Not the Woman he KnewbyDinsmore©
"Hey Rick, do you remember Kathy Banner?"
Kathy Banner. It had been ten years. She had come on board as a new management intern right out of college at all of twenty-two. She had been moderately cute; she had a little too much baby fat and teeth that needed help from an orthodontist. She had that insufferable arrogance of most newly minted college grads who think they know more than the people who have been doing a job since the newly minted "experts" were in grammar school.
He remembered the night he had met some work people at a hotel bar after an out of town conference. The region manager had decided it would be good exposure for her to attend. The little girl couldn't hold her liquor. She had been surrounded by a gaggle of vultures recognizing easy prey. As she had wobbled to the lady's room, he had intercepted her and guided her upstairs to her hotel room.
"You're drunk, Kathy; it's time to retire."
She had tried to kiss him on the elevator ride; she had grabbed for his cock through his suit trousers. He had searched for her key card in her purse, opened the door and pulled her inside. She'd barely made it to the commode before tossing her cookies. She had passed out on the bathroom floor.
He'd cleaned her up, carried her back to the bedroom, removed her shoes, blouse and skirt and tucked into bed. He sat down and watched her. As soon as she had started to snore, he had left. They'd never talked about the incident. Last he had heard she had taken a job with the company's Miami branch and then left the company a couple of years later. Within a year of tucking her in that night, he had accepted a promotion and moved to Boston.
"Sure Dave. I thought she left years ago."
"That she did but she's back. She just took that vacant territory north of Miami. Evidently she's still a smoker. She's out in the courtyard having a cigarette. You ought to go say hello."
Rick still succumbed to the occasional smoke. He'd started smoking Sherman's because he actually enjoyed them and discovered that five or six a day satisfied him every bit as much as the two packs of Salems he'd smoked for a number of years. There was only one other person in the courtyard as the number of smokers in the company had drastically declined over the years. Had he not been expecting her he wouldn't have recognized her.
There wasn't a hint of baby fat. If anything she was a bit thin for his tastes but thin was fashionable he supposed. It was amazing what good clothes and a good haircut could do for a woman. When she turned, recognized him and smiled, it was obvious that she had benefited from top of the line dental work.
"Rick! Long time no see!" she exclaimed, as her perfect smile lit up her remarkably pretty face. In her early thirties, Kathy Banner had turned into a stunningly beautiful young woman.
"It's not Banner---Davidson---I got married...orthopedic surgeon...five years. We're separated...working our way toward a divorce."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Kath."
"Don't be! It was a huge mistake...a disaster in every sense of the word. I gather you took the same road too often traveled."
"Not that long after you left Tampa. It ended with a whimper rather than a bang. She's remarried, apparently happily, down in Naples and there's no ill will."
"I wish I could say the same. We don't have any kids but it's getting contentious. I mean, I caught the son of a bitch screwing one of his surgical nurses in our bed. I came home with a friend from the neighborhood---she witnessed the whole thing! Unfortunately, I signed a prenupt. I don't get shit---unless he commits a felony or adultery. If I cheated---or cheat---on him, I'm totally screwed. He's got some goon friend of his who is a PI following me. I was his fourth wife---thought I was only his second. He lied."
"Doesn't sound like the smartest thing you've ever done, Kathy."
"The story of my life. He's handsome, famous, successful---and he's a doctor. Needed an arm piece---one more in a string of trophy wives. He completely won me over and my parents were thrilled. 'Marry a doctor, Kathy.' How many times have I heard that one? Anyway, he's frozen me out financially; that's why I took this job. He's got friends...powerful friends. I can't afford a private detective. He---or his goon---will ultimately get to the other witness. He'll buy her off or intimidate her and in six weeks it'll be his word against mine in front of the judge and he'll win. I know I can make a living; it's less about the money than nailing that prick. He's gotten away with it three times...I'll be his fourth victim."
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
"You always were a nice guy Rick, never one to take advantage of a girl when she was vulnerable. For your own well being the best thing you can do is stay away from me. That goon is always there...watching me...waiting for me to screw up. Don't get involved in this. So! You've certainly done well since the last time I saw you! I thought you said you'd never leave the field and here you are Mr. Area Vice President."
"After my marriage hit the skids it just made sense. I still get down here every month or so but didn't want to live here anymore."
"Do you like Atlanta?"
"Not particularly but I'll probably only be there for a few more months. Rumor has it that I'm headed for Chicago."
"We better get inside for the meeting. It was great seeing you Rick! I'm not the woman---girl---you knew when we first met ten years ago...not remotely. I hope you realize that."
"So it would seem, Kathy."
A long and typically tedious sales meeting was followed by cocktails and dinner nearby on the Area Vice President's tab. Rick noted that Kathy eschewed the booze prior to dinner and had only a single glass of wine with her meal. That fact pleased him. He'd been known to tie one on in his younger days. Now days it was Perrier during the cocktail hour and a glass or two of good wine with dinner. At a reasonably early hour the group walked together toward the parking lot. Kathy fell in beside him.
"He's in that black Town Car to our left---don't look!"
"My watcher...my husband's enforcer."
Rick caught a glimpse of a heavyset man in a Lincoln fifty feet away to his left.
"Do you know his name?"
"Arnold---Arnie---Tangini. One very bad dude. He's been on the edge of the law for years but always seems to buy---or intimidate---his way out of it. Look, Rick, I'd better catch a ride with someone else. I don't want you..."
"Nonsense! It's on my way."
"You're not staying over?"
"No, I've got a meeting in Gainesville in the morning, then back to Atlanta tomorrow night."
Rick dropped Kathy off it front of her hotel, waited until she was inside and then headed for the Interstate and the two-hour drive north. He was surprised when the black car followed him on to I-75, even more so when he was still back there an hour later. A half an hour south of his destination he put on his turn signal and exited at a rest stop.
After taking a leak he went to the vending machines to get some coffee and have a cigarette. Following a series of rest stop murders in another part of the state, the state government had increased security on the interstate and most, if not all rest stops had a security guard and regular visits by the highway patrol. This one was no exception. The uniformed contract security guard came into view and the two men nodded to each other.
"How can I help you, sir?"
"I'm probably overreacting. I've spent too many nights driving this stretch of road and with what's happened over the last few months up north...There's a big guy in a Lincoln who pulled off when I did---he's parked way down at the end of the lot. I'm positive he started following me when I left Tampa. I saw him in the parking lot of Tio Pepe's as I was driving out. I dropped someone who I work with off at their hotel; he was parked across the street when I pulled out and then he followed me on to 75."
"I'll call a patrol officer to check it out." The guard said, speaking into his shoulder mounted radio.
"Damn! Looks like you were lucky to get past Ocala! A truck jackknifed just outside of town and the interstate is closed down northbound. There's no one available to come here for at least an hour. Are you carrying anything valuable?"
"Nothing more valuable than my computer. We had a meeting at out Tampa office all day and it's very well marked as a medical company. Come to think of it, I might have seen that car across the street from out office when we left for dinner. Since I work in the medical industry, maybe he thinks I have drugs or syringes or something in the car."
"No, I'm not in sales anymore so I don't carry any samples. We don't even allow our reps to carry that kind of stuff anymore. Most of 'em haven't got anything more exciting than elastic bandages and some enema kits in their trunk."
"Well, if I could get a northbound car up here, I could watch to see if he follows you out and notify the state police and they could pull him over but with that big accident..."
"Well, I understand. Again, I'm probably overreacting. I better hit the road. I'm only going as far as Gainesville tonight...early meeting in the morning."
"I'll walk down there and talk to him while you're driving out. Maybe I can at least slow him down a little."
"Be careful officer...you don't exactly have backup."
Rick watched the security guard walk back toward the Lincoln in his rear view mirror. To his shock, the Town Car came hurtling out of its parking space with it's lights off and sped toward the rest stop exit behind Rick, almost running down the uniformed guard in the process. That was dumb, Rick thought to himself.
Even dumber, the security guard drew his weapon and proceeded to empty his six shot .38 revolver in the general direction of the Lincoln. The Lincoln screeched to a halt and the big man exited. He was walking back toward the security guard who was furiously trying to acquire his backup rounds and reload. Fuck!
Rick jammed his car into reverse and hurtled back toward the scene, coming to rest abreast of the private detective who stopped momentarily as he considered his threat priorities. Rick came out of his car with the Kimber Custom 1911which was always jammed into the seat beside him. He was licensed to carry the handgun in Florida and Georgia. He regularly competed in IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) competition at a private shooting club near Covington. He'd never shot anything more imposing than corrugated targets---certainly never faced an angry, out of control man with a Colt Combat Masterpiece in his hand.
With most of his body shielded by his car, he adopted a two handed shooting stance with his feet spread just past shoulder width; his upper body was well supported by the top of his automobile.
"Back off, asshole!" Rick said, hoping that his voice registered authority and not the fear he was feeling in ever fiber of his body.
"Just drive away, motherfucker! This is between me and that dumb ass rent-a-cop!"
The big man's indecision as to his threat priorities began to resolve as he considered Rick's demeanor, shooting posture, grip and effective use of cover. The long barrel of the .357 magnum began a lazy but purposeful swing in his direction. Fuck! You're going to have to shoot the bastard!
Arnie Tangini had read it all wrong. Before he could turn and center his front sight on Rick, two shots rang out; both rounds hit him center mass. The big Colt revolver left his hands and he went down. Rick activated the safety on his weapon and placed it on the top of his car, raising his hands. The security guard approached the fallen man with his revolver still pointed at the dead man's mid section. Quickly ascertaining that Arnie was in fact deceased, he spoke to Rick without turning.
"Are you okay?"
"Please tell me you've got a CCL (Concealed Carry License) to have a loaded weapon within reach in your auto."
"That I do---Florida and Georgia."
"You're going to be a little late getting to Gainesville."
It took half an hour for the state police to arrive. Rick told them what had transpired. The security guard's version was identical. They took his statement, examined his CCL, and confirmed that he had not fired his weapon. He told them everything including his conversations with Kathy about Arnie the earlier in the day. While he hadn't shared that information with the security guard, this was now a homicide investigation and he had no intention of lying to the state police.
Two hours later he was back on the road. The following day he would stop at the state police substation in Gainesville to sign some forms. Before heading for Atlanta. His statement was video taped. He had some questions for the investigating officer.
"What possessed that guy to try to run down---and then draw on---an armed officer? I realize the security guard is contract---but from what you've told me he has been granted full police powers."
"Mr. Tangini had a very checkered past. He'd been popping bennies to stay awake. His CCL had been revoked several months back. He had a shotgun in the back seat with a barrel significantly shorter than eighteen inches. He had a bag of pot in the glove box. He was facing a major felony bust with mandatory jail time. I have no doubt he would have killed the guard if you hadn't intervened. The guard did not exactly respond appropriately by firing at the car but who knows what any of us would have done in that situation? Let me ask you a question, Rick."
"We checked you out with the folks in Atlanta. Several knew you personally from IDPA competitions and said you were okay---and a hell of a combat pistol shooter. Could you have done it---shot him?"
"I'm not sure we'll ever know for certain. In my gut I'm convinced I would have fired before he was able to do so...training and all that. I know I wasn't having some sort of inner moral dialogue. I just wanted to survive."
"CCLs have gotten too damn easy to obtain in both states. You're the exception rather than the rule, a guy who bothered to get trained---and trained to a high level. Tangini was no amateur. He recognized that you were more than a shaky civilian with a carry license and a gun who had never seriously learned to use it. Somehow, he just forgot that there was another armed man out there."
"Why did he follow me? Kathy and I are barely more than work acquaintances. I hadn't seen her in ten years until yesterday morning. We spent the entire day in meetings with twenty other people. Except for the five minute drive from the restaurant back to the Bay Harbor Inn where I dropped her off, we weren't alone all day for more than five minutes to grab a smoke outside in the courtyard."
"He charged a pretty penny for his unique services. According to his logs, which we found in the car, he'd been trailing her for over two weeks and hadn't come up with squat. Maybe he was getting desperate. Maybe he got bored, maybe he thought you'd double back and meet her---maybe he just got focused on you because he had seen you talking to her and you gave her a ride." The detective perused a photo. "She's a very beautiful woman."
Rick laughed. "I almost didn't recognize her when I saw her yesterday morning. When I knew her ten years ago she was a little chunky, needed her teeth straightened, had no sense of appropriate business attire or makeup and was just another irritating young know-it-all kid right out of college. She's certainly grown up; she's not remotely the girl---woman---I knew. I hope all of this works out okay for her; she seems like a decent person."
Back in his own office the following morning he thought about calling Kathy and telling her what had happened. He decided against it. He had another idea forming in his mind. He called his company's marketing department to speak to the senior meeting planner.
"Marjorie! Long time no see. How's life in the puzzle palace?"
"Same-o, same-o, oh revered South Eastern Area Vice President. Rumor has it I'm going to be working for you in the near future...any truth to that rumor?"
"Now why would I want to leave paradise to come to the frozen north lands?"
"Because we desperately need someone up here with some common sense?"
"I've heard the rumors too, Marjorie but no offer has been made, accepted or refused."
"And if made---will it be accepted?"
"No comment. If truth be told, I haven't crossed that bridge yet. I like the people down here---enjoy running my own show. I'm the only Area VP who has successfully ducked a trip to the general offices. Still, if I decide that I want to climb the ladder, it's a required move. They're not going to just hand me a division presidency without a stint up there."
"How can I help you, oh wise one?"
"What do you know about a big time orthopod out of Miami named Jack Davidson?"
"A more inflated ego than most orthopedic surgeons---if that's possible. Charming, lots of charisma and an excellent speaker. He's on a short list."
"He's connected to someone on the board and we've used him a few times for sales meetings and customer seminars. He's done a great job in every case---he's just more of an insufferable jerk than most doctors are."
"Is he expensive?"
"He's more into the perks---the kind that stay under the IRS radar. He's not hurting for money. He loves riding on the corporate jet, hob knobbing with the big boys, staying at the best locations and eating and drinking at five star facilities. Why?"
"I've got a regional surgical nurses conference coming up at Hilton Head in a few weeks. We always get hit up to sponsor a major portion of it. I'd rather give them a top-notch presenter than hand them cash. Any chance we could get him? It's a weekend meeting."
"I'll give it a shot. The CEO is impressed with the prick so getting the Gulfstream wouldn't be any problem and Miami to Hilton Head is a pretty short hop."
"It wouldn't hurt if he brought one of his surgical nurses with him considering the audience."
"Oh he always travels with a surgical nurse...seldom the same one twice...if you know what I mean. I'll get back to you later today or in the morning."
The call from the meeting planner came in a little after four.
"Rick, I already called our contact at the resort at Hilton Head to reserve a VIP suite. He's not asking for a speaking fee since he's getting a G5 ride and a five star weekend."
"Marjorie, let them know that I'm the contact---I'll be attending and will be coming in the night before. I don't want the good doctor to have to check in. I'll pick him up and personally show him to his accommodations."
"Consider it done."
"Is he bringing one of his nurses?"
"Yes, but I don't have a name. I'm putting her up in the main building where all the other nurses are staying...although I doubt that she'll actually be sleeping there."
Rick's last call of the day was to the security company which not only handled physical security for all of the company's facilities in the Southeast but also handled background checks for new employees and investigated suspected employee thefts.
Since Rick's company stored many controlled items in their distribution centers, security had to be tight. After an unpleasant incident right before he had taken over as VP---a trailer loaded with syringes had literally disappeared---Rick had fired the previous security company and hired a new one.
The receptionist at the security company immediately put Rick through to the President.
"My first reaction was, 'uh, oh' when I heard that you were on the line. What's up?"
"Nothing urgent, Bob; your folks continue to do a great job. I was wondering when you were going to be over this way and hoped we could grab a bite and chat. It's more personal that business and I don't want to get into it on the phone."