Chapter 1 A Lady in Distress.
So now I was a private detective. I sat in my office wondering if I should look for another line of work. The door from the hall slammed open, and a pretty blond lady rushed in, all out of breath, and her face flushed.
"Heís going to kill me! I need help. Can you hide me somewhere where his assassin canít find me? "
I motioned her to a chair, and opened my desk drawer so I could get to my Walther P38 if I needed it. Itís an old gun, but it still works as well as anything new I can afford to buy.
"What is this all about? Calm down and tell me your story. Nobody is going to harm you while you are here with me."
"I heard him talking on the phone to someone, making an offer of ten thousand dollars to do a job. We havenít been getting along for months, and I know he has a girlfriend he has been seeing. He wants to get rid of me. He has already taken out a five hundred thousand dollar life insurance policy on me, with double indemnity if itís accidental. He must be planning to make it look like an accident. I was even afraid to drive my car, so I took a taxi over here. I saw your ad in the yellow pages. I have a little money, but I canít afford much. "
She stopped only because she was out of breath. I had never seen such hysteria. She leaned toward me so more of her assets showed above the low-cut blouse. Then she looked toward the door, as though expecting someone to barge in with a gun. Hardly the thing you would expect from an assassin bent on making it look like an accident.
"Where is your husband now? "
"Heís at work. Advantage Stockbrokers. Their office is over on Sentry Avenue. That big building on the corner of Section? But if he has hired somebody . . . . "
"Relax. If itís supposed to look like an accident . . . . "
"But they might get impatient and just settle for half a loaf. It could happen anywhere. "
She looked toward the window.
"He could be out there, watching from a window across the street. "
I could see that paranoia had set in.
"Not likely that someone could have followed your taxi, and would know which office you are in. When did you decide to come here? "
"I just looked you up in the phone book an hour ago. Yes, of course nobody would know I am here. You must think Iím totally bonkers. But how can you protect me? Should I go to a hotel and register under an assumed name? Should I catch a plane for somewhere else? "
Again she stopped, out of breath. Her color had returned to what I assumed was normal. She sat back in the chair and gave me an inviting smile. That was the fastest recovery from hysteria I had ever seen. It had been a performance by an accomplished actress, but she had ended her skit too soon.
"So, why are you really here? "
She gave me a sheepish grin.
"I suspect my husband has a mistress. It may be someone in his office. Iíd like to hire you to catch them in the act. "
"You donít have a pre-nup then, I assume. "My exciting case had just evaporated. Another boring divorce surveillance. Oh, well. It would pay the rent.
"I have to ask. Did you hire someone to set him up? "
"You are a better detective than I expected. How did you suspect that I was thinking about that before it really happened? "
"It happens. Do you still want me to take the case? "
"Yes, of course. I donít want a dumbbell who might blow it. I need to get the goods on them as soon as possible so I can start divorce proceedings. You do understand, donít you? I have to get rid of that man. He doesnít deserve a good wife. "
I closed the desk drawer.
"Forty dollars an hour. Plus expenses. Five hundred in advance. "
"OK. " She opened her giant sized purse and brought out five big ones. Money seemed to be no problem for her. She might as well have been ordering a hamburger at Burger King. It must be nice to be rich. Did she carry that kind of money around all the time, or did she know how much an advance would be for my services?
"Would you like a cup of coffee? "My cup was in need of refilling anyway so I might as well offer her one.
"No thanks. Coffee makes me too nervous. My doctor says I should avoid caffeine, but I do have a hard time giving up chocolate. They make decaffeinated coffee and sodas, so why canít they make decaffeinated chocolate? "
I pushed a standard contract across the desk to her and our deal was soon done. I asked for all the usual information; names, addresses, phone numbers, vehicles and license plates. She was Sonya Thorensen, and her husbandís name was Carter. She drove a BMW convertible, and his car was a Mercedes Sedan. She also supplied me with all kinds of details about her life and problems that were irrelevant. She was a bore, but when she left, the rear view was as impressive as the front. She might have been a model, or at least an actress. Certainly she had a talent for acting. How did she do that?