Fred Mullen was not the handsomest man. He was of very average height, with a slight paunch, and a face that was chronically hard to shave, who was greying in a decidedly unromantic way, and whose features were anything but symmetrical.
He was not the smartest man. No one encouraged him to go to college; they could see as clear as the moon on a cloudless night that Fred’s talent was to be mediocre.
But Fred Mullen was a loyal man. When people were kind to him, he returned the kindness with an unwavering loyalty. If people treated him with respect, he repaid that respect with trust and fidelity.
So, he sat in the driver’s seat of his green, 1994 Volvo 960 sedan and watched the man who lived at 339 Havenridge Crescent. He took pictures of the man with his cellphone. When the man got into his own car, Fred followed him a discreet distance behind.
Over the course of two weeks, just hanging out at 339 Havenridge Crescent on his off hours, Fred got to know the man’s routine. The man mostly worked at a run down auto mechanic shop, breaking down old vehicles into salvageable parts and scrap. Fred half-suspected that the cars he worked on were stolen. But that was not his business, not right now.
The man was paid in cash daily for this work.
The man was younger than Fred, and average height, just like Fred, but much thinner, though on weekends Fred followed him to the community gym, set up in the basement of the high school. Fred used his powers of invisibility to follow the man inside the gym and also peeked into the dressing room. These powers were not supernatural: Fred was simply a nondescript, forgettable, middle-aged man of no apparent consequence.
The man used the weight equipment to build up his triceps and biceps. So while he was a bit of a scrawny person, his arms were strong and well-developed. He had multiple scars on his back. Fred took a picture of the man and his back, while seeming to be talking on his cellphone.
A red-headed woman sometimes came to the house at 339 Havenridge Crescent, and sometimes stayed for several days. At the beginning of the second week of Fred’s casual surveillance, the woman moved out of the house, strapped to a stretcher and carried off in an ambulance.
Fred took pictures. It looked like she’d had a bad accident.
Fred found out the woman’s name, by speaking to the EMT driver, who was on the same bowling team as Fred.
One snowy afternoon, when Fred’s Volvo proved again to be a match for winter conditions, he was calmly observing the man’s house when two dogs appeared. One looked a little straggly, but curled up on the porch. It looked a bit like the dog Fred had occasionally seen tied up in the yard during previous visits.
A short while later an old man and a teenager arrived at the man’s house and had some kind of altercation with him at the front door. One of the dogs bit the man in the balls. Fred had to wince. He didn’t interfere, but he took pictures with his cellphone.
He put his notes and printed-off pictures into a clean, new manilla folder, and the next time he had a shift in the regular part of the prison, he left the folder under the pillow of Miss Fisher’s bunk, while the inmates were taking exercise in the indoor courtyard. He liked Miss Fisher. Always had.