Chapter 18

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Werner Gunther stood at the window of his fifth-floor Baltimore office and lifted one of the slats of his closed blinds to peer out at the street below. The afternoon sun beamed against the windowpane. He squinted to study the people walking on the sidewalk.

Where was his appointment?

Cartel members were notorious for being late. For that reason, he hated doing business with them but loved their under-the-table cash payments for his services.

The man who was coming to see him today wanted to enlist Gunther to track down a mid-level dealer who had stolen a great deal of cash from him. He promised a handsome payment if Gunther could retrieve the cash, and an even more generous payment if Gunther would do the hit for him.

Not a problem. He had a long track record fixing problems like this one. He just needed to meet up with the man to find out the target.

If the guy would ever show up.

His friend and long-time associate, Roscoe Meade, stepped into his office. Meade was a good man, detail-oriented, cool under pressure. He was also large and muscle-bound. Good for the kind of work they needed to do.

"What's up? Is he here?"

Meade shook his head and wore a crooked smile. He spoke in a low tone. "In a million years, you could never guess who just walked into our office."

Gunther didn't like unexpected surprises. "Who?"

"Uh, uh," Meade said. "I ain't saying. I want to see the shocked expression on your face."

Who could it be? "All right, show him in, but interrupt me when our other appointment gets here."

"Ain't a he," Meade said. "It's a she." He looked over his shoulder to the person behind him in the reception area and spoke in a louder tone. "The boss will see you now."

Gunther watched the door in anticipation. It wasn't often a woman crossed his threshold. She seemed familiar, but he couldn't place her. An older woman, looking to be in her fifties, yet she still had a nice, toned body. He extended his hand. "I'm Werner Gunther."

The woman hesitated but took his hand. She seemed nervous. "My name is Natalya Henson."

A chill ran along his spine. Natalya Henson? Now he recognized her. What the hell was she doing here? From behind Mrs. Henson, out of her line-of-sight, Meade made a finger gun and shot him. He smiled and left them, closing the door behind him. Gunther wanted his clients to believe all meetings were private, but it was standard procedure for his associate to listen in from the next room via a hidden communication system.

He pointed to a visitor chair. "Have a seat."

She did so. While he walked around his desk to take his own seat, Gunther tried making sense of her visit. The fact she came here meant a serious screw up had occurred. Information had leaked. The kind of leak that could get people killed. He wouldn't let her leave until he found out what she knew and how she knew it.

He sat and leaned forward, rested his arms on his desk and locked his eyes with hers. "What can I do for you, Mrs. Henson?"

"I understand you're a good private detective."

He pasted a smile on his face. "Oh? Who did you hear that from?"

She paused and didn't answer his question. Instead, she said, "I want to hire you to find my missing husband."

"Sorry. I'm not in the business of tracking down missing husbands."

"I suppose you're in the business of making husbands go missing."

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