"Magnum P.I." Well, not really, Harlan thought to himself, Magnum worked on his own, for one. He was helping Nancy. Pulling his weight, true, but he was helping Nancy. Secondly, he was a security guard at an amusement park, while Magnum, on the other hand, handled much higher profile cases, to say nothing of his differing location and equipment. Harlan couldn't quite wrap his head around the reason as to why the man considered a Hawaiian shirt his uniform, but to each his own, he supposed. Even still, he had to admit he felt a slight jump in his self-esteem when he whispered it to himself.
Leaning back in his swivel chair, coffee cup in one hand, he watched Nancy's reddish blonde head bob up and down as she climbed off of the carousel. He couldn't help but feel a little disheartened by seeing her doing so, however, as it had been about the fifth time that she had visited the crime scene. Perhaps it was his own lack of expertise in the field of investigation that was speaking, but he couldn't help but wonder as to whether she would find anything at all on the carousel. Then again, her investigative methods were unorthodox to begin with, he decided with a smile, remembering how she ridden the carousel itself, and grabbed the brass ring. It was cute, in a way, the bright grin she wore when she rode it, and the girlish manner in which she had bounced in her seat.
He'd worn a big grin like that once before, when the world had been at his feet. Young, good-looking, clean record, everything seemed in reach for him. Setting the mug down, he rubbed at his eyes in embarrassment at the past. Yeah, he'd been untouchable then, he could get away with anything. He might not have been able to afford everything, but hey, no one was the wiser when he wrote the faulty checks. Well, no one was the wiser for all of a few days. His lawyer promised he would get off with probation at the very most, but the judge thought differently. Harlan had thought that getting hired for a job was difficult enough on its own, but the addition of a criminal record made it nigh impossible, it seemed. His stomach turned at the idea of what would have happened, had he done worse, as well as how much worse off he would be at this point, had Paula not hired him on.
The problem as, it was difficult to put the past behind him, as he still had to meet with his parole officer. Guerra was more uplifting in his tone, however, with their meetings these days. Harlan, however, remained on tenterhooks. His reputation effectively cracked, he was determined to repair it in whatever way he could, throwing his energy into his job. A job as a security guard, oh irony.
The sound of his cell phone ringing drew him from his thoughts. Pulling it from his pocket, he was surprised to find the name of his boss on the screen. Pressing TALK, he placed it to his ear. "Afternoon, Ms. Santos."
"Harlan," she responded in a cool tone of voice, "Could I have a word with you, please?"
A lump formed in his throat at her reaction. Deciding to let go of his apprehensive feelings for the moment, he answered, "Sure."
"Detective Drew informed me that you have been monitoring Ingrid Corey closely as of today," she began, "Is there a reason for this?"
Harlan shrugged, attempting to settle himself into a more comfortable pose. "Well, personally, ma'am, I'm trying to give Miss Drew some assistance. I promised you I would stay on wile the park is closed, and I wanted to keep that promise. I'm just trying to make sure that Ingrid isn't up to anything she shouldn't be."
"That's understandable, Harlan," Paula commended, and his spirits lifted for a moment, only to crash back down when she added, "But I don't think that constitutes watching her input her entry code."
Harlan froze, his hand effectively trapped in the cookie jar. He could only mouth the word "how" at the situation. The image of his badge, held in his hand to place upon Paula's desk, formed in his mind. He grasped at words. "As the security guard, shouldn't I have access to the entire park?" His voice gradually rose from somewhat of a glorified whisper to something much stronger as he added, "Especially since Ingrid is working around heavy metals and power tools. What if she needs medical attention?"
"While I can understand that benefit of monitoring her, Harlan, you also have to understand that Miss Corey is a respected employee at this park. Her clean track record speaks for itself."
Harlan winced at the slight barb. "But ma'am, after what happened to the carousel horse, anyone here could be responsible."
"While I appreciate your concern, that is also implementing you, and you are not helping your case any further by your conduct."
Harlan's free hand subconsciously kneaded at his pant leg. "But I— " Stopping himself with a sigh, he responded, "Okay, I'm sorry. I promise not to do it again. I just really wanted to help, is all." Though internally, he couldn't deny that part of his surveillance had been the product of pure curiosity. Ingrid was a rather enigmatic woman, to put it short, and he couldn't help but wonder just what was going on in her workshop. Then again, he figured the mental picture of lounging cushions with incense burning, surrounded by toolboxes and mechanical parts, with some trance music murmuring the background formed a pretty clear image, in all its absurdity.
And then there was Elliot, the serial slacker, and Joy, the basket case. Harlan let go of his pant leg to put his hand to his head. Captain's Cove was looking less like an amusement park, and more like a three-ringed circus, though he didn't dare saying that to Paula, of course.
"I understand that, Mr. Bishop, and I thank you," she replied, a hint of warmness tinging her tone, "And actually, this subject leads to the next topic I wanted to discuss with you."
Harlan's forehead sunk further into the palm of his hand. Opting to not dig himself deeper, he kept his tone polite. "I'm all ears."
"Detective Drew also brought another concern to my attention that I wished to discuss with you," with a slight sigh, she inquired, "Harlan, were you being truthful with me as to your time in prison?"
Faster than he could stop himself from spitting it out, he exclaimed, "Whaddaya mean?!"
"Calm down, Mr. Bishop," she replied soothingly, though it escaped him as to how he could at this point, "I just want to make something clear."
"I don't understand," he replied in a lost tone of voice, "I gave you paperwork, copies of it even, pertaining to my sentencing and parole. Heck, I can even get Mr. Guerra on the phone for you right now, if you can just hang on a sec." Harlan slipped the phone from his ear to begin to busy himself with its controls, only to be stopped by Paula's voice.
"I've pulled the files myself, and have them sitting on my desk in front of me." Papers rustled in the background to further emphasize her point.
"So, what's the problem?" He asked slowly, carefully testing the waters.
"What concerns me about Detective Drew is she told me a man matching your description was the cellmate of a jewel thief, who hid his stolen goods in carousel horses."
Comic books and vaudeville-type villains flashed through Harlan's mind at her words. He nearly burst out laughing in spite of himself at the mental image of himself wearing a burglar's mask, but caught it in his hand at the last minute. The smile was soon to fall, however, as he replied, "Wait, she doesn't mean to say that I stole the horse?"
"Harlan, be honest with me. Did you know anything about this prior to your employment here?" She prompted.
"It's the first time I heard of it," he replied genuinely, "and honestly, ma'am, it sounds more like something I would see in an old movie, but it does make a little sense, I guess."
"I see. Well, Mr. Bishop, I apologize for disturbing you. Keep up the good work." A click was heard the end of the other line.
Harlan pressed END a few moments after staring down blankly at his phone. Placing it face down on the desk, he wished his hand would stop shaking. Jewel thieves and carousel horses, he couldn't help but wonder as to how Miss Drew would be able to make such a connection. The smiling image of her on the carousel horse reappeared in his mind, though this time he felt none of the warmth for it that he had previously. His fist clenched. What right had she, a kid who knew nothing about the real world, to do that to him, especially after he had helped her? If she'd fallen off the carousel, he could've just said nothing, and left her lying there.
Nah, Harlan knew he wasn't that bad of a guy. He unclenched his fist, and cracked his fingers to release the tension. Truth be told, he liked having his opinion valued by her. Amateur detective or not, she had relied upon him for help. But to rat him out to Paula, not to mention to pull a ridiculous accusation out of the air, infuriated him, and what was the worse, made him despise the fact that she had desired his help at all.
Harlan pressed down on the button for the PA system. Nancy wouldn't be hearing the last of this.
"Well, didn't that just go so perfectly," Harlan muttered angrily to himself, slamming his coffee cup down on the desk. Some it splashed up and onto his hand, causing him to mutter under his breath, waving out his reddened hand. Nancy had the common decency to not slam the door behind her upon exiting his office, but the wounded tone she had taken with him said more than enough.
It was certainly one that he didn't wish to hear again, he decided as he searched under his desk for the set of paper towels kept beneath. All that he earned for his efforts, however, was a bump on the head as he banged it against the desk.
Harlan hissed in pain, clutching it with a wince. He would have to walk to the men's room to get a new roll. Gritting his teeth, he pulled himself back onto his chair, his eyes scanning over the monitors. The amusement park stagnant before him, Nancy herself not showing up on the screens.
She probably went back to the hotel, he figured, and couldn't help but smirk at the notion. Carla was the same way when they'd dated, his ex, her latest handbag that he had bought for her clenched tight in hand, storming out of his apartment, slamming the door behind her. A few minutes later, her car tires would squeal off into the city streets. He never did tell her those were knock-off brands, did he?
But Nancy was no Carla, though in more ways than that. First of all, he wouldn't be calling her phone, inquiring worriedly about her safety, and asking her to come back, something his ex was rare to reciprocate. Then again, when he'd screwed up, he admitted it, instead of storming out.
Bracing one foot up on his desk, Harlan grimaced. Carla's calls stopped coming after his stay in the gray bar hotel, and good riddance, he supposed. Still…Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his wallet, and flipped through the pictures to stop on an image of her, half-turned toward him with a grin on her face, and sporting a white one-piece bathing suit. She'd looked like one of those perfume models, or those 40's pin-up girls.
Sometimes he'd check those muscular legs of hers for fins while they swam together in the ocean, Carla kicking on ahead, diving beneath the waves. But somewhere along the line, Harlan still wasn't sure when, the time they'd spent together growing fuzzy in his mind, she'd begun to lose her sea legs. The reflections on the water turned to the reflections in shop windows and bar mirrors. She lay upon the towel with one hand pressed to her brow. A magazine detailing better lay not too far away from her other hand.
He'd paid bottom dollar to satisfy her desires, Harlan admitted that fully to himself, but to her face, he didn't.
"You gonna buy me a ring?" She'd asked, stamping out her cigarette in an ashtray.
He'd taken a swig of his draft beer, pausing for a moment in thought. The bar was encountering a slow night, the stereo droning out moody grunge rock music. The alcohol made him a little bolder that night. "You want one?"
She paused, the cigarette slipping down between her fingers. "Thought we were making something of this, Harlan."
"Part of your world," he remembered hearing that song from the kid's movie through pop cultural osmosis. Motioning the bartender over with two fingers, he pulled a few bills from his pocket.
"Harlan," Carla insisted, grasping his arm.
The bartender raised an eyebrow. "Buddy, this chick bothering you?"
Placing the money down on the counter, he slipped his arm from her grasp. "Call a cab tonight, Carla."
He glanced over at the screen prominently featuring the carousel. Captain's Cove held onto its antiques, despite the modern world growing around it, and entering the park in the form of the roller coaster, not that he could fault it that. The kids did love it, after all, and that was what mattered when it came to revenue. The ride did look beautiful, but, as his past told him, not all old things were beautiful.
He relented, rising from his chair, the burning in his hand causing him to shake it out again. Cold water would do it well. The door shut hard behind him on his way out, his frustration not completely spent.
Yet, at the same time, he reminded himself as he splashed the water over his hand, Carla had "grown up," leaving the sea far behind. He glanced at himself in the mirror, but lowered his head just as soon over the faucet. Maybe he had been too harsh toward Nancy, but it still stood that she had made that accusation of him, and that had still hurt.
Bending down, he unlocked the cabinet beneath the sink counter, and withdrew a roll of paper towels. Still, he figured it wasn't something to lose a potential ally over.
But, he conceded, closing the door to the men's room behind him, he would do well not to forget it, if prison taught him anything. No matter how many times he would smile and try to do the right thing, those who knew of his past would always see a criminal. He turned to look away from the park's gate, and toward the hotel. A seagull cried out as it flew past. Nancy was a nice girl, but she was still a kid, and maybe that was okay.
Nancy was a detective, though, wasn't she? Harlan swallowed hard at that. A kid detective in a world of adults. He turned on his heel to look back at the park's gate. A kid's world broken into by an adult, and a kid detective and an adult security guard to bring whoever the offender was to justice.
He shook his head at the absurdity, continuing. His foot hit an envelope on the ground, sending it skidding a ways. Bending down, he picked it up, the envelope simply stating, Nancy Drew. With a slight smile, he headed toward his office. He'd call her back, and apologize. After all, he was good at saying sorry.