Archer's tough exterior finally cracked, but it wasn't something I said or did. Not really. I had been trying to get an emotional response, but he seemed as impenetrable as I was. In the end, I thought, maybe that was a good thing.
However, he came right out and asked me about not carrying a gun. I gave him my traditional answer, but that wasn't good enough. He seemed to know that there was more to it than that. He knew my partner had been shot, and he also was aware that my partner had not been carrying a gun at the time.
He didn't know the whole story, though. He only knew what had been published in the Houston Chronicle. For a while I had saved that article myself, but eventually I had to get rid of it. That was one of my first steps I took to try to move on, make a life after the event.
We would have to talk more about that incident. It pained me to think about, but it would come up again. I couldn't avoid it forever. But, I could avoid it for a while because this lady walked in.
"Hello," I said slowly.
Bruce was right behind her. "Sorry, Mista Carter. She insisted on seeing you."
"That's okay, Bruce. She can come in." I motioned for her to have a seat next to Archer. I sat back down in my chair.
"What is your name, maam?" I asked.
"And, what can I do for you?" My questions were dry, but this was a dry business. There wasn't much room for small talk, not with clients anyway. Archer and I would have plenty of small talk, and that wasn't always a good thing.
"I need your help," she said, reaching into her purse. She pulled out a picture and laid it on the desk. "My husband has been kidnapped."
I gazed at the picture and then back at her. I believed her. The guy in the picture was probably her husband. You couldn't always tell. Some people wanted to scam you. As long as I got paid and you didn't kill me - or my partner, I didn't care.
"Now, my service is not cheap. Can you afford me?" Getting this part of the process done early relieved a lot of headache.
"You wouldn't do it for little ole me?" she asked, batting her eyes.
I could tell she was joking, so I shook my head slightly, smiling. "There's only two women in this world that can get me to work for free. My mother and my sister. Sadly, you are neither."
She laughed. "That's okay, Mr. Carter. Money is no problem. In fact, I think it was for my money that my husband was kidnapped."
"Why don't you tell us more?"
She looked over at Archer with worried eyes. "I'm sorry," I said. "This is Archer Houston, my associate. Anything you can tell me he can hear."