Chapter 1

Detective Bob sat on a bar stool asking the bartender questions that would help him with his case, before two pairs of hands grabbed him, and lifted him off the bar stool. Two more bouncers grabbed his legs to keep him from fighting free.

"Please say they are not going to throw me through the front window. I hate windows!" Bob says aside to me.

It your own fault Bob for forgetting rule number one. You should know better by now.

"Wait! Wait! Rule number one is never sell out a client or a friend. I haven't broken that rule." Bob points out in desperation.

Damn it, you're making this a lot harder than it needs to be. Fine! Let me think ... rule number two was always get half the money up front. Number three is don't turn your back on a crowd, unless you are sure no one will sneak up behind you.

"No one knows that for sure!" Bob argues.

Thus the reason for rule three. Now knock it off, because it looks like your just stalling for time. We have an important scene here and you're ruining it.

"Just cause I don't want to get thrown through a window? Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to screw up your precious action sequence, but I kind of have an aversion to the whole pain side of the equation. You know being thrown into something completely solid, sharp shards, hitting the concrete on the other side. I can't think of one reason why I would want to avoid all that, can you?" Bob says.

No need to be a smartass about it. Look you are the main character and this part needs to happen so I'm getting on with it.

Carrying Bob through the now parting crowd they move towards the front window, with painted letters facing outside saying Macgregor's. As much as Bob kicks and twists, he can't seem to break free of the four burly men who are wearing white t-shirts with the letters Macgregor on them. One has black hair while the rest are short haired brunettes. Each are well-built and seem to know what they are doing.

"Look can't we come up with a compromise! I have an idea. How about they just throw me out the front door? You can even scratch me up a little, if that makes you feel better, just not the window. Come on man, be reasonable!" Bob says trying to find some way out of his inevitable fate.

I'll say this again Bob: this needs to happen. It's important for the reader, as it shows something important about your character that I feel they need to know.

The bouncers have made it to the window and are now preparing to throw Bob through. Winding up they...

"Wait! If you are going to do this, I believe I deserve to know why, you owe me that much." Bob says making a good point.

Fair enough. Alright, you know your 'other' special feature? The one you have had your entire life.

"You've got to be kidding me. Why can't you just tell them about that? I mean I would totally go along with that. Then you wouldn't have to do this." Bob says.

It's nothing personal Bob. People keep telling me I have to show, instead of tell. I'm actually trying to do that.

"At my expense? I mean, come on man. What did I ever do to you?" Bob says.

(Sigh) Nothing Bob. Like I said before: this isn't personal. This point needs to be brought up.

"Fine, then I'll bring it up. Hello ladies and gentlemen. My name's Bob Ziegler I'm single, a Scorpio, I can obviously hear the writer whenever he refers to me, oh and one other thing..." Bob starts to say.

What are you doing?

"I'm telling them about my other ability. This will be over in a sec." Bob says to me.

But then I'll totally have to change how the scene ends.

"It would only take you a few moments to fix anyways." Bob says, refusing to be sidetracked.

That's not the point. I'm the writer and narrator, not you. I say what happens.

"Well in this particular case, that's about to change. My other ability is..." Bob says.

Before Bob can utter those last few words, he is tossed through the plate glass window and hits hard on the concrete.

"(Groans) I ... hate ... you." Bob manages to utter as his body already begins to heal. In a matter of seconds, every bruise and cut disappears. Getting up Bob looks to the heavens.

"You really (bleep) suck." Bob says, pausing for a moment. Something suddenly occurs to him, and he decides to voice it.

"Did you just bleep me?" Bob says.

Yes I did Bob. If a kid decides to pick this book up, they are not going to learn a lot of colorful language from you.

"But you said (bleep) earlier. Doesn't that count?" Bob says hearing himself get censored again.

That's me Bob. I can deal getting in trouble for my own words, but you are a different story.

"Well you are the one who made me. Why didn't you just not including the whole 'cussing' thing when you first started to developing my character?" Bob asks.

I believe we have already established that you don't always follow directions, so that obviously was not in the cards. For all I know you could have developed that on your own. Now do you want to continue with the story or not?

"Do I get thrown through anymore windows?" Bob asks, brushing himself off and combing his hands through his hair.

Not for the foreseeable future.

"I'm not going to get anything better than that, am I?" Bob asks.

No, you aren't.

"Fine, let's get on with it." Bob says.

Right, now where was I? Oh yes, one of the bouncers comes outside.

"And Bob pulls a gun on him." Bob says doing exactly that. Drawing a pistol from its holster inside his coat, Bob points it at the lone bouncer.

"Face the wall and don't move." Bob says keeping his gun on the big man.

Watching the man put up his hand and face the wall Bob walk a step or two closer, still at a safe distance.

"Now let's try this again. Where is Sandy Mecchio? I don't think I need to remind you that after just getting thrown through a window, I am looking for an excuse to shoot one of you." Bob said looking at the back of the man's head.

"She is at 2237 Cruz Street, room 72 on the third floor. She went to get her fix from Pete." The bouncer replies, obviously nervous.

"Now wasn't that easy? Now spread your legs and keep your hands on the wall." Bob says.

"What?" The bouncer says, trying to turn his head to get a look at Bob.

Really Bob I don't think this is a good idea.

"Turn around and don't move!" Bob shouts

Bob please don't do what I think you are going to do.

The bouncer did as he was told, shaking visibly as Bob walks up behind him. Without warning Bob quickly winds up and kicks him in the balls. The man falls to the ground groaning as his hands cup his balls.

That was pretty messed up Bob.

"The bastard had it coming." Bob says.

Couldn't you have just let him off with a warning? I mean that's just mean.

"Let me ask you a question. If you were him would try to pull crap like that again?" Bob asked.

Back to the story I guess. Bob heads to the nearest parking lot where his old white Mach 1 Mustang in waiting. Pulling out of the parking lot, he turns right onto the street, merging with traffic. It takes about ten minutes to reach his destination. The apartment is up on his right, and is obviously not in a nice part of town. Crack heads and other drug users gathered on the sidewalk our front. Bob eyed a few of them as he parked his car, wondering if it would still be here when he came out. The buildings themselves were in ill repair. By the looks of thinks, the apartment structure he was going into was well on its way to being condemned, and that was just from looking on the outside. Rolling his windows up, Bob made sure both doors were locked and hoped no one decided to steal it or break into it. There was no buzzer to let him in, apparently anyone could walk in off the street without the residents having to know about it. Upon entering, Bob could smell the stale stench of decay and seen signs of rot on the walls and stain in the carpet. The hall was dark with lights flickering overhead. To his right halfway down the hall, an elevator was marked with a sign that said, "Out of order."

Venturing further he found a door that led to a flight of stairs again off to the right. Once inside the stairwell he saw one flight lead up while another door marked, "Maintenance" led to the basement. Without using the handrail Bob headed up. After two more flights, he was at the third floor and exited to find more stains and an even more sickening stench. Judging by the smell, this place was used by squatters, who also used it as a bathroom. A urine stain to his left confirmed this conclusion on Bob's part. One particular stain caught his attention as it looked very much like a blood stain that marked where someone had fallen. It was a pull of blood not a spatter, making it easy to notice. Pulling out his gun, Bob drew the hammer back and kept his eyes and ears peeled. Whoever lived up here, obviously didn't like unwelcome visitors. The hallway was long and straight for a good ten rooms, before it curved to his left. Pausing at the corner, he peeked around and spotted a sleeping guard in front of what looked like the room he was looking for. Sleeping in a chair the large man in a leather jacket looked like a heavy duty biker. Even though he was good distance down the hall, Bob could easily see the shotgun he held across his chest, with the barrel pointed down.

"Why does it have to be a shotgun?" Bob whispers.

It's a common weapon in the movies, plus you don't really have to know how to aim. It's the perfect gun for an amateur.

"That's the problem." Bob says.

I don't follow.

"They don't have to be that good, and to make matters worse it leaves an even bigger hole in me!" Bob voice strains.

Might I suggest sneaking up on him then.

"This is so not cool." Bob says sneaking around the corner.

Approaching the sleeping man he does his best to not make any noise. Only a few feet away from the guard and the door the detective entertains the hope that he might be able to sneak past, or at the very least be able to talk the gunman into handing the shotgun over with Bob holding a gun on him. The door to apartment 72 opens and a second biker wearing a shoulder holster with a handgun stuffed inside comes out. He turns and faces Bob who stares up at him from a crouch that he had used to creep over.

Reaching for his gun the newcomer says, "What the hell?"

The first biker wakes up as Bob fires on the second, the bullets striking the second men in the chest. Getting up quickly the man with the shotgun tries to aim as Bob dives inside. Rolling behind a couch near the door Bob tries to get out of the line of fire. The surviving biker pumps two shots into the couch while the detective hears a girl scream in the background. Both shots miss, but send stuffing flying as the blasts punch through only inches from his head. Rolling to his left Bob fires two more shots, the first clips his attacker's shoulder, and the second more carefully aimed takes him in the head. Taking a breath Bob rises to his feet before looking around. In the corner of the apartment by a bookshelf Sandy sit huddled in the corner. A small wood and glass coffee table stands between them. On the table lines of coke cover its surface.

"Sandy I'm here to take you home." Bob says stowing his gun in it holster.

Staring at him in her drugged stupor, it takes awhile before she recognizes him.

"Uncle Bob?" Sandy says, finally recognizing the man standing in front of her.

"That's right. Let me help you up." Bob says giving her a hand up.

"Is daddy mad at me?" Sandy asks worry showing clearly on her face, as she holds onto Bob for support.

Bob is relieved when he brings her out front and still finds his car where he left it, granted the radio has been ripped out, but things could be worse. Sighing in exasperation, he helps Sandy into the passenger seat. Getting in he drove off and headed back to her family's mansion. As he approached the gate, Bob pulled to a stop and keyed the intercom. A camera swiveled on one of the black metal gate post to look at the car.

"Who is it?" A familiar voice came over the com.

"It's Bob Will. I have Sandy with me." Bob said.

He heard a buzz over the intercom and the gates started opened to let his car in. Putting the car in gear Bob drove inside. In front of him was a fountain surrounded by a circular yellow brick paved road. Gardens covered the front of mansion on either side of the door. William Meechio a well dressed forty year old man hurried outside to hug his daughter followed by his wife Gwynn Meechio, a much younger woman. Bob knew she was William's second wife and twenty years younger than her new husband. He and Sandy's mother had divorced two years ago, but had agreed to be amicable for their daughter's sake. William had given her a nice settlement just to make sure on that point, making sure she would never have to work another day in her life, unless she needed to. The Gwynn and Sandy were very similar in build, while Sandy herself looked a lot like her father rather than her biological mother. William and Gwynn had tried hard to take care of Sandy's needs but William's former wife had spoiled her and Gwynn refused to because her good intentions. The three hugged and Gwynn led Sandy inside and upstairs to the girl's room where she could rest.

"She'll get the treatment she needs to get well. How did this happen?" William asks. The truth was William Meechio wasn't as legitimate as he wanted to be. Most of his fortune had been made by illegal means and had only tried to change his ways as he saw his daughter grow older.

"I don't want this life for her." William had once said to Bob in private, and Bob wasn't inclined to judge. The two of them had grown up together and had looked out for each other as far back as they could remember. Best friends for life they might have disagreed on some issues but William had never done anything that made Bob ashamed to know him. Drugs in particular were something Will stayed away from, which made his daughter's drug habit that much more unexpected. Everyone who had half a brain knew that Sandy Meechio or any other member of Will's family weren't to be touched; to do otherwise invited a war on the streets, as few fathers would sit idly by when it came to such things. Bob had done this mainly as a favor though Will had insisted on paying him after discussing the details. Bob understood Will's reasons for hiring his old friend, as it would not only keep the entire thing quiet for his daughter's sake, but also avoid elevating tensions.

"She'll be fine Will. In a couple weeks you'll go completely legit and this will all be behind you." Bob says.

"I can't thank you enough Bob. I owe you one." Will says with all sincerity on his front steps.

"Don't worry about it. You saved my hide plenty of times, but don't think I won't collect on one the other ones you owe me." Bob says with a smile.

"Anytime." Will says as he invited him in. Bob got a good meal and the money including a bonus to cover the loss of his car radio. When it was time to leave Bob drove off to head home. Bob's home was certainly not as nice as his friends. It was a pretty average apartment not far from his office. The rent was decent and the land lord friendly enough. Bob didn't have a lot to complain about. Opening up the fridge he pulled out a cold bottle of root beer and turned on the tube. In the middle of taking his second sip he felt nature call and headed to the bathroom. Standing there over the bowl...

"Really? You couldn't give me a little privacy here?" Bob asks in annoyance as he forced to stop peeing, as he can't talk and do both at the same time.

"Like you could." Bob says.

Why do you have to be so hostile Bob? It's not like this doesn't fit into the story line.

"How does peeing become an important detail? Why can't you give me a little time to myself? It's not like it isn't hard enough to get some sleep or do anything else for that matter with you constantly talking in the background." Bob explains.

Fine, it you want to it that way here it goes: instead of using Bob's "private time" to advance the story line and tell him an important event we'll just let him relax and maybe, just maybe he'll figure it out on his own. Go ahead Bob.

A concerned look comes over Bob's face as he says, "Perhaps I was a bit hasty."

No, no Bob, you're right. Enjoy your private time, you deserve it. I'll just make a few change and you'll...

"Look, will you please tell me the important event?" Bob asks with as much humility as he can muster.

Since the door is slightly cracked, an old habit Bob has formed since living alone for many years...

"Take your time why don't you." Bob says under his breath.

What was that?

"Nothing." Bob lies.

In the background Bob hears a news bulletin come up on the TV and he listens.

"In perhaps the most positive recent development in the city's history since its founding: Mason City will now be renamed Freedom City thanks to Captain Freedom and the super heroes league, who have decided to make this city the head of their operations..." The reporter on the television says. In an effort to hurry out of the bathroom, Bob nearly catches himself in his fly. Standing there in the hallway, his eyes are glued to the television.

"The city's mayor plans to give Captain Freedom and his comrades the key to the city tomorrow morning in what is hoped to be a glorious beginning to a new chapter in the city's history. Captain Freedom has already made a pledge to clean up the city's streets, and sends a notice to all criminals in the darkest corners of our fair city, "From the light of freedom no evil can hide." The Reporter finishes and signs off.

"You've got to be freaking kidding me! Superheroes? I hate superheroes! Bunch of costume wearing freaks. Are you trying to put me out of a job?" Bob asks.

Well look at it this way Bob: you probably not get shot at anymore.

"And then what? You think I'm an idiot? The people who hire me do so because they know I can't die. That means I'm unique, or at least I was until you brought the costume show to town. Did you ever think of the fact that this might make it at least a little harder for me to find work, and I have to pay rent?" Bob nearly shouts.

Calm down Bob. You're getting yourself worked up. Bob starts sputtering unintelligible nonsense in his frustration. Bob a little tired from the days events feels the strong desire to go to bed.

"No I don't." Bob replies with determination, fighting off the sleepiness.

Come on Bob.

"No!" Bob says.

Look tomorrows another day and you obviously can't do anything about it.

"I'm tired of you pushing me around. This is the last straw!" Bob yells at me.

Don't push me Bob!

"What can you possibly do to me?" Bob challenges.

Gee that looks like a nice window facing the street.

"What?" Bob says looking at the window suspiciously.

You sound like you are a little overcome with emotion. People do crazy things in times like that.

"You're thinking of doing what I think you are, are you?" Bob says a sudden look of fear coming over his face.

You are two stories up. It's not like it would kill you, even if you could die.

"You can't be serious!" Bob says trying to grab onto something in a desperate hope not to be forced out the window.

Your choice Bob, either you go to bed or I start convincing you that you made the wrong choice.

"Bed sounds awfully good right now." Bob declares nervously.

I knew you would see it my way. Have a good night Bob.

"You too." Bob says without the slightest hint that he means it.

The next morning Bob wakes groggily and takes a shower first thing, before changing clothes and sitting down to eat some breakfast. Pouring some cereal he gets up to get the milk out of the fridge.

"Where's the milk?" Bob asks.

It must be gone.

"Bull! I bought a gallon of milk two days ago." Bob says.

Maybe you used it all.

"What it I do: eat cereal for every meal? You know very well I usually eat on the go." Bob says.

And you're lucky you're not fat thanks to your metabolism.

"One of the benefits of having this body, but don't think I didn't notice you tried to change the subject. What is it you're trying to pull here?" Bob asks.

Why would I be trying to pull something?

"Do you really want me to dignify that with a response?" Bob asks

You mean like you technically just did.

Sighing in exasperation Bob says, "You are so annoying."

Trust me, the feeling is mutual.

"So I'm going to the store am I?" Bob asks.

That's where milk is, unless of course you want to travel to the nearest farm, which is hundreds of miles away.

"Alright I'll get my keys." Bob says and starts looking for them.

Driving down to the local convenience store Bob goes inside to buy another gallon of milk. Walking across the floor to the far aisle he grabbed it from its usual spot. The sound the electronic ding you hear when someone enters a convenience store caused him to turn around. Two men in wearing hooded sweat shirts and brown bandanas came in carrying Uzis.

"Not good." Bob mumbles as he quickly ducks out of view. Moving quickly as he notices that anyone who bothers to look from the clerk's point of view can see him in one of the little mirrors designed to look designed to look down that particular aisle. Managing to hide at the very end of one of the aisles, when one of the robbers checks the mirrors, Bob hopes things stay quiet so that the robbers leave and everyone lives through this.

"Stop evildoers!" A loud voice cries out. Peaking over the top of the aisle, Bob sees a man that looks remarkably like Captain Amazing.

"No freaking way!" Bob mumbles with a pained look on his face.

One of the gunmen turns his weapon on the super hero, while the other one grabbed the clerk while he was behind the counter and used him as a living shield.

"Back up super hero or we waste the nice little clerk." The robber said. The clerk was indeed small, standing at about 5'4 with a baby face he looked like he was right out of high school. Seeing what was about to happen all too clearly, Bob sighed putting down the milk. Pulling his gun, he stood up.

"Wait!" Bob says walking towards the counter he keeps his gun on the man holding the clerk hostage.

"Where the hell did he come from?" The robber behind the counter says.

"That doesn't matter. What does matter is this: you're in an awful fix right now. You have a choice: either you take me as a hostage, or I shoot you." Bob says.

"I have things well in hand." Captain Amazing said confidently.

Without taking his eyes off of the robber he was pointing at Bob replies, "Really Captain Dork? What exactly was your plan? Did you somehow think you could take out two men with guns with a hostage involved, without I might add the element of surprise? This isn't a freaking movie! Before you even finished off the first guy, the second would blow the clerk away, and then what?"

Captain Amazing actually seemed confused and Bob shook his head and says to the robber in front of him, "So what's it going to be? I doubt Amazing over there will let you leave, especially if you shoot the clerk. Now with me on the other hand you get to leave and keep your guns trained on both me and the clerk until you can make a exit. As long as you leave with me and not the kid I won't struggle. You aren't getting a better deal than that."

Both robbers looked at each other and shrugged.

The hostage taker said, "Seems like a good idea to me. It's not like we have a lot of choice."

Setting down his gun, Bob headed towards the counter and traded places with the clerk who was shaking visibly.

"You'll be ok kid. Just take a breath and stay calm. This is almost over." Bob said.

"Thank you." The clerk said taking deep breaths as he tried to steady himself.

"Don't mention it." Bob said as calm as can be.

Alert and fearful the two robbers make their way past Captain Amazing with their new hostage. As promised Bob didn't struggle or make a break for it. With his help they made it outside safely and to the car they have waiting. It's a four door car, older by the look of it with dents in the bumper showing it had been in a few front end collisions. Apparently they hadn't been too bad or the car had been fixed because when they started it the car made no clanks or strange noises. Judging by the smell and trash inside the car they had been practically been living in the vehicle for days, making it highly doubtful that this was some stranger's car. Bob knew the longer you stayed in a stolen car, the risk of being caught increased. The really good armed robbers switched cars before and after the job. These guys were probably local as they seemed quite familiar with the twists and turns of the city. Sitting in the passenger's seat Bob noticed they made no pauses and he got the impression they knew where they were going. Being patient had its advantages, and he picked his spot. While the man behind him had his gun out, neither him nor the man next to him had any idea what Bob was capable of.

"Bye gents." Bob said as he threw open the unlocked door and launched himself from the car onto a public street. Rolling he took the road burn as best he could, his body quickly healing. When he finally managed to stop himself, he saw the robbers' car slow down to a stop, as if they planned to come back for him. Reaching for the gun in his ankle holster Bob takes careful aim and shoots out the two rear tires in quick succession. The criminals spooked try to take off, but swerve all over the place as the driver tries to keep control. Smashing into a hydrant they come to an abrupt stop. Captain Amazing manages to catch up and is surprised to see Bob rise.

"Who are you?" Freedom asks.

"Detective Bob Ziegler, private eye." Bob says glancing at Captain Amazing, "I suppose you can take it from here hero. I've gotta go buy me some milk."

With that Bob turns around and walks back the way he came, and back to his car. Cops surround the convenience store and the clerk is there for questioning. Bob is forced to answer some questions and is stuck there for hours until the police gather their forensics. Captain Amazing brings in the robbers as Bob leaves to buy milk at a local supermarket before returning home. Sitting down to finally have breakfast he pours the milk on his cereal and scarfs it down.

A call comes in as he puts his empty bowl in the sink to rinse. Walking over to the coffee table in front of the couch where the phone waits, Bob picks it up and says, "Hello?"

"Detective Bob Ziegler?" A feminine voice came over the phone.

"Yes?" Bob says not recognizing the voice.

"My name is Candice Simpson. I need your help. Could I meet you at your office as soon as possible?" She asked.

Checking the digital clock over the television Bob says, "I can be there in about an hour."

"Thank you very much Mr. Ziegler." She said.

Pulling into his office's parking lot Bob gets out and finds a gorgeous lady in a black dress that hugged her curves, and ended just above her ankles with a slit down one side. Her hair was long and black, curling upward slightly at its ends. The look fit her face and figure nicely, what a lovely figure it was. Mrs. Simpson was tall, standing at about 6'3. Bob actually had to look up at her as he approached; something he was unaccustomed to doing with women at his height of about 5'10. Bob was no slouch himself, while he wasn't of super model caliber, he was a handsome man who could get a date if he tried, that is when wasn't working his butt off on a case. Being a workaholic had its disadvantages, though quite frankly Bob did prefer being alone. Both he and Mrs. Simpson shared the same hair color, but Bob's hair was cut short, making it easy to comb and manage like he liked it. Wearing the classic brown overcoat of a detective he liked to look the part while he was on the job. Any other time you would probably find him in a sport's jacket, t-shirt, and jeans. Right now he was in a dress shirt and slacks under his overcoat with sneakers for his feet. Sure they might not be as pretty as some expensive dress shoe, but Bob had learned a long time ago function outweighed looks. When you run down a guy, or run away from gunfire your priorities tended to change, still every once in awhile he sprang for a new pair in his tight budget so they didn't look too beat up. The fact was looks counted for some things, and the last thing he wanted to do is lose a possible client or a paycheck because he didn't put forward a little effort to make a good first impression. Mrs. Simpson stood in front of a black Lexus with a driver waiting in the car. The man had the look of a bodyguard by the look of him. Whoever this woman was, she was probably rich.

"Mrs. Simpson?" he asked.

"Yes. I can't thank you enough for seeing me." Candice said.

"I'm happy to be of service Mrs. Simpson. Please step into my office." Bob said as he unlocked the door.

As they moved inside the driver stayed in the car; no doubt that had been under his boss' instruction as he looked uncomfortable at the idea judging by his facial expression. Bob tried to gauge the man and their eyes met, what he saw in the might have made other men shiver: the man's eyes were cold as ice. The detective had seen enough killers to know that look and what it meant. If Bob didn't anything to hurt his charge, this guy would kill him without an ounce of feeling or hesitation. Who was this woman? His curiosity was already peaked taking in this new bit of information. Following his possible new client inside he offered her a seat as he headed behind the desk to sit in his own chair. The office was clean and tidy, and the filing cabinets and boxes along the walls were well organized. Bob had always had a good filing system which had been instrumental in solving a few of his more long term cases in the past.

Bringing his eyes back to his client who he noticed used very little make up, not that she needed it, he gave her a friendly smile saying, "How many I help?"

"I need you to find someone, my husband in fact. He disappeared two days ago and I'm worried about him. The police say that they can do nothing. I'm desperate." She says.

"Alright, can you tell me when last saw him and where?" Bob asks taking out his notebook.

Bob had a photographic memory, but he had noticed that taking a few notes at the very least had a positive psychological effect on would-be clients. Simply whipping out a notepad and a bed seemed to make you look more professional in their eyes, so he had gotten into the habit of doing it with all his clients. This practice had an added advantage of leaving a paper trail, that he could use in court cases or keep some overzealous cop or D.A. at bay. Just feeding them a little information that he didn't mind parting with, often helped grease the wheels, and kept them off his back. Bob was well known in law enforcement circles as a man who got the job done, and when it served his client's interests or didn't go against their best interests, he had been known to help the local cops out as an informant or witness.

"I last saw him at breakfast, before he headed out to work. I kissed him goodbye and expected him to be back before dinner, while I went out shopping in the mean time. I called all of his work and all of his friends, but they said they hadn't seen him." Candice says.

"I'll need a list of any addresses he might be staying, including his work." Bob says.

"But the police said they already checked those places. Do you think they missed something?" Candice asks, hope showing in her eyes.

"I wouldn't want to get your hopes up Mrs. Simpson, but it's possible. Cops are human just like the rest of us. They might be treating this as a man who just left his wife. If that is the case they might not looked as carefully as I will. Unlike them I don't have a bunch of cases on my desk. I only take on a new one when the last one is finished or the client tells me to stop. It's why I insist on half of the money up front, just in case I find something that you didn't feel you wanted to know, something else comes up. I will tell you that my success rate is very high and I don't give up very easily." Bob explains.

"That's why I came to you. I was told you could handle anything. I have some money with me. Is $ 2,500 good enough to start? I can get more if you need it." The woman said earnestly.

The detective tried to hide his shock while he spoke, "The amount you are offering will be plenty."

Getting up Candice made a motion from the window at her driver outside and he brought in a suitcase with $ 2,500 in cash. Normally Bob was paid a lot less up front, even for a kidnapping. A lesser human being might have pumped this poor woman for more money, but that wasn't his style. The fact that she was offering this much showed that she was on the verge of panic. Her facial expressions matched this judgment and Bob couldn't help but feel a sense of pity for her.

Closing the case of money sitting on his desk and taking a picture she offered him of her husband Bob says, "I can start within the hour Mrs. Simpson if you want."

"Yes please." Candice says allowing driver to lead her out to the car. Bob sees them drive off before he picks up his suitcase and closes up shop.

After depositing the money into his bank account Bob stops off at his place to get his surveillance equipment, just in case he needs it. Going through the list he goes to each of the addresses to familiarize himself with Mr. Simpson's life. By the third address Bob decides to skip the other four addresses to go straight to Edward Simpson's place of business. When he got there his suspicions were confirmed. Thanks to his friend Meechio Bob knew a lot about organized crime, particularly the Italian mob who had been Meechio's biggest rival in gambling and illegal imports. The building in front of the Detective belonged to their organization as a legitimate front for their activities. It was a small two story office building with a fire escape on the side in an alley. As it was getting dark already, Bob decided to wait for nightfall to make his way in. After watching the last employee leave at 7:08 pm he waited ten more minutes to make sure no one forgot anything and would come back right away.

Breaking in wasn't too hard, probably because most of the underworld knew who owned the building and wouldn't be insane enough to steal anything.

"For the record I don't plan to steal anything: I plan to get the information I need. Besides it's not like they can actually kill me." Bob says as he searches through files. Finding the husband's day planner he found the man's real name: Arnold Gespacci.

"She lied about her name." Bob says.

Flipping through the pages of the day planner he found the latest entry which showed a meeting the day he was kidnapped. His computer was password protected and Bob couldn't find any paper trail to hint at his disappearance in the office. Making sure to leave everything tidy, so as to cover his tracks Bob retreated to the window and used the fire escape to get back to the street level and walk to his car. Once inside he called up one of his friend in vice.

"Pete it's Bob. I'm working on a case and was wondering if you've anything about an Arnold Gespacci." Bob says

"A mob lawyer? What kind of case do you have that would involve someone like that?" Pete Simms asks.

"His wife says he disappeared and asked me to look into it." Bob says.

"If that's the case then why didn't she put in a missing persons report? I'm sure the brass would have made sure we would have been all over it." Pete says.

"Don't know, and I don't get paid to ask those questions." Bob says.

"Well I see he has a girlfriend on 88th and Suncrest Apartment 202, her name Amy Kitchens. I would check there first if I was you. We don't have anyone tailing him at present. If you find anything we can use, you let me know alright?" Pete says.

"I'll see what I can do, thanks for the tip." Bob says.

"I guess I don't need to tell ya to be careful." Pete offers.

"Give my best to Leslie and the kids." Bob says and hangs up.

Driving to the address Pete gave him Bob parks across the street. Getting out of the car he makes sure traffic is clear before he crosses. Once on the other side he enters the building and uses the elevator to make his way up. Knocking on the door he waits and hears no one. After the fourth knock he decides to chance it and pulls out his lock picking kit. It takes him less than a minute to unlock the door. Making his way in he softly closes it behind him, listening for any signs that anyone is home. The place is in shambles and after a quick look around he finds no one. Checking the answering machine he finds a message.

One he presses the play button a male's voice can be heard, "Amy it's Arnold. I can't meet you at the office as planned. Meet me in front the bar we both like to go to."

Looking around again Bob finds no sign of the bar he is talking about in the apartment, and he figures whoever ransacked the place was looking for the same thing. Thinking back to Arnold's own office Bob did remember place holder with the name Marty's Grill and bar on it.

"Probably the place." Bob says and left as quietly as he came in. Driving to the location goes inside and shows Arnold's picture around. One of the waitresses points him to the bartender.

"You've seen this man?" Bob asks.

"What are you the police?" The bartender asks suspiciously.

"The man's wife is looking for him." Bob replies

"I can understand that, while I got nothing against the guy personally I lost my wife to some snotty little sports agent, didn't figure Amy for a gold digger though. The guy you are looking for came in her with a pretty little thing with blond hair and hazel eyes. Use to work for me when she was in college. Was a favorite among the customers until she quit. Comes back her every week with Arnold her new boyfriend. They were here for a little while before their friends showed up. Both of them were real nervous until they saw them come through that door. Looked like they were running from something can't imagine what; Amy was a good girl who grew up in the neighborhood and kept her nose clean." The bartender said.

"Thanks for your time." Bob says sliding a twenty across the bar.

The bartender flashes him a smile and goes about his business. As he heads out to his car Bob notices to men sitting in a car right across the street that weren't there before. Instinct tells him to be aware of them as he gets in. Pulling out into the street he checks his rearview mirror a couple of minutes later: he sees the same car behind him. It's a few cars behind him but he is able to pick it out. Slowing to a stop at the stop light he makes a decision and heads to a local mall where there are lots of people. Heading inside immediately Bob dials Pete again.

"Pete I need some help here." Bob says.

"What's wrong?" Pete asks.

"I've got a car tailing me and I don't think they are friendly. I'm inside the mall downtown. Are you sure there isn't something special going on with this Gespacci character?" Bob asks.

"Not that I know of. Are they still following you?" Pete asks.

Bob glanced back and saw two familiar faces in suits come in through same doors he did only a minute before.

"Yep." Bob says.

"Alright, try to lose them in the crowd. I'll send a black and white and meet you at the south entrance on the top floor." Pete said.

"See you there." Bob says hurrying to the escalator.

The crowd slowed his pursuers as they tried to catch up. Bob did his best to make himself inconspicuous, but he noticed them split up to head him off, he decided running was his only option. Weaving in and out of the crowd he managed to stay ahead of them and burst out the south entrance leading to a large parking lot where the uniformed officer was waiting. Bob looked back and half expected to see two men stop and turn around, but instead they merely slowed their gate.

When one of them reached inside their jacket the cop pulled his gun and yells, "Freeze! Keep your hands where I can see them."

Both men put their hands up as the officer waited for his backup. Pete and his partner day arrive on the scene minutes later. Pete is a average looking black man of about medium build and with short curly and his partner Dan Havens a stocky Asian man with buzzed haircut.

"These the guys?" Pete asks turning to Bob.

"Yes." Bob says.

"Who are you?" Pete asks the two men.

"We are both U.S. Marshalls. If you'll let me show you my badge..." The man on the left says. Both are Caucasian and of similar build, while the man on the left has sandy blond hair, and the one on the right is a brunette. Both could have easily have blended into a crowd if Bob hadn't already spotted them.

"Go ahead but keep it slow." Pete says pulling out his gun and training it in the direction of the blond.

Flashing his badge the blond says, "My name is Marshall Smith and this is Marshall Strebeck. The man next to you has involved himself with witness under our protection."

"Arnold Gespacci is a federally protected witness?" Bob asks in surprise.

"Yes he is. We checked and we know you aren't with the local law enforcement. You'll have to come with us." Smith says.

"Hold on one second there Marshall. While Detective Bob is a private eye and not an official part of our law enforcement he does have a lot of friends among us. As far I know he found out about your witness as part of a case he is working on." Pete said.

"And what case is that?" Strebeck asks.

"A missing persons. Someone who claimed to be his wife paid me over $ 2,000 in cash to find out what happened to him. Let me guess: Gespacci doesn't have a wife." Bob ventures.

"No he doesn't." Smith says.

Bob thinks it over and a sudden realization comes over him.

"They were going to follow me." Bob says.

"Who?" Pete asks.

"My guess is the mob. The woman was the bait. I bite and do my usual thing and when I finally find their quarry they try to put me on ice. It was all a setup" Bob explains.

"Is he that good?" Smith asks Detective Pete.

"He usually finds what he is looking for. If you don't believe me, check our records and you'll see he has helped convict a number of guys." Pete says.

"Why isn't he a cop then?" Strebeck asks.

"Nothing against the rest of you but I like being self employed: I am my own boss." Bob answers.

"Is that the only reason?" Smith asked with a raised eyebrow.

"If you are referring to another friend of mine, he is a good man and even your experts will clearly find evidence that he's getting out of the business, besides you can't be so dense as to not have looked up that he and the mob weren't the best of friends." Bob says looking Smith right in the eye.

"Easy Bob. I'm sure Marshall Smith didn't mean anything by it." Pete says.

"Why are you protecting this man detective? His motive is clear." Strebeck asks.

"You don't get it do you? Bob might not be perfect in your eyes, but he's fine in ours. The man is loyal to a fault. William Meechio deals in minor vices, not murder and not drugs. You should note those things before you start making assumptions. Bob Ziegler's integrity isn't questioned by anyone who knows him." Dan says.

"Ok, let's have a compromise. We'll interview him at your station to find out if there is anything else he knows. Is that agreeable?" Marshall Smith suggests.

"Bob?" Pete asks, turning to him.

"Fine." Bob says as he just wants to get this over with.

"We'll take him in our car." Strebeck says

"Yeah ... I don't think so." Pete says motioning Bob towards their unmarked.

Sitting in the squad room Bob checked the clock on the wall behind, which said an hour had passed.

"Shouldn't they be here by now?" Bob asks.

Pete glances at the clock as well and his face takes on a look of concern as he says, "You know what ... I'm going to just call to find out what happened to them."

After a moment Bob could hear Pete saying, "Really? Are you sure? Thanks."

"What happened?" Bob asks.

Hanging up the phone Pete says, "They haven't reported in and their own people are looking for them."

"You don't suppose..." Bob says.

Pete shakes his head, "The mob wouldn't be stupid enough to try to kill or kidnap two federal marshals; that would be insanity on their part. That would bring them unwanted attention and the feds wouldn't stop until they found their people."

"What do we do?" Bob asks.

"Neither of us does anything. This is a federal matter now, but just to be safe I want you to check into a motel or something. Whatever you do don't go home. If the mob or whoever else is looking for you, it's best not to go where they can easily find you. We've brought in your car. If you need any help just call me." Pete says.

"Thanks Pete. I will." Bob says.

Bob heads down to pick up his car and is caught by surprise as someone uses a stun gun on his neck, knocking him out.

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