Theodore Hunnicutt the Third hadn’t taken it well after he didn’t hear back from the team of cleaners he sent to eliminate the kidnappers and their hostage. He kept calling his Pinkerton contact. The scene at the Presario was all over the news, with dead bodies and prisoners reported. The devil was in the details, most of which the press weren’t mentioning. Maybe the police were keeping it to themselves. It’s even possible the Presario was using its pull to keep gory information from leaking. In any event, he had no idea if his people succeeded in killing anyone they set out to.
The Pinkertons still hadn’t gotten back to him since the day he received the video. He had to resort to his usual private methods. There were always people with criminal records or a military past who needed money. A little more cash made questions irrelevant. With that having failed, he hoped the Pinkertons would listen to reason and his wallet enough to come in. They could fix this. They had specialists for this sort of thing, and they were supposed to be brought in to take over this job from the police. He could still salvage this, if only they would play ball.
Theodore’s call was interrupted by a text message just as someone knocked on his door. “Police,” his assistant had texted him. He grabbed his burn pile of documents and slid them into his hidden door before standing up. “Come in!”
Uniformed officers entered, people whose superiors owed him favors or owed their positions to him. He thought he’d have this settled in no time. That thought disappeared when Chief Johanssen hobbled through the door using a cane. “Chief, how good to see you!” Theodore feigned happiness at the failure. He held out his hands in greeting, at which point Johanssen nodded to one of the officers. That man stepped forward and slid handcuffs into place. “What is this all about?!” Theodore asked indignantly, face turning red.
Johanssen let out a single laugh, then winced and raised his free hand to press against his side. “Theodore Hunnicutt, you’re under arrest for conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to kidnap, and any other charges I can damn well remember for the shit you tried to pull. I’m sure your attorney will be along shortly, but not before you see the inside of a cell. Get him out of here.”
Theodore tried to stand his ground, but a second cop grabbed him and helped move his uncooperative mass out of the door. His assistant stood against the wall, looking on sheepishly as if there was anything else she could have done. Theodore called to her as he was dragged out the door, “Ms. Worthing, call my lawyer!”
He turned toward the street to see who was watching this unprecedented humiliation and found himself a deer in the headlight of a newspaper cameraman.
“Hunnicutt In Hot Water!” the newspaper declared. The Mad Waxxer grinned as he looked it over. He’d had the paper copy sent to him, having left town after the arrest of Hunnicutt had gone off without a hitch. He liked the physical version, as old-fashioned as that was, but he’d also wanted to pay back the Brazilian by spending money on the newspaper. The man had saved his life, and sometimes old-fashioned ideas like owing someone weren’t so bad. The Waxxer read the story over before setting it on the towel next to his beach chair and rooting around in the bag he’d brought for his phone. “Just read the good news,” he texted the other kidnapper.
“Good 2 hear! Hope your having fun down there. Im taking care of the Gold Coast. Don’t worry.”
The Waxxer shook his head, but just then his phone was snatched out of his hands. “No work, all play makes Jack healthy, wealthy, and wise,” said Theodora, who leaned over and gave the Waxxer a hell of a view and a hell of a kiss.
“Mmm, two out of three ain’t bad,” he said after the kiss, looking into her eyes.
She booped his nose. “One out of three. We’re not going back home until you’re healthy, and you’ve got me to be wise for you. Until then,” she slid into his lap on the beach lounger. “You’ve got all the money you need by marriage.” She played at giving the phone back to him, then tossed it a short distance away into the soft sand of the beach.
“I hoped to save up so you wouldn’t be marrying so far down. If your father finds out, you’ll be as poor as me. For all that I play at being cultured, dear, I’m but a poor plebeian.” he said as he pulled her legs up further. He held her with one arm while the other traced over her bright blue toenails and the strap of a flip-flop.
She laughed and patted him on the head. “Is that what took you so long? Don’t make the same mistake my father did. I’m a big girl. I know how to do more than spend money, just like you know how to do more than tie people up. Besides, my father’s not going to be in any position to cut us off from anything.” Something buzzed. She reached into the right cup of her bikini top and pulled out her phone. “Daddy’s finally out on bail, so it’s only a matter of time before he finds out the bad news.”
“Bad news?” asked the Waxxer, pretending to pout.
Theodora kissed his forehead. “Bad news for him. Hey!” she reached for the phone he plucked out her hands and tossed off into the sand by his.
“We’ll worry about him later, you gorgeous, smart woman. For now, you have bigger problems to deal with,” he grinned wickedly. The hand at her foot tossed her flip-flop away and began tickling the bottom of her foot.
“Ahh!” she yelled, happily, as the couple fell into a tickle fight on the sands of Paradise Beach, in Paradise City, Florida.
Back in his office, Theodore Hunnicutt the Third cursed the lack of response from his daughter, then tried the Pinkertons. Again. This time, they picked up. “Mr. Hunnicutt, we didn’t expect to hear from you again.”
“This is partially your doing, you know. If you had called me back… ergh, we’re not on a good phone line. I need to meet with you in person!” He yelled. He stomped over to the liquor cabinet of his office and poured himself a glass of Scotch. “I’ll whatever it costs to fix this for me.”
The woman’s voice took an apologetic, mocking tone. “Surely a man such as yourself has other, cheaper ways to get out of this trouble. I was under the impression you were well-connected and could even replace a Chief of Police if need be.”
Theodore set the glass down on his desk, hard. “Nobody’s speaking to me. Things are in the newspaper, but it’s only connecting me. They’re making a scapegoat of me so none of this comes back on them. I have my own leverage, but it isn’t about that now. He marched me out in handcuffs! It was in the news!”
“Have you checked the news today?” the Pinkerton asked.
“I just got out. I’m too busy.” He walked around to his chair and turned on the lamp. He pulled a notepad over and grabbed a pin. “Name a number.”
“Not everything has a price, Mr. Hunnicutt. The integrity and good name of the Pinkertons is one of those things. You paid us and engaged our services without telling us the full story. Whatever else we are, we are not a criminal organization. It’s important we assure the public of that in these chaotic times. That’s why we’re cooperating fully with the police investigation, to clear the name of our agency. We were falsely accused of providing the manpower for that unfortunate business at the hotel. That left us no choice but to set the record straight. In turn, we are unable to contract for any other business with you at this time. Thank you ever so much for your interest, and feel free to call us again if you turn out to be innocent.”
She hung up. Ted almost threw the phone, but settled for tossing his empty glass against the wall. “Everyone wants proof of the record, do they?” he muttered to himself. He reached down for the hidden drawer on his desk and pressed the release. He pulled it out and looked.
It was gone. All of it, except a card-shaped envelop with the word “Dad,” on it in his daughter’s handwriting. He picked it up, looked around underneath as if the proof he hadn’t yet burned could have been hiding. Finally and quite furious, he tore open the envelop to see what his daughter had to say for herself.
The card was a sentimental “Thinking Of You” card, with a message scrawled underneath easily-forgotten platitudes. “Daddy, I know this must come as a shock to you, but it won’t be the only one. You never knew me as well as you thought. You wanted a son. You had me instead. I had to be a pretty, silly girl to attract your real heir. I was used to that, but then you tried to have the man I love killed. I will keep him safe. And speaking of safe, check yours. Love, Theodora.”
He threw the card to the desk as he launched himself from his chair. He pulled a painting of his grandfather open on its hinge to see the wall safe. He kept a large amount of cash and valuables in there for when he didn’t want a paper trail. He punched in the combination and held his handprint to it. It clicked open. It had been emptied, except for a polaroid and a scrap of newspaper. He checked the polaroid first, which showed his daughter in a simple white dress, standing with a tuxedo-clad man he didn’t recognize at a tacky wedding altar. The altar looked like they were in Vegas, but he had no idea who the man was at all. He set the photo aside to pick up the scrap of newspaper.
It was a story with no date attached. It used sensitive information from his documents to pin the blame for the entire fiasco with Johanssen entirely on him. Theodore’s mind raced. Whatever his daughter was talking about, she must have used the information she stole to convince his friends and the Pinkertons to throw him to the wolves. He had to talk her out of this. But first, he was going to visit a country that wouldn’t extradite, like Ricca.
He turned to leave and found himself staring at a shirtless man with dark skin. “Good God, who the hell are you?”
The Brazilian smiled. “Hell of a story, isn’t it?” He snatched the newspaper clipping out of Theodore’s hand. “Think of me as an insurance policy. I’m here to make sure you stick around.”
That concludes our brief intermission. We’ll be back to the usual murder and mayhem soon, folks.