We entered the office of Jake Samson who was already moving towards us from behind the desk, arms extended in greeting. The office was small, maybe twenty by twenty, but comfortably furnished with a dark mahogany desk with two soft velvet chairs parked in front. The floor was cushioned with a thick shag rug of light brown that instantly felt like I was walking on air. The sheetrock walls were painted a light faint green but were covered for the most part with monitors showing the various stages, bar and tables inside the club. I realized that Jason was most likely watching us the whole time we sat at the bar.
“Jack, how are you Bud,” said Jake enthusiastically as he took my hand in both of his for a firm handshake.
“I’m doing just fine, Jake. Love the office. You have a bird’s eye view of the stages I see,” I said nodding towards the monitors on the wall.
“Yeah, but it’s still a job. Spend most of my time watching the patrons rather than the girls. Money’s good and there are a few perks,” he ended with a wink.
“This is my partner Detective Claire Sanchez.”
“Partner, I would have guessed differently. Nice to meet you, ma’am. So you’re Jack’s partner from the Spacey case?”
Claire smiled, “Yes, you followed the case?”
“The sniper shooting, who didn’t? The talk of the town. Nice work too by the way.
“Thanks, Jack helped too,” said Claire with a smirk.
Jake laughed one of his hardy laughs that seemed to well up from somewhere deep in his gut. “I’ll bet he did. You might want to keep an eye on this one, Jack.”
“Whenever I can spare them. Jake, if you don’t mind, we would like to ask you a few questions,” I answered.
“This an official visit?” He asked as he motioned us into the chairs that were even more comfortable than they looked.
“No, not at all, Jake, but we have a disappearance locally involving a friend and we need some insight to the local “lay of the land” so to speak.”
“I’ll do my best. Did he tell you how we met?” He asked Claire as he moved to an oversized leather chair behind his desk. Before he sat down he straightened the back of his dark gray pinstripe suit. The coat was unbuttoned to account for the girth of his midsection which hung over his trousers covering a belt that was hidden beneath his stomach. He balanced himself on the arms of the leather chair as he sat then ran both hands through his thinning gray hair.
“No,” said Claire as she leaned forward aware a story was coming, “but I would love to hear this”
“Well it was late May, I believe,” he began.
I nodded and said, “Cold as a witches tit for late May too.”
“Another unpredictable spring in Maine,” he continued. “I was working the reform school as security and Jack was still wet behind the ears with the Staties.”
“My first spring in uniform.”
“The school sat on a hill and was three quarters surrounded by a small river called Fore River. Not more than a mud hole most of the year, but in the spring it has some good depth and a strong current. It was foggy as hell this one morning, I’m patrolling the grounds just inside the brick fenced wall and I see a pair of legs going over the razor wire.”
“He paid for that one, too.”
“I grab my walkie and radio in that someone just went over the wall and was headed to the river. There’s no other way to go except to swim. I made it as fast as I could around the outside wall and headed to the shore. There was a blood track all the way to the riverbank so I knew where he had gone in and I could barely make out a flashing blue light on the opposite shore. Two minutes later I received the call that a cop had caught the escapee. I went back to the front gate to meet with the cop and up pulls Jack about a half hour later with this mountain of a kid in the back balling his eyes out. At first I thought the cop had beaten the snot out of him but as I took him out of the car he turns and thanks the cop.”
“I explained to him the error of his ways.”
“I guess you did, Jack, as I never saw such a change in a kid in all my years there. Jason was his name if I remember correctly.”
“Jason Wambaugh,” responded Claire.
“One and the same,” I said. “He about froze his ass off swimming that river and at one point I wasn’t sure if he was going to make it.”
“He was a tough kid. He still working as a PI for your uncle or something?” asked Jake.
“He owns the place now. I almost got him locked up for helping me on the Spacey case.”
“You did good, Jack. So how can I help you two?”
“Have you heard about the recent kidnapping of a pregnant woman near here?”
“Yeah over in Revere, fucking awful. Who does shit like that anyway?”
“Well her husband is an old high school friend and he asked me to help.”
“Ok, well how can I pitch in then?”
“Please keep this between us, ok?”
“Sure Jack, what are friends for.”
“Well as far as we know there hasn’t been any ransom demand or contact what so ever from the kidnappers. Claire and I have been searching for other possible reasons besides money.”
“Always about money, Jack. Every crime I have ever seen is either money or jealousy.”
“What about drugs?” asked Claire?
“Drugs are the addicts and dealers cash,” Jake answered.
“I agree,” I said. “So how do you make money on a pregnant woman if you’re not going to ransom her?”
“Sell her I guess. But why would anyone buy a woman with another man’s child? Sounds like a long shot to me.”
“Maybe, but what I would like to know first from you is who is the muscle behind the local prostitution trade?”
“The place I know of is over in Boston called the China Pearl on Tyler Street. A guy by the name of Feng Cao runs the place. Probably handles seventy five percent of the street walkers in the nineteen Boston neighborhoods.”
“Nineteen neighborhoods?” asked Claire.
“Yeah, New York has boroughs and Boston has neighborhoods, smaller than the New York boroughs.”
“What about the local vice?” I asked.
“They turn a blind eye to most of it, as long as it doesn’t get outa hand. I hear this Cao is connected somehow to the local Irish mob.”
“Who’s the mob boss?”
Jake leaned forward and spoke in a whisper. “Carrick Dunne, owns this place as a matter of fact. You didn’t hear that here and don’t fuck with this guy Jack.”
“What about trafficking women?”
“I have never come across anything like that. If I had, I would have gone to the cops. Prostitution is another thing, these girls are runaways, from broken or abusive homes. I’m not saying that there doing well as prostitutes but they ain’t dead and some make it out.”
“Where does Dunne operate from?”
“No place in particular. The guy’s got more money than the Pope. He owns this place, about a dozen restaurants and a half dozen art galleries around the city. He has a passion for art and I hear he has a great private collection at his home over in Nahant.”
“Anything else you can help me with?”
“Not really, but I’ll let you know if something comes to mind. But Jack, honestly, stay out of Dunne’s way or the next headline you might make is the obituary.”
“Thanks for the advice, Jake.”
We exchanged handshakes again and then left Jake’s office. I noticed that the Asian bartender was on the phone as we left but she waved to us with a smile as she continued her conversation.
Claire wrapped her arm through mine then nodded towards the stage where a petite brunette was removing her shirt revealing star pasties covering her nipples. “That could be me Wednesday night,” she said
“I was kind of hoping for this afternoon.”
“Oh, you were? I just don’t dance for any smooth talking swinging dick you know.”
“Then I better call the hotel and cancel the pole they installed. You know how much money I’m out?”
“That’s what you get for assuming,” she finished and kissed me lightly on the cheek and I felt my face flush.
As we left the building I noticed that the bouncer followed us out and watched as we climbed into Claire’s truck. He took out his phone and made a call as he went back into the Banana.
“To the hotel?” asked Claire.
“Yes, let’s get settled then I want to go see Chuck. The GPS should get you there.”
“Ok,” she said as she started up the big V-8 engine. “I love you, Jack.”
“Yeah, but will you still respect me in the morning?”
“Hopefully not,” she laughed and smiled at me sending a pleasant warmth through my body.
We rode in silence down Route One and soon the Tobin Bridge loomed up ahead. The tall rusted green supports towered over bumper to bumper traffic that cruised around fifty, but brake lights soon appeared as we approached the tolls.
I looked over at Claire whose beautiful face was before the tall and gleaming Boston high rises that bordered the Charles River. This girl had won my heart like no other woman I had ever met. It still surprised me as she was quite different from women I had dated in the past. I enjoyed my life as an up and coming playboy detective and most of the women I was attracted to were tall, leggy, and slim figured professionals, a sharp contrast to the five foot one, toned physique and rough around the edges Clarita Sanchez. The woman was tough, brash, and extremely smart as she showed often during our many investigations together. Dressed normally in army fatigues, baggy sweatshirts and a ball cap – usually bearing an Army slogan or emblem – we had developed a great working relationship during the months preceding the Spacey case. That had all changed for me one night at Gritty’s in Portland.
Claire had invited me to meet with a couple of her friends for drinks after work. I had arrived early and was waiting for them when I spied a beautiful girl in a very short black leather mini skirt and a red open backed blouse. Her hair was long, dark and wavy and I found myself staring at her. The woman ended up being Claire. That night is when our relationship began to change, especially after a rather comical altercation between myself and some slickyboy dirt bag in a local club. We had coffee afterwards and I think we both considered it our first date. Since then our relationship grew stronger and somewhere along the line I fell hard in love. My playboy days were definitely over, ain’t life a bitch.