Johnny Richards in “A Dame to Die For”


Warning: The following is a work of fiction, pure and
simple. None of the celebs seen within are meant to be
the real person. They are used here as original
characters, and are meant to be complimentary in most
cases. The author does not mean to imply any of them
would do what they are seen doing in this story. If
you are opposed to people having sex, you should stop
reading now. Also, if you are opposed to lesbian sex
or are underaged, go away now. You won’t like this at
all. Everyone else, enjoy!

Johnny Richards in A Dame To Die For

By:
TRL


Wet, hard, and cold. Rain came down in sheets, flooding the streets of The City like Noah should’ve been getting ready to sail again. Then again, it always seemed to rain like this here. I shouldn’t be surprised by rain anymore.

I should buy an umbrella. But when I go out, I need my hands free. Never know when you’ll need to pull your piece. I keep one in my jacket, and another on my hip. I like to be prepared.

If it’s wet, hard, and cold outside, inside only has it beat by being dry, hard, and only slightly warmer. My landlord clearly ain’t big on paying the heating bills. ‘Course, I was behind in the rent again anyway, so that might be the cause. Either that, or the old coot had just forgotten again. Wouldn’t have been the first time.

The sign on my door reads “Johnny Richards: Private Dick.” It should probably read “Johnny Richards: Failure.” I couldn’t cut it in the movies, and I couldn’t cut it as a Cop. And I wasn’t exactly cutting it as a Private Dick at the moment, either.

“Johnny, I don’t suppose you managed to find yourself a winning lottery ticket outside and can pay me this week?”

I growled. Most people got at least a hello from their secretaries when they first walked in the door. Rachel didn’t work that way.

“No, Miss Bilson,” I muttered. Rachel was a sweet kid, and had a body that was sweet enough to rot your teeth. She also had those puppy-dog, girl-next-door eyes that would melt a man’s soul. Assuming he had one.

Apparently, I didn’t have one any more. Plus, she was married. Not that a wedding ring had stopped me before.

“Well, then, you’d best take the case waiting in your office, Johnny.”

I stopped dead in my tracks and shot her a look that made a .357 magnum look harmless in comparison. “There’s a case in my office and you’re just now telling me?”

“There’s a case in your office, and you still haven’t paid me for the last two weeks, Johnny,” She shot back, not looking up from her magazine.

“You’re a doll, Rachel,” I muttered.

“Love you too, Johnny. Now, get me paid. I got a husband to feed.”

I didn’t even want to think about that. I took off my hat and coat, throwing the wet rag over one arm as I headed towards my office.

“Oh, and Johnny?” Rachel called over her should.

“Yeah?”

“Be careful. She’s a looker.”

I snorted at that and opened the door.

Rachel hadn’t been kidding. The woman standing in my office was dressed in head-to-toe red. The type of dress that doesn’t need to show much skin because it clings to her body like saran wrap. That same shade of deep red touched her lips, while dark brown hair cascaded down from underneath her red hat.

“You’re John Richards?” she asked.

“Depends on who’s asking,” I said, hanging my coat up on the coat rack behind the door. The hat went on top.

“I need a detective,” she said.

“I ain’t no detective,” I said, jerking a thumb back towards the door. “I’m a Private Dick,” I said.

“Same thing,” she said as I rounded my desk.

“Not true. A detective follows a set of rules. He checks all the boxes and dots all his i’s. And when the cops ask him questions, he tells them.”

“You don’t do all that?” She asked.

“I’m a Private Dick, ma’am – I work cheap – can’t afford to follow rules.”

“Then I need a Private Dick.”

I sat down and put my feet up on the desk. She frowned for a second, the sat down in the chair across from me. Customers hated when I did this – think I’m not listening to them. I just like to put my feet up.

“What makes you think you need a Private Dick?”

“I think my husband’s cheating on me.”

“I’ll stop you right there – I don’t take pictures.” It was true. Cameras and I didn’t work well together. I knew a girl who’d help me out with that, but she came with a price – one I couldn’t afford. Plus, I hadn’t called her back the last time I’d fucked her in the back of her car. She didn’t take kindly to that.

“I’m not looking for pictures. If they ever got out, they’d ruin us.”

“Mind if I ask who us is?” I ventured.

“My husband is Thomas Jordan, the District Attorney.”

That made me sit up. Tom Jordan and I went back a few years. And a few fights. And even a few dames. He wasn’t my biggest fan.

“So you’re…?”

“His wife. Katharine McPhee,” she said. I used to wonder why no women in this town ever took their husband’s last name. Then I remembered that there were more divorce lawyers in The City than there were cops on the street. And everyone in this town wants to be in the Movies.

“Miss McPhee-”

“Mrs. McPhee, please,” she said. “I’m not divorced yet.”

“Wait ten minutes,” I muttered. “What exactly do you want from me?”

“I need to know if he’s cheating on me or not. If he is, I need you to tell me. And if he isn’t, I need to know what he’s doing at night when he doesn’t come home.”

Knowing Jordan like I did, I suspected that if he wasn’t coming home to pound his gorgeous wife, he was up to his elbows in dirt a DA shouldn’t be anywhere close to. Jordan wasn’t the type to cheat – he was too fond of his public image for that.

“Listen, Mrs. McPhee – are you sure you don’t want to get someone else for this? I can give you the name of a photographer-”

“No pictures,” she shot back at me. “If he’s cheating on me, pictures can’t get out before I divorce him.”

That didn’t make any sense to me, and I almost told her so, before she opened those perfect-for-sucking lips again.

“I’ll pay you twice your going rate.”

If she had access to Thomas Jordan’s kind of money, she could afford to pay me six times my going rate, but I knew better than to press my luck.

I pretended to think for a moment, when in fact I was merely tallying up my last couple of bills in my head. Plus Rachel’s salary.

“I’ll need six hundred up front,” I said. “Expenses.”

She didn’t even bat one of her pretty eyes. Merely opened her purse and pulled out six large ones, dropping them onto my desk before me. Somehow, I managed not to bat either of my not-so-pretty eyes back at her for that. She dropped a card on the desk on top of the bills.

“My number,” she said. “Call me when you have something.”

“You got yourself a Private Dick,” I said.

“Good,” she said, turning around and showing me an impressive view of how that tight red dress of hers clung so well to that ass of hers. “Oh, and Mister Richards?” she said over her shoulder as she opened the door.

“Yes?”

“Have some information for me soon.” With that, she walked out on those oh-so-long legs, leaving me with six crisp new bills on my desk, and a not-so-small bulge in my pants.

I sat there for a moment, hoping I hadn’t just bit off more than I could chew. Certainly wouldn’t be the first time – that’s why I carried two guns.

I got up, glancing out the window to see that, yes, it was indeed still raining outside. I grabbed my coat and hat, and the bills, and headed out.

“You take the case?” Rachel asked me, again without looking up from her magazine.

In response, I laid one of the six bills down on the desk before her. I didn’t stop long enough to see if she looked up from her reading before she pocketed the bill.

I did manage to hear her call out “Be careful, Johnny,” before the door closed behind me.

* * *

The Southern Beaver was about as classy a bar as you get in this section of The City. Which, to say, isn’t very classy at all. But it was only six blocks from my office – also not very classy – and the shots were fairly cheap.

Plus, the owner was both a looker and the best source for unofficial information this side of the Mob.

Elisha Cuthbert had been running the place for the last three years. I’d seen her grow her blonde hair longer, drop the neckline of her tops lower, and the price of the shots go up more than a dollar. Thank god she let me keep a tab. And thank god she occasionally didn’t wear panties.

“Johnny Richards,” she said as I approached the bar. “You here for a free drink or a free fuck?”

“Neither right now, doll,” I said.

“Then you must need information,” she said, continuing to wipe down the bar. Place was quiet – usually was this time of day.

“You’re the best place to get it,” I said, sitting down on a stool.

“You’re lucky I like you, Johnny. Lot of other Dicks I don’t even let in the place.”

“I’m blessed.”

“Yeah, with a big cock,” she shot back. “What do you need to know?”

“Thomas Jordan, the DA.”

“What about him?”

“His wife thinks he’s having an affair. Know anything about that?”

“Sorry, Johnny,” she said. “Last I heard about Jordan was that he was pushing to get rid of the prostitution rings here in The City.”

“Good luck with that one,” I muttered. “Only think there’s more of than divorce lawyers in this city are hookers.”

“Yeah, well, Jordan seems to want to make lawyers the top dogs around here,” Elisha said.

“Suppose that means he’s probably not seeing a hooker on the side then,” I mused.

“Probably not, but stranger things have happened. You know your fair share of hookers, Johnny. You could ask them.”

“I could,” I admitted. This was as close to flirting as Elisha ever got. Funny thing is, it usually worked for me.

But not today. Today I was on business.

“So you don’t know anything about him having an affair?” I asked.

“Nope. But I’ll let you know if I do.”

“How are things in the DA office these days? Didn’t the last ADA get killed or something?”

“Bobby Lagoon? Yeah. Rick Valentine’s boys apparently had him on the take. When he tried to bring up Rick’s niece on drug charges, Rick took it personally. Lagoon took fifteen bullets personally before the case ever got to court.”

“So, they got a new ADA yet?”

“Yep, and she’s a looker,” Elisha said. “But you didn’t hear that from me.”

I nodded. Elisha certainly dabbled in loving dames occasionally herself, but she didn’t like that well known. People still frowned on girl-on-girl relationships here in The City. Which was funny, since lesbian porn movies were one of the biggest industries around these parts.

“So, this new ADA – any chance she’s sleeping with Jordan?” I asked.

“Can’t rule it out,” Elisha replied. “But you’d have to ask her yourself.”

“Yeah, there’s no better ice breaker than asking a woman if she’s lifting her skirt for her married boss,” I said.

“Well, you’d stand a better chance than I would asking,” Elisha said. “After all, you slept with her.”

I blinked hard at Elisha for a moment. “Who?” I asked. I’d slept with more than my fair share of broads to be able to guess off the top of my head.

“Natalie Portman,” Elisha said.

I shook my head. “Of course,” I muttered. “It’s always Natalie Portman.”

* * *

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my year as a cop. Gives me heart burn. The kind you want to cure with a bullet to the forehead.

But the one thing I can’t seem to escape from that year is Natalie Portman. We met my first day on the beat. We fucked after my first week. And she broke my heart three days before I quit the force. She tried to get me arrested two days after I quit the force.

I’d like to say there’s no love lost there, but that’d be a lie.

Too much love was lost between me and her.

I wasn’t surprised to hear she’d found her way to the position of Assistant District Attorney. She certainly was ambitious. Some day, she’ll be the mayor of this god-forsaken town. Assuming she doesn’t leave for greener pastures first.

I wish to hell she’d leave for greener pastures.

I’m not a particularly welcome figure in most courthouses these days. Plus, figuring out her docket would take too much time. But people are creatures of habits, and Natalie had a few too many habits that I knew a little too well. Even after all this time.

Gino’s Diner isn’t quite what it seems. For starters, there’s no Gino. Hasn’t been for the last thirty years. The owner of the place seems to change every other year or so. Last time I was in here, an old man named Jenkins was running the place. According to Elisha, the new owner is some chick with the last name Ray. I make it a point to never trust a woman with a man’s name. Even if it is her last name. Probably while there will never be a “Mrs. Richards.”

Gino’s Diner wasn’t exactly a diner, either. Sure, it looked like a diner, and yes, you could eat there, but really it was a place for all the public servants to go for lunch that qualified as a change of scenery. All the cops use it for their lunch runs. City Hall has a daily take out from the place. And half the lawyers in town hit the place at least once a week, whenever their near the Central Courthouse.

Natalie used to love the place. That was back before Jenkins was running the place. No idea how Natalie felt about the chick who was running the place now, but since the DA’s office was across from the Central Courthouse, it made sense that the ADA would come here for lunch.

And sure enough, she did.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I don’t know about that, but the time between now and when Natalie and I last spoke had only made her grow more beautiful. If anything, she looked like she’d done little more than cut her hair since she’d thrown me out on the streets. Her glasses rested up on her forehead as she scanned the paper, and they served as a makeshift barrette to keep her hair out of her face. Her suit coat was on the stool next to her, and her salad sat with a fork in it, barely touched. She wore a skirt that came down to her knees, hiding my favorite parts of her legs, and her blouse wasn’t as tight as I’d seen – though if the cooks would just up the air conditioning a bit, her nipples would rip right through the fabric. Natalie wasn’t what you’d call busty, but she made up for it in other ways.

At least she did if she actually liked you. Me, I’d be lucky if those legs I love so much didn’t end up crushing my balls up into my stomach. Natalie had a nasty kick, and her knee never failed to find testicles to bust.

I used to joke that she always left men with either blue balls or black-and-blue balls. She used to laugh at that.

I sat down on the stool next to her. She didn’t look up.

“What’ll you have?” the waitress asked me.

“Turkey Club,” I said. “With honey mustard, if you have it.”

“Coming up,” the waitress said, bustling off.

“Johnny Richards,” Natalie said, her voice cool. “I should probably bash your head in just for having the guts to walk in here.”

“Why not,” I said. “It’d go well with the heart you ripped out.”

“You’re not here to trade barbs,” she said. It wasn’t a question.

“I’m here for a turkey club, with honey mustard,” I said.

“You want something from me,” she pressed.

“You won’t give me what I want,” I replied, not looking at her. It hurt to look at her. It hurt not to.

With that, her glasses came off, and she looked right at me. I didn’t budge. I found myself missing the sandwich I hadn’t gotten yet.

“You’re a piece of work, Johnny,” she said. “If you have something to ask me, ask me. Otherwise, I’m sure I can find a couple of patrol men who’d be happy to haul your sorry butt out of here in about fifteen seconds.”

“You’re the new ADA,” I said, still not looking at her.

“Congratulations, you can read the paper,” she muttered.

“How much do you trust your boss?” I asked.

“Tom?” She asked. “I trust him fine. More than I trust you.”

“That much is obvious,” I shot back.

“You working something on Tom?” she asked.

“Not really,” I lied. “But I heard someone in the DA’s office was having an affair. You wouldn’t know who that is, would you?”

This made her stand up and slam the paper down on the counter. “You’re pretty damn full of yourself, Johnny. Asking a person something like that in broad daylight.”

“Better than asking in the dark of night,” I reasoned.

“No one in the DA’s office is having an affair, as best I know,” she said. “And you ought to know better than to go sticking your nose around, sniffing for rumors.” She stared at me silently for a long moment. “But then, you almost never seemed to know better, did you?”

“I guess not,” I replied, looking at her for the first time. She was angry. Angrier than I would’ve thought.

She was also beautiful. But I knew that already.

“Don’t come in here again, Johnny,” she said, marching out without so much as looking back. I made it a point to stare at the tabletop until my sandwich arrived.

* * *

Going straight to Natalie was probably a mistake. But, then again, most everything I’ve done regarding Natalie was a mistake. You’d think I’d learn my lesson one of these days.

But just because Jordan’s chief assistant wouldn’t talk to me didn’t mean I was out of people to question. Sometimes, you learn more from talking to a man’s enemies than you do talking to his friends.

Jordan was on a kick to remove prostitution from The City. He was fighting a losing battle, and had to know it. It wasn’t called the “World’s Oldest Profession” for nothing.

As a Private Dick, I’ve dealt with whores before. As a man who’d hit rock bottom, I’d used whores before. There’s a lot worse things a man can do than pay for some physical attention. Ironically, a lot of times, those worse things are done to whores as well. My old Sargent on the force used to say he’d met more dead whores than he’d ever met living ones. Considering we hauled in two or three a day back then, that’s saying something.

It says The City is a damn dangerous place to live if you’re making your living off the streets.

There are three types of whores in The City. The first are street walkers. Usually young girls who aren’t so pretty, who’ve run away from home or gotten mixed up in drugs. These are the ones you usually find dead or in a cell. The next are the escorts. The City makes a lot of movies, and movie stars need pretty women to escort them around. They make good money – sometimes more than the stars they’re spending their nights with. But being that close to stars means they’re that close to drugs and alcohol. And sooner or later, they all end up back on the streets, back in a cell, or dead. Usually in pretty rapid procession.

Then you have the high-class girls. These are the true stars of The City’s prostitution rings. Half of them want to be stars, the other half used to be stars. I’ve seen more than one girl I’d caught giving a guy a high-priced handjob on the silver screen a few months later. And I’ve seen yesterdays Next-Big-Thing spreading her legs for tomorrow’s Sexiest Man Alive just as many times.

I suspected it was those big ticket whores Jordan was after. They’d certainly bring in the most press – all something a DA would be looking for. There were three major houses of high priced whores in The City. One was Hollywood Travesty, an ultra-exclusive night club that was so posh, it didn’t advertise. It also didn’t advertise that it was primarily a lesbian club. And it really didn’t advertise that it was the cover for the most powerful whorehouse in The City. But it was powerful – to the point where a number of elected officials were frequent guests. If Jordan went after it, he’d take the careers of half the people who pay his salary with it. So that ruled Hollywood Travesty out.

Then there was The Naked Valentine, a strip club on the outskirts of the “classy” section of town that was the not-so-secret headquarters for gangster Rick Valentine. It was also the home to Valentine’s High Priced Prostitution Ring – most of his dancers were the “Display Items” that patrons could “order” later. Considering that Rick’s goons just shot up Jordan’s last ADA, you’d think that would give Jordan more of an incentive to go after Valentine. But Jordan was no fool when it came to his own life, and Valentine wasn’t afraid to gun down the DA. So chances were, Jordan was steering clear of The Naked Valentine.

So that left Brittany’s House, and that was actually a good thing for me. Brittany Murphy and I go back a ways – she wasn’t my first, and I certainly wasn’t her first customer, but I’d parted those legs more than once – occasionally without paying for it. When it came to the big three whore houses in The City, Brittany’s is the smallest. She’s got maybe fifteen, twenty high-priced whores, not counting herself. She also has her fingers in a few smaller escort services, and she has her own little fleet of street walkers – those who can’t hack it as escorts, either due to age of temperament.

Brittany didn’t have the political connections Hollywood Travesty has, nor the Mob connections The Naked Valentine has. As such, she’s the weakest of the three Whore Houses, and that makes her the perfect target for an ambitious District Attorney looking to get his name in the papers. And if Thomas Jordan was going after Brittany Murphy, I suspected Brittany would know everything about him – especially if he was sleeping around on his wife.

Brittany’s place looked like a whorehouse, which was good, because that’s what it was. The outside could’ve been cleaner, but the inside was all pink and girly. Some of her escorts sat around in next-to-nothing, not even looking up as I entered. Just scanning the place, I could spot three girls I’d brought in when I was a cop, and two I’d used personally after I was a cop.

Two hulking bodyguards stood on either side of the door. Bruiser and Crusher were the mental names I gave them – never bothered to ask their real names. Probably something completely out-of-character, like Waldo and Fluffy, or something like that. I didn’t want to know, really.

“Johnny Richards,” a familiar voice called out. “Haven’t seen you here in a while.”

Sophia Bush was Brittany’s right-hand girl. She still went out and turned tricks for The City’s big names, but she also helped keep the books, watch over the other girls, and generally kept the place running. If Brittany ever left the business, Sophia would take over, easily.

“Sophia,” I said. “I need to see Brittany. She around?”

“Sorry, Johnny,” Sophia said, running a finger down my chest slowly. “Brittany’s out on business. Should be back in an hour.”

I grunted at that. Wasn’t much for me to do for an hour.

“You feel like sticking around until she shows up?” Sophia asked, her finger finding it’s way down to my crotch.

“Sorry, Sophia, I can’t afford you right now,” I said. It was true – I might still have five of the six bills Mrs. McPhee left me, but Sophia could take almost all of that for an hour’s worth of fun. Heck, she could charge all of that for less than ten minutes of fun, if she wanted to.

“This one’s free,” she said, unzipping my pants and reaching inside. I went hard at once – it’d been a while since I’d gotten any, and I knew Sophia was an expert.

“Free?” I asked, trying hard to not react to the way she played with my erection.

“Brittany owes you for helping her get those three girls out of jail last month,” Sophia said, placing her other hand on my chest.

“I was hoping to use that to get the information I need out of her.”

“I’m sure she’d be happier to help you out if she knew you weren’t going to cash in that favor any time soon,” Sophia said, actually pulling my half-swollen cock out of my pants.

Damn it, I’m a weak bastard when it comes to dames and my dick.

“Fine,” I said. “But let’s do this somewhere a little more private.”

Sophia led me to one of the ground floor bedrooms. I didn’t want to think just how many johns had used this particular bed before. Heck, I didn’t want to know how many johns had used Sophia before. But, then again, I wasn’t exactly thinking at the moment.

Sophia pushed me onto the bed and yanked off my pants. She didn’t bother with my shirt. I didn’t mind. Sophia’s lips wrapped themselves around my rigid cock like a vise, and started working up and down. Sophia was a pro for a reason – when it came to getting men off, you’d be hard pressed to find better. Her left hand grasped the base of my cock, while the right cradled my balls, allowing her to control my shaft as her head bobbed up and down upon it.

She worked quickly, taking me from barely turned on to approaching climax within two minutes flat – she was that good. But as much as I like blowjobs, I preferred pussy.

“No,” I said, pulling her head off me. “Brittany wants to pay off the debt, I need to get more than a blow.”

Sophia shrugged, and undid the purple bra she wore as a top. She didn’t have the biggest breasts in the world, but what she had was damn good on her. As I got up off the bed, she pulled off her matching panties, revealing the cleanly shaven pussy I was looking for. She lay down on the bed, spreading her legs as I moved between her.

I was about to enter her when she shoved something in my face. It was a condom.

“Put it on, Johnny, or you don’t get any further.”

I knew better than to argue that. Brittany was pretty strict when it came to her girls using protection. Considering that I had no idea how many other guys had gone where I was about to go, I thought it best to comply.

I carried two guns for protection. I ought to carry two condoms, as well.

I quickly slid the condom down over my shaft, actually thankful for the moment to breathe. It HAD been a while since I’d gotten any, and I still needed to kill most of an hour. Considering how quickly Sophia’s lips had gotten me close, I wasn’t going to kill most of ten minutes.

Fully protected, I pressed myself into Sophia’s waiting snatch, and felt its warm wetness envelop my cock. Whoever said men rule the world was a virgin. Any man who has ever felt warm pussy lips around his cock knows that women hold all the power. They just didn’t use it as maliciously as they could.

My lips found Sophia’s nips, and we went at it. Her tight little body was fantastic – firm in all the right places, and I allowed myself to get lost in the sex for a while. No mysteries, no danger, no bills. No broken fingers, no broken laws, no broken hearts. For the next several minutes, it was just that primal need to mate, my dick thrusting in and out of her waiting snatch. She moaned as I nibbled on her nipples, gasped as I filled her pussy, and swooned as I drove her closer to her own orgasm.

Considering she was a professional fuck, the fact that I could bring her that much pleasure should’ve pleased me. But I knew more than one whore who could fake an orgasm well enough to fool herself. Sophia was probably that good.

I didn’t care if she was or not.

At one point, I rolled her over and took her doggy style. I knew better than to go for her ass – a girl like Sophia charged more than a favor for anal. And I still couldn’t afford her. Kneeling behind her, I fucked away, enjoying her moans and groans. My pace accelerated – I wasn’t going to last too much longer. I figured I’d had enough, anyway. I leaned forward to take one tit in each hand from behind, and slammed my cock into her as hard and fast as I could.

About six strokes later, I filled the condom with my juice, and collapsed on the bed next to her.

Sophia was a pro. She rolled over on her side, showing off her breasts to me in the most casual of ways, as if to tempt me for another go around. I knew better than to bite. Ignoring the fact that I’d just gotten off, the next round wouldn’t be free.

“That was great, baby,” she said, her finger running a lazy line down my chest.

“Thanks, Sophia,” I said, catching my breath. “Now, when’s Brittany going to be home?”

“Is it always work with you, Johnny?” Sophia asked, pushing herself up on one elbow. One of her breasts pressed against my side – she was really fishing now.

“Always,” I said, sliding off the bed – I’d never ever gotten out of my shirt. “When’s Brittany getting back?”

Sophia sighed, and rolled off the bed, looking for her panties. “Any minute now, I suspect,” she said. “I’ll let her know you’re looking for her.”

“Thanks, doll,” I muttered, pulling up my pants. By the time I turned around, she’d left, probably only half dressed. I didn’t really care.

* * *

Brittany Murphy was about as two-faced a woman as you could find. When she was out in public, she looked the consummate business professional. Business suit, well kept hair, all small, polite smiles, and not a hint of the whore she really is. Once inside her house, though, she doffed the suit for silky lingerie, let her hair go a bit wild, and could swear like a sailor.

“Johnny Richards,” she smiled at me. Currently, she wore a tiny pair of white boy-short panties and a bra that was almost transparent, and probably at least a size too small for her. Her curly hair cascaded down over her shoulders, and a hefty glass of scotch rested in her hand. “I hear Sophia paid off a debt of mine.”

“Not quite, Brittany,” I replied smoothly. Maybe ten minutes had passed since Sophia had left me in the room. Barely enough time for me to get my pants back on, hit the bathroom, and sit down again. But more than enough time for Sophia to pass on every sordid detail of our little encounter to her boss. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Brittany had been in the house the entire time.

“Well, if you want to tussle with me, Johnny, all you gotta do is ask,” she said, sitting down in a chair and spreading her legs not-to-subtly.

“I’ll make it even easier for you, Brit,” I said. “I need information.”

“That may or may not be easier,” she muttered, taking a long sip on her scotch. “On who?”

“Your good pal, Thomas Jordan.”

That made her nearly spit out her drink, but the scotch was expensive and Brittany was a business woman first and foremost.

“That bastard? What do you want to know?”

“His wife seems to think he’s cheating on her. He’s not knocking boots with any of your girls, is he?”

“I should be so lucky,” Brittany muttered. “If that mother fucker is screwing any of my girls, he ain’t paying for it, that’s for sure. Besides, he doesn’t need whores. You’ve seen that wife of his.”

“I have,” I said.

“If you had that at home, would you go out and pay for sex?”

“Depends on who’s charging,” I replied. Honestly, she made a good point. Katharine McPhee was gorgeous – if Jordan only got it once a year from a body that hot, chances were it’d be more than enough to get him to stay faithful.

But I’d seen stranger things than a man turning down a beautiful wife for a less-attractive woman on the side.

“Damn, if I had that pussy in my stable, I could challenge Valentine for the number two spot in this town,” Brittany went on. “That’s if her fucking husband doesn’t put me out of business first.”

“How so?” I asked.

“You were a cop, Johnny,” she said. “You know the rules. If a cop’s approaching the end of his beat and he hasn’t made any arrests, they pick up a street walker or two. There may be no quota on speeding tickets, but there’s a quota on whores in this town. Jordan’s raised it, and he seems to be targeting my girls.”

“I find that hard to believe,” I said. “How would he even know they’re your girls?”

“Good question,” she said. “That fucking asshole must know, though. For every one street whore either of the other two major houses have arrested, I have three. It’s cut into my profits something awful.”

“You can always find more street whores,” I said.

“And I do – I pay my street whores five percent more than either of the other two houses! But if my girls never get back to me with the money, I can’t pay them! I’m lucky my low-level girls haven’t walked off.”

“You sure Jordan’s behind it?” I asked.

“He’s publicly stated he’s going after whores. Travesty’s got the political connections, Valentine’s got the Mob connections. All I got are my girls. And you.”

“Better stick with your girls,” I said. “I’m just trying to find out if Jordan’s cheating on his wife.”

She looked at me for a long moment. “Tell you what, Johnny. You keep looking in to Jordan. You find out if he’s cheating on his wife, and anything else you learn, you let me know. I need to take this bastard down. He’s too dangerous to my business.”

“What do you want to know?” I asked.

“How he’s targeting my girls. He has to know somehow. You find out, and I’ll pay for that information.”

“You know my rates,” I said. “But I can’t dig too far into this. He’s the DA. He’s got powerful friends.”

“I’ll pay your normal rate,” she said, “and I’ll throw in one visit a month with any girl of mine you want.”

I smiled at her. “That include you?” I asked.

“Oh, Johnny, you can have me any time you want-”

“-For a price,” I finished for her. I’d known Brittany too long for that. “I’ll let you know what I find out.

“Thanks, Johnny,” she said as I walked out.

* * *

I walked out of Brittany’s House, I’d come to one gruesome conclusion – I was going to need help with this case. Someone was going to have to shadow Thomas Jordan, and I wasn’t the best at doing that. There was only one person who could pull that off without getting caught, and bring back more than enough evidence of his philandering at the same time.

She was pricey, she knew it, and she knew me, too.

I was going to half to swallow my pride on this one.

But before that, I was going to have to swallow a fist to my gut.

The sucker punch came out of nowhere, slamming into my bread basket like a car slamming into a plate glass window. I crumpled instantly, hitting the pavement of the sidewalk before I knew what was happening.

My attacker knew what he was doing. His neck blow was a kick to my back that nearly snapped my back and broke me out of my protective fetal position. As I cried out in pain, someone slammed the heel of their boot right into my balls. My world turned red, and for a long moment, I thought for sure I was going to throw up. I couldn’t move as the guy lifted me half off the ground by my coat collar.

“Quit asking questions, gumshoe,” a snarly voice said in my ear. I couldn’t even blink in response, the pain was overwhelming.

The someone landed a punch to my jaw, and my world went from red to black, and it stayed that way for a long time.

* * *

There’s nothing worse than waking up in a hospital. You could argue waking up in a coffin is worse, but most people I know who are in coffins never wake up. Right that moment, I envied them.

“Johnny Richards, how is it that every time you’re in here, someone’s beat the snot out of you?” A voice spoke as my bed started moving, pulling me up into a reclining/sitting position. I was sore pretty much all over, but I’d felt worse.

“Figure it’s the best way to get rid of a head cold,” I muttered. My doctor stepped into view, and I found myself wishing I’d woken up to that face instead of the blank wall.

Mercy Grace Hospital was the biggest in The City, and, truthfully, the best kept. The fact that the doctors and nurses were almost universally beautiful didn’t hurt. Half of them had spent time as models or actors, as had most everyone else in The City. But here, at least, that beauty helped the bedside manner.

Right that moment, I could think of just how much bedside manner I wanted from Ellen Pompeo, and it certainly involved her losing that white jacket and puke green uniform.

“You’re lucky you’re alive, Johnny,” Ellen said as she started looking over my charts and readouts.

“If not, I know what angel I’d request to greet me,” I said, trying not to cough as I spoke.

“Flattery will get you nowhere, Johnny,” Ellen said. “You had a slight concussion, a bruised rib, and serious trauma to you testicles.”

“Damn, you know how to sweet talk a man,” I said as she pulled the sheets down off my body.

“I’m not flirting with you,” she said as she exposed the hospital gown I was wearing, the same puke green color as her scrubs.

“Then how come you’re reaching for my balls?” I asked. She shot me a look that said she’d rather be shoving her clipboard up my ass than touch my balls.

“I need to check to make sure everything still works down here, Johnny. Unless you’d rather go through life as a eunuch.”

“Might cut down on my sleeping around,” I mused as she lifted up my gown and exposed my cock and balls. Funny, I thought I’d been joking about black-and-blue balls earlier. Now I was looking at them.

Ellen pulled on a pair of latex gloves and wasted not time in tenderly lifting and checking my balls. It took about all of two seconds to see if my cock would still respond to physical stimulation. It did. I grew before both of our eyes. It was nothing Ellen hadn’t seen before – she was both a doctor and one of my sexual conquests – but her eyes still sparkled as I grew to my full length, just from her ministrations.

“That’s a promising sign,” she said, carefully lowering my balls and instead grabbed the shaft of my cock, gently stroking it. An involuntary sigh escaped my lips as she slowly increased her speed. I began to wonder if she was still following medical procedure. Then she bent down and kissed the head of my dick, and I knew we’d passed the official medical evaluation at this point.

She said nothing as she started sucking me off. I figured it best to keep my comments to quiet moans and grunts of pleasure. As she worked her mouth along my shaft, her white coat hit the floor. Then her scrubs started to come off. I merely grunted my approval. Soon, Ellen was topless before me, her tiny little tits poking their nipples out like needles. I wanted to reach for them, but one of her hands held me back on the bed. When it became clear I wasn’t going to move, she used both hands to shove her pants down her legs, and stepped out of them, still wearing her tennis shoes and socks.

I wasn’t complaining as her lips left my dick, and she climbed up on top of me. Carefully, like the medical professional she was, Ellen lowered her pussy down atop my cock, and slowly slid down my shaft, doing her best to apply no pressure to my balls. Once she bottomed out, she slowly lifted herself back up. Then she slid back down, a little faster.

I wasn’t feeling any pain in my dick at this point, though my balls were tender. Ellen increased her pace like the pro she was, and soon she was out-and-out fucking me. I wasn’t complaining. It’s not often I get to just lie back and have a woman sex me up. Only thing that would’ve made this better was if I had a good stiff drink in my hand.

Shockingly, Ellen came first, her lithe little body trembling atop me. Seeing that look of pure pleasure on her face was enough to get me close – the fact that her pussy gripped my cock even harder when she came was enough to send me over the edge. I shot a load deep into her as she collapsed atop me, panting.

I still wasn’t complaining.

* * *

Ellen kept me in the hospital over night, which didn’t help. My beating hadn’t been some random attack – though they weren’t unheard of in The City. The fact that both my guns, my wallet, and all five remaining big bills Katharine McPhee had given me were still with me when I walked out of the hospital told me that it hadn’t been a robbery. The demand to quick sticking my nose where it didn’t belong told me that the beating had been a warning, plain and simple.

Problem was, I didn’t know from who. And damn it all, if I’m not too stubborn to simply walk away and find another case – I like to know who tried to bust me up before I gave up on a case.

I still needed help, which meant I still needed to swallow my pride and ask for it. Sighing – and feeling the twinge from where I first got hit the day before – I set out to go get the help I need.

I’ve said before that I’m no good with cameras. Damn things just confuse me. But I knew the best photographer in The City, and she had no problem working with me – as long as I paid her fees. She could’ve been the star photographer for any newspaper or magazine in the world, but she hated journalism work. She preferred sleuthing. And so she made her living getting the photographs of men cheating on their wives, wives cheating on their husbands, and the occasional homosexual relationship that ruined careers and made the tabloids look like idiots for not getting them first.

Every time I see her work, I thank god she’d on my side. More or less.

“Kristen,” I said, dropping down on the park bench next to her. Kristen Bell didn’t even acknowledge me, instead kept looking at her paper. I noticed she had her purse positioned very specifically to look over at a young looking couple eating a rather simple picnic on the grass some forty-five feet away from us. It was one of those rare days when it wasn’t raining in The City, and they were taking advantage of it. Considering how small her top was, I suspected he was going to take advantage of her any minute now, be they in full public or not.

“Which one’s the cheater?” I asked, not looking in their direction.

“The girl,” Kristen said, handing me a section of the paper. “Got a fiancé, and that’s not him. She’s also got two other guys on the side, and, your favorite and mine, a lesbian lover who works at one of the big movie companies, though she’s not on screen yet. She’d look good as someone’s arm candy there. Tiny little thing, blonde, with no tits. Right up your ally, Johnny.”

“I like tits just fine,” I replied.

“Small tits are still tits,” Kristen replied. “At least, that’s what I tell myself every morning when I look in the mirror.”

“Got a job I need your help with,” I said.

“Aww. And here I was, hoping you’d come along to sweep me off my feet.”

“Tried that before. You stole three of my clients,” I shot back.

“Business is business, Johnny. You learn to run a camera, you’ll be just as successful as I am.” She paused for dramatic effect. “Don’t learn how to use a camera.”

“You’re all charm, Bell,” I muttered. “You want in or not?”

She shrugged. “I’ve got more than enough on this chick to leave her standing alone at the altar for the next twenty years. I got the open time. What do you need?”

“Thomas Jordan’s wife thinks he’s cheating on her. None of my sources confirm this. I need you to tail him, see if he’s knocking boots with anyone. Especially any hookers.”

“Tom Jordan, the public’s best defense against whores and prostitutes is getting bizzay with hookers?” She said, feigning shock. “How much evidence does the wife want?”

“None. You can leave your camera behind on this one, Bell.”

“Then you don’t need me, Johnny. What’s the matter, you going to try and console the betrayed wife while I’m out doing your dirty work?”

“Nope. Gotta come at this from another angle. Someone thinks Jordan’s crusade against whores isn’t what it seems to be. And someone made a point of beating me into a pulp last night to make sure I stayed away.”

“Whores and thugs,” Kristen said, shaking her head. “You hang out with the nicest people, Johnny.”

“Are you going to help me or not?” I asked. I hated this, Kristen was the absolute worst person to work with – she never let you forget how much you needed her. And she was right about another thing, too – tiny little blondes WERE my thing. And she was a tiny blonde. We’d tried the whole relationship angle before, and it ended badly. Not bad enough that I didn’t think about getting her back in the sack every time I saw her. But bad enough that I tried not to act on said thoughts. The only reason I was succeeding at the moment was because I’d been with Ellen and Sophia the day before. Otherwise, I’d be trying to get up that tiny little skirt Kristen was wearing.

“I’ll start following Jordan tonight. You going to cut me in for fifty percent?” she asked.

“Forty. No pictures, remember?”

“Forty-five, and I won’t say anything when you sleep with his wife.”

“Forty, and I don’t try to sleep with you before we’re done,” I countered.

“Forty-five, and I DO sleep with you before we’re done,” she winked at me, grabbing her purse and walking off before I could answer. Watching the way the wind played with that short skirt as she left, I was very tempted to give her the forty-five percent.

* * *

“You look like shit, Johnny,” Rachel Bilson said as I entered my office. “Who’d you piss off this time?”

“Don’t know yet,” I muttered. “No word from our client?” I asked.

“Nope, but Elisha gave you a call. I don’t think she was looking for straight up booty-call, but you can never tell with her.”

I could never tell when Rachel was joking or not. I let this one pass and headed into my office without saying another word.

I sat down at my desk and reached for the phone. Took a minute or two to get through to Elisha, but as soon as I did, she was ready to talk.

“You okay, Johnny?” She asked me. “I heard you spent last night in the hospital.”

“Yeah, someone didn’t like the way I was walking down the street,” I replied. “Tried to fix my problem for me.”

“Any idea who did it?”

“No clue, but I think it’s got something to do with Jordan’s efforts to clean up the street whores.”

“Speaking of Jordan, I got some information for you.”

“What?” I asked.

“His ADA isn’t the only person he’s had to replace lately. He’s got himself a new secretary. Again, she’s a looker. And Johnny, her last job? She left it after she was caught sleeping with one of her bosses.”

I smiled. “Elisha, you’re a doll. Buy you a drink next time I’m in your bar.”

“Just pay your tab and I’ll be happy,” she said.

“Hope to do that soon,” I said, hanging up the phone.

So, Jordan had a new secretary who’d been caught fucking her boss before. Suddenly, at least part of my job was looking easier.

“Rachel?” I said, hitting the intercom on my desk. “Do you have Kristen Bell’s number there somewhere?”

“I can find it in a minute,” she replied, typing away in the background. “What’s up, boss?”

“Mrs. McPhee’s husband may be fucking his new secretary.”

“My gosh, that Roselyn gets around.”

I blinked hard at that. “I’m sorry?”

“Roselyn Sanchez, she’s Thomas Jordan’s new secretary,” she replied. “She got caught sleeping with Jandzinski, of Jandzinksi, Miller, and Mele last month. I’m shocked she’d risk it again this quickly.”

“You KNOW this girl?” I asked.

“Johnny, I know almost every secretary in The City. And Gossip is what we secretaries do best.”

“So you know for sure this Roselyn slept with her last boss?”

“Absolutely. It was a bit of a scandal, though not much of one. Jandzinski was getting divorced anyway, and Roselyn’s not married. But public impressions and all that got her fired. Can’t say I feel too sorry for her.”

“Rachel, any chance you can find out if she’s doing it again?”

“I don’t think so, Johnny. After nearly getting caught, she’s not going to be bragging about it. And unlike Jandzinski, Miller, and Mele, she’s the only secretary in Jordan’s office.”

“Damn,” I muttered.

“You still want Kristen’s number?” Rachel asked me.

“Yes, but you can call her for me. Tell her to keep her eye out for this Roselyn girl when she’s tailing Jordan. Give her the best description you can.”

“What are you going to do?” Rachel asked me.

I thought about it for a moment. I needed more information on what Jordan was doing against Brittany’s girls. Couldn’t just walk up to him and ask him. At this point, I was running out of ideas. All I could think of was trying to get into his office. But getting into the District Attorney’s office wasn’t that easy in broad daylight. And according to Katharine, he was working late these days – possible working his Secretary late by keeping her legs spread.

That left me with only one real option.

“Tell Kristen I’ll meet her outside Jordan’s office this evening,” I said. “While she’s tailing him, I’m going to have to break in and snoop around.”

* * *

“If he’s doing his secretary, he’s not dumb enough to do her in front of any windows,” Kristen complained as I sat down in her car and handed her a cup of coffee.

“Think they’d let us in if we walked up and knocked?” I asked.

“No, Johnny, I don’t,” Kristen said. I’d seen her bluff her way past some doors before – and even seen her give a guard a blowjob to get at a guy in prison – but there were no guards outside the DA’s office, and the place had been locked up pretty tight. As best we could tell, everyone but Jordan and the Sanchez woman had left. That could mean they were happily screwing each others brains out, but it could also just mean he was working his secretary as a secretary.

Lord knows that’s what I do with mine.

“There she is,” Kristen said, pointing. I watched as a gorgeous latino woman came sauntering down the steps. Judging by the amount of cleavage she was sporting, she wasn’t hired strictly for her typing skills. The short skirt that showed off her caramel covered legs didn’t improve her professional image much – unless she was in Brittany Murphy’s profession.

“You want to follow her, or wait for him?”

“Wait for him,” Kristen answered, looking through her camera viewfinder at Roselyn Sanchez. “Damn. I’d be tempted to hit that if she were my secretary, too.”

I smiled, and was about to comment on that when the door to the DA’s office again, and out walked Thomas Jordan.

“That’s him,” I said. Kristen’s camera swung back towards the building, and I could tell she was focusing on him.

“Got him,” she said. “You sure you don’t want pictures?”

“She said she didn’t,” I reminded her. “I’ll stay here. You follow him. Keep an eye out if he stops at any seedy motels.”

“Wow! You mean to tell me people have affairs at seedy motels?!” Kristen gasp, acting shocked. “I never would have guessed!”

“Your sense of humor’s going to get you in trouble one of these days,” I said, getting out of the car.

“You love me, and you know it,” she shot pack, pulling away from the curb and following Jordan at a safe distance. I watched her go for a moment, reminding myself that she knew what she was doing.

Which was more than I could say about me.

One nice think about my time as a cop was that I learned a lot of little secrets about breaking the law. For instance, the easiest way to sneak past a security system is to know the manufacturers code to shut off the alarm. These were always given to the cops, and rarely changed after installation. I took one look at the alarm system on the DA’s office door, and knew I wouldn’t have a problem. I got the code on my first try, and was inside without a problem.

It took me all of two minutes to find Roselyn Sanchez’ desk. It looked immaculate – better than Rachel’s desk back at my office. Somehow, I doubted that Jordan had taken his secretary on her desk this night. I glanced over some of the papers in her out pile, but it was all legal-ease mumbo jumbo that I couldn’t read, and didn’t want to. Instead, I moved towards Jordan’s office. Jordan apparently didn’t trust just the outside security system – which was a good thing for him. His office door was locked. There are three ways to get past a lock door when you don’t have the key. Pick the lock, force the lock, or go around the lock. Picking the lock takes the most time, as you have to get all the tumblers right. Forcing the lock involved a handy little device that literally forces all the tumblers into the right place in a matter of seconds – it also destroys the lock. Finally, going around the lock, in my case, usually involved a chain saw, a lot of noise, and one very big hole.

I resolved to pick the lock.

Whoever makes movies where someone picks a lock in a matter of seconds is an idiot. I’ve spent hours picking locks before. Any lock you get in ten seconds flat wasn’t locked in the first place. Any movie starlet who thinks she can pick a lock with a hairpin is a hairbrain.

This lock took me just over half-an-hour to get, and then I might have stripped one of the tumblers a bit in doing so. My lockpick set wasn’t perfect. Jordan might notice his lock sticking a bit in the future, but it clearly wasn’t new. Things wear down in time.

Jordan’s office was all I expected it to be. A highly over-priced, fancy leather chair behind a desk that looked bigger than some cars I’d owned. A docking station for a laptop computer on his desk, and one large picture of his oh-so-beautiful wife on the other side of the desk. Paintings worth more than my apartment building sat on the walls, and huge bookshelves covered with law books filled the rest of the space. A stack of papers larger than Roselyn’s sat in his outbox. I leafed through them a little more carefully, but found nothing involving his crusade to get rid of prostitution in The City. He was pushing a case against the owner of the local baseball team, two different newspaper publishers, and a bakery on 29th street. And a lot of other lawyers. But nothing here on prostitutes.

Had he a desktop computer, I would’ve tried to get a look at it, but his laptop had apparently left with him.

I resigned myself to looking through the two large file cabinets outside, and had made it all the way to file folder Br-Ca when I heard the access code for the outside door going off. I slid shut the file cabinet and dove for the only cover I had – underneath Roselyn’s desk.

The lights came on, and an angry voice filled the room.

“You had to bring this to me now?” Thomas Jordan said. “God damn it, I was just getting home!”

I did some quick math. I’d been here over an hour, but Jordan and McPhee lived in the high priced mansions outside of town. Considering traffic, he would not have had time to stop anywhere. Unless he was lying about that. Kristen would know.

“I’m sorry, sir,” a familar voice replied. “But you wanted to know when we had any major breaks on the Prostitution ring.”

I smiled to myself, despite being jammed into an area too small for me – my spine still ached from where I’d been pounded the day before. This wasn’t helping.

The voice belong to Police Officer Linda Park. She’d been a friend of mine when I was on the force, and was one of the few good cops left in The City.

“This couldn’t wait until morning?” Jordan asked, unlocking his door – without problem, which was good for me – and walking inside. Linda left the door open behind her. I could still hear the entire conversation.

“You wanted to know, sir. Here’s the pictures of every girl we brought in tonight,” Linda said, dropping what sounded like a file on Jordan’s desk. “Fifteen in all.”

“How many from each house?”

“Usual mix,” Linda replied. “Two from Travesty, one from Valentine, and the rest from Brittany’s House. The one from Valentine’s underage. Again.”

“Fine, fine, keep her off the street,” Jordan said. “All their pictures are in here?”

“Yes sir, as you requested.”

Things were silent for a moment, aside from the sound of Jordan flipping through paper. Finally, Jordan spoke again. “Fine, fine. Process them, and keep the underaged girl off the streets. Valentine’s pushing his luck there. I’ll press my source for more.”

“Sir, are you sure about this source? I mean, all these girls are coming from Brittany’s House,” Linda said. “Travesty and Valentine are barely being touched.”

“You have your assignment, Officer Park. We do this systematically. We grab all of Brittany’s girls first. Then we’ll move on to Travesty, then Valentine.”

“And the reasoning behind this, sir?” Linda asked.

“It’s alphabetical order, Park. Get going.”

“Yes, sir,” Linda said, clearly biting her tongue. A moment later, she walked out of Jordan’s office and out the door.

“Where are you?” I heard Jordan muttering. He flipped through the papers a bit longer, then sighed, and opened a drawer. I heard papers slide into it, and then Jordan walked right out, closing the outer door behind him-

-and leaving his office door wide open. I waited five minutes to be sure he was gone, then five more to make sure he wasn’t coming right back. My back was killing me when I finally pulled myself out from underneath the desk and wound my way back into Jordan’s office.

Three drawers later, I found the new file. It was arrest records of all the prostitutes grabbed in some major bust – looked like they snagged most of them in sting operations. They were all different types of girls, mostly young – including a fifteen-year-old who must’ve been the one working for Rick Valentine. Rick was certainly scummy enough to use underaged girls as whores. Heck, it wouldn’t have surprised me to see him using underaged sheep as whores.

Jordan seemed rather concerned with who the cops were picking up. Was he looking for one whore specifically?

And he had a source. Something told me one of Brittany’s girls was selling out the others. It was the only thing that made sense as to why so many were getting picked up compared to the others.

Seems like I’d be heading back towards Brittany’s house sooner than I thought.

* * *

I got back to my office in time to get the phone – Rachel was gone for the night. Not surprisingly, it was Kristen.

“When the heck are you going to get a cellphone?” she asked me testily.

“In my line of business, I don’t want to be reachable all the time.”

“Yeah, well, I could’ve warned you Jordan was coming back.”

“It worked out, though,” I said, quickly telling her what I learned.

“So Jordan’s looking for one particular whore, and he thinks she’s working for Brittany?”

“I think that’s only part of it. I’m not sure I believe him when he says he’ll move on to Travesty and Valentine next.”

“Yeah, Alphabetical order for removing whores does sound particularly dumb.”

“I think Brittany’s right. He’s looking for a power grab, and she’s the easiest target of the three.”

“And you think he’s got someone working on the inside of Brittany’s organization?”

“He almost has to,” I told her. “What else could it be?”

“Magic eight ball?”

“You’re a laugh a minute, you know that?”

“Stand-up comedy is my fallback career if this private eye stuff doesn’t work out.”

“I’d tell you not to quit your day job, but then I could use the extra work.”

“That’s for sure,” she said.

“What’s Jordan up to right now?”

“Honestly? I think he’s fucking his wife. When he finally got home, they had a late dinner, and then they went upstairs. I’ve seen her silhouette a couple of times from where I think her bed is, and she’s not wearing anything. You sure you don’t want pictures?”

“Of him being faithful with his wife? Not going to do me much good.”

“I don’t know, Johnny. She’s a hottie.”

“Thanks for the bulletin,” I muttered.

“Listen, I’ve got a couple other things I could be doing right now – like sleeping. All alone. In my big bed. And it’s cold.”

“Go home and sleep then,” I said. “He’s not going anywhere again tonight, I’d bet. I’ve gotta go see Brittany again.”

“Be careful, Johnny. The last time you came out of there, you ended up in the hospital.”

“I’ll try and remember that,” I grumbled.

* * *

I tried not to eye the two mountains of bodyguards at the door to Brittany’s House as I walked in for the second time in three days. This time, Brittany greeted me herself. She wore less than she had the last time I saw her, her attire down to a very thin yellow robe and a black thong that could be seen through said robe. Of course, so could her nipples.

“You have news?” she asked.

“Maybe,” I said, trying not avoid the urge to scan my eyes around the room to see who might be staring at us. “Got some place private we can go?”

“My room,” she said, pulling me along by the arm. We headed up the stairs and into Brittany’s private sanction. It was surprisingly plain – looking more like someone’s guest room than the place where one of The City’s most powerful madams slept at night.

“What do you know?”

“Jordan’s giving the cops a list of whores to round up. He’s got a source that provides him with that list. I think you have a rat.”

“That’s not possible. Outside of the girls I send out on the streets, I’m the only one who knows where they’re all supposed to be,” Brittany said.

“Well, someone else is figuring it out, because Jordan’s getting the info,” I told her.

“Fuck. You have to figure out who.”

“Did you not hear that I got my ass beat in the last time I left this place?” I said. “I’m starting to think that after a couple days, unless I catch Jordan in bed with his secretary, I go back to his wife and tell her she’s got nothing to worry about.”

“That’s not like you, Johnny.”

“Try me,” I muttered.

“I’m paying you,” she reminded me.

“I ain’t received a dime yet, Doll,” I reminded her.

“You want an advance, Johnny?”

“I want to not be killed, Brit,” I said.

“I need your help, Johnny. I’ll do anything. You want any one of my girls, just say the word.”

I wanted to tell her I didn’t work that way, but the fact that I fucked Sophia the other day made such a statement a lie.

I was still tempted to say it anyway.

“No thanks,” I muttered instead.

“You can have me,” she said. “My business is on the line here, Johnny.”

“Yeah, well, if I die, my business is gone for good.”

“Come on, Johnny. Where’s your heart?”

“A hooker looking for a heart from a Private Dick,” I muttered. “There’s some irony in there somewhere.”

“I’ll pay you double. Plus any girl you want.”

Damn it, she had to say that when I was close to broke. The five big bills McPhee had given me the other day would barely cover the bills I was late on. I paused halfway to her door.

“Triple your going rate,” she said. “In cash. And any girl you want.”

Fuck. She really had me at double.

“I’d need a thousand up front,” I said, stalling for a chance to come up with a better reason to say no.

She didn’t waste any time. Her cellphone was out in a flash – where she kept it on her nearly-naked body was a mystery to me – and was talking into it in two seconds flat.

“Sophia, bring me a thousand out of the emergency cash funds.” She looked up at me. “You need anything else? An extra gun? Access to some of my records? A redhead?”

“I’ll pass on the gun and the redhead – for now, anyway. But do you keep records of where your girls are working each night?”

“Just the cash, Sophia. Smaller bills, if possible,” Brittany spoke into her phone before hanging it up. She looked back at me for a second. “I have a charting system. I don’t fill in the girls names until a few hours before I send them out. And I never keep the same girls in the same place for more than two days in a row. Sometimes, not even that. Especially with Jordan’s goons on the prowl.”

I thought for a moment. “I need to see that chart. I don’t need names. If you keep using similar positions, it’s not that hard to figure out how Jordan’s pinpointing your girls.”

Brittany went to her closet and pulled out a small black briefcase. Inside, she pulled out a small wipe board that had a tiny map of The City permanently applied to it. Several streets had circles on their corners, in three different colors – blue, red, and green. These circles had numbers inside of them. Most only had a 1 inside, but a few had as many as 4 or 5. I gathered that said numbers marked how many girls were in each spot.

“What color are your girls?”

“Green,” she said. “Blue is Travesty, and Red marks Valentine’s territory.

There were an awful lot of red circles.

“Valentine’s pushing his street walkers quite a bit these days,” I commented.

“Has to,” Brittany said. “He lost a couple of his better high-priced girls a couple months ago. Drug overdose, I heard. And, when Rick Valentine gets bad news, people die. Rumor is, when he found two of his high-priced escorts dead in his own strip club, he went off the hook and had three or four more killed for being strung up at the same time. Didn’t occur to him he was gutting his own profit margins. Since the high-priced girls are harder to come by, he’s been pushing out his street walkers. And, since my girls keep getting snatched up by the cops, I can barely keep my core territory.”

“Sounds like Valentine’s profiting from Jordan’s efforts,” I muttered.

“That bastard profits from just about everything.”

I sighed and headed towards the door.

“Where are you going?”

“Where else? I need to pay Rick Valentine’s strip club a visit.”

“Johnny, you got beat up leaving here the other day. What’ll they do to you over there?” Brittany warned me.

“Then I’ll be careful,” I said, pulling out one of my guns and making sure it was loaded.

I made sure to get my thousand bucks from Sophia before I left. And this time, I kept my eyes open as I walked.

* * *

The Naked Valentine isn’t as classy as it sounds. Actually, it’s not even as classy as it sounds like when you call it what it really is – just this side of a dump. But the beer is cheap, the girls get completely naked, and almost anything can be had – for a price – somewhere in it’s dank and smoke-filled walls.

I hadn’t been here in a while. And, had I my druthers, I wouldn’t have been back this soon, either. Valentine hated cops – they weren’t allowed on his property without a warrant. If he hated cops, he loathed detectives – he’d had more than one shot. Private Dicks, like myself, were only slightly more tolerated, and mostly because Valentine needed them for favors every now and then.

I’d never done a favor for Rick Valentine in my life.

And he knew it.

I sat down at a table not far from the main stage, tried to avoid the second-hand cancer floating through the air, and gripped my drink in one hand, while the other rested on my gun. I would’ve felt safer, had I not been able to spot six other pistols out in plain site, and with another dozen or more barely concealed. There was also a not-so-subtly placed shotgun behind one table that I wanted to be sure to avoid.

The talent level of Valentine’s dancers had gone down considerably since the last time I came in here. They looked like most of them ought to be working a street corner, where it was dark and their flaws weren’t so easily spotted. The tits were either sagging or clearly fake, and most of them looked like they only survived Valentine’s slaughter of drug-addicts by virtue of not being around at the time.

I reminded myself that on the list of money making schemes Rick Valentine had, The Naked Valentine was actually pretty far down the list.

I was being watched as I sat and watched some waif of a blonde who looked like she might not have seen a shower in the last week. I knew it, and whoever was watching me knew I knew it. I made it a point not to look like I cared.

The waif blonde gave up the stage, and I spent the minute or two when there was no girl naked in front of me to casually scan the room again. Valentine himself wasn’t on the floor at the moment, but I did recognize two of his closest associates.

Brandon Vile was one of Valentine’s longest-lasting employees – a remarkable feat, considering how often Valentine’s employees ended up dead when bad news came. It was also remarkable that Vile was still around, as he had the well deserved reputation of being high on drugs close to 24/7. But, he was also Valentine’s connection to the drug trade in The City, and as Valentine liked to keep his fingers in pretty much every dirty pot you could find, he and Vile became fast working associates, if not actual friends.

Jaime Pressly, on the other hand, wasn’t into drugs. Quite frankly, outside of alcohol, trashy clothes, and tons of money, I’d be hard pressed to say she was into anything. Jaime was another blonde, but if Valentine ever got her up on stage, she’d blow away the competition pretty quick. She still had that fake stripper look to her – and her wardrobe didn’t help – but unlike most of Valentine’s strippers, Jaime actually looked good.

So, naturally, she was Valentine’s girlfriend. No stripping for her these days – though I remembered first seeing her up on the stage I now sat near. She was as close to criminal royalty in these parts, and she acted the part quite well. Anyone who knew who she was gave her exactly what she wanted.

Rumor had it, among the things she wanted were more drinks than any one person should have in any one sitting, large chunks of Valentine’s wealth, and the occasional girl to experiment with. How many of those experiments Valentine himself got to participate in were anyone’s guess, but Jaime was reportedly quite fond of having other women as her sex slave.

And Valentine seemed only too happy to make sure that Jaime was happy.

Made me wonder who was really in charge in their relationship. Then again, if I were getting to tap a hot piece of ass like that on a regular basis, I’d probably be giving her whatever she wanted, too.

I was certain that if I could get either Pressly or Vile to talk, I could get all sorts of information out

of the two of them. Problem was, short of kidnapping them, tying them up in some dark basement, and beating them senseless, there was no way I was getting them to

talk. I needed another source.

Then I found one, behind the bar.

Piper Perabo must have worked behind almost every bar in The City at one point or another. She didn’t look like a bartender, certainly didn’t act like one, and only dressed the part because she’d be fired if she didn’t. I’d known her for years now, and knew two things about her.

First, she wasn’t much of a snoop. But it was pretty rare that a bartender didn’t pick up some gossip.

Secondly, if she was working at Valentine’s joint, she was getting desperate.

And I thought I knew a way to make her considerably less desperate.

I got up out of my chair slowly, and took my time heading over to the bar, well aware that there were still several sets of eyes on me as I went. There was a giant target on my back in here, and the longer I stayed, the more likely it was that someone’s trigger finger would get a little too itchy.

Piper didn’t see me until I reached the bar, but as soon as she did, a nasty frown creased that pretty

little face of hers.

“Damn you, Johnny Richards, you just got me fired,” she said.

“Hello to you, too. What’s safe to drink in this place?”

“For you, nothing,” Piper muttered. “I’m serious, by the way. Rick’s said any employee caught talking to you was out the door.”

“Guess you’d better pack your personal belongings, then,” I said.

“Damn it, Johnny, I can’t afford to keep hoping from bar to bar,” she said.

“Tell you what. You give me a drink. I walk away. You catch up with me later. I put in a good word for you down at the Southern Beaver. Elisha could use a little help. And she listens to me.”

“Elisha Cuthbert?” Piper said. “She’ll probably want me to sleep with her.”

“Yeah, but the longer you stay here, the more likely Miss Pressly will come after you. Elisha will at least take no for an answer.”

“You’re a bastard, Johnny Richards,” she said, handing me a mostly head beer and turning her back on me. The conversation was over. I turned back towards my table, only to find two rather angry looking bikers there, doing their best to look intimidating. I shrugged my shoulders, took a long pull on the beer, and placed it back on the bar.

Then I walked out.

* * *

This time, when the attack came, I was ready for it.

The baseball bat came flying out of nowhere, but since I was expecting it, I was already ducking when it flew. It missed my head by about six inches, and my foot slammed into the knee of the guy swinging it a moment later. He cried out and hit the ground in pain, though I suspected I could’ve done more damage – I hadn’t heard any bones break.

The second guy came at me from almost directly behind, slamming into me and sending me crashing to the sidewalk. But I managed to turn as I fell, and landed on my side, instead of face down. I kept rolling, and managed to keep him from pinning me to the pavement. My elbow landed a lucky blow to his neck, and that kept him on the ground longer than I was.

The third guy made the mistake of pulling out a knife while he was still a good fifteen feet away from me. I wasn’t even on my feet before I pulled my first gun. The knife guy stopped dead in his tracks.

“You got a lot of nerve, Richards,” a voice said. “The boss don’t like it when people get nervy around his property.”

“What, I’m not allowed into the finest Strip Club in town?” I asked innocently, keeping my gun leveled at the knife guy. The voice was coming from the shadows behind him, where I could just make out a silhouette.

“As a’ right now, you ain’t,” Voice replied. “Valentine don’t like you, Johnny. Best keep your

gumshoes away from his territory.”

“I plan to,” I said, slowly backing off. The first two attackers were back on their feet – obviously I

could’ve kicked that guy’s knee harder.

“Do that,” Voice said. Suddenly, all three attackers turned and started walking away. I lowered my gun a bit, but didn’t take my finger off the trigger.

“Oh, and Johnny?” Voice said. “You should know – Valentine’s territory is growing. Fast.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I muttered. Ten seconds later, all four were gone, around a corner and out of sight. I figured I’d pushed my luck far enough. I headed back towards my office, checking over my shoulder more than once as I went.

* * *

The rain was back in full force as I entered my office. As late, I didn’t expect to find Rachel there

– she was probably home, keeping her husband warm. I also didn’t expect to find anything more than a phone message from Kristen Bell, who, sure enough, left me one asking me to meet her at the Southern Beaver the next afternoon. Nothing major to report, just some tidbits to pass on. I made sure the place was locked up tight and headed back to my apartment.

I didn’t expect to find Piper Perabo waiting for me at home, either. But she surprised me.

“Hi, Johnny,” she said as I walked in.

“Hey, Pipe,” I said. “You caught up to me sooner than I thought.”

“They were firing me as you walked out the door,” she muttered. “You promised me that job at the Beaver.”

“You’ll get it,” I said. “What do you know about Valentine?”

“That he’s a pig,” she said. “And a crook. And a rapist.”

“He didn’t…?” I trailed off, not sure how to ask.

“No, not me,” she said. “Saw him take a couple of school girls up to his private room a couple months ago, though. When they finally came back down, their clothes were ripped, and they were crying. Didn’t take long to find out what happened.”

“I hate to say this, Pipe, but you’re not really telling me anything I don’t already know. What’s he up to these days?”

“Easier to tell you what he isn’t,” she said. She looked shaken. It hit me that I might have put her in

more danger than I thought when I spoke to her in the bar. She was lucky Valentine just fired her. She could’ve been beaten up, raped, killed – or worse.

“What about his hookers,” I prodded. “He got anything going on with them?”

“Other than all the drugged-out ones he killed? He’s just hiring like mad. Other than that, he’s ignoring them these days. Jaime Pressly’s controlling most of them now.”

“Pressly?” I asked, surprised. “Didn’t know she was the business minded type.”

“She’s a lot more dangerous than you think, Johnny. And a lot smarter than people take her for. But she’s only running Valentine’s hookers because he’s too busy with other deals at the moment.”

“What other deals?”

“Don’t know,” Piper said, approaching me. “Something big, though. He keeps meeting with the same man, over and over again.”

“Who is he?”

“I don’t know. No one I’ve ever seen before.”

“Anything else you can tell me?”

“He’s not worried about the police as much,” Piper said. “He seems to think he’s in pretty good shape at the moment.”

“He certainly seems to be,” I muttered. “Nothing else at all about the hookers?”

“No more than that Jaime’s running that show now. Valentine still hates both Travesty and Brittany, and he’s demanded Jaime find him new talent on all levels. High priced, regular escorts, and street hos. Valentine wants to expand. And he needs to replace the girls he killed.”

“Well, he’s certainly expanding,” I said, thinking back to the chart Brittany showed me earlier. The

information that Jaime was behind all the moves was interesting, but it didn’t help me out – not as much as I’d hoped it would.

“Why are you looking into this, Johnny?” Piper asked me, looking up at me, her eyes pleading. “Valentine only started worrying about you yesterday. His goons see you again, they’ll kill you.”

“I don’t plan on going back to Valentine’s place,” I said. And meant it.

“That may not be enough.”

“I can be careful.”

“I hope so,” she said, resting a hand on my chest. “Johnny, I want to thank you for getting me out of

there. I couldn’t stand it.”

“Don’t thank me yet. You’ve still got to work for Elisha,” I said, smiling down at her. Her pretty face looked up at me.

“I think I can handle her.”

“Good,” I replied.

“And I still want to thank you,” she said, reaching up and kissing me.

I should have pushed her off – I should have told her we shouldn’t go where we were about to go. But I didn’t. Piper was cute, and I certainly didn’t mind her kissing me.

And I didn’t mind it when she removed my shirt, either. Piper’s tank top went next, and it became clear that she needed no bra to keep her perky little tits perky. Smooth skin filled my view, and for a moment, all I wanted to do was stare at her pointy little nipples.

She broke me out of my reverie with another kiss, then started to unbuckle my pants. If I was going to stop this, I had to do it before my pants came off. After that, there would be no turning back.

My pants came down, and there was no turning back.

The shorts Valentine forced his bartenders to wear came off her next, leaving her in a surprisingly tiny, baby blue thong. When she saw me looking at it, she spun around once, as if to show it off, before I grabbed her and pulled her to me.

My animalistic needs rose again, and I knew it was a lost cause to try and stop now. I tossed her on the bed, shucked my boxers, and jumped after her. She squealed slightly as I landed almost on top of her, and my lips found one of her nipples before she could react. That shriek turned to a moan of joy as pleasure started to sink into her brain. I moved down her body, my tongue tracing a line across her stomach, down over her navel, down to her crotch, where it found her clit.

Her moans grew louder as I licked, louder as I sucked, louder as I nibbled. I didn’t know how long it had been since she’d had sex, but she certainly seemed like she felt this was long over due.

“Oh, fuck!” she moaned as I slowly slid one finger into her snatch. My lips did not leave her clit, but my finger started to probe her most sensitive area. She shifted on the bed, her body unable to hold still as I pleasured her. Her hands found my head, trying to hold me down between her legs. In response, I shoved a second finger into her hot snatch, making her gasp.

Piper started to thrash as I rapidly slid my fingers in and out of her, never ceasing my oral efforts on her clit. She was close – I could tell. Her hands were like vices on my head, pinning me to her crotch with massive force. I kept my pace as best I could as Piper’s legs squeezed my head as well. Her thrashing increased, and it was clear she wasn’t going to last much longer.

So I shoved in a third finger.

She came at once.

I kept going. She thrashed about, but I held her steady, her climax powering through her entire body.

“Oh my god,” she moaned as she settled down. “It’s been too long.”

I didn’t say anything as she released my head and I was able to start kissing up her body, stopping for a moment at her nipples before sliding my now rock-hard shaft into her.

Piper was tight – it must have been a while for her. The lovely, wet folds of her pussy wrapped around my cock. It hadn’t been nearly so long for me – thanks to Sophia and Ellen. I worked my way in slowly for the first thrust or two, but then my needs took over, and I slammed myself in fast. Piper gasped, but didn’t protest as I started to truly fuck her.

I lost myself in the motions, the sensations of sex bleeding into my brain. I lost track of where I was, and what I was doing. In the back of my head, I could hear Piper gasping and moaning in pleasure. No complaints, so I kept going.

Finally, with one massive thrust, I reached my own climax, blowing my load deep into Piper in several powerful bursts. My brain began to wake up to what was going on around me, and I heard Piper moaning through her own orgasm.

I pulled out of her, laid down next to her. She smiled over at me briefly.

“Thank you,” she said, before closing her eyes.

It was late. I was tired. I fell asleep with Piper next to me. I could think of worse ways to fall asleep.

* * *

I awoke late the next morning – very late. Almost 11:30. The last couple of days were starting to catch up with me. I hear rain on the windows – no surprise there – and I rolled out of bed and headed for the bathroom. Piper still lay there, half in, half out of the covers. One of her perfect little tits poked out from beneath the sheets, and one whole leg seemed to be hanging off the edge of the bed. As she breathed, I could just make out that the sheets were dropping lower and lower each time. Another fifteen, twenty minutes without moving, and she’d be practically laying naked, exposed to the world.

I left her as she was.

I didn’t regret sleeping with her any more in the morning than I did the night before while in the act.

Piper had been a friend for a long time. This was just a little bit more history between us. She had

something in common with a lot of other girls now.

I showered and got dressed, and by the time I got to the kitchen, Piper had awoken and was making coffee. She wore an old t-shirt of mine that covered her top, but left her ass and pussy exposed. I wasn’t complaining.

“Do you know when I’ll be able to talk to Elisha?” she asked me as soon as she spotted me. Good. Looked like we were going to ignore the night before, and her partial nudity. That wasn’t a conversation I really wanted, anyway.

“I’m going to the Beaver later this afternoon,” I said. “I can introduce you then.”

“Good. I can’t go too many days without a paycheck, know what I mean?”

I did, actually, and while she showered and got ready – sadly covering that cute little rear end of hers again with the same clothes she’d worn the day before – I made a point of paying off my bills with the money both Katherine McPhee and Brittany Murphy had fronted me.

Too bad I wasn’t any closer to solving either case. Hopefully, Kristen had something.

I called the office and checked in with Rachel, who had absolutely no news for me, and about 3:30 that afternoon, Piper and I made our way down to the Southern Beaver.

Elisha was only too happy to take Piper on. “Guys like hot blondes serving them drinks. As long as you don’t mind showing some skin and can mix the drinks, you’ve got a job,” she said after I explained who Piper was. I did get the impression that Elisha half took her on as a favor to me, and half to see if she could get into Piper’s panties. Having been there myself, I silently wished her luck.

Kristen Bell arrived not long after that.

“Do you ever, you know, work in your office?” she asked me as she sat down at a table.

“Is that what I’m supposed to do there?” I asked, feigning confusion.

“I followed Jordan again last night. He didn’t meet up with anyone, though he still could be fucking that hot secretary of his when he in his office. You should’ve installed a hidden camera when you were in there.”

“You’re talking to a guy who doesn’t OWN a camera,” I reminded her.

“Whatever. Anyway, he stayed late again, the girl left first, and then Jordan went to his car. This time, though, he didn’t go home.”

Jackpot, I thought to myself.

“He went to the harbor, where he met up with some guy I’ve never seen before.”

“He’s gay?” I blurted out, honestly surprised.

“If he is, he didn’t stick around to play lonely sailor with this guy,” Kristen said, sliding over a

couple of folders. Sure enough, Thomas Jordan was talking with some guy, clearly a little upset about something. Then, in the last picture, the man handed a large manila envelope to Jordan.

“Whole think took about a minute, maybe a minute and a half,” Kristen said. “No lip locking, far as I could see.”

“And you have no idea who the guy is?”

“Not a clue.”

“I’ve seen him before,” Piper said suddenly. I looked up at her, surprised.

“Who is he?” Kristen asked.

“Don’t know his name, but he’s been meeting with Rick Valentine almost every day for the last three weeks.”

My eyes found Kristen’s. Suddenly, we had a link between Jordan and Valentine. The envelope could’ve contained the lists of whores Jordan was using in his effort to fight his little crusade against

prostitution.

“So, we find the guy, we find the link,” Kristen said, smiling.

“I’d help if we knew who he was,” I muttered.

“I can help you there,” Elisha said. “That’s Sean McBride, owner of McBride Electronics. He’s only like the fifth richest man in The City.”

“My head hurts,” Kristen muttered.

“Why would the owner of McBride Electronics be working as a go-between for Rick Valentine and Thomas Jacobs?” I said. “That makes no sense what so ever.”

“I’m not telling you it makes sense,” Elisha said, shrugging. “I’m just telling you who’s in the

picture.”

* * *

They say no more than six other people connect everyone in the world to everyone else. Personally, I

don’t buy the whole Six Degrees crap. Far as I know, there’s no way to connect me with the President, or the Queen of England, or the owner McBride electronics. And, as Kristen and I researched things, turns out, not too many people at all were connected with one Sean McBride.

“It’s like he didn’t exist twenty years ago,” Kristen muttered, looking up from her laptop. She was doing the real work right now – I’d wasted all my info sources in the tech and business sectors of The City within three phone calls. Seems I don’t run around in those circles enough.

“He must have some sort of educational record,” I said. “Any idea where he went to college?”

“College? McBride electronics has been in the same family for a hundred years now, dating all the way back to when it was McBride Steel,” Kristen said. “You become the owner of McBride Electronics when one of your relatives die, Johnny.”

“I need relatives like that,” I muttered.

“Join the club,” Kristen replied. “If Sean McBride went to school, the records aren’t online.”

“So what possible connection to this whole affair could he possibly have?” I asked. “He’s completely out of left field.”

“It’s possible he’s crooked,” Kristen pointed out. “He has a lot of money, and a mysterious past. Maybe he and Valentine have some crimes in common.”

“That’s a possibility, but why would Valentine use McBride as a go-between to Jordan?”

“McBride must know Jordan somehow.”

I shook my head. We were sitting in my office, well after Kristen had tailed Jordan home – straight home – from work again. No stops, no women, no sex. It was possible he was leaving the house later, but that seemed unlikely. He seemed more than happy to stay at home at night with his exceedingly gorgeous wife, who still occasionally slept with him.

“Maybe we’re going about this the wrong way,” I said. “We’re trying to find a connection between Valentine, McBride, and Jordan. We don’t need to. We know there is one. Valentine and McBride are meeting almost daily. McBride and Jordan are meeting occasionally, and McBride is passing something on to Jordan. We know Jordan is somehow getting the information of where Brittany’s placing her street-walking whores, and we suspect that Valentine’s somehow behind it. We’ve got

three fourths of the trail of information. What we need to find out is how the information’s getting from Brittany’s to Valentine’s.”

“Got to be an inside job,” Kristen said. “Someone there knows more than Brittany realizes. You just need to find out who.”

“Yeah. Listen, I know it’s no fun, but do you mind still following Jordan at night?” I asked her. “There is the whole case of if he’s cheating on his wife or not.”

“I’ll follow him, but I think you need to find a way to see what’s going on inside his office after

everyone else leaves. He might just be humping that secretary of his.”

“We do need to rule that out,” I sighed. “I suppose you know a way I can do that, don’t you?”

She smiled at me in that obnoxious I-know-more-than-you-do way of hers. “Not only do I

know that, I know just the girl who can install it for you.”

* * *

It was well past midnight when I bypassed the security alarm on the DA’s outside door, and well past 1am by the time Kristen had placed the tiny, pinhole camera in one corner of the outer office, where Roselyn Sanchez sat during the day. I spent most of my time looking out the window to make sure no one was coming while Kristen worked. This technical stuff has always been beyond me.

When she finished, she yanked out her laptop and turned it on. She had some kind of transmitter

attached to the camera, and sure enough, we could see ourselves standing in the middle of the room, able to see everything but the corner directly underneath the camera. I would’ve marveled aloud at the wonders of modern technology, but I didn’t want to hear the “I told you so” from Kristen.

Next, she worked to put one up inside Jordan’s office itself. She had just finished placing the camera when I heard the sounds of someone punching in the access code outside.

We were stuck. I raced to Jordan’s door and closed it before the outside doors opened, but if it was Jordan, we were screwed. Kristen might have been able to hide in the closet or under the desk without Jordan noticing, but I wouldn’t fit in the closet, and I’d be sticking out from underneath the desk. I positioned myself behind the door, hoping it’d swing wide enough to hide me as Kristen dove for the closet.

But Jordan’s office never opened. And soon, we heard a very distinct sound coming from the other room.

Giggling.

“We shouldn’t be here, Papi,” a woman’s voice with a slight Spanish accent said. “My boss would not like it.”

“I don’t care,” came a strong male voice replied. “I’ve got to have you now.”

“My desk,” the woman said.

It was Roselyn Sanchez! And she was with a man! My eyes went wide. We’d just barely hooked up the camera out there, and it was going to pay off almost instant rewards! Jacob WAS having an affair with his secretary!

But Kristen shook her head when I looked at her, and motioned for me to come closer. I silently moved over next to where she stood and looked down at the screen, where Roselyn Sanchez was making out with a guy.

Only that guy was not Thomas Jordan.

It was Sean McBride

Kristen and I exchanged looks as McBride ripped open Roselyn’s shirt, exposing a pair of breasts that were down-right amazing. McBride wasted no time sucking on those impressive tits, clearly enjoying himself.

“Damn,” Kristen said as Roselyn quickly slid her panties off from under her skirt. McBride didn’t seem to want that, as he undid the buttons on that skirt, and threw it to the floor. The next minute, McBride lifted Sanchez off her feet and deposited her on the desk. Spreading her legs, he forced himself between them and unzipped his pants.

“Huh,” Kristen said, peering closer. “She shaves everything down there.”

I glanced at her for a second, then looked back. Yep, Roselyn Sanchez was bald below the belt. It looked good on her. Then again, she had the kind of body that most anything would look good on. Red. Bare skin. Chocolate syrup.

McBride was inside her now, and pounding away like a pro.

“They’re a cute couple,” Kristen said.

“Excuse me?” I said, surprised.

“What?” she said. “They looked good together.

“You are such a girl,” I muttered.

“What, just because I’m not thinking about how hot it is that I’m watching two people having sex?”

“Hush,” I said. “Remember, we aren’t supposed to be here.”

“Oh, you hush,” she said. “Go back to enjoying your free porn.”

I did. McBride had flipped Roselyn over now, and was banging her hard from behind. I found myself admiring the fact that, indeed, she had as nice a rear end as she did a front.

“Is he in her ass?” Kristen asked.

I looked closer at the computer. “Looks that way.”

“Ugh. I hate anal from behind,” Kristen said.

“Really?” I said.

“If you’re sticking something up my ass, I’d better be able to see your face.”

“I’ll try and remember that for next time,” I said.

“There’s not going to be a next time, Johnny.”

I took my eyes off where McBride was reaching around Roselyn’s body to squeeze her tits while still fucking her ass to look at Kristen. “Are you sure?”

“It was a one-time thing,” Kristen said. “You got lucky. It won’t happen again.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Shut up,” she said.

“I didn’t say anything.”

“Shut up. I was drunk.”

“No you weren’t,” I said. “You had one shot of whisky and I’d had three.”

On the screen, Roselyn had somehow gotten on top of McBride now, and was riding him like a cowboy.

“I’m not arguing with you over this,” she said. “We’re never sleeping together again.”

“Is this because I didn’t call you afterwards?” I asked, watching as Roselyn slammed herself up and down on McBride’s cock.

“That has nothing to do with it,” she said. “If I’d needed you to call, you would’ve heard from me.”

“Then what’s your problem?”

“I can do better than you, Johnny Richards.”

“I’m sure you can,” I said calmly.

She rolled her eyes at me. “You’re infuriating, you know that?”

“I thought that was why you liked me,” I said.

“I don’t like you,” she said, watching as McBride shot his load deep into Roselyn’s pussy.

“Good,” I said. “I don’t like you either.”

“Good,” she said. “As long as we understand each other.”

“I’d say we do,” I said. We watched in silence as the two lovers got dressed and left.

* * *

“Well, that shoots that theory right out of the water,” Kristen muttered as we finally left the DA’s

office, after being sure Roselyn and McBride were long gone.

“How so?” I asked. “She could still be doing Jordan, too.”

“I don’t think so, watching that,” Kristen said as we got into her car. “If she is, she’s gotta have a sex

addiction or something. She acted like she hadn’t gotten it in a couple days. If her boss was banging

her on the side, you’d think she’d be a little more satisfied.”

“Keep watching her anyway,” I said. “I want to rule her out once and for all.”

“What are you going to do?” she asked me.

“Something stupid, I suspect.”

* * *

I don’t get into the corporate section of The City that often. Quite frankly, I don’t have much need to. Businesses like McBride electronics, or Pouliot Publishing don’t need Private Dicks all that often. They might worry about corporate espionage, but not about my kind of street-level crime. They had underpaid security guards for that.

McBride Electronics Headquarters was located in a spiffy looking, fifteen-story-tall building that,

despite the constant rain, somehow still seemed to sparkle during the day. Their lobby had clearly been designed by either some Avant Garde artist fifteen years ago, or a drunk architect. Somehow, I suspected both.

Every McBride employee carried a blue ID badge. I suspect these were supposed to be worn around the neck, or somewhere easily seen by security, or at least the front desk secretary. But it became pretty clear right off that most employees didn’t bother with them. Since the front door was unlocked during the day, anyone could come in all they want. Since the manufacturing of McBride Electronics was done elsewhere, this location wasn’t considered that high security a site. In fact, as I walked in, I saw the security guard heading back into an office with a soda in one hand and a Styrofoam container that I suspected held his lunch. The front desk girl clearly also covered the phones, and she flipped through what I guessed was some kind of computer phone list with

practiced ease, despite the torrid number of calls ringing in on her. I walked past her, flashing a blue

credit card that had expired on me three years ago in her general direction, and no one tried to stop me. All she saw was a blue card, and guessed it was my ID badge.

I was in. Now I just had to figure out what to do while I was here.

One doesn’t just walk right up to the owners office during business hours and start snooping around. It’s a shame, too, because it’d make my life a lot easier. But, every now and then, you get lucky. I got in the elevator with two guys right behind me, neither paying any attention to me at all. They pushed the button for the 14th floor, and I merely stood back, as if I was going in the same direction.

And then, they continued their conversation.

“We’ve lost both the Thompson and the Epler contracts last week. That’s six in the past three months,” the first guy said.

“What about the CW deal? That should cover most of those losses.” The second one said.

“It’s not a done deal by any means,” the first replied. “In fact, I heard that CW’s folding a lot of

their long term contracts. Camden and OTH both lost their accounts already.”

“You’d think that would make them want to pick up a new account to meet their needs.”

“I heard they might be starting their own electronics firm. And if THAT happens, they won’t touch us with a thirty-foot pole. And can you blame them?”

“Not the way McBride’s been acting lately. You see him this morning? Looked like he’d been out all night. Meanwhile, we’re hemorrhaging money left and right around here.”

“I knew the Old Man should’ve given this place to his daughter,” the first one said. “She at least knows how to run a business.”

Suddenly, the elevator stopped, and the doors swung open. I didn’t wait to see what floor we were on; I merely stepped out, passing a trio of individuals getting on. Then I headed right for the stairs, went down to the ground floor, and left the building.

I’d gotten all the information I needed for the moment.

* * *

“Rachel, get me Kristen on the phone, and as soon as you’ve got her, see what you can dig up on in the financial news about McBride Electronics,” I said as I walked into my office.

“You might want to wait on that phone call,” Bilson said, pointing her pencil across the room. I turned, and saw Katharine McPhee sitting on a chair, waiting for me with a large bag. She wore a dark suit coat and fashionable faded jeans that clung to her legs like a second skin – I wasn’t sure how she’d managed to sit down in them, but as she stood up, I could make no complaints about how well they looked on her.

“Mrs. McPhee,” I said. “I’m sorry I haven’t contacted you. I’m still trying to track down a few leads on your husband.”

“That’s okay,” she said. “Can we talk in your office?”

I raised an eyebrow towards Rachel, who merely shrugged and turned on her computer. “I’ll get you

what I can about McBride Electronics,” she said, ignoring the two of us. I lead Katharine into my

office.

She put the bag down on my desk and pulled out a white shirt.

“I have some evidence for you,” she said, handing it to me. I looked at the shirt for a moment, before I noticed the red stain on the collar.

Lipstick.

“It’s not my shade,” Katharine said. “Not even close.”

So here it was, evidence that Thomas Jordan was, indeed, having an affair on his beautiful, young wife.

“I’m sorry,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

“Don’t be sorry. Find out who she is,” Katharine said. “I want to know who it was who could get Tom to cheat on me. You know, I fuck him twice a week. I still suck him off, when he asks for it. I’m in damn good shape, and I’m only 23. I can’t see how he could do much better.”

“I’d say he was crazy, myself,” I said.

“Thank you, Mister Richards.”

“Call me Johnny, Mrs. McPhee.”

“Johnny,” she said, looking me over, as if reevaluating me. “Katharine,” she offered.

“Katharine,” I smiled. “I have to say, I’m not sure when your husband is having his affair. I’ve had

someone following him home from work most nights, and he’s never stopped for more than a minute or two.”

“It must be at work, then,” she said.

“We’re looking into that,” I admitted.

“Please, let me know what you find out,” she said, heading for the door. She turned back for a moment, smiled slightly, and added, “Johnny.” With that, she left my office, and a moment later, I heard the outer door close, too.

“Katharine,” I whispered to myself.

* * *

“I think it’s stakeout time,” Kristen said as she entered my office about 11:30 that night.

“Funny,” I muttered. “I was thinking it was time I went back to school to get my degree in economics – I can’t make heads or tails out of any of this.” I’d been going over all the information Rachel had printed out for me, and outside of a slightly higher tally of Lost Contracts as opposed to Gained Contracts, I could find no doomsday signal within the reported financial records of McBride Electronics. At this point, my eyes hurt, my brain felt like sludge, and if I ever had to look at another stock report in my lifetime, it would be too soon.

“No luck on following the money, huh?”

“Well, I suspect McBride Electronics will make a little less money this year compared to last, but not enough to have employees running to the life rafts.”

“Well, remember, cubicle workers have little to do with their time but panic over everything,” she said. “Could be your hot tip was just rumors and speculation.”

“All rumors have a basis in fact,” I replied.

“So, anyway, I was thinking we should go on a stakeout, you and me.”

“Of what?”

“Of one Miss Roselyn Sanchez’s swanky after work lifestyle,” Kristen replied.

“Which involves?”

“Well, last night, it involved working until eight PM, and then grabbing a diet frozen pizza at the grocery store before returning home to watch Mexican Soap Operas until ten-thirty PM, where she proceeded to get undressed, put on decidedly sexy teddy-bear boxer shorts and a T-shirt three sizes too big for those HUGE breasts of hers, crawling into bed, and falling asleep to a trashy romance novel that’s just this side of porn for women.”

“You followed her home last night.” It wasn’t a question.

“Yep. And last night was pretty damn dull. Jordan left work at the actual closing time of the DA’s office, went right home, and proceeded to seduce his wife, then conked out about seven PM.”

“He slept with Katharine last night?” I asked, surprised.

“Well, well, look who’s on a first name basis with his clients all of a sudden.”

I stared at her for a second.

“Sorry, heartbreaker. They did the horizontal mambo right on the kitchen table. Well, actually, he was pretty vertical and she was bent over at the waist. I cannot confirm at this time if there was anal

penetration or not, but I can see if she’s having trouble sitting down tomorrow if you’d like.”

“You’re all heart,” I muttered.

“You haven’t fucked her already, have you?” Kristen asked me.

“No!” I said, a bit too defensively.

“Well, sorry to break the news to you, then. Your married client’s still willing to let her hubby do

her, despite the fact that she knows he’s cheating on her.”

“Your camera didn’t catch him doing the secretary then,” I said, changing the subject.

“Nope. No office hanky panky today, anyway.”

“Then we might as well follow Sanchez. But why do you need me?”

“Simple. We know she’s sleeping with McBride. Say she meets up with him again? One of us can tail her, the other him. If either one meets up with Jordan, we’re golden.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m not so sure following Sanchez in place of Jordan’s the best idea. We NEED to know who he’s sleeping with. We already know there’s a connection between the three.”

“C’mon, it’ll be fun,” she said. “We can read trashy tabloids in the car to each other, eat stale donuts.Take turns with the binoculars – I’ll let you touch my camera,” she said, adding just a hint of seduction to her voice.

One of these days, I’m going to learn to say no to an attractive woman.

* * *

Roughly 24 hours later, Kristen and I sat in the car, taking turns using the binoculars to spy on a Motel room fifteen blocks from Roselyn Sanchez’ apartment, and almost half The City away from where Sean McBride called home. Sure enough, Sanchez and McBride were in there, and as the occasional silhouette of Roselyn Sanchez’ naked body proved, they were, indeed, fucking each other.

And they’d been at it for two hours now.

“Guess their little encounter in the office was just a quickie,” Kristen muttered.

“Guess so,” I replied, trying hard not to fall asleep. Too many late nights the last few days, it seemed.

“You want to read about which Soap Opera starlet’s having a secret lesbian affair with TWO of her

co-stars?” she asked, offering me one of the tabloids.

“What happened to the times when all the tabloids were stuff like ‘Loch Ness Monster seen in Hudson River?’ or ‘Wolfboy marries Midget?’” I asked.

“Celebs sell more tabloids than Bigfoot, I guess,” she said.

“Been too long since I was on a stakeout,” I muttered. “I’m getting antsy.”

“You need to relax. I do this all the time. If I didn’t know how to relax, I’d have gone bonkers ages

ago.”

I bit my tongue to keep myself from telling her just how bonkers I already thought she was. “What do you do to relax?” I asked instead.

“Read the paper. Sudoko puzzles, play the license plate game, and, well, you know.”

“Know what?” I asked, peering through the binoculars at the shadow of Roselyn Sanchez’s naked body up against the curtains of the room. She had an amazing set of tits.

“You KNOW,” she said.

I turned and looked at her for a second. “No,” I said, honestly. “I don’t.”

She sighed. “I’m not going to say it.”

“Say what?” I asked.

She sighed again. “Fine, fine,” she replied, waiving her hands in the air. “I masturbate. Okay? Happy now? If I know I’m going to be out here a bit, I lean back in my seat, lift up my skirt, pull the old panties aside and go to town. Happy now?”

I blinked at her. “I honestly had no idea you were going to say that.”

“Yeah, well, you sit outside motel rooms where people are having sex all night long and see how long it is before YOU get horny.”

If I hadn’t been horny before, I certainly was now. Suddenly, the silhouette of Roselyn’s naked body

riding on top of McBride seemed a lot clearer.

“So, ah, what do you do if someone else is in the car?” I asked after an awkward silence filled the car for a few moments.

“Never happened with someone else in the car before,” she admitted quietly. “Until now, that is.”

I looked over at her, realizing for the first time her skirt was very short.

“You don’t like me,” I reminded her as we stared at each other.

“And you don’t like me,” she replied. “That didn’t stop us last time.”

“You were drunk,” I pointed out.

“So were you,” she said.

“Think that makes a difference?” I asked.

She shrugged. “There’s always a chance doing it sober would improve things.”

I nodded my head at that. “Best to be sure it wasn’t just the alcohol talking.”

“Right,” she said, reaching up and pulling me into a kiss.

Kristen was a small girl – my type, apparently. As soon as she started to kiss me, I lifted her up out of her seat and pulled her over onto my seat. She landed with a thud on my lap, her lips never leaving mine.

“Recline the seat,” she said, breaking the kiss long enough to speak. I reach down on the side of the car seat and found the tiny lever that moved the seat back. One quick pull, and I went from sitting to laying back. And Kristen went from sitting on my lap to laying atop me.

“Pants,” she said, reaching down to undo my button.

“Are you wearing panties?” I asked her as she shimmied my pants and boxers down my legs.

“Not for long,” she said, reaching up underneath her skirt and pulling the pink fabric from underneath it down. “V-string, seamless,” she said, bragging slightly. “Very cute, very comfortable.”

“Very still on your legs,” I pointed out. She struggled for a bit – there wasn’t a whole lot of room in the front seat for us to maneuver as it was. Trying to pull something off your legs without smashing your butt against the windshield was trickier than either of us would’ve first thought. Finally, with one leg pulled up almost to her chest, and her panties stretched further than I would’ve thought they could go, she managed to get one foot out. I snagged the panties before they could get caught on her other foot, yanked them off while she still had her leg somewhere near my arms, and chucked the panties over my shoulder, forgetting all about them.

Kristen was dripping wet as she slid down on top of my cock. I moaned aloud as her hot pussy surrounded my shaft, and she gasped silently as I filled her up.

“I’d forgotten what a good fit you were,” she said.

“So had I,” I admitted.

“Shut up and fuck me already,” she said.

“You’re the one on top,” I said, moving my hips to drive my shaft into her as best I could.

She gasped. “So, what?” she said, bouncing up and down on me. “You’re the man.”

I moaned and shoved back. “And you’re the woman,” I said. “Show me your boobs.”

“Boobs?” Kristen said, not ceasing her humping. “They’re breasts.”

“Are you going to show me or not?” I asked, running my hands up her sides and under her shirt.

“Fuck you, Johnny Richards.”

“That’s exactly what we’re doing,” I replied, shoving my cock in as far as I could. My hands slipped all the way under her shirt and up to her breasts. They were still trapped in her bra, but I didn’t care at this point. I grabbed the small wonders, one in each hand, and held on for dear life.

Kristen was riding me like a bucking bronco now, and her eyes had squeezed shut. Her pussy clung to my cock perfectly, milking it for all it was worth.

“Damn it,” she moaned.

“What now?” I asked.

“I didn’t bring protection.”

“Little late for that now,” I gasped, feeling my orgasm approaching.

“You get me pregnant, and I’m going to kick your ass, Johnny.”

“I get you pregnant, and I’ll shoot myself,” I said, increasing my pace. She matched it, and judging from the way her eyes rolled into the back of her head, she was just as close as I was.

“Harder!” Kristen exclaimed. I shoved as hard as I could. She responded. Up and down, back and forth. My hands gripped at her chest so hard, I thought I was going to rip her bra right off her tits.

“God, Johnny, I’m going to CUMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!” She hollered as her orgasm hit, sending her head bobbing up and down in time with her humping.

That was all it took to set me off, and I blew my load deep inside Kristen’s pussy, freezing in place as I did so.

We both collapsed into a pile of sweat, half discarded clothes, and ragged breath, and lay that way for a while. For a long moment, I wanted nothing more than to settle in for a nap – Kristen’s warm body atop of mine was quite comfortable. It’d been a long time since a woman had lain like that on me. Not since Natalie and I-

That thought sobered me up pretty quick.

“That was good,” Kristen said.

“Yeah,” I admitted. “It was.”

“I still hate you,” she said.

“And we should never do this again,” I agreed.

“That’s for sure.”

“Think we’ll stick to that this time?”

“Probably not,” She admitted. She lifted her head from my chest and looked around the car. “Have you seen my panties?”

* * *

I had just pulled up my pants, and was helping to look for wherever Kristen’s panties had gotten to when suddenly the door to Roselyn’s Motel room opened, and McBride walked out.

“Shit,” I swore. “They’re on the move!”

“Damn it,” Kristen said, straightening her hair a bit. “Where are my panties?”

“No clue – here comes Sanchez,” I pointed out. Sure enough, the sultry beauty left the Motel Room right behind McBride. Kristen and I watched for a moment as the two chatted while they descended the outside stairs and headed towards McBride’s car.

Then, surprisingly, they both got in.

“What the heck?” Kristen asked as McBride started the car.

“Going somewhere together after illicit motel sex,” I said. “That’s new.”

“And in the same car. Something’s up.”

“Suppose we ought to follow them,” I said as we watched McBride’s car pull out into the street.

“Easy for you to say, buster – your bare ass isn’t sticking to the pleather.”

“Just drive,” I said. Kristen started up the car, and a moment later, we were off, following a fairly safe distance behind McBride’s car.

* * *

Thirty minutes later, we were still following McBride’s car, Kristen was still missing her panties,

and we were going nowhere, fast.

There are certain streets in The City that, no matter how late it got, were always busy. Victoria Street was one of them. Three miles long, winding through the heart of the city, Victoria Street could be best described as The City’s Red Light District. In fact, a few years back, some enterprising Victoria Street resident changed a couple dozen streetlights to turn them red. Every couple of months, The City would change the light bulbs, and within a week or two, they’d be back to red. Cops had done week long stakeouts to try and catch the person or persons behind the petty vandalism, but never managed to catch them. Lately, the time between City efforts to change

the lights had gotten longer.

You name it, you could find in somewhere on Victoria Street. Illegal substances of most any kind were sold out in the open, and all three major Hooker Houses had a large presence here. Adult bookstores, strip clubs, adult cinemas, even adult-friendly cyber-cafes lined the streets, along with smoking houses, exotic restaurants, liquor stops, bars, and perhaps the most famous house on Victoria’s Street, the House of Pain, a Bondage and Discipline center infamous for it’s

fetish and risqué shows. The cops had wanted to shut down House of Pain for more than a decade, but the owners had connections. Plus, unlike Travesty, Valentine, and Brittany, House of Pain didn’t offer up prostitutes, and didn’t seek to expand themselves beyond their current residence.

Naturally, traffic along Victoria Street was slow – especially at night. The streets were filled with

couples, trios, even foursomes of scantily clad or heavily drugged out people of all shapes, sizes and

colors, meandering through the cars, heading towards whatever illicit activity they craved at the time.

“I hate this street sometimes,” Kristen muttered as we inched along, a good six cars behind McBride’s, barely able to keep them in sight. Fortunately, they weren’t going any faster than we were, nor were they able to turn off without us knowing.

“What do you suppose they’re doing here?” I asked, more to myself than anything else.

“Getting condoms?” Kristen offered.

“Doubt it,” I smiled back at her.

“Well, we’re making record time here,” Kristen said sarcastically as we continued to inch along.

“What do you want? A helicopter?”

“At this point, my panties would do just fine,” she muttered.

“I looked in back already,” I said. “I don’t see them. They must be under your seat or something. Want me to get out and look while we sit here?”

“No, that’d draw too much attention to ourselves,” she muttered.

“Then quit your bitching and enjoy the scenery,” I said.

“Yep. Nothing like watching drugged out freaks, half naked people, and bondage enthusiasts running between cars,” Kristen said.

I didn’t reply. I’d spotted something out in the crowd.

Dressed completely in black leather, head-to-toe, and carrying a riding crop, Jaime Pressly moved through the crowd on one of the sidewalks. She appeared to be alone.

The girlfriend of Rick Valentine might stroll down Victoria Street dressed for bondage, but she wouldn’t be alone. Ever. There’d at LEAST be two of three of Valentine’s goons with her, if not more. I scanned the crowd, but no one was following her. Not even covertly.

Then, I made another one of my not-so-brilliant quick decisions.

“Keep following McBride and Sanchez,” I said. “I’ll catch up with you later.”

“What?” Kristen said as I popped open the door to the car and stepped out into the crowd. “WHAT?!” She hollered again, but I slammed shut the door and took off after Jaime.

Kristen wouldn’t be happy about that later.

* * *

Wearing an outfit like that, there was really only one place where Jaime could be going. The House Of Pain had long stayed out of the various hooker shenanigans in The City, but perhaps things were about to change. I honestly didn’t know if it’d be a huge feather in Valentine’s cap to have the S&M business in his back pocket, but if he thought it would, he’d go after it.

Then again, Jaime was supposedly running the whore show these days. And she was the one heading into the place dressed like a dominatrix. Maybe this was all her idea.

Getting into The House Of Pain wasn’t a problem – the place was open to anyone willing to check their sexual inhibitions at the door – and donate 20 bucks to their favorite charity – The House Of Pain operating funds.

The place never lacked for money.

I paid my twenty bucks and walked in. Darkness greeted me, and I instantly lost track of Jaime. It wasn’t hard, as half the people walking around in the place were dressed in black leather. Watching past the “display cases,” where couples (or more) engaged in all sorts of painful sexual encounters made me wish for the simplicity of fucking Kristen Bell in the car. Then I remembered the fourteen different headaches that was likely to cause me later and realized getting whipped wasn’t so bad.

I wandered through the place, seeing things I found both fascinating and disgusting, for almost half an hour before I came across Jaime again. Not surprisingly, she was in a room dominating someone. Whoever it was, she had a decent body that was spread eagle on the bed, tied at the hands and feet to the posts of a table that looked none-too-comfortable. Her face was covered in a black mask with a zipper down the front, and two tiny holes in front of her nose to facilitate breathing.

Jaime, for her part, was having a ball. Her riding crop sat to one side, but her hands were more than happy to slap any exposed flesh on the poor tied-up girl. Jaime had added a large, bright pink strap-on dildo to her outfit, and it took no imagination at all to know what the slave had in store for her later on.

I watched silently for several minutes, part of a small crowd doing just that – voyeurism was encouraged here at The House Of Pain. Was this all there was to this? Jaime had a sex-slave on the side that she liked to fuck in semi-public? That wasn’t even shocking. Anyone who knew Jaime Pressly and her history of forcing herself on other women would find this news little more than stale gossip.

I gave up. Kristen wasn’t going to be happy about me ditching her in the car and running off over something stupid like this. I headed down one of the dark hallways in The House Of Pain, intent on finding my way to the street.

Suddenly, something slipped around my neck, and I was hauled off my feet and into the air. Whatever was holding me up was crushing my neck at the same time, cutting off my lungs from air.

“You only get one warning, Richards.”

It was the same guy who’d ambushed me outside of Valentine’s the other day. Voice. Jaime had been followed after all.

“Valentine doesn’t like having to send messages twice,” Voice said. “So, this is the last time. Hope your life insurance is paid up.”

The pressure around my neck increased, and I was actually being pulled backwards. Voice wasn’t much taller than I was, and he was hauling me back enough that he was bending backwards a bit. Red edges were starting to form in my vision, and it was clear that, massive height difference or not, Voice was more than strong enough to garrotte me to death without breaking a sweat.

My feet flailed about, while my hands tried desperately to get between my neck and whatever Voice was using to strangle me. I couldn’t even tell what it was at this point. And I was running out of time to do so.

Suddenly, one of my feet hit the wall and pushed hard enough to force me further back. Voice, caught by surprise, became unbalanced, and started to sway. One quick burst of fresh air hit my lungs, and bought me precious seconds of life.

Before he could regain his balance, I slammed both feet into the nearest wall, and pushed off as hard as I possible could. This did the trick, and as I half flipped over Voice’s shoulders, we both fell to the floor in a clump.

I struggled to find my breath even as I fell, but knew I didn’t have much time. Voice was, at best, surprised. That wasn’t going to last. I knew I didn’t have time to go for either one of my guns.

So, I used my second favorite weapon.

My fist slammed into Voice’s jaw as hard as I could throw it from my prone position next to him. He was half back up on his feet, and the punch sent him sprawling back down again, giving me enough time to scramble to my own feet.

One hand made it to the pistol in my coat before Voice’s fist came flying back at me, catching me in the solar plexus. I was half ready for it, and managed to keep from completely doubling over, but Voice followed up his punch with a blow to the back of my neck, dropping me to the floor again.

This wasn’t going well at all. I needed to get away at this point. Voice was too tough for me. Already, he was reaching down with his hands to throttle me the old fashioned way. I reached out and grabbed one of his feet, hauling back as best I could, and sending him to the floor.

I scrambled to my feet as best I could, once again reaching for my pistol.

Voice reached his first. Still on his back, he pulled his gun and fired off a round that missed my head by about three inches. But I was on my feet now, and I dove into the closest room, thankfully getting through the door before Voice’s revolver got off another shot.

I had to jump over a bed that had a man tied down on it and something that looked entirely too painful to fully consider poised above his cock. Shoving the second man who’d been holding a cat-o-nine-tails to the floor, I made for the window, diving through the opening as a second shot from Voice’s gun shattered the windowsill.

I was four stories up when I leapt through the window. Thankfully, there was a fire escape on this particular window. I’d like to think I knew that before I leapt, but honestly, I was just trying to get away from the gun.

I landed on hard metal and rolled down the first set of stairs in an uncontrolled tumble. I landed hard against the side rail just in time to hear another shot clang off metal.

Bless Voice for being an old fashioned kind of guy – his Revolver carried six shots at most, and he’d already wasted three. I skipped the gun in my coat this time and went right for the one strapped to my back. My pistol had a clip of 9 shots in it, and now that I had my hands on it, I had a clear advantage. Assuming Voice risked sticking his head out the window.

Glancing up, I saw that not only was he risking his head by sticking it out the window – he’d already jumped out onto the fire escape above me!

I fired off a quick shot, doing little more than warning him that he wasn’t the only one packing heat at this point. He ducked behind the floor grating above me, and I knew shooting up at him would only send lead bouncing back down towards me. Now, I was armed, but couldn’t shoot at him. On the plus side, he couldn’t shoot at me.

And I had more shots to waste.

At this point, though, I thought discretion the better part of Valor.

I headed down the next flight of stairs.

“You can’t get away, Richards!” Voice called out. I looked up, and was met with a foot to the head! He’d swung down from above by going over the edge! I went flying back into the wall of the building, and proceeded to drop my gun down to the next flight below.

“You’re a son of a bitch, Richards,” Voice said, getting to his feet. “I haven’t had this much fun in a long time.”

“Go fuck yourself,” I muttered, struggling to get my feet beneath me.

Then I saw Voice pull his revolver out. I leapt at him before he could get a full grip, grabbing his gun arm and thrusting it skyward. Another shot rang out, and the bullet bounced off the metal above us somewhere. Thankfully, I didn’t come back to slam into my head.

I was suddenly quite glad I’d left my hat in Kristen’s car.

We tussled for the gun for a bit before Voice snarled and kicked me in the shin. It hurt like hell, but my leg was already back against the wall. It wasn’t going anywhere.

My fist, on the other hand, was more than free to connect with his jaw. He fell to one side, the revolver dropping out of his hands. But as he fell, his feet got caught in mine, and I fell in the other direction – right down the next set of stairs on the fire escape! I rolled once and landed on my side another story down and closer to the street. I was now only one story up, while Voice was still above me on the second level. From the sound of it, he was going for his gun again.

There were no stairs at this point – only a ladder on the far side of the fire escape. I might make it to the ladder before Voice got down after me, but he’d be able to drop a round into my head before I was down the first rung.

But between me and the ladder was my own, dropped pistol. And I still had another in my coat. I dove for the dropped one with one hand, while reaching for the second with my other hand. I managed to roll on my back and come up half facing the stairs from the upper level with both guns facing in the right direction, and fired off two rounds without thinking.

I hit nothing but wall. Voice hadn’t followed me down.

“This isn’t over, Richards,” Voice’s voice echoed through the alley. “You’re still a dead man.

I didn’t wait around to see where he was. I hit the ladder, dropped to the ground beneath, and ran into the shadows.

* * *

Pain. That’s pretty much all I felt a good fifteen minutes later. As much as I like to think I can take most anything, Voice had done a number on me. Considering this was the third fight I’d been in since I’d taken Mrs. McPhee’s case, I wasn’t doing too well. My head rang, and blood seemed to be leaking out of more places than I first thought I’d been hit.

Worse yet, I was lost. My first goal running away from The House of Pain – now even MORE appropriately named – I’d just wanted to stay out of any long-range shots Voice might have tried to take. I hadn’t paid attention as I ran down alleys and back streets, and the further I ran, the more I hurt. Not for the first time in my life, I wished I’d bothered to get a cellphone. At least then I could call for Kristen to pick me up. But I didn’t, she wouldn’t, and I was left in a part of town I’d never been in, in plenty of pain, and wishing I had a good stiff drink and 30 hours to sleep.

I was getting worse, too. The world was sort of spinning around me as I walked. I needed to find a phone now. Or a street sign. I was well away from Victoria street now, though I had no idea how far I’d gone. It was late, and sooner or later, I was going to run afoul of someone who wouldn’t mind dealing with an already beat-up man for whatever cash I had on me.

At least I still had both guns.

I couldn’t make it much further. I ducked into an alley and leaned back against the wall. I was in deep shit now. My head was spinning like there was no tomorrow. And, at this rate, there wasn’t going to be a tomorrow for me.

“Are you all right?” a female voice asked. I looked up as best I could, and saw a young girl – no more than 18 years old, if even that. She had a mess of wavy black hair, and looked like it’d been a little bit since she’d washed it. Her deep brown eyes were filled with concern. As I looked at her, she did three cartwheels through my vision, and started to morph into some kind of elephant.

“No,” I croaked. “I’m not.”

With that, blackness took me.

* * *

“You still don’t look too good, Mister.”

It was the same voice I’d heard when I fainted earlier. My head felt like it’d been run over by a freight train. I opened my eyes, and found myself in what appeared to be an abandoned building somewhere. I lay on a discarded mattress that smelled like someone had died on it. I was thankful it hadn’t been me.

“Where?” I croaked, and found my voice all but shattered. My throat was dry, and it hurt to speak.

“Sorry, sorry,” the young girl said, rushing over to me. “I didn’t know you were awake,” she said, handing me a soda bottle. I sipped at it, found it horribly warm and flat, but drank anyway. “I’m sorry I don’t have any water,” she said. “I don’t always have access to water. Miss Feris lets me have a couple sodas every now and then.”

“Where am I?” I asked again, now that was my voice was coming back.

“You collapsed on the street,” the girl said. “I brought you here. You’re clearly hurt.”

“I’ve felt better,” I admitted. At least my head wasn’t quite so bad. “What’s your name?”

“Vanessa,” the girl said, offering me her slim little hand.

“Nice to meet you,” I said. “You live here, Vanessa?”

“Yep,” she said. “Not the Ritz, but the rain doesn’t get in here, and there’s only one or two rats around here.”

“So you’re homeless?” I asked.

“No. This is my home. At least, right now it is. I’m saving my money. Hopefully, some day, I’ll be able to get my own apartment.”

“How old are you?” I asked as she slid off the bed and grabbed some clothes off a rack. I noticed my pants among the pile.

“I’m 18, thank you very much,” Vanessa said. “I’ve been taking care of myself for four years now, and I don’t need anyone to look after me.”

“What do you do for money?” I asked as she hopped back on the mattress with me.

“Whatever I need to,” she said, pulling down the blanket that had been over me. That’s when I realized my boxers were missing, too.

“Where are my pants?” I asked.

“I washed them for you,” she said. “You got some blood on them.” She looked up at me for a second. “You feeling better?” she asked me.

“A little.”

“Want to feel even better?” she asked, while reaching for my crotch. She took my cock in one hand and slowly started jerking me. Her tiny hands were clearly experienced, and my body started responding at once.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Making you feel good,” she replied. “I do this a lot.”

“You’re a hooker?” I asked. “Who do you work for?”

“I work for myself, thank you very much. I only do girls and guys I like.” She looked right up into my eyes. “I like you.”

“Vanessa, please,” I said, but she lowered her head and took my cock into her mouth. I moaned despite myself – Vanessa was a fantastic sucker.

My whole body still ached, and my head wasn’t quite right. At least, those were the excuses for why I let her continue without trying to stop her.

Vanessa sucked for a bit, one hand cupping my balls, the other lightly jerking my shaft while her mouth and tongue concentrated on the head of my cock. Despite the pain I was feeling, I couldn’t ignore the pleasure radiating out of my dick.

After several minutes of expert sucking, I felt like I was going to cum. But Vanessa let go of me and sat back.

“Want more?” She asked.

I nodded my head.

“Twenty bucks, and I finish the blow,” she said. “Fifty, and I take my top of before I do it.”

I looked at her. It was a heck of a sales pitch.

“Seventy-five gets you some pussy,” she offered. “A hundred, and I’m all yours.”

“Twenty,” I muttered. I needed this over with.

She peeled her dingy t-shirt over her head, exposing her perky little tits to me. She stood up a bit, spreading the thin skirt she was wearing and straddled me. Reaching down, she positioned my rock hard shaft to penetrate her, then slid down atop of me.

As I moaned in pleasure, she smiled at me. “You only had hundred dollar bills in your wallet. You’ve got one less now. Sorry.”

And then, she started to hump me.

I should’ve been pissed off. But it’s hard to get mad at an 18-year-old ingenue who’s fucking your brains out.

I didn’t last long, but she pulled off me before I could climax, gave my cock three quick tugs, and let my juice spew out over her young tits.

“See?” she said, getting up and wipping herself off with what looked like it might once have been a table cloth. “I told you I liked you.”

* * *

Vanessa’s hideaway was located in an abandoned building on the south end of town. Sure enough, she wasn’t associated with any of the major hooker houses. Otherwise, she’d be staying at one of them during the early morning hours. She’d been scavenging whatever money she could find, usually by selling her body, though occasionally she did odd jobs at some of the shops a few streets over. She’d been offered a waiting job at a restaurant once, but she didn’t have any of her legal paperwork, making it impossible for her to get a real job.

Like the idiot I am, I brought her back to my office with me.

“Johnny!” Rachel Bilson gasped as I walked in. “What happened?”

“Ran afoul of one of Valentine’s goons,” I muttered as I took off my coat.

“Who’s your little friend?” she asked, seeing Vanessa come in behind me.

“This is Vanessa. She helped me out a while ago.”

“Nice place. You live here?” the young girl asked, looking around.

“Nope. I just work here,” I said.

“Private Dick, eh? Doesn’t seem too private to me.”

Rachel raised an eyebrow at me, but said nothing.

“Rachel, you mind keeping an eye on Vanessa here for a bit. She’s had a rough time lately. Get her cleaned up and maybe some new clothes.”

“You got money for that?” Rachel asked. I sighed, and pulled out another hundred dollar bill. Vanessa may have looted through my wallet for her “fee,” but she was at least honest about it – she had only taken a hundred bucks.

“Well, kiddo,” Rachel said. “Want to go shopping?”

Vanessa’s eyes lit up, and for the first time since I’d met her, she looked like a real teenaged girl.

“Go on,” I said. “But remember to get cleaned up first, please.”

“Johnny, maybe you ought to see someone yourself,” Rachel said. “You’ve looked better.”

“I’ll survive. Heard from Kristen today?”

“Yeah. She’s furious at you. She’s hanging out at the Southern Beaver until you show up. Might want to wash up before you see her.” She shot me another look. “She also claims you owe her a pair of panties.”

“Boy, you get around, don’tcha?” Vanessa said.

“You two can go shopping any time now,” I muttered.

“Don’t forget Kristen,” Rachel said, grabbing her own coat and ushering Vanessa out the door.

I went into my office, pulled out the bottle of scotch I kept hidden for “emergencies.” Two shots later, and my pain was feeling better. I decided I’d need a shower before I hit the Beaver to deal with Kristen.

I could use about two weeks of sleep before I saw her, too, but that wasn’t going to happen.

* * *

“So, you get yourself beat up by Valentine’s goons, and for what?” Kristen fumed at me.

“Not a heck of a lot,” I admitted. “I learned that Jaime Pressly’s got a freaky relationship going with some chick, but how that helps us, I don’t see.”

“Well, if it’s any condolence, I spent my entire night following Roselyn Sanchez and Sean McBride through Victoria Street traffic so he could pick up some street viagra, and then plow her ass the rest of the night. How she made it in to work today, I have no idea.”

“So, you learned nothing, too.”

“Nothing outside of the fact that bare ass on pleather for four hours gets VERY uncomfortable,” she snarled.

“Sorry,” I muttered.

“Listen, Johnny, I’m about done here,” she said. “I’m going to follow Jordan another night, but if he doesn’t meet with his mistress, I’m done. I could be making a lot more money on other cases right now, and I wouldn’t have to work with an idiot like you.”

“You didn’t seem to mind working with me last night in the car,” I muttered, and instantly regretted it.

“Fuck you, Johnny Richards,” Kristen said, standing up. “If I catch your boy fucking a girl tonight, I’ll let you know. If not, I won’t.” She headed towards the door. “No offense, Johnny,” she said, looking back at me. “But I hope I don’t. And I hope I don’t see you again any time soon.”

She walked out of the bar, and I couldn’t help but think she might have been right.

“Tough couple of days, Johnny?” Elisha asked, placing a beer in front of me.

It was only 2:30 in the afternoon. I didn’t care. I needed another drink.

“Well, I’ll give you credit for one thing,” Elisha said, dropping onto the stool next to me. “Piper is a fantastic bar tender.” My favorite blonde bar own gave me a nudge. “She’s also warming up to me. I think I’ll get into her panties before the week is out.”

“Glad to hear it,” I said, shaking my head. Nice to know something was working out for someone.

* * *

Rachel, blessedly, took Vanessa to her home for the night – the two young women seemed to catch on pretty fast. That meant I didn’t have to share my apartment with a girl who’d fucked me the first time we’d met. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep my hands off her.

Instead, I settled for another beer. And as much sleep as I could get.

It wasn’t as much as I’d like.

The phone rang in the middle of the night. It took six rings for me to wake up, realize it was the phone, and then actually answer the damn things.

“Hello?” I mumbled.

“Johnny, it’s me.”

“Who?”

“Kristen.”

“Who?” I asked again, my brain still dead asleep/

“Kristen Bell, damnit! Wake up!”

“What, what?” I asked.

“I know who Jordan’s seeing. I’ve got some pictures of his affair.”

It took me a good six seconds to remember what the heck she was talking about.

“The secretary?” I asked.

“No. Someone else.”

“Who?” I asked, rolling up into a standing position.

“Johnny, you’re not going to like it.”

“Who?” I asked again, getting a sinking feeling I couldn’t quite explain in my gut.

“It’s Natalie, Johnny. Thomas Jordan’s sleeping with Natalie Portman.”

She was right. I didn’t like it at all.

* * *

Kristen’s pictures were a little too graphic for my taste. They started out pretty honestly. Jordan came over to Natalie’s ADA office, and through the window, Kristen caught them talking. Roselyn Sanchez left the building early, and then Natalie and Jordan left together.

They went out to eat at an open-air restaurant, which had a healthy overhang above it to avoid the rain which, again, was falling fairly decently. It could’ve been a business meal, and, in fact, seemed to be just that for apparently the first forty-five minutes Kristen watched.

Then, things changed.

At first, Jordan seemed upset about something. Natalie put a hand on his shoulder, as if to comfort him. Then, in the next picture, they were kissing. Kristen explained that it seemed like Jordan made the first move, but Natalie didn’t resist.

The scene changed after that – the two were heading into a hotel room. They forgot to close the curtains. They made out for a picture before the next one showed Jordan taking off Natalie’s blouse.

There’d been a time when those tits had been mine to kiss and lick.

“That’s enough,” I said.

“But I’ve got a money shot,” Kristen said.

“We don’t need it,” I replied. “McPhee doesn’t want pictures, anyway.”

Kristen sighed. “I’m sorry, Johnny. I know this hurts. I know what she meant to you.”

“Keep your sympathy,” I said. “You’re not talking to me for a while, anyway. I’ll make sure you get a cut of this case.”

With that, I left Kristen’s office, and hit the streets of The City again.

I had to go see Katharine McPhee. I didn’t want to, really. I didn’t want to see anyone right now.

But, I needed to get paid. So I sucked it up and got in my car.

At least part of this case would be over with at last.

* * *

“Natalie Portman?” Katharine McPhee said. “I can’t believe it. I’ve had that woman over for dinner!”

“It is hard to believe, by one of my associates saw them in the act, Mrs. McPhee.”

“Katharine,” she said, absentmindedly.

We were in the Jordan household at the moment – Thomas being at work still, possible with Natalie at that very moment. I still wasn’t exactly happy about things myself.

“Would you care for a drink, Johnny?” she asked me suddenly. “I suddenly feel very much like a glass of scotch.”

“Actually,” I said, “That sounds delightful.”

Katharine went over to the rather elaborate bar and pulled out what looked like a very well-aged bottle of scotch.”

“Wilson’s Reserve,” she said, reading the label. “This stuff cost Thomas two thousand dollars a bottle.” She poured two rather large glasses of scotch, handed me one, then turned around and dumped the rest out into a potted plant next to the bar.

“Serves him right,” she said.

“You must have really cared for him,” I said.

“Gosh, no,” she said, taking a rather long sip of scotch. “It was a marriage of convenience more than anything else. He has ambitions, and no man can get through political life without the right wife on his arms. We didn’t love each other, but he promised not to cheat on me as long as we had semi-regular sex.” She finished her glass. “Well, he’s cut off now.” She looked at the empty scotch bottle. “Hmmm. That was rather tasty. I almost wish I hadn’t dumped the rest out.”

“There’s still the matter of my payment, Mrs. McPhee.”

“Katharine,” she said. “And it will be Miss McPhee again soon, anyway. He Thomas broke our contract. I intend to divorce him now. I know several fantastic lawyers – one of the benefits of being married to the DA. A lot of them would love to stick it to Thomas.”

“I’m sure, M – Katharine.”

She grabbed her purse and pulled out her checkbook. She started to fill it out, then stopped, looking up at me.

“Johnny, there’s one more thing you can do for me.”

“Oh?” I asked.

“Would you be so kind as to fuck me, silly? I want Thomas to come home and discover I’ve been with another man, and, quite frankly, I find you more than attractive.”

“I’m sorry?” I asked, sputtering a bit.

As if to emphasize her point, Katharine opened up her blouse, exposing her bra-encased tits. They were gloriously large mounds. My pants suddenly felt very tight.

“We can do it right here, if you’re in a rush,” she said. “Lord knows I’ve been bent over by men before. But, it would be nice if we could do it in the bed. Make a real mess of it for him to find.”

“I’m not sure…” I started to say as Katharine dropped the shirt entirely, leaving her standing there in just her skirt and bra. Her long dark hair cascaded down her to her back, and her nipples were threatening to explode out of the tight, white bra.

“Then how about the couch?” she offer, pointing towards it. “That seems like a fine compromise.”

“Katharine-” I tried to get a word in, but she kept on going, unzipping the side of her skirt and letting it fall to the floor. She wore simple bikini briefs underneath, but they hugged her ass perfectly, molding to the curves. And her legs, even out of the skirt, seemed to go on forever. I allowed myself a moment to fantasize about feeling those legs wrapped around my back while I pounded her.

“Katharine, I’m not sure-”

“I’ll pay you an extra thousand dollars,” she said, sitting down on the couch.

My pants couldn’t get off fast enough.

I shed my shirt, pants, and shoes, and approached her wearing just my boxers. I was tenting pretty well. Katharine was stunningly beautiful, and her body screamed for sex. She reached for me as I approached, and gently lowered my boxers down to the floor.

“Mmmm,” she said, taking a tentative lick on my cock. “Very nice, Johnny.” She placed it in her mouth and lightly sucked on it, running her tongue along the underside of the head. I gasped as my body responded to the pleasure. Katharine didn’t use her hands at all now that my cock was in her mouth. Instead, she lowered them to her still-covered breasts and gently massaged them. Meanwhile, using just her mouth, she bobbed back and forth on my shaft, her tongue constantly finding that spot just beneath the head. I watched in amazement as she did this. I’d never gotten a blowjob like this before, but I certainly wasn’t going to complain about the uniqueness of the event. It felt wonderful.

She was getting more into it now, her head moving faster, and her hands practically mauling her own tits. She started to slip out of the bra, sliding one arm out of the straps at a time, her mouth never leaving my cock. As her tongue ran down the length of my shaft and back up, she reached behind her back and undid the clasp, letting the fabric hit her knee, where it stayed until she brushed it aside with a hand before returning both hands to her gorgeous breasts.

Now she was moaning around my cock, as her hands pulled and fingered her nipples. It was one of the most erotic sights I’d ever seen. Her mouth still hadn’t left my shaft, yet here she was, practically molesting her own tits. I knew I couldn’t watch this too much longer before I blew my load.

I was about to say something when Katharine finally pulled back. Without saying a word, she lifted up her butt, and in one smooth motion, lowered her panties down and off her legs, tossing them aside. She then lay back on the couch and spread her legs as wide as she could.

“Hurry, Johnny,” she said. “I need you inside me.”

I dropped down on top of her, and immediately kissed one of her breasts. She groaned in pleasure, then pulled my head off.

“Don’t waste my time, Johnny. FUCK ME.”

I couldn’t refuse a demand like that. Especially not from a woman as stunning as Katharine. I sank my cock into her, surprised to find her pussy wet and waiting. She wasn’t a virgin by any means, but she was TIGHT. If Katharine’s mouth had been amazing, Katharine’s pussy was a tiny snatch of heaven. I couldn’t hold back now, and I started thrusting in and out of her. Hard.

“Oh, god!” she moaned as my hands found her breasts – she clearly had sensitive breasts. With both hands in place, I rode her hard and fast. Thrust after thrust brought back moans, groans, cries, and gasps.

We traded no real words, but we were both enjoying ourselves. Eventually, she wrapped those fantastic legs around my back. That seemed to work perfectly, because somehow, I was lined up with her g-spot or something. She started writhing in pleasure with each thrust, and it became clear she wasn’t going to last much longer.

Which was good, because I certainly wasn’t going to make it much longer.

Suddenly, she grabbed my hands in hers and pinned them to her breasts. Her pussy clamped down on my cock, and her legs locked, holding me inside her. Orgasm flashed through her body, and she cried out loudly as she came. I kept thrusting as best I could, but only made it about four or five more thrusts before I shot my own load deep within her.

Slowly, we disentangled our bodies from each other, and I collapsed onto one of her chairs.

“Damn,” Katharine said. “I haven’t fucked anyone but Thomas in two years. I always thought he was good in bed, but…” she trailed off, looking at me appreciatively.

“You’re pretty wow yourself,” I said, still trying to catch my breath.

Suddenly, she popped up and walked over to the bar again. I found myself staring at her ass as she moved. She grabbed her checkbook, finished writing up a check, and turned back to me, still naked, still gorgeous, and still smiling.

“Here you go, Johnny. Thank you again for this. It was a huge help.”

“The case or the sex?” I asked.

“Well, both, but the case mostly. Now I know for sure,” she said. “I hate to fuck and run, but I’m afraid I must ask you to leave now.”

“I understand,” I said, gathering up my pants. “If you ever need me again…”

“I know where to find you,” she said, smiling at me. I finished dressing as she put on a robe – apparently, she wanted Thomas to find her naked when he came home. I hoped sleeping with her wasn’t going to be an issue.

Then again, I could always use the extra thousand bucks. No wonder there were so many whores in The City – they made a damn good living.

* * *

I hit the bank, mailed off a check for 25 percent of the original fee to Kristen, and then headed back towards my office. I kept that extra thousand for myself.

I still had Brittany’s case to worry about, and that still seemed to involve Thomas Jordan. He was still helping to round up Brittany’s street girls, and letting Valentine’s girls take over in their place. McBride was still involved in all this, too, at least as an intermediary.

My head still hurt thinking about all of this.

Then something occurred to me. Katharine had said something about Thomas being ambitious. About needing a good Politicians wife. The District Attorney wasn’t an elected position in The City. Obviously, Jordan had plans to move into politics. Probably soon. And that would take money. More money than the District Attorney made.

But significant donations from major businesses, like McBride Electronics, would help that situation out quite a bit.

But how did Valentine fit in? Jordan was fighting to get hookers off the streets. It would look fantastic to say he’d spearheaded the arrest of dozens of street hoes. Valentine was offering up Brittany Murphy’s girls as sacrificial lambs, and then replacing them with his own. The benefits for Valentine and Jordan were pretty clear. But what about McBride Electronics? Why would they get involved in something like this?

Money. It was always money with big companies. And McBride’s employees seemed concerned that they were in financial trouble, even if things didn’t look so in the papers. Could the employees be wrong?

Or could the papers?

Sean McBride had already been seen sleeping with another man’s secretary and dealing with the biggest criminal boss in The City. Was lying about his company’s profit margins to the papers beyond him?

Somehow, I doubted it.

But, how did working with Valentine and Jordan help McBride make money?

He was helping Valentine put more whores on the street. Valentine wasn’t the type to share money easily. McBride was also helping fund and promote a possible future run for office my Thomas Jordan.

And THAT held a lot of potential to help McBride industries, if Jordan got elected to the right office. Tax breaks. Favorable building locations. Even possibly government orders. Yes, there was a LOT of options there for McBride to make a bundle.

So now I had a working theory, but lacked one vital piece of information. How was Valentine getting the information about where Brittany was stationing her hookers at night?

It all lead back to the leak. Someone in Brittany’s organization was leaking information to Valentine’s people, who were then handing it off to the cops, letting the District Attorney score major PR points for hauling street walkers into jail. All so he could get elected to some as-of-yet undeclared higher office, and give massive financial consideration towards McBride Electronics.

Again, it was all theory. But it seemed pretty damn sound to me.

All of a sudden, I wished Kristen was here to bounce the idea off of. She’d find any holes I wasn’t seeing. But I couldn’t deal with her right now.

I needed to find the leak. And I needed to find it soon. I hadn’t forgotten than Valentine wasn’t happy with me. There was no going back into his territory any time soon. So that left Brittany’s House as the only place I could look for clues.

I changed directions and headed towards the whore house.

* * *

Brittany wasn’t home. Neither, oddly enough, was Sophia Bush, who more or less ran things when Brittany wasn’t around. A couple of other high-priced whores offered me their services, and one even stuck her hand down my pants – until I told her I couldn’t afford her. Funny how that changed their opinions of my pretty quick.

I left with no new clues and no new leads. The fact that Brittany was gone was puzzling. It was late afternoon. She should’ve been hard at work positioning her street walkers for the night. The only time Brittany really left was if she got some huge customer in, who would only take her for the evening, and was willing to pay for her, too. Somehow, I had a bad feeling about this.

I drove back towards my office, my mind only half on what I was doing. Suddenly, I spotted Sophia Bush walking along the street. There was no missing her. She wore a skirt short enough to be classified as a belt, a tube top that barely covered her breasts, a leather jacket that only came down to her navel, and six inch high heels that looked down right deadly.

And she was carrying a manilla envelope.

Suddenly, I found myself pulling the car over. Something was very wrong here.

I followed Sophia through ten streets, three alleys, and in and out of one coffee house. Then she took a sharp left, and before I knew it, I was back on Victoria Street.

Suddenly, I got the feeling I knew exactly who the leak in Brittany’s House was.

Sure enough, after navigation through the already growing foot traffic of Victoria’s street, Sophia reach the House of Pain just as the sun was going down. I gripped my gun located in my coat, and headed inside, after forking over another 20 bucks. This kept up, and they were going to start thinking I was a regular here.

Just like I’d lost Jaime Pressly the last time I’d come in here, I lost Sophia this time. The difference, this time, was that I had a feeling where she was going. I headed right up to the fourth floor, keeping my eyes peeled for Voice.

This time, I got there just in time. I arrived at the door to see Sophia give Jaime Pressly the package, then start removing her clothes. Sophia was just as beautiful as she’d been when I’d fucked her myself a few days ago. I watched as she bent over a saw horse and let Jaime tie her in place. Then, with no flourish what-so-ever, Jaime slammed her strap on dildo straight up Sophia’s ass. Sophia, like the good little sub she was, took it without screaming.

I took it as my cue to leave.

Everything had fallen into place now. I knew it was Sophia who was passing on the information about Brittany’s whores to Jaime Pressly, who was working Rick Valentine’s whore operation these days. Jaime was passing the information on to her boyfriend, Valentine, who then gave it to Sean McBride. McBride then passed it – along with substantial financial aid for a future political campaign – to Thomas Jordan. Jordan, as the DA for The City, ordered the cops to bring in the whores on the list, apart from their usual pick-ups. This allowed Valentine, who lost considerably fewer whores than Brittany did, to move his own street walkers into place, giving him an increase in territory and profit.

Why was Sophia doing it? Well she was clearly one of Jaime Pressly’s sex slaves, but I suspected someone – either Jaime or even Valentine himself, had promised her something in exchange for helping to put Brittany out of business. Plus, she got fucked by Jaime. Sometimes, sex was all you needed to get something done.

Now, more than ever, I needed to find Brittany Murphy.

* * *

She still wasn’t home. And, apparently, she hadn’t been all day. And her little prostitution empire was falling apart without her. The escorts hadn’t been given any assignments all day. And her high-class escorts – the ones for the big rollers – had all gone out on jobs the night before, and only two of them had come back. The street walkers – of whom there were only a couple dozen left, had gone out on their assigned spots for today, but there was talk of some of them not coming back, either. Either by walkout, police round up, or possibly fates even worse, all of Brittany’s employees were vanishing.

And suddenly, I was short one client.

I hit the Southern Beaver, hoping Elisha had heard something. Anything.

As I walked in, I found the place practically empty. Piper was working the bar, and by working, I mean slowly wiping it down with a rag, as no one was sitting at it. Elisha was actually putting chairs up on top of tables.

“Slow day?” I asked as I walked in.

“Yep,” Elisha said. “Actually, I’m closing up shop early tonight. Heard some things that made it sound like a good idea.”

“What have you heard?” I asked.

“Something big is going down tonight, Johnny,” Elisha said. “Don’t know what, exactly, but rumor has it Valentine’s making some sort of big push tonight. I get a lot of clients in here who aren’t friends of Valentine’s – like you, Johnny – and I didn’t want to bring any trouble in here. So, Piper and I are going to spend the night curled up in bed.” She looked at me. “You should consider joining us, Johnny. Might be safer than being out on the streets tonight.”

“You’re probably right,” I said. This WAS news. I had a feeling Valentine was pushing in on Brittany’s territory once and for all tonight, and he was going to do it by force.

Problem was, Brittany was paying me to find out who her leak was. I had that information. Now, all I had to do was get paid for delivering it.

“You haven’t seen or heard anything about Brittany Murphy, have you?” I asked Elisha.

She looked at me. “You haven’t heard?”

“No,” I said.

“Johnny, she’s in the hospital. She was hit by a car.”

* * *

“She’s in here,” Ellen Pompeo said, leading me into the traction ward of Mercy Grace. “Though I don’t know what you want with her, Johnny.”

“She’s a client,” I said.

“She’s a whore,” Ellen said, sounding more than a little judgmental.

“She’s a client,” I said again.

“Yeah, and what am I?” Ellen asked.

“My favorite nurse,” I said, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek.

“I’m a doctor, Johnny.”

“Doesn’t mean you aren’t my favorite nurse,” I said, winking at her and heading into the ward.

Brittany was laid up with two broken legs and a broken arm. She wasn’t going anywhere any time soon.

“Johnny!” she said as she saw me. “Thank god!”

“I heard what happened,” I said. “Are you going to be okay?”

“I am, but apparently my business is falling apart! Half my girls are missing, the other half want to walk out, and I’ve been hit by a car! This is insane!”

“You can blame Sophia,” I said.

“Sophia?” Brittany said. “Have you heard from her? She’s ignoring my phone calls!”

“She’s probably still with Jaime Pressly, getting her ass fucked by Jaime’s dildo.”

“What?” Brittany said, surprised. “Did Valentine kidnap her or something?”

“No, Brittany,” I said. “Sophia’s your leak. She’s been giving your whore assignments to Jaime, who’s been using them to get your street walkers arrested. Chances are, Sophia’s sent all your escorts out on fake calls, too, since they’ve all disappeared, too.”

Brittany’s face was one of pure rage. “That bitch,” she whispered. “That cheating, conniving BITCH! She betrayed me!”

“I know,” I said. “I’m sorry I couldn’t have figured this out earlier.”

“That bitch,” she muttered. “I’ll kill her.”

“Yeah, well, you might want to worry less about that and worry more about finding a nice little hidey-hole, Brittany,” I said. “Word on the street is that Valentine’s making his move tonight. Chances are, one of his goons hit you with the car, and now that you’re out of the way, he’s going to wipe your business out once and for all.”

“Bastard,” she muttered. “And I’m stuck here in the fucking hospital!”

“Language,” Ellen said, walking in behind me. “Not to kick you out or anything, Johnny, but visiting hours just ended. I gotta kick you out.”

I sighed. “Be careful, Brittany. I’ve gotta go lay low for a while. Valentine’s not too fond of me right now, either.”

“Johnny,” she said. “Thank you. For everything.”

“You can thank me later – when you’re back on your feet,” I said. “Remember – you promised triple.”

“Johnny, I probably won’t have a business by morning.”

“No rush,” I said. “And, uh, maybe we can think of a few ways you can work off your debt.”

I walked out with Ellen, passing another doctor on his way into the ward.

“I thought she was just a client,” Ellen said, a bit frostily.

“She is,” I said. “I could always use her to clean up my office or something.”

Ellen shot me a look that basically said she thought more of dirty bedpans than that story.

“Come on, Ellen,” I said, running my finger under her chin. “You’re not going to stay mad at me over a little harmless flirting.”

“With a hooker!” Ellen pointed out.

“She’s just the Madame,” I pointed out. “She has other girls do the dirty work. Or, at least she did before tonight,” I added, sobering a bit.

Suddenly, there was a crash from Brittany’s room. Ellen and I traded looks, and suddenly, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach.

“Call security,” I said, running back towards the room.

“What?” Ellen said. “Johnny?!” She hollered after me. I snarled. She’d just given away any element of surprise I might have had. I pulled the gun out of my coat and burst back into the ward –

– To find Voice standing over Brittany, holding a pillow down over her face with one hand, and a pistol aimed at me with the other.

“Back off, Richards,” Voice said. “The whore dies tonight, one way or another.”

“You back off,” I said, keeping my pistol aimed at his head. “All I have to do is shoot you and you let go of that pillow.”

“And yet, you haven’t shot yet,” he said.

“Let go!” I said.

“You can’t shoot me because you know I’ll fire at the same time,” he said. “And as much as you might care for this little trollop, you value your life so much more.”

“Yeah, well, Valentine wants me dead already,” I said, keeping my gun level.

Voice snorted. “Valentine doesn’t give two flying craps about you anymore, Richards. Why do you think you got away from the House of Pain tonight? I could’ve plugged you the instant you walked in the door. But we already knew Brittany here had been hit by a car. The game was over. She lost.”

“Let go of the pillow!” I demanded, watching as Brittany’s hand gripped at his wrist. She was still alive, still fighting. But with only one good arm and her other limbs up in slings to keep her from moving them, she couldn’t fight him off alone.

And she was running out of time.

Voice merely smiled at me.

“LET HER GO!” I roared, taking a step into the room.

“You’re making a big mistake, Richards,” Voice said. “Kill me, and you’ll get Valentine’s attention a lot faster than you did helping out this bitch. Valentine’s willing to forget all about you right now. You’d even be welcome back in The Naked Valentine. Just turn around, walk out, and forget all about this. And we’ll forget all about you.”

I hesitated. Brittany’s grip was growing weak. She couldn’t breathe.

“You don’t owe her anything,” Voice said.

He was right there. Chances were, even if she lived through this, Brittany wasn’t going to be able to pay me the obnoxiously high fee she owed me.

I took a step back out the doorway.

“That’s it, Richards. Forget all about her. Just walk away, and everything will work out fine.”

I didn’t lower my gun from Voice’s face until I’d ducked around the corner again.

“You made the right choice, Richards!” he hollered back after me.

Then I spun back into the room and fired a round right into his arm. The idiot had lowered his gun as soon as I was out of view. The short spun him around, taking his arm off the pillow and allowing Brittany to draw a desperate breath.

Voice, to his credit, only swore once, and then fired two quick shots at me. But I’d already ducked back behind the corner. Two massive holes erupted in the wall above my head, and I was instantly glad I’d ducked.

“You just killed yourself, Richards!” Voice screamed.

“Fuck off!” I shouted, taking another shot at him. This time he ducked, and my shot shattered the window behind him.

Where the hell were the guards, anyway?

Another hole exploded in the wall above my head, forcing me lower. It occurred to me that Voice was using the same revolver he’d used in our earlier fight. And he’d just wasted three shots. Time to make him waste a few more.

I dove across the doorway, snapping off a shot that missed him by a good foot, and ended up on the far side of the door. I kept moving a little beyond it, and managed to avoid the blast that exploded right where my back would’ve been if I’d stopped sooner. I edged back a bit, and went to look around the corner, only to have half the door frame go flying past my head in splinters before I could get there.

That was five shots. Almost there. I could hear footsteps running towards me. Finally, help was arriving. Voice had run out of options. He had one shot left and nowhere to go.

And then, he fired that last shot. I ducked reflexively, but no new holes appeared in either me or the wall. Had he misfired? Shot himself as soon as he realized he wasn’t getting out of there a free man? Or-

-I shot up and ran into the room. Voice was gone – the trail of blood lead out the window. Sure enough, a fire escape could be seen there.

But I wasn’t going after him.

“MEDIC!!!” I screamed. Brittany Murphy now had a huge hole in her chest, and was bleeding out fast.

The son of a bitch had shot her with his last bullet and fled the scene of the crime. His job was done.

“GET ON THE GROUND!” a voice hollered at me. I turned to see two hospital guards and a police officer pointing their guns at me. I dropped my own and raised my hands above my head.

“She needs a doctor right now!” I said as I dropped to my knees. “She’s been shot!”

“SHUT UP AND GET ON THE FLOOR!” The officer screamed, coming over and forcing me to the ground. A heartbeat later, handcuffs encircled my wrists, and within seconds, I was hauled up on my feet and out of the room.

I didn’t see a doctor once during the whole long walk to the elevator.

* * *

“Jail cells do not suit you, Johnny.”

I looked up from my feet to see Linda Park looking through the bars at me.

“Must be the lack of color in here,” I muttered. “Dull gray never did anything for me.”

“You’ve looked better, Johnny,” Linda said. An old friend from my own time in The City’s police force, Linda was probably the only friendly face I was likely to see any time soon.

“I’ve been better,” I muttered. “Brittany’s dead, isn’t she?”

“I’m sorry,” Linda said. “They didn’t want to let any doctors onto the floor while shooting was going on. By the time anyone got to her, she’d lost too much blood.”

“I should’ve shot him in the head,” I muttered.

“Why didn’t you?” Linda asked.

“Because,” I muttered. “I wanted to brag. I wanted to look down at him on the floor, bleeding, and tell him he’d fucked up by getting on MY bad side. I wanted him to know I’d beaten him.”

“Pride before the fall,” Linda said, sighing. “Listen, I don’t think the charges they’ve got on you are going to stick. “Ellen has made a statement that you went in to try and save Brittany from that goon, and the bullet didn’t match your gun at all.”

“Guess that’s good news,” I muttered.

“I can’t stay long, Johnny,” she said. “It’s a busy night. We raided Brittany’s House an hour ago. Everyone inside was arrested. And we swept up almost a hundred girls off the street tonight, too. There’s a ton of paperwork.”

“You raided Brittany’s House?” I said. “Thomas Jordan’s idea?” I asked.

“He thought it was time. Our new anti-Prostitution policy and all that. If he’d know the madame had been shot in the hospital an hour earlier, he might have held off.” Linda shook her head. “Life is funny like that sometimes.”

“Yeah,” I muttered. “Funny.” I looked back at the wall for a moment. “So, you here to let me out?” I asked.

“Not yet, Johnny. Someone from the DA’s office wants to talk to you first.”

I groaned. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” This couldn’t be good. “Linda, Jordan was behind all this. He’s been using the police to sweep up all of Brittany’s street whores so Valentine could replace them with his own.”

She held up her hands. “Hold on, Johnny. Keep your conspiracy theories to yourself. Jordan isn’t even here,” she said, backing up and turning towards the door outside my cell. “Natalie Portman’s wants to talk to you.”

With that, Linda was gone. A moment later, she was replaced by Natalie Portman.

She looked at my silently for a moment. Then she sighed, and pulled over a chair so she could sit down in front of my cell.

I didn’t even look at her.

“I never thought I’d see you behind bars, Johnny,” she said at last.

“Never thought I’d see you sleeping with a married man,” I shot back.

Her head snapped back at that. “You… you know?”

“Yeah. Katharine McPhee caught wind of Jordan’s fooling around, and hired me to look into it.”

“That’s not possible,” she said. “It was a one time thing!”

“That’s what they all say, Natalie,” I muttered. “She found your lipstick on his collar, and then one of my associates snapped some explicit pics of you two getting naked and rolling around in bed.”

“No, no, that’s not possible,” she said again. “Johnny, I only slept with Tom once. I’d never so much as flirted with him before that day, and as soon as we were done, we both agreed it couldn’t happen again.”

“Well, then he was fucking someone else – possibly that secretary of his. She seems to get around a lot.”

“I doubt that,” Natalie said. “That’s not like Tom at all.”

“He cheated on his wife with you. Why wouldn’t he cheat with someone else?”

“He said it was the first time,” Natalie said, her voice almost a whisper.

“Yeah, well, your boyfriend’s probably found out his wife’s leaving him by now,” I said. “Katharine doesn’t care for cheating husbands much.”

“Oh my god,” Natalie said.

“But I think Thomas Jordan has bigger things on his mind right now,” I said, looking at her square on for the first time. “See, I think he’s got plans to run for office in the near future. And he needs a platform to stand on. So, he’s been rounding up whores left and right.”

“That’s just his new policy,” Natalie said dismissively. “A crack down on prostitution. It’s to get more funds for the DA’s office.”

“Don’t bullshit me, Natalie,” I snapped. “See, He’s not alone in his little plan. He’s been getting information from Rick Valentine about where all of Brittany’s whores were going to be.”

“Rick Valentine?” Natalie said, clearly confused. “Valentine’s the biggest criminal in The City. Tom would never have anything to do with him. He killed the last ADA!”

“Think again,” I said. “Seems they have a mutual friend by the name of Sean McBride – who’s fucking Jordan’s secretary, Roselyn, by the way. McBride owns and runs McBride Electronics, and his company’s hurting for money. I think he’s been cooking his books so it doesn’t look so bad on the outside, but his employees know better. And they’re panicking.”

“What on earth does that have to do with Tom and Rick Valentine?” Natalie asked, her eyes practically bugging out of her head.

“McBride needs government help to keep his company out of the red. He thinks Jordan can give him that, if he gets elected. Jordan needs McBride’s financing to run for office, and he needs a platform – like getting rid of one of the three big prostitution houses. Valentine gives him all the information Jordan needs to let the cops sweep up whores left and right, because he’s got a mole inside Brittany’s organization. Seems Valentine’s girlfriend likes to fuck other girls up the ass with strap-ons. Jaime Pressly gets the information from the mole while having S&M sex, Valentine gets the information to McBride, who then passes it on to Jordan – snagging some Roselyn Sanchez pussy along the way. Jordan uses the information to round up large numbers of Brittany’s street girls, and gains both good PR and a potential launching platform to run for office later. It all adds up.”

“You’re crazy, Johnny,” Natalie said. “That can’t possibly be true.”

“Then why did the cops raid Brittany’s place tonight, of all nights? Jordan was there, wasn’t he? Practically leading the charge against prostitution himself, I bet. Were the papers there? What about the TV stations? I bet it’ll be all over the news tomorrow. ‘Heroic DA Brings Down Dead Woman’s Prostitution House – Film at 11.’”

Natalie shook her head. “You’re wrong, Johnny. Tom really does want to rid The City of prostitution.”

“Just like he wanted to cheat on his wife only once?” I muttered.

“That’s enough,” Natalie said, standing up. “You have ANY proof of this?”

“I saw one of Brittany’s girls give information to Valentine’s girlfriend before bending over and taking a shiny red dildo up the ass.”

She frowned at me.

“I can get you a photo of Sean McBride and Thomas Jordan meeting in secret, and McBride giving him information he attained from Valentine.”

“You know for sure that information was from Valentine?” Natalie asked.

I frowned. “No. But Jordan’s been working off lists of Brittany’s whores. He’s been targeting her group specifically. If Valentine’s been getting information about where Brittany’s been stationing her girls, and then Jordan hands the exact same information to the cops, it makes sense that they’re working together.”

“Johnny, you’re crazy. You don’t have a shred of evidence! You’ve got nothing!”

“Doesn’t matter now, anyway,” I said. “Brittany’s dead, her girls have all been rounded up, and Jordan’s got the ultimate career building PR stunt. I’m too little, too late.”

Natalie shook her head and headed over to the door. She pounded on it once, and Linda opened the door.

“Get him out of here, Officer Park. He’s been cleared of all charges.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Linda said, heading to my cell with the keys. By the time she’d opened the door, Natalie was gone.

* * *

I walked into my office the next morning and stopped dead in my tracks.

Rachel Bilson sat in her chair, her shirt wide open to expose her breasts to the room. Her eyes were squeezed shut, and her hands were down in her lap.

“Oh, GOD, YESSSS!” She screamed aloud, and it became instantly clear she was having an orgasm. A powerful one. Her head rolled back on her neck, and she humped her hips in towards her desk.

“Rachel?!” I said aloud, shocked.

Suddenly, her head snapped back up, and her eyes went wide with terror.

“Johnny!” She gasped, fighting to cover her breasts with her shirt. Too little, too late.

Suddenly, a bob of black hair popped up from between Rachel’s legs. Vanessa turned towards me, still wiping Rachel’s juices from her mouth. She was naked from the waist up, and her nipples stuck out like tiny little rockets.

“Oh, hey Johnny,” Vanessa said, clearly not embarrassed at all about being caught. “I was just thanking Rachel here for everything she’s done for me.”

“My god, Rachel, you’re married!” I said.

“Oh, god, Johnny. Don’t tell Michael! Please! Don’t tell him!”

“Why not?” Vanessa asked. “You think maybe I should thank him, too?”

“NO!” Rachel and I said together.

“Vanessa!” I snapped. “You can’t just go around sleeping with everyone you meet!”

“I don’t,” she said, looking at me like I’d grown a second head. “I told you, I only fuck people I like. And, I like Rachel quite a bit. Not so sure about Michael. He seems nice, but I haven’t really spent much time with him. But he has let me share his home for the last couple of days.”

“Vanessa, I think it’s time we found you another home,” I said.

“Yeah, I guess I can’t camp out with them forever. Kinda cramps their style. I think Mike wanted to fuck Rachel up the ass last night, and she didn’t let him. I’d hate to think it was because I was in the next room, listening.”

“You HEARD?” Rachel shouted, clearly aghast. Her shirt fell open as her hands went to her head.

“Rachel, get dressed for crying out loud,” I said. “Vanessa, just be quiet.”

“Johnny,” Rachel said, buttoning her shirt. “We heard about Brittany. We’re so sorry.”

“Yeah. There goes a triple fee,” I muttered.

“Johnny,” Rachel said, “I know she was a friend of yours.”

“And a fat lot of good I did her,” I snapped. “Time to start looking for another case.”

“How about finding Vanessa’s family?” Rachel advised.

“What?” Vanessa said. “No way! My dad wouldn’t take me back for nothing. Not after I slept with that lawyer guy.”

“You slept with a Lawyer?” I asked.

“Well, I’ve slept with a lot of lawyers,” Vanessa said. “But the first one was actually my first. I was 13 years old, and he’d just gotten back from law school.”

“So the first thing he does is commit statutory rape,” I said. “Sounds like a real winner.”

“Hey, I loved Tommy!” Vanessa said. “It’s not my fault he was so much older.”

“Of course not,” I said.

“Anyway, daddy caught me and Tommy in bed one night when I had his cock inside me and I was riding on top. Tommy always liked that. Anyway, daddy yelled at me ‘Vanessa Anne Hudgens, you filthy whore!’ and so on. Well, I never saw Tommy again, though I guess he got a job as a lawyer here in The City.”

“That narrows down the search,” Rachel said. “There’s only a couple thousand lawyers in The City.”

“And most of them would be willing to screw an underaged girl,” I muttered.

“I told you, I’m eighteen!” Vanessa protested.

“Now you are,” I said. “You weren’t when this Tommy guy was screwing you.”

“Age is just a number.”

“Yeah, well, so’s my bank account,” I muttered. “I’d still like it to be over 18 at all times.”

“You are so not fun, Johnny.”

“No fun happens to be my middle name.”

“Boy, I guess so,”Vanessa said, walking out from behind the desk. She wore only a pair of bright pink panties.

“Could you please get dressed?” I asked her.

She looked down at her body. “Uh, why?”

“‘Cause you being naked is quite a distraction,” I said.

“He’s right, sweetie,” Rachel put in. “I mean, if any clients come in…”

“Fine,” Vanessa said, reaching for the tank-top that was lying over a chair. “So, ah, what are you guys going to do with me now?”

“That’s a damn good question,” I muttered. “You can’t stay with Rachel any more, that’s for sure.”

“And I don’t think she should stay with you, either, Johnny,” Rachel pointed out. I glanced over at Vanessa’s panty-covered ass as she bent over to grab her shorts off the floor. I couldn’t argue with Rachel’s point there.

“I could always go back to my place,” Vanessa suggested.

“An abandoned building?!” Rachel gasped. “Absolutely not!”

“Yeah, you need some place safer,” I said.

“I can’t afford something safer,” she said.

“For what you charge for head, you can afford most anything,” I muttered.

“Johnny!” Rachel snapped.

“Sorry,” I said. “We can find you a job. A REAL job, earning real money.”

“I haven’t gotten any of my legal paperwork,” she reminded me.

“We can always try and find new forms,” Rachel suggested.

“Or YOU could give me a job, Johnny.”

“And what would you do for me?” I asked, smiling despite myself.

“Well, I could help out around here. Cover the phones when Rachel’s not here, help clean up, sort through your files or anything.”

“Anything?” I asked.

“Yeah! I can, like, ask people questions. Or spy on people. Or, you know, follow someone.”

“You want to be a detective?” I asked.

“Sure! Why not?”

“Listen, Kid, I barely have enough work to keep me busy. I can’t afford to hire you on as an apprentice, let alone pay you enough to get you your own apartment.”

“This is true,” Rachel muttered. “You barely make enough to pay me.”

“What if I bring in more business,” Vanessa asked.

“And how would you do that?” I asked.

“Well, for starters, you aren’t tapping the Movie Star market at all. You should really look into star on star crime. It happens all the time.”

“Vanessa, I appreciate the advice and all, but I really-”

“Fine, what are you working on right now?”

“Not much, actually,” I muttered. “With Brittany dead, the whole Jordan affair seems to be over, and I didn’t get paid for it.”

“What’d this Jordan guy do?” Vanessa asked.

“Well, originally, he cheated on his wife,” I said. “But it turns out he was involved in an effort to overthrow one of the major whore houses in The City.”

“Wow. Ambitious,” Vanessa said. “You stop him?”

“No,” I said. “My client got killed.”

“Damn,” Vanessa said.

I shook my head. “Tell you what, Vanessa – why don’t I see if Elisha needs another hand at the bar?”

“Johnny, she’s only 18,” Rachel reminded me.

“So she doesn’t drink – she just serves them!” I said.

“I’m not sure that’s legal,” Rachel muttered.

“I don’t want to be a bartender, I want to be a detective.”

I rolled my eyes at this. “Okay, One – I’m not a detective, I’m a Private Dick. Big difference. Two, you aren’t exactly blessed with a lot of choices for employment right now.”

Vanessa pouted for a bit – and I realized just how far she could get on a pout with those lips. “Fine,” she muttered. “Let’s go see this bar.”

* * *

“This is getting to be a bad habit, Johnny,” Elisha Cuthbert told me. We sat at the bar, watching as Piper Perabo showed Vanessa around. Vanessa would need some work before she could become a waitress, but she seemed eager to learn.

Or maybe just eager to be around Piper and Elisha. As soon as she learned they’d become lovers, things seemed to improve in her eyes. I didn’t want to think about it.

“I’m sorry about Brittany, Johnny,” Elisha said.

“We all are,” I said. “Rick Valentine’s just become more powerful. You might want to think about getting a bouncer or two here pretty quick.”

“Already looking into it,” she said. “Don’t suppose you’re interested in the job.”

“Not my line of work,” I said. “Besides. Valentine’s not exactly happy with me right now. I start working here, and you might just be bringing more trouble than less.”

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Elisha and I glanced at each other. The bar wasn’t due to open for another two hours.

Before either of us could do anything, though, Vanessa was at the door.

“I’ve got it!” she said, singsong. She threw open the door-

-to reveal a nervous looking Natalie Portman standing there.

“Natalie?” I said, surprised.

“Johnny. Your Secretary told me I’d find you here.”

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“It’s Tom,” she said. “Katharine served him with divorce papers last night, and he’s gone crazy.”

“Is Katharine all right?” I asked, despite myself.

“I-I think so,” Natalie said. “But, Johnny, Tom-”

“What about him?”

“He’s gone to confront Rick Valentine, Johnny. He said something about Valentine not living up to his end of the deal.”

“What deal?” I asked.

“I don’t know!” Natalie insisted. “He never told me about it! He mentioned something about looking for a girl, but other than that, he never told me.”

“A girl,” I said. “That narrows it down.”

“Johnny, he’s got a gun!”

“Then he’s going to die,” I said. “The City better start looking for a new DA.”

“Johnny,” Elisha said, her voice filled with warning.

“Why didn’t you go to the cops with this?” I asked Natalie.

“What can they do?”

“Stop him before he gets there, for starters!” I said.

“They won’t,” she said. “Johnny, you have to help.”

“Is it a case?” Vanessa asked, suddenly standing right next to me.

“No,” I said.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes!” I snapped.

“All right, seesh,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Don’t get your panties in a bunch.”

“Who is that?” Natalie asked.

“His new assistant!” Vanessa said, smiling.

“No, she’s not,” I muttered.

“Sure I am – you just don’t know it yet,” she said, slapping me on the ass as she walked away.

“Johnny,” Natalie pleaded. “Please, I need your help.”

“Valentine wants me dead, Natalie,” I said. “I can’t go running into his territory.”

“So you’re just going to let Tom Jordan die?” Natalie cried.

“WHO?!” Vanessa suddenly snapped.

“Tom Jordan, the District Attorney for The City,” Natalie said. “He’s going to The Naked Valentine, and Rick Valentine’s going to kill him!”

“Tommy,” Vanessa whispered. Next thing I knew, she was out the door.

“What was that all about?” Piper asked, coming up behind me.

I turned towards her. “Piper, did Vanessa mention anything about Tom Jordan?”

“No,” Piper said. “She did mention she lost her virginity to a Tommy.”

Suddenly, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. “And Tommy was a lawyer,” I said, the conversation Vanessa, Rachel, and I had back in my office coming back to me.

“What am I missing here?” Natalie asked.

“Come on,” I said, grabbing Natalie by the arm. “Vanessa’s going after Tom Jordan, and we’ve got to stop her before Valentine kills her, too.”

* * *

Rain had engulfed The City again, and as the sun went down, I sat in Natalie’s car outside The Naked Valentine, double checking that both my guns were loaded. Natalie looked at me like it might be the last time she ever saw me.

Quite frankly, I couldn’t blame her.

“What are you going to do?” she asked me.

“Find Vanessa,” I said. “And hopefully get her out of there.”

“What about Tom?” Natalie asked.

“Your boyfriend isn’t part of my plans,” I said.

“Johnny-”

“BUT,” I cut her off, “If I can help him, I will.”

She looked at me for a moment.

“Thank you, Johnny.”

“Make sure you say that at my funeral,” I muttered, opening the car door.

I got about three feet from the car when someone ran into me. I almost shot the tiny, wet body, but at the last second, I recognized her.

It was Vanessa.

“Vanessa!” I snapped, grabbing her by the arms.

“Let me go!” she cried. “I have to help Tom!”

“You can’t do anything for him!” I said. “If he goes against Valentine, he’s going to get himself killed.”

“Then let me STOP him!” Vanessa pleaded. “Please, Johnny!”

“You CAN’T!” I told her, dragging her back towards the car. Natalie opened the door for me, and I forcibly shoved Vanessa inside the back, sitting down next to her.

“Drive,” I snapped towards Natalie.

“NO!” Vanessa screamed. “They’ll kill him!”

“Johnny, she’s right,” Natalie said. I noticed the car wasn’t moving.

Suddenly, I was in the minority.

“No, absolutely not. Anyone who goes in after Jordan’s going to be killed,” I said. “Especially me!”

“If you won’t do it,” Natalie said, opening the door and stepping out. “Then I will.”

“WHAT?!” I said, shocked. Natalie merely shut the door behind me.

“Stay put,” I snapped towards Vanessa, the jumped out of the car after Natalie.

“Don’t try and stop me, Johnny,” she said, the rain plastering her hair to her forehead.

“Damn it, Natalie, you’re going to get yourself killed,” I said, grabbing her by the arm.

“Then you go in and save him!” she shot back. “You’re the only one who can!”

I shook my head.

“Johnny, I know we aren’t close like we used to be,” she said. “But if you ever had feelings for me, you’ll save Tom. You won’t let him be killed.”

“I go in there, and I’ll be killed, Natalie,” I tried again to explain to her.

“So all you care about is yourself?” she said. “I should’ve know. Nothing’s change with you at all, has it, Johnny,” she turned her back towards me and started moving towards the Naked Valentine again.

“Natalie, stop,” I said, sighing.

She didn’t.

“Natalie, I’ll do it,” I said.

Now she stopped.

“Just promise me one thing,” I said.

“Anything,” she said, turning back towards me.

“Keep an eye on Vanessa,” I said. “Don’t let her come after me.”

“I will,” she said. “Thank you, Johnny.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” I said. “I haven’t saved him yet.”

* * *

The inside of the Naked Valentine was dark – which I thought was odd, as normally, it would’ve been hopping at this time. No patrons sat in the chairs, no dancers were on stage, no one was at the bar, and only the most basic of lights were on.

Which, of course, left plenty of shadows.

“You’re a real glutton for punishment, Richards.” It was Voice. Obviously. I’d hoped to get a little farther than just inside the front door before running into him, but part of me was honestly surprised I got this far without being shot.

“Where’s Jordan?” I asked.

“Is THAT why you’re here?” Voice asked. It sounded like he was coming from the left, but I couldn’t see anything over that way. “I would’ve thought you came to avenge Brittany Murphy’s death.”

I snorted. Bastard was trying to rile me up. It was almost working. “Where’s Jordan?” I asked again.

“Upstairs, probably short a pint or so of blood by now,” Voice said. He’d moved – or at least, seemed to – it now sounded like he was coming from the right side.

“Valentine’s not happy when people come in complaining,” Voice said. I squinted, trying to find him, my fingers gripping my pistol tightly. “Especially when they barge in on him fucking his girlfriend. Jordan was lucky he wasn’t shot on sight.”

“Why wasn’t he shot on sight?” I asked. My only hope was to keep Voice talking, and zone in on him through sound.

“Valentine thinks he might be of some use. Though, he’ll need persuasion now. We thought his wife would work, but apparently they’re getting divorced. She’ll probably end up with Jaime now.”

“Katharine,” I hissed.

“Turns out, Jordan had a reason to be looking for whores,” Valentine said. “Apparently, he was using the sweeps to look for a specific girl, and nothing more.”

“What girl?” I asked, swinging my gun slowly to the right.

“Don’t know. We never found her, and apparently, neither did the cops.” Now it sounded like Voice was back on the left.

“Jordan never cared for his wife – marriage of convenience and all that. He always loved this little girl he fucked back home.”

“Vanessa,” I muttered.

“You know her then?” Voice said, suddenly sounding like he was behind me. I swung about, but saw no one.

“What good is Jordan going to do you if he’s under coercion,” I asked, still squinting in the dark, hoping to catch sight of Voice.

“Well, for starters, he can make sure the charges against Valentine’s partner, McBride, go away.”

“What charges?” I asked.

“The child rape charges. Turns out McBride has a think for underaged girls. Valentine was supplying him with them, and at a tidy profit, no less.”

“Jordan must have already been keeping them under wraps,” I said.

“He was, but he threatened to make sure the files ended up in the hands of the new ADA. Who, I believe, you so conveniently have out in your car. Along with a young girl who matches the description of the young girl Jordan was looking for.”

“Fuck,” I muttered under my breath.

“Thanks to you, Johnny Richards, we now have everything we need to make The City’s District Attorney do everything we want.”

“You won’t get away with it,” I muttered.

“You won’t live long enough to stop us.”

“Wanna bet?” I asked, desperate to find some sign of where he was standing. He had to be moving around in the darkness – I just couldn’t find him.

“I will say this, Johnny,” Voice said, again seemingly from behind me. “You’ve got exquisite taste in women. I’m hoping Valentine will let me take a shot at the Portman woman once. Before he has her killed.”

“NO!” I screamed, spinning around and firing off a shot. The bullet struck metal, sparks flew, but if Voice had been standing there, he was gone now.

And now I was out of time.

The fist came flying in from my left, slamming into my jaw hard. I stumbled into a table, but managed to keep both my feet and my hold on my gun. I tried to reorient myself towards the direction the attack had come from, but a boot slammed into my gut, and this time I hit the floor. My fingers tightened on the trigger, and another shot went off into the ceiling. Then a foot connected with my hand, and my gun went flying into the darkness.

I was rapidly running out of options. This time, though, I managed to block the kick aimed for my head, and grabbed onto the boot with both hands. I twisted as hard as I could, and someone swore.

It wasn’t voice.

The first attacker hit the ground, and I scrambled to my feet – just in time for a chair to crash down over my back. I always thought it was funny that people still thought wrestling was real, when they broke chairs over each other’s backs like they were made of paper. A chair to your shoulders isn’t going to break the chair unless you’re the Statue of Liberty. All it’s going to do is drive you to the ground.

But, then, people are stupid, and that chair HURT.

My head hit the floor, and what little light there was started to spin about me. I tried to get back to my hands and knees, at least, but got a good swift kick in the gut for my efforts. Now I couldn’t see and could barely breathe. My gun was somewhere far away from me, and I couldn’t move my arms enough to reach for the one I kept at my back.

“You’re lucky, Richards,” Voice said, suddenly hovering over me, “That Valentine wants to see you before he kills you. Otherwise, I’d have already put a bullet through your skull.”

His fist slammed into my temple, and that was the last thing I saw.

* * *

“You don’t have much of a choice, Jordan. We have your wife. We have your little hooker girl. We even have your Assistant DA. I hold all the cards here.”

“This wasn’t the deal, Valentine.”

“I’m changing the deal. Hope I don’t change it any more.”

I resisted the urge to groan. I lay on my stomach in a brightly lit room, and, judging from the voices around me, I was far from alone. Rick Valentine was there, as was Thomas Jordan. I would’ve bet money that Voice, at least, was there as well.

“Thomas, you’re an idiot!” My heart jumped as I recognized Katharine McPhee’s voice. So she was here, too. “You sold your soul to the devil for a chance to find some little girl?!”

“You don’t understand, Katharine,” Jordan shot back. “I love her! I always have! I loved her so much, I would die for her.”

“You had a career! You had a life! You had ME!” Katharine screamed. “What was I to you? Just someone to come home and fuck?”

“You were the perfect wife for a DA,” Jordan said. “You KNEW we weren’t in love, Katharine. Don’t pretend like it was any different.”

“Someone shut the wife up,” Valentine muttered. I heard Katharine’s voice go muffled.

“Where are the other two?” Valentine asked next.

“Right here, Boss,” Voice said. “The ADA and the girl.”

“Vanessa?” Jordan asked, his voice sounding both pleased and fearful at the same time.

“Tommy!” Vanessa cried out. I wanted to crack my eyes open, but didn’t dare. No one seemed to be paying any attention to me at the moment, which gave me an advantage. It was probably the only advantage I had. I could still feel my second gun strapped to my back – they hadn’t bothered to search me, which was good.

“Tom?” Natalie asked. “Tom, what’s going on?”

“I’m sorry, Natalie,” Tom replied. “I’m sorry I got you involved in this at all.”

“You’re going to be even more sorry if you don’t do what I tell you to, Jordan,” Valentine said. “If you don’t agree right now, I’ll have my men kill one of these three lovely women.”

“You mother fucking bastard,” Jordan spat.

“Now,” Valentine continued. “My first instinct is to kill your wife. Most men, that would drive them crazy. But your wife wants a divorce, and chances are, you wouldn’t be too sad to see her go.” I heard footsteps, then Valentine spoke again. “Now, I know you value this little whore here – she IS a lovely specimen. I’d have my guys kill her first, but she’s what you value most. I kill her, you might not do anything for me.” A few more footsteps. “So, that leaves your ADA. Now, I know you slept with her at least once – not a bad choice there, either. She’s classically beautiful, really. Worth a throw or two. But, I’d be willing to pass up a chance to fuck her to get my point across to you.”

I was running out of time. Slowly, I started to slide my arm back towards my back. I hoped no one was watching.

“Rick, you promised me the wife,” a new voice said. It was Jaime Pressly. Things were getting crowded in here. That wasn’t good.

“Shut up, Jaime. You’ve got one slave already. Jordan here clearly has decided to go back on our deal.” Valentine clearly wasn’t happy.

“Don’t hurt them,” Jordan said. “I’ll do what you ask.”

“Good,” Valentine said. “See, sometimes just asking really does work.”

“Let them go, first,” Jordan said.

I could feel Valentine twist about. It was almost like the temperature in the room had just dropped twenty degrees.

“That’s not the plan, Jordan.”

“Let them go, or I don’t help you.”

“Do you want them to die?” Valentine asked. My hand was now under my coat, and edging closer to my gun. Closer, ever closer.

“Is that what you really want?” Valentine said, his voice colder than ice. “IS IT?!” He screamed. I heard fingers snap, and then Vanessa gasped.

“NO!” Jordan screamed.

“DO WHAT I SAY, OR SHE DIES! NOW!”

I moved. My eyes sprung open the second my fingers slipped around my gun handle. I yanked it out as I sprung to my feet and turned towards the sound of Valentine’s voice. He stood right in front of Jordan, screaming in his face.

I pulled the trigger, and Valentine’s head exploded across the wall.

A couple of the girls shrieked, but I didn’t care. Valentine wasn’t the real threat – he was just the one talking. I spun around to my left, and found Voice-

-Standing with his gun leveled at Vanessa’s head.

“Drop it, Richards,” Voice said, calmly.

“Johnny?!” Vanessa gasped, clearly having trouble breathing. Voice was holding her type.

“Let her go,” I told him.

“We’ve been here before, Richards,” Voice said. “And you remember what happened to the last girl when you fought back.”

Brittany. “Motherfucker,” I muttered, dropping the gun. I knew when I was beat.

“Smart choice, Richards,” Voice said. He looked over at the mess Valentine’s head had made on the wall. “I’d say you just did me a favor, Richards.”

“How’s that?” I asked.

“Well, now that Valentine’s out of the way, I just gained control of his little empire.”

“Says you,” Jaime Pressly said. I looked over to where she and Sophia Bush stood – I hadn’t even known Sophia was in the room. Jaime was now holding a gun on Voice. “Far as I can tell, I’m Rick’s soul heir.”

“You can’t run a criminal empire, bitch,” Voice said. “It takes brains.”

“Watch your tongue,” Jaime said. “I have no problem shooting you through a girl.”

“NO!” Jordan screamed. Suddenly, there was a gunshot, and Jaime Pressly dropped to the ground. Everyone looked over at Jordan, who’d grabbed one of Valentine’s guns.

I dove for the ground – it was all over now. Voice fired a shot right into Jordan’s throat. As I grabbed my gun and rolled over to face Voice, I heard Vanessa screaming.

Voice was gone, dashing out of the room. Somehow, Vanessa had gotten loose from his grip, but as he dashed by, he snagged Natalie by the arm.

I raced after him.

* * *

There were no new lights on down below, but it wasn’t hard to track Voice this time. Natalie was struggling with him, knocking chairs over and making muffled cries. He wasn’t going for stealth this time – he just wanted to get away.

“You’re lucking out, Richards!” Voice called out as I came after him. “With Valentine dead, I got nothing against you at all. Just let me leave, and you’ll never hear from me again.”

“Let her go, and we’ll discuss it,” I called back.

“No can do, Richards,” Voice said. “She’s my ticket out of here. I promise not to rough her up too much if you turn back now.”

“Let her go,” I repeated, getting to within fifteen feet of him. He’d reached the door now, and flung it open. Light spilled into the room, silhouetting him and Natalie in the doorway. I took my chance, and fired a round into the side of the doorframe away from Natalie’s head.

Voice turned towards me. I could barely see his face with the light to his back, but I could tell he wasn’t happy.

“You’re pushing your luck, Richards.”

“Let her go,” I said again, aiming my pistol right at his head.

Voice turned his pistol towards me, pulling the hammer back on his revolver as he did so.

“You shoot me,” he said, “And you die, too.”

“Fine,” I said.

And then I shot him right between the eyes.

His gun went off, and the bullet struck me in the chest. I went flying backwards into one of the tables, smashing it under me.

The last thought I had before the darkness took me was that it was rather ironic – Thomas Jordan had done everything – risked his marriage, his career, and even his life, just to find Vanessa. And it had cost him all of that, even his life in the end. All for that one girl he was willing to die for.

And here I was, shot, dying, and it had all been for the one woman who’d broken my heart all those years ago.

In the end, I guess we’re all just looking for a dame to die for.

* * *

I awoke some time later, looking up into the eyes of Ellen Pompeo.

“Nice to see you still alive,” she said.

“W-what happened?” I grumbled. My voice sounded like I hadn’t had a drink in a couple of months.

“You took a shot to the chest. We had to do some serious work on you – you’d lost a lot of blood by the time the ambulance got you here.”

“Natalie?” I croaked.

“Was the one to call you in. Thomas Jordan, Rick Valentine, and that guy who grabbed Natalie are all dead, before you ask. Save your voice. We think one more person was shot, but there weren’t any other bodies there. Your friends Vanessa and Katharine have been in and out over the last two weeks. I’m sure they’ll be back in soon.”

“Two weeks?”

“Two weeks,” Ellen confirmed. “You think you’d wake up the next day from a gunshot wound? Now, shut up, get some sleep. You’ll get no special attention from me until you’re better.”

With that, she left the room, and I found myself alone. So, it was all over. And the death toll was pretty high. Valentine and Voice were both dead, but so were Brittany Murphy and Thomas Jordan. Sean McBride hadn’t been touched at all, and Jaime Pressly and Sophia Bush had apparently gotten away. I’d thought Jaime had been shot, but there were other hospitals in The City.

I guessed the important thing was that I was alive, while everyone else wasn’t. That really should have been enough for me. But somehow, it wasn’t.

I laid back, and tried to go to sleep. The sooner I healed up, the better. Besides, Ellen was sure to give me some of that special attention she was so good at. That, at least, was something to look forward to.

One of these days, I’m going to learn to stop thinking with my dick.

Just not today.

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