A new assignment brings Jake Taylor back for more trouble than he can handle.
| Blood was dripping out of me and falling to the floor with the insistent noise of a metronome on speed. I struggle to wrench my tie off. Wrapping it around my upper arm, I pull tight using my teeth and my other hand which is now slippery with blood. The dripping sound slows from a gallop, to a canter, to a walk. Finally, I have it under control. Crouching behind a crate, unarmed and with a gang of raving lunatics pursuing me was not what I had in mind just a couple of days ago.
My name is Jake Taylor and I work for a private investigations firm. You won’t find us in the phone book; we’re strictly word of mouth.
My last case had not gone well, to say the least. The company which had hired us had gone belly up. I had killed one of the directors and the other one was charged with the attempted murder of yours truly. Lodged near my lung is an inoperable splinter from his bullet, but that lingering pain palls into insignificance compared to the reaming out I was receiving from my boss. Although a small man, Felix Lydecker had a voice like that of Joshua and his trumpet; he could bring a wall down with it. His main concern I gather was that he had no one to charge for the two weeks I had put into the previous case; needless to say, it was my fault entirely. I sit before him while he strides up and down his office berating me. I am an ex-footballer, six-foot two and slightly overweight at two forty and scared of practically nothing, but here was this small man who had me yes siring, no siring, like a kid before his headmaster. The static electricity from his cheap polyester suit was causing his thinning grey hair to move restlessly about on his scalp. Suddenly, he comes to a stop directly in front of me and points his finger;
“Taylor, I’m giving you one final chance to do something right. It’s a simple assignment; a positive walk in the park.” Eyes glaring at me, he swing and picks up a file from his desk and throws it at me.
“Now get out of here. Screw this up and don’t bother coming back.”
I slink from his office, quietly closing the door behind me. His secretary, a matriarch in her sixties, gives me an encouraging look and a thumbs up, as I head to the lift. Pushing the button, I make my way to the basement car park. Exiting, I spy a note sticking out from under my windscreen wiper. It has a big "sorry" stenciled across it in lipstick. On the back is a name, address and phone number. I get up the courage to circumnavigate the company car. There it is; a long deep scratch and a dint in the back passenger’s side panel. I hang my head. What else could go wrong?
Making it to my apartment without the world coming to an end I consider is a great achievement. Entering, I move to my La-Z-Boy chair with the file in my hand. Settling into its welcoming arms, I try to raise the panel to put my legs up. It will not lock into place. This is just another sign from the ‘big guy’ that today, my life sucks. Reluctantly, I open the file to see what I've been saddled with. The first thing that greets my eyes is a large glossy head shot of a young attractive blonde woman. Mid-twenties, sparkling baby blues, cupid bow mouth and a small snub nose lightly dusted with freckles. Maybe my day was looking up. Turning the photo over, I glance over the statistics on the back. Sarah James, 27 years old, 5’4" tall and ninety pounds in weight. I move to the next page. I give a grunt of dis-belief. It's a babysitting job! After 10 years with the firm, I am given a babysitting job! This was something that should have been assigned to the newest operative. Had I sunk so far in Lydecker’s estimations that this was all that he was willing to trust me with? Pursing my lips, I read on. According to the information, threats had been made against the girls’ father and it seems that there is a slight chance that they may try to use the girl to get to him. My brief was to pick her up from the airport and keep her safe for the time she is in the city. I checked the schedule. I had better get a move on. Miss Sarah James was due in on the 1400 flight. I had only an hour to get there.
Making it with minutes to spare, I leave the car at the entrance and rush in. I go to the arrivals board. Above me, flashing next to her flight number is the word - landed. Hurriedly, I move to the designated check-in and find it deserted. Sinking into a chair and putting my head in my hands, I contemplate the idea of looking for a new job. A pair of white runners appears in my line of sight.
A questioning, yet sensual voice inquires, “Mr Taylor? Jake Taylor?”
Looking up, I encounter my missing assignment. Her photograph does not do her justice. She stands before me in dark blue stretch pants, white shirt and a thigh length red jacket. Her hour glass shape would have Hugh Hefner rushing to offer her a center fold contract.
She addresses me now with more confidence, as I scramble to stand.
She thrusts out her hand to shake. Dwarfing her, I take her hand carefully and try and recover my poise. Though small, she has a killer grip.
“Miss James. I’m sorry I‘m late. I was beginning to think I’d missed you,” I blurted out. “How did you recognize me?”
“Your Mr Lydecker gave me a fairly accurate description. A tall, heavy set individual, with dark hair turning to grey. Green eyes. Nose broken one time too many. Mid-thirties and looking a bit frayed around the edges.
He also said, ‘Knowing Taylor, he’ll be running late.’”
I hate it that he knows me so well.
Collecting her luggage, we move towards the exit. Through the sliding glass doors, I get a good look at my car being towed. Would this day never end? Smoothly, as if it was all part of the plan, I escort her out and climb into a cab.
The journey to the hotel is silent, except for the machine gun chatter of our driver. No input was required. In that twenty minute journey, I learnt more about what’s wrong with the city that I had grown up in, than I ever want to know.
Exiting the taxi, she enters the hotel without waiting. I pay the driver (minimum tip) and make sure the doorman has her luggage (another tip), before quickly catching up to her and grasping her by the elbow. She turns to me with one eyebrow raised in query. She looks at me and then down at my hand restraining her. I get the message, but I hold her arm and speak softly to her.
“We need to talk, when we get to your room. Their are some basic rules which you need to understand.”
Letting go, I allow her to continue with her check in. Once the formalities are completed, we make our way into the lift. You could cut the air with a knife. Sliding her key card into the lock of Room 1024, she strides in without looking back or holding the door open. It closes swiftly and catches me on the elbow. (Not funny) I force it open against the closing mechanism and enter. She is sitting on the bed looking at me. I drag one of the chairs around to face her. She continues the ‘silent treatment’ and we sit there glaring at each other. I crack first.
“Miss James, I ...”
“How dare you put a hand on me! I am not someone to be pushed around! I told my father that this is all unnecessary, but he insisted. I don’t need a bodyguard! “
Her tirade continues in this vain for a number of minutes before she starts to wind-down. Then it is over as quickly as it had begun.
I must admit I’d lost my train of thought, as her chest heaved impressively against her white shirt and the color rising high in her face. Anyway, back to business.
I start again.
“Miss James, I just...”
There is a knock at the door. “Room Service,” a muffled male voice sings out.
I rise and cross to the door and swing it open impatiently. A waiter carrying an ice bucket with a bottle of champagne is waiting on the threshold.
“This is for Miss. James,” he says in a condescending tone as he pushes past me into the room and places it on the side table.
He then retreats back to the door to where I am standing and holds out his hand. This is starting to get expensive. I wonder if I should ask for a receipt. I hand him five dollars. He looks at it and sniffs, before leaving the room and closing the door loudly.
Sarah James leans over and looks at the attached card.
“It’s from my Uncle,” she announces as she re-settles herself on the bed.
I sit myself opposite her once more, determined to have my say.
“Miss James, I want to...”
There is a knock at the door. This is getting ridiculous, I think to myself. Crossing quickly and somewhat angrily to the door, I throw it wide.
Standing before me is a tall, middle aged man in a grey suit, holding a gun and pointing it in my general direction. He is obviously taken by surprise by the prompt answer and freezes. I react instinctively. All the pent up frustrations of the day, boil up inside me and I hammer a right cross to his jaw. He drops the gun and crumples silently to the floor, unconscious. Bending, I grab him by his legs and drag him unceremoniously into the room. I go out into the corridor, glancing left and right. The coast is clear. I retrieve the gun and pocket it.
Back in the room, a shocked, Sarah James is staring incredulously at the body lying comatose on the floor. I kneel beside him and take out his wallet and also a lethal looking switch blade. They both join the gun.
“Miss James,” (I was determined to finish at least one sentence) grab your handbag, we’re leaving.”
“You’d better call me Sarah.”
She has regained her composure and we are out the door.
Moving quickly down the hallway and bypassing the lifts, we push through the exit door into the stairwell. I manage a quick pace downwards which Sarah has no difficulty in keeping up with. Bypassing the lobby entrance we continue down to the lower car park. Motioning for silence and for her to stay still, I slowly push open the door and peer around the corner. I hear a loud click and feel the chill of cold metal thrust into my temple. Could my day get any worse?
TO BE CONTINUED...