By Barbara Woshinsky
Originally published in the September 2015 issue of 1666 Coffman Newsletter
SW 184th Court was frying under the South Florida sun. One of the far west Kendall areas developed in the last decade, it had yet to receive adequate landscaping, if it ever would.
A youngish woman walked by with two miniature schnauzers in tow. She was wearing spandex short shorts and a tight tank top. The dogs stopped to investigate a promising patch of grass. As the woman paused, she spotted me crouched behind a spindly palm tree looking through a pair of binoculars.
—Que estás haciendo? What are you doing? she asked.
—That’s the Eagle Crest Apartments you’re walking past. I’m looking for nesting eagles.
She looked at me with bemused incomprehension. Her hand moved toward the hot pink smart phone hanging from a gold chain on her bosom. Then she shrugged. If I’d been a man, she might have called 911, but a middle-aged woman wearing pedal pushers and SAS sandals posed no obvious threat. She walked away as quickly as her 7-inch platform heels would allow.
I moved behind a clump of leggy ixora that offered a little more shelter and aimed the binoculars at the third floor of the apartment house across the street. With the glare of the sun, it was difficult to see inside, but I could make out a young woman sitting on a gold brocade couch. Her whole attitude suggested exhaustion and despair. I texted my contact: “I think I’ve found her. She’s where you said.” Suddenly the woman got up. She must have seen the flash of the binocular lenses reflected in the bright sunlight. She came to the window. Before she pulled the curtains shut, I caught a glimpse of her long dark hair falling in disarray around her face. Her black eyes had circles under them.
This was my first field job for Experienced Eyes, a detective agency that hired middle-aged women. The owner, Sally, a tough seventy-year-old survivor of the feminist battles of the 1960s, figured that supposedly unemployable midlife ladies would make great operatives. And so we did: we were nearly invisible. I called Sally again.
—She’s spotted me.
—OK. Come back to the office.
I walked to my car, an older grey Honda parked around the corner. It needed new tires, but I couldn’t afford them; my husband had traded me in for a later model the year before. I’d been happy to land a job with Sally.
I drove back through the summer glare to the Experienced Eyes office, in an anonymous concrete-block building on Killian Drive. As the elevator door opened, a smell of disinfectant wafted out. I pushed the third floor button.
—God, it’s hot out there—I said, grabbing a bottle of water from the mini-fridge.
—What do we do now?
—We notify the client.
—Who is that?
—But she’s run away from him. Should we really tell him?
—That’s what we’re hired to do.
—Sally, this is supposed to be a woman-friendly business. How do you justify that?
— I have to pay the bills and your salary.
The next morning, I read in the Herald: “West Kendall Woman Killed by Estranged Husband.” I went to the office and handed in my resignation. I needed the money, but I couldn’t take the heat.
Read Episode 2…
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