March 19, 2015
The day had gotten better as it wore on. The company had improved as well. Finally leaving Howard’s about two, I swung around to the north to pick up Maggie for a late lunch. We were not in one of the many well-known and much vaulted better Bellevue dining establishments, but no matter—it was a good break from Denny’s. It was a nice little family run Mexican restaurant, and it served just the type of food both Maggie and I enjoyed. Lots of lovingly prepared high-quality entrees, plus plenty of deep-fried jalapenos on the side, and good strong margaritas served-up with a well salted rim. Maggie was enjoying one now. Me, a much safer diet coke.
Maggie and I had been seeing each other for only a couple of months, our relationship starting just after the New Year. Colonel Bob’s short visit to the hospital over the holidays had turned into full-time residency at Sunset Hills Memorial Park—he being the victim of a sudden and massive heart attack while simply in for observation of a chest-cold. So Maggie’s career as a care-giver for her father-in-law was over. I was surprised and amazed when I finally called her a week or so after the funeral and asked her out for coffee, just how fast she had said yes.
So far our relationship had been smooth sailing, and we both seemed up for more, although we had not yet made the transition to sleep-overs. Not only beautiful, she was a plenty smart lady, her going out with me notwithstanding. We had a lot in common as it turned out, and enjoyed each other’s company immensely. Slowly we were getting used to each other, as we explored each other’s past, learning what we liked, and what we didn’t like about each other. I was happy that the later list seemed to be very short indeed.
Maggie knew and liked my friends and associates. Linh had become a personal favorite. She seemed to love Matt, and had latched onto to him like a long-lost son. It made me smile a little—her not knowing that he was actually old enough to be her father. Carter seemed to put her off just a bit, but then he often had that effect on people. I didn’t believe that she was particularly enthralled with my line of work, and the associated danger, but she accepted it well enough. Her first husband, a military-man, was not exactly a stranger to gun-play and drama, any more than I was. She did not yet know about the pocket-watch, either when it was in the possession of Matt McCabe, or residing with me, as it presently did.
Now did not seem like a good time to go into it.
“I’ve got a case, Maggie. An assignment from the Bellevue PD. Looks like it’s going to take me out of town for a while.”
“Any idea how long?” she inquired.
“Hard to say. A few days, maybe a couple of weeks.”
“What kind of a case?”
“Locating a few men.”
“Doesn’t sound like that will that too hard for a skilled detective like you.”
I laughed. “Don’t over-estimate the skill set. These are guys that really don’t want to be found.”
It was her turn to laugh. “With Howard Carter looking for them, I can’t imagine they would. What’s he want them for?”
“A Bellevue intersection camera caught them J-walking. Carter believes in letting no crime go unpunished.”
“Funny. So it’s the firing-squad for them?”
It was meant as a joke, but she could hardly have been more spot-on if she’d had the entire story.”
I shrugged. “About medium,” I said, fudging just a little.
“Carter doesn’t have any detectives on his own force?”
“He does. But not any that can operate in Detroit. For that you need a private-eye.”
“The Motor City, huh? Babylon on the Detroit River. Home of Jimmy Hoffa. The Teamsters. The UAW. The Big Three. Not to mention Mo-town. Almost shouts organized-crime.”
“You’re not too far off. I can’t go into any more detail.”
“I understand. Is Matt going with you?”
I knew by the comment that she was probably more concerned for his safety than mine—him being just a baby and all. “Not this time Maggie. Matt is going to be on ‘sabbatical’ for a while. I’m being provided with a new partner for this case. One I’ve never met before, but he’s supposed to be a long-time friend of a long-time friend of Carter’s, and very dependable. The name is Jedidiah Wahl, and I’m going to be meeting him at a Church in Royal Oak in two days. That’s a little town just outside Detroit from what I understand. Never been there myself. Carter’s flying me out private.”
“Meeting him in a Church? Private jet? Now that’s really cloak and dagger. What’s his claim to fame anyway?”
“According to Howard, he’s an expert on the dark and sordid underbelly of the Detroit crime scene. He’s supposed to help keep me from sticking my nose in the wrong places. At least without back-up, that is.”
“So how are you supposed to get these guys out of Detroit, and back to Bellevue, if you are out of your jurisdiction and don’t have any authority there?”
I was taken aback. In just two or three moves, Maggie had me checkmated, striking at the center of the problem directly—whether intentionally or by accident, unknown. It was time to change the subject—quickly.
I swallowed my last bite of burrito. “What do you say we get the heck out of here?” I said. “We could stop off at Isaac’s for some ice cream, before I take you home.” Isaac’s was a new parlor in town. We had gone there for cones before and liked it. Mexican restaurants generally don’t have a lot on the sweets menu. This one was no exception.
“How about you don’t take me home. But I really would like dessert.”
I paid the check in a hurry.
Three o’clock AM
March 20, 2015
I came awake suddenly, instantly aware and alert—with the sure and certain knowledge that we were no longer alone in the house. It was not something that I had heard. It was something that I felt—that old sixth sense that had saved my life so many times in the past. The nerves in my body tingled slightly as I slipped soundlessly out of bed and gathered up my .38 revolver and shoulder rig and slipped it over my arm. Betsy felt good in my hand. The two fully charged speed-loaders dangling from the strap were also reassuring. I was dressed in boxers and a tee. I didn’t stop to add more.
Once out into the hallway, I quickly covered the few steps to the guest-room where Maggie was sleeping. I could see the door ajar and I pushed it open an additional two or three inches—just enough to clearly see her form lying in the bed. Whoever was downstairs, it wasn’t her. Maggie was in a good place, I considered as I made my way toward the stairway. If a firefight erupted either on the staircase or the ground floor, she would be very unlikely to catch a stray bullet where she was.
The memory of the evening came back to me. Maggie and I rushing to my house after our lunch date. We were in a hurry, and very intent on thoroughly getting to know each other on a very personal basis. Barely inside the front door, we had more or less fallen into one another, our passions rising as we kissed and embraced in the darkness of the living room.
It was short-lived. Maggie was the first to pull away. I was right behind. We stopped—both of us, and almost at exactly the same time, knowing in our hearts that neither of us really wanted what we were about to do. Oh, it wasn’t from lack of attraction, passion or desire. It had a lot more to do with what was right—as in, right for us. Neither one of us were virgins, that was for sure. We had both been around the block a few times—married once before each, and each to a person we truly loved, respected, and cherished. Beginning the somewhat inevitably painful process of replacing those two good people with someone else was not something to be taken lightly. It was pretty serious business. And we both just kind of seemed to know, at almost precisely the same moment that we wanted to do it correctly. That it was to be, when it finally occurred, something really special, as they say. Maggie was not a particularly religious person, and I was certainly far from a choir-boy, but we both believed in God, and kind of felt we were on solid ground here with the big-guy.
We spent the rest of the evening cuddled on the sofa, watching old black and white movies on Netflix, of all things, and eating an evening snack of micro-waved popcorn. Oddly enough, it could hardly have been more romantic—or enjoyable.
I offered to drive her home after, but she declined, saying she would sleep on the sofa. I did her one better and made up the spare bed in the guest-room. After seeing her into it and saying goodnight, I treated myself to a nice long, and very cold shower before hitting the sack at about midnight. It seemed I had hardly been asleep before I back awake again.
I eased myself to the edge of the bannister and looked down into the foyer area. The skies had finally cleared late in the afternoon and stayed that way. Now there was a nice bright moon showing, and it was casting quite a bit of light in through the windows. I could tell at a glance that there was no one in the open area. I could also see that my office/study door, which I had carefully closed before ascending the stairway for bed, now hung halfway open. It was here that my adversary was going to be found. Again, it was a good spot. I was going to have the advantage. I could approach unseen as I worked my way down the stairs. I knew my rather substantial house well. The wood of the stairway would not creak. If someone came out of the room, I would again have the advantage, commanding the higher ground.
Taking a deep breath to control my nerves, I started down. No way to know how many there might be, or the degree of armament they might have. My best chance was going to be the element of surprise. I was pretty sure that whoever was in that room, probably considered me to be still sound asleep on the second floor.
There are seventeen steps between floors in my house. Hugging the wall, I quickly counted off fifteen of them, never taking my eyes from the ever increasingly closer open door. Finally reaching it, I carefully and slowly thumbed back the hammer of my little revolver. It clicked just once, but very softly. I didn’t believe that slight sound was going to be any kind of a give-away, as I slowly inched forward and craned my neck and head around the edge of the door.
The window just opposite my desk was open. It hadn’t been before. The drapes moved slightly in the faint breeze. I could feel the coolness on my mostly bare skin. Moonlight streamed through the window as well. Moving my head an additional few inches brought the person into view. He was sitting in my desk chair, looking out through the window, facing away from me, head silhouetted in the moon glow. A quick glance confirmed that he was alone.
Whoever it was, and whatever he was doing here, he was mine. My surprise was going to be total and complete. Taking one more calming breath, I completely swung open the office door with my left hand and stepped into the room.
The head swiveled toward me.
Thanks for reading. Next up . . . The Reckoning: Chapter Six . . . The Story.
Until then, Good day!
Dumb Joke of The Day: What’s the Invisible Man’s favorite song?
Answer: It’s Saturday Night and I Ain’t Got Nobody.