Imagine that you are driving down Main Street just before midnight. Maybe you’ve been to a party, or maybe you’ve been to Denny’s for a late night snack of cheese sticks and decaffeinated coffee. Either way, you’re on your way home, driving down the deserted street and you look over and see a man standing on the corner, under a street lamp. He’s wearing a trench coat, tied snuggly around his waist and his fedora is down over his eyes. You might wonder what he is doing, standing all alone on a street corner just before midnight. Well, I’m that man and I’ll tell you.
My name is Mack. Mack Moulding. And I’m a gumshoe, a private dick. Most people thinking being an investigator is a glamorous business; carrying a gun, solving crimes and sleeping with beautiful women. I don’t own a gun and I’ve never slept with a beautiful woman, but I do proofread. You see, I specialize in malicious corporate misspelling. It’s hard to believe, but there are people out there who get their jollies by misspelling words in their workplace. I believe it is a mental illness, but I’ve yet to get the American Psychiatric Association to recognize it. Until they do, I’m the person who ferrets out the misspellers and brings them to justice.
That night, I was staking out the Staples Corporate Headquarters where an employee has been misspelling words in their catalogue. The “dry erase bored” in the Winter catalogue was mildly humorous but after last week’s sales flyer advertised an “office wall cock,” I stepped in.
From the very beginning I thought there was something strange about this case. Most serial misspellers try to cover up their misspellings. They’ll slip them into long, boring legal documents that few people read, or use common misspellings that most people might miss, like “calandar.” Misplaced apostrophes are used regularly and rarely detected. Some misspellers will even try to make their misspellings look like an honest typographical error, like “begrimming” instead of “beginning.” But whoever was misspelling in the Staples catalogue wasn’t trying to hide it. He was flaunting in. This guy had misspelled before and was getting cocky, no pun intended.
I had been standing on the corner across for the Staples offices for about two hours before I spotted the Staples Misspeller. He was younger than I thought he would be, around thirty-five. He wore jeans, a navy blue sweatshirt and a Boston Red Sox baseball cap. He approached the office from West, and looked around cautiously before unlocking the front door and slipping inside. I had stepped back into the shadows when I saw him drawing near, so he didn’t spot me watching him.
After he had entered the building, I followed. The Staples bigwigs had neglected to give me a key, but luckily I’m an expert at picking locks. It’s just one of the tricks you pick up when you’re a private eye. When I got to the lobby, I saw that the elevator had stopped on the 8th floor where the catalogue department, was located. It was then that I knew I had my guy.
I took the stairs to avoid alerting him to my presence. I closed the stairway door silently and found myself in a dark hallway. Light spilled out of an open office door at the far end of the hall. I quietly crept toward the light, one hand on the wall and the other resting lightly on the dictionary in my trench coat pocket.
When I reached the open door, I peered cautiously around the corner. The suspect was sitting at large computer, with his back to the door. I could see the Staple catalogue layout on the screen and the man typing furiously. I stepped into the room and yelled, “Freeze!”
Surprised, the man spun around in his chair. “Who the hell are you?” he asked.
“I’m Mack. Mack Moulding. I’m a private investigator specializing in malicious corporate misspellings. Put your hands up.”
The guy, and his hands, stayed where they were. “Misspelling? Are you serious? What kind of lame-ass PI specializes in misspelling?”
I pushed my fedora back on my head and glared at him “Misspelling is a very serious offense, sir. Especially when they occur in something as important as the Staples catalogue. ‘Office cocks’ are no laughing matter.”
The suspect let out a high-pitched giggle. “Yeah, that was a good one.” He leaned back in his chair. “So, how much do you get paid for to catch these misspellers.”
I hesitated. I usually end up volunteering my services, so I don’t actually get paid to investigate misspellings. What I do is very important, but most corporations don’t understand the value of my services. “I get paid enough,” I lied.
The misspeller nodded, “Yeah, I bet you do.” He crossed his arms. “So, now what?”
“Now I turn you in to the President of Staples and the catalogue goes back to being a safe place for the world to shop.” I stepped forward to take him into custody.
He stood up. “I have a better idea,” he said. “I’m in corporate espionage. Office Depot is paying me $100,000 to sabotage the Staples catalogue. How about I give you 10 grand and we forget this ever happened?”
I was stunned that someone could get $100,000 to misspell. It was then that I realized that the world is not a fair place. Besides, with $10,000 I could quit my day job sorting letters at the Scrabble factory and move to an island in the Pacific. And although I wouldn’t be able to afford to live there for too long, I had no doubt that an island in the Pacific would need a private investigator who specialized in malicious corporate misspelling.
I held out my hand to the misspeller “It’s a deal.” We shook hands and, as he turned back to the computer, I leaned over his shoulder and pointed as the screen. “You should change that to ‘masking and duck tape’.”