So tell me, Special Agent Smythe, do you play chess? Of course you do, you being the wise, intelligent man that you are. Well, your friend Detective Simeon just took my rook. I think it only appropriate that I take something from him, don’t you? So what are you, Special Agent Smythe? Are you a piece of importance, like a knight or a bishop? Or are you merely a pawn? Well, what do you think? What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue, Special Agent Smythe? Oh, I’m sorry. I took your tongue.
You know, of course, that he took something very special from me. He took a measure of revenge that I wanted so much to savor this night. Now all I can do is sit here and wonder what I did wrong. I don’t make mistakes Richard. I can call you Richard, can’t I? You don’t mind, do you? I don’t make mistakes, so obviously someone else made one. Who do you think that would be? I think maybe the mistake belongs to Detective Simeon.
You are in a very difficult position right now. Someone has to pay for the detective’s arrogance. It seems that you are the one that has to take the message to him. Let me restate that. Some part of you has to be delivered to him so that he will learn that it is not only my words that he must adhere to, but also the spirit of my words, just like the laws he so obediently observes.
It seems that there are so many possibilities as to what I can send. Let’s see…do we send him your head? What would that message be? Maybe that I consider him to be intelligent an intellectual like myself? Though I have to admire the audacity of his actions, I certainly can’t give him the pleasure that might come from that notion.
Maybe we should send him a foot. How would he interpret a message of that nature? Would he get the message that he has walked all over my plans? Maybe. Hmm… Yes, I think he would see a message of that nature. However, I don’t think I want him to take pleasure in his actions or believe that he has actually done something significant. And now that I think about it, I think he just might take it to the next level and consider that his actions have gotten me disturbed. Now I certainly can’t give him that kind of confidence, can I?
Maybe a hand would be best. Yes, a hand would send the message that he stole something from me, and I, in turn, will punish him in a biblical manner. An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth. You steal from me I’ll cut off your hand. That would be a good message, don’t you think?
Wait a minute. I think I have it. All this time I have been thinking about our Detective Simeon as an intelligent man. I have placed him as a peer and elevated him to a level close to my own. Detective Simeon isn’t an intellectual like myself. He is crude and ignorant and needs a message that will be easily read and understood. I know what message to send. You will graciously give him but one finger, one very special finger that this crude man will understand immediately.
Thank you, Richard. You have managed to assist me in sending the perfect message to our friend, Detective Benjamin Simeon.
Now, if you would be so kind as to give me your left hand. We have work to do.
Ben had gone home for the first time in a long while. He couldn’t really remember how long it had been since he had been there, but the bed was so inviting that he didn’t even bother to take a shower. He just stripped off his clothes, laid down and, within seconds, fell asleep.
Sue Garrison had spent several minutes ringing Ben’s doorbell, and there was still no answer. She could see his fire engine red Chevy Chevelle SS in the garage; Ben loved muscle cars, and to Ben, the Chevelle was one of the best. It reminded him of when he went to the prom, and his brother had loaned his to Ben, right after that he bought one of his own. Ben had never forgotten how good that made him feel. And the ugly brown unmarked was in the drive. If both were there, Sue knew that Ben was close by. There were no signs of anything wrong about the house, except that Ben wasn’t answering his door. At the station, she had tried for an hour to reach him by phone, and there hadn’t been any answer that way either.
Now Sue had to decide her next step. She had to get into the house. Of course, if there were nothing wrong, Ben would get pissed. On the other hand, her mission was clear: get Ben to the office right away. She had only been to Ben’s house once before, months ago, when he had accidentally locked his keys in his car. She had driven him home to get his second set. And though she hadn’t gone inside with him, she had noticed that he kept a spare key under the empty flowerpot on the front porch. Of all the places to keep something important. It seemed like a dumb thing for a cop to do.
Sue found the key just where it had been before and entered the house. She hollered Ben’s name several times and heard no response. She was starting to get worried.
Ben’s home was decorated sparsely: two chairs, a pole lamp, a coffee table, and a 20-inch television in the living room. The dining room consisted of boxes collecting dust, and the kitchen was just as meagerly supplied as the rest of the living quarters.
Ben wasn’t downstairs, so Sue ventured upstairs. It was possible, she thought, that he was just out of the house on foot, but for some reason that didn’t seem likely. It wasn’t until she peered into the first bedroom did she realize that he was indeed home.
Ben was lying there, sleeping in the nude. What covers had been on him were now kicked off to the side, lying on the floor. Why me? Sue thought to herself. This is not how I wanted to start things off with him. Unfortunately, duty called, so she reluctantly moved to the side of the bed and draped a sheet over him before waking him.
When she softly shook him and said his name, Ben didn’t move. He lay there, breathing deeply in sound sleep. When she shook him again, Ben jumped as if someone had pour ice water on him, swinging his arms violently in all directions. Sue jumped back and screamed for him to stop, but she couldn’t slow him down until he was standing on top of the bed in all his glory, with his fists drawn ready to punch anyone nearby.
No matter how hard she tried, Sue couldn’t help but notice that what she had heard about men and mornings was, at least in this particular case, absolutely true. Before she couldn’t help herself she burst into laughter, and Ben, finally realizing what was occurring, relaxed his fists, looked down at his awakened state and, reluctantly, joined in on the laughter. He wanted to be mad, wanted to do something to save some dignity, but it didn’t take a brain surgeon to appreciate that dignity, of any kind, left the room several seconds earlier. Without saying a word, or bothering to cover himself, Ben stepped off the bed and walked out of the bedroom going down the hall. Some duties take priority over work.
Fifteen minutes later, Ben strolled back into the bedroom to find Sue waiting for him. This time, Ben was covered with a towel, hair wet from the shower he had just taken.
“I’m assuming you have a very good reason for being here,” Ben looked in his closet for something clean to wear.
“Of course I do,” Sue replied. Her mood was changing with the tone in his voice. “I don’t make B-and-E’s a habit. Especially when I know that someone might be home with a loaded gun.” She was a little hurt by the implication that her being there was not welcomed. Then she thought about the fact that some of his hostilities could be nothing more than a way of compensating for an embarrassing situation. Whatever the reason, she had to get him up to speed. While he was in the shower, she had called Captain Black, and nothing had improved regarding her reason for being there in the first place.
“We’ve been trying to reach you for over an hour,” Sue explained. “Finally the captain told me to get over here to make sure you were still alive. I pounded on the door for ten minutes before letting myself in.”
“What window did you break?” he asked, expecting to have to fix one.
“I didn’t break any windows. I used the key you keep under that flowerpot on the front porch. Really, Ben, you could at least find a better place than that for God’s sake.”
He pondered her words for a moment realizing that she was probably right.
“We have a problem at the station, Ben. It seems that we have a missing FBI agent. According to Agent Conley, Special Agent Smythe is missing, and the captain wants you to come in and go over everything we have so far.”
“Why? What does this have to do with me?” Ben asked. “This should be something handled by their own people. And what do you mean missing? How do they know he’s missing? Can’t they even keep a leash on their own people? Jesus, Sue! It’s not like I don’t have enough shit to deal with already!”
“I know. The only thing I can say is that they think it might be some kind of retaliation for the news program you did yesterday. Ben, I’m the one who put you up to that idea. If there’s a problem here, I should be the one taking the blame, not you.”
Sue wasn’t very happy at that moment. Even though Ben did the deed, it had been her idea, and if it wound up being the cause of somebody getting hurt—or worse—she didn’t know how she would be able to live with herself.
“Look, Sue.” Ben could sense her remorse. “You need to understand something. Nobody forced me to do anything. If Agent Smythe is missing, then there has to be a good reason. I may not care for the guy, but he doesn’t seem to be the kind of person that’s derelict to his job. I’m sure that he’ll turn up. Let’s go see what’s going on.”
Ben put his hands on Sue’s shoulders and looked deep into her eyes. For the first time in a very long time, it seemed to her, she was feeling secure being this close to someone. She wasn’t sure how he felt about her, but if she had her way, Ben would be hers and she would see to that.
Ben smiled, full of confidence. “I know at this point modesty is out of the question here, but if you don’t mind, I’ll get dressed alone.”
Still smiling and looking in her eyes, it dawned on her what Ben was talking about. She felt the heat rise in her cheeks.
“I’ll be downstairs.” She returned his smile and quickly exited the room. “Damn this man does something to me,” she said to herself as she walked down the stairs.
“Nice to see you’re still counted among the living,” Captain Black said when Ben and Sue made it back to his office. “The shit just keeps getting deeper, and the shovel has a crack in the handle.”
“Hey, Cap!” Ben made his way to a chair more comfortable than any in his office. “What’s up?” Ben was sure that he was going to hear everything anyway, and the captain didn’t need permission to say whatever was on his mind. Having fully recovered from his grogginess, Ben felt revitalized and ready to take on the world again.
“My blood pressure, that’s what’s up,” Black stated as a matter of fact. “I’m sure Sue told you about the missing agent. Well, I just got word that his car was found about ten minutes ago just off the 101, and he was nowhere to be found.” He waited a moment. “There’s blood splattered on the inside of the car, Ben. We don’t know yet if it’s his or someone else’s, but according to Agent Conley, it looks real bad. Lots of blood. Mostly on the driver’s side. We should know within the hour if it matches his blood or not.”
Ben just sat in the chair, looking at the captain as if what he had just heard could not be real. Neither of them was aware that Sue was still standing there, listening to the captain’s words. She put her hand up to cover her mouth when the implications finally dawned on her. Ben was going to be in trouble. She just knew that he was going to get a lot of grief, and she had no way of helping him.
Ben and Captain Black were talking about what they could or should do, and anything else that they could think of, to head off the tempest that was about to rain down on the detective. Sue had left the room quietly so she would be out of the way. She knew deep down that there was something she could do, but the real question was whether or not she should.
Cheryl Johnson appeared in front of Sue, and they almost ran into each other.
“Where’s Ben?” Cheryl asked. When Sue told her, Cheryl headed off without another word. Twenty seconds later, Cheryl burst into Captain Black’s office.
“We’ve heard from him again, Ben.” She ignored the captain. “There was a note and a package addressed to you found in Smythe’s car. Conley is bringing it here as we speak.” She hesitated. “Ben, I’ve been talking to Washington. They’re not very happy right now, and it looks like they may take the investigation from you.”
When it rains, it pours, Ben thought as Cheryl explained the call. In some ways, Ben had been hoping that they would take the case from him. But now that he was making some progress, he was getting the feeling that maybe there was no one that had a chance to solve this case except him. But it wasn’t up to him when the case had been forced on him, and wouldn’t be up to him if he lost it. Lady Fate would speak her piece when the time came. Ben would just have to wait to see if she was still on his side or turning to look the other way.