01 June 2006

What I know about Dag

I first met Dagget Hamilton in May of 2006. He emerged as a parody of a detective, operating in a world that he only partially understood. He is the type of guy who narrates his own life, often embellishing the actual events with what he "shoulda said."

Dag's life unfolded before me in a series flashes, laced with his own insights, sometimes accidentally revealed. Dag is a child of the sixties. He served in Viet Nam near the end of the war. When he got out, he used his GI benefits to go to school and get a degree in accounting. Somewhere in his mid twenties, a tragedy hit him and he lost the one love of his life and his first home. He says it was a fire, but I suspect that his relationship died of boredom and the house went with it.

Image means a lot Dag. He tries to portray an aura of sophisticated toughness. He models himself simultaneously after James Bond and Sam Spade. But when he's in a tight spot, it is his naturally sweet disposition that always surfaces first. He is especially attracted to technology (the James Bond side). His vault is filled with gadgets that he doesn't use. And he's not ignorant of it. He knows his way around a computer and attends all the detective and surveilance conventions, even though he seldom has a use for his gadgets. But as a result of his fascination with computers, one aspect of his business (and the most lucrative) is recovering data from damaged or sabotaged computers.

Dag lives in a one-bedroom upstairs duplex on Queen Anne (a nice old neighborhood in Seattle). His landlady, who lives downstairs, is a character in and of herself. She is a pet psychic and loves Dag's dog, Maizie, who has been with him for seven years. His house is simply furnished had is in stark contrast to his landlady's in that it is immaculately kept, even Maizie's shed fur is absent from his living space. The house isn't sterile, but you'd notice that the artwork is good quality prints from artists who created much more expensive artwork. He has a good stereo system with a collection of LPs from the sixties and seventies. He doesn't really have anything newer. He does have a CD player, but the CDs that he has are all re-cuts of his LPs. His DVD collection is centered around re-releases of Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and The Thin Man along with the entire collection of James Bond movies.

Dag's office is located on the converted warehouse Pier 71 in Seattle. Once a dock for exotic shipments, this pier was saved from the wrecking ball by an enterprising developer who turned the old warehouse into offices back in the seventies. When local business failed to follow his lead to the far end of the waterfront, rents began to fall. The businesses on the pier are mostly wholesalers with a tier of offices still let out on the third floor. Dag took one of these when he first opened his business fifteen years ago because the rent was right and no one came around to bother him unless they had business.

Most mornings, Dag walks to work (just a mile) with Maizie at his heel. He got Maizie, a pitbull, for the image of having a tough dog as his companion. She's extremely well-trained for a number of tasks, but none of them are particularly guard-dog-like. She seems to like everyone, especially those with cookies.

Dag was able to build out his office space as he wanted and as a result he had it wired completely for a computer network long before he could afford to have one. He built a fireproof vault in his office in which he intended to keep all the valuable records of his cases, but when he went to a detective convention a number of years ago he discovered that many detectives were having records subpoenaed and the movement was to keep as little as possible in the way of a paper trail. Dag took that to heart and over the course of several years, succeeded in getting rid of all his paper and getting everything backed up on his computer. Well, you can imagine some of the implications of that and continued subpoenas of computer data, etc. Let's just say that he thinks he's dealt with the problem.

The office has a small reception area, though his secretary is a part-timer who only works on Mondays and Wednesdays. Mostly she answers e-mail and phone messages and tidies the place up. She waters the plants and sometimes walks the dog if Dag is busy. She doesn't do much and Dag doesn't pay much, but it's part of the image.

One wall of Dag's large and spacious office is a window looking south over Puget Sound. In front of it sit two sofas across a small table from each other. Dag's desk is to the right of the door, with a view toward both the window and the door. He's been very into Feng Shui since the mid-90s and won't have his back to either the door or the window. There is a large rug on the soft-wood floor, and Maizie's bed is under the window. There are your typical almost-valuable pieces of art on the walls. Dag tends toward striking scenes of Greek Islands. One incongruous item is a bronze sculpture of a lady's head that has its own pedestal and a place in the corner that is almost shrine-like with a single spotlight focused on the bronze. He says that's the only woman he's ever placed on a pedestal who didn't get off.

There are a few plants in the office and if there is a computer on the desk, it is only his laptop. He had his phone service removed a couple years ago and had the phone numbers transferred to cellular service. His desk is clear but for a lamp and writing set. In the drawers, however, he keeps a range of tools and cables for working on computers in his desk drawers.

When Dag got out of school, he entered one of the big accounting firms where he filed taxes and did audits for fifteen years. That was when he turned forty and everything changed. He'd always wanted to do something more fun and exciting, so he cashed in his retirement fund and opened the business out on Pier 71. It started as a simple independent CPA, but he got his Private Investigator's License, then proceeded to bill himself as a Detective. However, the work he did stayed mostly the same. He did tax audits, and achieved a bit of a reputation in the area for being able to recover data from computers. Companies often call him to unlock a former employee's computer, to repair sabotaged computers, and to retrieve forgotten passwords.

I'll tell you more about Dagget Hamilton later. After all, I'm still getting to know him.