Here is the first chapter of, Mann in the Crossfire: A Jarvis Mann Hardboiled Mystery Detective Novel. This is the 8th book in the series.
I was sitting in a bar in Centennial, eating salty pretzels from a bowl while nursing a Sprite that did little to enhance my tough PI image, though I tried to flex my biceps from time to time to balance the effect. This establishment aspired to be like another well-known chain. The all-female wait staff wore tight yellow t-shirts that showed lots of cleavage, and snug black shorts that left little to the imagination. There wasn’t a smaller-than-a-D-cup-filled shirt in sight, much to the glee of the randy male clientele.
The one male working there was behind the bar. His chest could almost fill a D cup himself. He was large, with muscles, upon muscles, mid-thirties Fabio face with shorter brown hair and sideburns, his presence there to fill alcohol orders, but to make sure the male customers didn’t go too far. From what I’d seen, too far must have been quite far, as there were lots of hands on waists and butts, that lingered, along with the testosterone stench.
Like a trained detective, I noticed all, observing the back and forth, including those coming and going. I’d been watching for an hour now, day two of my surveillance. Alert to a face I was searching for, while keeping an eye on the bevy of televisions, the NBA prominent on all the screens. The Nuggets were in the midst of another mediocre season, but at least a few screens had a couple of the better teams playing incredible basketball. I admired the ink extensive tattoos the players had, in many cases covering all skin showing, and wondered if I should get one as well. A design with knives and pistols on my bicep to enhance my tough guy image when flexing was required.
I felt a presence next to me as a large man sat on the barstool to my left. He was a couple of inches taller than me though his cowboy boots added another inch or so. His cowboy hat, black jeans and white shirt with gold western stitching filled out his look.
He shook the March snow off his hat and long brown leather coat, before removing and placing them on the open stool next to him. If he’d been wearing spurs, silver star and a six shooter on his hip, I’d have said, ‘Howdy Sheriff.’ But I left that remark for another time.
“Hello Brandon,” I stated with my glass in hand.
“Jarvis,” replied Brandon Sparks.
Turning around, I saw two other large men in leather jackets that had followed him in, taking up a table behind us. Both were scanning the room, alert for danger. Bodyguards for the important man, it would seem.
“You’re a hard man to track down these days,” commented Brandon.
“Had to change my phone number,” I explained, my eyes fixed on the coming and goings. “Issues with unfriendly foes and too many calls trying to sell me products I don’t need.”
“Not your usual hangout.”
“Boone’s sold out. Now a dinner club. Not the type of place for me to unwind. I’ve been searching for a new joint to frequent and believe me, this isn’t it. Tonight I’m working. How did you find me?”
“Had someone watching me, I would assume.”
Brandon nodded while ordering a drink. His usual was Jack Daniels, and he didn’t stray from his routine. We had worked a time or two together, where he provided resources that had helped me. I was indebted to him to the point I’d probably have to sell my soul to even things up. Being that his business was construction, his Sparks Builders company had a hand in erecting many of the finest buildings along the Front Range. His side business was criminal activity, though never proven by me or the authorities. The good he’d done likely outweighed the bad. Consequently, there was a friendly rapport between us.
“I probably should have called Sue and given her my new number,” I said. Sue was his assistant and right-hand woman who handled much of the day to day business at Sparks. “I’ve been a little busy. Had to get new business cards made. Apparently using white-out and writing the new number on existing cards isn’t professional, at least according to Miss Manners.” I continued to scan the entrance, the place busy, confident he’d be arriving shortly.
As if on cue, through the front door walked in the man whose chiseled face I’d studied and couldn’t miss. He went straight to a booth where a beautiful thirty-something blonde woman was sitting, a good ten years younger than he was, her grand entrance happening twenty minutes earlier. She stood up to greet him, his arms quickly wrapped around her, a long passionate kiss and groping of her butt, which played out for nearly a minute, before they sat down.
I swallowed down more pretzels with another swig of Sprite, before standing up; sodium and sugar giving me an edge.
“Excuse me for a minute, Brandon,” I said, while grabbing the large envelope on the bar.
Slowly walking over, I came up to the booth and spoke the man’s name. He was a local celebrity, owner of three car chains, and star of his commercials, claiming he can sell a car to anyone no matter how bad their credit. He was a cocky SOB from what I’d learned about him via surveillance, and a cheating husband. As far as I was concerned, he was a pompous idiot, but I smiled to put him at ease.
“No autographs,” he said dismissively. “I’m here with my lady, having a private dinner.”
I tried my best not to laugh, while handing him the envelope after confirming who he was. “You’ve been served. Have a nice evening.”
He wasn’t the least bit happy, but I didn’t care. I strolled back to my seat.
“Isn’t that Perry Hester?” asked Brandon with a hint of amusement.
“Yes, it is. Business owner, TV star and all-around ass. Been cheating on his wife.” I tutted.
“I thought you weren’t doing that type of work anymore.”
“Need to pay the bills, no matter how much I dislike it. But she hired my lawyer, Barry, who hired me. Money was good and didn’t require anyone shooting at me—so far.”
“You may have spoken too soon, as he is coming over here.”
Perry lumbered across the floor in his two-hundred-dollar black leather shoes, trying to look tough as he stood behind me. He had the envelope in his hand and slapped me on the back with it a couple of times, to show me he was in control. I turned around on the barstool to face him, sipping the soda, my eyes soaking him in. He was about an inch taller, at 6’1” and probably had twenty pounds on me, though they weren’t solid like mine. Trying to convey strength, he did his best to hold in his stomach, but only a girdle could control it. His red hair matched his red face, anger filling his eyes. The man was a shyster, a poor pitch-man and all-around bad actor. There was nothing about him which would intimidate me.
“I’m not accepting this,” he declared, dropping the envelope in my lap. “Take it back to that frigid bitch and tell her she’s not getting one dime if she wants to divorce me.”
I grinned as I put down my glass, grabbed the envelope and placed it back on his chest.
“Perry, we’re in a room full of people, witnesses to what a jerk you are. You’re here with your girlfriend, ready to run off to a hotel for the night, while your wife is at home raising your two kids, whose names I doubt you remember.” I stood up and gave him my tough guy glare. “If it had been a different night, then it might be the redhead who works for you providing you blowjobs when blondie isn’t available to quell your needs. It would be best you walk away and lick your wounds, because your wife is going to own one, if not all of your car dealerships when her lawyer, Barry, is through with you with the evidence we’ve acquired.”
Perry’s face was getting redder. “Who are you?”
“Jarvis Mann, private detective. And the man who’s seen what a slime ball you are and has it properly documented for the courts to witness. You might as well save money and get a cheap lawyer, because no one is going to advise you to do anything but settle.”
Perry took the envelope and tried to give it back to me. When I refused, he took a swing with his left hand. I saw it coming and ducked it easily, slipping and spinning to the side of him in a blur. He twisted to find me, swinging wildly again, this time with his right hand. Putting up my left arm, I easily blocked it, locking my arm around his, twisting my body, flinging him into the bar railing, causing him to gasp in pain. Grabbing at his ribs, one or two bruised from the force of the impact, he still had fight left in him, though not much.
I stood waiting, not attacking, ready to counter, when he lunged his whole body forward trying to use his full weight against me. I took two steps to the side as he passed me, and drove one punch into his sore ribs, not with full force, but enough to knock the last wind out of him. He dropped to his knees and tried to catch his breath.
“You’re outmatched, Perry,” I remarked, my arms down as I knew he was finished. “Go back to your table and call it a night.”
“I’m going to sue you,” he spat once he got his oxygen back. “You assaulted me.”
“You attacked first. I just defended myself. I’d say all the witnesses here would vouch for that.” Confirmation came from the faces I saw while scanning the scene, many moving to the side to avoid getting caught in the action.
“Sit down, Sir, before I call the cops,” announced the bartender to Perry. “This gentleman speaks the truth. You attacked first and you’re lucky. From what I saw he took it easy on you. He could have torn you a new one without blinking.”
Perry looked around and heard similar reactions from everyone in the room. Beaten, he got up, not looking at me anymore, and took the envelope after I handed it to him again. Without saying another word, he slowly and painfully walked back to his girlfriend, who was waiting to console him.
Relishing in the hope that I had ruined his evening, I returned to my seat, thanking the bartender, who topped off my Sprite and pulled out the mixed nuts he’d stashed away under the counter as an upgrade to the pretzels. A full bowl of cashews would have been better, but I made due and munched down on the few I could find.
“I’d not seen you in action before,” observed Brandon. “Not too bad.”
“He was way out of his league. I’d have loved to punch him a couple more times, but he wasn’t worth the bruised knuckles.”
Brandon smirked, “Why don’t we go somewhere…more upscale? A place where the waitresses aren’t shoving their breasts in our faces. I know a classy joint down the street. A place quieter where we can talk.”
“What about?” I asked.
He paused to finish his drink, tossing down his credit card, telling the bartender he would cover both our tabs.
“It’s Rocky and it’s not good news, I’m afraid,” he stated with a look of concern in his eyes.
As Brandon signed the receipt, I wondered what had happened to Rocky, fearing the worst.