I really like working for the guys at the agency. I call it the agency, or I just tell people that I work for a detective agency. I can’t bring myself to call it “G&B Detective Agency.” Do you know what G&B stands for? Guns and blades! Come on. Everyone askes me, “what does G&B stand for?” and I have to tell them, “guns and blades.” Uh, yeah, I work for Guns and Blades Detective Agency. I just think that they could have come up with a little more businesslike name. But it is a good place to work, and the guys treat me great. They treat my daughter Essie great, too. She loves the heck out of both of them. They’re sweethearts.
I feel like my job is to keep them on track. They both tend to do things without thinking, especially Max. Skip thinks that he is more on top of everything than Max is, but he isn’t. The biggest thing that I do is screen the calls that they get. They don’t want to work. I know: why even have a detective agency if you aren’t going to take cases? Because they don’t know anything else. I mean, they could open a cupcake bakery and not make cupcakes so they had somewhere to hang out all day, but that wouldn’t work because they don’t know jack about cupcakes. At least they know something about being detectives. So they have a detective agency that doesn’t take cases.
So back to the calls: when you win the Powerball, you get real popular. We get our fair share of scammers. I know they are scammers because they sound like scammers. You can spot a scammer a mile away. Haha, just joking. I sound like Delbert. Seriously, scammers are tricky, but I’m pretty good at hanging up on them. Then there are people looking for the guys to invest in some business venture. At first I used to listen to their pitches. There are some pretty creative people out there trying to make a buck. I used to like to hear what they had come up with, but honestly, the guys are not venture capitalists. It takes a particular business acumen to be a VC, and the guys just don’t have it in them. It is better for them to stay away from things like that. Commodities too: sometimes Skip starts thinking he is some kind of investment genius and starts looking at commodities futures. The nice thing is that he always comes up and runs it by me before he does anything, and I shut him down as quick as I can. I try not to be subtle about it. He needs to know that it isn’t a good idea. The financial and investment adviser and I keep a close eye on Skip.
Then there are the people looking for help. Those are the hard ones. Some of those are scammers, most are legit. The problem is who is who and where do you draw the line? So around Christmas every year, I sit down with the guys and we decide what charitable giving we are going to do for the following year. Then we give ‘til it hurts. That’s what Max says. It actually doesn’t hurt, it feels good. And once we get that all down on paper, that’s that. Of course, I can’t keep them from writing a check to the Boys and Girls club or the Battered Women’s Shelter, but those are just smaller donations, and it is good for the guys to be reminded that a little bit here and there can help someone out a lot. I actually fudge that into the charitable giving budget each year. But for the most part, I play the bad guy for them and screen the calls.
Who are Max and Skip? I really don’t know. I have started this blog post a half-dozen times and not gotten anywhere with it, and I don’t usually get writer’s block. They just don’t want to talk about it. Max and Skip are two police officers who worked together on the same department for twenty years. They bought a Powerball ticket in the early hours of a Saturday morning for that evening’s drawing and hit the jackpot. They took a break for a while, they got bored, they wanted a place to get out of the house, so they started a detective agency. They hired an ex stripper for their receptionist, and the story goes on from there.
Probably the most important thing to understand about Max and Skip, and all the characters in the books, is that the story is not about them, but about the cases that they get roped into. They were created to tell the stories, but now they are constantly up to something. All the characters in the books live lives over which I have limited control, and my job is to tell their story. With all the characters in the books, as time goes by I continue to get to know each of them better, and for me, that is the most exciting part.
When Skip started on the police department he had just graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. Max started on the police department just shy of a month later and at the same time was enrolled in classes at Iowa State University on the GI Bill, studying English and planning to go on to law school when he graduated.
In those days the city was divided into seven areas, six of them patrolled by one officer, and the seventh patrolled by a team of two. Area one encompassed the northeast portion of the town, bound by Elwood Ave. and Stang Road on the west, Lincolnway on the south, and the city limits both other directions. Area two lay south of area one, but overlapped it on the north side, bound by sixth street. That provided patrol in the downtown bar area by two officers instead of the customary one area officer. Areas three and four lay west of one and two and extended to the city limits on the west. Areas five and six covered the entire city. Five was technically area relief, and six was technically a utility officer, but both served to cover for the other area cars when they were otherwise occupied. Because Iowa State University took up a big portion of territory in the center of areas three and four, and because ISU had their own police to patrol the campus, most of the time the area four car covered both area four and area three. Finally, area seven was patrolled buy a team of two officers. They worked the bars in town, twenty-seven of them at one counting. Dog town, which bordered on the campus of ISU, was two blocks of bars that served the college community. Then there was downtown, where there were more blocks of bars that served the rest of the community and the few college students who made their way to them. The officers parked their patrol car and walked bar to bar downtown and dog town. Then the two officers took to their car and prowled the outlying hotel bars, country western bars and the strip bars scattered around town. Shifts and areas were bid yearly by officer seniority.
So on any given day the patrol shift consisted of five officers, and one Sergeant who supervised them. There were three shifts: 0700hrs to 1500hrs, 1500hrs to 2300hrs and night shift from 2300hrs until 0700hrs the following morning. Each shift had a total of eleven officers working six days on duty three days off, five days on and two off, which made their days off rotate throughout the year, providing the city with patrol officers seven days a week, three hundred sixty-five days a year. Area seven officers worked from 2000hrs until 0400hrs, eight at night until four in the morning, Tuesday through Saturday, with Sundays and Mondays and holidays off. By the time Skip and Max won the lottery they had attained enough seniority to find them working shift seven with little chance of being bumped off it at the yearly bid.