There are some cases I shy away from, it is not a hard fast rule, more like a guideline, something that makes me pause before I say yes to a case. One of those is bodyguarding, while bodyguard jobs pays well it is for the most part unrealistic for a guy like me.
I do not carry a gun, and I have not intention of ever doing so. If the threat to the principal is real, I do not want to be between them and a bullet. My mother taught me to avoid bullet wounds whenever possible.
The other reason people want a bodyguard it is as status symbol, and I do not want to be around those types of people.
But one time a couple of years ago when the money was right and certain other conditions were in alignment, mostly my wallet was empty, I did take a bodyguarding job.
That is how one Monday morning I was looking for Site 505 off Big Pine Drive, at the Fort Wilderness Campground.
“Mr. Mitchell, I see you found the place.”
“I would not be much of investigator if I could not and remember just call me Miles.” I said extending my hand to Ben Kingsley who hired me a week before. I looked around at the campsite noting the huge rolling mobile mansion, the RV was huge and silver and looked immaculate.
“It is big, isn’t it?” Ben Kingsley said as I looked over the ten wheeled vehicle.
I simply nodded. “And this is where Mr. Wheeler will be staying for the duration of the job? I won’t have to help him move it.” I said this last part as I had no clue how to drive one of these things and I never wanted to try.
“Oh no, the dealer actually moved it here for us and will move it when Mr. Wheeler’s vacation is completed, and in addition to this space we have rented the two spaces on either side of this so there is ample parking for your vehicle. He said this last part while looking at my 1996 green and wood paneled station wagon.
I smiled. I had just washed her, and she was looking pretty good, although the AC had been making a little weird noise lately. I gave a slight shake to my head I would get it looked at after this job. “So where is Mr. Wheeler?” I looked around. “Inside?” I said trying to look through the glare on the window.
“Mr. Wheeler is currently walking around the area; his doctor wants him to walk a couple of miles every day.”
“That should not be a problem here.” Miles said. “The average visitor walks about eight miles a day.”
“Eight miles a day huh? I bet I will be doing sixteen in a two weeks.” A deep voice said from behind me.
“Mr. Wheeler I would like to introduce Miles Mitchell, Private Investigator and for the duration of your stay here your bodyguard.”
Mr. Wheeler stuck out his hand and Miles reciprocated. The grasp was firm, and I could feel the calluses. “Bodyguard huh, so that is what they’re listing your fee under for the accounting department. More like a glorified babysitter to keep me out of everyone’s hair.” Mr. Wheeler paused looking over Miles. “Your real job is to keep me occupied and away from computers and phones so I do not mess up the partnership deal between my company and the Anno Funai Construction Company, my board thinks I am too volatile for negotiations and demanded I take this ‘sabbatical’ where I would not mess things up but still be available to sign papers should the need arise.”
I simply nodded, hopefully knowingly. The most I knew about big business deals was when I inadvertently used a coupon and the grocery store said it was double coupon day.
“And you Mr. Mitchell are here to confirm I live up to the ‘non-interference’ order that the board of directors has placed on me, so no phone calls, except to friends and family, and no computers.”
I nodded again and added. “You can just call me Miles.”
“Okay Miles, Mr. Kingsley has ensured all my physical needs are met, I have a personal chef coming in to prepare meals and such, while you will be assisting me in learning about Walt Disney World.”
“I can do that sir, have you ever been here on vacation before.”
“So, you know nothing about Walt Disney World.”
“I think you misunderstood me, I know nothing about vacations, I have never been on one before.”
“Never?” I said a bit surprised.
“Well, I went to New York City once with my family, but I had a few deals to seal and my family complained that I missed everything.”
The next few days we got into a routine, I would arrive at the campsite around nine in the morning, Ken Wheeler would be finishing his breakfast and then we would use Disney transportation to go to the different park. Mostly walking, me occasionally sharing trivia about the parks.
Mr. Wheeler was bored with it all and preoccupied, I imagine on the deal he was currently not a part of. He talked about his company a lot, how he had built up from one man handyman business with a beat-up truck into a multi-million company.
My job was simple, it required me to be with him from 9 am till 7 pm, he paid for my lunch and dinner, and after walking his required miles for the day we would head back to his campsite where he would read from his tablet while drinking copious amounts cranberry juice, and I would retrieve whatever book I had from the library in my car. He did not talk much; he was always polite but not overly sharing.
It was one of these lazy afternoons when I asked him about the cranberry juice that he finally revealed something personal about himself.
“Miles,” He said in the tone of an older wiser man. “A long life of living on coffee and other bad health habits has effected me in an embarrassing manner, my doctor has told me I have kidney stones.”
I nodded. “I have heard those are a discomfort.”
“An understatement.” Mr. Wheeler stated wincing.
There was a pause in our conversation. “Do you trust me Mr. Wheeler?”
He snorted. “If I can’t trust my ‘bodyguard’, who can I trust?”
I looked at my watch and told him we were going to the Magic Kingdom.
Two hours later we had ridden Big Thunder Mountain three times, with some trading and moving around we rode in the last car every time.
Mr. Wheeler passed three kidney stones that night.
The next day Mr. Wheeler was noticeably wiped out but also happier and with a bit more spring in his step.
We returned to the Magic Kingdom the next day for our walk and it was during one of our sit down breaks I mentioned there were tunnels underneath the park. It was the first time he showed anything other than polite interest in my trivia. When I informed him of the backstage tours that were available, he jumped on them. The next three days we took several backstage tours available in the parks. I had more scheduled for the rest of stay except Epcot Dive Quest and only because Mr. Wheeler was not a certified SCUBA diver, I am, and have been for years.
But we could not get a tour every day and it was on one of these days that everything changed.
I guess it was inevitable given the nature of why he was here, he was losing a significant portion of control of his company. Ben Kingsley called and told me to not show up until noon. When I did arrive, there was Mr. Wheeler, Ben and two men in suits standing around the picnic table at the campsite. Mr. Wheeler was glaring at a stack of papers on the table and the two unidentified men in suits were standing there with their arms crossed. I immediately clocked them as ambulance chasers, something slimy just emanated from them.
Mr. Wheeler saw me and turned his attention away from the papers and introduced the two new faces. “Miles, I want you to meet Shark One and Shark Two. My lawyers. My lawyers who are telling me instead of a simple partnership with Mr. Anno and Mr. Funai I will now be the Junior Partner in a company I founded and built.”
The older shark spoke up. “Now Ken you are mischaracterizing this, you will be the Senior President of your company with all you responsibilities as before and your compensation will increase three-fold.”
Mr. Wheeler glared at the lawyer and turned towards me. “Miles lets go.” And with that Mr. Wheeler turned and walked out. I did not know what else to say just shrugged and followed the body I was paid to guard.
The first rule of bodyguarding is to protect the principal, the second rule is not embarrass or interfere with your principal and his life. I had no right or justification or was even sure he should, turn around. So, we walked away, him leading the way to the boat docks I assumed to go to the Magic Kingdom.
But the first boat that arrived was one for the Contemporary Resort, so Mr. Wheeler angrily boarded that one[. If he had waited an additional five minutes, we would have had a direct and faster route to the Magic Kingdom. I could see the approaching boat, but we boarded the one that was here.
I do not know if I believe in fate or a predestination, maybe things would have worked out exactly the same way no matter what boat we took.
Walking through the Contemporary Resort we made it into the Magic Kingdom with Mr. Wheeler still in a foul mood. A complete lap of the perimeter of the park and the beginning of another one and Mr. Wheeler sat down on a bench halfway between Pirates of the Caribbean and Splash Mountain. He asked me to get him a lemonade. I suspect he just wanted to sit and fume.
The next part I was not present for, but these are the words of Mr. Wheeler.
I was sitting on a bench and a family stopped nearby checking their map. Well, the littlest girl not in the stroller decided to sit on the park bench and her older brother decided to tease her as children do. He had a Mickey Ice Cream bar; she had a bag of pink cotton candy.
This next thing I know the ice cream goes flying off the stick and ends up on my lap and the cotton candy gets dropped in front of me, in shock I stood up stepping in the cotton candy.
It was at this point she enters the fray.
“Don’t you dare.” She says shaking two fingers me.
I was sputtering in anger but given this womans spoke with such force and determination the yelling I was about to do at the small children gets stuck in my throat.
The children are standing there shocked and scared at what just transpired, knowing they had done wrong.
“You two stop fighting and go tell your parents what happened.” The strange woman said as she took me by the arm and began leading him towards the bathroom next to the Pirates of Caribbean.
“Excuse me Ma’am where are we going?”
“To a public restroom for you to clean yourself up, and you still have some cotton candy on you left shoe.”
I looked down and scraped the offending sticky pink stuff off my shoe on the pavement.
“The sooner we get that ice cream off those pants the less likely they will stain.” She looked appraisingly at the shorts. “Tommy Bahama’s?”
I had no clue what brand name they were, I had an assistant buy my clothing. “I am not sure.” I said as the stranger directed me to the men’s room.
“Just water and then pat dry with a paper towel, which should keep the stain from being permanent.”
I did as instructed and came out a few minutes later and the woman was talking with the parents of the children, he saw her give the parents a bit of money and they turned and ushered their children back into the bustling crowd. I looked her over as she watched the family walk away, she was a good looking woman with a pretty face and nice legs from what I could see from her calf length yellow skirt.
“Where are they going, I was going to give them a piece of my mind.” I said approaching the strange woman who had inserted herself into the problem.
“Oh, I imagine off to get some more Mickey Bars or cotton candy, nice people from Kenosha, Wisconsin.”
“But raising some brats.”
The woman turned on me suddenly in anger. “Brats? You were involved in a small accident with some over excited children, and you pass judgement because you were slightly inconvenienced.”
I was shocked at her anger and then her anger dissipated as she took a deep breath. “Who are you here with Grumpy, Grumpy does not come to the Magic Kingdom alone.”
“I am not grumpy.”
“I am Snow White,” She said, motioning to her outfit which had the color scheme of the first Disney royal. “I know my dwarves.”
“I am no dwarf ma’am.”
She looked me over, in an appraising manner then spoke. “You most assuredly are a dwarf, you are a hard worker, probably to the detriment of your family, you gather all kinds of wealth in your ‘diamond mine’ but live well but simply. You sir are most assuredly a dwarf.” And then she smiled mischievously. “Right now, you are Grumpy but even Grumpy had a heart of gold.” And she patted me right in the center of my chest. “Deep down.”
I was a little shocked but decided to go on the offensive. “And you are here with whom? Your husband, your grandchildren?
“None of the above. I just had a little down time today and decided to come over and soak in the magic.”
I snorted. “The magic of relieving tourists of the vacation money they saved a year for, if they saved at all, most of them will paying off this credit card debit for years.”
“You don’t believe in the magic of memories, the magic of laughter and wonderment?”
I simply snorted dismissively again.
“You are grumpy.” The woman closed her eyes and breathed deeply for a full ten count. When she opened them, she was smiling, then she smiled even broader after she spotted something in the distance. “I am Maribel, and your name is?”
“Ken Wheeler. Wheeler Construction.” I said the second part almost reflexively.
“Well come with me Ken Wheeler of Wheeler Construction, a very dwarf like job I might add.” And she took me by the hand and lead me towards the Enchanted Tiki Room.
Meanwhile I had lost my client. The line for lemonade was longer than I thought and when I got to the front of the line the family in front of me bought the last bottle of lemonade, so I had to go to another concession stand and go thru that line. I was not worried, Mr. Wheeler was remarkably patient and like I had said earlier, I thought he wanted time to just sit and fume. But getting back to the bench I saw that Mr. Wheeler was gone, I was not concerned, he had probably just gone to the restroom, so I sat and waited ten minutes. It was after fifteen minutes I started to get concerned. At twenty minutes I started to look for him, I went to the restrooms in Pecos Bill, and then the restrooms near Pirates of the Caribbean.
Mr. Wheeler had never left me before, I wondered if he went back to the campsite, I thought it unlikely but since he did not have a cell phone I had only two real choices, continue looking for him or return to the campsite. I briefly toyed the thought about contacting Disney Security but that seemed a little excessive, although they could probably find him in a few minutes, they are just that good, but then I would have to explain why I was working as a bodyguard in their parks. And as understanding as Security is, I didn’t want them looking at me sideways for any reason.
Not knowing where to look I continued in the direction we had been going. I had rounded the corner around the Enchanted Tiki Room when I saw a balloon vendor sans balloons. They have a very unique costume and I had never seen one totally sold out before except once. I shook my head and thought ‘no it can’t be her’ but I approached the vendor with a theory in mind.
“No more balloons?”
“Sorry no sir, but I can direct you to another vendor.”
“Sold out? “
The fresh-faced College Program Cast Member simply smiled. “Yes, sir a lady dressed kinda like Snow White just came up and bought every single one, twenty-two balloons to one guest.”
I did not mean to say it aloud, but I did. “Maribel.”
“Yes, sir that was her name, she introduced herself, nice lady, and then she handed them off to her friend. I described Mr. Wheeler and he nodded that it was Maribel’s companion. The vendor gave the proper two finger pointing method, mandated by Walt Disney himself, in the direction of the castle.
I said, ‘thank you’ and started searching. I did not find them for an hour, and by then they had given away every single balloon and they were sharing a Mickey pretzel on a park bench acting like two old friends.
“Oh, there you are Miles,” he nudged Maribel. “I told you he was a good Private Eye.”
“And he is a great son, although he doesn’t call as often as he should.” Maribel said nudging him right back.
Ken Wheeler turned and gave a surprised look at Maribel. Maribel just smiled and nodded.
I rolled my eyes at her.
The rest of the day I simply played chaperone to Mr. Wheeler and my mother as they walked and talked around the park. I did not join them as they rode the Haunted Mansion and Peter Pan’s Flight. I did join them at the Hall of President’s simply because I wanted to sit down in the AC.
I was dismissed when they made plans for dinner at the California Grill. How my mother got a reservation so late in the day beats me, but she knows more people around property then I do. I returned to the campsite and read my book from the library. Ken Wheeler rolled in an hour later smiling. Something I had not seen him do much of, and the way the day began I had not expected it at all.
The next day started out as normal, but Mr. Wheeler insisted on we go to Epcot. We walked the circuit of park twice and it was about one o’clock when we arrived at the Japanese Pavilion where my mother was waiting. I simply nodded as Mr. Wheeler asked if he could have lunch with my mother alone. But I had to get in a dig on my mother before she had her sushi. “Business must be slow if you can spend two days in the park, in a row.”
Maribel simply shushed me and allowed Ken to take her by the arm and lead her up the stairs to the restaurant. I killed an hour and half and as they dined, then stayed six feet behind them as they strolled and talked, then Maribel left after an hour, and we continued walking.
The pattern was repeated for the next three days, a lunch meeting a stroll then parting with a kiss. The kissing was between the two of them, I was left out of it, thankfully. My mother knew I was working and even she had her limits as to how much she would embarrass me. While her profession worked on shows of endearment, she knew mine did not.
It was on the fourth day that things changed. I arrived at the campsite and there was a big meeting taking place, three cars were in the campsite, and they were standing around the picnic table with papers covering it.
This was none of my concern, so I pulled up a folding chair and broke out my library book.
I would occasionally glance up and note that Mr. Wheeler mood was improving, while the lawyers and accountants looked unsure but followed his lead in mood.
I sat there for an hour reading when the meeting abruptly broke up when Mr. Wheeler noticed the time and motioned for us to begin walking towards the boat docks to go to the Magic Kingdom.
Once we were onboard the Castaway Mr. Wheeler spoke. “It seems that the Japanese company that was buying mine, or as they called it ‘partnering” has run into some trouble, the CEO has been caught in some sort of scandal and it has put them in a precarious position with his board of directors, so the deal might not be going forward in the way he envisioned.
I simply nodded.
“In fact, my people were hesitant to mention it, but it makes it entirely possible that I might be able to take over a controlling interest of that company.”
I felt this needed more than a simple nod, ‘Interesting’, was all I could come up with.
Mr. Wheeler was energized, he practically vibrated while on the boat as we approached the Magic Kingdom docks.
We did the entry through the touchpoint, the green circles telling us we were okay to enter. To tell the truth I kind of missed the old turnstiles gone since 2013. The push of the bar had been a tactile sensation taking you from reality into the magic of Disney. Now with the touchpoint you only put your finger on the pad, and no click and no mechanical tumbling noise either.
But I was distracted from my nostalgia by keeping up with my principal as he made his way to Liberty Tree Tavern, where my mother was waiting.
“Good news Maribel.” Ken Wheeler said as he kissed her on the cheek.
“I have good news too; I have tickets to the Cirque du Soleil show La Nouba tonight.
“Great we can celebrate; remember how I was telling you I might be losing my company.”
“Yes, I do.” Maribel said hopefully.
“Well, that is not happening, in fact I think I can swoop in and take over the Anno Funai Construction Company, those guys that were trying to push me out.” Ken said gleefully.
Maribel simply answered with a ‘oh’.
“Shocking I know, but I tide has turned on those bastards who tried to put me out.”
I watched my mother, while her face remained neutral, I could tell she was upset, but I could tell Ken had missed the sadness in her eyes. I felt bad, I had seen my mother go thru a range of emotions in my life, but I now was hurt, and hiding it by putting on her professional face.
“I am so happy for you.” Maribel said. As they walked into the restaurant I remained outside, I heard my mother move into professional small talk mode, like she was asking clients about their business.
I found a nearby bench and planted myself and I thought about what had just happened. My mother never dated much while I was growing up, only a couple of times that I could recall, she was so busy getting her business up and running. Even these last few years while the business was thriving, with a solid customer base and steady growth she had just defaulted to socializing in the world of business.
But now realized, she was lonely. And the chance of that her loneliness might be alleviated was destroyed by Ken’s news and he did not even see it.
But I had.
The question was should I do anything and if so what. Technically this guy was my client not a friend I could give unsolicited advice to. Not that I like to give unsolicited advice to even my friends, I respect them a lot, and figure they know what is best for their own lives.
But had Ken Wheeler crossed a line, moving from just a client to something more when he began ‘dating’ my mother.
My thoughts were interrupted when the couple came out of the restaurant, and I could see my mother beg off walking claiming she had some business matter to address but promised she would see him tonight for dinner before the show.
Ken Wheeler was still full of excitement about his business, and he borrowed my phone and called Ben Kingsley to meet him back at the campsite in an hour.
We got back to the campsite and Ken Wheeler went into his RV. I picked up my book but read the same page about three times when Ben Kingsley pulled up. I did not realize I had made a decision about what to do until I stood up and approached Ben just as he was halfway to the RV. “Can I have a word, Ben?”
“Sure, what do you need?”
I got right to the point. “Mr. Wheeler is now taking an active role in these negotiations, so I cannot in good conscience continue my role, as it was to keep him from being active in the company business and this is his second business meeting in one day.” I took a breath. “Therefore, I think my services are no longer needed and me being here is a moot point.”
“Well, if that is the way you feel Miles, that is a really honest gesture, but we will continue to pay you for the full week, just send an invoice to the company.”
“I will, Mr. Wheeler seems to really want to see you, so if you could tell him the situation, tell him I enjoyed working for him and I wish him well.”
“Sure thing.” Ben said extending his hand. I shook it and he added. “I think he likes you he never complained about you once, which says a lot.”
I simply nodded and smiled and walked to my car, I was in it and driving before Ben’s knock on the RV door was answered.
I called my mother once I returned to my office and told her that my working for Mr. Wheeler was over.
“Why did you do that Miles?” My mother asked a little crossly.
“Totally a business decision mother, I was hired to distract him from being involved in the business negotiations, but he had two meetings today, so I do not think I was going to fulfill my duties, so I resigned.”
“Did you get paid yet?” Maribel asked, always the pragmatic businesswoman.
“What are you really asking is did I burn my bridges?” I said sighing. “No, I left on good terms and will be sending them an invoice soon, which I fully expect to be paid.”
“Okay that is good.” She paused and I could tell she wanted to ask me something but did not know how to.
“I liked him too mom.”
More silence from my mother’s end.
“You going to end if after Cirque tonight?”
Another long pause. “Before, I do not think I will be able to enjoy the show.” She changed the subject and ended the conversation with her normal chiding, I should eat better, maybe I should come back and work for her again if the PI thing did not work out. The normal stuff that we did every time I called her, but her heart was not in the nagging.
I invoiced Ken’s company, business was business, even if he had broken my mother’s heart. The rest of the day I just kind of bumped around the office but as the time approached for Ken and Maribel to meet, I decided to go to Disney Springs, the newly revamped shopping and dining area. I had really enjoyed old Pleasure Island and was still getting familiar with the new layout, but I knew when and where they were meeting so I thought I would keep an eye on them and be there for my mother if she needed someone.
Changing shirts and putting on a ball cap I found a place to watch their meet up and see how it all went.
Unfortunately, my surveillance point was too good. I was sitting at a table, and they sat on a bench on the other side of planter from me, so I heard the whole conversation.
Ken was droning on about how many opportunities this would be for new projects and how much traveling he would have to do but he already owned a jet, so he was going to have to maybe hire a back up pilot. That is when my mother stopped him.
“Ken, my dear sweet dwarf, I am going to have to get off the ride at this point.”
“I don’t understand.” Ken said being caught off guard by the statement.
My mother nodded. “No, you don’t if you did, we would not be having this conversation.” She sighed. “How much is enough? I have struggled as well, built my business up from nothing like you. I put certain aspects of my life on hold, and denied myself a lot, just like you have.”
He nodded in agreement.
“But now I have a strong, stable business, that while it still needs some tending, I do it on my terms, taking the jobs I like from the people I like.” She smiled proudly. “I have enough.”
Ken looked bewildered.
“My dear sweet Grumpy, you like the ride too much just like I did while building my business, it is fun, and exciting but that ride is over for me, and I cannot be a spectator as you go on riding.” I saw a tear roll down her face and she backed away from him on the bench, dabbed it with an embroidered handkerchief, then she kissed him on the cheek and got up and walked away.
I gulped down the lump in my own throat, threw cash on the table to cover my tab and covertly caught up to her, leaving Ken Wheeler truly alone. I glanced back once and saw a mixed look of shock and sadness on his face.
Late the next morning I woke in my mother’s guest room and heard her in the kitchen making waffles. It was her habit after going thru a reversal or bad time she made waffles, it was her coping mechanism.
To tell you the truth she is a terrible cook and waffles is the only thing she can make that come out nearly edible. She did have her sketch pads on the table as well which encouraged me, she loved her work and sometimes let the waffles burn when she got distracted with an idea.
I was through my second waffle when there was a knock at the door. My mother motioned for me to get it and I stuffed one more forkful in my mouth and walked to the door.
I peeked outside and recoiled a bit in shock. But I decided to play it cool and yelled over my shoulder. “Mother it is for you.”
She yelled back. “Just let whoever it is in, I am decent.”
“No mom you had better answer it.”
She came to the door with a pencil stuck behind her ear and a spatula in her hand. “Some sort of delivery?”
“Sort of.” I said flinging the door wide open.
There standing outside the door was Ken Wheeler, with Mickey Mouse ears on, holding a pickaxe with Grumpy. Grumpy the Dwarf in the flesh or in this case full fur and felt costume standing right beside Ken. “I am not Grumpy, this is Grumpy, he said pointing to the dwarf beside him.” He picked up the pickaxe that was at his feet and presented it to her with a flourish. “I am not going back to the mine.”
I turned towards my mother, who was grinning from ear to ear and crying at the same time.
That was over five years ago, now I am sitting here writing this down preparing for Ken and Maribel’s anniversary party. They had a whirlwind romance and six months later got married in a very Disney wedding. I gave away my mom, something I have been trying to do for years.