Though it was only June, the July heat had arrived baking the Front Range. Hunter Divine stood relishing the air conditioning of the sprawling home in Boulder. Thoughts on the violent events of the past occupied his time while he waited, as often was the case. The death of the Senator’s son forever cached in his memory.
His boss, Amari Sarr, was working out in his impressive exercise room, sitting on a Nautilus machine, exerting his upper body. Sweat rolled off his muscular bare chest as he did several routines, transferring himself without assistance impressively from platform to platform, especially since he didn’t have the use of his legs. Hunter watched in amazement, the man not letting his handicap slow him down. When he was done, he got back into his wheelchair, grabbing a towel, wiping down his cornrow black hair and perspiration-covered body. He wheeled himself over to Hunter, nodding his head.
“Did you find him?” he asked, after taking a long drink from a metal, spill-proof container.
The question was related to a job Hunter had been working, finding a criminal who had injured the wife of a rich Denver socialite during the burglary of their house. The suspect had skipped bail, and Hunter was hired to track him down and hand him over to the client.
“I did and delivered him as requested. The client transferred the initial fee to your account. He’ll pay our expenses promptly when we submit them.”
“Excellent. Any trepidation with leaving the burglar with the client?”
They knew the client had planned on extracting revenge on the burglar in a violent manner. Hunter shrugged off the notion of what would happen.
“Not really. I did what I was paid to do. It was up to Mister Ashby how he wanted to resolve the situation. I won’t lose any sleep.”
Amari grabbed a water-wicking shirt from a chair and put it on. He then wheeled out of the room, down a hall and into the kitchen. He opened the fridge door and pulled out an apple and a bottle of refreshment.
“Care for an Ale?” Amari held up the bottle.
“As tempting as it is, I’ll pass for now. I assume you’ll transfer my cut promptly.”
“You send me your expenses and I’ll pay you without delay,” Amari stated after taking a bite of the juicy fruit.
For all the previous cases, money had arrived quickly. Hunter enjoyed not having to skimp when it came to finances, like in past years. Currently his bank account showed a comfortable amount.
“Anything else you need me for?” inquired Hunter.
“As a matter of fact, we have a client on the way over. Woman from California. An actress—famous from what I’m told. I’d never heard of her since I never watch television.”
“What’s her name?”
Amari took a sip of his ale as a chaser to another bite of the apple and pulled out his phone. Unlocking it, he brought up a picture and showed it to Hunter, who immediately recognized the glamorous star.
“Wow—Megan Getz—Hollywood royalty. Her parents were big stars years ago. She was a teenage actress before becoming an adult star on a popular sitcom for many years. Worth a lot of money thanks to the syndication residuals.”
“Good to know. Sounds like she’ll have no problem paying her bill.”
“What type of work is she looking to have done?”
Amari bit off another big section of the apple. “I don’t know. Her manager wouldn’t say. But she wanted to talk with me personally. You never know with these celebrity types.”
Hunter wasn’t prone to be star struck, but he hadn’t met many celebrities in his lifetime. Sports stars mostly—requesting an autograph—if you called that meeting them. He didn’t know a whole lot about her, other than she was blonde and good looking. Her public image squeaky clean. Up close and personal he’d get a sense if it was true.
A loud chime rang through the huge home. The servant went to answer the door, along with Amari’s security man, Leon. In a couple of minutes Leon walked back with the movie star. His expression telling Hunter he had no idea who the woman was either.
“A Mrs. Getz here to see you sir,” announced Leon in a business-like tone.
The actress walked in as if she were out of a fifty’s detective noir thriller. Her blonde hair was in a Bouffant hairstyle, full of body on the top and sides. Her sun-tanned face was lightly made up, lips a bright cherry red, a jade cigarette holder in her mouth. She was outfitted in a flowing black dress, with lacy top and split up the center of her dark stocking covered legs. She strolled carefully on heeled, open-toed shoes, exhaling herb-scented smoke into the air. Smiling a femme fatale smile, she held out her hand gingerly.
“Gentlemen, what do you think of my costume?” Her tone throaty and sensual.
Amari smiled. “Impressive. Is this an audition?”
“I’m in character. It is for a part I’m going to be playing soon. They’re bringing back Sam Spade to the big screen. I’m to be the femme fatale who is tempting him.” She exhaled more smoke, followed by the licking of her cherry lips.
“You would be hard to resist,” commented Hunter, the woman striking to his eyes, making his breath catch. “Old Sam has his work cut out for him.”
She put her hand on Hunter’s shoulders and walked around him, gazing at his solid form. “I must say, you’d make an excellent private eye. Have you ever acted before? You’d be excellent for the main part.”
Hunter decided not to comment. Though he’d be flattered to play such an iconic character, he knew what the racial ramifications of a black man playing Sam Spade would be. Especially since the last name was a derogatory term for a black man.
Amari ignored her comment. “This performance is quite fascinating, Mrs. Getz. But I believe you came here for reasons other than showing us your acting chops. What type of assistance are you looking for?”
“Please call me Meg.” Her throaty husky tone gone, as she dropped out of character. “May we speak somewhere quiet. A place I can get off my feet. These damn heels are killer. I have no idea how a woman could stand wearing these horrible shoes in those days.”
After tossing away the remains of the apple, Amari pointed the way, leading them into his office. She sat down on the sofa, crossed her legs, removed her shoes, and tossed them on the floor. “May I please have an ashtray?” She crushed the spent cigarette into the ashtray Hunter had handed to her. “All for show. I despise real cigarettes. These herbal ones are bearable, but you can’t get away from smoking in those types of movies. It was all the rage.”
“As was the lung cancer many years later for the performers,” joked Hunter, causing Meg to laugh.
“We’re here to assist,” remarked Amari, hoping she’d get down to business. “When you’re ready tell us what type of aid you require.”
Meg threw back her head, pushing her long locks back over her shoulder. She looked down at her left hand, eyeing a large sparkling diamond ring which must have been worth a fortune. She held it out for the men to see.
“As you can tell from my finger, I’m a married woman,” she began. “A producer I met on my TV show about four years ago. We were married six months later, with a full-on paparazzi love fest admiring us. The tabloids screaming out that it wouldn’t last.” Meg gritted her teeth. “Damn I hate them with a passion.”
Part of the life of being famous was dealing with the press. Or in this case the slimy version of the press. Ones who take pictures, blogging instantly without checking sources, stirring up controversy where they weren’t any. All part of the freedoms we enjoy and must live with. A tradeoff for those who live the life of fame and fortune.
“Before I go any further, please read this.” From her small purse she pulled out papers and handed them to Amari. “It’s a standard non-disclosure agreement. Whipped up by my lawyer. Wants to make sure you don’t sell my story to the tabloids.”
Glancing over it, Amari read all the words, an agreement he already knew about after the initial call from the manager. He wheeled over to his desk and signed the paper, then made a copy on his scanning-capable printer before handing it back.
“You have nothing to worry about,” he noted. “I have no desire to sell you out to the National Enquirer or any of those other rags. When you work with us, privacy is number one. Believe me with what we do, we prefer to stay under the radar.”
Being under the radar was preferable, though the big case Hunter and his team had worked on last year had been all over the news once it was completed. Amari hoped this case would remain out of the public spotlight.
“Thank you. I must be careful when protecting my image…it is priceless. What I’m about to tell you would be damaging in the wrong hands.” Tears formed in her eyes, the woman feeling the stress of the past events.
Hunter kept his voice calm. “Take your time. We’re here to listen.”
Meg took a deep breath. “I love my husband. He is a great man. But he’s twenty years older than I am. And he can’t keep up with my—how should I put it—needs.” She stopped, waiting to see if there were any reaction. “I believe you understand what I’m getting at.”
“Sex,” stated Amari straight and to the point.
The bluntness of the word surprised Meg, but it was accurate.
“Yes, exactly. I’m thirty-one years old and in the prime of my life when it comes to my sexual drive. We both have an understanding. I’m allowed, when taking the proper precautions and keeping it strictly physical, to have a dalliance now and then.” A couple more tears rolled down her cheeks. “Some would call me a slut or whore for acting the way I do. Words that pain me to hear. If a man were to act this way, he’d never be shamed with such comments.”
Amari raised an eyebrow. “I’m guessing your precautious weren’t sufficient?”.
The tears went full throttle, Meg’s makeup running down her face. Hunter grabbed a couple of nearby tissues and handed them to her. Movie stars could cry on cue, meaning this could be an act to go with her femme fatale bit. She dabbed at her eyes and blew her nose in contrast to her carefully constructed Hollywood image.
“I thought I was being careful. It all appeared innocent.” She paused to gather her composure. “I was at a casino in Reno, doing a little gambling. I thought I was staying under the radar, wearing a wig and sunglasses to hide my identity. However, this handsome man next to me started winning big at the craps table. He called me his good luck charm. Before long he had me kissing his dice and he couldn’t lose, winning a couple of grand before passing the dice.” Pausing once more, her thoughts working on the proper words to use. “Offered to buy me dinner, since I’d won him so much money. One thing leads to another, and we had sex in my hotel room.”
Hunter provided the last of the tissues when she started her Academy Award crying again.
“I’m sorry,” she said through the sobs. “It makes me angry and sad. Is it possible I can get a drink?”
Amari placed both fingers in his mouth and whistled, his servant arriving quickly. Meg wanted some white wine, which the servant hustled off to get.
“The next morning, I awoke, and the man was gone. No note or anything, which was acceptable. It was only sex I was after, though a morning screw would have been a nice way to wake-up.” She stopped to blow her nose again. “After checking out, I got a call saying they have video of me having sex with the man. And if I didn’t pay them, they would sell the video to the highest bidder. Shortly after I received a short clip as proof. It’s shocking to see yourself in the throes of passion.” Her body shivered at thought.
“I panicked and paid them the ten thousand they asked for. Figuring that would be the end of it. But it wasn’t. Once they got the transfer, they came back for more a month later. They’ve been bleeding me dry ever since. They won’t leave me alone no matter what I do. I’m desperate to put a stop to this. Unlike other people in Hollywood, I don’t care to have a sex tape of myself floating around the web.” Her chin rose in disgust at the thought of this possibility.
“Do you have any idea who is involved?” asked Hunter.
Meg grimaced at the question. “Hell no! I hired a private investigator initially to get answers. He said he’d heard the casino I was in runs this con from time to time on wealthy women and men. The word was the owner and some of his employees were involved in the operation but couldn’t provide any proof. He didn’t want to go up against the man, his dangerous ties worrying him. I got the same answer from a couple of other investigators in the area. It seems they’re scared of this man.”
“What lead you to our doorstep for help?” inquired Amari.
“My manager back in California. He reached out to a military friend of his, who knew you.” Meg pointed at Amari. “Stated you could be trusted and were tough enough to go up against these people and stop them. He didn’t mention you were in a wheelchair.”
“Not to worry,” replied Amari, not taking offense to what she was implying. “I’m no longer in the field. I’m management when it comes to work. Hunter here is quite good—nearly as good as I was and has a team available to work your case. Did your manager explain the fee we discussed?”
Meg groaned when remembering the figure but nodded. “He did. Though it isn’t cheap, he says you guarantee your work and get results. In the long run the price I’m paying you will be cheaper than what they’re demanding out of me monthly. I will authorize him to transfer the down payment if you believe Hunter’s team can put an end to this harassment?”
As the servant handed her the glass of wine, she gazed at Hunter.
“I’m sure we can get to the bottom of this,” stated Hunter with a confident tone she could hear. “We’ll need as much detail as possible. The casino name, the name of the man who seduced you if you have it, and his description. Where you’re sending the money. Any phone numbers they’ve used when calling. Anything you can tell us.”
She dabbed at her eyes again, the water works starting up once more. “I’ll tell you all I know and in as much detail as I can recall.” She took a long drink of the wine, nearly emptying the glass hoping it would steady her composure. “I must ask a question. My manager told me the name of your team. When I heard it, it scared me a little, but it also gave me hope that your team can do the job. Is the name accurate?”
Hunter grinned wickedly and nodded. They were The Divine Devils, ready to unleash their wrath and fiery fury to save this Tinseltown starlet from further embarrassment.