One of my interests, imparted to me by my late Grandma C (who died a year ago), is film noir, along with detective shows.
One of my favourite movies, The Maltese Falcon, introduced me to the world of Sam Spade. The Big Sleep introduced me to Philip Marlowe. I also watched TV shows like Ellery Queen, Columbo, Banacek, The Rockford Files, McCloud and Magnum P.I. Humphrey Bogart became one of my favourite actors. Tom Selleck was one of two celebrities I ever wrote to — back when Twitter was the sound a bird made. The other was supermodel Cindy Crawford.
I’ve always been fascinated by detectives. When I was one of those all-too-common unemployed journalists I even considered going to school to become a sleuth.
I just had to scratch an itch and chat with two midtown snoops named Mitchell Dubros and Gabriel Mastsipaniuk, of the Investigation Hotline and Intact Investigations, respectively.
I meet the international jet-setters at the Duke of Kent one rainy April day. They remind me of classic rock duo Donald Fagen and Walter Becker — founding members of the band Steely Dan. Not in appearance mind you, but in their demeanour.
They’re relaxed and jovial, but there’s a tip of the hat to professionalism.
They got down to business, asking me what it is that I want to know about their line of work. They drink Grolsch, while I pore over a Guinness.
Dubros, who’s been a gumshoe for 29 years, tells me they exist to serve the public interest, whether it’s investigating civil, criminal, corporate or domestic disturbances.
They claim to have even had an encounter with the supernatural here and there. (Fox Mulder, eat your heart out.)
Still, the two have a code of ethics they adhere to. They include it on their website, and reference it when they vet cases.
When they take on a case, they say they’ll have it solved in three days, and exercise great discretion in going about it — a picture of efficiency.
Now, unlike Ruth Wonderly mysteriously entering the offices of Spade and Archer, Investigation Hotline has only a post office box. Dubros, who does live in midtown, does most of the initial screening by phone.
That’s not to say they don’t get to know their clients. Quite to the contrary, actually.
“We’re closer to our clients than their shrinks,” Dubros says, with a wink.
And when it comes to payment, it’s not necessarily a priority.
“What we need are closed cases,” he says, adding he charges by the package instead of by the hour.
So, they’re not like Jim Rockford: expecting a retainer all the time.
Mastsipaniuk is quiet and attentive, putting in a few words here and there, and is sure to share the fact that eight years ago he was Dubros’s protégé.
The emphasis, they say, is on the lives that they help. They treat their clients as human beings, and trust everyone, unless they give them a reason not to be trusted.
And violence is avoided at all costs.
When it comes to pop culture, Dubros admits he’s a little bit Columbo, a little bit Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau and a little bit Thomas Banacek.
And when asked if Dubros believes Higgins, Thomas Magnum’s overlord, was Robin Masters, he let’s out an emphatic “absolutely.”
“We have too much fun to just lurk in the shadows,” he says.