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Author's Chapter Notes:
I have no beta. That's my excuse and I'm stickin to it.
Katie Spencer got into her car tossing her purse onto the passenger seat. She started up the engine and pulled out of the parking lot and onto the city street where her office was located. She had gotten a great deal on rent but the place was a bit of a dump. She couldn’t afford much else though, taking so much pro bono work didn’t really leave much left over to pay for fancy office space.

She didn’t regret it much though, well... except on nights like this when the hoodlums were out on the street in full force. Every traffic light you stopped at someone approached the car trying to sell you drugs. One was knocking on her passenger window now. She shook her head, “No thanks man.” she told him and he backed up nonplused and walked to the car behind her.

Yeah.. having a PI office in the ghetto had disadvantages, but helping single mothers track down deadbeats who lied to try and get out of paying for their own children?

Priceless.

She could deal with drug dealers, bums and the occasional drive by. She wore a vest most of the time anyway.

For extra cash she took on some car repos, high ends jobs where they were good at hiding and the bank was desperate to get the car back. Drug dealers were infamous for lying on credit apps and then never paying a single dime on their Mercedes. The vest came in handy for those jobs.

It kept the phones turned on and the rent paid.

She WAS good at her job, and turned down a lot of high end corporate work. She wouldn’t have as much time with her charity jobs and so the ghetto was where she would stay.

Katie drove the hour out of the city into a more rural area that she called home. Gas was expensive, but still cheaper than nice office space. She liked the hour drive anyway. She listened to music and sang along, the only time she’d EVER sing out loud.

Ever.

She pulled into her driveway and thought she saw a dark shape on her porch that moved quickly as her headlights swept over the porch. Katie nonchalantly grabbed her purse, her Glock on top and headed towards her homestead.

She was fiercely protective of her homestead and was not a bit happy about someone creeping around and hiding.

“Miss Spencer?” she heard and elderly voice say behind her.

Behind her?’

Katie whirled around weapon ready and pointed at the elderly man. She felt a little embarrassed about pointing a gun at an old guy but then remembered he had somehow managed to leave the porch and get behind her. He was probably wearing a disguise. Con men did that a lot she knew. Hell SHE did that on more than one occasion.

“Who’s askin?” she demanded to know from the eerily nimble old man. He had long white hair and a neatly trimmed white beard.

“My apologies my dear. I startled you.” he said apologetically and she could swear his eyes twinkled in the moon light.

Twinkled?

“You have a name?” she asked not lowering her weapon.

“Better. I have a job.” he said smiling mischievously.

“A job.” she repeated.

“Yes. A job.” he said again. “My name is Mr. White.”

Funny. No really. Mr. White had to be the worst alias she had ever heard in the history of her career.

He chuckled. “Yes. I was correct. You are the person for this job.” he seemed delighted.

“Look I really don’t do corporate gigs.” she sighed holstering her weapon now. He was wearing a damned expensive suit and some kind of seriously fancy ass cane. She thought maybe it was made of real gold at the top.

“This is no corporate gig. It IS a matter of life and death.” he said grimly now, losing all traces of his earlier mirth.

“Life and death?” Katie asked intrigued now. Now he was talking.

He regarded her carefully for a minute. “Why do you help them?” he asked curiously.

‘Who?” she asked confused.

“Those women. The ones who cannot pay for your services.” he said.

She studied him for a minute now. He had done some homework on her. “If I don’t then who will?” she asked him.

He gave her a look as if something dawned on him that he hadn’t considered. “Yes of course.” he said then. “May we go inside? I am unarmed.” he said holding his hands up as if to show her.

Katie decided her mother would crawl under a rug at Katie’s awful manners. “Yes, please come inside.” she told him. She used her keys and unlocked the door and showed him inside. “I have a small office if you’d like to discuss things in there.” she offered.

“Oh a fireplace. Can we sit here instead?” he asked seeming to be delighted about her fireplace.

“Sure.” Katie agreed. Whatever made the client the most comfortable was her motto. Comfortable clients tended to not forget small things that turned out to be important details later on in the game.

She offered him a cup of tea, though she had no idea why she would offer hot tea as a beverage. She only drank it when she was sick, and usually offered coffee or soda. He immediately accepted her offer and Katie found herself in her kitchen looking for something he requested called Earl Grey. Her mother has sent her some kind of tea sampler once which she had ignored since she hadn’t been sick lately, and sure enough, there were two tea bags of Earl grey.

Katie set the water to boil and her client called to her from her living room then. “Have you been to all these places?” he asked having clearly discovered her little scrapbook/collage that was on the wall. She went out while the water was heating.

“Yes actually. I did a lot of traveling with my mentor, he did huge corporate cases that took me all over.” she explained.

“Yet...you do not take such cases now.” he pointed out.

“It takes time to work those properly. Sometimes months of surveillance. I wouldn’t be able to take on the pro bono cases.” she explained.

“Ah. Of course.” he said like he understood. If he did then he was in the minority. Her entire family though she was nuts when she quit her six figure salary to open her own agency in the ghetto of a dying city once famous for it’s booming steel mill trade. Luckily she had bought the house and paid it off before she went into that venture. If not, she wouldn’t have been able to afford it.

Her mentor was also upset, he had hoped she’d stay with him and eventually be a partner. He was looking to retire and she did feel bad about that. He’d have to find someone else to run things. He didn’t have children and she did still call him from time to time to check on him. He tried to talk her into coming back to New York every time though.

She heard the kettle whistle then. She was about to ask how he wanted his tea when he answered. “Just a little sugar please.” he requested politely.

Katie went in to the kitchen and fixed them each a cup of tea, she made hers like his figuring she’d give it a try. She was nothing if not adventurous.

“So you..jumped from a plane?” he asked pointing to a picture on the wall.

Katie laughed. “Yes I’ve gone up a few times. It’s great for helping me put my life into perspective.” she explained. “That’s when I decided to leave New York and start up my own agency. Plummeting to the earth. I got so excited when the idea hit me that I almost forgot to open my chute.” she admitted.

He seemed delighted with her story, though most people just gave her a funny look.

He was different, there was no doubt. She still felt like he was just pretending to be an old man though, and watched for some sign his fake beard was coming off. So far nothing.

“The job I have may be dangerous.” he said then peering at her over his cup of tea and inhaling it’s fragrance. Katie tried it and she thought it smelled a little like roses.

“Danger’s relative to my job. Go on.” she urged him to get to the point so she could accept or reject.

“One of my very closest friends have gone missing.” he said then looking worried. “I fear foul play.”

“You call the cops?” she asked.

“It is not a matter for the police.” he said calmly. “I need him located and returned home as quickly as possible.”

“He a criminal?” she asked flatly. Why else not call five-o?

“No. He is no criminal. However he is not a legal American citizen.” he admitted.

“An illegal alien?” she asked incredulously. “Gonna be tough. Where was the last place you saw him?” she asked him and took a sip of her tea. Illegal meant no paper trail. At all.

He chuckled as if it were a joke of some kind. He was an odd bird. One second worried and the next laughing about it.

“I am certain that the last place he was in was Queens, New York. However that was about a week ago and I cannot locate where he has gone after that.” he explained.

‘When was the last time YOU talked to him?” she asked suspiciously. He was avoiding her question.

“Many... many years ago.” he sighed. “More than I can count.”

“Okay so you fell out of touch. Doesn’t mean he’s missing.” she said carefully knowing in her gut there was a hell of a lot more to this story just like there was a hell of a lot more to this supposedly old man. Her internal bullshit detector was screaming like mad now.

“He may be experiencing..confusion.” he said hesitantly. “I fear for his safety.”

“Confusion. He a mental patient?” she asked now.

“Yes. That is correct.” the old man said looking relieved about it for some reason.

“Okay...so I track him down and what?” she asked. “Turn him back in to the hospital?”

“No. I will need your assistance in returning him home.” Mr. White said now. “I believe you are the only person for this job.”

“Well where is home?” Katie asked wanting all the details.

“For now I will need you to bring him back to me. I will be staying in the city near your office.” he said standing up.

“That’s a rough neighborhood. You better let me find you a better hotel.” she said.

He seemed amused by her concern for his safety. “I shall be quite well my dear. We should discuss payment.” he suggested now.

A hard case that helped out a confused mental patient had intrigued Katie so much she had nearly forgotten that important detail. ‘Right.” Plane tickets to New York weren’t cheap.

“Actually my friend has a fear of flying. You will need to drive.” he told her just as she was thinking about a plane ticket. Odd. “In case he needs transported back here.”

“Drive. To New York City.” she repeated. It would take her about eight hours.

“Yeah Okay I can do that.” she agreed. She hoped her car could do that.

“Money is no object.” Mr White said now.

“Money is always an object Mr. White.” she informed him and he chuckled.

“Yes these days I suppose it is.” he said taking out a checkbook and writing inside of it. He tore it off and handed it to her. “This should be enough to cover expenses and your time to start with.” he said.

Katie looked wide eyed at the amount. He just handed her a check for twenty thousand dollars. “I told you it was no object, and I must have my friend returned to me safely.” he explained.

He handed her another piece of paper then. It was an address of his last know location and a name. “Aragorn Arathornson?” she asked. Man his life probably sucked on the playground.

Plus how the hell did he ever learn to spell it?

Mr. White chuckled. “He will mostly likely answer to Aragorn or his nickname Strider.” he explained. “I regret I do not have a picture, but a drawing only.”

He handed her a sketch that was expertly done. It was almost as good as a picture. “Yeah okay I can work with this.” she said somewhat excited about the complicated case.

“I believe you can. You have the blood of an expert tracker in your veins, Miss Spencer. I have faith you will find my friend quickly. Before any damage is done.” he said somewhat ominously.

“Damage?” she asked.

“He must return home.” he said simply. “If not...the results could be disastrous.”

Okay...drama queen.

‘Sure thing Mr. White. I will leave first thing in the morning. I just need a few hours sleep and I’ll get on the road.” she assured him.

“Thank you for accepting this job and forgiving my rudeness at showing up on your doorstep at such a late hour.” he apologized sincerely.

“As long as your check clears Mr. White, you can show up on my doorstep whenever you wish.”she told him. He chuckled as she handed him a business card. “Do you have a number where I can reach you once I acquire your friend?” she asked him.

“I will call you once you have him.” he said looking confident about it.

“Uh..okay.” Katie said wondering how he could do that but not really caring as long as the check cleared.

She could work pro bono for the next year easy now.

“You know..Kings often think more of those around them than of themselves. Well the great ones, anyway. It is both a blessing and a curse.” he said looking like he was lost in thought.

“Okay well then...be careful going back to the city.” she told him abruptly and walking the odd old man out.

“Yes of course.” he said smiling. “Maybe someday you will understand.”

“Maybe.” she said with a false upbeat attitude. He was maybe as mental as his friend and she wasn’t going anywhere until she knew his check was good.


He seemed more amused and chuckled again. “Good luck. May the Valar be with you.” he said sounding like a weird version of Star Wars.

Katie resisted the urge to sigh. There would be no job. He was just a nutty old man with a nice suit and fake checks. Just freaking great.

“Good night then.” she said as she closed the door.

“Good night my lady.” he said gallantly.

Katie closed the door and locked every lock in case he tried to get back inside to talk about the “force” or something. She gave a nice long loud sigh.

“Sweet Jesus I attract crazies.”

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