George Spiegel leaned over the porcelain basin and splashed cold water on his face. He kept his eyes closed and rested his hands on the rim of the sink. Drips of water rolled over his face and dripped down his nose.
“I am George Spiegel, Agent of the Treasury,” he repeated to himself under his breath. “I am George Spiegel, Agent of the Treasury.” He looked into the mirror and stared as himself.
“Agent Spiegel…of the Treasury.”
This was his big break. He was going to finally make something of himself. Then he’d be the one laughing at his father’s failures instead of the other way around. If only the old man were still alive to see him now.
“I am George Spiegel, Agent of the Tre-”
Spiegel immediately pretended to be washing his hands as the door of the men’s room burst open. The man entering eyed him suspiciously before retreating to a stall. Spiegel dried his hands and started rolling down his sleeves. He put on his suit coat and departed. He crossed the marble lobby of the courthouse and emerged into the sunshine. He closed his eyes and stood there.
Spiegel thought back to the vows he had repeated word for word. He could still feel the cracked leather of the Bible underneath his palm. His other hand was raised, his fingers rigid with the seriousness of his declaration. He basked in his own glory like the sun that spilled down on him.
Spiegel opened his eyes and glanced behind him. Another man, a little rotund with wire-rimmed spectacles, ran up to him. He was carrying a brown folio and waving it as he approached.
“We’ve got our first assignment!” he exclaimed, “I hope you like the beach, George.”
Spiegel straightened his collar, “We’re agents of the Treasury now. I think you had better get used to calling me Agent Spiegel. Don’t you think, Agent Holcomb?”
The sun in Holcomb’s eyes made him squint as he pondered the question.
“I suppose you’re right, Agent Spiegel.” He handed the folio to Spiegel. He opened it and read the front page. He wasn’t familiar with this place on the coast, but it didn’t matter. He was going to make a name for himself regardless.
“Research Holcomb, that’s what we need to do. There has to be something going on there, otherwise why would they send us to a little place we’ve never heard of.” Spiegel clapped the folio shut and started to walk briskly.
“I don’t suppose we have time for a couple of sandwiches and near beer, do we?” Holcomb asked as he tried to keep up with Spiegel.
“Near beer, Holcomb? You must learn to resist all temptation. We must be an unblemished example of temperance. If you must indulge, do so in your own time, in the privacy of your own home,” Spiegel said sternly.
“But…near beer…” Holcomb pleaded.
“Even near beer,” Spiegel repeated.
Hours later after pouring over records that originated up and down the east coast. Small time criminals and hooligans, nothing had piqued Spiegel’s interest. He pushed away the files with a sigh. He looked over at Holcomb who was squinting over a piece of paper held under the desk lamp. Holcomb rifled through another pile of papers and pulled out another.
“Look at this…” Holcomb held out the scrutinized papers to Spiegel. He took them and skimmed through a statement given by a small time thug. The man had named names and laid out a rough hierarchy of crime.
“What about this? He’s a nobody. He’s probably spilling whatever names he could think of at the moment to get out of jail time.” Spiegel set the paper down as Holcomb shoved another underneath his nose.
“He was found dead within hours of being released from custody,” Holcomb pointed out. “I think there was at least some truth in what he said.” Spiegel went through the list of names again.
“We need to check these names. Are they alive? Are they in our district?” He shoved the statement back to Holcomb and stood up. “See what you can find here. I’m going to get us tickets on the morning train. We need to get there as soon as possible.” Spiegel rushed out of the records room and left Holcomb sitting among the binders and file folders alone.
At 7 o’clock in the morning Spiegel stood on the station platform pensive. The train was pulling in and Holcomb was late. The train hissed to a stop and passengers started disembarking and streaming past him.
Spiegel looked around at all the strange faces.
“Spiegel!” Holcomb was flapping his arm over the crowd. He pushed through the people towards Spiegel. In one hand he waved a piece of paper and the other lugged an overstuffed suitcase.
As Holcomb reached Spiegel struggling to catch his breath, Spiegel grabbed his arm and dragged him up onto the train. He deposited him in the first empty seat he found. Holcomb thrust the notepaper at him. On it was scribbled one name.