I left the party way later than I should have, which is funny, because I didn’t want to be there in the first place. Actually, hold up, I should rephrase that. I wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place.
I couldn’t have felt more out of place the entire time. People had to know the guy who looked like he should be on those of those reality TV shows based in Alaska wasn’t really invited to an engagement party for some 25-year-old blonde former UMass sorority girl.
Luckily, no one seemed to pry too hard. I only talked to a few party goers, most of whom just asked very superficial questions about how I knew the bride or groom and I stuck to the script. I was a cousin of the bride who came down from northern New Hampshire for hunting season, and the party.
Who was I really?
I was the guy you call when you want information on someone or you want to keep track of someone, but you can’t do it yourself. I could call myself a private detective, or private investigator, but I’m not that organized. I only have a small net of people around New England who know how to get a hold of me for my services, and I admittedly was behind the times. Most private investigators spend more time “catfishing” on Facebook or Instagram or hacking emails these days instead of stalking folks around town in shitty old trucks the way I do.
I was surprised when the father of the bride at the party, Brian, showed up at my auto shop. He looked too clean, too soft and frankly too rich to be poking around rural Maine looking for a has-been private investigator to do his dirty work. Maybe he really wanted to get off the grid?
Brian wanted me to start keeping tabs on a young woman who would be attending his daughter’s engagement party – Tarah Rodgers – a fairly standard, brunette, 25-year-old western Massachusetts woman. The only details he was able to give me was her age and a couple of blurry pictures which looked to be printed off of Facebook.
Brian didn’t give me a reason why I had to start by scoping out Tarah at the engagement party, but I had a feeling he didn’t know where else he could find her. I think he also wanted tabs kept on how she acted at the party, because he couldn’t be seen puppy dogging her all night.
What Brian didn’t know was that I wasn’t a very good private investigator and I fell into my usual bad habits as soon as I arrived to the engagement party in my Target formal wear which was at least a size too small and dotted with a medley of sauce, bourbon, and blood stains. I posted up at the little portable bar and ordered the most expensive kind of scotch they had on the rocks and checked into my “shift.”
My shift consisted mostly of sipping on my drink, trying to look inconspicuous, chatting up the bartender about the Patriots, and slinking away whenever another partygoer who looked like they might try to talk to me strolled up to the bar and ordered something lame like an Amstel Light or something that started with pinot.
I kept my eye on Tarah throughout the night and never seemed to figure out why Brian was so intent on having me professionally stalk her. She wasn’t unattractive in any way, but she wasn’t really attractive either. She seemed to be pretty socially withdrawn, talking to even fewer people than me and mostly just messed around with her smartphone while slugging down the white wine at an impressive rate. So, unless you had a thing for plain-ish drunk girls, I didn’t see the appeal.
I was three scotches deep when I saw Tarah make her way to the door of the place with an Irish goodbye. I finished the last of my fourth drink and followed her out into the dark parking lot.
I gave myself my standard five Mississippi count before I pulled out onto the road to start tailing Tarah. I would ease closer to her once we got out onto one of the long, dark highways she was going to have to take to get out of town. That is when my work would really begin.
Tarah drove faster than I anticipated she would. Maybe because she was even drunker than I was. I had to really do some serious maneuvering to keep an incognito pace with her, and I feared it may have given me up as following her before we even got too far onto the desolate highway which led out of town in the northwest direction. I worried she would pull over and call the cops if I was too obvious. A young girl being tailed by a bearded guy who smells like campfire and J&B scotch is enough to spook a girl at 11 p.m. on a dark highway.
I had to be aggressive though. Brian wouldn’t pay me if I wasn’t able to track this girl down and actually do my job. He offered to pay me about four times what I had ever made for a job right when I really needed it. The lump which recently started swelling underneath my tongue from years of chewing Copenhagen fine cut told me I needed to start bringing in some money or my time was running out.
Speaking of time running out, I was still far enough behind Tarah’s car to where she could lose me pretty easily and I had just realized I made what could be a potentially-fatal error back before the start of the party.
I was supposed to place a tracking device underneath the hood or bumper of Tarah’s car so I could build out a network of her locations – i.e. home, work, boyfriend’s house – without having to traditionally eyeball stalk her, but had forgotten. I had spent 15 minutes sitting in my truck listening to Soundgarden to try and psych myself up to go into the party and pushed my biggest task out of my head somehow. Now, I was going to have to find a way to get that tracker on Tarah’s car and was running out of options.
Drunk and desperate, I mashed on the gas. My truck made massive gains on Tarah’s car within just a few seconds and in a flash, I was right up against her bumper. Shit. I hadn’t meant to do that. I was just a few feet away from rear-ending her.
I swerved my truck to the left and pulled up right next to her as I tried to regain control of the truck. The roads were slippery with the mushy corpses of Fall leaves and rain and I wasn’t sober enough to keep a good grip on my driving skills. I held tight on the wheel and tried to correct, but couldn’t. I swerved to the right, directly at the front of Tarah’s car, before I was able to get past her and strafed the front of her vehicle.
The next few seconds were a blurred panic of tires squealing, hard stomps on the brakes and spinning headlights. I thanked God my truck hadn’t flipped when I finally came to a stop just up the highway and saw the headlights of Tarah’s car pointed at the back of my vehicle. This might work after all.
I gave myself a few seconds to breath. Checked for blood on my face in the rear-view mirror. I was clean. Well, as clean as I could be. I could still smell the scent of motor oil in my beard which never seemed to go away like rancid cologne.
I opened the door of my truck and slowly walked back towards Tarah’s car. I know what I look like and didn’t want to alarm her. I gave her a friendly wave as I approached and kept my hands out of my pockets and visible.
I wasn’t surprised that Tarah didn’t roll down the window when I approached, but I was surprised she wasn’t looking at me. She seemed to be doing something with a jacket which was in her passenger seat. I gave the glass a soft knock. I figured that was better than having her look to her left and just see me there in the window like a psycho killer from an 80s slasher movie.
Knocking wasn’t a great tactic either. Tarah let out an ear-piercing scream right after I did so.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” I answered back in my nicest voice.
Tarah seemed to catch her breath a little bit. I tried to look the least amount of intimidating that I could. It seemed to work. The driver’s side window slowly rolled down and I instantly was overcome with the scent of hot vomit.
I winced and pulled my head back a little bit before I spoke up.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
Tarah looked up at me with glassy eyes and I started to become the one who felt alarmed. Physically, everything about her seemed fine. She was probably just a little shook up, but her overall state of being seemed off. She seemed like she was so drunk she could barely exist as a person, flecks of vomit were stuck to her deep red lipstick and her eyes looked as if they almost couldn’t open.
“I think I’m okay, but I tried to drive my car and it wouldn’t move,” Tarah explained.
“I think I heard that walking up,” I answered. “I think I know what the issue is. Want me to take a look?”
“Yeah, that would be great,” Tarah answered back.
The window started rolling back up before I even turned away.
The rain seemed to stop over the course of our conversation and I was glad, it would make working on the wheel well of Tarah’s car a lot easier. Based on the noises I heard screeching out from the left, front wheel, she just had a small break issue caused by the bump and slamming of the breaks, which I could fix with the tools in my truck in about five minutes and it would provide me the perfect opportunity to attach a tracking device in the perfect location so I could have her go on her way and then figure out where she lived the next day.
I retrieved the tools from my truck and took a squat by Tarah’s wheel well. I went to work on the quick fix, but couldn’t get the terrible state the young woman seemed to be in out of my head. Obviously, someone would be pretty freaked out given the accident that just happened, but the fact that she actually seemed to be less “freaked out” and more “zonked out,” than the situation would warrant was what bothered me.
I got to work on the wheel well, made the fix in about one minute and spent a few minutes attaching the tracking device in a place where I didn’t think anyone would be able to find it.
Once finished, I got to my feet and walked back towards the driver’s-side door.
I was shocked to see Tarah jumping out of the car before I even got to the door.
“Oh, I uh, wanted to let you know you can start the car to see if my fix worked,” I said.
Tarah didn’t answer back, just jumped back into the car and fired the engine.
I waved Tarah back out and she followed, almost fell on the ground once her feet hit the pavement, but she made it back out to me and I bent down by the wheel well.
Tarah suddenly started to grow hesitant out of nowhere. I worried she somehow knew I attached the tracking device, but there was no way she could have.
I watched as Tarah started to slowly back away.
“That’s okay,” Tarah mumbled.
I watched Tarah slink back into her car and close the door. I gave an awkward wave and walked back to my truck.
I cranked my truck up and took off down the road. I figured I would ease Tarah’s mind a little bit by getting ahead of her and disappearing into the night. I felt maybe she would find some relief in seeing my taillights fade.
Tracking Tarah ended up being rather dull. The day after the accident, I was able to relay to Brian that I had the addresses for Tarah’s home and place of work. I drove by and scoped out both in case I needed to go back.
Brian became very quiet once I shared that information with him. He told me to just keep tracking where Tarah went until he told me to stop, but that was it. Easy money. I couldn’t complain.
Nothing was out of the ordinary at all until last night.
I checked in on Tarah’s tracker and noticed that it was about halfway between her hometown in Western Massachusetts and my hometown up in Maine.
I spent the next few hours watching the tracking updates snake up the New England seaboard until it was just one town over and I was sweating in front of my computer in the middle of the night. I was tempted to get out of the house and try and meet up with the tracker, on the road, but held back when it stopped one town over.
I may have to make a move soon though. Just a few minutes ago, right after sunrise, I noticed the tracker started moving in my direction again.