"Two questions, to start with." I smiled at her. "One. Do you know what this thing was? And two”—how to phrase this?—"is he old enough to know for sure it was valuable? If he's your age…" She looked like she was maybe twenty-two at best.
"Of course he's old enough," she replied indignantly. "He's thirty-one."
That fit with how old Philips said the mystery man was.
"Okay. What was the item?"
"He wouldn't tell me, even when I pushed. Just that he'd found it at work and thought someone had lost it."
"But he didn't turn it in, I take it."
"Well obviously not." Again she looked at me as if I was stupid.
"Where does he work?"
"He's a clerk at a shoe store."
I nodded. At least she didn't say he worked at Caiazzo's bookstore. That really would have told me I was being setup. Then again, how would I know at this point if she was telling the truth?
"Another question. Why'd you pick me to come to?"
"Because you're a private investigator." Then she got what I meant. "I've been asking every one he knows if they've heard from him. This evening I ran into a guy I'd seen him with a time or two, so I asked him. He wanted to know what was going on, I told him, and he suggested maybe I should hire an investigator. I asked if he knew any and he said he'd heard about you from a friend. I thought it was a stupid idea at first, but the more I thought about the more it seemed like maybe it wasn't. So here I am."
"Here you are." I chuckled. "I'm not saying yet that I'll take the case. But if I do I'll need to know more about… Bill."
"For starters, what does he look like?"
"He's five eleven, brown hair, blue eyes."
"That could be any of half the men in the city. Do you have a picture of him?"
"I do." She dug through her purse, came up with a wallet and took out a photo that she handed to me.
It was of the two of them and a bit out of focus, like the ones you get with a cheap cell phone. Still, it was clear enough that I could see what Philips had meant about the man's ears. They protruded, though not horribly so.
"What's this?" I asked, tapping what appeared to be a chain with a pendant hanging around his neck.
She smiled brightly. "I gave that to him on his birthday and he hasn't taken it off since then. You can't tell from the picture, but there's a circle on the square with our initials woven together."
"A B and B C?"
She nodded but she looked away guiltily .