The Woman Marked For Death

Info silverhawk
05 Dec. '17

The place was kind of a bar and kind of a strip club and it wasn’t doing much of a job at being either.  The building was old and the age showed.  The ceiling had been one of those fancy tin-work things at one time.  I only knew that because enough layers of paint had peeled off in a couple places to reveal the original metal surface.  It was impossible to tell what the last paint color had been.  All the years of cigarette and cigar smoke had stained it a yellow brown.  The place even smelled bad.  The aroma of tobacco smoke mingled with the smell of stale beer and cheap booze.  On top of that was the smell of urine that wafted through the place anytime a guy went in or out of the john.

At one time, the place had probably been a decent neighborhood bar. It was easy to imagine the Friday night crowd laughing and having fun at the end of the workweek.  There used to be bars like that in each neighborhood of the city.  They were the gathering points for the working class crowd, and throbbed with music and laughter every Friday and Saturday night.  During the week days, those bars served as a place for workers to unwind with a beer or two and maybe share a few stories before going home for dinner.

Now, it looked like the bar proper was probably half its original length because it just stopped half way down the wall.  There was no end bar or pass-through.  It just ended, like somebody with a huge saw had just cut it in two and dragged out the other half.  What had probably once been several tables for four against the opposite wall were just two and those were crowded into the corner by the door.  

The back half of the building was where the strippers danced.  There was a small stage against the back wall, and rows of folding chairs facing it.  It was almost three in the morning, so there were only a handful of men sitting in those chairs and watching the girl on stage.  Most likely they were waiting to see if she’d go home with one of them.  It couldn’t have been because she was erotic because she wasn’t.

I say she was a girl out of habit.  She was probably forty or better and her face looked like those forty years had been pretty rough.  Even the thick makeup she’d plastered on couldn’t hide the slight droop of her jowls and the lines in her forehead and around her eyes.  She was down to only a thong panty and was starting to work her ass in hopes of getting a few tips.  I did see a couple of wadded up bills fly up on the stage.  If I’d been in her audience, I might have tossed her a couple out of pity, but pity would have been the only reason.

Her breasts weren’t really all that big, but they sagged so much her nipples pointed straight down when she was standing.  The ass she was working was dimpled all over with cellulite and her ass cheeks sagged too.  On top of all that was a strip of fat that hung down from her belly when she was bent over like she was.

I figured her for a woman who’d danced when she was young and just kept on dancing because that’s all she knew.  The average age for a dancer in an up-scale club is about twenty two, and most have stopped by twenty five or so.  Some of them find a guy and get married.  Some end up in adult films for the next ten years or so.  Some do both.  A few end up like the dancer I was watching.

I wasn’t there for a drink.  I knew I’d have to order one or I’d be asked to leave, but I probably wouldn’t drink it.  I wasn’t sure how the place ever got a business license because it was so filthy, but I suppose like a lot of other things in this city, money will turn a health inspector’s head the other way.

I wasn’t there to watch the woman either.  I don’t like strip clubs.  In the better clubs, the girls do what they do because it pays well.  They don’t care about any of the men in the audience.  Usually, the rules of the club don’t permit them to have any contact with a customer outside of a lap dance anyway.  To me, strip clubs are like when you were a kid and went through the Christmas catalogue picking out everything you wanted and knowing you probably weren’t going to get any of it.

Clubs like this one just make me feel sorry for the women.  The dancers aren’t necessarily that old, but they’re too old to earn a living dancing in a really nice club and end up in dumps like this one.  Many have to turn to the world’s oldest profession to make ends meet.  If they’re doing drugs, and many are, they become slaves to the club owner and their pimp.

I’ve arrested enough of them to know what I’m talking about.  I drove a patrol car for fifteen years before making it to detective.  I worked another five years in vice and have seen a lot of clubs, prostitutes, and pimps in the process. The last five I’d worked in homicide.  That’s why I was at “Heels” that night.

She’d called the station and asked to speak to the Captain.  Jackie, the female officer at the desk, asked why.  The woman said she’d only tell that to the Captain.  Jackie put her through to Captain Blake.  He took some notes and then passed those notes to me.

The woman wouldn’t give the Captain her name.  All she told him was someone was trying to kill her.  She said she’d be at a place called “Heels” on Thirty Sixth and when an officer came to talk to her he should wear street clothes with a pink shirt.  She also said he had to come at exactly two forty five AM or she wouldn’t talk to him.

I laughed when the Captain asked me if I had a pink shirt.

“Captain, you’ve known me long enough to know I’m not that in touch with my feminine side.”

“Well, go get one and then get your ass down to some dive called “Heels.”

He filled me in on what little he knew about the woman, all two sentences of it.  Then he smiled.

“She’s probably just paranoid about some guy she thinks is following her, but go check her out.  If it’s nothing, you can write that up and close the case.  If there is something to what she thinks, we need to get on top of it before the worst happens.”

At two forty I parked my personal car a block from Heels and walked up to the door.  After waiting outside until my watch said two forty five, I went through that door.  

I really wasn’t sure what to do, so I went to the bar and ordered a club soda.  The bartender frowned when he sat the glass down and then said, “That’ll be three bucks.”  He stood there drumming his fingers on the bar as I tossed three ones down in front of me, and kept drumming them until I added another single.  One look at the glass told me that club soda was going to sit there untouched until the place closed.  There was some sort of brown ring in the bottom.  

I was sitting there watching the stripper when I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I turned to see a petite little brunette about forty looking at me.  She pointed to the two tables in the corner.

“Maybe you should go sit at that table over there.  I’ll bring you a fresh drink.”

Figuring this was the woman I was supposed to talk with, I picked up my glass and walked over to one of the tables.  The brunette came over a minute later with another club soda.

“Willard never gets the bottoms of the glasses clean, not that anybody in this dump would care.  I washed this one myself and the club soda is from a fresh bottle, not from the dispenser on the bar.  You don’t look like you belong in a place like this.  Why are you here?”

“I’m Detective Ames, Detective Harry Ames.  A woman called the station and asked to talk to an officer.  I’m him.  Are you the woman?”

The woman sighed.

“I was afraid they’d think I was crazy or something and wouldn’t send anybody.  I can’t talk to you now.  You’ll have to wait until we close up at three and I get changed.  I’ll meet you outside in front.”

At five till three, the DJ playing songs for the dancers announced they would close in five minutes.  The woman on stage stopped dancing and picked up the few bills laying on the floor, then picked up her clothes and walked off the stage.  Once by one, the men in the chairs tipped up their bottles or glasses to drain them and then filed out the door.  I went out with the last two and stood by the curb in front of the door.  By innocently brushing my ankles together, I reassured myself the snub .38 was securely in the holster on my left ankle.  If there was any area of the city I might need the backup weapon, this was it.

At ten after, she walked out the door and up to me.  She’d changed from the waitress uniform with little shorts, low cut top and black stockings to jeans and a tank top.  

“Come over here under the lights.”

She didn’t wait for an answer.  She just turned and walked back under the lights over the door.  When I got there, she asked to see my badge.

I pulled it from my front pocket and held it open for her.  She held my hand in hers to steady it and looked at the badge, then at the identification card behind the clear, plastic window.  She studied the information, then looked at me, and then looked back at the ID card.

“What’s your badge number?”

“Five five six two.  Why?”

“What’s your date of rank.”

“March ten, two thousand seven.”

“Why are you wearing a pink shirt?  Are you gay?”

“No, I’m wearing it because you told the Captain I should.”

She released my hand and her face looked relieved.

“OK, you’re the real thing.  Can you take me home?  We’ll talk there.”

“Home” wasn’t at all what I expected.  She lived in a house in the suburbs that she couldn’t possibly have afforded with what she made at Heels.  That was suspicious, but I’ve learned to hear as much of the story as possible before drawing conclusions.  She could have gotten the house free and clear through a divorce or an inheritance for all I knew.

She offered coffee and I said yes.  A few minutes later, she came out of her kitchen carrying two cups.  She asked about cream and sugar.  I asked for cream.  She came back from the kitchen with a jar of powdered creamer and a spoon.

“This is all I ever use too.  I hope it’s OK.”

She handed me the jar and a spoon, and then sat down on the sofa opposite the chair I was using.

“Will you promise not to judge me before I tell you why I think someone’s trying to kill me?”

“Ma’am, I’ve been a detective long enough to know things aren’t usually what they seem at first look.  Tell me what’s going on, all of it, and then I’ll tell you what I think.”

“Fair enough.  Well, three nights ago, this guy came into Heels.  He didn’t look like he belonged there.  His clothes weren’t cheap and he looked too neat.  All the regulars at Heels wear jeans and T-shirts, and they’re pretty sloppy looking.  This guy wore dress pants and a white shirt with button down lapels and a red and white baseball cap.  His hair was trimmed and he’d shaved sometime that day.  The regulars never seem to shave.

He also had on a light jacket even though it was about eighty outside.  There was a bump in his jacket too, about like the one I see in your pants by your ankle.  I’m sure he had a gun under that jacket.  They’re suppose to check for that at the door, but nobody ever does.

“He didn’t stay very long.  He just looked around, then looked at me for a while, and then left his beer sitting on the bar without drinking any.  I always take a cab home because it’s too scary to walk that late at night, and I’m sure I saw the same guy following the cab in his car.  I could see the red and white baseball cap as he drove past when the cab let me off at home.

The next night when I came out of the bar, the same car was sitting down the street and the same guy with the same baseball cap was behind the wheel.  He followed the cab that night too.  This afternoon when I caught a cab to work, the same car was sitting two doors down from my house.  It’s a black SUV of some sort.  That’s why I called your station.”

Usually when I talk to people who’ve been threatened, they start to talk really fast  about what they think and why they think that.  Usually, they’ll talk for a while, then say, “Oh, I forgot about this” and tell me something else.  That something else often doesn’t jive with what they’ve already told me.  They’re too upset to think clearly so I have to ask a lot of questions in order to figure out what might be going on.

This woman was as calm as could be considering she thought someone was trying to kill her.  She also seemed to see a lot more than most people.  If you ask three people to describe the perp at a crime they’ve witnessed, you’ll usually get three “he kinda looked like…” descriptions and often none of them are even close.  She’d given me a definite timeline, some unique features about the way the guy dressed, and also the type of vehicle he drove.  I wasn’t sure how a waitress would know I had a weapon strapped to my ankle because the pants I wore fit pretty loosely, but she’d seen it.  I had no doubt her statement about the guy carrying a gun under his jacket was just as true.

There was also the thing about checking me out at the bar.  Most people just accept that my badge is legit and don’t question it.  Back at the bar, I felt like I was being cross-examined in a courtroom.  She’d also thought to demand any officer who came to talk to her wear a pink shirt and then ask why I wore one.  I’d never encountered something like that before.  If she was just paranoid, she’d perfected paranoid to an art form.

“Ok, Miss…is that it?”

“My name is Belinda, Belinda Marris, and yes, that’s all.”

“Well, it sounds to me like you do have a stalker at least.  Did you recognize the man?  Maybe he was a former customer you upset somehow?”

“No.  I’ve never seen him before that I can remember.”

“Do you know of anyone who might want to do you harm – jilted boyfriend, ex spouse, someone like that?”

“No.  I’ve never dumped a boyfriend.  It’s always been the other way around, and my ex is dead.”

“Any reason someone would want to hurt you?  Unfortunately, with some people, it doesn’t have to be much.  Have you upset anyone in the last few months, even something you didn’t think would upset them much?”

“No…well, I did say something to my neighbor last week.  He was banging on his front porch with a hammer at six in the morning.  I just asked him if he could start working on it a little later in the day since I don’t get to bed before about four in the morning.  He apologized and said he was done anyway so he wouldn’t be bothering me any more.  He was smiling, so I don’t think he was upset.”

I didn’t want Belinda to think I didn’t believe her, but if she was telling me the truth, there had to be some reason.

“What makes you think this man wants to kill you?”

“Well, the gun for one thing, and they way he seems to be following me.  That’s how they do it, isn’t it? They figure out your routine and then decide how and when to do it so they won’t get caught?”

Either Belinda had watched a lot of cop shows on TV or she was very logical in her thinking.  What she’d described is one of the methods used by a professional hit man.  I had some doubts any one would have such a grudge as to hire a pro to do her.  They’re expensive and you have to have some pretty good connections just to find one because they can’t really put an ad in the phone book or newspaper.  Still, ignoring all possibilities is the certain way to miss the one that matters.

I couldn’t do much for Belinda with only the information I had but I wasn’t sure how to get any more.  Belinda had a suggestion that was more pleading than suggesting.

“Detective Ames, I don’t know if you believe what I told you or not, but I’m scared to death.  Could you maybe spend the night?  If he comes back tomorrow, you’ll be able to see for yourself.”

I used my cell phone to call the station and tell them I’d be out of radio contact until sometime the next day and they should call my cell if they needed me for some reason.  I spent the night on Belinda’s couch.

It was eight the next morning when I woke up.  The house was quiet so I assumed Belinda was still asleep.  After going to the window that faced the street, I looked between the closed drapes and the window frame.  There, one house down on the other side of the street was a black SUV.  I could barely make out the license number because of the angle, but I wrote down the numbers I saw and circled the ones I was sure of.  

I couldn’t see the driver until he drove off.  Apparently, he saw the curtain move and realized someone was looking out the window.  Before he pulled away from the curb, he looked in his side mirror.  There was the red and white ball cap Belinda had seen.

I had a little more information now, and what I had was enough to tell me Belinda wasn’t imagining things.  It was also enough information I didn’t want to leave her alone.  Even if the guy was just watching her house for some reason, that reason was probably more than wanting to see her though her living room window.

About ten, Belinda came out of her bedroom.  The night before I’d been pretty intent on listening to what she had to say and hadn’t paid much attention to how she looked.  This morning I did.  

I already knew she was a brunette and the make up she’d worn made her a pretty woman.  This morning, without the makeup, she was still a pretty woman, but her face had a certain look that’s hard to describe.  It wasn’t age, though the laugh lines told me my guess of forty had been about right.  It was just…I guess the best way to describe her face is that she looked intelligent but tired.

She frowned when she saw me looking.

“I must look a mess.  I didn’t put on any makeup yet.  This is the real me, for what it’s worth.”

I tried to cheer her up a little before telling her I thought she might truly be in danger.

“It’s worth a lot from where I’m sitting.”  

She smiled then.

“I know you’re just saying that, but thank you.”

She frowned again.

“Was he out there again?”

“Yes, he was.”

“So you believe someone is trying to kill me?”

“I believe the guy is stalking you for some reason, and I’m suspicious enough I don’t want to leave you here alone.  You’re going to come down to the station with me.”

I stopped off at a pancake house to buy us breakfast and then drove to the station.  I sat Belinda down at the desk beside mine and showed her how to navigate the file with mug shots of known contract killers.  It was long shot because the successful hit men almost never make the mistake of letting themselves be photographed.

While she was clicking through the mug shots, I ran the license number I’d written down.  It came back as a Toyota sedan owned by a woman who was eighty two years old.  I started substituting numbers for the ones I wasn’t sure about and after twenty one tries, came up with one Ford SUV, black on black, that was owned by a rental agency.  The little tingle of suspicion in the back of my mind became the clang of a warning bell.  It wasn’t likely a stalker would go to the expense of a rental car.

I called the local office of the rental company and asked for the identification of the current renter.  They hadn’t rented the SUV that week nor any other week in at least the year for which they still had records locally.  I called the main office and after going through all the verification they required, found out the SUV had been rented at an airport in the next city east.  The renter was one Howard Giles.  His driver’s license was from New York and his address was in the Bronx.

I didn’t have much hope, but I searched for Howard Giles in the NCIC database.  Within seconds, I had three hits.  One had been dead for three years, the second was in the federal prison in Marion, Illinois, and the third was an alias used by a man named Edward Gibson.  He was suspected of using several other aliases and those were listed as well.

There was no picture in his file and very little information other than one partial thumb print and the statements of three informants.  One informant had told the DEA Edward was a member of the Logan Heights Gang in San Diego and was sometimes called on to take care of rival gang members for the Tijuana Cartel.  According to the same informant, Edward’s preferred method of taking care of them was a double-tap with a silenced .22 pistol.  The other two statements were from other gang members who confirmed the first informant’s allegations.  

Edward had never been convicted of a crime in the US, but was wanted in New Mexico as a suspect in the killing of Miguel Sambada, a major drug trafficker associated with the Sinaloa drug cartel.   That’s where the thumb print had been found.  It was on the empty .22 cartridge case the police had found beside Miguel’s body.  

The cartridge case also confirmed his method.  It was from a sub-sonic velocity .22 round.  Even with a silencer, a standard .22 round makes a pretty loud crack.  The low velocity rounds are still lethal at close range, but with a silencer, the only sound would be a relatively quiet thunk.  I also found warrants for him in California and Texas for the same type of offense.

So, I had a possible suspect with no picture and no other way to identify him.  That wasn’t much to go on, but it was a start.  It made sense that since Edward had never been caught, he was very methodical in finding his victims and isolating them so he could escape without being seen or captured.  I discounted the driver’s license.  With enough money, Edward could have purchased documentation that said he was anybody from anywhere.  Considering his past employers, I figured money would be the least of his worries.

I was worried about Belinda.  If Edward was watching her, she was living on borrowed time.  Hit men make their reputation by always filling the contract.  It wasn’t likely Edward would give up after three days.  He was just biding his time and waiting for the right opportunity.

What I couldn’t figure out is why he was after Belinda.  She was about as far from organized crime as a woman could get, but I’ve been surprised before.  I decided to run her name through NCIC and see if I turned up anything.  

NCIC had nothing on Belinda Marris so I tried the state databases.  She did turn up in the state DMV database.  She had a driver’s license issued two years before.  It seemed strange that she’d have a driver’s license but no car.  She would have needed an ID for a lot of things, but she could have gotten a state issued ID card for free.  I supposed she got the license because she was going to buy a car when she’d saved enough money.  I also figured that was going to take a long time considering her job.

I found her credit report but it didn’t tell me much of anything.  She had one credit card with monthly charges of about a thousand dollars but no current balance.  There was no record of her ever applying for a mortgage even though she lived in a house.  If she’d been only renting the house, the initial credit check would have shown up instead of a mortgage application.  There was nothing like that in the report.

City power and water did have a file on her for the past two years.  She always paid her bill on time.  Maybe Belinda was doing something on the side.  I didn’t think she could come up with a grand for her credit card and four hundred for her light bill every month unless she was.

Everything I’d learned about Belinda was pretty much irrelevant to her current situation unless that something on the side had pissed somebody off really bad.  The only thing that could piss somebody off that much was drugs or maybe if she’d run away from her pimp, but I didn’t think a pimp would try to kill her.  That would have cut off the income she brought him.  He’d have just taught Belinda not to piss him off again by showing her how much some broken ribs can hurt, and he would have done it himself or hired a local thug to do it.  The reason had to be drugs.  I took all my notes and went to see the Captain.

After hearing what I’d found out and agreeing with my conclusions, he asked what I planned to do.  I wasn’t sure he’d buy into my plan, but I told him anyway.

“If I ask her what’s going on, she’ll just deny it and I don’t have any proof to the contrary.  If she’s into the drug thing, she won’t be able to hide it for very long.  Her customers will be beating down her door.  I can confront her then and she’ll have to tell me the truth.

“If she’s not, she has to be doing something else to get money.  The only way I’ll be able to figure that out is to stay close to her for a while.  That’s also the only way I’ll be able to protect her if this Edward guy is out to off her.  I think Belinda needs a live-in boyfriend.”

The Captain agreed with my assessment and said he’d divert my current cases to other detectives.  He also said if I hadn’t turned up anything in a week or so, he’d have to pull me off full-time work on Belinda’s case.  I went to tell Belinda.

When I explained my plan to her, I didn’t say I’d be watching her as well as watching for Edward.  She seemed both happy and nervous.

“You’re going to live with me?  For how long?”

“For as long as it takes, but probably no more than a couple of weeks.  I don’t think it’ll take the guy much longer before he tries something.”

“Before he kills me, you mean.”

“Well, if I’m always with you, I can protect you.  He can try, but he won’t be able to do it.”

Belinda frowned.

“Can’t you just arrest him for parking outside my house?”

“No.  He’ll just have some excuse that explains why he’s there.  Even if he didn’t, any decent lawyer would negotiate that down to a misdemeanor and he’d be released with a fine.  That might stop him, but if somebody wants you gone that bad, another guy would just get the job.  I’ll have to catch him making an attempt.”

“If you can do that, it still just means another guy will just take his place, right?”

“Well, maybe, but if I don’t stay with you…”

We stopped by a grocery store and I bought enough food to last us for a week at least.  When I drove into her drive, the SUV was nowhere to be seen, but there was a little blue subcompact two doors down the street that hadn’t been there the day before.  I read the license number in my rear view mirror as we drove by and Belinda wrote it down.

Once I’d carried all my stuff inside, I used my cell phone to run that license number.  It was also a rental and a call to the local rental agency yielded another name – Homer Wiles.  I recognized that name as another that Edward was believed to have used before.  I hadn’t seen him in the car, but he could have just been lying down across the seats.

That information convinced me Belinda was in real danger and also gave me some idea about how methodical Edward really was.  He’d have known the same SUV would look suspicious to someone sooner or later and had switched cars.

I had Belinda call Heels and tell them she was sick.  That way I could keep any interaction with Edward at her house where it would be easier to put her in a safe place while I handled things.  It was also a way to make sure if she was involved in drugs or something else, I’d be sure to find out.

For the next three days, I stayed up all night and watched for the blue subcompact through the window that faced the street.  During the day, I slept but told Belinda if anybody came to the door she was to wake me up and let me answer it.  I didn’t think Edward would be so confident he’d do anything during daylight hours, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

Nothing happened either at night or during the day for those three days.  Belinda fixed breakfast every morning and then I’d sack out.  About three in the afternoon, we’d have a late lunch.  Dinner was at seven.  I had Belinda sleep on the couch so she’d be close, and at ten, I turned out all the lights and sat in a chair by the window with my nine mil in my lap and the snub .38 strapped to my ankle.

By the third night, Belinda was a bundle of raw nerves.  After she changed into her pajamas and came back to the living room, she flopped down on the couch and sighed.

“I can’t keep this up much longer.  It’s like I’m tied up and can’t move. I wish he’d just do it and get it over with.”

“No, you don’t, not really.”

“You said it wouldn’t take him long, and I can’t sleep anymore because I’m waiting for him to try something.”

I sat down on the couch beside Belinda and put my arm around her shoulders.

“It’s going to work out Belinda.  I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”

Belinda snuggled up against my side.  

“I want to believe that, but I’m so worked up I can’t think straight anymore.”

I squeezed her shoulders then, hoping to make her feel a little safer.  She turned a little and then kissed me, then pulled away gently.

“I’m sorry, Harry.  I shouldn’t have done that, but it made me feel better.”

She put her hand on my chest and stroked gently.

“I know this isn’t the time, but I need to feel a lot better than that.  Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“I think so.  I don’t understand why.”

“When I get like this it’s the only thing that helps and right now, I’m worse than I’ve ever been before.”

“I don’t think it would be right.  There are department rules about detectives and victims of crime.”

Belinda pulled my hand to her chest and pressed my palm against her right breast.

“I’m not a victim yet.”

The feel of her soft, yielding breast in my hand was causing my cock to stiffen.  I needed to defuse the situation quickly.

“Belinda, I don’t feel that way toward you.”

“You don’t have to feel anything for me.  I just need you to make me feel better.”

She moved her hand down to my swelling cock.

“I think you’re feeling something.”

“I’m just a man, Belinda.  It happens by itself.”

“I know, and I need a man.  I need you to make me feel like a woman instead of somebody who’s going to be killed.”

I suppose it was a reflex that made me squeeze her breast when she stroked my cock through my pants.  Belinda sighed.

“Oh, God yes.  I need you Harry.”

Belinda undid my belt buckle and then unzipped my fly.  Her slender fingers found my cock.  With her other hand, she unbuttoned her pajama top and pulled my hand to her bare breast.

“Just do me Harry.  Make me feel good for a while.”

I stood up to take off my pants, and Belinda took off her top and then pulled the bottoms down her legs.  It was too dark to see much of her body, but I could see her raise her hips and take off her panties.  I took off my shirt, then un-strapped the revolver on my ankle and laid it on the coffee table beside my nine mil and within easy reach.

When I think back on that night, it seems as if everything went pretty quickly.  I’m sure it didn’t go as fast as I remember, but Belinda didn’t need much foreplay.  I knelt between her open thighs and rested my weight on my arms.  Belinda put her arms around my neck and kissed me again.  That kiss stiffened my cock and took away and reservations about what I was doing.

Her breasts were soft mounds sitting on her chest, and when I nibbled her nipples, Belinda gasped and pulled my face down tighter.  

“Suck them, just a little.”

I did and Belinda moaned.

“Oh…more.”

I nibbled and sucked her other nipple as I stroked down her side to her hip and then over it to her mound.  Belinda spread her legs wider when my fingertips touched her soft lips.  She moaned louder when I stroked the separation between them.  I’d just slipped a fingertip between those lips when Belinda’s hips lurched and forced my fingertip over her clit.

“Oh Harry, I need you.”

I was surprised to find she was ready.  My fingertip touched wet warmth when I moved it down, and Belinda lurched up her hips again.  My finger slipped inside her.

I’d known a couple of women in my youth who’d gotten that wet just from seeing a movie or experiencing something emotional.  Belinda was the same, I guess.  I’d only stroked that finger in and out a few times before she reached between us for my cock.  As she pulled it to her wet lips, she whispered, “Don’t worry, you don’t need anything.  Put it in now.”

She was all slippery warmth around my cock, and began rocking her hips into my slow deep strokes.  I felt her hands on my back pulling me down tight against her body.  Her little mewing sounds and the breaths that cause them landed on my shoulder and sort of let me get lost in her body.

I’m not sure how long it really took before Belinda wrapped her legs over my back and began pulling her body into my strokes.  I know I was as deep inside her as I could get with every stroke, and that every stroke was taking me close to losing control.  

Belinda had already lost control.  With every stroke she gasped and a few strokes later began to pant.

“Oh God, Harry, don’t stop.”

Belinda got slipperier inside then, and less than a minute later, thrust her hips into my stroke and cried out.  She shuddered, then arched her back off the couch.  My cock felt the contraction in her passage and I lost it.  Belinda cried out again as the first spurt exploded from my cock and then began forcing her arched body into my strokes.  After my third spurt, she sighed and eased quietly back down, then pulled my chest tight against her breasts and whispered in my ear.

“Thank you, Harry.  I can sleep now.”

In a couple of minutes she was asleep.  I eased up off her, put the snub back on my ankle and got dressed, then went to my chair by the window.

It was almost two when the little blue subcompact pulled up two doors down.  I saw the guy get out and walk towards Belinda’s house.  His head was moving back and forth like a radar dish, but as far as I could tell, there weren’t any lights on anywhere except the street lights.  They lit up the red and white ball cap he wore.

He passed by the house far enough I couldn’t see him anymore.  I was sure tonight he was making his move.  I just wasn’t sure what that would be.  He probably wouldn’t try to break down the kitchen door.  That would have caused a lot of noise.  The windows were all locked.  I’d checked them all right after dinner.

About five minutes later, I heard a quiet little scratching sound and then a ping from Belinda’s bedroom.  A second later, I heard the window sliding up.  He’d cut the glass enough he could reach inside and unlock the window.

He was surprisingly quiet.  I didn’t hear him enter through the window.  The next thing I heard was one soft squeak as his sneakers moved over the hardwood floor in the hall.  When he got to the living room, I saw a flash of one of those tiny LED flashlights.  The narrow beam found Belinda’s naked body and he started forward.  The streetlight reflected off something in his hand.  I lifted the nine mil in his direction yelled as loud as I could..

“Police.  Stop where you are and put down the weapon.”

If you ask most cops who’ve been shot or shot at, they’ll tell you it seemed like it happened in slow motion.  That was the case that night.  I saw the guy quickly move the light in my direction and then the soft “plunk” sound of the silenced .22 and the breaking of the window behind me.  He didn’t get off a second shot.  I aimed at what I thought was his chest.  The nine mil about deafened me when I pulled the trigger twice.  Instead of dropping as I’d expected, he grabbed his left shoulder.  I heard his weapon hit the floor as he turned to run back down the hallway.  I tackled him before he got to Belinda’s bedroom again.

Belinda had screamed right after the shots and was still screaming.  I yelled at her to turn on the lights.  When they came on so I could see what I was doing, I took my knee off the guy’s back and my nine mil off the back of his head, pulled his left arm behind him and fished the handcuffs from my hip pocket.  He screamed in pain when I pulled his right arm around and cuffed that wrist.  After getting him cuffed, I used my cell phone to call for backup and the EMT’s.

Belinda brought me a towel after I asked, and I pressed it against the bullet wound in the guy’s right shoulder.  He winced, but didn’t say anything.  Belinda was still naked, and I told her to go get dressed.

A half hour later, the EMT’s had gotten the bleeding under control and
the guy and two patrolmen were in an ambulance and on the way to the hospital.  I sat Belinda down on the couch.

“OK, Belinda.  It’s time you told me what’s really going on.”

“I can’t.  They said not to tell anybody.”

“Who is they?”

“I’m not supposed to tell anybody that either.”

I was getting frustrated.  There were too many things that didn’t make any sense.  If the guy was really Edward, somebody was willing to pay a lot of money to have Brenda killed.  I wanted to know why.

“Brenda, if you can’t trust me, who can you trust?”

“I don’t know anymore.  I trusted them and they said he couldn’t find me, but he did.”

“Who the hell is they?  I have to know or this will just happen again.”

Belinda looked up at me with tears in her eyes.

“The US Marshals.  I’m in the witness protection program.”

“Why?  What did you see?”

Belinda took a deep breath.

“I told you my ex was dead.  He wasn’t my ex.  He was my husband.  They killed him?”

“The Marshalls killed him?”

“No.  It was some guy working for a drug dealer, or at least that’s what the Marshals said.  Mark was a police officer working undercover and somehow the dealer found out.  I was there when the man shot him.”

“And you saw the shooter?”

“Just for a second and I didn’t really see his face.  I ran into the living room when I heard the shots, and when I saw him, I ran out the kitchen door and to the neighbor’s house and called 911.  The Marshals thought I might be able to identify him if I saw him again.  They were also sure he saw me and would try to keep that from happening.  That’s why they put me in the witness protection program.”

“Why didn’t you call them instead of the police?”

“When they put me in the program, they said it was impossible that anyone could find me but he did.  They were the only ones who knew where I was.  I thought they might have told him, and if I called them they wouldn’t do anything.  Mark had told me he’d seen that happen before in the police department.”

I took Belinda to the station with me to write my report.  I was half-finished when a guy in a black suit walked up to my desk.  He looked at Belinda and said, “Belinda, are you all right?”  She said she was.  The guy turned to me and showed me his badge..

“Detective Ames, I’m Agent Walt Sheppard, FBI.  I hear you caught our guy.”

I was pissed.  I don’t like federal agents anyway, and they’d almost gotten Belinda killed.  Still, department policy said I had to play nice.  I shrugged.

“I caught somebody trying to kill Belinda.  I don’t know who he really is, but I think he’s Edward Gibson.”

Walt smiled.

“And you would be thinking right.  We took his prints at the hospital and matched his right thumb print to the partial from the New Mexico killing.  He’s in interrogation right now.  It’s a good thing you didn’t kill him, or we wouldn’t know what we already know.”

“I was doing my best to kill him.   I was just off a little because it was dark.”

“Well, that’s a good thing.  He’s talking, and he’s clearing up several ongoing investigations.  I think that might have something to do with my agent telling him we’d make sure the Sinaloa cartel heard he’s in custody and where.  The folks at the DEA say there’s a five million dollar price on his head.  

“He admitted to the New Mexico killing along with a couple other unsolved murders as well as the attempted murder of Belinda here in exchange for imprisonment where no cartel members can get to him.  I really doubt there’s any prison where that’s possible.  They’ve got connections in every federal prison in the US, but we promised him anyway.  I’d give him six months to a year before he’s found dead in his cell or on the exercise yard.

“Anyway, he also said nobody hired him to kill Belinda.  That was his own doing.  He saw her when he killed her husband and thought she saw him.  He was just tidying up loose ends.”

“She said she was told nobody could find her.  How did he?”

Walt looked grim.

“I don’t like admitting it, but there was a leak in the US Marshall’s organization.  He told us he paid twenty thousand for the information to one of the people who had access to her file.  That person is being arrested as we speak.”

Walt turned to Belinda.

“Belinda, you should be safe now.  He won’t get out of prison until he’s a very old man, and it’s likely somebody will kill him before that.  You can go back to being Marcy if you want or you can keep being Belinda.  Of course, the subsidy you’ve been getting will stop now, and you’ll have to find another place to live.”

I shook Walt’s hand before he left, and when he walked out the door, I turned to Belinda.

“Do I call you Belinda or do I call you Marcy?”

“I don’t know yet.  I have a lot to think about.  I’ve been scared for two years and now I don’t have to be.  That’s a lot to get my head around.”

“Need some help doing that?”

She smiled.

“I think I need to do that by myself, at least for a while.”

I took her to a motel that night and told her to call me if she needed anything.  When I went back to her house the next afternoon to find out what happened to my other shot so I could include that in my report, I checked the closets and the dresser drawers and they were empty.

After finding out my second shot had been high and just punched a hole in the wall, I called the motel.  They told me she’d checked out at six that morning.  I went back to the station and finished my report.  The Captain looked at it and then tossed it on his desk.

“The guy from the FBI says you did a great job and he’s writing you an official  commendation.  They’ve been looking for Edward for several years.  From what I gather, he’s admitted to being the shooter in several other cases.  How would a promotion sound to you?  I’ll put your name in for Lieutenant unless you have a problem with that.  You’d have to wait for an opening, of course, but with the FBI’s recommendation, you’d be the first chosen.”

I said that would be fine with me.  He shook my hand and thanked me before I left his office.

I didn’t have any cases on my desk when I got back there, so I went home.  I’d gotten a little sleep that morning, but I was still beat.  I was so tired, I made a wrong turn and ended up in front of Belinda’s house without even realizing it. After cursing myself for being that stupid, I went home.  Dinner was spaghetti and meatballs out of a can.  About eight I fell asleep watching a movie and wondering where Belinda or Marcy or whatever she was calling herself now had gone.

Most people think cops are hard asses with no feelings.  That’s because we’re taught at the academy to have what’s called a “command presence”.  We act that way to intimidate people who’ve done something illegal so they’ll think twice about trying anything.  We’re also taught to present that image to people who need help so they’ll feel safer and more confident in us.

In reality, cops have feelings just like everyone else.  We just learn to hide them pretty well after a few years.  I was trying like hell to ignore what was going through my head about Belinda, but it wouldn’t leave.

The first day was hell.  I couldn’t concentrate on much of anything.  It was with difficulty that I managed to investigate a liquor store robbery and murder that had happened the night before, and I got through it only because it didn’t require much investigating.  The liquor store had four security cameras that recorded the whole thing.  A customer who had hidden behind a display when the robbery went down said he’d seen the guy.  I took him down to the station and had him look at pictures of the local bad boys.  He found the guy after half an hour of looking.  The mug shot matched the face in the videos.

I had a couple of patrol officers go out to pick him up for questioning.  They hadn’t found him by the end of my shift so I went home to a frozen TV dinner and some more thinking.

It was probably better for us both that Belinda had gone.  I did miss her, but I figured that was normal seeing as how she was the only woman I’d spent much time with in years.  I was smart enough to know how I think, and she’d just slipped past my guard that one night.

I didn’t think she felt anything for me either and especially not since she’d been married to a cop and saw him get killed.  Hooking up with another cop would have been crazy.  Making love to her that night wasn’t really making love.  It was just her way of taking her mind off her situation and I was handy.  Since she didn’t feel anything for me, we’d eventually part anyway.

Day two was better, and by Friday, I was almost back to my old self again.  I was still wondering what happened to her, but it was more like when you think about an old high school friend you haven’t seen since graduation.  I was thinking maybe cops are hard asses after all.

I was on my way home on Friday three weeks later when Jackie stopped me.  

“Harry, this woman just called and asked if I’d relay a message to you.  She asked if you’d meet her at some place called “Heels” at five after seven tonight.”

The hope I’d chased into the back of my mind popped out of it’s hiding place.

“Did she give you a name?”

“No, she just said she’d be wearing a pink top so you’d recognize her.”

At seven I pulled my car up to the curb four doors down from Heels and got out.  Like I’d done before, I walked to the door and waited.  At five after I opened the door to go in and almost ran over the little brunette coming out.  She was wearing a pink blouse and pulling one of those big roll-around suitcases.

“Belinda?”

“No, my name is Marcy, Marcy Robbins.”

“Are you the woman who called the station and said she’d be wearing a pink top?”

Marcy smiled.

“Yes, that was me.”

“Do you have any identification…just so I know who I’m talking to?”

Marcy dug in her purse and pulled out a driver’s license.  It looked new to me.  I studied the picture, then looked at Marcy, then back at the license.

“What’s your birthday?”

“March the tenth, nineteen seventy three.

I smiled.

“Well, I guess it’s you.  Do you work here?”

“Not any more. I just came by to quit.”

“How can I help you?”

Marcy looked down at her shoes.

“I lost somebody before I realized I cared a lot about him.  I thought maybe you’d help me find him.”

“I’ll need a description.  What does he look like?”

“He looks a whole lot like you.”

I gently lifted her chin.

“Marcy, do you really want to find this guy?”

“I’m hoping I can.  I like him.”

“I’m pretty sure he likes you too.”

“I thought you said you didn’t feel that way about me.”

“Well, at the time I was trying to keep you alive.  Now that I don’t have to do that anymore, I’d sort of like to get to know Marcy.”

“Can we go someplace and talk?”

The coffee shop was nearly deserted.  I ordered two cups, then asked Marcy how she’d been doing.  She frowned.

“Not very well.  When the witness protection program drops you, they drop you pretty hard.  All they did was get me a driver’s license as Marcy Robbins, a replacement Social Security Card, and a copy of my birth certificate.  I had to leave the house the next day, and except for the five hundred dollars they gave me, I didn’t have any money to speak of.  I took a bus back to my parents house  to try to get my life together.  That didn’t turn out like I’d hoped either.

“When they put you in witness protection they don’t tell anybody the truth about where you’ve gone.  That’s so anybody looking for you can’t find out where you are.  You just disappear.  They also won’t tell you if anything happens to your family so you won’t try to contact them.  When I got to Mom and Dad’s house, somebody else was living there.  

“I used Belinda as my name and said I was looking for the people who used to live there.  All the woman knew was they’d bought the house from an estate after both the man and wife passed away.

“I guess I should have expected they might be gone because they were both almost eighty, but it still hit me pretty hard.  I know it sounds weird, but I went to the cemetery to sort of say goodbye.  I found their headstone and next to it, another with my name on it.  I guess that’s the story the Marshals told my parents so they’d have some type of closure.”

She picked up her coffee and took a sip.

“Anyway, I was an only child, so there was nobody left for me there.  I took the bus back here, rented the cheapest motel room I could find, and started looking for a job.  It took me two weeks, but I finally found one.  My money ran out the day before I got my first paycheck, but I’m OK as far as money goes now.  I’m not OK about some other things.”

“What would those other things be.”

“Well, just two really.  I don’t want to go back to that fleabag motel room.  That’s why I have my suitcase.  I saw a roach in the bathroom this morning and the whole place is just creepy.  I need another place to live.

“That shouldn’t be hard to fix.  What’s your other problem?”

Marcy looked down at the table.

“You.”

“How am I a problem?”

“I’m trying to figure out if what I feel is because I don’t have anybody else or if it’s real.”

I reached over the table and put my hand on hers.

“I’m sort of having the same problem with you.”

Marcy looked up at me.  I saw a tear trickle down her cheek.

“Do you think there’s a chance?  I mean, we hardly know each other.”

“Let’s go to my place and continue this.  You’ll have a place to stay until we can figure this out.  I want to get to know this Marcy person better.  What’s she like?”

“She’s just like Belinda except she doesn’t work in a strip club.  She’s an accountant.”

“An accountant and a cop.  That’s a real pair.  I won’t know how to act with an accountant.”

She grinned.

“I can dress up like a bar maid again if that helps.”

Marcy stayed with me that night and kept on staying.  She’s still a little hesitant about anything permanent, but I guess if I’d been through what she has, I’d be pretty careful too.  She’d been married to one cop and saw what can happen in that profession.  I’ve told her I’m too old to do undercover work, and she’s coming around to the idea.  I don’t care how long it takes her as long as she stays with me.  I liked Belinda, but I can’t imagine life without Marcy.

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