My client was paying me to catch her husband cheating, but I had nothing incriminating to report. I almost felt sorry for taking the money, but ten grand was ten grand and a new photography studio wasn’t going to pay for itself.
In fact, the only thing I could report was he liked to visit an Irish pub Friday evenings and sometimes snuck out of the office to watch a movie. This last one surprised me. He actually watched old black and whites. No secret tryst or back-alley poker game; simply watched a movie by himself on company time.
I had been following this boring schmuck around for weeks without a shred of hard evidence of infidelity or anything else unsavory.Today would be the final Friday I’d watch him down a few pints before taking a long walk on the shore and heading home.
But his black BMW turned on the interstate instead. He zipped through Philly to an abandoned steel mill. I had no idea this place even existed. The sheer size of it was humbling, but it had an eerie beauty about it. It looked like one of those complicated perpetual-motion-machines, with a huge rectangular shaped building off to the side.
My target couldn’t be more obvious he was somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be. His eyes darted around and he kept glancing over his shoulder. If he weren’t as twitchy as frightened rabbit, he certainly would have noticed me. I followed him into the nearly windowless rectangular building, snapping pictures as I went.
The air inside was even more stifling than outside. It still had its iron and oil smell even though it hadn’t been used in nearly half a century. This was exciting, the kind of back-alley-black-market-type work that only happens in gumshoe movies. Each creak of my steel-toed boots on the rusty metal made my pulse leap in my throat. Surely he had to hear me scaling my way up to the catwalk. No. He was giving a guy in a gray suit a business style hug.
I wedged myself between a couple of beams and crouched to a knee. Another guy in khaki cargo shorts and a t-shirt—with a Playboy Bunny Twin on either side—joined the two men. The camera snapped away, zooming in on each of their faces.
Finally some dirt.
I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but after a decade of viewing people through a lens, I learned to read lips. Idle chit-chat, nothing incriminating. However, my target failed miserably to keep his eyes off the cleavage spilling out of the pink tank top to his right. Whatever, that was nothing. Everybody likes boobs.
Come on shady people. Be interesting.
A two-story structure—gone completely orange with rust—off to the left of the industrial clutter stole my attention. It was a little creepy but oddly beautiful. I had no idea what it was, but the intricate green pipes running this way and that and the broken gauges begged to be captured on film. This place made me feel like an ant on some alien planet.
Like a splash of water to the face, one of the Boob Twins’ fake giggle cut through the moist air, snapping my focus back to the job at hand. Capturing art would have to wait.
Finally, they were moving. Of course they would have their secret orgy in the old office lurking above the mill. I scrambled out of my hidey-hole and headed for the scaffolding style beams. Rust coated my hands and sweat dripped between my breasts by the time my boots hit the floor.
Following their footprints in the dust was easy. They might as well have posted a neon sign saying shady-people-up-to-no-good headquarters this way. Interestingly, they lead to a two-story heap of metal off to the right, halfway down instead of to the office at the end.
The rusted iron and green copper pile formed a fort—like the ones kids make from all of the blankets in the house with their mom’s dining room furniture.
Much better hideout than the decrepit office.
Back in stealth mode, camera at the ready, I snuck through the make-shift doorway.
The camera was snatched from my grasp, jerking my whole body forward. Before I could glance at whatever lay in their cave-of-mysteries, thick, tough leather cinched around my eyes—a belt by the jingle of it—my back hit a solid male body. Someone else’s meaty, calloused fingers closed around my windpipe.
I kicked and flailed my legs in front of me, aiming for testicles or kneecaps. The fingers tightened on my throat, pressing hard into the soft flesh under my jaw. Pain radiated through my skull instantly stopping my kicking. My heart hammered in my chest, my ears rang, and the belt cut into my eyelids.
“Bitch,” a deep male voice growled in my face. His hot breath reeked of tobacco and coffee. “How’d you get in here?”
I choked. Fucking meathead knew I couldn’t answer.
The calculated click of stilettos on concrete came from my left. “If you loosened up, she could answer that Derek.”
I knew that silky voice, I was sure of it.
Derek’s fingers loosened. Glorious stale, humid air filled my lungs; my feet touched the ground again. Blunt, hard steel pressing under my left breast between my ribs, changed my mind about fighting.
“Now, tell me Miss Sawyer,” her familiar voice said inches from me. “How did you find this place? The truth or else a bullet’s going through your heart.”
“I followed your goddamned husband like you paid me to do.”
“Such a useless fucking idiot,” she muttered under her breath.
The gun moved away from my body.
I flinched, the gunshot echoing off the metal walls. The sound of a body crumpling to the floor came from my right.
Who the hell did she just execute? Her husband?!
“Derek, James, let her go. Excellent work Miss Sawyer… Welcome to the underground.”