Fiction Saturday – “Trapped” – Part One
Fiction Saturday – “Trapped” – Part One
I don’t care what they say. If you get worked over by a couple of toughs you are not going to get up and chase after them. You’re more likely to just throw up in the gutter and then go home and feel sorry for yourself.
At least that’s what I did yesterday.
Two pieces of meat working for a crook who is bleeding his own company dry and didn’t like me digging into the details. They knew what they were doing and they enjoyed it.
If I was a few years younger I might have been able to defend myself better and made those two muscle boys regret taking me on, but yesterday was not a few years ago and I’m the only one with regrets.
Regrets and, I think a couple of loose teeth.
When I took an early retirement from The Job I was feeling flush. I had a nice portfolio of tech stocks and my health. Five years later my tech stocks weren’t worth a dozen donuts. I knew the price of donuts all too well and, all of a sudden, I wasn’t a young stud any more.
Today, I’m lying on my couch and wishing I’d stayed on The Force. Then I had insurance and could afford to see a doctor. Now, as a P.I., all I can afford are some cans of chicken soup and a soda straw until the swelling goes down.
That chicken soup’ll be all I’ve got if I don’t get off this couch and back to work. I’m too young for Social Security and Mums and Daddums have cut me out of the will.
Right. If it didn’t hurt I’d laugh at my own jokes.
Work. Office. OK.
It took me a while but I changed clothes, put a couple of band-aids on my once handsome face, and drove downtown to my office. It was a Saturday so I didn’t think I’d run into too many people before I got to the 8th floor. I was wrong.
“Geez, Mr. Walker, you look like you tried to French Kiss a train.”
“Yeah, that’s it, Pal. You got me pegged. I’m really into locomotives.”
That was down in the parking garage.
“Mornin’ Mr. Walk…Sweet Jesus, what did you do to earn all that?”
“I put insufficient postage on my tax return.”
That was from the Newspaper stand guy in the lobby.
Finally, Room 817. The stenciled letters on the frosted glass said, “Private Investigations and Licensed Security.” Down a line or two was my name: “John Walker”
A quick run through the mail informed me that I was up to date on the light bill, late on the rent, and I might already be a winner of something or other. The wastebasket was doing its job well.
I was sitting there behind my desk thumbing through a catalog filled with basic police stuff that I couldn’t afford when I heard the front office door open and someone, a female someone, call out, “Hello? Anybody home?”
I got up, brushed a few crumbs off my shirt, and checked my fly. “I’m here. One moment. On my way.” I opened the door from my office and I lost the power of speech.
She looked like a Pulp Writer’s cliché, straight out of a detective novel. Tall, slim in just the right places, legs that would take time to fully appreciate, and a face that made me want to ask her to the prom – or to Mexico for a weekend.
‘Are you Mr. Walker?” I liked her voice, mainly because it was talking to me.
“Uh…Umm,..Yes, that’s me… Him…John Walker.” I extended my hand like a paw. She took my hand and told me her name, “I’m Constance Tetley and I think I may need your help.”
“Well, if I can help you in any way…”
“Do you own a gun?”
That got my attention.
“Perhaps we should step into my office.”
I ushered her into my inner office, bringing up the rear to close the door behind us and to get another look at – well, you can figure that out. I may be getting old, but I’m not dead. She sat down in the chair in front of the desk. I went behind it to get to mine. She stayed silent so I figured it was up to me to get the ball rolling.
“So why so do you care if I have a gun? You want me to shoot somebody?” I thought that was a reasonable question.
“No, of course not,” she said, wiggling in the chair in discomfort. It made me uncomfortable too. “I ask because, well, my husband has a temper.”
“Your husband.” That was a statement and not a question.
“Yes. He’s why I’m here. I think he’s cheating on me and…”
“And you want me to take a few snapshots of him with whomever, and so on and so on. Right?”
“In a nutshell – Yes,” she said. Mrs. Constance Tetley, young, but not too, and as gorgeous a stack of new and crisp U.S. Grants, dabbed at the corner of her eye with a hanky. I saw no tear.
“Tell me about his ‘temper’ as you called it.” I needed to know how hot the water was before I dipped my toe in. I’ve been burned before.
For the next ten minutes she tried to sugarcoat her husband, Mr. Nigel Tetley, and his propensity to shoot first and skip the questions altogether.
“He’s a collector,” she added.
“Guns. He has over eleven hundred of them.”
Somehow I knew it wasn’t postage stamps. She readjusted herself in the chair and my blood thinned a bit.
My better judgment screamed at me to call her a taxi and then go for a drink – alone. My less than better judgment wanted for her and me to both be sixteen and in the backseat of my old man’s Buick. What to do?
What I did was take her cash, get her phone number, and cleaned and oiled my five-shot Charter Arms revolver. I must be nuts.
He walked into their library and saw his wife curled up on the leather sofa. She looked like she had been crying. She looked up at him as a real tear rolled down her cheek.
“What’s wrong, Constance?” His voice filled with what sounded like genuine concern.
“Sit down, Nigel. I have – we have – a problem.” She reached for her glass on the coffee table and took a swallow as he moved closer.
“What kind of problem?” he said. “Let me take care of it.” He patted her knee like she was the young daughter they didn’t have. “Talk to me.”
She took a deep breath and dried her eyes.
“Nigel, there’s no point in pretending. We both know that I had ‘A Past’ before we met, that I…that I lived in the ‘fast lane’.”
“You were a Rock and Roll groupie,” amended Nigel Tetley. “Yes, I knew all about that when we first met. So, what’s the problem now? All of that was years ago and a lifetime away. What’s going on? It is all in the past, right?”
“Oh, Nigel. Yes, it is all in the past, the distant past. I swear. At least I thought it was.”
Her husband’s back straightened and his fists clenched. “Talk to me, now.”
“A man came up to me when I was at the Mall shopping today. He just walked up to me and said ‘We have some business to conduct.’”
“What does that mean? Was he trying to sell you something?”
“That’s what I thought and then he shoved a couple of pictures in front of me. Pictures of me, from long ago, from those crazy days.” She stopped and took another sip from her drink, cleared her throat, and continued. “I didn’t know these pictures even existed. He said that unless I ‘Came across’ with some money he would ‘show them to the world’.”
“Blackmail, that’s what this is,” said Nigel Tetley. “I’ve been expecting this to happen – for years. It was just a matter of time before some weasel out of the past would show up. Did he threaten you – physically?”
“Me? No. He said that if he didn’t get the money he would kill you. Oh, Nigel, I am so sorry. I don’t know what else to say or do.” She moved next to her husband and let him hold her in his arms, to comfort her.
“Don’t worry about this, Constance, I know how to deal with people like that, but I need to ask you a few questions. OK?” She nodded and buried herself in his arms.
“Constance, did this man give you his name or a way to contact him?”
No, he said that he would contact us, but if we called the police he would kill you. A name? Yes, he said I should call him ‘Mr. Walker.’ He was a mess. He looked like somebody had beaten him up. He was all bruised.”
I figured the only way I was going to see if Constance Tetley’s husband was stepping out on her was to shadow him for a few days to see if he does have a “hottie” stashed away. If he does it shouldn’t take long. He’ll want a taste or two soon enough. I follow him; hope for a convenient window or open door – snap, snap – and the wife and her lawyer have their evidence.
It may not be a pretty way to make a living, but unless you can get a contract with some big company to run their Security Setup, you have to eat. The way things have been going for me I haven’t been doing much of either. No work, no money. No money, no reason to feel hopeful and you take any job.
I don’t usually carry my weapon with me. Most of my jobs have relied on my research and computer skills, finding lost or missing people and money, but after the Lovely Lady with the Long Legs told me that her hubby was better armed than most countries, I figured I better dust off my belt holster.
Over the years, on The Force and now as a Freelancer, my stomach has been my own Early Warning System. Putting the gun into the holster made my stomach clench up, but I put that off to the working over I’d just absorbed.
I did a little research into Mr. Nigel Tetley – born in England, and wealthy – very wealthy. The source of his money is a bit obscure hidden in a number of overseas ventures and commercial properties in this one.
He was known to have an explosive temper. There were tales that he pulled a one punch knockout on a “Capital O” Official from the Commerce Department who dared to question his business practices.
Online sources says that Tetley has two passions: Guns and his wife, Constance. Eleven hundred guns and one very special wife. The scuttlebutt has it that a number of his guns have a dirty past. The same could be said of his wife.
Constance Tetley, nee Bosworth came from small town Texas and by the age of sixteen was on the road touring with a well-known Rock and Roll Band as a backstage groupie and main squeeze of the lead screamer.
She met Tetley at a backstage party when she was 22 and he was 40. He wanted her and what he wanted he got. They were married and she disappeared behind The Wall of the Very Rich.
Now, according to the Mrs., Mr. Nigel Tetley is, or might be, cheating on her and she wants me to tell her yea or nay.
Next week – The Conclusion of “Trapped”
I liked this story, John. You have a good flair for the PI stories, always laced with wit and humor. On to the conclusion!