Copyright 2014 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California
Fear ran through Stetson’s mind and the flow of his anger pulsated after it. He grit his teeth hard and prepared to use more force to hold Steele back from following Marilyn and Mark. The young couple and their friends boarded the cable car. The sooner they leave this area the better, thought Stetson. He saw Steele’s intense stare and knew that the killer intended to get even.
The gripman rang the bell and the cable car moved forward. Steele watched through the Cafe windows as it started its uphill climb. He gave the crowd of passengers a false smile, and waved good-bye as if they were old friends.
As Steele’s arm relaxed Stetson put his other arm over the killer’s shoulders. “I’ve had enough of surprises today. Let’s drink to some good luck for me.”
Steele turned and smiled at Stetson, “Yeah, you definitely need a change in your luck. I’ll drink to that.”
As they turned back to their bar stools, the owner of the Buena Vista Cafe captured Stetson’s attention with a wave. He pointed to a table opening up. Stetson nodded his head in the affirmative and mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
“My luck’s changed already,” said Stetson. “There’s a table in the middle, there by the window. Let’s take it.”
By the time they squeezed through to the table, the busboy had cleared their table and put down a new white tablecloth. Their Irish Coffees waited for them on fresh cocktail napkins.
The two unusual friends finished their Irish coffees and ordered drinks. “I’ll have a Chevas Regal on the rocks,” said Steele to the waitress.
“And I’ll have my usual, Jack Daniels on the rocks,” said Stetson.
The plain and unsmiling waitress wrote their order on her pad. She dropped her pencil in the pocket of the black apron she wore on top of a straight black skirt. Still, without smiling or direct eye contact, she said, “Thank you.”
Steele sighed and complained to Stetson. “I find it amazing how some girls exude a wealth of personality, and other girls like our waitress, can appear to be a blank page. They are depressing.”
“I bet she’s a damn good waitress though,” said Stetson in her defense.
When their drinks came Steele offered a toast. “To the success of our project, to you for better luck in your career, and to our precious and secretive client.”
The bitterness in the last two words was not missed. The two men did not complete their toast as both had put down their glasses.
“You shouldn’t be keeping the information to yourself. If anything happened to you, I would be hanging out there empty handed,” said Steele.
“Trust me, pal. The client, who I only know by a nickname, knows who you are. He’s pleased that you are on board to do this job for him.” Stetson paused a second to take a deep breath. “I had to promise I wouldn’t share his name. I’d say relax, Steele. He’s only the in-between guy. A liaison.”
Steele leaned closer to Stetson. He lowered his voice and said, “The way things are now, Stetson, I don’t trust you. When you first approached me, you said that more details would be forthcoming, and now you’ve closed up like a foolish virgin. Be up front with me. Don’t be stupid, or I just may turn this project upside down.”
Stetson bit the inner side of his lower lip as he contemplated Steele’s threat. He decided he had no choice at the moment and went along with his adversary’s demand. He needed to do whatever necessary to get to the end of this evening. Then he would have the opportunity to destroy this evil menace.
“You’re right. I’d feel the same if I were in your place,” Stetson acquiesced. “The liaison said to call him Portico. He calls me when he wants to meet. It was Portico who paid us half the fee up front. It was quite a sum of money, so you can understand why I trust him.”
Stetson’s eyes scanned through the crowd of people standing near their table. Laughter, conversations, and the musical sounds of clinking glasses, surrounded them. He determined that what they were saying would be hard to decipher.
“I don’t need the money. I picked up on your offer because of boredom. From time to time I get the itch to blow something up. Do you know what I mean? Now, don’t get confused, I always want to get paid as agreed,” said Steele.
“Unlike you,” said Stetson. “I need to amass a large sum of money. I want more than a detective’s salary. How have you earned your fortune? And, if you don’t mind sharing with me, how are you going to handle all that money you’ll be getting?” asked Stetson.
Steele shifted, sat up straight, and looked into his drink as he spoke. “I keep my ears open and when the right job comes around I decide whether to take it, or leave it. I am the best in my field and I’ve earned a trusted reputation. So, my fees are high. I contract with sources who I know can afford me. For some crazy reason I accepted your proposal. Right now, I’m thinking I should have killed you a long time ago. But since I made an agreement with you, I will follow through. Though don’t think for a moment you can get away with double crossing me and getting away with it.”
Steele stopped talking and sipped his Chevas Regal. “As for what I’ll be doing with my share, I’ll stash it and let it earn interest. I did the same with the last bank job I completed back east. My share was $1.2 million. Use your imagination.”
“That is a hell of a lot of money. I’d love to boast about earnings like that,” said Stetson. He recalled how a couple of his top notched friends had recommended Steele. One of them was his friend, Little John, who had said, “He’s definitely the best man. He only works for top dollar though. Don’t go to him if you don’t have the funds. He might kill you for bothering him.”
How about you? What are your plans?” asked Steele in return.
“I’ve put a hefty down payment on a sailboat docked in Sausalito. I’ll pay it off, quit my job, and travel. Someday I may buy a home somewhere and settle down with a nice woman who can cook,” replied Stetson. He took another swig of his drink hoping to encourage Steele to do the same. He wanted to curb the killer’s instincts.
“Not me,” said Steele shaking his head. “No woman is going to tie me down and grow fat on my dough. I’m going to travel, maybe buy a villa here and there. I’ve found some places where I can come and go as I please. The people there know me as a man of wealth and leave me alone. I treat them right and they do the same back. But as for women, you know me, I love women and then I leave them. No woman has ever pleased me for more than a month.”
“Well, here’s to each of our goals,” Stetson said and raised his glass to toast the good wish. But in the back of his mind he thought, and to your failure when it comes to trapping and killing women. Especially nice ones like Marilyn. I’m wishing you the end of your life tonight.
Copyright 2014 MillieAnne Lowe, Orange County, California