Authors: Havan Fellows
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, locations, incidents and positions are completely and absolutely a part of the author's skewed imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or deceased, businesses, events or locales are entirely coincidental and maybe a little bit freaky.
All rights are reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise, is forbidden without express written permission of the publisher/author. So please be good, good is fun. Dedications
I really need to thank Lee Brazil, Laura Harner and Tom Webb for their patience and kindness. They stayed by my side through this whole process and never got tired of answering the same
questions over and over again...and then one more time just for good measure. Sad thing is, that happens when I do take notes...imagine if I didn't...lol
Thank you also to the readers...I know authors say this all the time —trust me we mean it. Without you...well there would be no me. So thank you for allowing me to be me and write a few words that maybe you'll find entertaining.
Wick Templeton had retired from the police force years ago when an injury to his left side kept a doctor from clearing him to do anything but paper pushing. He wasn't a paper pusher. He needed the action of the streets, his fingernails dirty to feel like he contributed. Otherwise he was mean as a bear, and not the type he preferred in his bed either.
So he made do with his own company, so he could do things his way and play by his rules. Technically he wasn't a private investigator, though he did have his license, for legal purposes. No, he leaned more toward the title of problem solver, hence the name Wicked Solutions. Have a spouse cheating on you and require proof? Sure, he'd take the pics if his schedule permitted. Have an issue with an overly friendly person who pops up everywhere? Wick would help out there also.
Those mundane problems helped him pass the time, nothing more. He preferred the nitty gritty work to get his blood pumping. Which was a good thing, considering nitty gritty was just a ring away.
Wick minimized the spider solitaire game he was elbows deep in and picked the phone up on the fourth ring. He never answered before the third—to weed out the uncertain clients, but he always answered before the ringing reached six—hated checking voicemail.
"Wick." He didn't believe in long introductory speeches and he didn't list his number in any type of directory. If someone called him, they knew what he did.
"Oh thank God you're there. I need you, man." A familiar baritone floated out of the receiver.
He pushed his keyboard out of the way and up on the platform bracing his flat screen monitor then rested his elbows on the desk. "Brad Morris? Is that you?"
"Yeah…yeah, it is. Long time no talk, huh buddy?" A forced chuckle followed the truthful words.
"Hell yeah, it is. The last time you told me you needed me…well, it wasn't over the phone and you sure as hell didn't have that lost tone to your voice. Oh wait…you might have had the lost tone, but I gotta say it probably wasn't for the same reason as now."
He heard the intake of breath across the wire and rolled his eyes; Brad always leaned toward the melodramatic side of things. "I'm in trouble and out of ideas. I wouldn't have bothered you. I know this is probably awkward with our past, but I can't trust anyone else, and the fucking private dicks that my company hired…" Another deep breath filtered over the receiver. "Well, let's just say I know they don't have my best interest at heart."
"Rule number one, unless you're the one holding the purse strings, always assume that your best interest is never at the top of the list. I don't give a fuck whether it's an employer, friend, or family. If you aren't making the paycheck appear, your ass ain't covered.
"Rule number two, don't call your ex and ramble on like an idiot. Especially when said ex is me. Hold your tongue until I give you the go ahead."
He tossed the handset to his left, the clanking noise a mild nuisance, and pulled his keyboard back to him. Opening the left drawer of his desk, he reached in over the short divider to the back compartment and wrapped his fingers around a hard square gadget. He pulled it out with the appropriate cords and quickly hooked it up to the socket in his phone and the USB port in his monitor.
A pop up appeared on his screen directing him to a new URL address. He quickly filled out the user name and password and typed in the activation code. Within minutes of setting down the receiver he was guaranteed that the line Brad called him on was clean and clear.
Most of the commonplace cases he worked didn't require this type of technology, and he didn't flaunt what he had out in the open. But when an ex-boyfriend called up with a warble in his voice…well, let's just say that Wick liked to err on safe rather than sorry. Sorry always ended him up in the interrogation room downtown. No matter he was a retired badge, in the cops' eyes he was a rogue.
He retrieved the phone. "Go…"
After getting past the front desk security, which wasn't up to par in any way, Wick stood at an office door marked Brad Morris and rapped his knuckles three times fast. The door opened, an arm shot out and dragged him inside. Before he could protest the rough handling, Brad slammed him up against the wall and assaulted his mouth.
On the verge of biting down, Wick heard footsteps enter the office. They paused, shuffled some, then gradually faded away.
Brad pulled away from Wick and smiled at him. "Um…hello?"
With one hand, Brad covered Wick's mouth, the other hand quickly flicked out and swung the office door closed.
As soon as the click signaled their privacy, Wick quickly shot out his right fist and connected with Brad's midsection.
"Oomph." Brad grabbed his side with both hands and stumbled back to rest his ass on the desk. "Jesus, Wick! Why the fuck did you do that?"
"And your answer to that question?" Wick stood with his feet apart and arms crossed. He never was the biggest kid on the playground, but he oozed authority when he wanted to.
"I'm under suspicion here." Brad gestured to the door. "If I'm having a strange man come to my office, I better have a good reason."
"Tonsil hockey's an acceptable reason at your work?" Wick cut him off with a hand in the air. "Forget it, I know what you mean. Nice to know you still have it, just warn a guy before you use it." He walked around the desk and sat in Brad's chair. "So give me the Reader's Digest version."
Brad followed him to the chair, leaning over him. "Did you have to punch me in the ribs? I can't even catch a deep breath right now."
"No marks. I knew what you were doing, just didn't appreciate it. Wouldn't want to bruise your pretty face and ruin our alibi for the closed door meeting." He studied the set up of Brad's desk, and a diamond of yellow paper caught his attention.
"Seriously, Brad?" Wick pressed his pointer finger down on the slip and slid a Post-It note with its stickiness all worn off out from under the plastic trays located catty cornered on his desk. On the note, written in his ex's messy scribble, were his user names and passwords for all the company programs. Including Lotus Notes, the email program his company utilized.
"What? I can't memorize all those passwords."
"And anyone who knows your habits can get into your email…" He quickly pulled up Brad's business email and typed in the corresponding information.
A knock on the door had Brad standing up straight.
"Answer that." Wick kept scanning the unread emails.
"But?" He nodded to the computer.
A few keystrokes and Wick had a movie theatre's site up. "What? I'm searching for a movie for our date night…" He purposely eyed Brad up and down then cracked a smile. "Princess." He angled the screen toward the door.
"Funny." Brad rounded the desk and answered the knock.
A tall blond man wearing a crisp business suit that accentuated a perfect physique strode confidently into the office. Wick trained his gaze on the movie theatre website so he wouldn't be caught eyeing the goodies this stranger possessed.
"Brad, I just heard what happened. I want you to know I don't believe the rumors. There is no way that you would ever share those stats with LexinCorp."
"So, who's your friend?"
"Oh, this is W—"
Wick cleared his throat loudly. "I'm a good friend of Brad's. In fact I've decided to take him to a movie tonight, you know, lobotomize his brain for a couple of hours so he can forget this mess being dumped on him." He ignored the hand stretched out to him and clicked through the movie listings as the conversation continued. After a few more well wishing comments passed, Ned left and once again he was alone with Brad. He swiveled the monitor back to its original position and went back to work.
"Well, nice to know that I have one friend left here." Brad rested against the desk and half-smiled at Wick.
"Yeah. Nice guy." Wick mumbled as he clicked the mouse again, paused, then rapid fired three more clicks. "Hey, you said his name was Ned? That wouldn't be Ned Harris, would it?"
"That's right, Ned Harris. Why?"
"Because you were just blind carbon copied in on an email sent to him from LexinCorp. Nothing incriminating or major, mind you. Interesting, though."
Biting into another chicken wing, Wick listened to Brad ramble on. The gist of it was the same old story. A small fish growing exponentially bigger, with no reasoning behind it, triggers the big fish to automatically assume that there is a traitor in its midst. Insert some overpriced under-talented private dicks to stick their noses in it and miraculously sniff out the leak. And the stench amazingly seemed to drift off Brad.
Unfortunately for all involved, Wick never believed in the easy answer. Considering the private dicks had only been on the case for a day before pointing fingers at Brad, well that was just a little too convenient in his opinion.
He nodded at the appropriate times. Brad wasn't aggressive enough to backstab his company, but the higher ups wouldn't care about that. They just wanted a scapegoat, if they could spin it to make them look sympathetic to their clientele and appease their stockholders, all the better.
Had it crossed Wick's mind that Brad might be guilty? Sure, but there was a reason they were exes, Brad's sheer lack of follow-through with anything. So the thought came…then left.
The email that Brad was blind copied on proved, to Wick at least, that he was a pawn in this game. Hell, he probably wasn't the only pawn either, and definitely not the important one at that.
The waitress came to refill their drinks and winked at Brad. "You're in a little late for lunch today, honey." She nodded in Wick's direction, "You sure do like them spicy." Smiling, she walked to her next table.
Wick raised his eyebrow at Brad, "Am I your hot tamale of choice today?"
"Oh…um…I usually meet a friend here for lunch a couple times a week." He ducked his head, but not before Wick saw his cheeks redden.
"Really?" He tossed the bone into the basket. He knew from their past relationship that Brad liked to work through his lunch hour. So to have lunch with someone that often…
"Not much to tell. I met Clifford at the gym a few months back. He was stalking me," he chuckled nervously, "Evidently I kept grabbing the machines he wanted right before he did. We chatted it up and got to be friends. There is no spark there, at least not on his side, I've determined. But he seems to enjoy our lunch dates so maybe…" Brad shrugged and sipped on his soda.
Wick's brain went into overdrive, no hanky panky but the man insisted on having lunch with Brad multiple times a week?
"This Romeo have a last name?"
"Huh? Yeah, his name is Neer, Clifford Neer. Why, do you know him?"
"Nope." He tore open one of the wet towelette packs and cleaned his hands. After tossing a twenty on the table, he slid across the bench and stood up. "I'll call you if I find anything out, just do yourself a favor and stay low-key at work. Go in, work, leave. No fraternizing with co-workers or playing around on your computer. Don't even go to any nonwork related sites, no Facebook or porn. Got it?"
Brad nodded quickly, "Yeah…yeah, got it."
He knew full well that Brad wouldn't heed his warning. He had to work quick.
Wick bumped into the waitress on his way out and whispered in her ear, "I'm definitely the spicier one."
It only took calling in one favor to find out Clifford Neer was an up and coming attraction at LexinCorp. My my my…wasn't that just interesting? Wick would bet a twenty spot that Cliffie Boy probably didn't divulge that little piece of information to Brad.
At seven that night, Wick stood in front of LexinCorp's building. Perfect time. If his informant was right, the witnesses should be at a minimum, but Clifford would still be at work trying to impress his bosses.