Where do I begin? Hmm. Good question. The beginning? My childhood growing up without my parents? How I went to live with my aunt and uncle and cousin after my folks died? My time in the Army? My time after the Army working for Red River Private Security? Getting married, and my wife telling me she wanted a Divorce a little over a year later?
I guess I could start at any of those points in time. Tell ya what. I'll give you a quick little overview of my life before I became an Equalizer.
What's an Equalizer, you ask? I'll get to that a bit later.
I was born in New York City, where my Mom and Dad lived at the time. I had a fairly normal first six years of life, but then it became something that I wouldn't call normal, and wouldn't wish on any child.
You see, when I was six years old, my folks died in a plane crash, so I was sent to live with my Uncle John, Aunt Naomi, and Cousin Cara out in California. Uncle John had been stationed at Ft. Irwin at the time, so that was where I went. Granted, my life wasn't normal anymore, and I did miss my parents, but Uncle John and Aunt Naomi did their best to make me feel loved. This, even as they struggled with their own grief over my parents' deaths.
John Shepard is my father's brother. He and Aunt Naomi had been married about the same time as Mom and Dad were. I vaguely remember my parents telling me that if anything happened to them, I would be living with John and Naomi, my Godparents.
At six, I barely remembered my folks. I wondered why my new Mom and Dad were my aunt and uncle, but after a while, I just accepted it. They had been really broken up over my folks dying, but always treated me like their own son. Cousin Cara became more of a sister to me than a cousin, and Naomi became Mom while John became Dad. I never questioned why John was white and Naomi was black. In fact, I think that bit of trivia contributed somewhat to my taste in women as I grew older.
My name is Declan Shepard, by the way. I've gone by Deck my whole life, though. I'm 33 years old, 6'1", weigh 205 lbs., and I keep in shape. I keep my prematurely graying black hair cut short as I did in the Army, but I've been called handsome by most ladies I've dated. My cobalt blue eyes round out my features along with a nose that has been broken in the past. Not too badly, but enough to give my face some character.
I was in my share of fights while growing up. Some were because of being the new kid in school, since Uncle John was in the Army and we moved around a lot. Some were because I was in a "salt and pepper" family, especially in the South when Uncle John was stationed at Ft. Benning, Georgia, and we lived in Columbus.
When we moved to Santa Barbara, California after John retired, and Cara and I started High School there, we were definitely brother and sister, as far as our attitudes toward each other.
We loved and hated each other in equal measure. We were the quintessential siblings, rivalries and all. That still didn't stop me from dating some of Cara's cheerleader friends, though.
Anyhow, after High School, I joined the Army, and was sent back to Ft. Benning, where I'd spent a couple years of my life growing up. Only this time, it was for Basic and AIT. I did a four year hitch, and was sent to Afghanistan in early '02 as part of an Alpha Team under the command of Captain Drake. I saw some shit over there that I never thought could possibly exist. Weird shit. REALLY weird. You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Trust me on that.
When I reported to Ft. Jackson for Outprocessing, I was recruited while at the Bus Stop waiting for a ride to the airport. It seemed that the Red River Private Security Firm had done some checking on me, and found my skillset to be just what they needed. They were offering 5 times what I'd been making as a Sergeant (E-5) per month, so I jumped at the chance. Hell, after that six months in Afghanistan with a side trip to Israel, I figured that whatever Red River assigned me, it would be a cakewalk by comparison.
During my time with Red River, I met and married Cindy Ramirez, a gorgeous woman with nice tits and a hellacious ass. She was from Puerto Rico, originally, and her mother was black. I was smitten. She seemed to be smitten too, and after a few months of dating and a lot of hot sex, we got married.
Yep, as you can probably guess, that didn't last too long. When we had time together when I wasn't on assignment, the sex was HOT, but we didn't click on other levels.
Just over a year after our wedding, she filed for Divorce from me but asked for nothing in the settlement. She told me that she was falling in love with another guy, but wanted to do the honorable thing and get a Divorce before she went to be with him.
I was actually somewhat relieved at that. Hell, who am I kidding? I didn't love her. The sex was fuckin' awesome, but that was pretty much all we had. Marriages built on only sex don't last, folks.
So after discussing it, we had one last night of hot sex, said our goodbyes to each other, and sure enough, the Divorce went through relatively painlessly.
Sure I was going to miss the sex, but I was still young and there are plenty of fish in the sea. So I moved on, just taking a FWB every once in a while, no strings attached. Hell, let's not beat around the bush, here. I was a merc, so I was gone a lot; sometimes for months at a stretch. No sense in being married if I couldn't be around to take care of her and keep her happy. Besides, since I hadn't really been in love with Cindy, if I did find a lady that I was seriously attracted to as more than a fuck buddy, I wanted to make damn sure that she was The One for me.
I'd been with Red River for just over 4 years when my team was ordered to destroy a dam along a river in Sierra Leone, so it could be blamed on the rebels. The main problem with that Op was that there was a village downriver that would have probably been wiped out if we'd gone through with it. I refused the order, was reminded of the confidentiality agreement I'd signed, and was fired. So was the rest of my team, as none of them went through with the order, either.
It was for the best. The last year or so of my tenure there, Red River seemed to be getting into some sketchy shit, and I was a half-step out the door already when that op came down the pipe and I refused.
Contrary to popular belief, merc ... err Private Security outfits don't summarily execute those who disobey orders anymore. Not since they got "civilized." Now it's just confidentiality paperwork and lawyers. If I spouted off to the Press or the Hague, I would be sued into the poorhouse. It didn't matter if the order was of questionable legality, and it would have just been my word against theirs.
So I returned to Santa Barbara for a while. I looked for work, but couldn't find any. I was approached by several people with dubious reputations looking for muscle, but I politely turned them down. I'd had more than enough of being a thug.
My family had stopped talking to me when I told them that I was working for Red River after I left the Army. Since I got fired and told them why, we've started mending our estranged relationship. I moved down to L.A. and took a part time Bouncer job at a night club, but it was barely paying the bills. I still had a decent chunk of the money I made from Red River, but that was still dwindling slowly but steadily.
I had to get a real job, and fast.
I was sitting in The Shamrock, one Thursday afternoon when I overheard a conversation that would change my life. I'd just sat down at the bar and ordered a beer when the two guys' conversation at the table behind me drifted over to where I was sitting.
" ... but you have to help me. I need proof that my wife is putting our children in danger when she brings her boyfriend over to the house. She says that if I Divorce her, that she'll take me to the cleaners, take my children away from me, and I'll never see them again!" He somehow pleaded with the other guy without whining. That was what really caught my attention. His voice, while angry, while begging for help, had no trace of a whine anywhere in there.
I had to give myself a wry smile in the mirror. At least Cindy and I never had kids, and she didn't have a lover ... that I knew of, anyway ... while we were married. She'd been very specific that she hadn't slept with him yet. I kind of counted that as a blessing, and I had decided not to ask questions of her. I was pretty laid back about the whole thing, probably because I figured out that I didn't really love her. More like I lusted her. But now as I grew older, I did want to find a lady I could settle down with ... once I had a full time job!
I clocked them in the mirror to see who they were. The guy who was speaking was a runt of a dude. Probably 5'6" standing on his tiptoes. He was balding and wore glasses. For some reason, "ACCOUNTANT" was the first thought I came up with to describe him.
"Mr. Turner, I don't know what to tell you. If she doesn't bring her lover into the house when your children are there, and have sexual intercourse with him in front of them, there's no real legal basis for denying her custody in a Divorce. This is California, so Wives and Mothers almost always get preferential treatment as far as division of assets and custody of the children."
I guessed that he was either a P.I. or a lawyer. Probably a P.I., since he sure didn't look much like a Legal Eagle. The cheap suit and the bulge of a gun under his suit jacket gave me that impression.
"I'll pay you $50,000 to get me anything that I can use to have her declared an unfit mother!" Turner said. That piqued my interest. 50K isn't a bad chunk of change.
"Mr. Turner, you've already said that she never brings her lover to the house when your children are there. She sends them to a sitter. That right there tells me that she doesn't put them in the middle of your ... lifestyle.
"It's not MY lifestyle, Mr. Stone. My wife is forcing this on me, and I basically have no choice!" he snarled, his voice rising and starting to draw attention.
I sighed. I've always had a soft spot for the underdogs. I never like seeing someone get shit on when they don't deserve it. Blame it on how I was raised. Besides, if I could wrangle that 50K, it would at least be a start. The funds I'd squirreled away from my Red River days were starting to run a bit thin. I started formulating a plan of action immediately.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Turner. There's nothing that I can do. You already know your wife has a lover, and even with proof of it, she's still going to make your life hell in the Divorce. All I can really say is good luck to you. I hate it when cheaters get away with it, but with all the bleeding heart judges in this state, there's no way to prove her an unfit mother, unless she does something illegal or immoral in front of the children," Stone said as he got up to leave. Turner just sat there with his head down as Stone put his hand on the smaller man's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. Then the Private Eye walked out.
That was my cue. I got up and took my beer to the table. "Mr. Turner?" I asked softly. He looked up at me.
"Yes? Who are you?" he asked, his defenses coming up because I'd caught him crying.
"My name is Declan Shepard, and I couldn't help overhearing your conversation with the private detective. I know you don't know me, and have no reason to trust me, but I believe that I can help you with your problem," I responded with a nod. "May I sit down?"
His face lit up with hope. "Please do, Mr. Shepard," he gestured to the chair most recently vacated by the P.I.
"Thank you," I smiled with a nod and sat down. "Now, I couldn't help but overhear that your wife has a lover. She has basically backed you into a corner on it so you can't Divorce her without losing pretty much everything. Am I right so far?"
"Yes, pretty much," he said with a defeated snort. "I don't see how you can help, though. Are you a Private Investigator?"
"Not as such," I admitted. "But, I believe I can help you, just not quite in the way you were thinking."
"What do you mean, Mr. Shepard?" he asked with a puzzled expression.
"I can level the playing field for you. I can make it so that your wife won't be able to do much, when you decide to file for Divorce. I need some more information about her and her lover, though. I need to know what you know about him, especially," I said.
Turner thought for a few moments. "His name is Gordon Smith, and he's even bigger than you are. He's threatened me that if I put up any kind of resistance, he'll beat me or worse," he said, shaking with anger and fear. More anger was apparent, though. My respect for the man jumped another notch.
I nodded. "Ok, I'm not worried about how big he is," I responded. "What does he look like?"
"Big, blonde, and looks a bit like Thor from the movies. He even has the stubble on his face."
I got a picture in my head of an evil Chris Hemsworth type of character. "Ok, and do you know where he lives?"
"Two miles over from our house. I followed him once after he left our place. I can't fight him, though. As much as I'd like to beat him to death, I wouldn't stand a chance against him. I tried once," he said as he pulled out a pen and scribbled down the offending asshole's address on a napkin.
"Ok, back to your wife for a moment. How long have you two been married?"
"Sixteen years. Fifteen of those happily, at least on my part. I thought she was happy too, but then a year ago..." he let his voice trail off as he shook his head in disgust. He then finished writing and handed the napkin to me with the address on it.
I took it when he held it out to me, and I nodded as I looked at the asshole's address. "Does he have a family? Wife? Children?"
"Not that I could tell. He lives in a nice house in Beverly Hills, though," he said.
"Ok, so possibly no wife or kids that could be turned against him. Can you tell me exactly how and when this whole mess started?" I inquired.
He took a deep breath. "About a year ago was when everything changed. Candace, my wife, came home one day and said that we needed to talk. I thought that she was going to Divorce me right then and there, but she said that she was going to turn me into a cuckold, and there was nothing I could do about it. Of course, I threatened to Divorce her, and that was when she told me that she would take my kids and leave me a broken wreck if I tried that.
"So I got the bright idea to get my baseball bat and beat the asshole senseless the next time he came over. She'd told me that he would come over and fuck her, and she expected me to watch how a 'real man' takes care of business," he said, rolling his eyes.
"I take it the baseball bat tactic didn't work too well?" I raised one eyebrow.
"I would have laid him out cold, but my loving wife warned him, and he spun around and took the bat from me. He then hit me in the stomach with it, and that was the last time I tried to fight him. He said if I tried something like that again, he would beat me to a bloody pulp. Then he said that if I tried it again after that, he would kill me and that he and my wife would get my Life Insurance."
So the asshole was a bully, and one willing to break the law seemingly without a second thought. I could DEFINITELY work with that. Knowledge is power, folks. Sun Tzu had it right. Know your enemy. I was going to figure out everything possible about ol' Gordy boy before I moved on him.
I nodded, and then decided to ask about payment. "I heard you offer that P.I. 50K. I'll do it for that, and my way won't involve framing anyone. Would that be acceptable to you?"
He nodded, his face lighting up with hope. "Mr. Shepard, I can pay you half now, and half when it's over. Can you tell me how you're going to do it?"
"It's better that you not know," I said sincerely. "Mr. Turner, trust me on this. The less you know, the safer we both will be."
He looked like he was going to ask again, but thought better of it. Smart man. He swallowed hard from his beer, and just nodded.
I nodded back. "Good. Now, do you have a picture of your wife so I can get a read on her?"
"Sure," he said, pulling out his wallet and handing me a pic. Holy shit! She was gorgeous! Part of me wondered how this guy could score a hottie like her. The pic he gave me was of him, her, and their two kids, a boy and a girl. His son looked to be about 10 or 11, and the daughter looked about 13 or 14. Even after having the kids, his wife was still in great shape. Tall, dirty blonde hair, and an air of superiority that showed that she had chosen Mr. Turner because she thought she could dominate him. She was stuck on herself in a big way, and I felt sorry for the kids that had her as a mother.
Turner, I could tell, had a will of iron under his bean counter looks. Unfortunately, while his spirit was that of a lion, he was stuck in the body of a field mouse. He was fighting back in the only way he could.
After studying the picture, I handed it back to him. "Ok, thank you. Mr. Turner, do you have an aversion to anything happening to the man who has been hanging the horns on you?" I pretty much knew the answer already, but I needed confirmation.
"None, whatsoever," he said without hesitation. Very smart man.
"Good. I'm not going to lie to you. This will take a few hours to prep. Do you have your cellphone on you?" I asked, pulling out my own BlackBerry.
"Right here," he said, pulling his out. I got his number and gave him mine in return.
"Good to go," I said. "I'll text you a few hours before I go after him. Do you have any idea of when he's coming to your house next?"
"Tomorrow night," he said with a look of pure venom. "I wish I could just kill the bastard!"
"Tempting, but not an option," I said. "He won't be so enthusiastic to have sex with your wife when I'm done talking to him, though. I plan to make things a bit difficult for him.
"Also, can your wife or her lawyer trace the money you're going to use to pay me?" I asked.
"No, it's from a rainy day fund that I set up a year ago when all this started," he said. "A friend of mine went through a Divorce, so he told me what he did to minimize the damage his wife could do to him. The account is off-shore, and nobody knows about it but me."
"Good deal," I smiled, admiring his forethought on the whole mess. "Mr. Turner, what time tomorrow evening is Gordon supposed to be there?" I could probably catch him off-guard before he left his house if I knew his itinerary.
"Not sure, but she set it up for tomorrow that I was to take the kids to the sitter around 6 pm."
I smiled. "Good to know. When you get home from work tomorrow, break your key off in the ignition. Pull it out halfway, then tug sharply back so it snaps clean. I know, it sounds strange, but we're going to have to make this as difficult for them as possible."
He smiled genuinely for the first time. "I like it! My wife and the asshole won't be able to do anything with the kids there, unless she takes them to the sitter herself! She has her own car, and never lets anyone else drive it, including me."
He was whispering low, so nobody else could hear him. I checked around, and nobody was paying us any attention. After his initial outburst, everyone in the bar went back to minding their own business.
"Mr. Turner, I have to ask you something. Has your wife been the one in charge during your entire relationship?"
He looked down for a moment, then back up before answering. "Yes, she has. She came onto me, if you can believe it," he chuckled.
I nodded. "Sir, I think that as soon as this is all over, you should Divorce her. Are her parents still alive?"
"Yes, but she said that if I told them or anyone what was going on, I'd never see my kids again," he said with pain in his eyes. "I believe she'd do it too. She would probably take them out of the country where I couldn't find them."
"That isn't going to happen," I promised him. I just hoped I could keep that promise. Then I thought of something that would be very hard to ask. I noticed in the photo of the children that they didn't look much like Turner. They looked more like his wife. That started bugging me, so I went for it and asked the hardest question of the conversation.
"Mr. Turner, are you 100% certain that your children are actually yours? Please don't take this the wrong way, but with the way your wife has been acting, is it possible that she had an affair and had her lover's children instead?"
Turner visibly paled at that. He got a haunted look in his eyes that said that he wasn't sure, and now feared the worst.
"Get a DNA test, Mr. Turner. Make sure," I basically ordered him. "If they aren't yours, you might be able to sue for back child support from the actual father. Failing that, you might be able to sue both your wife and her lover for fraud, in that you were led to believe that the kids are yours. If they turn out to be your children, you'll still at least have some parental rights as their father."
I broke it to him as gently as I could. I'd actually toyed with the idea of becoming a lawyer at one point, so I'd studied some of the Law. I'd sampled several different fields of Law, and Family Law was one of the more convoluted areas. The part I really hated about it was trying to translate Legalese into plain English. So I gave it up as a lost cause.
He was just shaking his head. "I'm sorry, Mr. Shepard. I should be stronger for what I'm going to have to do. I love my kids, and I loved my wife until she started this crap. Sure, she was kind of domineering before, but she was also loving and caring in our relationship."
"I can kind of understand where you're coming from. My ex-wife traded me in for a richer model. Luckily, I wasn't that in love with her, and I was gone a lot of the time. I realize now that I wasn't ready to get married. I'm hoping that I find the right lady and settle down, but I won't let her run all over me."
"I see what you're saying, but Candace was my Heart and Soul. I worshipped her," he said as a tear streaked down his face.
"And she betrayed you for it. Mr. Turner, in any future relationships you have, don't give in to every little thing she wants, unless it's what you want, too. If you feel strongly against something, put your foot down. She'll respect you more for that than just saying 'yes, dear' to everything." I also had a friend that went through a bitter Divorce because his wife cheated on him due to lack of respect. He had tried to give her everything, and she'd stabbed him in the back for it.
He smiled and nodded, a look of understanding on his face. "I see what you're saying, and you're right. Maybe if I'd done that a few years ago, I wouldn't be stuck in this situation right now. Thank you, Mr. Shepard."
"Ok, Mr. Turner, my name is Declan, by the way. Everyone calls me Deck. Mr. Shepard was my Dad," I smiled.
"Declan, I'm William. Good to meet you, and thank you in advance for helping me," he said, reaching across the table to shake my hand. "Oh, and I never got used to nicknames, so I go by William."
"Good to meet you too, William, and don't thank me until it's over. Now, as to my payment..."
"Of course, I have a bank money order here for $25,000, and it's all yours. You'll get the other half when you finish whatever it is you're planning ... as long as my wife can't follow through on her threats."
He handed me the money order, and I took it with a nod. "It won't be a matter of 'can't' follow through. By the time I'm finished, she won't want to follow through. Oh, do you know where Gordon works?" I asked with a raised eyebrow.
"He doesn't work. He's from Old Money, or so he says," William said with a sneer.
"Old Money means he's probably going to have security around him at all times. That might be a slight problem," I pondered.
He laughed at that. "No way! He's so arrogant, he says he's the only security he needs!"
Ok, this was going to be fun, I thought as I chuckled along with him.
"Ok, enough of this. Get home and act normal. It might be tempting, but do NOT gloat when he doesn't show up tomorrow. Act like you have been, and don't give your soon-to-be ex-wife any ammunition to make her believe that you were behind anything. Just remember the key in the ignition trick. Got it?"
He just nodded with a look of determination on his face.
"Good. Now, it's Thursday afternoon. Does your wife suspect that you're here?"
"No, she thinks I'm at work as usual. I own my own Accounting Firm."
I came very close to laughing and shouting "YES! I CALLED IT!" when he said that, but kept my face neutral and restrained myself. It took a supreme effort of will on my part not to laugh.
"Good deal. Let's get out of here," I nodded and rose to leave. We shook hands one last time and I was out the door. I had the Asshole's name, address, and 25K to deposit in my account.
Once the deposit was done, I drove over to Gordon's place and staked it out. He wasn't there yet, but soon a Lamborghini Diablo pulled into the driveway through the wrought iron gate. I was parked across the street from his house and down a ways, so when he gunned it and drove up the driveway and out of sight, I slipped quickly from my car and through the gate before it could close all the way.
The house was barely visible from the road, so I made my way through the small forest between the house and street. When I reached the edge closest to the driveway, he was just getting out of his car with a very attractive black woman in a business suit and skirt. She reminded me of Lupita Nyong'o, the Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner. Except this lady wasn't anorexic looking like the actress. Same short natural hairstyle, though. Same dark chocolate skin tone, too, as well as similar facial features. I caught a bit of their conversation while they were walking from the car to the front door.
"I told you, Gordon. You are opening yourself up to a lawsuit from Mr. Turner. You should never threaten anyone like that, and if he can get his wife to corroborate what you said to him, you could go to jail!"
"That's what I pay you for, Tabitha; to keep me out of jail! Besides, she knows what's good for her, and she loves me. She won't rat me out." he snarled back at her. She was his lawyer. That explained it.
"Mr. Smith, you are a client, but I CAN fire you," she stated as they reached the door. "Your ... activities are becoming more of a hassle than you're worth."
"If you fire me, I'll make your life a living hell, bitch!" he barked, turning on her and raising his hand for a backhand slap.
That was all I needed to see. Plan be damned. I wasn't about to let this asswipe hit her! I jumped up, broke cover, and was running for him at a dead sprint before he even finished pulling his arm back. Tabitha had already backed up a step, but I wasn't about to let him close distance with her and hit her.
The surveillance op was officially a bust.
His eyes caught me coming at him, and a look of surprise came over his face just before my fist impacted with his nose.
The blow staggered him, but he recovered quickly and dropped into a combat stance, shaking the blood and tears from his eyes.
"That's it, Gordon! You're fired!" Tabitha yelled at him as I snapped a kick into his knee, staggering him back a bit more.
The air rushed out of him as I slammed my fist into his gut, and the air left him in a whuff. He dropped to one knee, and I turned to Tabitha.
"Are you ok, ma'am?" I asked.
"Now I am, thank ... Look out!" she said/shouted. I ducked reflexively, so his fist only caught the top of my head and grazed me. I stomped on his foot and kept dropping, then spun and came up with an uppercut to the point of his chin.
Gordon Smith dropped like a rock, unconscious.
"Come on, let's get out of here," I said. "Where is your car?"
"Back at my office. He gave me a ride here and promised me a ride back after he gave me some paperwork."
"I'll give you a ride, then. I'm parked across the street," I nodded, and we headed down the driveway before Dipdunk could regain consciousness.
I hit the button inside the inner gate house to open the gate, and we were out and gone before he regained consciousness.
Once we were in my car, she gave me directions back to her office.
"Has he ever done that before, Tabitha?" I asked as we drove.
"What? Try and hit me? No. He's become more and more unstable lately, though. He thinks his money can buy his way out of any kind of trouble he gets into." She was shaking her head as she said it.
"Well, he won't be doing that again," I said with conviction.
"Who are you, anyway? I know you weren't there just to save my ass," she said with a nervous chuckle.
"My name is Declan Shepard, and I'm working for a client," I answered her.
"Are you a P.I.?" she asked.
"Not as such. I'm helping a man with a problem, and Mr. Smith is central to that problem. Unfortunately, my original plan didn't survive first contact with the enemy. Murphy's Law, of course."
"Let me guess ... William Turner hired you?"
"I can't tell you who my client is," I hedged. I didn't want to give William's name to a seemingly grateful, yet still unknown attorney who until a few minutes ago, had been working for the enemy.
"It's ok, hon. With the way Gordon's been going lately, I was already a half-step from firing his Richie Rich ass," she said with a smirk.
I just nodded, confirming what she already pretty much knew.
"I thought so," she said with a genuine smile this time. "He can't physically do anything against Gordon, so he hired someone who can. Right?"
"Something like that. I wasn't going to do any lasting physical damage to him, but Mr. Smith left me no choice in the matter." Then something else occurred to me. "Do you think he'll file a police complaint against me?"
"Nah, I really doubt it. Even if he did, you were acting in defense of another, and I was his lawyer. I'll back you up if he does, but I can pretty much guarantee right now that he won't. His stupid pride won't let him. He'll come after you himself, first. Honestly, he ain't that damn smart," she said with a small smile and a shake of her head.
I smiled back at her as we pulled into her law office parking lot. "Williams, Stanton, & Keller" was what the plaque said beside the door. It wasn't that big of a place, but it was clean and nicely decorated inside. There were two other female lawyers working in there, but they stopped when they saw us come in.
"Tabby, where's Gordon?" the first lady asked. She was a cute brunette with her hair in a pixie cut.
"He's been fired, Shelly," Tabitha replied. "Do me a favor and have his files boxed up and mailed to his residence please?"
"You got it, Tabs," Shelly replied with a look of relief on her pretty face.
"Who's this hot hunk of man, Tabby?" the other lady asked. I had to chuckle at that.
"Down, girl," Tabitha said. "Declan, this is Shelly Stanton and Maggie Keller. Shelly and Maggie, this is Declan Shepard," she introduced me to the brunette and the redhead. Maggie was a hellaciously hot redhead who could probably win a court case on sex appeal alone. She was turning on the Flirt full tilt as she looked me up and down like a side of beef.
Fortunately for me, Tabitha grabbed my arm and hustled me into her office. Once the door was closed and locked, she turned to me and smiled. "Maggie would eat you alive, hon. Trust me on this. She's a fuckin' tiger shark in the courtroom, and in the bedroom too, from what I've heard."
"I could handle her, but I'm not really interested in her, to be honest," I smiled.
She just nodded and sat in the chair behind her desk. She motioned me to sit on one of the chairs before her, so I did.
"Declan Shepard, you're a good man," she smiled.
"Thanks. I try," I flirted back. "So, Tabitha..."
"I prefer Tabby with my friends. You count as a friend for saving me from that nutjob," she smiled warmly.
"I heard Maggie call you that. It suits you," I smiled back. Yes, there were definitely signals being passed back and forth between us.
"Thank you. So what's your story, Declan?" she asked eventually.
"Well, everyone calls me Deck, and why do I have to have a story?" I smirked back. She gave me a raised eyebrow look that said she wasn't going to take any shit, and wouldn't let up until I told her about my life.
So I gave her the short version. Something about her made me want to tell her everything, but we didn't have time for that.
"Well, my mother and father were killed in a plane crash when I was six, so I was sent to live with my aunt and uncle. They are my Godparents, and my cousin Cara became my sister, sort of. We were pretty close growing up, but after I left the Army and went into Private Security, my family almost stopped talking to me. It wasn't until after I left Red River that they forgave me. During my time with that outfit, I got married, but she Divorced me a year later to trade up. In all honesty, I got tired of being a thug, which we pretty much were after a while. Now I'm living off the cash I made working for them, and looking for any job that I can find where I don't have to shoot someone or break their neck. I've been approached by some really shifty characters, but I'm not going back to that life. Unfortunately, my skillset isn't the most peaceful." I paused to see that she was listening intently.
"Anyway, earlier today, I met Mr. Turner in a bar, listened to his story, and asked some questions. I then offered to help him for what he was going to pay the P.I., before the guy turned him down," I finished.
She considered everything I said before replying. "Did he want you to do anything illegal?" she asked at length.
"He wanted the P.I. to basically frame his wife and get her ruled an Unfit Mother. I saw that wouldn't work too well, so I came up with my own plan. Fortunately, you showed up with the fucknut, and now here we are," I finished as I spread my hands out to indicate her office.
"Umm, don't you mean 'unfortunately'?" she smirked with a little chuckle.
"Nope. I can come up with a new plan, but if I hadn't acted, he would have hit you. I don't abide ... men, and I use that term loosely, that hit women."
"So you've never hit a woman?" she asked with her raised eyebrow again.
"And God willing, I'll never have to," I shook my head. "I wasn't raised that way, and if I ever hit a lady without cause, my aunt would kill me."
She nodded with a puzzled expression. "The way you say aunt..." she started, referring to how I pronounced it "ahnt" instead of "ant".
"My uncle is white, my aunt is black, and my cousin, their daughter, is biracial," I shrugged.
She nodded and smiled. "I see. So judging by our earlier back-and-forth, do you like sistas too?"
"I like beautiful women, and you're one of the most, if not THE most beautiful woman I've ever seen in my life," I answered truthfully in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Flattery will get you nowhere, but I don't think you were flattering me just now," she said with a little half-smile.
"I was telling you the truth, Tabby," I shrugged. "You're gorgeous, and I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't like to take you to dinner, dancing or whatever you'd like."
"We'll see," she kept giving me that sexy little half-smile with her full lips.
"So, you know my story. What's yours?" I asked, even as I was putting the final touches on a new plan in my head on what to do about Gordon.
"It isn't as interesting as yours, hon. I grew up in New Jersey, but moved out here to go to UCLA after a short, failed marriage. Shelly and Maggie were my roomies in College, and then Law School. We paid our dues as public defenders, and when we had enough cash saved up, we opened this little hole in the wall. We're doing good now, but it was rough going the first couple or years," she said.
"Why didn't you fire Gordon before this?" I asked. "I mean, if you knew he was unstable, why keep him around?"
She sighed and looked down for a moment. "His retainer alone was enough to keep this place up and running. I'm a damn good lawyer, Deck. I've managed, so far, to keep him out of prison. Let's just say that if it wasn't for me, he might just be serving 25 to Life right now."
"He killed someone?" I asked, both of my eyebrows shooting halfway up my forehead in surprise.
"I don't know for sure. He always maintained his innocence, and the evidence was all pretty circumstantial. No DNA or fingerprints of his on the murder weapon. The fact that he was having an affair with the victim's wife actually worked in our favor. She ended up being our star witness, telling everyone that he was with her when her husband was killed. Time stamps on the security cameras set up at the Motel corroborated their stories. Since there was no DNA evidence linking him to the murder, plus her testimony and the security footage, we won pretty easily," she said with a look of anguish in her eyes. "Deck, I almost fired him after that case. Hell, I believed he could have done it. Now, I believe he DID hire someone to do it, but Double Jeopardy is in effect. He can't be tried again for murder. Even if we find the hitman who did it, it would be tough to prove Conspiracy."
"If he did hire a hitman, that means that Turner could be in danger," I said as I fished my phone out of my pocket and called his cell number.
"This is William Turner," he said, answering his phone. "What's going on, Deck? Is it taken care of yet?"
"Not yet. Something came up, but I just wanted to call and warn you that Gordon might try something before I can move on him. Be careful, and if you have a gun, keep it loaded and on you at all times."
"One moment, please," he said. It was quiet for a couple of minutes before I heard him again. "Ok, I had to get out of the room to another part of the house. I told my wife that it was Phil Decker from the work. He goes by Deck too. Now, what's going on?"
I looked at Tabby before continuing, and she just nodded with a concerned expression on her pretty face.
"William, I need you to be very careful until I tell you otherwise. I'm sitting in Tabitha Williams' office right now, and she just informed me that Gordon Smith is a very unstable individual. Do you remember anything about a murder trial some time back involving him as the Defendant?" I explained. I didn't. I'd been out of the country, most likely.
"Yes, I remember. It was in all the papers and all over the news, but he was acquitted. That was about two years ago, now. Do you think he... ?"