It was obvious when they entered my office that they had problems and were in trouble. It's not that I'm so sensitive and astute and aware of people's feelings, it's that people don't come to see me unless they are in trouble or have a problem.
The paint showing the name on the frosted glass of the door was somewhat faded and peeling. It read:
That's me, Matthew Steele St. Louis, Missouri investigator and security consultant. I'm what's commonly known as a private detective; I also work as a security consultant at times, better known as a bodyguard.
I'll do almost anything pertaining to investigations, from background checks, to keeping the scum of society off your back and away from your body, to following a suspected cheating spouse, to finding runaways. Doesn't matter if it's a wife, a husband, a kid or your enemy; I'll find them; for a price.
I'll do just about anything that's legal, although that can be a fuzzy line sometimes. One thing I won't do is provide muscle to physically assault someone. If you and your neighbor or business associate are at an impasse over something, I won't kick their ass for you. I'll find out things from their past, if there is anything, that you can use to control them but if it's physical payback you want, then go talk to someone else.
It was just before lunchtime and I'd been sitting back in my chair with my feet on the desk, contemplating the world situation when the man and woman came in; actually I'd almost been asleep. Taking my feet off the desk and putting them back on the floor I sat up and waited for one of them to speak.
"Mr. Steele?" The man asked. I nodded and he continued, "I'm Jason Worth, this is my wife Susan, and I need your help."
He sat down without being asked and without waiting for his wife. Jason Worth was about 55 or so. His styled thinning hair, smooth features, the spray on suntan, and his very expensive clothes should have taken years off his appearance, but didn't. He was 6 feet one, muscular build, probably from a gym, and had an air of entitlement. Worth had an attitude that only a lot of money could bring and it surrounded him like a shroud. I immediately took a dislike to him.
Susan Worth is the kind of woman that shouldn't be allowed to walk down a busy street. Her looks would cause men to walk into sign posts or wreck their cars because they'd be watching her instead of where they were going or what they were doing.
Mrs. Worth couldn't have been more than 35, if I was being cruel; about the same age as me. Tall for a woman at five feet ten, she had the type of body and face that could start wars. Hey, it happened back in Troy, it could happen now. Susan would have made Helen of Troy look like an ugly cousin.
She also had a muscular build, but she looked like she did tennis or golf or something instead of hitting the gym exclusively. Susan leaned more toward a toned voluptuous body than runway models. She had a sexy, girl next door face, sort of like Kate Hudson, long auburn hair worn loose down her back, and piercing blue eyes. If she would walk across a bar or restaurant men, and some women, would follow her with their eyes and thoughts.
I watched as she sat down and crossed her legs. Her fashionably short skirt rode up displaying a lot of long beautiful thigh. I sighed and settled back in my chair. Keep your mind on business, I told myself. Myself answered back saying are you kidding me?
Continuing the discussion with myself; the devil side of me said we would fit well together, as I'm 6 feet 3. The devil also said that my hard muscled body, weighing 200 pounds even, would feel good rubbing up against her. The last thing the devil said before I pushed him out of my mind was that my black hair and gray eyes were just the thing she needed to compliment her.
Get thee behind me Satan.
"I've checked into your background a little and I think you're just the man I need," Worth said.
I nodded sagely and thought, ah yes my background. Matthew Steele had been a rising star in the St. Louis Police's Detective Division at one time. I was sure to make Captain by the time I was 35; that was five years ago. A sad set of circumstances led to my, shall we say downfall or should we say being screwed by the system.
My partner and I were on a stake out and something I ate didn't agree with me. When you're on a stake out, you can't be too choosey about food; I should have been more careful. After almost two hours of jumping out of the car, running into the nearby alley and throwing up, my partner suggested I go home.
"Hell, with you jumping in and out of the car, we might as well put up a neon sign saying, 'Police stake out on duty', so go home."
I walked to the corner about two hundred feet away, called the Precinct and asked for a patrol car to pick me up and take me home. The two patrolmen good naturedly ragged on me all the way to my house. Thinking back on what happened, it's a good thing they were with me.
It's an old story and a cliché, but when I got home there was a strange car in the driveway. I entered my house with the two patrolmen behind me. The noises coming from down the hallway to the bedroom couldn't be mistaken. Somebody or bodies were getting it on.
I walked to the bedroom door, knowing what I'd see before I got there; I was right. My wife Johanna and a man were having, I guess a conjugal visit is as good a way to describe it as any. "What the hell?" That was my not very original question; the same one that's been asked thousands of times.
Having seen my share of domestic disputes I planned on telling the guy to get the hell out of my house. In spite of my anger I knew if I started beating on the guy I might not stop and that would lead me into trouble I didn't need; I already had a plate full. That was before I recognized my wife's playmate.
Her boy toy was my superior at the Department, Captain Joe Harper. Harper was a brown nosing, ass kissing hack that only got his position because of political pull. When I saw him stand up, naked, in surprise, I lost it. Still I wouldn't have attacked him if he hadn't gone for his gun lying on the night stand next to the bed. Guess he was as surprised as me and his first thought was about self preservation.
I closed the distance between us before he could grab his weapon and hit him so hard I bet his daddy got a headache. He fell across the bed; I straddled him and started beating on him. Now I swear I hadn't planned on hitting my wife; I don't hit women. But she jumped between Harper and me; I never knew if she wanted to protect Harper or to stop me from going to jail. Johanna caught a roundhouse right hand and went ass over tea kettle off the bed.
It's a good thing that the patrolmen, who had brought me home, rushed down the hall to the bedroom when they heard me yell. If they hadn't I might have killed that piece of crap Harper. They pulled me off him before I became guilty of manslaughter or murder.
No one including my wife, who worked for the local school board and especially Captain Harper, wanted the situation to go public. He didn't bring charges of assault with intent and convinced Johanna not to press a spousal abuse complaint. However, when the dust cleared, I had lost my job and my wife. I did get to keep the house and most of the money.
I complained that it wasn't right or fair that I would lose my job and Harper would go unpunished. It didn't do any good; I was still terminated for conduct unbecoming or some such bullshit. Harper didn't get off scot free; a severe letter of reprimand was put in his file.
Whoop de do, I thought. Major Taylor, the head of the Detective Bureau, told me that Harper would be demoted to Lieutenant and because of that letter and the reason for it, would never get another promotion. Taylor also said Harper would have a hard time with the rank and file of the Department.
"Yeah, but the asshole still has a job," I argued. "Where is his punishment? What has he lost? I've lost my wife and my job. Hell, I've lost my way of life."
"It's a bad result," Taylor said, "but his family has too much political clout for the higher ups in the Department to do much more. If you need a hand or I can help, call me Matt."
"What about my background?" I ask Worth. I was still a tad defensive about that piece of history.
"I know you were a good, maybe even great, police detective. I also know why you left the department." Worth took a gold cigarette case out of the inside pocket of his very expensive sports coat. "Mind if I smoke?" He asked and lit his cigarette before I answered either way. I slid the ashtray I keep for clients across the desk toward him; I don't smoke but it isn't up to me to police people's vices or health.
"Your knowledge and talents as a detective plus your experience with your ex-wife suit you perfectly for this job."
When he mentioned my ex, I thought, I was right; I don't like this son of a bitch. "What's the job Mr. Worth?"
"My wife," Worth squirmed in his chair, obviously embarrassed and angry, "had an affair with one of the hired help."
"It wasn't like that Jason," Susan complained, but she had a sly little smile on her face.
"Shut up," Worth said in anger. "It was like that. You just couldn't keep your hands off him, could you? I still can't believe it; a woman of your station and class rutting like a pig with a damned pool boy."
"Stanley is more than a pool boy; he's a very talented up and coming actor," Susan countered.
"Talented actor my ass," Mr. Worth responded. "He's had a few bit parts in plays at the Muni Opera. And it doesn't matter if he is an actor; you shouldn't have been with him."
"I didn't say his talent was in acting, now did I?" Susan said with an evil smile.
"Damn you Susan. When this is over you and I will have to revisit our relationship," Mr. Worth promised.
Susan started to answer but I interrupted. "Enough, I'm not interested in hearing you two verbally tear each other up. What's the job Mr. Worth?"
"Like I said, Susan had an affair with our pool boy," Worth stared at his wife, daring her to deny it. "When I found out, I threw him off the property and put the word out so no one that matters would hire him."
"Again, what do you want me to do Mr. Worth?"
"Well apparently the boy didn't like the consequences of his little tryst with my wife and he has threatened me."
"What Jason really means is that Stanley is blackmailing him," Susan said with a sexy little grin. At least it looked sexy to me. "He, Stanley I mean, told my husband that he had a DVD of Stanley and me together. Said he'd make sure it went public and all our friends, family, and Jason's business associates would get a copy if Jason didn't pay him one hundred thousand dollars."
"Shut up Susan," Worth almost yelled. Looking back at me he said, "I want you to find him and persuade him to leave me alone and to give you the DVD and any copies he has made. Do anything that's necessary to make him leave us alone." Worth looked at me with an angry face and added, "Anything that works, anything at all."
"Have you contacted the police? Blackmail is a crime you know."
"If I go to the police I might as well put an ad in the paper saying my wife acted like a slut," Worth angrily replied, glaring at Susan. "That's why I came to you. I've heard that you are very discreet."
"From who?" I asked.
"Who referred you to me?"
"Well ... Major Taylor for one. We've met him at several of the police social functions." Worth took a deep breath. "I don't understand the question Mr. Steele. What difference does it make how we found you? The only question is, are you going to take the job?"
"I haven't made a decision just yet," I replied. "Leave your number and I'll call you by tomorrow morning with my answer."
"There are other private investigators, you know,"
"Yes there are Mr. Worth. Feel free to contact any of them, but if you want me you'll have to wait until tomorrow morning to see if I'm available."
Worth looked around my office. He saw the worn carpet, the walls that needed painting and the beat up desk I was sitting behind. "It doesn't look like you can afford to be choosy about jobs."
"Appearances are deceiving Mr. Worth and besides, money isn't everything." I lied; money was everything. Well almost everything. "If you like, I'll call you tomorrow; if not, it's been nice meeting you."
"Very well," Worth said and stood. "I'll expect your call tomorrow Mr. Steele. Come along Susan."
Mrs. Worth made a show of uncrossing her long legs, stood, and offered her hand. "I think I'm going to like working with you Mr. Steele. I'll bet you'll be more fun than poor old Stanley."
"Not for the same reasons I hope Mrs. Worth. Goodbye."
I called Major Taylor right after the Worth's left. "Hey Major. I understand you're sending business my way."
"I take it you're talking about Jason Worth, Matt."
"Why'd you suggest he contact me with his problem?"
"I don't know what his problem is," the Major said. "He was a bit secretive about it. When he asked if I knew any PIs I could recommend, I told him I'd recommend you or Rollie Chambers. He's a spoiled rich guy and I thought you might make a piece of change off him."
"Thanks Major, I can't talk about his problem but I'm going to take the job."
"How are you doing Matt?"
"I'm good Major. It's been almost two years since I was screwed by the Department and I've made lemonade out of those lemons. I like my life; I can work when I want and for who I want. And I don't have some politically connected jerk telling me what to do."
"How are you doing for money? I've heard about that office of yours and the truck you're driving."
"Between you and me Major, the work I'm getting is setting me up pretty well. The truck runs good and I don't worry about parking it in some of the areas I've had to go to. As for the office, the only reason I even have one is for some place to meet clients."
"Wouldn't a nicer office impress your clients more?"
"My place makes the people think I'm a little desperate; it makes them think I'll work harder to earn their money."
"Okay Matt. Call me if I can help."
"Sure Major and thanks."
What wasn't mentioned by Major Taylor or myself was the settlement I got from the St. Louis Police Department. I'd sued for wrongful termination and a whole bunch of other things. My attorney, Jeb Smith, was an old college buddy and he is very good; a real vicious Great White shark in an ocean of lesser sharks. Jeb was so good that the other sharks got out of the water when Jeb started swimming.
It's good to have friends; it's even better to have friends that can get you 'Go to Hell' type money in a settlement. 'Go to Hell' type money is when you have enough money to tell everyone to go to hell; you don't need them for your livelihood.
"You really don't have a case Matt," Jeb told me, but he had this shark's grin on. "I mean you did beat the hell out of your boss. And that's insubordination, no matter what the reason. But."
"But what?" I asked.
"But the Department doesn't want the publicity of this case. It's bad enough that a superior humps a subordinate's wife. But when the superior gets off with a slap on the wrist and the husband gets fired, well, that won't sit well with the public and really wouldn't sit well with the rank and file policemen. They'll settle and for high six figures." Jeb grinned and added, "And I'll get them to pay my fees too." Then he laughed like hell. Jeb didn't care much for the establishment.
Jeb sent an 'Intent to file suit' letter to the Police Commissioner with copies to Captain Harper, his boss, and their legal department. Then he sat back and waited for the explosion. It wasn't long in coming. The attorney for the Police, Judas Dobson, immediately called to set up a meeting with Jeb and me. When Jeb told me about the meeting, the when and where, I said "Judas, that's a fitting name for an attorney." Then realizing who I was talking to said, "Sorry Jeb, I don't mean you.
Jeb laughed and opened us another beer. "Call me what you want but pay me my 30 pieces of silver." He read through the request for a meeting again. "We'll go meet with Dobson. But here's what I want you to do."
We walked into Dobson's office and were shown to a large conference room. The secretary got us coffee and Dobson and three other people came into the room; they were all lawyers. Jeb was outnumbered four to one, but I had confidence in my shark.
"Mr. Steele, I'm Judas Dobson," he said as he sat down across the table. It was all I could do not to laugh at hearing his name. "I will speak for the St. Louis Police Department during these negotiations."
"Hold on Dobson," I said. "This is not a negotiation meeting. If my demands aren't met, and met by end of business tomorrow, I'll file suit."
All of this was according to the script Jeb and I had worked out the previous night.
"Surely Mr. Smith has told you that you have no case?" Dobson's face was red. The young pretty female lawyer on his side of the table was trying to keep from smiling.
"Yeah, he did. But I'll demand a jury trial and take my chances in court." I looked directly at Dobson with a challenge. "Worst case scenario is I have to pay Jeb's fees. Best case, the jury will see what a hosing I got and side with me; they'll roast Harper, the Department, and the City of St. Louis. Your choice Dobson. C'mon Jeb, let's get lunch so you can pad your expense account."
I stood and started toward the door. Jeb stood, shrugged his shoulders at Dobson, and followed me. We had a hard time eating lunch because we kept laughing about the look on Dobson's face.
Jeb called me about 1 PM the next day. "We'll have a check first thing tomorrow morning Matt. If you take care, you probably won't have to work for three or four years."
Enough reminiscing, I thought. I picked up the phone and called Mr. Worth. "I've decided to at least talk more in depth about your case Mr. Worth. I'll be out to your place tomorrow morning at 10 to get more information and possibly a retainer."
"Is that really necessary Mr. Steele?"
"It is if you want me to work on your case. Your choice"
"I'll see you at 10 sharp." Worth hung up the phone with a little extra force.
Worth's house was set back from the two lane blacktop road; you couldn't see it from the street. The grounds were more like a golf course with lots of trees rather than just a place for a house. The grass was extensive with no bare spots and manicured to an exact height. The address was so exclusive that it didn't have a city or community name; it just said 'St. Louis County' and a zip code.
The look I got from Worth that morning as I drove up the tree lined road to his house was priceless. I was driving my old pickup truck. The right rear wheel fender was a study in body filling Bondo; I was having the rusted area repaired. My truck has three different colors of paint, not counting the Bondo, because one door and one front fender are each from different trucks.
In its defense, the old Chevy has a 350 Cu. In. engine that's just one or two accessories from being a full blown racing engine. Not only does it run good, it will outrun most cars; including police interceptors. My truck is what is known as a sleeper. The old adage of you can't tell a book by its cover aptly applies to me and my truck.
Worth had a disgusted look and a frown on his face when I pulled to a stop in front of his house. "Really Mr. Steele. Is it necessary to drive to my residence in such a ... a ... well, a deplorable dilapidated vehicle?"
"Yep. That's my work vehicle, my only work vehicle." I had to shut the driver's door twice to get it to latch. "Shall we get down to business Mr. Worth, or do you want to discuss my ride some more?" I smiled at him and waited.
He looked at my red satin, St. Louis Cardinal jacket, the St. Louis Rams T shirt, faded jeans, and cowboy boots with the same disgust on his face. Worth was wearing a dark blue suit and vest with a lighter color pinstripe plus a blue on blue shirt with little diamond shapes on it, opened at the neck; I think the shirt was a Christian Dior. His clothes were probably, no not probably, his clothes were worth more than my truck.
"Come inside please," Worth said and turned to lead the way into his humble abode. The house was a copy of one of the southern plantation homes that you see in the movies. Tall white columns supported a second story balcony.
I guess he likes to stand out there and watch the peasants work, I thought. Inside facing the entry way was a staircase that would rival the one at Tara in Gone with the Wind. It was about eight feet wide and led to a landing. From there it split so there were two ways to continue to the second story.
"Jacqueline, bring coffee into the sitting room please," Worth requested of a young woman in a gray and white uniform. To me the room he led us into would be a living room; I guess the elite and landed gentry called it a sitting room.
The 'sitting' room was very large and very airy with floor to ceiling windows along one wall. The view was over the manicured lawn and swimming pool at the rear of the house. The furniture was mostly rattan with glass top tables. This is a damn jungle, I thought as I saw all the plants scattered around the room. Guess they want the feeling of being outside without having to deal with the heat or insects.
Susan Worth stood as we entered. This time she was dressed a little more demurely but there was no doubt that she was a very sexy lady. I'm quick that way; I'm a trained detective and I pick up on things like that in a hurry. She wore a pair of tailored slacks that fit very snugly across her rear. Her blouse was silk and unbuttoned about two buttons more than should have been allowed by law. It was obvious from the tightness of the slacks and with the opening in her blouse that Susan wasn't wearing anything else.
She shook my hand and held it a little longer than necessary; both to her husband's and my discomfort. Got to watch myself around this one, I thought. You don't screw around with a client's wife or girlfriend; it makes them hesitant about paying the bill.
Pulling my hand away from her, I looked around the room. On one wall, over a wood burning fireplace, was an oil portrait of Susan Worth. Now I don't know much about art, I just know what I like and I really liked this painting. Susan was sitting on a plain chair with no arms. Her legs were crossed and her arms were folded across in front of her holding her opposite shoulders and she wore a beautiful smile; and that's all.
Mr. Worth walked over to me as I stared at the portrait. "She screwed the artist too," he said with more than a little disgust and anger in his voice. "And then the bastard still demanded full payment. She seems to like tormenting me by screwing the help."
I turned to look at Susan and she gave me a sexy little smile as if to say, 'you too can be one of the lucky ones'. Yeah, I'm definitely going to have to watch myself around this one, my thought echoed again.
"Okay Mr. Worth, tell me more about this Stanley."
"His name is Stanley Moore; here's a picture of him," he said handing it to me. It showed a young man about 25 with a lot of sandy blonde hair, blue eyes and a well muscled torso showing a 'six pack'. "That picture was taken by a security company that watches the house when we're away for any length of time," Worth informed me.
"Okay, I'll need all the information you can give me about good ole Stanley; like his address, phone number and such."
"I've put together this ... well biography, on Moore." Worth handed me a folder that contained Stanley's last known address and phone number. It also told me where he went to college, didn't graduate, and what he was interested in; besides Susan Worth that is. I looked at Worth with an unspoken question.
"The parts about his likes and such came off his employment application," he said. Turning to his wife he suggested, "I'm sure Susan knows more about him than I."
Susan gave me one of her semi sexy smiles. "I really don't know that much about Stan." Looking at her husband she added, "We never talked that much."
"How did Moore contact you about the money?" I asked.
Worth went to his desk, unlocked the middle drawer, and searched for something. While he was doing that, I looked at Susan. She's so sexy it ought to be against the law, I thought. Still, I wonder why Worth puts up with her crap. For that matter it's obvious she doesn't think much of her husband, so I'm wondering why she stays? Duuh, silly me, it's the money stupid. Shaking my head, I had answered my own dumb question.
"I received this by courier at my office," Worth said and handed me a folded sheet of paper.
It was a letter, really a note, supposedly sent by Stanley Moore. The note said that he had a two hour DVD showing Susan and Stanley getting it on. He wanted one hundred thousand dollars for the DVD or he would send it to friends, family, and business associates of the Worth's. The note said he would call them in a few days to set up a drop for the money; when he got the money he'd send Worth the DVD. The note was a word document from a computer; even the signature was printed.
"I know this is a silly question, but do you have those kinds of funds available, Mr. Worth?" Jason Worth looked at me like I was an idiot, like I was asking if I'd asked if the Pope was Catholic.
"Oh, Jason has that and much more," Susan answered with a grin. "Don't you dear?"
"Let's keep our business, our business, Susan," Worth chastised her. The look on his face was interesting. He showed both pride that he had that kind of money and frustration that his wife would talk about it. "Yes Mr. Steele, I have the funds. It will take a trip to my bank to get the cash, but it's available."
"How many employees do you have, Mr. Worth?" I asked.
"What difference does that make? Stanley Moore is the one demanding money."
"This note is printed from a computer or word processor. It isn't actually signed by a person; anyone could have used Stanley's name. So, how many employees do you have that are here all the time?"
"Why only those that live here?"
"Only someone that was here all the time would be in a position to record Mrs. Worth and Stanley. A stranger would have been seen coming in to set the camera or to take out the recording. Unless, there is someone who comes here a lot, it has to be someone that the staff wouldn't find unusual being here."
"There are four that live here." Worth stopped and then continued when I raised an eyebrow.
Raising an eyebrow is a very good way of communicating without speaking, if you can do it. The raised eyebrow can ask a question, show disbelief, interest in what someone is telling you or invite them to continue. I've practiced in front of a mirror until I mastered the trick.
"Samuel is the butler and house manager; his wife Millie is the cook and housekeeper," Worth informed me. "Ralph is the chauffer, he also maintains the vehicles. And Jacqueline assists Millie with the house. After a few seconds, he continued, "Of course there's Susan's string of playmates. The latest one is Danby Summers; he's here at least two times a week from what I hear from the staff. He comes during the day mostly, when I'm at the office."
Susan at first looked surprised that Jason knew that her boy toy visited and then she got a wicked smile on her face. "If you spent more time with me, he wouldn't be able to visit, now would he Jason?"
"If I spent more time with you instead of at the office you'd have to get a job to keep up the lifestyle you've become accustomed to Susan," Worth replied.
Jason Worth looks like he's caught between a rock and a hard place, I thought. If he doesn't make a lot of money, Susan won't stay with him; but him spending a lot of time away gives her the chance to have other men. Rock and a hard place alright.
"You need to get me pictures and information about each of your employees. I'll be spending some time here at your home, checking things out and I'll have some questions for them. You can tell them I'm a security consultant."
"I take it you've decided to accept my case, in spite of your reservations about our lifestyle," Worth said with what I took as a relief.
"Yes sir. It isn't up to me to make a judgment about how you live. It wouldn't work for me but hey, whatever floats your boat. My concern is stopping Stanley Moore or whoever is trying to extort money from you. What about this Danby Summers character? Where would I find him?"
"We're having a little get together tonight," Susan answered. "Just a few people, twenty or so. Danby will be here. Won't you join us?"
I looked at Worth. He didn't seem too happy at the scenario. I don't know if it's because Danby is coming to his house or that I'd be coming in a social context, I thought. Probably a little of both.
"Alright Mrs. Worth. I'll be here at 7
"Will you be staying overnight Mr. Steele?" Mrs. Worth asked. "That could be ever so interesting." The look in her eyes and the tone of her voice was predatory.
"I doubt it," I answered. I'll make sure not to unless it's absolutely necessary, I thought. I don't mess around with married women, but Susan Worth could tempt the bronze statue of Saint Louis in front of the art museum.
"You realize that proper attire will be necessary Mr. Steele," Worth said with a bit of haunting glare.
"I think I have a clean pair of jeans and T-shirt Mr. Worth." The look on his face was priceless. "I'll clean up my act sir, I promise."
"Do you carry a gun Mr. Steele?" I nodded and he asked, "May I see it?" Reaching under my jacket to the small of my back I pulled out my Glock 21C and showed it to Worth.
I'd traded in my 9 MM Beretta 92FS after talking to another former St. Louis Police Detective, Rollie Chambers. He had a couple of shootouts with his 9 and changed to the .45 Glock on the advice of Jacob Tully, a retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant and another former cop. Rollie and I worked a couple of cases together while still with the Department and had become friends.
Tully had been instrumental in my changing to the Glock also. I'd just made Detective First and was full of myself. With my gold shield in hand I decided I wanted to carry a .44 Magnum, like Dirty Harry. I bought a Smith and Wesson 629 with a six and a half inch barrel and took it to the Department shooting range. The first time I fired it, the recoil threw the pistol back into my face; it cut me over my right eye and I had to have three stitches. Tully was the manager and head instructor at the range and laughed so hard he had to sit down. That was the end of my .44 Magnum, Dirty Harry, experience.
Worth reached for my gun but I pulled it away from him. "Nobody touches my weapon" I said.
"My, that's a big one," Susan said and looked directly at me. "Are you any good with it? And are you sure you won't let me touch it?" With the smile on her face and the look in her eye, I wasn't sure that it was the gun she was talking about.
"I'm sure Mrs. Worth; I wouldn't want you to get hold of more than you can handle," I replied. That took some wind out of her sails from the look on her face. "Besides, I wouldn't touch you sexually if I was a monk who years ago had made his vow of chastity but now was trying to make up for lost time."
Mrs. Worth was incensed that I would not be swayed by her charms and for me speaking the way that I did to her.
"You're a cold man, Mr. Steele," she said with more than a little anger.
"Yep, that's me," I replied. Cold as Steel, Steele."
"Susan, behave yourself," Worth ordered. Then to me, "Can you and will you use your gun when you find Moore?"
"I'll find Moore, get the DVD, and he won't bother you again. I can hit what I aim at and will shoot if necessary. But let's get something straight Mr. Worth. I'm not an assassin and I don't hire out to kill people. If that's what you want, you've got the wrong man."
"No, no ... I understand." He paused for several seconds. "What is your fee Mr. Steele?"
"I'm sorry to leave," Mrs. Worth said. "But I have a tennis lesson and Sam gets upset if I'm late." She crossed to Mr. Worth and kissed him. "I should be home at the usual time dear, unless Sam keeps me over." Turning to me she said, "Good bye Mr. Steele."
Mr. Worth didn't try to hide his smile at Susan's anger and actually laughed as she hurried out of the room.
"Sam?" I asked after she had left the room. Another man for her to fool around with, I thought.
"Samantha Dooley, her tennis instructor. If it was a man I'd have to watch him too." Mr. Worth shook his head and sighed. "What is your fee, Mr. Steele?"
"$300 a day plus expenses Mr. Worth and I need a five day retainer." Normally I charge $100 a day plus expenses, but Jason Worth was exceeding rich and I just didn't like him, so I upped my rates.
"Isn't that a little high?"
"Not if you want your problem solved," I replied.
"All right," Worth said, went to a desk and wrote me a check.
"Mr. Worth, as I said, it isn't up to me to approve of your lifestyle and you can tell me to mind my own business, but why do you let your wife get away with her crap?"
At first Worth puffed up in anger at my question but then he seemed to deflate like a balloon with a hole in it. Shaking his head he answered, "You've seen her. I know she married me for the money and until recently I could live with that. I mean, having her on my arm when we go out is very satisfying. Guess it's like showing off; see what I've got and don't you wish you did?"
He reached behind him to a built in bar, took a cut glass decanter and poured a dark glass of liquor. Worth held the decanter toward me in invitation. "It's Gentleman Jack, if you'd care for a taste." I nodded and he poured a second drink.
"The problem is that I've come to, well ... if not love her at least I've become tremendously fond of her. That's the main reason I've tolerated her behavior." Worth took a drink and stood taller. "But now that her flirting, sexy come-ons, and suggestive behavior have become a reality my tolerance is quickly coming to an end"
I took a healthy drink of the whiskey and looked directly into his eyes. "Mr. Worth, if nothing else you don't have to worry about me around Susan."
He stared at me for several seconds and a small smile came over his face. Worth handed me the check, "Thank you Mr. Steele. Both for taking my case and for your promise. How do we proceed from here?"
"I'll come to your little get together tonight so I can check out Summers. Now I'll be on my way to pay a visit to Moore's address; see what I can find. If either one of them sent the letter and has the DVD, I'll get it and we'll finish this up real quick."
"And if you don't finish it up 'real quick' what then?"
"Then the search goes on. In the mean time, I'll pretend to be a security guy and look around the house. While I'm doing that I'll talk to your staff."
I put the check in my pocket, nodded at Worth, and left the house. On the way to my truck I realized that my dislike for the man had lessened and I was feeling sorry for the guy. He ought to put Susan over his knee and paddle her like a spoiled little brat, I thought. Hey that might be fun.
Stanley Moore lived in a basement apartment of a renovated factory on the near west side of St. Louis. The building had once been a cardboard box plant. I knew that the lofts and top floor apartments were expensive but the ones below street level, in what would be called the basement, were usually much cheaper.
I walked down a short flight of stairs to number 1C and knocked on his door. No one answered but the door to the next apartment was open and an elderly lady looked into the hallway.
"He's not at home," she offered. "Said he was going to visit his sister in Ballwin. Supposed to be back tomorrow."
"Thank you ma'am." I handed her my card. "Would you call me when he gets home; that is if you happen to notice." My bet was that the old lady noticed everything that went on in the building. "I've got a job offer for him."
"That's why you want to see him?" She asked. "Sort of an interview?"
"Yes ma'am. I'd like to know more about him; you know what kind of person he is and such."
"Stanley is a nice young man; always courteous and helpful to me."
"Does he live here alone or does he have a roommate?"
"No, he's alone. But recently he has a friend visiting him a lot; at least until those two ruffians came to see him. He left right after that and I haven't seen him since." "I don't like his friend. He's not very nice.
The old lady shook her head. "Last week I was trying to get my little pull cart through the door and was having trouble. He was walking down the hall to Stanley's and I asked him to give me a hand. He looked at me, smiled, and started clapping his hands; then he went into Stanley's."
"That wasn't a nice thing to do," I said, shaking my head. To me, it would have been funny if after clapping the guy helped her through the door. The guy is an ass, I thought. Maybe I'll get a chance to meet him while I'm looking for Stanley. Maybe I'll have to show him that manners can be taught as well as learned.
"What does this 'friend' look like and do you know this man's name?"
"Not really. Stanley calls him RJ, but I've never heard his name. He's about your height with really dark hair, combed straight back; I think it's a dye job. Big shoulders and well built but sneaky looking, if you know what a mean. I bet his name is Slick."
She paused for a little and added, "It's a shame Stanley lost his job. It wasn't his fault you know."
"That hussy seduced Stanley and when her husband found out, Stanley got fired. Stanley is just a young man and didn't stand a chance against that woman's wiles. Of course her husband was going to find out, as many times as that woman came over here. The husband, Worth I think is his name, blackballed Stanley so he's having a hard time finding a job."
"You've seen her?"
"Oh yes, many times. She'd ring the bell and then walk down to Stanley's apartment like she owned the place. She was always dressed a little too risqué; short tight skirts or shorts, tank tops or blouses unbuttoned half way down to her waist, and it was obvious she didn't wear a bra. A trollop and chippy, if you know what I mean?"
"Thank you for your time Mrs... ?"
"I'm Irma Foley. I'll call you when Stanley gets back."