A Fighting Chance

The old Smith & Wesson 19 had sat in my bottom desk drawer for almost twenty years.  I did carry it for a couple of years after I got it from Walt’s widow.  That was before I decided I really didn’t need to have an extra two pounds hanging from my shoulder.

The blue on the front sight was completely gone now and every sharp edge and a couple places on the cylinder were steel-colored instead of the deep blue it had once been. That’s what all those years of sitting in a holster does to any blued gun.  I was cleaning it and getting ready to wear it again, at least until I got finished with this job.

Walt was a cop I’d admired from the time I was about ten.  He patrolled the neighborhood where I grew up, and as long as we behaved ourselves he never hassled us kids. I played with my buddies all over the neighborhood back then, and my parents weren’t worried because Walt and the other cops kept the neighborhood safe.  All I had to do was be home in time for dinner.  Walt would drive by as we were playing catch in the park or riding our bikes, and he’d always yelp the siren on the patrol car and then wave.

I did have one run-in with him when I was fifteen.  You know how it is when you’re a fifteen year old boy and the testosterone has kicked in.  You think you’re a real badass and can take on anybody.  That “anybody” for me was Sean O’conner.

Sean was as Irish as they come, and had the red hair and a temper to prove it.  One Saturday while we were playing basketball in the park, he ran over me and knocked me down.  I got up, looked at the scrape on my elbow, and then lit into him with all I had.  

It was a pretty even match.  Sean was a little taller and heavier, but he was leaving his belly open.  He could keep me from getting too close unless he threw a punch at my head.  I’d duck that punch and hit him in the gut as hard as I could. I had a bloody nose from a couple of punches he did connect with, but every time I punched him in the gut, he’d double up for a few seconds.

We’d been at it for a couple of minutes when I heard a police siren.  Walt squealed the tires when he stopped, then jumped out and ran up to us.  Walt was a pretty big guy, and he grabbed us both by the shirt collar and pulled us apart, then shook the living shit out of us until we stopped fighting him.  He didn’t mince words when he told us we were in trouble.

“What the fuck do you two think you’re doing?  I oughta haul both your goddammed asses down to the station.  What the hell started this anyway?”

We both tried to explain at the same time, but Walt wasn’t having any of that.  He let go of my collar and then grabbed my by the front of my shirt.

“Did you start this shit like Sean says?”

“Well, he knocked me down.”

Walt smiled.

“That’s all?  He knocked your ass down so you figured you’d knock his ass down too.  What if I kick your ass right now?  What the fuck would you do?”

Walt didn’t wait for me to answer.  He just swung his heavy cop shoe and booted me in the ass.  Looking back now, he probably didn’t kick me that hard, but it felt like it then.  He pulled me back up straight and pushed his face so close to mine I could smell the cigars on his breath.

“OK, Harry, I just kicked your ass.  You gonna try to kick mine now?”

I don’t remember being afraid of Walt when he said that, but I was embarrassed all to hell and I couldn’t look him in the face.

“No, Sir.”

Walt looked at Sean then and pulled him close enough his nose was almost touching Sean’s.

“You run over Harry like he said?”

Sean looked at the ground.

“Yeah, I suppose so, but he was in my way.”

Walt shoved me back about ten feet and then yelled at Sean.

“Well, I’m in your fucking way now.  Go ahead, try to run over me.  Don’t grin at me, you little shit.  You’re bigger than Harry, so you thought you could do whatever you want to him.  Well, I’m bigger than you, so let’s see how fucking tough you really are.”

Sean stopped grinning then.  He just looked at Walt, and for a second, I thought he was going to cry.

Walt laughed.

“Not gonna fucking do it, are you, ‘cause you know I’ll kick your ass so hard you’ll be shittin’ through your nose.”

Walt let go of Sean then and his voice got softer.

“All right, you two banty roosters, listen to me.  Fights never solve anything.  The loser always wants another shot at the winner, and sometimes that ends up with one of them hurt bad and sometimes one ends up being dead.

“Sean, I know your dad because he has a beer in the same bar I do every Friday night.  Harry, I know your dad too.  He works down at the courthouse and we’ve had a few talks while I was waiting to testify in court.  They’re both proud of their sons, but I know both of them would take a belt to you if I told them what happened here today.

“If you shake hands and apologize to each other, I won’t say anything to either of them, but if I even hear of this happening again, I’ll haul your asses off to jail and then I’ll call your dads to come get you.  I’ll wait for a couple of hours though, so you can meet some guys in holding who thought they were big and tough until they fucked up bad enough they got caught.  When your dads get there, we’ll walk down to the morgue so you can see what happens to some of the tough guys who weren’t as tough as they thought.”

Well, Sean and I shook hands and said we were sorry.  Walt got back in his patrol car, but he waited to leave until we started playing basketball again.  Sean didn’t run over me again, and we never fought about anything from that day on.  He ended up buying that same bar a few years ago, and when I stop in for a scotch, he reminds me of that fight.  We both have a laugh at how fucking dumb we were back then.

Walt carried the Smith on his ankle for thirty years while he was in uniform, and then for another ten until he had a heart attack.  About three years before he passed away, I started my PI business, and once in a while, I’d go over and ask for his advice about something.  He was always happy to see me, and he always asked if Sean and I were still friends.

After Walt’s funeral, I walked up to Brenda, Walt’s widow, and said the usual stuff everybody always says at funerals only I really meant it.  She held my hand and smiled.

“Harry, Walt always said you were one of his successes, and he was so proud of that.  Come by the house in a few days.  He left something he wanted you to have.”

Three days later, Brenda handed me the Smith and a box of cartridges.

“Walt told me to give this to you when he died.  He thought you might understand why he wanted you to have it.”

Well, I did understand, because when I was just starting out, Walt had told me why he carried the Smith on his ankle.

“Back in ‘66, when I was just a rookie cop, I thought I could talk people into coming with me when I arrested them and usually it worked.  Then one day, a guy decided to wrestle with me, and he managed to get my service revolver out of my holster.  If my backup hadn’t pulled up right then and shot the guy, I’d have been dead.  

“A lot of the cops carried a backup gun of some sort, usually something small like a .32 or a .38 short back then.  You know, what they used to call a Saturday Night Special.  I didn’t think I needed one, but after that, I realized I’d have been a lot better off if I had one.  I mean, if Harold had been only a minute later getting there…

“I carried a Smith and Wesson Model 19 with a four inch barrel on my service belt.  That was standard issue at the time and it was a great revolver.  Never had a failure even though it just sat in my holster most of the time and I only cleaned and oiled it once a year after qualification.  I was reading a magazine about a week after that, and saw Smith and Wesson was making a Model 19 with a short barrel.  That really sounded like a great backup gun.  I wouldn’t have to carry different ammunition, and it would handle about the same as my service revolver.  I bought one the next day, and I’ve carried it on my ankle ever since.”

I’d been shot at one time since becoming a PI, and when I told Walt about it, he just smiled.

“You must have pissed off somebody and he wants pay you back.  That’s why I still carry my Smith on my ankle.  I have more than my share of guys I put in jail who’d like to get even.  With the Smith, I at least have a fighting chance.”

I could believe what Walt said.  While he’d gone easy on Sean and me that day, that wasn’t the reputation Walt carried around with him.  In addition to his service revolver, handcuffs and other stuff on his service belt, Walt carried a sap, a doubled, heavy leather strap about nine inches long.  On one end was a wrist loop, and on the other, the two layers of leather were sewn into a pouch filled with lead shot.  Saps are small and easy to conceal, but even a medium blow anywhere can make somebody reconsider resisting.  A hard blow can break bones including somebody’s ribs or skull if you hit them hard enough.

Today, you see cops on the TV reality shows wrestling with some dip-shit trying to get him into a pair of cuffs.  It usually takes more than one, and eventually they get the guy under control, but even if they use a Taser, often the cops get scraped up and bruised as bad as the guy they’re trying to cuff.  

Walt didn’t fuck around like that.  He’d just pull out that sap and whack the guy until he stopped fighting.  Walt’s favorite spot was a tap behind the ear, not enough to break the guy’s skull, but enough he went to sleep for a while.  Today, that would be called police brutality.  Back then, it was just a common way to subdue some asshole who thought he could fight hard enough to get away.

Walt didn’t give a shit who or what you were either.  He’d hauled in criminals of all races and backgrounds, from the ten-buck hookers on the street corner a dozen blocks from my house to the Assistant Director of City Planning who thought his position made his activities with several underage girls exempt from investigation.  

Walt was actually pretty nice with the hookers as long as they went along quietly and they usually did.  They knew they’d be back on the street in a day, so they didn’t resist.   Walt knew they’d be back on the street in a day so he didn’t hassle them.  After a few years of him arresting them, they’d just smile and joke they’d give him a freebee if he’d let them go, and then get into the police van.  

Most of them even liked him after he made Sergeant, because he’d always let them get dressed before he let his team take them to the station.  Before that, they’d be crammed into a van with whatever they had on, and sometimes that wasn’t much.  The guys downtown liked seeing naked tits and asses, but I guess even hookers can have some modesty.

He apparently wasn’t very nice with the Assistant Director.  What Walt told me was the guy had some trouble walking on his own because he’d kicked him in the crotch three times when he arrested him.  When the Precinct Captain asked him what happened, Walt grinned and said, “Well, Captain, he was trying to run on me and that sure stopped him from running.  Would you rather I’d shot him in the nuts instead?”

No, Walt wouldn’t make it in today’s environment, but he took a lot of bad guys off the street so they didn’t hurt anybody else.  Even though his methods were a little harsh, I had to respect him for his results.  I had to respect him too for teaching me that fighting wouldn’t get me anywhere, like he did that day.

I was twenty-four when Brenda gave me Walt’s old Smith, and I’d been a PI for almost three years.  I hadn’t seriously thought about a gun because none of the cases I was getting really put me in any sort of danger.  As soon as I was back in my office and picked up the Smith though, I had visions of turning myself into that tough as nails, don’t fuck with me, kind of PI I’d seen in the movies.  I went to the Nashville PD and convinced them that since I had a state license to be a PI, I also needed to be able to carry a gun.  

At that time, none of the goddamned bullshit laws about guns had fucked up everything.  They’d already run my prints when I got my PI license so after I filled out their fucking form, they issued me a permit.  I bought a shoulder holster just like the PI’s on TV wore, and put it on every day under my suit jacket.

Now, I wasn’t dumb enough to believe I could hit even some fat son of a bitch if I didn’t get in some range time, so I bought a membership in one of the local ranges, took one lesson, and then ran about ten boxes of cartridges through the Smith.  By the time I was done, I could hit a standard silhouette target in the kill zone with about all my shots at three yards and about three-fourths of my shots at the seven yard target.

I considered that good enough.  The Smith only has a two and a half inch barrel and the sights pretty much suck.  Well, the sights are actually pretty good – the rear is adjustable and all that, but they’re so close together if you’re a little off at the sights you’re a long way off at the target.  It’s not too bad at three yards, but you have to really watch it at seven. I did shoot targets at the fifteen yard distance for a while, and I could hit a silhouette often enough the bad guy would have had a really fucked up day, but he probably wouldn’t be down for the count.

One day in August, it was hot as hell outside and I was sitting on a park bench and watching a guy I was following.  I’d sweat through my undershirt and my dress shirt and the armpits of my suit jacket felt damp.  My tie was choking me and sweat kept running down into my eyes.  I couldn’t take off my jacket without showing the Smith in the shoulder holster, so all I could do was sit there and sweat some more.

That night, after the asshole didn’t met the broad his wife thought he was fucking, I went home, took off everything, and stood in the shower for half an hour to cool out.  Over a double scotch and a couple cigarettes, I cleaned the Smith, oiled it, and put it and my two speed loaders in the bottom drawer of my desk along with the shoulder holster I’d bought and the ankle holster I’d gotten from Brenda.  That’s where it stayed until I got into this case.

The next day, I put on a T-shirt and jeans, and put on a ball cap.  It was still hot as hell, but at least I wasn’t wearing the equivalent of a winter coat.  That’s how I’ve dressed since, except sometimes I wear a button up shirt and when it gets cold outside, I’m smart enough to wear a jacket or coat.

I haven’t just let the Smith sit and gather dust.  About once a month, I head out to that same range and burn up a couple of boxes of .38 Special and a box of .357 mags.  It keeps my skills up and it’s relaxing because I imagine the targets are some of the asshole people I’ve had to deal with.  Every couple months or so, I’ll buy a box of Federal Hydro-Shoks and make sure they still hit where I’m aiming.  

That’s what I keep the Smith loaded with in my desk drawer.  They’re more expensive and there are a lot of hotter cartridges out there, but they have reasonable velocity and penetration from a short barrel and without as much muzzle climb as those hotter rounds.  They expand well so if I ever had to use them, they probably wouldn’t go through the asshole and hurt somebody else.  He’d probably quickly have a change of heart about doing anything to me too.

The reason I was getting ready to saddle up the Smith again was because of the current case I was working on.  It wasn’t my usual type of case.  There wasn’t some guy whose wife thought he was screwing somebody else, and I wasn’t looking to find some woman who said “fuck it all”, and decided to start a new life without her family.  This one involved a woman, but it was a case that proved to be pretty unusual.  Diane Moss was shaky as hell when she told me what she needed.

“I just got out of prison or I’d do this myself, but if I do anything even a little wrong, they’ll send me back.  I can’t go back there.  Those women are horrible.  They kept making me do things with them that were…well, you know what lesbians do to each other.

“Well, I’d never…I mean, I like men and I thought most women did, but I guess when you’re in prison for a long time, you’ll take anything you can get.  I wasn’t that way, not at all, not ever, but when one woman holds you down…  It was almost every day for three years.  I just can’t go through that again.”

I asked why she’d been sent to prison.  Diane looked at her lap for a while and then took a deep breath.

“I’m not very proud of that.  Do I have to tell you?”

I shrugged.

“I don’t know yet, because I don’t know what you want me to do.  It might be important and it might not. I won't know until I hear both.”

Diane squeezed her hands together for a couple of seconds, and then looked at me.

“It’s because of one I need you to do the other.  You won’t believe me, but I can’t go anywhere else.  I tried telling my parole officer, but he said the state had already proved their case so they wouldn’t do any more investigation and if I wanted that my only option was a detective agency.  I tried three other detective agencies.  They told me they don’t do that type of investigation and that I should go to the police.  When I went to the courthouse for my last parole meeting, I overheard a woman in the elevator talking about what you did for her, so I asked her for your name.  That’s why I’m here.”

I really wanted Diane to just tell me what the hell she wanted me to do, but like all women I’ve ever dealt with, there’s no such thing as a short path to what they want.  They have to explain and then explain their explanation and after that, maybe, just maybe, they’ll actually tell you what the hell they want in few enough words you can actually make fucking sense out of what they’re saying.  

My ex was like that.  On the rare occasions she actually wanted to be fucked, and those were few and far between, I’d be out of the mood by the time she got around to saying that.  Instead of just telling me to fuck her, she had to go on and on about how she thought her ass was too big and her tits were too small and didn’t I think it was unfair to judge a woman by the size of her tits and ass.  

I learned after the first few times to just let her blabber away.  If I said her tits weren’t little and her ass wasn’t big, she’d start talking about how all men would say that but never meant it and just said it so they could fuck the woman because that’s all men ever want to do with a woman.  Saying her tits were little and her ass was big but I didn’t care just made her keep jabbering away about how I didn’t really mean that because if I did I’d be fucking her instead of talking to her.  

I never really understood that logic since she was the one doing all the talking, but I guess I’m just a fucking bastard like she said at the divorce hearing.  I didn’t understand that logic either, because I wasn’t fucking any other woman at the time, and I sure as shit wasn’t fucking her very often.

Honest to God, you’d think when women are in trouble they’d have sense enough to stop running their goddamned mouths and get to the point, but I guess that’s too much to expect.  

Anyway, Diane finally did get to the point.

“I was a teller in a bank, and I banked at the same bank.  I’d been there about a year when one day the bank manager called me into his office.  When I walked in there, there was a police officer standing there too.  The bank manager asked me what I’d done with all the money I’d stolen from other people.

“I didn’t know what he was talking about and that’s what I told him.  He just laughed and said he had all the proof and he’d sworn out a complaint and the officer was going to take me to jail.

“I didn’t have enough money to hire a lawyer so the court appointed one.  Mr. Graves wasn’t much of a lawyer.  He showed me all the evidence they were going to use against me and said I’d be better off to plead guilty because I’d get a lighter sentence that way.

“At first, I didn’t want to do that because I wasn’t guilty of anything.  Mr. Graves started explaining the evidence then, and I could see why he wanted me to plead guilty.

“What they had were several deposits into my checking account that were really deposits that should have gone into another account.  A day after the deposit, there would be a check written to my account for the same amount, so my account balance was always what it should have been.  I use my debit card a lot, and I signed up for paperless statements, so when I looked at my account on the website, all I ever looked at was the beginning and ending balance at the top of the web page.  They always were the same as the records I kept, so I didn’t see any need to look at each and every entry.

“What Mr. Grave said it would look like to a jury was that I’d been taking checks from people and using my account number for the deposits instead of theirs and then writing a check for cash and taking the money back out. He said the total amount was over nine thousand dollars and the bank had found out when one of the customers came in mad.  He wanted to know how his bank account could be overdrawn when he’d just deposited his paycheck.

“I still didn’t want to plead guilty, and Mr. Graves said he’d be willing to take my case to trial if I could prove I hadn’t done it.  He said that was going to be hard to do since my employee number was on every deposit and they had photocopies of every check and every check had my signature.

“I argued with him for an hour before I gave up.  I pled guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison.  I got out in three because of good behavior, but I still have a year of probation before I’m completely done.  That’s why I can’t do this myself.  I can’t do anything even a little illegal or they’ll send me back to prison.”

I frowned when she said that last statement.  There are a lot of people who watch too many TV shows about private detectives and get the idea we just do what the hell we feel like doing to solve a case.  That’s not true at all.  We have to abide by every law and statue on the books, just like everybody else.  If we don’t we’ll lose our license as well as probably go to jail.

“Miss Alexander, I don’t want to bust your bubble, but I can’t do anything illegal either.”

She frowned.

“I thought…well, I guess I was wrong.  I’m sorry to have taken up your time.”

I stopped her when she started to get up.  Every fucking criminal who gets sent to prison always says they’re innocent, but for one main reason, I believed her.  I knew George Graves because I’d seen him in action in court.  The asshole would have let fifteen guys fuck him in the ass on the court house steps rather than say anything in court that might indicate he was trying to help his client.  Most of the clients he got were guilty as hell, but he should at least have tried for a reduction in class of the crime or a reduced sentence even if the scumbag didn’t deserve it.  That’s why public defenders get paid.

“Miss Alexander, sit back down and tell me everything you know about what happened.  I don’t know if I can help you yet, but I’m willing to listen.”

The more I heard, the more the whole fucking thing smelled.  At first glance, everything seemed to point to Diane being some master criminal who’d figured out how to take peoples money, but she didn’t seem that way to me.  She seemed like just a normal woman, a little wordy like they all are, but I couldn’t picture her laughing hysterically while she stuck wads of cash under her mattress.  I’d asked her if they’d recovered any of the money and she shook her head.

“No, and that’s another reason I didn’t want to plead guilty.  I thought they’d have to find what I did with the money if I stole it, but Mr. Graves said they had enough evidence without the money.  As far as I know, they never found it.”

That didn’t make sense to me.  If somebody steals your debit card or writes phony checks on your account, the law says the bank has to reimburse all the missing funds except for fifty dollars if you notify them within a certain time period.  Nine grand wouldn’t be a lot for the bank in question to lose, but bankers tend to be tight-fisted bastards, and I didn’t think any bank manager would let nine grand slip through his hands without trying to find the missing money.  

In my experience, actually just one case where I did the investigating, the bank wanted to get as much information as they could on every bank employee.  They had all the transaction records.  I was looking for things like new cars, a new swimming pool, or an expensive vacation that didn’t look right considering how much that employee was paid.

Two other things bothered me as well.  

One was the fucking stupidity of trying to embezzle money from a bank.  Banks don’t have people running adding machines to keep track of accounts any more.  They have computers and because of all the identity theft that’s occurred, those computers constantly check every account for unusual activity.  Some banks have been known to freeze an account if that activity looks very far from normal.  At the very least, they’ll send a letter or an email to the account holder and ask them to verify the account entries are valid.  Any teller would know that, and only somebody dumb as a fucking rock would think they’d get away with it.  Diane seemed to be a pretty intelligent woman.

The other thing was that the bank didn’t find the problem until a bank customer reported it.  I was sure the bank computer would have flagged the account because of the number and type of transactions.  If that flag wasn’t discovered, it had to be because no one was looking, or they saw the flag and didn’t say anything.  

Diane finished and then frowned.

“I haven’t convinced you, have I?”

I smiled.

“Actually, you have.  The whole thing stinks.”

“So you’ll help me?”

I nodded.

“Yes, I’ll help you.  Uh…my fee is three hundred a day with two days in advance.  Can you manage that?”

Diane was still frowning.

“They took all my money to pay the bank back, and I don’t have a job yet.  I’ll have to borrow some money from my mother, but she believes I didn’t do it so that shouldn’t be a problem.  Can I bring it to you in a couple days?”

I said that would be fine, and while she was waiting, she should write down the names of all the bank employees and bring the list with her.  Diane was smiling a little when she left.

Normally, I’d have waited to start until I had that two-day advance in hand.  There are some people who change their mind and decide six hundred is too much to pay to get what they want.  I do run a business even though most people wouldn’t consider it a real business, and I do need to get paid for my time when I’m working on a case.

This one bothered me though.  After a lot of years of talking to people, I can pretty much tell when I’m being lied to, and I hadn’t seen any of the usual signs with Diane.  Her body language told me she was telling me the truth, or at least the truth as she knew it.  There can be a difference, but what she’d told me she’d been accused of didn’t seem like something she’d do.  

There was a quick and easy way to check part of her story.  I picked up my cell phone and called Dave Mitchell, a PI who manages one of the biggest agencies in Nashville.

I asked Dave if a woman had asked his agency to investigate a case of bank fraud.  He said yes, but they’d told her they didn’t do that sort of investigation and she should go to the police.

I didn’t bother to call any other agencies.  One was enough to tell me Diane was being as honest as she knew how to be.

Diane showed back up the next afternoon with six hundred in cash and a list of bank employees.  We didn’t talk very long because she’d found a job and she had to go to work.  It was just working tables at a bar across town, but she said if she got as many tips as the other girls said they did, she’d be able to pay her mother back in a month or so.  I guess she figured I’d have her case solved in two days.  I wasn’t quite that optimistic.

I started this case just like I did the other bank case.  I looked up the address of every person on Diane’s list and then spent a few hours one evening driving by where they lived.  I didn’t see anything I thought was unusual.  I mean, all the houses were nice houses, but they weren’t extravagant.  I’d picked the evening to do my drive-by because it was a Tuesday and everybody would have been home.  Most of the cars in the drives were late models, but not new.  It was true that three years had passed, so maybe one of the cars had been bought with the money, but the more I thought about it, that didn’t seem plausible.

Nine grand probably seemed like a lot of money to Diane.  It was probably about a quarter of what she earned in a year, but in reality, nine grand won’t buy you much in the way of luxury.  Anymore, nine grand just makes a decent down payment on a luxury car or truck unless you want to finance it until the wheels fall off, and nine grand sure as hell won’t make a down payment on a house.  Hell, in some parts of Nashville, nine grand wouldn’t even make the down payment on a building lot.

No, if the money had been spent, it probably went to something smaller and easier to hide.  Art was a possibility, but with the exception of the bank manager, a Mr. Todd Burke, I didn’t figure any of the other employees would spend money on art or anything else that wasn’t at least a little practical.  There were a lot of possibilities for practical things the thief could have bought, but I’d have to get into each house some way to find out if they had a giant screen TV or some other thing that cost a lot more than it looked like they could afford.

On Saturday, I started doing what I usually do when I want to snoop in somebody’s house.  I put on my white uniform shirt that says “CUMBERLAND PEST CONTROL” on the back and has my name, Harry, over the right front pocket.  I drove to Rosie Clark’s house, picked up my clipboard and put on my ball cap with the big cockroach on the front, and then rang her doorbell.

Evidently Rosie liked to sleep in.  It was about nine, but she was still in her pajamas, or at least, I figured they were her pajamas.  What they looked like was a sports bra and a pair of men’s boxer shorts.  She didn’t really need the bra because her little tits barely made a bump on her chest.  Her ass was a different matter entirely.  It was pretty wide, but her boxer shorts were wider yet, and it looked like if she moved very fast, they’d fall off.  In front, they dipped low enough I was pretty sure she shaved her pussy.

I went into the spiel designed to get me a tour of the house.

“Miss Clark, I’m Harry Jones.  Weuns down at Cumberland Pest Control are havin’ us a marketing campaign to git our name out in the city.  We just got started after we quit one of them big companies to start our own.  You know how them big companies work, don’t you?  Well, they bring termites or ants or spiders with ‘em and let ‘em loose when you’re not looking.  Then they’ll show you them critters and you’ll want ‘em gone and they’ll sign you up for them to come out every month for a year and spray their stuff around.  Their stuff don’t work all that good, but that’s on purpose.  Them critters they let loose don’t go nowhere an’ they get more critters getting’ in your house, so you keep ‘em comin’ out to spray.

“That bothered me and Jake.  I mean, we’s both men who go to church on Sunday an’ the Bible says it just ain’t right to fool people that way.  We quit and started us a business you can trust.  To git your trust, we’re givin’ away a free inspection of your house for any kind of critter you can think of.  

“Even if we find some critters, you don’t have to sign up for nothin’.  We’ll even tell you what to buy at the grocery store to kill them critters.  It won’t be as good as if we do it, ‘cause we can get stuff you can’t, but that’ll be up to you.  What do you think?  Wanna give me a look around?”

Rosie yawned, scratched her ass, pulled up her boxers, and then motioned me inside.  As we walked from room to room, I took notes on my clipboard, but they weren’t notes anybody but me would understand.  As it was, I didn’t take many notes at Rosie’s house.  She didn’t have anything that looked new, and when I looked in the garage I didn’t see a boat or anything like that.  

When we got done, I said I hadn’t found anything but she should call us if she ever did.  The business card I gave her had the number of my desk phone, the same phone that would put the call to the answering machine that I’d put the Cumberland Pest Control greeting on that morning.  If she called, she’d just hear what I’d already told her.

I spent the morning working my way through the list.  I was trying to save myself some miles by working my way around the city instead of going from one side to the other, so the bank manager’s house was next.  The bank manager answered the door and wouldn’t let me get into my spiel.  He scowled at me and then said “Get your goddamned ass off my property before I call the police”.  

Well, that confirmed my general opinion of bank managers and also raised some flags.  I was playing my pest control guy as polite and friendly, and I could have accepted, “I already have someone on contract”, or, “Before you start, I should tell you I’m not interested”, or some relatively polite response like that, but not a threat.  I didn’t know what Todd Burke was hiding, but he sure as hell didn’t want me looking around at anything.

I had to pull my car up in front of his garage to get turned around, and when I did, I saw the garage doors were open.  The night before, both had been open as well, and there were two cars inside.  One was a blue BMW sedan and the other was a red BMW SUV.  That day, both cars were still there, and there was a blue Chevy Impala parked on the drive as well.  

I stopped and wrote down the license numbers of the two vehicles in the garage and the Impala, and then drove out the drive.

I hit three other bank employee houses that morning and didn’t find anything that looked unusual.  At about twelve thirty, I stopped by a burger place for lunch.  I’d finished eating and was walking back to my car when I heard tires squeal.  I looked in that direction just in time to jump out of the way of a black sedan.  It went by me so fast all I caught was the fact the windows were blacked out and the license plate was missing.

Now, call me a paranoid son of a bitch if you want, but it seemed like that car was trying to run me down.  That’s what it had been the last time that happened.  I’d gotten some pictures of a guy fucking his secretary, the pictures his wife used when she divorced him.

He’d been pretty pissed because his wife basically got everything he owned except his car and the clothes on his back.  I was getting into my car in the alley behind my office when he raced by at about sixty.  He didn’t get me, but he crunched the shit out of his Acura when he hit the dumpster behind the pawn shop.  He ended up with a citation for reckless driving after I gave his license number to the Nashville police.

There didn’t appear to be any other explanation, and that meant I’d stepped on some toes that morning.  Since the bank manager was the only bank employee who’d been an ass so far, he went to the top of my list.

I’d gotten through about three fourths of the bank employees by four and decided I’d had enough for the day.  I headed back to my office/apartment and stopped for a take-out pizza along the way.  I intended to spend my evening with the pizza, some good scotch, and a few smokes.  No, not that kind of smokes.  I’m strictly anti-drug.  I only smoke regular cigarettes.

I’d finished the pizza and had poured myself another scotch when I saw the envelope sticking under my office door.  After I opened it and read the single sheet of paper it contained, I sat the scotch down and lit a cigarette before reading it again.

I’d seen something like this in an old movie, but I didn’t think anybody actually did it.  The words were all words that had been cut out of a magazine and pasted onto the paper.  Those words said, “Stop looking or you won’t live to regret it”.

Well, that put my case into an entirely different light.  First, some asshole had tried to run me down, and now somebody was threatening to kill me if I kept trying to help Diane.  That’s when I laid the cigarette in the ashtray and pulled the Smith out of my bottom desk drawer.  Like Walt had said, at least with the Smith, I’d have a fighting chance.

On Sunday, I drove over to the bank manager’s house again at about seven in the morning.  After parking up the street in a spot where I could still see the house and the garage, I saw the blue Impala was still parked in the drive.  

About nine, the front door opened and a blonde woman walked out and down the walk.  I used my camera to snap a couple of pictures of her and then watched her drive out onto the street and up the block.  An hour later, a woman walked out of the house and got into the BMW SUV.  I snapped a couple pictures of her too.  She backed out of the garage and then drove out the drive.  After another two hours, nothing had happened, so I went back home and called Diane.

When Diane got there, she apologized for how she looked.

“I didn’t get off until three in the morning and I didn’t get back to Mom’s house until almost four.  When you called, I’d only been asleep for about six hours and I was too tired to get dressed up.”

I said she didn’t have to apologize for how she looked, and it wasn’t just to make her feel better.  That first time in my office, she’d worn a conservative dress.  When she walked into my office that afternoon, she was wearing a tank top that didn’t try to hide her cleavage and jeans that looked more like they were painted on her round ass.  I thought the heels were a bit much, but then, what the hell do I know about women’s fashion.  I figured she was going to do pretty well with tips.  Hell, I’d have tipped her a couple bucks just for bringing me a drink and smiling at me.

Anyway, I showed her the pictures of the two women and asked if she knew either one of them.  It took Diane all of two seconds to point to the blonde and say, “that’s Julie Mason, the IT woman who takes care of all the computer stuff at the bank”.

Diane looked at the other picture then.

“It’s kind of dark, but I think that’s Marge Burke.  She’s Mr. Burke’s wife.  I met her at the last Christmas party I went to.”

Things were starting to make some sense now.

“Diane, did you ever hear anything about Mr. Burke and Julie?”

Diane thought for a second and then shook her head.

“No, nothing except a rumor most of us didn’t believe.”

“What was the rumor?”

“Oh, that Mr. Burke and Julie were having an affair, but nobody ever saw them together and they never looked that friendly at work.  I don’t think Marge would still be with him if he was anyway.  She seemed to be pretty shy and quiet, like I am, and I’d never stay with a man who was messing around on me.”

I sat back to think for a minute or so, and then asked Julie if she’d ever given her employee number to anybody.  She looked shocked.

“Oh no, never.  The first thing Mr. Burke told me was if I ever did, I’d be fired.”

“Who else besides you would have known your employee number.”

“Just Mr. Burke and Julie.  Mr. Burke gave me the number and Julie had to enter all my data into the computer so she’d have to have it.  Do you think they had anything to do with all this?”

I smiled.  I didn’t have it all figured out yet, but I had a pretty good idea of what happened.

“Yes, I do, and here’s what I think happened.  I think you did all those deposit transactions to the right accounts and Julie changed the account numbers to yours after you made them.  I don’t know if she did it on her own, or if she and Mr. Burke are in it together, but I think he probably knew about it.”

Diane still looked sad.

“But what about the checks.  I saw the photocopies and it is my signature on the checks.”

I was pretty sure I knew how that happened too.

“Who at the bank looks at the checks that come in and then cancels them if the account will cover the amount on the check?”

Julie shrugged.

“It varies.  Usually it’s Mae, the head teller, but if we’re busy or one of us is out, Mr. Burke does it.”

“What happens to the checks after they clear the bank?  If it’s like my bank, unless you specifically ask for the checks back, they make photocopies and then shred the checks.  All Julie had to do was copy your signature, probably from something you signed when you were hired, and then use a printer to print the checks.  The printed signature would be easy to identify, but if Mr. Burke processed them, he could just approve them, transfer the money, and then shred the checks.  The signature on a photocopy would be fuzzy enough it would look like the check had been signed with a pen.”

Diane gave me a questioning look.

“So they stole the money and made it look like I did it?”

I nodded.

“That’s what I think happened.  I can’t think of any other reason why Julie would be at his house yesterday and this morning.  That’s where I took Julie’s picture, when she walked out of the house and got into her car.  That’s where I took the other picture too, and I haven’t figured that out yet.  If Mrs. Burke’s like you say she is, I can’t imagine she’s involved in the theft, but maybe she is.

“So we can call the police and have them arrested?”

“No, not yet.  I think that’s what happened, but I can’t prove it, not yet, but I will.  There’s one other thing I need to ask you.  Did Julie have any friends at the bank, someone who talks to her a lot?”

Diane nodded.

“Yes.  She and Rosie seemed to be really good friends.  They always ate lunch together, and Rosie told me Julie had been to her house for dinner a few times.”

After Diane left, I sat down to figure out how I was going to get either Julie or Burke to give themselves away.  After three years, they were probably feeling pretty sure they’d gotten away with it.  If Rosie had called Julie and told her about a guy wanting to inspect her house, and Burke told her about the same guy coming to his house, Julie might have smelled a rat.  

That was fine with me because I needed to convince them they hadn’t gotten away with anything so they’d get nervous and fuck up in a way that would tie them to the theft.  A little pressure goes a long way sometimes, and I intended to pressure them a lot.

The only thing that had me worried was that car with the blacked out windows and the note.  Nine grand isn’t enough to kill somebody over, but if that’s what it was, pushing them hard was going to put a target on my chest.  I’d have to stay alert and be ready to use the Smith if I had to.

One thing that can really shake up a person who feels guilty about something is if they think they’re being followed.  If I’m trying to find out what that person is doing, I’ll try hard to make sure they don’t see me.  If they do, they’ll stop whatever it was they were doing, like driving to a motel for an afternoon fuckfest with their secretary or going to a swinger’s club.

What I was going to do was make it very clear I was following one of them, and I was going to start with Julie.  My experience has been that women tend to see more things around them than men, and they’re more apt to interpret what they see as being a threat.

The next morning at six, I was parked across from Julie’s house.  About eight, she walked out and got into the same blue Impala I’d seen at Burke’s house on Saturday.  I don’t think she saw me there when she backed out of her drive because she just backed out onto the street and then started in the direction of the bank.  I was on her tail by the time she turned the corner, and I stayed there.

After I’d made the same turn onto the Ellington she did, and then made the turn onto the Briley, I saw her looking in her rear view mirror.  She started taking a really odd route then, turning down residential streets and circling that block only to end up back on the street she’d turned off of.

It took her almost an hour to drive the two miles from her house to the bank because of all the turns, and by the time she turned into the bank parking lot, I knew she was getting nervous.  I pulled my car into a spot at the curb opposite the bank so she’d be sure to see me looking at her when she walked into the bank.

I knew she’d seen me after Burke drove into the parking lot in his BMW and then walked into the building.  About five minutes later, he came back out and looked across the street at me, then went back inside.  I grinned and imagined the conversation they were probably having.

I didn’t stay there all day, but a little before the bank closed, I was parked on the street again and waiting for one or both of them to come out.  Julie came out first, and when she drove out of the lot, I was on her ass again.  She didn’t try to shake me this time.  She drove straight home, hopped out of the Impala and ran inside her house.  I thought it was hilarious that she dropped her keys three times before she got the front door unlocked.

I parked across the street and sat there for the next four hours.  From time to time, I’d see the drapes on the window that faced the street open slightly when Julie looked out to see if I was still there.  On my way home, I was smiling to myself because I knew I’d shaken her up.

The next morning I followed her to work again and then parked and waited until Burke showed up.  When he did, I saw him look at my car when he got out of the BMW, and he looked at me while he walked up to the door.  He missed the door handle to the building the first time because he was still watching me, got it on the second try, and quickly stepped inside.  Yeah, I had his sorry ass shook up too.

I hung around for a while to see if either one of them would do anything, but they didn’t.  I was getting ready to leave when a police cruiser pulled into the space behind me and the officer got out.  I rolled down my window before he got there and then put both hands on my steering wheel.  I hadn’t planned on a cop showing up, but I figured that might work to my advantage if I played it right.

The cop, Officer Ted Robinson, asked for my license and registration.  I told him I had to reach into my hip pocket to get the license and saw him let his right hand drop to the holster on his belt as he nodded and said, “go ahead”.

I handed him both my driver’s license and my PI license.  He looked at the PI license and then smiled.

“We got a complaint some guy was stalking a woman at the bank.  That’s why I’m here.”

I smiled again.

“Well, that would be me, and I guess it does look like stalking, but I’m on a case.  One of the women who works in the bank has a husband who thinks she’s fucking around on him.  He hired me to watch her and see if she was or not.  If you need more proof than my license, call Roger Ames down at Nashville police headquarters.  He’ll vouch for me.”

Officer Robinson handed my two licenses back to me.

“Nah, no need to do that.  I’ve heard your name a couple times before.”

“Good things, I hope.”

He grinned.

“Yeah, for the most part.  Did you really catch that guy from Parks and Recreation fucking the Director’s wife?”

“Yeah.  He wasn’t very happy about it and neither was she, but I had pictures to prove it.”

He stuck out his hand and I shook it while he grinned again.

“They know you’re out here, so you might not get anything to take pictures of this time.  You be safe.”

I saw the curtain on the bank window close just as he walked back to his patrol car.  

I’d intended to leave, but decided to hang around for another hour.  I wanted it to look like I might be a cop in a plain car.  If they thought the police were involved, that would have them scared shitless.  After that hour, I went back home to take care of little paperwork from another case, but I was parked back in front of the bank at four.  By five, there were only two cars left in the lot, Burke’s BMW and Julie’s Impala.

I kept seeing that curtain on the bank window move from time to time and was congratulating my self for being so smart when in my rear view mirror I saw a black sedan with blacked out windows pull in to a space two cars behind me.  It looked like the same black sedan that tried to run me down at the burger place.

I was hoping the driver would get out because I couldn’t see him through the cars between us.  The driver didn’t, and I figured he was waiting until I got somewhere less public before he did.  After another half hour, I decided neither Burke nor Julie was going to go anywhere as long as I was sitting there.  I pulled out of my space and started down the street intending to stop a couple blocks away and wait for Julie to drive past on her way home.

The black sedan did to me the same thing I’d have been doing if I was following somebody.  The driver wasn’t very experienced at tailing somebody because the black sedan stayed too close to me, and after I’d made two turns I didn’t have to make and the sedan followed me, there wasn’t much doubt as to what was happening.

After another four turns, I was getting pissed.  I thought I knew why I was being followed, and also thought I knew what would happen if I stopped, so that’s what I did after turning into the parking lot of a high school and then driving around to the back of the building.  

When the black sedan turned onto the drive behind the building, I was standing in the drive beside my car and waiting with my cell phone propped up on the rear deck behind me and pointing down the drive.  I didn’t have to wait more than a second.  The tires on the sedan screamed as the driver accelerated and drove directly at me.  It was about fifty feet away when I raised the Smith and pointed it at the sedan.  The sedan didn’t stop.

I let the sedan get to about thirty feet away and then fired three shots at the windshield on the driver’s side.  I dived behind my car then and ran up into a doorway of the school building for cover.  The sedan swerved, sideswiped my car, and then plowed into the bleachers of the football field behind the school.

When I opened the driver’s side door of the sedan, I saw a woman who matched the picture I had of Mrs. Burke.  She had blood running out of a hole in her shoulder and a really nasty cut on her forehead where one of the angle irons from the bleachers had punched through the windshield.  I saw a couple flames erupt from the buckled hood and yelled at her to get out, but she was pretty much out of it.  After trying to get the seat belt unbuckled, I used my pocket knife to cut the belt and then pulled her out of the car.  

When I had her on the other side of my car, I had pulled her blouse open and had a look at the bullet wound.  Just like in the ballistics tests I’d seen in the ads for Hydro-shock bullets, there was an entry wound but no exit wound.  I opened my trunk and pulled out the first aid kit I keep there, opened six gauze pads and started shoving them into the bullet hole.  There was no way I was going to let this bitch bleed to death.  I had a shitload of questions I wanted her to answer.

The gauze pads slowed down the bleeding a lot, so I retrieved my cell phone from where it landed after the sedan sideswiped my car and punched in the number for Captain Roger Ames, the commander of the local precinct.  When he answered, he asked why I was calling him at home.  I didn’t mince words.

“Roger, I got a woman out behind Monroe High School with a bullet in her shoulder.  I think I got the bleeding stopped, but I need the EMT’s and a couple officers as soon as they can get here.”

I was a little irked when Roger asked if I’d shot the woman.

“No, Roger, it was some fucking punk kid with a BB gun.  Hell yes, I shot her.  The goddamned bitch was trying to run over me with her car.”

Five minutes later, two patrol cars drove up to where I sat with the woman, and I could hear the siren on the EMT truck.  It pulled up to my car a minute later and the two EMT’s pulled cases from the compartments on the side of the truck and then ran up to where I was sitting.  While they were doing their examination of the woman, one of the patrol officers was trying to put out the fire in the sedan and I was explaining what happened to the other.  Roger drove up and got out of his unmarked car and frowned when he walked up to where we stood.

“Harry, you better have a good explanation for this.”

I smiled and handed him my cell phone.

“My explanation is right here.”

Roger and the other officer watched and listened as the sedan accelerated toward me.  They saw me pull the Smith from my ankle, and about two seconds later, heard my three shots and saw two holes appear in the windshield of the sedan, the first low and on the driver’s side and the second about the middle and top of the windshield.  They watched as the sedan swerved and hit my car.  After that, the video was just what the cell phone recorded when it was knocked to the ground.

Roger replayed the video a couple more times and then looked at me.

“Know who she is and why she wanted to kill you?”

“Yeah, I know who she is, and I have a pretty good idea why she wanted me gone.  I don’t know all the details yet, but I think you’re gonna want to talk to her and her husband and one of her husband’s employees, a woman named Julie Mason.”

I went on to explain my theory and when I finished, Roger frowned.

“It’s pretty sketchy, Harry.  I believe she tried to kill you, but it doesn’t make sense she’d do that over such a small amount of money.  Maybe we’ll find out when we talk to her.  I’ll need to take your gun, and don’t leave Nashville until we talk to all three of them, OK?”

I handed him my Smith and said all he had to do was call and I’d come down to the station any time he wanted.

Roger gave me the whole story three days later when I went down to pick up the Smith, and after he did, I called Diane.  When she got to my office, she had another woman with her, a woman who looked a lot like Diane, but about my age.  Well, she looked like Diane in the face anyway.  The rest of her was just really sensuous and sexy woman.  Diane had tits.  This woman had jugs.  Diane had an nice ass, but it wasn’t nearly as nice as the older woman’s.  This woman had an ass that just begged to be fondled, and I had a vision of seeing that ass jiggle when my belly hit it.

Diane grinned when she saw me looking.

“Harry, this is my mom.  She wanted to meet the man who’s been helping me.”

The woman held out her hand.

“My name is Vicky, Vicky Moss.  Pleased to meet you, Harry.  Now, what’s happened?”

I grinned, partly because Vicky was grinning a little sexy grin, and partly because I was happy with what I’d heard from Roger.

“Well, Diane, I don’t think you have to worry about going back to prison.  Any decent lawyer should be able to get your conviction reversed and your record expunged.  Julie told them you didn’t do anything wrong and then told them the whole thing was a lot deeper than just you.  The police have Burke and Julie in custody right now, and once Mrs. Burke gets out of the hospital she’ll be charged too.”

Diane looked bewildered.

“Hospital?  Mrs. Burke is in the hospital?  Why?”

“Well, I sort of shot her.”

“You shot Mrs. Burke?”

“Well, yeah, but she was trying to run over me at the time.  The car she used was one she bought for Julie that Julie kept in her garage and didn’t drive very much.  She’ll be OK.  She’ll have a sore shoulder for about a year, and they’re going to charge her with attempted homicide along with bank fraud, but other than that, she’ll be OK.  I’d bet she and Julie will end up in the same prison where you were.  They’ll probably enjoy their time together.  It won’t be quite the same as before, but they’ll still be together.”

Vicky cleared her throat.

“Do you always beat around the bush with your clients like this?  I’d like to hear the story from start to finish if you don’t mind.”

I thought that was a little pushy, but her smile made me forget that.  

“OK, here’s the long version.  Diane, you were just a test to see if their idea would work or not.  It didn’t because of the customer who complained about the overdraft, but their basic plan was OK.  Like I thought, Julie was changing the account numbers after you recorded the deposits and then printing your signature on the checks.  The computer forensics guys from the Nashville PD found the signature she used and the format she used for the printer.

“What they also found was the reason Mrs. Burke tried to run me down with the car she kept in Julie’s garage.  There’s a lot more money involved than your nine thousand.  After Burke had to do something when the customer complained, Julie made some changes to the bank’s software.  When one of the tellers recorded a deposit, the computer would then automatically change the account number to one of three fake bank accounts she’d set up.  

The rest is pretty complicated, but evidently Julie is pretty sharp with software.  What she set up was a system where every bank deposit went into one of her fake accounts.  The computer system monitored all the real accounts, and if a check or debit transaction came in that would cause an overdraft on one of those accounts, the computer would automatically transfer money from a fake account to that one to cover it and then OK the transaction.  That avoided anybody coming to the bank and asking why their debit card had been rejected like the customer in your case.

The computer also tracked bank balances and transactions and faked the monthly report to look like everything was OK, so nobody would complain about that either.  All the valid transactions – deposits, checks, debit charges and such - were on the report, but the transfer of funds to and from the fake accounts wasn’t.

“It’s hard to believe it was worth all that effort until you consider how many people and businesses use that bank and how Julie had set up the software.  They weren’t making money by stealing it from customers.  They were just letting the money float in and out of their fake accounts and collecting the interest on it while it was there.  The computer guys discovered between the three fake accounts, they were collecting interest on about thirty million and that interest amounted to somewhere around three quarters of a million a year.”

Diane looked confused.

“You keep saying they, but it sounds like it was just Julie.  How are Mr. and Mrs. Burke involved?”  

I smiled because this was the really interesting part.

“Well, you were wrong about Mrs. Burke being quiet and shy.  That’s just the act she does when she’s in public.  In private life, well, to put it in plain terms, she’s a selfish bitch who’ll do about anything to get what she wants.  She keeps Mr. Burke on a really short leash, and he doesn’t do anything unless she tells him to.  When the detectives questioned him, he said he’d have to ask her what he should say.  It wasn’t until they promised him if he pled guilty he wouldn’t have to face her in court that he started talking.

Between the two of them, Julie and Mrs. Burke, they came up with the scheme. Mrs. Burke was a CPA before she married Mr. Burke, so she furnished the accounting knowledge and Julie did the software work.  That was after they got to be, shall we say, very, very close friends. That rumor about Julie and Mr. Burke, well it wasn’t Julie and Mr. Burke.

Julie was sleeping with Mrs. Burke except a few times when Mr. Burke needed to be convinced to keep his mouth shut.  Julie told the detectives Mr. Burke was getting nervous about how much money they were stealing, so Mrs. Burke told her to convince him he should calm down and let them handle things.  Apparently Julie is something of an exhibitionist, because she told the detectives it was fun watching what Mr. Burke did when she took off her clothes.  Mrs. Burke was there too, and used her cell phone to take video of what happened each time.

“I guess Mr. Burke could accept his wife sleeping with another woman, but when he found out what they were doing to his bank he started talking about going to the police.  From what he told the detectives, I gather Mrs. Burke said if he did, Julie would tell everybody he’d told her to change the software and she’d only done it because she was afraid he’d fire her if she didn’t.  She’d also tell the police that after she’d made the change, he’d told her if she didn’t have sex with him, he’d make sure she never got a job with computers again, and that the videos Mrs. Burke had taken would prove that.

He decided going along with the scheme was better than losing everything, so except for making sure you took the fall for the first plan, he just sat back and let it happen.  He’ll be charged with bank fraud like Julie and Mrs. Burke, but probably won’t spend as much time in prison.

“When I started investigating what really happened, Mrs. Burke decided if she got me out of the way, everything would be OK again.  She took the car she bought for Julie and tried to run over me, twice.  If I hadn’t shot her, that’s probably what would have happened.  That’s why she’ll be charged with attempted homicide.”

Diane turned to Vicky and grinned.

“See Mom, I told you Harry would fix it, and he did.”

Vicky looked at me and smiled.

“I guess you’d like to be paid now, wouldn’t you?  I’ll have to pay you because Diane doesn’t have much money yet.  How much do I owe you?”

I shrugged.

“I’ll send Diane a bill at the end of the week.  How you pay me is your business.”

On Wednesday afternoon, I sat down and looked at the hours I’d logged on Diane’s case.  The total came to about forty-three, and I calculate my time at thirty dollars an hour, so I made out the bill for thirteen hundred minus the six hundred Diane had already paid me.  On my way to the liquor store to buy a bottle of Glenfiddich, I dropped the envelope off at the post office.

Thirty dollars an hour doesn’t seem like much, and it’s a long shot from the two hundred an hour the big agencies charge.  I don’t have nearly as much overhead and the big agencies, so I don’t need a lot of money, just my rent, something to eat, and of course, scotch and cigarettes.  Thirty an hour works well for me, and   I get the clients that can’t afford the big agencies.  There are a lot of those clients too, so I sort of make up for the difference with volume.

A week from that Friday, about five, Vicky walked into my office.  I was waiting for Diane to come in behind her, but Vicky closed the door.

“Diane is at work, so she couldn’t come with me, but she wanted me to tell you what’s happened in the past week.  After what happened, I figured you probably wouldn’t want a check, so I brought cash.

“I called my lawyer as soon as you told us what had happened.  When those three were indicted for bank fraud, he petitioned the court to have Julie’s conviction overturned.  Jason’s a damned good lawyer.  Diane’s record has been cleared, and she doesn’t have to go to parole meetings anymore.

“He called the main bank office then and threatened to sue them if they didn’t give Diane her job back and give her her original salary plus interest from the day she was fired until now.  He also asked for ten million as compensation for what she endured in prison and for the damage to her reputation.

“The bank agreed to hire her again and agreed to give her the salary she’d have earned if she hadn’t been fired but no interest.  They settled on five million in compensation, so Diane doesn’t really have to work for anybody, for a while at least.  She found out she likes being a waitress though, she she’s going to keep doing that.  I understand what she’s thinking.  You probably won’t believe it, but I was a cocktail waitress once too.  It was fun getting paid for flirting with all the guys, and the tips I got were great.”

Well, I could believe that.  Diane wasn’t the woman Vicky was, but most men like firm tits and asses instead of big tits and soft asses.  I figured when Vicky was Diane’s age, she’d have been fighting off the men.  I grinned.

“Oh, I can believe that.  You still could.”

Vicky grinned.

“Well, I used to be sexy like Diane is, but I think I’ve gotten too fat to do that again.  Don’t you think I’m too fat?”

There was the question I usually hate answering, but in Vicky’s case it was easy to answer.

“Not from where I’m sitting you aren’t.”

Vicky walked around my desk, lifted her wide but sexy ass up on the top and then grinned again.

“What about from where I’m sitting?  Do I look fat now?”

I didn’t really know how to answer her because she’d pulled up her dress enough I could see the lace tops of her stockings and a little pale white inner thigh.  I sort of swallowed then and she giggled.

“Am I bothering you for some reason?”

“Well, Mrs. Moss, it’s not that you aren’t uh…appealing.  It’s just that you’re Diane’s mother and I don’t think –“

“You aren’t supposed to think, Harry.  You’re supposed to do what you’re thinking about doing.”

I tried to resist.  Really, I did.

“Mrs. Moss, I barely know you, and besides, I don’t want to cause any trouble between you and Mr. Moss.”

Vicky laughed.

“Mr. Moss?  You mean that wimp who left me when Diane was six?  To tell you the truth, I was glad he left me.  I was happy he gave me his cleaning business too, but mostly I was happy he took his little dick and left me alone.  If I’d been screwing somebody else besides him, I’d have figured Diane wasn’t his, but I wasn’t, so she has to be his.  Still don’t know how that happened.  I mean, after that first time, I could hardly tell he was in there.”

Vicky stroked my cheek and that sent a chill down my back.

“How big is your dick, Harry?  Is it this big?”

At least she wasn’t asking me something I’d have to lie about.

“Yeah, about that big I guess, maybe a little shorter.  Mrs. Moss, what brought all this on?”

Vicky slid off my desk, hiked up her skirt, and straddled me in my chair.

“Well, I saw how you looked at me when Diane introduced us.  Did you know your eyes get really big and your mouth hangs open when you look at a woman’s boobs?  Well, they do.  You licked your lips a couple times too.  It wasn’t hard to figure out what you were thinking.

“I didn’t mind you looking at all.  When a woman hasn’t had a man for a while she gets a little edgy.  I’ve been edgy for seventeen years, and you look like you’d like to fix me.

“I’m not like Diane.  She takes after her dad where saying what she wants is concerned.  I’m just the opposite.  When I see something I want, I just come right out and say it.  Right now, I need to be screwed.   Wouldn’t you like to do that for me?”

“But we hardly know each other.”

Vicky started unbuttoning my shirt.

“That’s not true.  We met last week, so we already know each other a little.  We just need to get to know each other a lot better, a whole lot better.  If you’ll cooperate, we will.”

“Why me?”

Vicky slipped her hand inside my shirt and stroked my chest.

“Well, I know a man when I see one.  You’re a man, you’re available, and I started to like you when you told us about what happened.  I don’t think you’re quiet as polished as you let on, and that turns me on.  I’m a woman but most men don’t look at me anymore like you do.  I think you like what you see.  I know I like what I see.”

“I didn’t think I looked at you in any special way.”

Vicky unbuttoned the front of her blouse and pulled it open.

“Yes you do.  You’ve been staring at my boobs since I got here.  Wanna feel ‘em?”

Well I guess that old saying about the apple not falling from the tree isn’t true in every case.  I’m pretty sure Diane wouldn’t have ever done anything like Vicky was doing.  I was also sure about what she was doing was doing to me.  I just wasn’t sure if I could do what she wanted.  I mean, the way Vicky was acting, I was pretty sure she’d be a great fuck, but it felt a little like I was being used, you know.

I gave up trying to figure that out when Vicky pulled up her bra cups and her big jugs spilled out.  She pushed the left one in my face and said, “You know you want to.  Go ahead.  Make me happy”.

I figured if she wanted me to suck her nipple that bad, it would only be polite to do it.  I know, you’re thinking I’m just your ordinary horny old bastard and I’d fuck a snake if you’d hold it still.  That’s so wrong.  I’ve never in my life found anything about snakes I even like, much less wanted to fuck one.

Well, sucking that nipple led to me sucking the other one and that led to Vicky reaching down and rubbing my cock and that led to…well, you can guess where it led.  I thought she was really erotic on my bed in her bra and panties and stockings even though her bra cups were still pulled up on top of her big tits.  I thought she was really fine after I unhooked that bra, pulled it off her arms, and then pulled her panties down her legs.  I knew she was gonna be fun when I buried my face in her hairy pussy and licked.

Vicky groaned then and pushed my face down tight.  I didn’t really mind all that much.  I did have to raise up to breathe once in a while, but she tasted so goddamned good I delayed that as long as I could.  I’d much rather have just layed there stretched out on my belly and licking every little fold and ripple of her thick pussy lips.  Well, I guess when I stuck my tongue inside her that was pretty cool too.  Vicky moaned squeezed my head with her silky thighs, then opened her legs wide and murmured, “Oh God, I think you better stop before I can’t.”

I was having too much fun to stop.  A couple minutes later, that was after I’d licked her clit and then sucked it a little, Vicky sort of exploded.  I was rolling a nipple between the fingers of each hand, and when she bucked she knocked me back a little and her big tits got stretched out.  That made Vicky’s hips lurch up and slam her pussy in my face.  

In the process, I lost her clit and had to find it again, and that wasn’t easy.  Vicky’s ass was dancing around all over the fucking bed.  I finally let her left nipple go and wrapped my arm under her ass and over her belly so I had something to hold on to that didn’t jiggle around every time she moved.  I found her clit again then, but almost lost it when she screeched and lifted her ass up off the bed.

When Vicky pushed my head away and eased back down on the bed, she giggled.

“Damn…I didn’t think I was that bad off, but I guess I must have been.”

I rolled the nipple I was still holding and chuckled when Vicky caught her breath.

“Yeah, that was pretty wild, that’s for sure.”

Vicky’s hips rocked up a little, and then she reached down, grabbed my ears, and pulled.

“Come on up here, Harry.  I’m not done being wild yet.  I need to be screwed at least once tonight, and then again tomorrow morning before I’ll even think about letting you go.”

I wasn’t sure if I should let Vicky coast down a little first or if I should just stick my cock in her and start stroking.  My experience up to then was most women need a little quiet time, so I spent some time nibbling her nipples and stroking her ass.

Vicky liked both, I guess, because she started moaning again.  I figured Vicky would let me know when she wanted more.  She did, about ten nibbles to each nipple later.  She reached between us, grabbed my cock, and moved her ass around until she had everything lined up.

I was thinking, OK, time for some slow strokes to get her started again.  I did make that first slow stroke, well, half of one anyway.  I was just easing my cock inside Vicky and enjoying the slippery ripples I was feeling when she dug her heels into the mattress and then raised up and pushed her pussy over my cock.

She had to squeeze her legs around my waist to do that, so she couldn’t get me all the way in.  Vicky solved that problem by grabbing my ass and holding me there when she plopped back down on the mattress and spread her legs.  She stopped as soon as she hit the mattress.  I didn’t, and by the time I did, my cock was buried in her up to the hilt.  Vicky pulled on my ass to keep me there and then moaned, “Oh God, you have a nice dick.”

I sorta got back in control then, well, for a little while anyway.  I pulled out most of the way when Vicky turned loose of my ass, and started pumping my cock in and out slow, like I’d started to do.  I could tell she was liking that, because she flopped her face to the side.  

I was liking it too.  When I was a kid, the rumor was older pussy has teeth and will bite your cock.  Vicky sure as hell wasn’t biting mine.  She was nicely wet and nicely slippery, but tight enough I was feeling her get to me.  It was about then, I think, that she sort of took over again.

I was happily stroking along and watching her big tits roll up and down when she gasped and wrapped her arms around my back.  She wrapped her legs around my waist next, and then started pulling her pussy up and down over my cock.  Since she was sort of hanging there by her legs, I could only stroke in about half way before there was nothing to push against.  That’s when Vicki would pull her pussy up over my cock.  She’d relax after a couple of seconds, and I could pull my cock out again.

The longer that went on the faster Vicky started to breathe and the faster she moved her pussy up and down.  After a while, I had to speed up to keep up with her, and a little while later, I just stroked in once and then let her drive.

I was pretty incredible just resting there on my hands and knees while Vicky used my cock to fuck herself.  I wasn’t immune to what that felt like though, and I had to find a way to either help her along or take my mind of what I was feeling.  I didn’t want to stop feeling all the little massaging motions her pussy was making, so I bent down and sucked her right nipple hard.

In some ways that was a mistake because it put Vicky into overdrive.  Vicky gasped and dug her nails into my back, then started humping my cock faster yet.  I also felt her get a whole lot wetter.  That helped keep me from needing to cum quite as much, but the feeling of her stiff nipple in my mouth and the little moans she was making pretty much cancelled that out.

I sucked that nipple hard again, and then bit down gently.  Vicky lurched her pussy up over my cock and her legs started to shake.  She gasped, “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God” and then dug her nails into my ass.

I don’t know about other guys, but when a woman grabs my ass, it feels pretty damned good.  When I feel her fingernails poking me in my ass cheeks, well, that get me cocked, unlocked and ready to fire.  All it takes to pull my trigger is a dozen or so more strokes…or what Vicky did next.  She groaned, raised her pussy up until my balls bumped her ass, and then stuck her fingertip right on my asshole.

I started pumping my cock in and out of Vicky faster, and she matched every stroke with a lift of her pussy and a little mewing cry.  Just before I knew there was no stopping what was going to happen, she pushed that finger on my ass hole and then dug her heels into the bed again and lifted us both up.  There was no way I could pull out to stroke in again, but Vicky’s pussy was squeezing my cock and then letting it go so fast I didn’t need to.  I groaned when the first spurt shot out of my cock.  Vicky shrieked and shook a little harder, then her whole body jerked up and down.  Those jerks milked the second and third shot out of my cock and left me panting.

Vicky was panting too when she eased back down on the bed.  She let her arms fall to her sides and giggled.

“Oh my God.  I don’t know if I just forgot or if that never happened to me before, but damn, Harry, I don’t know if I’ll be able to move for a while now.”

I chuckled.

“Well, see, that’s the thing.  You don’t have to.  I’ll just roll over and we’ll go to sleep.”

Vicky grabbed my ass and giggled again.

“Don’t you dare roll over, not until your dick won’t stay in me any more.  I haven’t had a dick in me for a long time, and I like how it feels.”

Well, like always happens, my cock did get soft enough it slipped out of Vicky’s pussy.  She tried to put it back, but between how wet she’d gotten, the cum that was leaking out of her, and because my cock was pretty limp, that was a lost cause.  Vicky shook him a little and then sighed.

“I guess I’ll have to wait until tomorrow morning.  You will be able to get it up by then, won’t you?”

I promised I would, so Vicky cuddled up to me with her big tits against my chest.  I guess we went to sleep like that, because when I woke up the next morning she was still in the same place.  The only reason I woke up was she was playing with my cock, and when I opened my eyes, she grinned.

“You promised me something last night.  You gonna keep that promise?”

Well, I did keep my promise.  Vicky was just as wild at the end as the night before, but in the middle she let me go a little slower.  I guess getting licked until she came and then getting fucked until she came again must have taken the edge off a little.

She tried jacking my cock to get it hard again when we took a shower together, but I was pretty much done.  Instead, of fucking her again, I took her to an IHOP for breakfast.  I know, it’s not apples and oranges, but my apple was pretty withered up and there was no way it was gonna peel her oranges again for about another day or so.

Vicky went home after smothering me with a kiss that threatened to make me pass out.  She patted me on the ass then and said she’d be back if she needed my help again.  I was kinda hoping she’d wait a week or so. I mean, I don’t get myself fucked very often anymore, so Vicky was kinda special, but I’m not twenty anymore either.  

After she left, I picked the Smith up off the bedroom floor where I’d taken it off and carried it back to my desk.  I cleaned it and oiled it, and then reloaded the cylinder with fresh rounds and started to put it back in my desk drawer.  I stopped then, and put the Smith back on my desk blotter.  

It wasn’t much of a gun anymore, not compared to the semi-autos the cops carry on their belts.  The standard police issue Glock 22 in .40 cal holds 15 in the mag plus one in the chamber compared to six in the Smith Model 19.  The standard .40 cartridge doesn’t pack a lot more punch than the .357 mags I could use in the Smith, but it can be loaded to be quite a bit hotter if you want better penetration and energy.

The Smith 19 snub-nose isn’t even the choice of a backup gun for most cops now either.  They’ll pick a compact 9 mil or .380 semi-auto to wear on their belt or ankle.  The semi-autos are lighter and usually hold more cartridges than the Smith.  The smaller calibers don’t have the stopping power of a .357 mag, but at the ranges where you’d need to use a backup gun, that stopping power doesn’t matter a hell of a lot.  What matters is putting the asshole down long enough the cop can get back in control of the situation.

I looked at the revolver again, at the worn blueing and the way the checkering on the walnut grips had been worn down over the years.  After wiping it down to clean off the excess oil I’d left there to protect it in my desk drawer, I loaded it with Hydro-Shoks, put it back in the ankle holster and strapped it to my right ankle.  The shoulder holster would work better when it got cool enough to wear a jacket, but while it was hot outside, I’d use the ankle holster.

The Smith had given me a fighting chance and I’d won.  I probably should have put it back in the drawer and bought myself something more modern, but I knew I could trust the Smith.  I thought Walt would probably understand why.