Discover more from Parhelia
You would hand them the First Dollar and they would be on their way.
After the city broke the police union all these horrible revelations came out in a data leak and the city decided to fire the whole department and start fresh.
The transitional period led to certain innovations that have since replicated elsewhere. For instance:
Private investigators sprung up across the city seemingly overnight. The market was saturated with competent investigators that only competed on price. Very soon you could hire one for pocket change on any popular freelancing site. Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer. Here's how you would do it:
You would say: I will pay five dollars for this case. Then you would create the job description:
Tasks: Find and return my kidnapped son
Project start date: ASAP
Project end date: Midnight
Deliverables: My son
Then you would wait while the offers came pouring in. The most enterprising investigators would show up at your house unbidden. They considered it a point of pride to ferret out an address. They would try to start on the case immediately but it would be important to profile them first. Though most investigators are excellent, a bad investigator can make a case worse.
In an interview you would check for three main things:
How are they with deadlines? Very quickly you get an intuition if a PI isn't going to be able to find your kidnapped son within the day.
Do they understand the ins and outs? For example, do they know that almost all kidnappings involve a relative? If they don't even know that, you can kick them out of your living room right there and then, never mind the tea.
Have they done this before? But related experience can still be good. For example, lost dogs or husbands.
At its peak this sort of thing led to a hundred investigators lounging on your lawn and sitting on your doorstep and listening from the hall and crawling over each other waiting for their interview. Out of these hundred you might narrow it down to a shortlist of ten. Depending on your savings you might hire all ten -- but never less than two.
They'd say they don't mind other investigators being on the case. They'd say they just want the case solved. Because the market was so tight they'd have to be polite and say things like that through their gritted teeth. The truth is that private investigators all take intense pride in their work, do not believe that other PIs know anything, and do not understand why their clients don’t see this.
Then you would hand them the First Dollar and they would be on their way. Some of the ones you hadn't hired would go as well, hoping to pick up four dollars (the Last Dollars) at the end. Most would move on to the next job hoping for the whole five.
Then you'd sit back. Maybe you'd worry if you felt like it. Most people preferred to clean the house. They'd finally defeat the horrible mold behind the bath. They'd lay out fresh sheets for their child. The child would always be unharmed. The criminal world was terrified of the vengeance of the PIs, who felt that excessive force would distinguish them to their clients and perhaps lead to a LinkedIn recommendation.
The problem with this period was the self-negating efficacy of the PIs. With less crime there was less work. Wages were pushed so low by the end that some PIs couldn't pay rent anymore. You must understand: A PI can live off of a dollar a day. Maybe three quarters. But not one quarter. "I'm a machine, not an animal!", a prideful one might say to you. But most considered it a greater point of pride to not complain. They would prefer to attempt living off of a quarter a day.
This period lasted for about a year. Because crime was solved so effectively, the city was reluctant to bring back the police department. However, other unions came in and pushed for a new department filled with their people. And so the police department returned and technically they could be fired but the process was so arduous it never happened. Crime returned and everything felt normal again. The private investigators largely went back to their old jobs: quants, baristas, librarians, gang members. If you ever mention this period to these people, they will proudly show you their First Dollars. You can trigger their nostalgia by asking them to find things for you: buried treasure, lost loves, answers. They will often do it for free.