I was glad I had added a third chair to my office; otherwise Mr. or Mrs. Goodman would have had to stand. Just joking.
Age is relative, so they were relatively old.
"We have a problem and our neighbour, Amanda Friend, suggested that we talk to you."
I remembered Ms. Friend. She had been my first client when I became a private investigator. "How is she?"
"Still single,' said Mrs. Goodman. For a moment, I feared they were going to hire me to find her a husband, but common sense eliminated that worry: she was a very good-looking woman with intelligence and a great personality. She would have no trouble finding a partner if she wanted one.
"What is your problem?"
"Vandalism," said Mr. Goodman. "Someone upsets our garbage, our car has been egged, and graffiti has been spray-painted on our white picket fence."
"And it's illiterate," added Mrs. Goodman.
If there's one thing that, as a retired English teacher, I can't stand, it's illiterate graffiti, but no doubt high schools will soon be giving courses in creative graffiti.
"It's happened repeatedly too," said her husband.
Another thing I can't stand is serial vandalism, and if there is no such crime in law, there should be.
I sympathized because I too had had a white picket fence until my ex-wife moved out, and I celebrated by repainting it bright red. The colour had no significance. It was just the hue that was on sale at the local paint store when I went to buy it. Now, I've heard, people in the neighbourhood see it as a checkpoint when giving directions: "It's the third house beyond the one with the red picket fence." I've considered changing the colour, but I don't want to cause strangers to become lost in our suburb.
I suggested that we examine the scene of the crime and soon we were at the small, neat house at 11 Valhalla Way. The garbage had been picked up and the car cleaned, but the fence still bore the messages in bright red. The vandal may have patronized the same paint store that I did. "Your not wellcome here" and "Mouve your familly somewere else" read the graffiti. The letters were vertical. If they had leaned to the left or right, I could have deduced that the writer was left- or right-handed (but which was which?) and thus eliminated eighty-five or fifteen percent of the population. From the "here" and "somewere else", I assumed that the Red Writer, as I christened him, lived in the area.
As I was carefully copying the message in a notepad, a passing car stopped and a woman called, "Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Goodman. I see you took my advice. Hi, Rock."
"Yes," replied Mrs. Goodman, "and Mr. Tuff is charming."
Charming? Was Mrs. Goodman an aspiring Cupid?
"Stop at my place for coffee when you're finished here, Rock," and she reminded me of the address, unnecessarily.