Cold Steele--and Mrs. Robinson
The building was a large two story brick that had been an extensive country home for a rich family in its past. It was located on the near north side of downtown St. Louis in an area that had long since declined to a shadow of its former splendor. The area was being revitalized into an upper class business section of the city. The stately old house now held four offices on the first floor and two large apartments on the second.
As you entered the ten feet tall double doors into the foyer of the building a wide hall way extended to the rear of the building. There was a large door at the rear with a red lit exit sign over it. Along that gateway into the building were four offices, two on either side of the hallway.
The first office on the left had a heavy wooden door with a frosted glass panel in the center which had a month old sign painted in gold letters with a black border.
That's me, Matt Steele, famous or maybe it's infamous, private investigator. I fight for truth, justice, and the American way; actually, I'm just trying to make a living. Well, I didn't really have to work thanks to a settlement from the city of St. Louis but I get bored just sitting around. I was a Detective First "Class with the St. Louis Police when I found my wife, Johanna, and my boss, Captain Joe Harper, in bed together.
I kicked Harper's ass and threw my wife out of the house; I wouldn't have beat on the slime ball except he went for his service revolver because he thought I was going to beat on him. I ended up divorced and was fired for insubordination and assault on Harper.
The St. Louis Police Department didn't want the negative publicity when I threatened a suit for wrongful termination and settled for a large sum out of court. I was no longer a cop but I needed to do something so I became a private detective.
"Nice digs," I said as I leaned back in my new desk chair and put my feet up on my brand new desk. This was the first day in my new office although I'd been living in one of the upstairs apartments for almost five months. I still owned a house, having gotten it from my divorce but I rented it out. Looking out the big bay window facing the walkway up to the building and the street, I watched as business men and women passed by on the sidewalk. Had to admit they were a more successful class of people than I'd watched from my old office.
It was a warm spring day so the women were made up and dressed better than near my previous office building; each trying to outdo the others. The ladies mostly wore sexy business suits with skirts above the knee and high heels as they strutted by my window.
I hadn't wanted to move from my old office but that part of downtown had turned into a area that even I would hesitate going into after dark; my how the mighty had fallen. At the urging of my girlfriend and others, I decided to change my business venue. Of course the fact that the building that housed my old office had been condemned made the decision much easier. Two weeks after I and the rest of the tenants moved out, the city demolished the building as a safety precaution. They said they were afraid that if someone sneezed the building would fall down around them.
"I like the scenery better," Matt continued. "And at least I can leave for home late at night and not worry about getting mugged." He smiled and added, "Abby likes the place better too."
My friend and former commander at the St. Louis Police Department, Major Taylor, told me I needed a better office to attract a better class of clients. "If you work out of the slums then that's the type of business you'll get," Taylor suggested. "Get yourself a better work place."
I had been Detective First Class Matt Steele with the St. Louis Police until I beat the hell out of my boss who had me fired. After receiving the large lawsuit settlement from the city for wrongful termination, I decided to open my own detective agency. Now I owned, operated and was the sole employee of a private investigations business. Due to the settlement, I could afford to take only the cases or jobs that I wanted.
"Got to admit Abby and the Major were right," I continued talking to the new office. "This is a better deal and I can go upstairs and be home in no time after closing my office. Yep, smooth move Mr. Steele."
A silhouette appeared through the frosted glass of the door. Then I heard two sharp knocks and my door opened before I could say 'come in'. A large, well dressed and groomed man stepped into the office.
"Mr. Steele?" The man asked and when I nodded he said, "I'm Jonathan Caldwell Robinson."
"I know who you are Mr. Robinson; I recognize you from your pictures in the paper and on TV."
Jonathan Robinson was a well known, almost famous, business owner. He was a patron of the arts and on several philanthropic committees for the benefit of St. Louis. I had heard gossip that his actions were more for his benefit than the cities; it was a good excuse for rubbing elbows with the movers and shakers in St. Louis and the state. Looks like the stereotype of the successful, social climbing and politically connected inner circle of the city, I thought.
Robinson was about 6 foot 3, the same as Matt, but the resemblance stops there. Where Matt had black hair and gray eyes, Robinson had blond hair so light it was almost white but with a smattering of gray at the temples and his eyes were a piercing blue. Matt had a large frame and weighed around 225.
I knew from his media profile that the man was 46, ten years older than me. Robinson was slender, about 180 pounds, and dressed in a very expensive manner. His bearing was of entitlement as if everyone should jump when he spoke. Damn suit cost more than my whole wardrobe, I thought as I returned the stare from Robinson. Don't think I like him and I haven't even talked to him.
"What can I do for you John?"
"That's Mr. Robinson, if you please," Robinson replied with a condescending manner. "I'd like to hire your services." He waited for me to take my feet down from the desk and show eagerness to do his bidding.
Now I know I don't like the man. Maybe I should jump up and snap to attention; instead I didn't move other than to wave a hand for Robinson to continue.
"I have suspicions that my wife, Cynthia, is having an affair. I'd like you to follow her and get evidence that I can use in a divorce."
"You're a rich man Mr. Robinson," I said the name with sarcasm. "With the divorce laws being what they are, it might be cheaper to keep her."
"You would normally be correct. However, I can't have my wife being a common slut. In my position it doesn't look good." Robinson sat down in the chair in front of Matt's desk. He shot the cuffs of his white silk shirt, straightened his tie and smoothed the crease of his pant leg. He continued in his oh so very cultured voice. "In addition, we do have a prenuptial agreement and if I can prove infidelity she'll have to leave with just the clothes on her back. I would be very appreciative if you can get the evidence I need. Then I intend to file for a divorce citing adultery as the reason."
I hadn't like Robinson's political leanings as reported in the media and I didn't like the man anymore in person. There's no need to run around in jeans and a golf shirt, like me, I thought. But that suit looks like it cost 3 or 4 thousand dollars and that's just plain showin off. Don't like the phony way he talks either.
"I'm sorry Mr. Robinson, I don't do domestic cases."
It was obvious that Robinson wasn't used to people refusing his requests. "You will be well compensated."
"Can't help you Mr. Robinson," Matt replied again saying the name with sarcasm.
"Don't you need the money?" Robinson said looking around the office with hardly disguised contempt.
"Not yours Robinson. I suggest you leave now; our talk is over."
The look of surprise on the man's face made me chuckle. But I stopped laughing at Robinson's next statement. "I'll give you ten thousand dollars to follow and obtain evidence that my wife is having an affair."
I looked at Robinson for several seconds. "Why so much? There are other PIs that will work for a lot less."
"Jason Worth and Hunter Blaine both sing your praises." I raised an eyebrow; it had the effect I wanted as he continued. "I've done my due diligence and have been told that you and a man named Chambers are the best in town, and I usually get the best." Robinson added.
"Yeah, but Rollie isn't near as good looking as me." I looked out my window as the business crowd walked past my window and thought about the two previous clients that Robinson mentioned. Domestic cases were ones I usually avoided and the settlement I'd gotten from the Police department made sure I didn't have to take them; But then again, ten thousand dollars was a hell of a fee for a few days work.
"Okay, I'll help you ... but I'll only give it two weeks. If I can't get the goods on Mrs. Robinson or she isn't cheating I still get half the fee; payable in advance."
Robinson reached into his jacket pocket, took out his check book, wrote a check for $5000 and slid it across the desk to me. "I'm sure you'll be able to help me."
"I'll need information on your wife, her schedule, where she hangs out and her friends. I also need a recent picture," I told him.
Robinson slid a large manila envelope across the desk. "There is Cynthia's picture, her license plate number and type of car she drives, a list of the charities and committees she's involved with and a list of her friends." When can you start?"
"I just did; I'll keep you posted."
"I'll expect daily progress reports Mr. Steele."
"You'll get what I find when I find it." At the look on Robinson's face Matt held out the check and added, "That's the way I work. You can always find yourself another boy."
"Why are you being so er ... confrontational Mr. Steele?"
Matt stared at Robinson and then answered. "I don't like doing what we call domestic work; it seldom turns out well. I've taken the job and your money and I'll do my best but it has to be on my terms."
"Very well." Robinson pointed to the envelope. "My card with my private number is there also. Please let me know when you find something." He stood, shot his cuffs again, and turned and walked out of the office.
Pompous ass, I thought as I watched him leave. "But a rich pompous ass," I muttered and I put the check in my pocket.
"How was your first day in your new office?" Abby asked as she breezed in from work at 4 o'clock.
Abigail Stewart is my ... well, live in girlfriend I'd guess you'd call her. 'Abby' is about 5 feet 8, with an athletic body but there was no doubt that she is all women. Her hair is strawberry blonde and cut in a pixie style that makes her green eyes and full lips stand out. She has a smattering of freckles across her nose.
As I looked up at her and dropped my feet from my desk to the floor. I was once again surprised and grateful for our relationship considering my distrust of women after the failure of my marriage. Standing up I took her in my arms and kissed her hello.
"My goodness," Abby said after returning my kiss. "It must have been a good day."
"Got my first case on the first day in the office. And it's a rich guy. You and the Major were right; better office, better class of client." I wasn't smiling.
Abby noticed my facial expression. "You don't seem too happy about it." I shrugged my shoulders. "Why not?" She asked.
"It's a domestic; you know following a wife to prove she's having an affair."
"You don't like divorce cases do you?"
I shook my head. "Makes me feel like a peeping tom. I've seen a number of marriages end due to the information I gathered. Mostly my investigations lead to a sad, sometimes violent result."
"All you're doing is gathering evidence and presenting it."
"Yep that's what I do, gather evidence and present it, but I've seen a surprisingly equal number of self absorbed men and selfish scheming women screw over their spouses and partners with no thought of the consequences; especially for the children. Makes me wonder if "Happily ever after" really exists."
Noticing the hard look I added, "I'm not talking about you and me Abby."
"You better not be, I was just getting ready to bop you in the head to bring you to your senses," Abby said. "Why did you take that kind of job if you hate them so much?"
I had to smile and shake my head. "Truth be told, Robinson money whipped me into it." Now she raised an eyebrow. "I'm gonna follow his wife for a maximum of two weeks; I get five thousand no matter what and ten thousand if I get the evidence he wants." I picked up the check from Robinson and showed it to her. "He gave me the five grand up front."
Taking Abby by the hand, I pulled her toward the door. "C'mon, let's go to dinner to celebrate and then we'll come home and explore this 'Happily ever after' thing."
It was just after 10:30 AM and the morning Spring weather was perfect. I was sitting in my truck watching the entrance to a chic, upscale ladies boutique. Mrs. Cynthia Robinson, my target and wife of my client, was shopping. She had gone into the shop at 9:30 and I was still waiting for her. "And she's taking her own sweet time doing it," I said to the squirrel staring at me from the tree next to my truck. It was a warm spring day and I had both of the windows down.
People don't know or realize that this is mostly what you do as a PI, you wait and watch, then wait and watch some more. After two days and nights of following Mrs. Robinson, I'm no closer to finding any information about an extra marital affair. Good old Cynthia is downright boring.
"Hell, she doesn't respond to the flirting from her tennis coach," I told the squirrel. "I watched her yesterday and the guy put the moves on her but she either didn't notice or decided he wasn't worth the effort to knock him down a notch or two." The squirrel was barking and chirping at me to let me know he didn't like me parking near his tree. "If you don't watch out, I'll put you in a stew pot you mangy tree rat."
Just then, good old Cynthia left the boutique. Now in fairness I have to say the good old part wasn't very accurate. Cynthia Robinson looked to be between 30 and 35. She had the fresh innocent look of a young woman. If she was 18 you could put her on the cover of Teen Magazine. Cynthia is tall and slender but there is no doubt she is all woman; with bumps and curves in all the right places. Her long blonde hair and blue eyes just added to the thought that she must have been a teenage cheerleader at one point in her life. The only thing that made her less than perfect, in my mind, was that she spent an hour and a half in the store and didn't buy a thing.
I knew that Jonathan Robinson, from the stories in the newspaper, had met her while she was doing a presentation of a new computer she was trying to sell to his company. Robinson was taken with her; he put a full court press on her and they were married after six months of dating. Although she didn't make the sale she did gain a husband. Now, after only two years of marriage, Robinson thought she was cheating on him.
For the first time Cynthia didn't head for another tennis or golf lesson and she didn't go to another expensive store for more useless shopping; she went to a little coffee shop on the near south side of St. Louis. The Robinsons lived in what could only be called a mansion on Lindell Blvd across from Forest Park; the Benton Park Café and Coffee Shop was several miles from her house. She locked her Mercedes SLK Roadster and almost skipped into the shop. Cynthia moved quickly to a booth in the back and I couldn't really see her.
"I'll have to go in and see who she's meeting," I said, not really happy about the possibility that my target would see and pay attention to me. I have a habit of talking out loud when I'm on a stake out. Sitting alone in my office or at home, I've been known to talk to myself. Sometimes it's the most intelligent conversion I can find.
Slipping on a St. Louis Cardinals sweatshirt, putting on a St. Louis Rams hat and donning big sunglasses, I got out of the truck and entered the shop. I waited to give my order to the young lady behind the counter while she finished up with another coffee junkie. As I waited I turned and glanced at Cynthia. She and a guy sat across from each other with those big stupid coffee cups on the table top between them.
I've never understood why coffee shops or customers for that matter wanted those huge cups. Before you could drink all that coffee it would get cold and if you chugged it while it was hot, you'd break out in a sweat and have to run to the bathroom.
Cynthia was talking to a man, in what looked like an agitated state. The guy gave her a smile and reached over the table and took one of her hands in his. Then he said something in return and Cynthia seemed to relax and sat back in her seat. The guy was good looking if you like the older matinee idol type; he looked to be 40 to 45. Six feet, I guessed and he looks fit. He had wavy brown hair combed straight back and he wore nice clothes. Not the $3000 suits that Mr. Robinson wore, but he was nicely dressed never the less. He was too far away to see his eyes.
"How may I help you?" The young barista asked; she had finished with the other customer.
"Cup of coffee," I told her.
"We can whip that for you and make a nice latte or we can add one of several different flavors." She was going to continue to tell me about all the foo foo things they did with coffee. I held up my hand to stop her.
"Coffee, black is all I want." She smiled sadly at me and went to fill the order of the uneducated man in front of her.
I paid for my gallon cup of coffee and found a table near the front window. There was a clear line of sight to Cynthia and Mr. Matinee Idol; that was the reason I'd picked that seat. After an hour or so I had just about finished my cold coffee when the two people I was watching stood to leave. He put his arms around Cynthia and then tried to kiss her but she pulled away shaking her head. Apparently, she wasn't ready to go the extra step; at least not in public. Cynthia left, got into her chariot, calling that Mercedes a car was an insult, and pulled away.
Good thing, I thought as I made a quick exit to the men's room. Coffee doesn't normally run through me but after drinking that huge cup I thought I'd better make a pit stop before I continued. Finishing my business I approached the young lady again.
"I thought I recognized that couple that just left," I said. "Who are they?"
"That's George Hamilton," she answered. "I've seen the lady in here with him but I don't know her name."
"George Hamilton, like the actor."
"Who?" The girl had no idea who I was talking about.
"Never mind, before your time I guess. Have they been in here a lot?"
"Two or three times a week for the last couple of weeks."
"Ain't the internet amazing," I said as I sat back from my computer monitor that afternoon. I had used Google to find out a lot of information about George Hamilton. He was a prominent figure in one of the charities where Cynthia volunteered. I learned that Jonathan Robinson and Hamilton had been at each other's throats several times over the years and I figured Hamilton saw in Cynthia a way to get back at her husband. My guess was that he was going to seduce Cynthia and then rub Robinson's nose in the affair.
During the next eleven days I followed Cynthia Robinson. Hamilton and Cynthia had lunch or coffee several times, and dinner four times. I took pictures with my cell phone of each meeting. The secretive couple always met at out of the way restaurants or coffee houses. Cynthia was careful to never go to a place that her friends, her husband's associates or her husband might see them. I was able to sit in the booth next to them one evening and record their conversation; using the same phone I had used to take the pictures. Ain't technology wonderful?
"She hasn't been to bed with him," I said as I finished the last day and night of observation. "It might be leading up to that but I don't think ole Cynthia is ready to go that far."
This time my computer worked for me instead of against me. It seems the infernal machine has a grudge against me for some reason. It will go along fine, doing what I want, and then out of the blue it gets mad or something. When it does, it erases everything I'd been working on and sometimes on things I'd done before.
I learned quickly to back up and save all my work and files when it was in a good mood. I finished typing a report for Robinson using Google documents and printed it out. The next day was the last of the two weeks and I had an appointment with him to go over what I'd found.
At 10 the next morning I walked into Robinson's office at One Met Square; the premier office building in downtown St. Louis. The secretary was wasting her time greeting and doing secretarial stuff; she should have been in the movies or on TV. The young woman, 25 to 28 I guessed, was more than beautiful; she was stunning. Tall, long blonde hair, with cornflower blue eyes that missed nothing and showed intelligence.
"Mr. Steele?" She asked. I nodded and she pointed to a heavily carved wood door and said, "You can go right in, Mr. Robinson is expecting you."
If the management company at One Met Square wanted to lease or sell high end office space to a client, they could show them Robinson's office. Two of the four walls were floor to ceiling windows offering a great view of the St. Louis riverfront, the Gateway Arch, and the Mississippi River. Nothing blocked the view and you could see up and down the river and across into Illinois for miles.
Robinson interrupted my looking at the view. "Do you have the evidence I want?" He asked and pulled a check book from the middle drawer of his desk; the desk was almost big enough to play football on.
"I've got some information but I don't think it's what you wanted." I slipped a folder with my report and the pictures inside. As Robinson looked at the pictures, I said, "The man is George Hamilton but Mrs. Robinson hasn't done anything except meet him for coffee or lunch a few times and a couple of dinners." Moving a series of pictures in front of him I said, "this is as sexually and physical as they've gotten Mr. Robinson." The pictures showed the couple saying good bye as they kissed on each cheek, the way they do in Hollywood, and Cynthia shaking Hamilton's hand. "Mrs. Robinson may be having an emotional affair but nothing physical."
Robinson seemed upset. "I know Hamilton and he is a very persuasive man. Are you sure Mr. Steele?"
"I followed Mrs. Robinson from the time she left your house in the morning until she returned. Unless Hamilton was slipping into your bedroom after I left, they haven't been close to being intimate."
He shook his head and sat down behind the huge desk. I heard him mumble "Why isn't she... ? I couldn't hear the rest of the question.
"Mr. Robinson I have a recording here that might explain why." I set my phone to play the recording, turned the speaker toward him and pushed the button. The conversation I'd managed to tape was Cynthia telling Hamilton she was unhappy with her marriage. She said her husband didn't pay much attention to her and she thought he'd only married her to be a trophy wife to impress his business associates. It was plain from the tone of her voice that Cynthia was sad, angry, and a little lost. Hamilton did his best to push her to let him be the one to make her life better; he was trying to take advantage of the situation.
"I'm no expert on marriages or relationships Mr. Robinson; it's above my pay grade. But it seems to me if you'll just talk to your wife you two can iron out these problems." I held up my hand and told him, "No need to write another check; I didn't get what you wanted."
"No, no," Robinson said and handed me another check for five thousand dollars. "You've given me a lot to think about."
The look on his face wasn't of anger or sadness, I thought. It's more like determination. Noticing his look I asked, "One last time piece of advice sir?" He nodded in a distracted manner and I added, "Don't do anything stupid where Hamilton is concerned. It'd be a damn shame if you went to jail for that piece of garbage. Remember, Karma's a bitch and it'll bite him in the ass soon enough."
"I have no intention of going to jail Mr. Steele," he replied. "Of that you can be sure."
Later that day Abby came breezing into my office around 2 o'clock. She works for a consulting firm that helped local and national charities with fund raisers, publicity and anything else that would help them help other people. Sometimes she had to go to dinners, seminars, and even travel to other cities. But today she came to my place early. She came over and sat on my lap before I could get up and said "How did your meeting with the client go?"
Against most client confidentiality rules or guide lines, I sometimes discuss my cases with Abby; she's even worked on a couple with me. When I need date camouflage following or investigating someone she's my cover. She also gives me a woman's perspective on things when I ask. I'd told her about the Robinson's and what I'd found out. Abby agreed that Cynthia wasn't ready to let things get physical with Hamilton, but it could happen.
"I'm glad to see you too," putting my arms around her as she sat down. "I gave Robinson the information I'd gathered. He was pissed and I suggested he talk to his wife and maybe they could work things out. " I'd put the check under the edge of the large lamp on my desk; I pulled it out and handed it to Abby. "He even gave me the other five thousand."
"Well I'm glad that's over," Abby offered. "You were a bit of a bear while you worked this case."
"I'll never take another domestic case." I grinned at her. "C'mon, let's go to Rigazzi's and celebrate."
Abby shook her head. "I suggest we grill a couple of steaks and afterwards celebrate here at home."
"Good thinking," I answered.
"FATAL BOATING ACCIDENT ON ALTON LAKE", the headline of the State and Local section in the Sunday Post Dispatch read. I was glancing at the paper, caught a name in the story and started to read. Abby walked into the living room and asked, "What's got you so interested in the paper?"
"Guy was killed at Alton Lake, a guy I know."
"The name sounds familiar. Who is George Hamilton?"
"Remember that domestic case I handled about three months ago? For that rich guy Robinson; he's the one that I made an obscene amount of money from for two weeks work." Abby nodded. "Hamilton was the guy trying to seduce Mrs. Robinson."
"What happened to him?"
"Paper says that Hamilton was on his boat Saturday afternoon and it exploded. Says there was a gas leak and apparently the fumes were touched off by a spark or something."
"There are boating accidents on the lake every summer, it's nothing new."
I stared at the paper for a few seconds. "It's just funny. Not funny in a ha ha way. More like it's strange. I mean I never heard of the guy and now I've heard about him twice in a few months."