I refrained from pointing out to Ms Engel that a lot of women have gone through the same thing—kept their kids and managed to become great single mothers. I should know. I'm the son of a single mother, although in her case she left my dad when I was two. I turned out okay, I think.
"All right. Now comes the big question. Why do you want to find him after all these years?" I asked. "He's what, twenty-two, twenty-three now?"
"Twenty-three." Again she gave me the teary-eyed look. "I want to know I did the right thing by giving him up. That he was placed with a good family and grew up to be a good young man."
Sure she did. Two decades later and suddenly she starts worrying about that.
"Please say you'll help me," she practically begged. "I have to find…to know he's…that he was in good hands."
Her tears were flowing now and I handed her a tissue. Yeah, I keep a box in a desk drawer for weepy clients. It happens sometimes when a woman gets too emotional about why they want to hire me. After all my years as a PI I've learned to be prepared.
She wiped her eyes, sniffled, and apologized for breaking down. "I'm a woman. I'm sure you understand," she said, resting her hand on my arm. "I'll try not to let it happen again."
I ignored her touching me and got back down to business. "I'll need to know a few things, beginning with what adoption agency you used."
She chewed her lip. "I don’t remember the name. It was one a friend of mine recommended. They sent someone to get him and…the woman was nice. She let me say goodbye and hold him for a minute and then he was gone."
"That will make it more difficult. What did you name him?"
"Benjamin Carlo Engel."
She nodded. "After his father. I… I thought it was only fair, even though Carlo had given in to what his family wanted and moved out of my life."
"Is Carlo listed on the birth certificate as the father?"
"Hell no! Okay, maybe that was a bit strong but, no. I was okay with giving Benjamin his father's first name as part of his, but no way did I want him to know who the bastard really was. Is."
"That would be?"
She shook her head. "It's not germane to your finding Benjamin."
"Let me make that decision, please. I need all the information you have, including his father's full name. Have you been in touch with him since Benjamin was born?"
She continued shaking her head, muttering, "No way would I have anything to do with that bastard," so I gave up for the time being and asked for the name of the hospital, which she gave me, and if Benjamin had any birthmarks or other identifying features, which he didn't.
"Can you find him?" She asked again.
I looked at my notes. They were scanty at best. "I'm willing to try but I won't guarantee anything." I took two papers from a folder on my desk. "The first one is my rates. I require a retainer to get started. The second one is the contract. Fill it out, including all your personal information."
She read through both, seemingly unfazed by what I charged per hour, other than to say, "I'll want an exact accounting of the hours you spend working on this."
"Of course. I'll send you a report every other day for as long as it takes, listing time spent and expenses incurred."
"Thank you." She filled out the contract, signed it and wrote out the retainer check. I was surprised to see that she worked as a personal trainer for the largest gym in the city. I commented on that and she said with a grin, "You should stop in sometime and I'll show you around. I think you'll like the place and what it has to…offer."