raised him generously.
“Are you responsible for this?”
“If by ‘this’ you mean the agency dedicated to the identification and location of your soulmate-” I began again.
“Don’t you ‘soulmate’ me, you freak,” the man shouted. “I’m calling to lodge a complaint! I’m disgusted and outraged! I’m going to sue!”
This, considering recent events and the cases we’d taken so far, was something of a new one. “Is Sue the name of the person you…”
“No! Don’t try to be smart with me!”
“Sir,” I tried again, “we are a private investigation agency. People call us to help them to identify and locate their sou … that special person in their lives apparently designated by the cosmos to-”
“Stop! Shut up! I’m going to be sick!”
“Look, my point is, people hire us to try to be smart,” I said, giving up. “What do you want to hire us to be? If you’re looking for stupid and shouty, I think you’re all set.”
“How dare you talk to me like that! I’ll have your job for this!”
I looked across at Creepy, who had found a glue stick in the desk drawer and was studiously applying it to the chrome balls of his Newton’s Cradle. “You promise?” I asked, without much hope.
“Sir, I have a call from Yool, the entertainingly buff Christmas tree who has been here the whole time, on the other line,” I lied. “If you can’t tell me what the problem is-”
“The problem, you sicko, is that on Thursday two weeks ago I woke up to find I had switched bodies with my teenage daughter!”
“Oh … oh,” I sat up straight, eyes widening. This was new. Then the full ramifications hit me and I felt my face scrunch up. “Oh.”
“Yeah,” the man said, his voice trembling with rage. “‘Oh’.”
“Alright, well look,” I adjusted quickly, “it’s not – it doesn’t – I don’t think this has to be, you know, the end of the world for you-”
“Are you serious? My wife left me on Thursday afternoon. And I don’t suppose I need to tell you she wasn’t herself at the time, but things have only gotten worse. The whole neighbourhood has turned on me. People are smashing my windows. Cindy’s school has put out a restraining order. The police have been around three times and now there’s a van parked out front, which I think is the only thing that’s stopped the neighbours throwing things…”
“Sir,” I said firmly. “Contrary to what you may have heard, nobody really knows why this has happened. And while yes, in general the evidence does point to your soulmate as a romantic partner, there is a huge spectrum-”
“I’m warning you…”
“We have united soulmates of the same gender despite the fact that one or both were heterosexual,” I said, “and of mixed genders despite the fact that one or both were homosexual. Partnerships can be completely platonic, intellectual, knowing no race or culture or-”
“Or incest? Is that why you’re Creepy and Hatboy?”
“Like I said, sir,” I repeated calmly, “there is no romantic, let alone sexual bond required to meet the criteria, that we or anybody else know of. I admit your case is slightly new ground for us, and – just like you – we’re new to this … but I assure you, a soulmate bond between father and daughter can be … what?” Creepy had looked up sharply, and was gesticulating at me with the glue stick. I put my hand over the receiver and lowered the handset. “What is it?”
“Tell him to take a paternity test,” Creepy suggested.
I thought about this, and scrunched up my face again. “That doesn’t help.”
“Are you sure?”
“Oh,” he went back to gluing his desk toy.
I raised the handset, took my hand off the receiver, and became aware that the man on the other end of the line was ranting again.
“…a pariah in my local community and-”
“Sir,” I said. “Sir.”
“I understand you’re upset, but our agency was in no way responsible for The Event. We are merely here to help reunite people with their … with the people they swapped bodies with the Thursday before last,” I amended mid-sentence. “Nothing more.”
“I demand to know who is responsible for this!”
“I think that’s something we’d all like to know,” I said, “but I’m afraid it’s outside our jurisdiction. Now, since you already know who and where your … daughter … is, it doesn’t look like we can help you.”
“Have a nice day,” I said, then winced at my instinctive choice of words as I put the phone down. “Man,” I settled back in my squeaky old wood-and-leather chair with a long, relieved exhalation. “And I thought that skinhead guy who woke up in King’s Cross was angry.”