TT Spalding: The Pickering Casebythecelt©
A new story from TT. Edited as always by Angel Love. Please enjoy.
For those of you who don't know me, my name is TT Spalding and I run a detective agency along with my wife, Maggie. TT is my name and no one but Maggie is allowed to call me anything else. She calls me TT except when she's mad at me about something and then it's Theodore Terrell! or just Theodore, or Terrell! if she's really pissed. I do a lot of family stuff in my work and some of it is enough to break your heart, but it pays the bills. If we're lucky we get some business espionage stuff that really brings in the cash but they're less common. We had a couple of good ones this year so it made for a happy holiday. My driving passion is Mickey Spillane and his Mike Hammer novels. I have them all, every last one. I almost had a breakdown when Mickey died, but Maggie helped me survive. It was her suggestion that I dedicate myself to writing one great novel in his style. I took her up on it and I started it. I really did!
But that's enough about me. Maggie thought I should tell you about one of the cases we handled just recently and I thought it was a nice story, especially around Christmas when it originally happened, so enjoy.
The Pickering Case
It was hard to see her now, the droplets of fog splintering the orange rays from the street light, reflecting it back and making the whole scene appear to be smoldering, almost like it was on fire. She was there for sure, hidden somewhere in that orange glow. I knew because I followed her here, my car two lengths behind her Beemer, just out of her view. She was cocky, not expecting anyone to have tripped to her scam. But then I wasn't just anyone. I knew what she had going on, and she was ripe for the pickings. Scam the scammer! That was the ticket. I was going to pull it off or my name wasn't Mike Hammer!
I stared at the little flashing cursor, fascinated by its dedicated stupidity. It would wait forever for me to do something, anything at all. Really dumb. But I had to admit, this new computer was really slick. It had a flat screen, a wireless keyboard and mouse, and it seemed so fast it hardly took any time at all for it to do its crap. I really didn't want anything this fancy, but with the money we made on the Villager Espionage case, Maggie decided I needed it. At least she did before she got mad at me. Well, tough! I loved this thing now and I'd fight anyone who tried to take it back. I saved the work and read up to where I left off.
So far, so good. I had almost two chapters now, and they were pretty damn good if I do say so myself. I was going to write the next Mickey Spillane novel and get his people to sign on. Like a ghost writer, or whatever the hell they called it. It was done all the time. Hell, I remembered reading a series of books continuing the Foundation series from Isaac Assimov, and he's been dead for a long time. No shit! Dead author's names being used by someone else! So, why not mine? Who else but Mickey's biggest fan.
The door to my sorry office slammed open and Maggie stuck her blond head in. "Mr. Pickering is here Terrell! I'm sending him in so get your ass in gear!" She withdrew and left me glaring at the space where she had just been. Damn that woman!
Maggie and I were fighting. It was a stupid fight but neither of us wanted to admit to being wrong. It was over her mother. Of course, her mother. The evil, conniving bitch that never liked me. Oh, she never said as much but I saw her eyes. Evil eyes, mean eyes, always watching me. Always ready to catch me doing something to wrong her little girl. She wanted to come and stay for a week or two over the holidays just to visit. What she wanted was to drive me into a heart attack so Maggie would be free of me. Too bad her dad was gone. He was an OK guy, and you guessed it, he died of a heart attack. Yeah, the heart attack was her mother!
The problem was that since we agreed that my dad would come for Thanksgiving, she decided her mother would come for Christmas and stay two weeks: a few days before and the rest after. That would put her there for New Year's Day as well and I objected to that on principle. But, the problem was that I agreed to it. Sure, I agreed but I agreed during an exceptionally intense bout of Maggie loving. You know what Maggie does to me during our lovemaking. I have no control of myself and would do anything she asked me to do. Not fair!
I saved my work, blanked the screen and sat back, waiting. Mr. Pickering. Hell of a name. Made me think of a short, bespeckled, balding gentleman who probably worked with numbers, lots of columns of numbers. A real nerdy type. I was prepared to try to humor him and see what he wanted. Probably needed some spying on a competitor. These guys always wanted to get an edge in business. Sneaky bastards! But hey, good money in that. The man who walked in was just the opposite.
He was a tall man, well built, muscles up to his eyeballs, dressed like a model and a face to match. Good looking guy, if you liked guys.
I didn't. I reminded myself nervously. But I'll bet Maggie had given him a good going over. Probably watched his butt when he walked in.
He walked with that self assurance that came from knowing he could have his pick of the dames. His type never had to do anything but reach out and they were there, in their tight skirts, low cut blouses, and bodies to make the strong whimper. My pulse jumped a notch or two and I made a mental note to include that in my novel. Just then, Maggie stuck her head around the still open doorway, gave me a look that suggested exactly what I was thinking and flashed an evil smile before asking if she could get Mr. Pickering something. Hah! Like she actually would. Maggie didn't do drinks. I waited while he turned, giving her a smile but declining. She gave me a last glare before shutting the door.
"What can I do for you Mr. Pickering? How can TT Spalding Inc. help you?"
"Call me Ian, if you will. May I call you TT? Thanks. Well, I'm afraid my request is very simple and probably very common to you. I think my wife is having an affair and I want to know who and where. Simple."
This guy was smooth. He rattled this off like it was a simple everyday request. My wife is screwing around on me and I want to know who the bastard is and where they're doing it. He didn't say but it was implied: Once I know, I'll take care of it. But I knew the type. He wasn't into revenge. He was in love with her. I could tell that right off just looking at his eyes. They were full of pain and I could see the hope flowing out of them. He didn't want me to find anything, but he was too smart to fool himself. He had to know for sure.
"You'll have to tell me more than that Ian. I'll want to know all you can tell me about Mrs. Pickering, where she goes most days, who her friends are, her credit card numbers, things like that. Are you willing to give me that information?"
"Well, some of it, yes. Are you licensed and bonded? How do I know I can trust you with that kind of information?"
"Very good questions. We have a standard non-disclosure contract that binds us and protects you. It's part of our contract with you. Did Maggie explain our fee structure to you?"
"Yes, she did. She is a very beautiful woman, and you are a very fortunate man, if I may say so."
"You may. If you can have the information sent over to us, we can sign the contracts today and begin right away. Normally, I expect the first report to be available in two weeks with a final report a week later. But since this is almost the holiday, I assume you wanted to wait till after New Year? I assume you'll want pictures and CDs which may take some time?"
"That's unacceptable. I'll take the contracts and sign them and return them with the information today, but I'd like to have this over and done before Christmas. I couldn't stand spending Christmas with her under these conditions: not knowing. I hope that's understandable?"
I considered and thought about mentioning a bonus if we did this before Christmas, but something in his eyes gave me pause. What the hell! It was Christmas and maybe we could make his a better one.
"Perfectly understandable. I'll walk you out Ian."
I escorted him out to the desk and to Maggie. I intended to stay there until Mr. Smooth left. I wasn't going to leave him with Maggie in the mood she was in. She would torture me, talking about him and the way she flirted with him and that sort of crap. But if I was there, things would be on the up and up. As it was, she did everything but grab his ass until he left. But, I was there so she was screwed and she knew it.
Once he was gone, she lit into me.
"Well, I see you had to protect him from little ole me. I guess you think I'm a real tramp, just like my mother. Isn't that what you called her last night?"
"No, I didn't call her a tramp. I called her a bitch! That's what she is you know. She's a real bitch!"
"Well, she's coming and that's final. If you don't like it, you can move out while she's here."
"That's fine with me. I'll call Bruno. I can stay with him for a week or so. He'll have me. Then you and the evil bitch can trash talk me all you want. Your mother hates me so this will be perfect for her. Me, gone."
"Don't you even think about it. You're staying and you're going to be nice to her while she's here."
"You just told me to move out if I didn't like it and I don't. So, make up your mind."
"Do you enjoy sleeping alone? Do you plan on sleeping alone in the future?"
Damn! That's just not right! That was so wrong on so many levels! I love my Maggie to death and I love making love to her and she knows it. It's cruel for her to use that against me. Just like with her mother! But, she had me and she knew it.
"Fine. I'll be nice to her if it kills me. And it probably will."
Maggie's smile was blinding. Maybe it wouldn't be too bad. Only two weeks. But I could survive it. Maybe.
True to his word, Ian sent the contracts and the information over that afternoon. I took the folder into the office and sat back to peruse it. He had sent pictures of her, her contacts, her cell phone number, credit cards and driver's license. More, and all of it useful. I pulled out her picture and set it on the desk.
She was a strikingly beautiful woman, mature with a face that was compelling, making you want to look at it twice. She had long, straight blonde hair, worn just below her shoulders. Her eyes were an ice blue, wide and innocent. Her skin was golden, showing an expensive tanning process. She was tall, that was evident from the picture. She had on gold, around her neck and at her ears, and the diamond she wore was impressive. She was dressed in a casual silk blouse with tailored slacks and low heels. She looked like she knew her way around a boutique or two. Overall, she made my mouth water. This was a babe!
Perfect! That was my heroine, Pauline, in my novel. I had to get that down on tape. While I was looking for my little recorder, Maggie came in to tell me that she had closed the office for the day. I mumbled something but didn't notice her as she walked over to my desk. She stood there, waiting for me to notice her which I did very quickly. I think it was the hand that stroked my hair so softly. I stopped what I was doing and glanced up at her. What I saw was enough to make my heart begin to pound and my blood pressure to shoot up. I knew in the back of my mind that Dr. Jacobs would not be pleased if he measured my pressure just then.
"What's this? I thought you were mad at me. Did I do something right?"
"Why whatever made you think I was mad at you lover? You're my man. I love you."
"Yeah, well, that's not what you said last night. Or this morning for that matter. You threatened to castrate me if I didn't stop bitching about your mother coming."
"But you agreed to be nice to her and that's all I needed to hear. Now, push that chair back so your Maggie can sit on her TT's lap."
Well now. What was this? Just because I said I'd be nice to the evil one, I was forgiven? If I had known it would be that easy, I'd have done it sooner. Maggie was moving over my now happy erection and giving me the lap dance to end all lap dances. God the woman could make me sweat just by looking at her, but when she set her mind to being nice to her man, look out! I was groaning and making all sorts of happy noises but Maggie wasn't done. I almost cried when she stood up and moved away from my now frantic lap but before I could say anything she leaned over me and yanked my pants down to my ass. While I wiggled said ass to let said pants slip over and then down my skinny legs, she was removing a pair of white cotton panties. Now you might be surprised, but I loved those panties. I know a lot of guys like the thongs or the hi cuts, but not me. I loved those old fashioned durable panties and Maggie always wore them just for me.
The rest of Maggie's reward to me for playing nice is confidential. No play by play here. Just know that I smiled for the rest of the day and when bedtime came, well the grin on my face the next day should give you a clue as to what she did for me. God, I loved that woman! That was almost enough to make me forget her mother was due in a few days. Almost, but no cigar.
The following day I called Bruno. Polly would have been better for this one but she was somewhere in Mexico on a shoot I think she called it. Shooting who would be the real question. Polly was a damn fine photographer and she loved going on shoots. She did some famous people. I asked her once if she ever met Mickey Spillane but she just laughed at me. I guess it was a dumb question. She wasn't good enough to have photographed the Mick. Few were. The man was a legend!
I gave the details to Bruno, asked him to start a run on the credit cards and anything else he could think of besides the regular surveillance. He mumbled something about typical shit and then took it all and left. Bruno was a real technician and he would find out all there was to find about our Mrs. Pickering. Her name was Rachael by the way. Pretty name, Rachael. Not as pretty as Maggie. Of course.
It was just over a week later when Bruno called to ask to come see me. He said he had something but needed to know where to go from here. Not unusual. We often got to a point where we wanted the client to tell us how to proceed. That was standard practice for me. See, sometimes the client will be satisfied to know the spouse is cheating and wants to know nothing more. No pictures, no CDs, nothing. Just the name and dates. I liked those kind because it was often those that were trying to save something of their marriage. The others, the ones that wanted it all were just out for revenge. I hated that. I understood it but I hated it. But, that's life in the big city.
Bruno came in and showed me some footage he had taken. He was looking very bored and I knew he thought this was just a simple cheating case. He filled me in.
"The Missus goes to an apartment house down in the cheap part of town. She dresses down when she does and she goes up to an apartment on the forth floor. Stays there about an hour to an hour and a half then leaves. Nothing out of the ordinary but so far I have only a name. Question is, do I run it and try to get pictures and sound or do we just drop it here. She's cheating, that's clear."
"Good question. Let's call the Mr. and see what he prefers." With that, I pulled the file, got his cell and called.
"Ian, this is TT Spalding. Can you talk?"
"Go ahead. I'm alone right now."
"OK, here's the deal. Your wife is going to an apartment downtown to meet a man named . . . Rick Harris. Does that name ring a bell with you?"
"No it doesn't. Do you have any other information yet? Any pictures or proof of what she does with him?"
"No, we don't and that's why I'm calling. We can stop here if you wish or we can go forward. We can probably get pictures and sound for you as well as information on Mr. Harris. It's your call. Some don't want to know any more."
I held my breath. This was the key question. Where would he go with this?
"I want it all."
"You're sure about this? There's no going back once you see her in a bad situation. You'll never be able to forget it. Unless that turns you on. It does with some."
"God no. I love her with all my heart, but if she's cheating on me, I have to see it so that I'll have the strength to let her go. Get me what I need, please."
"OK Ian, we'll go to work. Give us a week or two and we'll give you what we have."
We said perfunctory goodbyes and hung up. This broke my heart but it had to be done. He was the boss here.
"Get the goods Bruno. Let's give it all to him and God help both of them."
"You got it boss."
I forgot about Ian and Bruno while I worked to clean up the outstanding work before the big holiday break. I promised Maggie that I would close the shop during the two weeks before and after Christmas so that she could spend the time with the Devil's daughter. It was quick work since the only outstanding jobs were long range and would continue even during the break. Money would be tight this Christmas since the long term stuff didn't pay up front. Once I collected from Ian Pickering, we would be fine. I already had Maggie's present: a necklace and matching earrings made from diamonds and citrine. November was Maggie's birthday and citrine was her birthstone. The yellow/orange color of the citrine stones with the diamonds was beautiful. She saw it once in a catalog and I ordered it the next day. Set me back a pretty penny but this was for my Maggie. She was worth every dime. I decided to pick up something for the evil one and thought maybe a nice bottle of perfume. I had a contact, sold what looked like the good stuff but were actually knockoffs. Looked real though, and for the evil one, that would be perfect. Mucho points with Maggie too.
The day before we were closing down, Bruno came in. He usually sent his stuff in but for some reason he wanted to do this in person. I set him up for 4:00, the end of the day. He walked in, sat down and looked at me with this hangdog look on his face. OK, I'll bite.
"What's with the face? This should have been an easy job compared to some we've had. Why the long face?"
"Boss, there's something going on here and I don't know what it is. I want to show you something and then get your take on it."
With that, Bruno slid the CD in the player and we sat back to watch the screen. When the picture came on, Bruno let it play for a short time just to set the scene. Rachael Pickering, dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt was going into the apartment house Bruno told me about. The camera followed her until she went in the door. The next picture showed her walking down a long hall and stopping before a door. She stood there for the longest time, shaking her head and mumbling to herself before pushing the buzzer.
Just for the record, I have no idea of how Bruno does what he does. His pictures seem to be taken right next to the people we investigate. He has cameras everywhere and he seems to be able to get right in the bed with some. I don't know how he does it and I never asked. I don't think I want to know.
When the door opened, she walked in slowly and the door closed. The next scene was from inside the apartment. It seemed to be from the perspective of someone standing off to the side of the room. The man, who I assumed was Rick Harris, was talking to Rachael and she was gesturing angrily and shaking her head. I looked at Bruno and he just motioned to follow the picture. He had the sound off for some reason. As I watched, Rachael turned and walked down the hall toward what I assumed was the bedroom.