Plan Z

Plan Z

A Story by Chopstix

Husband arranges surprise party for reluctant wife. Contest Prompt : Birthdays

Eustace “Ace” Sloan Detective Agency
Telephone Transcript: 2016/09/03 1642
Home Phone: Device installed by client.

Carl Fandkin:  You've reached a disconnected number.  Please leave a message at the beep.
Nicole Swanson: That was almost funny twenty years ago.
CF: So were you, Nicky.
NS: Keith and I were wondering where you are taking Marie for her birthday?
CF: Wherd'ya think?
NS: That bad?
CF: She's worse than me.
NS: Never thought it possible.
CF: Me neither, but after the e-mail leak incident at work … 
NS: The one that got her fired?
CF: Resigned, but yeah, afterwards her paranoia level's been through the roof.

“I'm not that bad, am I?” Marie Fandkin remarked.

“You hired my agency.”

NS: Well, you two choose the place, and I'll get everybody there.
CF: Yeah, let's give that a try.
NS: Won't work?
CF: Not a chance.
NS: What are you going to do?
CF: Can't we just let this one go?
NS: Marie is my sister.  My whole family wants to celebrate her fiftieth birthday.  It's what we do?
CF: We?
NS: Marie comes to all family celebrations.
CF: None in her honor, not in the twenty years we've been married.
NS: So, I can't count on you?
CF: Have you considered a surprise party, a small one, not a mega affair like your big five-oh.
NS: No, how small?
CF: Just family, close family.
NS: Where?
CF: Every Saturday night, we go to to the Quaker Inn at six.
NS: Still?
CF: You've know her longer than I.
NS: Doesn't like change.
CF: Nor surprises.
NS: This will be good.
CF: Or a disaster.
NS: I'll make the arrangements.
CF: Let me take care of the inn.  I know the manager.
NS: Great, we got a plan.
CF: Let's call it Plan A.  We'll need to be flexible.

Surveillance Report:  Detective Rick Roberts. 
Date:  2016/09/04 1015
Subject:  Nicole Swanson.
Location:  Partys R' Us, 1652 Commonwealth Ave, El Sereno, CA

Subject spent two hours at location.  Returned to BMW X5 with two bags, presumed  napkins, plates, streamers and sundry party decorations.

Surveillance Report:  Detective Alejandro Chavez. 
Date:  2016/09/05 2030
Subject:  Carl Fandkin.
Location:  Quaker Inn, 3200 Huntington Dr, South Pasadena, CA

Subject spent thirty minutes near or at cash register.  Spoke to several employees.

Surveillance Report:  Detective Rick Roberts. 
Date:  2016/09/07 0900
Subject:  Nicole Swanson.
Location:  Clarabelle's Banners and Balloons, 319 W Main St, Arcadia, CA

Subject spent fifteen minutes inside, returned to vehicle.

“I wonder what she did there,” Marie pondered.

“I'm going with, 'ordering banners or balloons.'” 

“Great.”  Marie's intonation remained unenthusiastically flat.

“Truly so-so.  I've used them in the past.” 

“What sort of case needed balloons?” 

“Office party. There's one more entry you should look at.”

Surveillance Report:  Detective Alejandro Chavez. 
Date:  2016/09/10 2100
Subject:  Carl Fandkin, Nicole Swanson.
Location:  Lava Lounge, 4900 Taft Blvd, Rosemead, CA

Subject 1 entered and spent 1 hour inside.  Noticed Detective Roberts in parking lot.  He confirms subject 2 arrived twenty minutes before subject 1.  They exited together, subject 2 initiated a hug and they left in separate cars.  Subject 1 drove directly home.

“He told me he's going to Starbucks to do some writing”

“We can rule out an affair in this case.”

“I'm surprised they hugged.  They don't get along so well.”


“My sister can be a little pushy, always seems to get her way.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I don't know.  What would you do?”

“Go bowling.”


“They make their plans; I make mine.”

“Does your wife approve of your tactics?”

“I'm not married.”

“With that attitude, I bet your'e divorced.”

“How do you want to play this surprise party?”

“I don't know.”

“What do you want?”

“I don't want a birthday party; I don't want all this fuss and I don't want a surprise.”

“We can rule out a surprise.”


“Fifty is just a number; no harm celebrating it.”

“Fifty is not just a number.  It is never just a number.  At thirteen I, uh, well, developed.  Mom added a training bra to my birthday presents.”

“At the party?”

“Embarrassing, but it goes on.  At sixteen, Chuck Morrison gave me more than I wanted.”


“Penicillin.  Pregnancy came at eighteen.  All summer, my friends enjoyed parties and the beach.  I was showing, so I stayed home.  The father proposed at nineteen.  We married on my twentieth birthday.  He said he would never forget both my birthday and our anniversary.  The cheapskate was just trying to economize on presents while he was in college.  He filed for divorce a month after he graduated.  I was only twenty-two.”

“You by-passed twenty-one.”

“DUI on the drive home from the disco.  My friend, Ronnie, wasn't so lucky.  I really miss Veronica.”

“You remarried at thirty.”

“You've been investigating me?”

“Simple math.”

“Oh.  Well, the marriage has been okay, at least until this surprise party thing, but, to me, these are not just numbers.  They mean something.  They bring changes.”

“And you don't like changes.”

“I'm used to things just the way they are.


Surveillance Report:  Detective Ace Sloan. 
Date:  2016/09/17 1700
Subject:  Let's see who shows up.
Location:  Quaker Inn, 3200 Huntington Dr, South Pasadena, CA

Nicole Swanson, her husband, two twenty-somethings (presumed their children) and an elderly couple (presumed Marie's parents) .  They checked in with the hostess who led them to a small side room.  I observed from a table just outside the room.  They taped up two banners:  Happy 39th Birthday and de Nile est juste un fleuve en Egypte.  

1715 Banners came down.

1750 Three other couples drifted in as well as some more twenty-somethings.

1800 Everyone left, decorations and all.  Followed them to parking lot.  They are all waiting near their cars.  I slipped the waitress a twenty to keep my table. 

1820 Family reentered the Quaker Inn.  Decorations up.  

1835 Marie and Carl Fandkin arrived.  Marie expressed surprise and gratitude then ordered her usual California salad with cilantro ranch dressing on the side.  

1910 Carl Fandkin stepped outside the room.

“Hi, you must be Carl.”

“Yes, and you are?”

“Ace Sloan, Private Eye.  Your wife hired me to follow you a couple of weeks ago.”

“Really?  Well that explains a few things.”

“What sort of things?”

“You saw her entrance.”

“Not convincingly surprised.”

“Exactly.  I have you to thank for that.”

“Your wife is quite a character.”

“Nah, she's an actual person.”

“That she is, that she is.  I have one question, however.”


“You arrived, together, thirty-five minutes late.”

“You said you were a detective.  You might get a kick out of this.”

Carl Fandkin dug his cell phone out of his pocket.  A few swipes later, he presented his text message history and pointed at this evening's entries.

Honey, I don't feel like the Quakers tonight, why
don't we get a pizza and rent a movie?
Marie 05:07
Okay, why don't you pick 1 up on your way home
from church. I'll pick up a movie and meet you
there at 6
Carl  05:09
Nicky, Plan C.  Stay put, but prepare to leave. 
We may have a pizza party at our house.
Carl  05:11
We got banners up.  Are you sure?
Nicky 05:14
Not Sure, be flexible.
Carl 05:15
Don't feel like pizza.  How about bowling?
Marie 05:26
Only bowling alley I know is in Montrose.  That's
a thirty minute drive.
Carl 05:28
Plan G bowling in Montrose.  Stay put till
Carl 05:29
What's with the changes?  Can't you make up your
Nicky 05:31
Apparently not.  Stay put. Will advise.
Carl 05:35
Too far.  How about that new place on Main?
Marie 05:39
The Boathouse.  Cajun sounds good to me.  Meet
there at 6.
Carl 05:42
Plan F Boathouse on Main.  Unsure of seating time. 
Text you from restaurant.  Hope everyone likes
Carl 05:44
Boathouse out.  Plan T now considering Bob's Big
Boy, Toluca Lake.  You'll have to Google it.  Stay
put.  I'll text with seating time.
Carl 05:56
We are all getting antsy.  What should I do?
Nicky 06:10
Marie missed an exit.  We pulled over on the
freeway.  Back to QI, ETA 6:30.
Carl 06:16

Are you sure this time?
Nicky 06:17
Carl 06:18

“Well, it looks like Plan A worked after all.”

“Plan A? You gotta be kidding.  Plan A failed when you told her what we're up to.”

“Everyone met at the Quaker Inn for her surprise party.”

“Perhaps, but not as planned.  This has got to be Plan Z or something like that.”

“She looks happy.  See. She's even hugging her sister.”

“Yeah, she knows how to behave in public, but I bet you would not want to be in my shoes when we get home.”

Of all the night's ironies, this hit the hardest.  I should have joined Detective Chavez on a cheating husband case, but I wanted to see Marie one more time.  Nobody's perfect, and along with a sweet face, chestnut brown hair, trim figure and great gams, Marie carried some baggage.  Some people feel a need for special days.  They plan celebrations, host parties and dive into new, often strange, things to spice up their lives.  The thing is, not everyone enjoys the same amount of spice.  I've built a business tracking down cheating wives, philandering husbands and scofflaws running away from their responsibilities.  Most of them went off track trying to spice up their lives.  Like all train wrecks, they leave victims in their wake:  shell shocked housewives, angry businessmen, vengeful cocktail hostesses, depressed school teachers, distracted nurses even former LAPD lieutenants who left the force in a failed bids to save their marriages.  People like Marie concentrate on getting through each and every day.  They are dependable, consistent and admirable.  They are the bedrock of good partnerships, lasting partnerships.  So, yeah, if the offer were real, I would like to be in his shoes, but I wouldn't make his mistake.  I would have stuck with his first instinct and told her pushy sister to just let this one go.

“Didn't think so.  Well, goodnight, ace detective.”

WDC Word Count: 1677

© 2017 Chopstix

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register

Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Added on February 9, 2017
Last Updated on February 9, 2017
Tags: Surprise, Birthday, Party, Private Eye, Detective, Transcript, Surveillance, text messages



Los Angeles, CA

In high school, I wrote lyrics. I started college writing poems and switched to short stories. After college, I discovered I could write computer programs, but I could not finish a novel (kept editi.. more..