Posts Tagged ‘Taylor Patraglia’

Day Two Hundred and Five: The Gumshoe

December 12, 2011 1 comment

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!


I have to admit, I have a love of the gumshoe. The private dick. The detective for hire. With his trenchcoat and a cigarette and a continual problem with money, I like my detectives scruffy and hard-boiled, just like my eggs.

Wait. No. Never mind.

The point is, of the many iterations of “detective,” that is probably my favorite. The Hard-Boiled Detective (HBD) seems much more working-class and human than the hyper-intellectual detectives you find across the pond. He’s not afraid to beat people up and get his hands dirty. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why I like the Dresden Files so much – Jim Butcher has taken that HBD trope and really made a wonderful character out of it.

When the HBD is done well, he’s a treasure. Unfortunately, he’s usually not done well, and I’m pretty sure I can include my own HBD, Taylor Petraglia, in that category. I’m not saying that he’s bad – I would never say such a thing. I’m just saying that he’s incomplete. He sounds like a character imitating an HBD, and still needs to find his own voice.

That said, here’s what we know about him from the two stories he’s been in so far:

43: Investigations

  • He’s a private eye, and has a badge of some kind.
  • He investigated the ex-wife of a SmackyBurger manager
  • He may have once been beaten senseless by a naked man, but doesn’t like to talk about it.

127: Last-Ditch

  • He worked with Peter Wach (from day 46, The Big Day)
  • He has a sparsely-furnished office, about twenty minutes from downtown by subway.
  • He doesn’t have a lot of money.
  • His usual business is tracking down “husbands and runaways.”
  • He has a connection to the hacker Speyeder.
  • He also has a connection to Drake McBane (last seen in day 68: Gasconade)

And that’s pretty much all we know about him. It’s hard to write a P.I., really, without all that has come before him just kind of… leaking in. So the questions one must ask when putting his character together have to start at the fundamental: Why did he choose to be a Private Investigator?

I like to think it was because he dropped out of law school. I can see him going to study law and becoming utterly disenchanted with it. Maybe it was his ideals getting in the way, or the really terrible employment prospects, but at some point he just said “screw this” and dropped out. The problem was that he still had his reason for going into law – he thought he could help people. He got in touch with a city P.I. who showed him the ropes and – after a lengthy attempt to persuade him to become anything else – hired him on as an assistant. Taylor worked for him for a while, and then hung out his own shingle. His specialty is finding people.

He’s technically proficient, with a very good mind for technology. He has a network of highly skilled contacts, such as Speyder, a hacker who is the best at what he/she does and consequently is wanted by nearly every major government, and Drake McBane, a man who considers a day wasted if he doesn’t almost get himself killed.

Taylor’s had a couple of high-profile cases, but for the most part he pounds the pavement and looks for husbands who have fled their families, lost kids, people who owe other people money, that kind of thing. He’s not a rich man, and knows he probably never will be, but he’s not too upset about that.

Story ideas:

  • One of the constants in detective stories is that there must be a moral test for the detective. He must be tempted to do the wrong thing, to look the other way or to exploit his customers in order to line his pockets. Inevitably, of course, the detective resists the temptation because he’s the hero and our heroes can’t do that. So the question is: what was Taylor Petraglia’s moral moment? This will probably end up requiring the creation of a lot of new characters.
  • What was his first solo case?
  • How did he get the P.I. he studied with to take him in?
  • A case that he screwed up.
  • A time someone died.

I have a feeling that these stories should shine a light on who Taylor really is, and once I know that I can start writing some serious stories for him.

Day One Hundred and Twenty-seven: Last-ditch

September 25, 2011 3 comments

As my cast list grows, every now and then I’ll randomly choose two or three characters and see what happens when I put them together. Insofar as there is a canon to any of these stories, these are not canon. Or maybe they are. We’ll see.

This time around we have an interesting pairing – Peter Wach from Day 46, The Big Day, and Taylor Patraglia from Day 43, Investigations. Just for fun, let’s add a third: the unseen Speyeder from Day 80, One More Door. Plus a special surprise guest who kinda walked into the story on his own.

And here… we… go.


“Mister Wach, why don’t you just calm down.” Taylor Patraglia quietly locked the door to his office and turned back to the man pacing back and forth in front of the desk. The man was thin and looked like he hadn’t slept in days. His hollow eyes were shining and darting around the room, from the door to the window to Taylor and back again. He hadn’t stopped moving since he came, and he’d barely stopped talking either. His fingers twitched like he was flicking a cigarette.

“I can’t calm down, mister Patraglia, I just can’t. I’m telling you what happened, I’m telling you the truth, and if you won’t help me then I’ll try to find someone who will!”

“Hold on, mister Wach.” Taylor held up his hands and glanced at his watch. It was three-fifteen. All he had to do was wait another seven minutes and this problem might be out of his hands. “You do understand why I find all this a little difficult to believe.”

Wach laughed, and it was harsh and loud. “You find it difficult to believe, huh? Imagine how I must feel about it.”

Taylor circled back around to his desk and picked up the file folder he’d put there. “I can try,” he said. He flipped open the file and scanned his scratchy handwriting. The notes he had taken on the phone the day before were disorganized, but disorganized in a very specific way. “You were drugged and… tortured? By none other than Ulysses Grodin himself.” He glanced up. “You do realize what you’re alleging here, right? That one of the most powerful men in this city – hell, the country – held you in some secret prison and shoved bamboo under your fingernails?”

“Not bamboo,” Wach muttered. “They used tasers. Not bamboo.”

“My mistake.” Taylor took a pen from his pocket and pretended to write something. “Tasers. And then after that they let you go, but not before… ‘Pulling your life out by the roots.’ In your words.” He snapped the file closed and looked up again.

For a moment, he was worried that Wach would do something violent. The man had finally stopped moving and was gripping the back of the chair with his knuckles white. “They took my home,” he said. “My bank account is locked. My driver’s license.” He barked out a laugh again. “Hell, they sent my wife doctored-up pictures of me and some teenager.” He wiped his eyes. “A boy, even.” He took a deep breath and stood up straight, not letting his eyes meet Taylor’s. “I have nothing left to me now. I’m staying with a friend. All I have is some cash I’d socked away.” He shook his head. “No one will hire me or even give me an interview.” He walked around and slumped down into the chair. “All because of that damned chip.” He dropped his head into his hands and took deep breaths.

Taylor glanced back at the file. “Yeah, the chip. Tell me about it again?”

“It’s memory.” Wach’s voice was muffled by his hands. “It can store a ridiculous amount of data.” He looked up, his eyes shining. “When it gets into production, it’ll be a bigger advance in computing than the integrated circuit.” He sat back, and his body seemed to have deflated. All the nervous energy was gone, replaced with resignation. “I designed it, figured out how to make it work, and then they said I stole it. After that… That’s when they took my life from me.”

“Okay,” Taylor said. He sat on the edge of his desk and tried to look casually friendly, something he’d never been very good at. The man sitting in front of him was either embroiled in a massive conspiracy or completely insane. Either way, Taylor figured that the chances of getting paid were slim. “I’ve got your side of the story. My question to you is this: what do you think I can do for you?”

Peter Wach looked genuinely puzzled by the question. “Do?” he asked. “Isn’t this what you do?” He gestured around the office, and Taylor followed his glance. He had been told, over and over again, about the need to make the office more comfortable, both for himself and his customers, but that took money. Like so many other private investigators, money wasn’t something he had in abundance. But for now it was good enough. It had a desk, it had chairs and a view of a part of the city that was just a good twenty minute subway ride away from downtown. He’d even bought a plastic plant to put in the corner.

Taylor shrugged and checked his watch again. “Yeah, but most of my work is tracking down husbands and runaways, mister Wach. Not digging into the internal workings of one of the biggest companies on the planet.”

There was a moment of leaden silence. “Then I guess I’ve wasted my time,” Wach said. He stood up, and at that moment the telephone rang.

“Just a moment,” Taylor said. He picked up the handset. “Yeah?” he said.

The voice on the other end sounded distorted and strange. It would be hard to say whether it was male or female. Taylor wouldn’t have been comfortable betting that it was actually human. “I’ve found it,” the voice said.

“Good,” Taylor said.

“You’re not going to like where it is, though,” the voice said, and even through all the electronic distortion Taylor thought he could hear amusement.

“Speyeder, I really don’t have a lot of time here.” He glanced up. Wach was watching him closely. “So why don’t you play nice and share.”

“Fine,” Speyeder said. “Be that way. The prototype is stored in a secure locker at Munin Scientific headquarters, and if that thing is even half as amazing as the files look, then it’s worth its weight in gold that’s been dipped in diamonds and wrapped in the skin of baby dinosaurs.” The voice chuckled. “The emails I picked up suggest it’s in the basement vaults, which are protected by the best security Cerbecorp could provide.” It paused, and Taylor could hear the hissing of static in the background. “Unless you have a commando team in your back pocket, you’re not getting in there.”

Taylor nodded. “Thought so.” He sighed. “Well, thanks. I owe you one.”

“You owe me more than one, Patraglia,” Speyeder said. “Good luck.”

“Thanks.” The static cut off and Taylor hung up the phone. He stared at it for a moment and then looked back at Wach. “You want the good news or the bad news first?”

The man’s eyes narrowed, but a wave of hope crossed his expression. “Good news.”

“All right.” Taylor nodded. “The prototype you were talking about? It seems that it’s real, and it’s still at Munin.”

Wach stood up. “See? I told you! I told you I was telling the truth!” He took a few steps, running his hands through thinning hair. “Oh, thank god,” he said. “Thank god I’m not crazy…”

“There is still bad news, mister Wach,” Taylor said. Wach stopped and turned around. Taylor looked at the notes he’d written. “Do you know of a vault in the basement level of the building?” Wach sagged where he stood and nodded. “Then you know how hard it’ll be to get at it.”

Wach pulled the chair to him and sat down with a thud. “Then there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said. “God himself couldn’t get into those vaults.”

Taylor walked over and patted the man on the shoulder. “There now,” he said. “That’s what they said about sinking the Titanic.” He took his cell phone out of his pocket and flipped it open. “It may not be easy,” he said. “But I think I know who can do it.”

He selected a phone number and listened to it ring. When a tone sounded, he entered ten digits, waited, and then entered five more. A voice – definitely electronic this time – told him to enter his passphrase. Slowly and carefully, he recited, “Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager imagining managing an imaginary menagerie.” He looked over at Wach, whose eyebrows went up. Taylor shrugged and returned his concentration to the phone. There was a series of beeps. Then a voice, real and human.

“Drake McBane. Talk to me.”

Taylor smiled and gave a thumbs-up to Peter Wach. “Hello, mister McBane,” he said. “This is Taylor Patraglia. I have an adventure for you.”

Day Forty-three: Investigations

July 3, 2011 3 comments

“Welcome to SmackyBurger, how can I help you?”

Her smile was cold and plastic, the kind of smile you saw in deserted online games. The greeting came out in a single, memorized flood of sound, and her right hand was poised over the simple pushbutton register. I pulled out my badge, and her smile faltered for a moment.

“Taylor Petraglia,” I said. “Private eye. I need to speak to your manager.”

Her eyes darted between the ID and my face. Then she half-turned to look behind her. “I don’t know where-”

“Yes you do, honey,” I said. “Just point me to Mister Stringer’s office and you can get back to shelling out the burgers.”

She looked towards a door behind the counter, and I started walking. “But you can’t-”

I held up the badge again. “Yes I can, sweetheart,” I said. Technically she was right. I wasn’t a cop, and I didn’t have a warrant. But the day I stop being able to intimidate teenagers is the day I give it all up and move down to Phoenix. I pushed open the door.

The man in the office was in his exhausted middle age. He looked up at me without any sense of surprise, and I can forgive him for that. I’m a private eye. It’s not good for us to be too shocking or conspicuous. Makes the whole business harder if you’re some lumbering giant in a greatcoat. I wore an off the rack suit that would have done for any low-level drone in any company. It was the standard uniform almost everywhere I went, and it granted me entry more often than not.

“What do you want?” he asked. Even in his question there was barely a hint of curiosity or anger.

“Mister Stringer,” I said, pulling the badge out again. “I’m Taylor Patraglia, private investigator. I’d like to ask you a few questions.” I pulled the other chair in the room over to the desk.

“What is this about?” he asked.

“Well,” I said, sitting down and pulling out my notebook, “it seems that your ex-wife has run off with a half million dollars from her employers, and is currently nowhere to be found. I thought I’d talk to you a little and see what we can find out.”

He shook his head. “Annetta,” he muttered. “Sounds like the kind of thing she’d do.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

He nodded. “Yeah. She was… impulsive.” He said the word like it tasted bad. “She had this dream. To buy a boat, sail around the world.”

“I see,” I said. As far as dreams went, it wasn’t bad. It certainly wasn’t the kind of dream an ex-wife of a burger shop manager could fulfill on her own. “Did you think she was serious?”

He shook his head. “She dreamed about a lot of things,” he said. “Opening a restaurant of her own, going to space, running away with her sister’s husband…” He grimaced. “She got that one, anyway.”

“Sorry to hear that,” I said. “This sister’s husband – what can you tell me about him?”

Stinger leaned back in his chair and started rolling a pencil between his fingers. “I hated him the moment I laid eyes on him,” he said. “Of course, he was boning my wife at the time, so I shouldn’t be surprised.” He sighed. “When I came home and found them, he came at me like it was his house I’d broken into. Like I’d been the one screwing his wife. He yelled and screamed, and then he decked me.” He looked up at me. “Ever been beaten senseless by a naked man, Mister Patraglia?”

“Can’t say I have, no.” Not entirely true, but I didn’t want to derail the conversation.

“By the time I came to, they were both gone. I wouldn’t hear from her again until she filed for the divorce.” The pencil snapped in his grip and he looked almost surprised to see it there. He dropped the pieces and they rolled off his desk. “I didn’t contest it.”

“I can’t blame you.” I clicked the pen. “What’s the name of the sister’s husband?”

“Mark Malloy,” he said, and I could hear the anger in his voice. Before I could ask, he added, “Taller than me, built. Brown hair and a some kind of tribal tattoo down his side.” He smirked. “And bruised fists.”

I jotted the description down in my notebook. “And do you have any idea where your wife and Malloy might be headed?”

He shook his head. “I don’t want to know. The less I know of them, the better off I’ll be.”

I snapped the notebook closed and stood up. “Thanks,” I said. “If I have any more questions, I’ll give you a call.”

Stringer nodded, but didn’t stand. “Good luck,” he said. He opened the drawer, took out another pencil and started spinning it in his fingers. “You can find your way out.”

Outside the restaurant, and away from the haunted expressions of the counter-workers, I watched the place for a little while. Something didn’t feel right here, and I figured it would be in my best interest to find out why. I texted a request to the local cops for info on Malloy, but didn’t figure on hearing back for a while. If I did get info on him, I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be what Stringer had supplied.

Stringer was stringing me along. That, as many a would-be criminal knew, was a bad move.