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Copyrighted material. © 2020 Wheelhouse Publishers, LLC. All rights reserved.
Brody waited for his target like a hunter in a blind. Despite his six foot frame, he was a master at blending in. He could have been any tourist crowding America’s capital city. As Brody stood on the busy sidewalk he wiped perspiration from his brow. It was a futile effort in the swampy air that was Washington, DC in July.
The temperature had reached ninety degrees Fahrenheit and humidity draped the city like a hot, moist blanket. When he had exited the air-conditioned hotel it was like stepping into a sauna. His shirt was drenched in sweat before he reached the Metro station less than a block away. How do people live like this? he thought to himself.
But Brody didn’t dwell on the thought for long. He wasn’t philosophical about how people lived. His job was to think about how people would die. More to the point, how he would kill them. He preferred a single tap to the back of the head. For this job there would be no weapon, other than his hands. They were the size of catcher’s mitts and could be quite lethal wrapped around a person’s neck. It’s what the client wanted. And his client was paying a handsome sum of money.
Brody took a final drag on a cigarette and flicked it onto the ground. He was a pack a day smoker. Camels. The unfiltered strength of the tobacco was more satisfying. He knew smoking was destroying his lungs, but guys in his profession tended not to have long lifespans. Brody figured he would die in a shootout with police, the mob, or gangbangers long before lung cancer got him.
He looked at his watch. The target should be along soon. Brody glanced at the image on his phone. Phillip Swanson was a tall, pencil-necked guy. He worked as a paralegal at the Washington law offices of Barlow, Hughes, and Waterford. Why he had a contract out on him was a mystery to Brody. Not that it mattered. He was paid to kill people. So that is what he did. The why didn’t matter. Only the who, when, and how were pertinent to Brody.
Shit it is hot, he thought. Wasn’t the nation’s capital built on filled-in swamp land? Brody was certain that didn’t help. A double-whammy of it’s latitude and sitting atop old swamp land. Brody again wiped sweat from his brow.
People exited the office building where Barlow, Hughes, and Waterford leased space on the tenth floor. Brody scanned the faces of the men in the crowd. He spotted Swanson coming through the revolving door, cell phone stuck to his ear. Swanson waited at the light with others. He crossed with the herd at the walk signal. People splintered off in different directions once across.
Swanson turned right and headed toward Dupont Circle, the cell phone still glued to his ear. The poor sap wouldn’t even hear Brody come up behind him. Brody started down the street about twenty yards behind Swanson. Patience was required in his line of work. Brody needed to wait until the right moment to strike.
Dupont Circle was teeming with people in every direction. Brody would wait until they reached Swanson’s apartment building. It was just before Embassy Row. Brody had mapped it out earlier. He knew exactly how many steps it would take to close the distance. He knew how many seconds it would take to grab Swanson, choke the life out of him, and walk away.
The crowds thinned as they neared Swanson’s block. When he turned toward his apartment building, it was just Swanson and Brody on the quiet little side street. Brody took quick and large strides. Five seconds to close the distance. Swanson held his phone in his left hand as he reached into his pocket with his right. His hand emerged with apartment keys. Swanson opened the door and stepped inside.
The hit man was on the Swanson’s heels and in the apartment’s small entry before the target realized he was not alone. As Swanson turned to close the door, Brody saw the flash of fear in the young man’s eyes. The hit man’s long arms extended and he grabbed at Swanson’s throat. His hands were vice grips around Swanson’s thin neck.
The young man kicked and twisted trying to escape the hit man’s grip. He didn’t resist long. Brody let Swanson’s lifeless body slump onto the floor. He glanced around the tiny studio apartment. For effect, he tipped a couple of lamps over and rifled through some drawers. Then he lifted the wallet from Swanson’s pocket and removed the cash. He dropped the wallet on the floor and left.
Brody pocketed the cash and walked back through Dupont Circle. He got on the Metro and rode in the cool subway car to Metro Center. There he met the representative for his client. He was fat with a bulbous nose which had been broken several times.
“Is it done?” the fat man said.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t,” Brody said.
The man handed Brody an envelope. “Here’s the other half,” he said.
Brody put the envelope in his pocket.
“Aren’t you going to count it?”
“You wouldn’t be stupid enough to short me,” Brody said.
The fat man nodded. Then he said, “You are to go to Boston and await further instructions.”
Brody liked Boston. Maybe he would have time to take in the Freedom Trail.
The air conditioning in my office hummed as Boston was in the middle of a heatwave which stretched from D.C. to Maine. I was on the couch reading Dan Shaughnessy’s column in The Boston Globe. My beagle-mix Dash was curled up on the opposite end of the couch with his head resting on my lower legs. His snoring had a rhythmic quality which nearly lulled me to sleep. Ah, the self-employed life of being an ace private detective.
I resisted a nap to finish the article. Dan’s take was that the defending World Series Champion Red Sox wouldn’t even make the playoffs this season. Regrettably, I agreed. The New York Yankees had a double-digit lead in the American League East and the Sox were in third place for a Wild Card spot. Mildly depressed that there seemed little point to baseball so soon after the All-Star break, started me thinking about the opening of Patriots training camp. I glanced at an article on Tom Brady’s contract extension, which discussed how it wasn’t really a contract extension. It was too much to take in for the day.
I folded the Globe and placed it on my lap. I tipped back my head and allowed Dash’s snoring to take over. The room soon grew dark as my eyelids drifted shut.
“Hello. Mr. Patrick.”
A female voice echoed in the distance. There were no visions of my love Jessica Casey, so I realized I wasn’t dreaming. I opened my eyes and sat up.
An elegantly dressed woman in her late fifties or early sixties stood at my office door. She was no Jessica Casey, but none could compare.
“Drew Patrick,” I said.
The woman considered my hand a moment. Then she took it and we shook. Her hand felt like a wet noodle.
“Elizabeth Barlow,” she said like it should impress me. Perhaps I should have been and didn’t know any better.
“How might I help you, Mrs. Barlow?” I said, optimistic she was bringing a big case my way.
“I am seeking the services of a private detective. Despite your not appearing particularly busy, you came highly recommended.”
I never knew what to do with an insult followed by a compliment.
“The bad guys don’t like the heat,” I said.
Mrs. Barlow frowned. Perhaps she was reconsidering the value of those recommendations.
“You seem like a charming man, in your own way.”
“I only know one way to be charming.”
I gave Elizabeth Barlow a full wattage smile. She neither swooned nor fanned herself. She sat down in one of the chairs I had in front of my desk for clients. I walked around my desk and sat down in what the office furniture website called the Deluxe Executive Chair. I was ready to impress Elizabeth Barlow as the CEO, President, and all-star detective of Drew Patrick, Private Investigations.
“You certainly have stellar credentials,” Elizabeth Barlow said as she stared at me from across my desk. “I just need to know that I can trust you with a very delicate matter.”
“I give you my word,” I replied sincerely.
“Very well, then. I want you to bring me evidence that my husband is having an affair.”
“What can you tell me about your husband?”
“Besides the fact that he is cheating on me?”
“Are you positive that he is cheating on you, or is that something I need to establish?”
Elizabeth Barlow sighed, then said, “Mr. Patrick are you married?”
“Well, let me just say that if you ever do get married, I would hope that you will be a much better husband than my husband has been to me.”
After pausing a moment, she continued, “Yes, I am positive that he is cheating on me. Since the day we married there have been a string of mistresses. I suspect he was unfaithful to me even before our wedding.”
“Okay. I’m sorry. Do you have any idea who the other woman is?”
“No,” she replied.
“Can you provide me some basic information about your husband? His name, where he works, places he goes, the kind of car he drives?”
She answered, “My husband’s name is Nevin Barlow.” Then she looked down at her well-manicured hands. I waited. Elizabeth Barlow let out a sigh.
“Mr. Patrick, I am a very private person. Understand that it is extremely difficult just coming to you. I will share what I must, but I prefer to keep as much of my life, and his, as private as possible.” She then looked back up and there was determination and anger in her eyes.
“I have worked long and hard to get the life that I have,” she said. “I will not allow that man to humiliate me. Discretion in this investigation is very important.”
“I understand, Mrs. Barlow, but it would be helpful to have more than just your husband’s name.”
I waited for her to decide what she was going to share. I learned a long time ago that you need a lot of patience when you are a detective. It can take time to gather information. Normally it isn’t this hard to get information from my own clients; assuming she actually hired me.
After a few moments she said, “He is a partner at Barlow, Hughes, and Waterford. We are members at the Oak Country Club. Nevin plays a round of golf there nearly every morning. He is driven in a black Mercedes.”
“I wrote down the information on a legal pad in front of me.”
Elizabeth Barlow must have been impressed. She asked me my daily rate. I told her. She didn’t protest. Frankly, it was probably pocket money to her. “Plus expenses,” I added.
“Certainly,” she replied without hesitation as she reached into her French boutique purse. She withdrew a checkbook, wrote a check, and handed it to me. “This will cover your first day. You may invoice me for expenses and any additional days required.”
She gathered her purse and stood. I stood and walked around my desk.
“Now, I have answered all that you requested of me. You should have sufficient information to begin your investigation,” she stated rather emphatically.
“Yes, I suppose that is enough for me to get started.”
“Very well, then.”
She removed a piece of note paper and handed it to me.
“Here is my address and phone number,” she said. “I expect you to report back to me as soon as possible.”
“Yes. Thank you. I will be in touch as soon as I know something,” I said, taking the note paper. I could feel that it was a fine parchment. Elizabeth Barlow had the finest of everything. Except, it seemed, in a husband.
“I trust that you will get to work on my case right away.” It was more of a statement than a question.
“Yes, Ma’am,” I said. “I have moved you to the front of the line.”
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