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Authors: Pro Se Press

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BOOK: Nobody Dies For Free
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What do you need from me?”
Mr. Nine asked.


Permission to keep going,
and information,” Monroe answered. “Can you tell me anything about
a construction magnate named Cyril Benson? He’s based here in
Boston, does work for the local government, and might be running a
high-priced escort-prostitution ring in addition to his legitimate
projects?”


It sounds like you know
quite a lot already.”


I suppose so, sir, but I’d
like a way to involve myself in Benson’s affairs, do a bit of
snooping if I may.”


I’ll see what I can do,”
Mr. Nine said, and he promptly hung up.

Monroe sighed and turned the
TV’s sound back on. Of all the major players in the Boston
underworld that Spencer Archer had told him about, Benson seemed to
Monroe to likely be the easiest one to investigate due to his being
a public businessman. Monroe hoped Benson would lead him to the
mysterious white-haired woman who seemed, at least in Archer’s
opinion, to have connections to various criminal enterprises in
Boston. Monroe’s idea was that a well-connected source would be
able to furnish him with some sort of lead that would eventually
set him on the path to finding Garrett Khan.

He began to surf the six
hundred mostly-useless channels. Mr. Nine, he knew, might call him
back in ten minutes or it might take a week.

 

***

 

The invitation arrived three
days later. Mr. Nine had come through. Monroe opened the envelope,
which itself was made of expensive paper, and took out the embossed
card inside. Richard Monroe, Boston-based marketing consultant, had
been (cordially even) invited to the grand opening gala of the
Boston Crown Hotel, newly erected by the Benson Construction Firm
and ready to open to the public. The affair was to be black tie and
would be held in three days, beginning promptly at seven in the
evening.

Monroe smiled, sat down at
his computer, and Googled the event. It was going to be a big one,
he read. The mayor would be there, as well as various city
councilmen and a slew of prominent businessmen. The party would be
jointly hosted by the ownership of the hotel and the heads of the
construction company, most notably Cyril Benson himself.

That was it; Monroe had an
entrance plan, a way to begin his hunt. He hoped he would not be
wasting his time. He picked up the phone and ordered a new tuxedo.
When the call was done and the suit had been guaranteed for
delivery in forty-eight hours, with a bit extra charged for the
rush tailoring, Monroe emailed his RSVP, confirming his intention
to attend. Then he laughed. He loved the games that spies play. He
felt an immeasurable gratitude toward Mr. Nine for putting him back
in the field.

 

***

 

The night of the event
arrived. Monroe checked his looks in the mirror before leaving. He
approved. Sharp haircut, smooth shave, new tux: the right
combination for an evening when his skills at charm might be
needed. He drove to the brand new Boston Crown Hotel and let the
valet take the Lexus. He had to leave the Glock behind too, hidden
under the passenger seat of the car. He knew with its mixture of
political and criminal personalities, the celebration would have
tight security. One of Monroe’s unbreakable rules was that anything
to be hidden in a car when a valet takes the vehicle must go under
the passenger seat. The glove compartment is too obvious and many
valets like to snoop there, and the driver’s seat is a bad idea as
the valet often adjusts the seat’s positioning if he happens to be
dramatically taller or shorter than the car’s owner.

All that taken care of,
Monroe straightened his jacket, took out his invitation, and
entered through the front doors of the Boston Crown. The hotel was
immense, the exterior architecture modern and clean while the
interior had an updated version of art-deco as its guiding
principle. Monroe took mental notes on those he passed on the way
inside. Security men in uniforms checked the invitations,
supervised by a thin man in a tuxedo who cheerfully greeted each
guest after reading the name on the invitation after it had been
passed to him by the guards. Monroe noted the telltale bulge under
the guards’ jackets; they were certainly armed. Judging by the
demeanors of the security men, as well as the slightly tired and
over-caffeinated look in their eyes, Monroe decided they were most
likely Boston cops raking in overtime.

Those entering the main
ballroom at the same time as Monroe were all well-dressed, the men
in tuxes and the women in gowns that looked as if they had been
purchased specifically for this night. It was an impressive display
of the richest humanity that Boston had to offer. Monroe had,
luckily, spent parts of the past two days doing his homework and
learning who was who in Boston society. He had been overseas for so
long that his knowledge of Massachusetts affairs had gone very out
of date. But that had been corrected now and he could recognize the
major political figures of the city, including the mayor and two
previous holders of that office, as well as the wives of two of
them and the mistress of the other. There were councilmen and
criminals, high-ranking cops and influential crooks, the publishers
of the biggest newspapers, several actors including an Oscar
nominee, the entire board of directors of the Benson Construction
Firm, and a host of beautiful women who Monroe guessed were
employees of the more pleasure-centered of Cyril Benson’s two
businesses.

The ballroom was an enormous
chamber with shining chandeliers, a marble floor, and walls covered
with mirrors cut into intricate designs. An ice sculpture of the
hotel adorned a tabletop and the bar took up an entire wall of the
place.

Upon a platform stood the
table at which were seated the mayor and his party of former mayors
and other prominent officials, as well as the Crown ownership and
Cyril Benson. Everyone else was relegated to the floor of the
ballroom where tables had been set up evenly spaced along the
perimeter, leaving a generous open dance floor. Few of the guests
had sat down yet, most of them still milling about, mingling,
greeting each other and looking to see who had shown up with who
and who was wearing what.

Monroe took a glass of wine
offered by a passing tray-bearing waiter. He did not intend to
drink it, but decided he’d look less like he was inspecting
everyone around him if he had something in his hand. He turned his
gaze first to the figures on the raised platform, particularly
Cyril Benson. Benson was fifty-seven years old, a fact Monroe knew
not by visual estimate but from an article he had read online
earlier in the day. Benson was a thick man, the sort who carried
weight that had once been tough muscle but had long since turned to
a ring of lazy fat. His face was still a handsome one though, and
there was only a speckling of gray in his otherwise dark hair. The
nose was wide and the lips were full, the sort of face that could
look mean as a bulldog when intimidation was necessary. But now, in
a mask proper for the occasion and the media, it had curved into a
pleasant, generous jolliness that was just a big beard short of a
Santa smile. Monroe understood that sort of changeable face: men
who looked like Cyril Benson tended to get what they wanted most of
the time, and severely punish those who failed them on the other
occasions. Monroe also noticed that Benson, alone among the
important figures on the dais, did not have a female companion.
Benson was unmarried, but could probably have had his pick from
among many single women in Boston unless, Monroe guessed, something
was well-known enough in society circles to make respectable women
avoid close company with the magnate. Monroe also guessed that
Benson would not mind the lack of formal companionship if he
could—as most men who run escort empires can—make use of his live
merchandise when, where, and how he pleased.

Monroe decided quickly and
definitively that he disliked Cyril Benson. That opinion now formed
in granite, he turned his attention to the rest of the party. His
skills at observation and quick judgments were still there and he
was able to pick out with a glance which of the attendees had spent
time in prison, which had military service in their pasts, which
were used to getting what they wanted and which were the servants
and underlings who groveled beneath the wills of their stronger
masters. Monroe knew who would be a threat in a confrontation and
who would be easy to take down. And he not only scoped out the room
for potential dangers, but appreciatively inspected the many female
guests, with his eyes only of course—for now at least.

The mayor made a speech, the
usual empty gibberish common to such occasions. Cyril Benson nodded
throughout the mayor’s words and then uttered a few of his own,
doing his best to sound sincere, but Monroe, with trained and
practiced ears, almost cringed at the undercurrent of conceit and
venom in Benson’s voice.

Quickly growing bored with
the hot air of politicians and crooked businessmen, Monroe looked
away from the dignitaries and scanned the crowd again. That was
when
she
entered the room. She was fashionably late, it
seemed, and knew how to make an entrance. Spencer Archer had been
right on all counts: she did have what the car thief had called a
“killer body.” Athletic, lithe, expertly sculpted in all the right
ways with no one particular area overshadowing the others. Her face
was a sweet one but with the potential for severity and confidence,
with a glittering diamond of a smile just below a naturally
well-shaped nose which in turn sat beneath a pair of eyes that were
the shade of roasted almonds, deep brown and warm. Her skin was
pale but with a healthy red glow that required very little makeup.
And, just as Archer had said, the hair was what made the picture so
striking. It was pure white and looked oddly, ethereally enchanting
as it flowed down the shoulders to frame a face that Monroe
estimated to be somewhere in the range of twenty-seven to
thirty-two with certainty that he could narrow that number down
when he got close enough to take a better look. She was indeed
startling in appearance. Her attire was well-chosen, too: a tight,
strapless evening gown of dark purple that bordered on black but
did not cross the line. She wore little jewelry, just a simple gold
bracelet on one wrist and a matching band around one ankle. Her
shoes were high-heeled but not exaggeratedly steep, with closed
toes and a color that matched the dress exactly. She carried a
small handbag, also the color of purple flirting with black. Every
man in the room, with the exception of an elderly gentleman with a
white cane and dark glasses, turned to steal at least a quick
glance at the white-haired angel who had strolled in to grace the
gathering with her presence. Monroe forced himself to look away for
an instant lest he become too mesmerized to keep his mind on the
mission. He took a sip of his wine, which could have been a lot
better than it was, and then went back to watching her walk across
the room. She nodded to several people as she passed, glances of
familiarity being exchanged. In the background, the mayor was
making a few further remarks, but Monroe was tuning it
out.

Once the mayor shut up,
dinner was served. Monroe was seated at a table with a reporter,
two attorneys, and a police captain and his wife. Monroe ate
sparingly. Although the food was good and probably would have cost
a small fortune had he actually been paying for it in a restaurant,
he did not want the dragging tiredness that can come with a full
stomach, so he ate just enough to satisfy his hunger without
overdoing it. Monroe made small talk with the reporter, a fiftyish
man with curly hair. The cop and the lawyers seemed to know each
other so they conversed while ignoring the two strangers. Monroe
was fine with that; he would have rather talked to the reporter
anyway since lawyers are paid to keep their mouths shut and cops
are careful what they say, especially in rooms full of brass. But
reporters live to share information.


How’d you get on the list?”
the reporter asked.


I haven’t a clue,” Monroe
lied. “I just recently set up shop in Boston, haven’t made many
friends yet, and here comes this fancy invitation in the mail a few
days ago. So I ran out, got myself a new tux, and here I am eating
stuff I couldn’t afford to order and listening to the mayor making
useless noise.”


Useless noise,” the
reporter repeated, “I guess you’re a Republican, huh?”


No,” Monroe answered, “I
love my country…and I think the two-party system is one of the
biggest messes it’s ever gotten itself into. I can’t judge issues
in bunches; I’d much rather make up my mind one problem at a time.
So if I vote, it’s for the candidate and not the party.”


Understood,” the reporter
nodded. “So what kind of business are you in?”

Monroe decided to dodge the
question. A man in a naturally inquisitive profession like his new
press friend was likely to ask more questions than Monroe had lies
to cover. He put down his fork, leaned just an inch closer to the
reporter to make it seem like a personal conversation, as if they
were old friends, and posed a question of his own.


Tell me, since you seem to
know who’s who and what’s what in this city: who in the world is
that stunning creature with the snow-white mane?”

The reporter laughed. It was
a loud whoop at first but he quieted himself when the cop across
the table shot him a dirty look for squeaking like that. “She does
get noticed a lot, so I’m not surprised she caught your eye. It’s
funny: she has hair like that, which can’t be natural at her age so
she’s got to be fishing for attention, yet she never seems to bring
a date to any of these big events. Does she look for attention just
for the fun of turning men away? What a bitch, don’t you
think?”

BOOK: Nobody Dies For Free
8.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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