The Big Short

by D.T. Iverson

Copyright© 2018 by D.T. Iverson

Action/Adventure Sex Story: It seemed like too much money to simply retrieve a cheating wife. But then the wife turned up dead and our heroes found themselves drawn inexorably deeper into a terror plot. You might think that none of what then ensues is plausible. But, you would be completely wrong. Most of it's already happened - somewhere. Of course there's a twist. But the four of you who read me know that's to be expected. Please enjoy...

Caution: This Action/Adventure Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Consensual   Politics   .

Chicago winters suck; bitter cold, no sun, relentless wind. It was February and I was standing next to my wife’s grave. I visit Pia as often as I can - just to let her know she isn’t forgotten - bring her a couple of flowers. The wind chill was somewhere around minus ten. The flowers promptly shriveled up and died. But it’s the thought that counts.

Pia’s resting in Graceland Cemetary because I caught her fucking a douchebag lawyer named Tedesco. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t kill her. Tedesco did. But Pia’s dead all-the-same.

I suppose we all have our fatal flaws. Pia’s was decidedly human. She loved to fuck, and Tedesco took advantage of that. Kelly and I evened the score. In fact, Tedesco couldn’t fuck, walk, or control his bodily functions after we were done. Suffice it to say, the bastard never messed with anybody else’s wife. But, that’s another story.

Kelly finds my sentimentality hilarious - says it proves I’m not the total bad-ass I pretend to be. Of course, this world holds no tougher, more pragmatic woman than Kelly McMahan. Kelly was my partner while I was married to Pia. It was strictly business. It became something a whole lot more after Pia was avenged. But first, we had some baggage to sort out.

Kelly is street-smart and supremely self-confident. She can hack your computer or seduce you with a look. Those are her soft skills. She can also whip your ass with great proficiency. She can drive a nail with her trusty little Beretta and she is well-nigh a Zen master with her Asp fighting baton.

Still, it’s Kelly’s deep personal integrity, her staunch loyalty and her unconquerable spirit that cement our lifetime bond.

If you like Celtic beauties, then Kelly’s your girl. She is eleven years younger than me and she is gorgeous, five six with long thick copper hair and a face that is so perfect it belongs in a beer commercial; a heart shaped Maid of Erin face with full, almost lascivious mouth, long pert nose and huge intelligent green eyes that constantly twinkle with hints of merriment and Irish larceny.

But, the Maid of Erin doesn’t have Kelly’s lithe, long-waisted body, or her big solid tit’s. Her legs are by far her best part. They’re slightly longer than the average woman’s, full and muscular, not skinny fashion-model bird-legs.

I don’t normally find redheads attractive. All the milky white skin and freckles are intimidating. But Kelly’s body is like the finest alabaster. It almost gives off a golden glow and it feels like satin. Oh yes – and did I mention that she can fuck you in more interesting ways than Messalina rolling on X.

While my wife’s spirit animal is most probably a cheetah, or some other sleek magnificent beast. Mine is unquestionably a rhino, or maybe a warthog. It’s definitely nothing beautiful.

I’m Swedish by origin, but I don’t look like the Mighty Thor. Instead of a flowing blond mane, my black hair looks like the velveteen rabbit crawled up on my bullet head and died – short super-thick buzz ending about four inches above my eyebrows, thick almost non-existent neck and glittering brown eyes. The rest of me screams “thug!” Kelly says I’m a cuddle-bunny. But she’s woman enough to handle me.

I had problems with hyper-aggression when I was a kid. My old man was a lifelong resident of Cicero and worked at Western Electric. He was a no-nonsense kind of guy. So, the first time I got in a school fight he dragged my ass down to the local Y, tossed me in with the gym rats, and told them to straighten me out.

I quickly discovered that hitting the weights was a lot more rewarding than hitting other people. So, I became a life-long lunkhead. It’s the reason why I’m only five-ten but weigh around two-forty. None of that is fat.

Strength is important in my business, not mass. You have to be flexible and quick. So, even though I can easily bench 300, I work maximum reps at 210. That makes me hard not muscle-bound. I also have a little trick that I do with a broomstick. I jump back and forth over it while holding it between my hands. Try that a half-dozen times. You’ll find out just how quick and limber you really are.

I ditched my Ram diesel after Kelly and I got together. It was a gesture – cutting ties with my old life. We bought a Land Rover Defender. It has all the Hummer muscle and reliability. But it’s James Bond, not Conan the Barbarian. You can park it without a problem and drive it around the city without pissing people off. It only had a hundred thousand on the clock so it was almost brand new.

Kelly breezed out of the master dressed to kill. I was reading the only part of the Tribune that I care about. The Bears sucked as usual. I put the paper down, just to take-in the vista of her corpus delectable.

Kelly’s long copper hair was done, and her makeup was perfect. She was stuffed into a figure-hugging LBD. There was a lot of stunning leg and a cleavage to die for. Her perfume evoked images of wanton acts performed at the dark of the moon by frenzied savages.

I said mildly, “Another date?”

She gave me her predator smile and said, “Closing the deal tonight.” She glided over like a big sinuous cat, kissed me on top of the head and said, “I’ll be back in two or three hours and tell you all about it.” Then she sashayed out the door trailing a cloud of perfume that screamed pure sex.

No, I’m not one of THOSE freaks. This was just Kelly’s sidelight. In my spare time, I like lifting weights. Kelly likes righting wrongs. It isn’t a vocation. It’s more of a hobby. She’s kind-of like the Equalizer. Anyhow, Kelly hunts philandering husbands - hence the get-up.

She hates cheaters. It’s almost a spiritual thing with her. I tried to point out that we’ve been fucking each other since we swung down out of the trees. But Kelly truly believes that society will implode if people don’t actively confront infidelity.

In Kelly’s mind, adultery flourishes in the nooks and crannies of ignorance. Thus, the only path to redemption is through public accountability. She said, “Faithfulness is a decision. Nobody holds a gun to your head. You vow to be honorable and you sacrifice that honor If you violate that pledge.” Then she added with a feral smile, “I don’t like dishonorable people.”

Ooookay – a whole lot Old Testament, but Kelly’s harder on herself than she is on anybody else. I suppose it’s her iron will. It’s the quality that makes her so special.

She had been gone for a couple of hours when my phone rang. The caller ID said it was Kelly. I said, “That was quick.”

She said, clearly pissed, “Can you come down to Belmont and bail me out.”

I laughed and said, “Did I hear you right? Bail you out? What happened, did you have to kick his ass?” I was joking.

She said, steaming, “Yes!!”

I was still laughing. I said, “I thought you were the egghead. I’m supposed to be the thug.” Kelly has a PhD in forensic psychology from Chicago.

Now she was pissed. She said, “Just get your ass down here and get me released. I feel like an idiot sitting here in this outfit.”

Kelly is a smashing beauty when she’s dolled-up. I couldn’t imagine what the rest of the temporary residents of the 19th’s holding cell thought about having her there.

I told the guy at the desk that I’d come to get my wife. He consulted the handy bail schedule and I paid the ransom. It was two thousand for misdemeanor battery. Kelly must have gotten physical with her target. The front desk dude sent a guy back and Kelly appeared a couple of minutes later.

She was still dressed to kill, and she was stunning. She was chatting amiably with the cop who was escorting her. Every other cop in the bullpen was longingly watching her butt twitch in her four-inch FMPs. The desk sergeant handed her the appearance ticket and we walked out into the sub-zero Chicago night.

A stranger caught up with us as we started down the steps. She looked like a graduate student at Loyola. But she identified herself as a police-beat reporter for the Trib. She proceeded to earn her chops by interviewing Kelly – in Chicago cold that was so intense it was hard to breathe.

She said, “Could I talk to you for a second Ms McMahan. I just have a couple of questions.”

Kelly must have been on the threshold of hypothermia. But, she stopped and looked inquiringly at the girl. Did I mention that my wife is also one tough cookie? The girl said, “Did I hear the cops right, you’re some sort of vigilante? You busted a guy’s fingers for trying to drag you up to his room at the W?”

So that’s where she went? That was just down the street.

Kelly laughed and said, “I was delivering divorce papers. He’s been kind of hard to find. They hired me to flush him out. He got a little rambunctious when I gave him the papers. So, I dislocated his thumb. It was the screaming that brought the police.”

Kelly got a look of disgust and said scornfully, “God!!! What a little girl.”

Then she said, as if she was reviewing the tape in her head, “I’ll admit, that I might have been a little over the top. But it was just so infuriatingly stupid of him to use brute force.”

She said under her breath, “I HATE dumb people.”

Then she added cheerfully, “The cops charged me with misdemeanor battery. Our lawyers will sort it out.” That was said so matter-of-fact that you got the impression that she mutilated a couple of guys a week.

The next day, we got a lovely illustration of the unique power of the press. It was just one article. But, overnight my wife went from nameless to celebrated.

The reporter was clearly working the woman angle since she made Kelly sound like a cross between the Scarlett Pimpernel and Boudica Warrior Queen of the Icini. The article explained at great length how she rights-wrongs and uplifts the downtrodden. It was fucking embarrassing.

I said, trying to keep the snicker out of my voice, “I see you’ve developed a fan club. At least the picture makes you look hot.”

Kelly emerged from the master looking puzzled. She was wearing panties and one of my vaguely buttoned dress shirts. She likes to lounge around like that on the weekend. She’s still in her thirties – needs sex more often than I do. She said, “What the fuck are you talking about?”

I handed her the paper. It immediately got her Irish up. Her entire body turned a vivid shade of pink. It was a lovely contrast with her copper hair, crimson lips and brightly painted red nails. Her huge emerald eyes flamed with rage and she disappeared back into the master where I heard her throwing things around and yelling obscenities – Redheads!!

She emerged looking grim. She was dressed in painted on jeans and a black turtle neck. It accentuated her supple body and big jugs. I said jovialy, “Where are you going?”

I was being agreeable because Kelly was in one of those moods. When she’s in that mood she’s likely to reach for the pancake holster that she wears just above the crack in her delectable ass. She said angrily, “I’m going over to Stetson and kill that bitch.” The Trib is located on Stetson Avenue.

I looked quizzical. Kelly said, “She just put me out of business. I could be wearing nothing but a thong now, and those douchebags would still avoid me like the plague.”

At that point her phone rang. She grabbed it, hit the answer button and said irritated, “WHAT??!!” Then she stopped and listened intently. She said, “Okay, we can talk. But, my husband’s the heavyweight investigator. He has to be involved in this too. I only work with him.”

That was my introduction to Peter Paul Pritman. The moniker Peter-Paul was a bit of a smokescreen. The family was Jewish, not Anglo-Saxon Protestant. He fancied calling himself Trey – get it? three “Ps.”

Trey had made his money the old-fashioned way - he inherited it. His family more-or-less WAS the legal trade in the Chicago area. And they had been, since the Columbian Exposition was in its planning stages.

Pritman lived in East Lake Forest. That select community exists so that the REAL wealth can avoid the nouveau riche riff-raff. It’s located directly on the Lake. The people who aren’t old money, “right sort” types live WEST of the Lake in places like Northbrook.

We drove up a curved drive, bordered by towering oak trees. The foliage was gone. Still, you couldn’t see the mansion because of the curve and the density of the trees and brush.

The mansion was in front of us, once we got around the bend. It looked like somebody had dropped Blenheim Palace on the shores of Lake Michigan.

We were greeted by a servant who escorted us into the library. Seriously??! The thing was the set from Downton Abby. Trey was standing in an alcove, gazing pensively at his snow-covered lawn, out big floor-to-ceiling windows.

I did a quick scan. He was perhaps twenty years older than me, meaning mid-sixties. He was in excellent shape, slim and aristocratically languid. He had thick, perfectly barbered white hair that contrasted nicely with his deepwater tan. Tan is a rare commodity in the winter in Chicago. So, he must have spent most of his time somewhere else.

He walked over to us and offered his hand to Kelly. Okay, I wasn’t insulted. It was her gig. He said, “Ms. McMahan, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I read about your work in today’s Tribune and I wanted to discuss employing you for a very delicate matter.

Kelly looked at me. I looked at her. We had talked about the situation on the way over. Pritman was too important to just blow off. And, Kelly was interested in why he’d called her. But we weren’t really private eyes. Most of our money came from intel-analytics and Federal contract assignments.

I said, “We appreciate the offer Mr. Pritman. But we have more business than we can handle right now. The story that you read in the Trib was just Kelly’s little sidelight.”

Pritman looked miffed. He said, “I don’t care what you’re doing right now. This is more important.”

Then he turned to Kelly and said, “I’ll pay you anything. You’re a woman. You should understand what I’m going through.” It wasn’t clear what he meant by that, since he was clearly a guy

Kelly gave me “the LOOK.” The LOOK said, “GET IT OFF ME!”

I said, placatingly, “Okay – we’ll listen to your story and maybe give you some advice. But, we don’t do personal investigations.” That was a polite way of telling him that we didn’t peep in windows at cheating spouses.

Pritman looked relieved. We’d listen to his offer. Things would work out. He turned to the servant who was still standing in the doorway and said peremptorily, “Get us some coffee.”

We sat in the conversation area, which was basically two huge couches facing each other, perpendicular to an ornate stone fireplace with a six-foot-high opening. You could walk around inside the hearth, if it weren’t for the big crackling fire.

I continued to cold-read the guy. Peter-Paul Pritman was a very rich and important man. He’d been wealthy his entire life. There is a kind-of innate arrogance that is built into people like him. It comes from being brought up entitled.

I didn’t need to delve into his family dynamics to know that his old man was a cold and distant figure and that his mother was a society gadabout who let the paid help raise her son. Predictably his parents would compensate for their lack of love and attention by giving the kid anything he wanted.

So, it was understandable that Pritman would suffer from some perverted confidence in his own form of divine right. Trey’s world worked the way he wanted it to. People simply didn’t say “no” to him. He just had to find out how much it would cost to get the wheels turning.

It also explained his impulsiveness. He had read the article in today’s newspaper. It was impressive. It perfectly captured Kelly’s lethal femininity. That image had resonated with him. So, he had to have her. That was as far as his thinking went.

The problem was that the world turns on its own axis. That’s a scientific fact; no matter what Trey Pritman might think. And Trey’s certainties about how the world operated had just run head-on into the legendary immovable object. That object was my wife.

Kelly, is, and always will be, her own woman. Treating her like an off-the-shelf commodity is the fastest way to make her dig in.

Nevertheless, his body language had raised my curiosity. Given Pritman’s belief in his own omnipotence, the guy just didn’t compute. He might look calm and superior. But, this fellow was twitchy. He kept looking down, fiddling with the little cup in front of him and his facial muscles were taut.

I said, “Can you tell us what your problem is? How can we help you?” God!! I was beginning to sound like a Democrat!! Kelly shifted next to me, crossed her arms and leaned back. She clearly didn’t like Pritman and now she was pissed at me.

Pritman leaned forward, eyes blinking his pupils were actually dilated. He said, and the degree of angst in his voice confirmed his sincerity, “My wife’s been kidnapped by terrorists!!”

Holly Pritman’s naked, sweat covered body was splayed-wide. She was lying in the bed that they’d just destroyed, gasping like she had run a marathon and the glow and stink of sex was all over her.

Adeel al Asad was lying next to her teasing her nipple with one finger. It was stiff and erect. She looked at him with a mixture of wonderment and irritation and said, “No more baby. You’re going to kill me.”

Adeel continued to play with her nipple, twirling and tweaking. Holly’s breathing began to get louder and more ragged. He was watching her breasts rise and fall as her passions, once again, began to get the best of her. He was thinking about how easy the whole thing had been.

He had first seen her standing on the steps at the Scandinavian in Mykonos. She was leaning on the metal railing that led to the second deck. She looked bored. Adeel knew that she was the wife of a rich man. But, Adeel was still astonished by her beauty.

The Caliph had told him where to look and what to do. He edged in next to her and they stared out into the balmy night together. There’s something special about the purple darkness of the Greek isles. It’s a feeling of deep mystery powered by the dreamy ambiance of over four thousand years of human habitation. And it can build subconscious bonds very quickly.

She had undoubtedly noted that Adeel was there. But, she was studiously ignoring him, which was a good sign. It meant that she was interested. A woman like Holly Pritman had to play it cool.

Adeel had lived his life doing this kind of seduction. It was what the Caliph was paying him for and the Caliph was getting his money’s worth. Nothing was said, aside from a shift in her stance.

Adeel Al-Asad looked like he had just stepped off the cover of GQ. He was tall, but not too tall, slim but not skinny, dark and ravishingly handsome. Everything from his exquisitely barbered black hair through his strong arrogant face, to his impeccable black silk suit and gleaming, open collared white shirt, screamed “faultless.”

Adeel knew exactly how to get the conversation started. He thoroughly checked the woman out, making it obvious. She was a rich man’s prize, long, thick blond hair, prominent round ass and a pneumatic pair of tits that could only have been put there by surgery. She had broad shoulders tapering to a lithe, narrow waist. She would be a handful when aroused. And Adeel Al Asad knew just how to do that.

She was waiting for Adeel to say something. He didn’t say a word. Instead, he just turned and sauntered off. He was standing next to the door of the upstairs disco when she bustled in. Their eyes met. Adeel gestured with his head toward the courtyard leading to the street, turned and walked away without looking.

He knew that his allure would cause her to follow. The villa was back from town in the Agios Lazaros district. Adeel and the taxi were waiting when Holly walked out of the courtyard. She slid fluidly into the cab, trailing an erotic cloud of expensive scent. They still had not uttered a word,

Holly looked inquiringly at him and Adeel immediately covered her lips with a steamy kiss. They both knew what she was there for. Holly moaned in surprise and opened her mouth reflexively. Her arms went around his neck and she began to kiss him ardently.

By the time the cab arrived at Adeel’s villa they were making out like teenagers. And still, with the exception of moans, sighs and little cries of sensation, not a word had been said.

Adeel had planned this seduction to the second. The driver was paid and tipped in advance. So, there was no interruption. The two of them wrestled through the flagstone entrance, across the great-room with the stunning views of the Mediterranean and fell into the big bed.

Holly had so many unforgettable orgasms that she could barely remember her OWN name, let alone the name of the person next to her. She turned her head to look at him. The lush Mediterranean sunlight shone on her magnificent body. He was eying her hungrily. She said wonderingly, “Who ARE you?”

Besides “Fuck me!!” “Harder!!” and “Don’t stop!!” those were the only words she had spoken to him since they had met. In fact, she didn’t even know if he understood English.

He smiled gallantly, even his teeth were perfect. They gleamed brilliantly in his dusky face. He said in very slightly accented English, “Adeel Al-Asad at your service my beautiful maiden.”

Of course, he was no more Adeel Al-Asad, than Holly was a maiden. He was Bobby Martinez from Cabrini-Green, on the near north side.

Bobby was a perfect illustration of the old Nietzsche principle about how things that don’t kill you make you stronger. By the time he was nineteen he was running one of the toughest gangs in the entire project. His high IQ, good looks and charisma were assets. But his almost reptilian soul was the thing that made him dangerous.

Bobby Martinez was the complete sociopath. He had no problem inflicting pain on others since his lizard brain didn’t recognize that anybody else existed. The creatures in Bobby’s world were put there strictly to give him pleasure, and, Holly Pritman had done that. In fact, she was the wildest fuck he had ever encountered.

It was just a job – originally. But Bobby decided that he would get the most out of this bitch before he killed her. That had always been the plan. But the timeframe was a little hazy, and he had a lot of the Caliph’s money to squander. Bobby never worked cheap.

So, he thought he’d spend a couple of weeks enjoying the Cyclades with her.

For her part; Holly couldn’t imagine a night like she’d just had. She was a true artiste in the sack. But this man was a remorseless fucking machine. He had given her one intense orgasm after another, each one more powerful than the last. Now, she was wrung-out to the point where she was boneless, and her only thought was how to keep this stud in her bed.

He was clearly Arab and rich, perhaps the son of a Saudi oil sheikh? His villa was one of those multi-million dollar places up in the hills behind the town, with a panoramic view of the Mediterranean and the mountains of Delos in the distance.

Delos is purportedly the birthplace of Apollo. Looking at the man she’d just fucked, Holly could imagine where the classical Greeks got the idea.

She had come into Mykonos on Trey’s Mangusta 130-footer. The two of them had been touring out of Port Hercules. That’s the best deepwater harbor in the entire western Mediterranean and it has the advantage of having Monte Carlo wrapped around it.

Then Trey got the call to attend one of his dreary meetings. So. Holly was on her own for a while. She entertained herself by sampling what Mykonos had to offer. It wasn’t the ancient culture that she planned to enjoy. Holly was a connoisseur of men and she knew that there’s nothing like a Greek for enthusiasm.

But this guy was something entirely different. It would be inaccurate to call it love. Holly never fell out of love with herself. But he had certainly scratched a deep-seated and atavistic itch and Holly wanted to find out where that led. But then again, there was a complication. Her husband would be back soon. So, they had to come up with a plan.

She swung her legs out of the bed. Her big melon-like tits bobbled tantalizingly as she did that. He was just returning from the en-suite and their wobble had its intended effect. His eyes widened. She thought, “God! He’s so gorgeous, perfectly muscled, like a hoplite warrior on a Grecian urn, lithe and lethal.”

Holly was direct. She knew that a man would be a fool not to listen to what she was proposing. She said, “Last night was wonderful Baby and I want more. But my husband will return soon, and he can’t find out.” It wasn’t that Holly cared about Trey. But she DID care about his money and there WAS a pre-nup.

Adeel gave her one of his ravishing smiles and said, “We can buy all the time we need my love. All we have to do is tell him that you’ve been kidnapped by my brothers in Islam.”

Seriously!!?? He was going to try the “evil terrorist” ploy. I laughed and said, “Terrorists is it? Tell me ... Why would DAESH be interested in a Lake Forest housewife?”

Without saying a word, Trey rose and retrieved an eight-by-ten-inch, high-definition portrait.

Okay – I could see his point.

On the sheer beauty scale, his wife Holly was in the same class as Kelly, perfect symmetrical face and features, huge blue eyes and thick blond hair. Except, where Kelly is naturally sleek and pantherish, this woman was a surgical masterpiece. There was no way those huge gravity-defying tits could be real.

I tried to keep my face blank as I said, “What makes you think she was kidnapped by terrorists?” My feigned indifference to Holly Pritman’s hotness was a survival skill. It’s reassuring to know that your gorgeous wife gets a little jealous. My special problem is that she is also well armed.

Trey said, “It was in the message.”

I said, “Can I see it?”

He beckoned me to a Louis Quinze table. It must be nice to have 350-year-old office furniture. It had a matching chair in front and an open laptop. He sat, did a little twiddling, rose and gestured for me to sit.

I know how to check my email. But, I wasn’t the one to make sense out of anything. I turned to Kelly, who was still reclining back on the couch, arms stubbornly crossed underneath her delectable chest. I said, “Could you take a look at this for me Baby?”

She was obviously intrigued. But, she had already drawn the line. So, she needed a reason to get involved. I said cajolingly, “This could actually be important. You know our NCTC contract is to monitor any potential terrorist action in the Chicago area.”

The wasteful reality of our Government is that their approach to a problem is to throw big bags of cash at it until it goes away. That’s why, against all logic, our services are very much in demand in some circles in DC. In our particular case it was the amorphous concept of “terrorism.”

One wouldn’t normally associate the “hog-butcher-for-the-world” with jihad but there are always a few rich kids and southside bangers who don’t get the big-picture. So, we had a contract with the National Counter-Terrorism Center’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, to monitor radical Islamic activity in the hood.

RPGs and Kalashnikovs are a lot sexier than modest nine-mils. But sane people know that you have to journey to the ass-end of the world and sell your soul to homicidal maniacs in order to get access to that kind of stuff. Our job was to deter the rare oddball, somebody who actually acts on their impulses. And yeah – we occasionally had to sit on locals who bought the ISIS party line.

Kelly got my point about the NCTC remit. Still, she had to make a show of exhaling impatiently and saying angrily, “Oh all right. I’ll look at it.” She walked over to the desk and sat. I noticed that Trey leered at the little jiggle that her tits made as her mouthwatering bottom hit the chair.

My wife is the smartest person I know, man, or woman. That’s why she is so dangerous. Intelligent people know how to leverage the most vulnerable places in the human anatomy. So, even though Kelly is 126 pounds of gorgeous female, she is actually deadlier than I am.

The reason is my strength. I’m stronger than most people. So, I can subdue them by brute force. On the other hand, Kelly has to fracture joints, damage windpipes, or blind you to get the same result. That’s the reason why it it’s never wise to put her in a place where she has no other option but violence.

Kelly’s intelligence is hidden behind her superb beauty and smart-ass persona. But the real Kelly is intensely focused. Her eye’s locked on the message. It said, “The Mujahidin have your whore and now you must pay. Await our demands.”

It was anonymized. But, you have to really know what you’re doing to be truly anonymous on the internet. Kelly did some clicking and a little typing and the full SMTP message header popped up, complete with the routing information and metadata.

She copied the thread ID and pasted it into the SMTP backtracer. There was a minutes hesitation. Then the IP address popped up. She did a “whois” and the name of the owner of the IP appeared.

I just assumed it would be from some shithole place like Aleppo. Instead it was a hotel on the island of Santorini. I turned to a very concerned Trey and said, “It’s a scam buddy.”

He looked incredulous. Then he said in a tightly controlled voice, “No it’s not. She’s been missing from our yacht for the past three days. She went into Mykonos City and just disappeared. She’s taken none of her things. She MUST have been kidnapped!!”

I thought, Really??!! This guy is too naïve to live.

Trey was dithering behind Kelly, when she turned to him and said bluntly, “If ISIS kidnapped her, then they must be having one hell of a good time. This is where they’re holding her.” Kelly popped up a picture of the Santorini Palace Hotel.

Kelly said contemptuously, “The message that you’re wetting your pants about was sent from this IP address. She’s cheating on you and you’re wasting your time worrying about it. So, I suggest that you grow a pair and just divorce the slut. You must have a pre-nup” If Kelly is anything she’s direct.

Trey looked nonplussed. Nobody talked to him like that. He said a little pissed, “You have no right to make judgements about me and how I live my life. If she’s there with another man, I want to know who it is, and I want you to bring her back to me.”

Kelly said angrily, “What part of – we don’t take domestic cases didn’t you get?” She really hates to be lectured, particularly by people she doesn’t respect.

Trey said sounding freaked, “How much do you want? I’ll pay you anything.”

That’s what it always comes down to with a dude like this. So, I reached for the stars, just to shut him up, “A half-million retainer and you pay all the expenses, say another two fifty up front.” I had to make my bluff ridiculous enough to make him fold.

He said delighted, “I’ll have my banker transfer it to you immediately!! Can you start today?”

Me and my big mouth!! Kelly looked like she wanted to shoot me. But I’d made the offer and he’d accepted. So, my professional ethics were at stake.

At least this new engagement semi-fit what we were supposed to be doing in our general line of work and I HAD just made more money on one domestic case than I’d seen over the past couple of years.

Bobby Martinez and Adeel Al-Asad were two distinct schizophrenic personalities. So, it had always been easy for Bobby to slip back and forth between the Salafist and his former sophisticated Casanova self. That is, if the Qalandar needed him to.

The Qalandar had converted him the year before. It was one of those nasty late-April Chicago nights. Bobby had gotten the garotte around Jamil Perkins’s neck and taken that mother-fucker off to whatever hell, rats are sentenced to.

The problem was that the guy in the right-hand seat of a passing cruiser happened to glance up the alley, just as Bobby was dropping the body. The cop had gotten in a lucky shot and Bobby was bleeding out, while he was huddled in a dumpster behind a place on Van Buren.

The cops were searching the dark and dripping alley with their flashlights when Bobby heard a calm, disembodied voice say, “Quick in here.” The access door on the side of the dumpster slid open and a figure beckoned him into a doorway.

Bobby was cowering in a corner of the dimly lit room when the cops came to question the dude who had rescued him. There was a lot of hostility in the exchange, at least on the cops’ side. When the lights came on Bobby could see why. His savior was some kind of weird looking black Muslim dude with a knit skull cap.

Bobby had witnessed a lot of bizarre afros in the projects. But the guy’s grey hair stuck out everywhere. In fact, the only skin that was visible was a small area around his eyes. It made him look like a racoon. The rest of him was slim and ascetic, clad in a long white robe. The weird apparition said in a calm soothing voice, “Let me heal that wound Brother.”

Bobby’s family was Roman Catholic. He had plenty of bother’s. This guy wasn’t one of them. He knew he was dying. He said defiantly, “There’s nothing you can do for me and you ain’t my brother.”

The strange figure said, “But I am your brother. Under Ta?awwuf we are ALL brothers together. I will heal you and you will learn the truth of al-Salaf.”

Bobby woke the next morning in a clean bed in a simple little room. The sunlight and warmth embraced him. There was no pain and his wound was neatly stitched and bandaged. For the first time in his short violent life Bobby Martinez felt at peace.

The door opened, and the man came in with a steaming bowl of lentil soup. He said, “Drink this brother.”

Bobby had never been so hungry in his life. The warm soup filled him with happiness. He said wonderingly, “Who are you?”

The man said, “I am the Qalandar a humble servant of the Prophet. You have been brought to me to learn Allah’s truth and I am chosen to teach you.”

That marked the beginning of Bobby’s new life. His wound kept him under the Qalandar’s care and the Qalandar was a very persuasive man. They talked for hours. In an unimaginably short time Booby saw the light – so to speak.

Like most rootless people, religion gave Bobby’s life the meaning he had been searching for. That meaning didn’t change who Bobby was. He was still a remorseless, coldhearted killer. But now Bobby had a cause to kill for.

We had a few things to do before we started out on our fool’s errand. First, we confirmed that we had just acquired three-quarters of a million dollars. That was the initial inescapable condition. It made me wonder how somebody could be that stupid - or perhaps pussy-whipped.

Then, we visited a little place over on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Hoover Building might be a bastion of backstabbing and petty rivalry. But we had to stop there because bureaucrats have to look like they’re on top of things. That’s what the government runs on - the impression that they’re smarter than you.

If the word got back to the Feebs that one of their contractors was operating off the reservation there might be some very unfortunate repercussions. Hence, we were visiting the Hoover Building to reassure our contract officer that his butt would be kept out of a sling.

If we briefed the guy about where we were going and why, it allowed him to tell his bosses that he knew what was going on. Of course, he could always throw us under the bus later, with a short and sweet, “What can I tell you? They lied to me.”

We had gotten a new contract officer since Frank McCarthy’s untimely separation from government service. It was either that or jail time for Frank. The new guy was fresh out of Quantico, nauseatingly energetic and eager. His bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed demeanor made me feel like the world-weariest old-fart on the planet.

He had evidently heard that we were connected at the top. So, he was a tad wary. He took us into the normal vanilla government-issue room with a picture of the current President smirking down at us. He turned the chair around and sat like a real manly-man.

It was clear that he was showing off for Kelly. There isn’t a guy born who doesn’t try to impress my wife. It’s a natural response to a woman as sexually attractive as she is. The problem was that Chuck leaned forward and gave her a “between-you-and-me” grin. Apparently, both he and Kelly were in on the joke that there was a geezer present - meaning me.

Kelly takes no prisoners when she thinks I’m being disrespected. So, she grinned right back and said, “What’s the matter Chuck, need the extra room for the beer keg between your legs?” Then she looked at him evenly, daring him to say anything. The guy actually blushed, stood, reversed the chair and sat down chastened.

We told Chuck that we were doing a favor for Maddie Hughes. Maddie Hughes was an occasional dinner companion of the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. We’d saved her son’s bacon in our last exploit and she was eternally grateful. She’d cover for us.

My wife’s a lot smarter and more outgoing than me. So, I supply the brooding presence while she maneuver’s the victim, and Kelly was applying the lash to poor old Chuck.

We had two aims. First, we wanted to make sure that there would be no blowback about us being on Greek territory while we were chasing down Trey Pritman’s errant wife. Second, we wanted to be able to tap government resources if we perchance needed them.

Kelly started by telling Chuck that we had picked up a lead on a possible serious problem. She said, “We have a tip that we have to follow overseas. It’s just speculation right now. But it could be a potential terrorism exploit, originating in Chicago.”

We needed to firmly establish jurisdiction or Chuck would hand the ball off to one of the minions at Langley. Kelly added, “For the time being, we just need for you to know that we are trying to confirm it. The JTTF will be the first to know if we DO find something substantive.”

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