The man sitting opposite me in my office was a puzzle: his long, shaggy hair was graying, suggesting he was around fifty, but his dirty sneakers, tattered jeans, and tee-shirt for the rock band Silent Noise seemed more appropriate to a teen-ager. I hope he did not want to involve me in a lawsuit against his barber or his haberdasher.
"How may I help you, Mr. ...?" I asked apprehensively.
"Young, Everett Young, but my friends call me Cool. My problem is my daughter, my sweet little girl."
"I don't do missing persons or young offenders."
"She's not either." He handed me a photo of a blonde, blue-eyed beauty in her early twenties. Wow! "That's my Soo-Lin."
"She's lovely. Is her mother Asian?"
"No. She was Caucasian. She died five years ago."
Then I realized that the daughter's name was probably a phonetic spelling of Sue-Lynn. Some people, in an attempt to give their children original names, use this orthographic trick, producing linguistic deformities such as Share-ill, Loree, and Loid.
"Soo-Lin is getting married soon" -- lucky guy, I thought, forgetting my marital disaster and the rule I had formulated: If at first you don't succeed, give up --"and we've had a number of problems. Someone seems to be trying to sabotage the wedding."
"The wedding invitations from the printer never arrived, although he insists he sent them. The wedding dress came smeared with dirt, maybe shoe polish, and the heels were broken off the shoes. I want everything to be perfect for my girl this time."
"Yes. She's been engaged three times, but each time she broke it off, thank goodness, because none of those losers were good enough for her."
Three times? Was this the bouncing ball syndrome? I remembered my ex's three marriages and divorces after ours.
"I'll see what I can do, Mr. Young." I explained my rates, took his address and phone number, the names of the printer, dressmaker, and florist, and the names of the three erstwhile fiancés.
"I don't know where they are now and I don't care. Soo-Lin is better off without those losers." He left, to my surprise without snapping his fingers and gyrating.
It's good to begin a case with a logical suspect and I had three of them. Tracking them down was no easy task, but eventually I found them.
Ron Smith's mother told me that soon after the break-up he had moved to Australia and had never returned. "Soo-Lin was a nice girl -- beautiful -- but I'm glad he didn't marry her." She did not elaborate.
Scratch suspect one.
Peter Wilder, his father admitted reluctantly, was in jail for embezzlement. "It's that woman's fault. He wanted money to impress her, but no woman is worth three years in the slammer."
"Or three days," I agreed.
Scratch suspect two.