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The Hidden Vice: Chapter 1

December 25
by
Jessie Barra
in
Creative Outlets
with
.

Chapter 1

Again? Seriously? I thought to myself as I watched my target through the smoke-filled bar. He’d been sitting in the same sticky corner booth for the last three hours, and my patience was wearing thin.


As the waitress left him and delivered a third apple martini to the blond twenty-something in a tight black dress sitting alone at the end of the bar, I groaned and slumped on my stool, hidden at the bar.

I wanted to go over and tell him that no girl who looked like that was going to be interested in a prematurely balding forty-three year old with a nose the size of Mount Rushmore, but I’d be wasting my breath. At least the young woman in question was getting free drinks out of it. I’d been sipping on water for the last two hours, and the bartender was starting to get irritated.

As the drink was delivered, the girl gave my mark a polite nod, but then quickly turned back around. As his shoulders slumped, I stifled a laugh at how out of his depth this man was.

Wishing he would get the hint that he wasn’t going to score tonight and go home, I fidgeted in my seat, trying to shake the pins and needles out of my lower half. These bar stools were anything but comfortable.

Glancing at him out of the corner of my eye, I wondered how a man like that ended up with a woman like the one who came into my office last week.

I was hired by Little-Miss-Trophy-Wife to follow her husband around, but I’m not sure why she was bothering to pay my considerable fee for the man in front of me. Mr. Bradshaw here wasn’t even getting a second glance from the single women in this place or any other bar he’d visited this week. Not that it was surprising. He made a rather pathetic image in his rumpled grey suit and stained white shirt that he’d worn three days in a row.

Maybe I was a pessimist when it came to love, but my job as a private investigator didn’t really leave room for a romantic side. Watching married men and women screw the mistress or hooker or random guy in the bar bathroom for a living made you loose the drive to find someone who was just as likely to love you as they were to screw you over.

The bartender came to stand in front of me, and with an irritated look on his face, he asked, “Can I get you anything stronger?” Not knowing how many more beers Mr. Bradshaw was going to guzzle down before finally giving up the chase, I nodded and said, “Scotch. Straight up.”

Looking a little more relaxed, he nodded and prepared my drink. As he set the glass in front of me, I took a small sip before cradling it in my hands.

The alcohol slowly moved down my throat, spreading warmth through my tired, hidden limbs.

Enjoying the sensation, I let a small smile play about my lips before looking back at Mr. Bradshaw.

He sat there, twirling his wedding ring around his finger, and the look on his face made a wave of pity flow through me. It must be hard to be so completely miserable in a relationship that you’d rather come to a dive like this than go home.

People needed to choose their partners more carefully. It seemed to me that too many people confused lust with love, and then when the novelty wore off, they found themselves chained to a person they couldn’t stand to spend five minutes with – let alone a lifetime.

Suddenly, I felt the warmth of someone’s sour breath on my neck, shaking me out of me cynical thoughts, and I turned my head to look.

A relatively attractive man with dark brown hair that curled around his ears and fell just above his eyebrows was leaning way too close to me. His eyes were a dark chocolate brown, rather common, and the black biker jacket he had on looked brand new as it caught the neon lights above the bar.

He’d clearly had a few, and the slight tilt to his lean frame reminded me of a scarecrow slowly tipping over as the string holding him up came loose.

His breath smelled like beer and cigar smoke when he said, “Hey beautiful. Can I buy you a drink?”

Rolling my eyes, I looked at him and replied, “No thanks. I’m good.”

“Oh come on,” he said gently, running his fingers up my arm. “We could have a good time together.”

Irritation flickered through me at the unwanted physical contact, and I turned a bit more toward him. Looking down at his hand, I noticed the slightest tan line on his ring finger and felt ill. How could people be so callous? When I eventually found love, I wouldn’t be so quick to throw it away. As I looked back up into his eyes, the drunken grin I saw there made me angry.

Putting on my best impression of an interested woman who’d had a few too many drinks, I leaned forward slightly and asked, “What’s your name, handsome?”

“Mark Braxton,” he said quickly, picking up on my change in mood as he continued to lightly touch my skin.

“What did you have in mind, Mark?” I asked, arching my back so his gaze dipped to my chest.

Getting excited, he stepped in close, put his hands on my hips, and replied, “Anything, everything.”

Giving him a fake smile, I leaned in close and whispered, “I have a feeling your wife wouldn’t like that too much.”

As his head kicked back like I’d punched him, his smile disappeared, and his face contorted into an angry grimace. “That’s none of your business, bitch,” he shot back.

His intended insult didn’t faze me in the slightest, and I sighed, “Why don’t you just go back to your buddies over there, and I’ll forget to call your wife?”

“Bitch!” he said again before stomping back to his snickering friends sitting across the bar. Watching him leave in a huff, I thought to myself, Why don’t guys ever see the ‘don’t mess with me’ sign I keep on my forehead? It would save everyone a whole lot of hassle.

It’s not like my worn out jeans with rips at the knees and teal tank top screamed ‘fuck me’ like the small excuse for a dress that Mr. Bradshaw’s blond had on.

Shaking my head one more time as Mr. Braxton glared at me through the smoke filled air, I looked back toward my target, and I was instantly shocked when I found his booth empty.

Quickly getting to my feet in disbelief, I scanned the rest of the bar, but I didn’t see him. Shit, I thought. Please tell me I didn’t lose him. Making my way outside, I looked for his five series BMW in the parking lot and breathed a sigh of relief when it was still parked in its spot by the curb. I would have never lived it down if I’d lost my mark because some drunken asshole was hitting on me.

Turning back to the bar, I stopped short when I found Mr. Bradshaw leaning with one hand on the side of the building, relieving himself as he struggled not to fall over. Quickly turning away, I closed my eyes and sighed.

The high point of my night was watching a man commit a misdemeanor. I must be the least social twenty-four-year-old that I knew.

Most of the time following cheaters and liars around instead of doing any of the weirdly acceptable activities for a girl in her twenties didn’t bother me. My work was my life and, for me, that was enough. I flirted and dated when I wanted, but for the most part, a boyfriend just took time that I didn’t have.

Glancing over my shoulder and seeing Mr. Bradshaw finishing up, I tucked myself out of sight between two cars, wrapping the shadows around me, as I watched him make his way over to his car and fumble with his keys. I knew I should probably stop him from driving in his condition, but it would compromise my cover.

I stood there for a few more seconds, considering my options, but when he dropped the keys on the ground, I knew I couldn’t just let him get behind the wheel.

Groaning, I made my way toward him, and hoped he was too drunk to remember my face tomorrow.

As he saw me, he stumbled back a step and then looked over my body with appreciation.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hey there,” I replied sweetly.

“Where are you off to in such a hurry?”

Slurring his words, he said, “I was just going home.”

“That’s too bad,” I replied, pouting as I tried to act like I was interested.

“I was going to offer to buy you a drink.”

“Really?” he asked, a bit shocked, but then the alcohol kicked in and he smiled.

As he looked down at my chest one more time, I saw a spark of lust come into his eyes, and a wave of disgust rolled through me. You’re married!

I wanted to scream at him, but I held my tongue. Trying to hide my reaction, I took his hand and started walking back toward the bar.

Finally getting him through the door and back into the smoke filled building, I looked back at him, and with a forced smile, said, “Why don’t you go find us a booth and I’ll be right there?”

“You got it sweetheart,” he replied, a bigger grin filling his face. Leaning toward me slightly, he reached around and pinched my ass before stumbling his way back over to the corner booth. After he was out of earshot, I made a gagging sound and wrinkled my nose in revulsion. Even that small touch felt like a violation, and I immediately wanted a shower to wash the smoke and sweat off my skin.

Turning back to the bartender, I leaned across the bar and said, “That man over there was about to drive off, but I don’t think he’s sober enough to be trusted behind the wheel. You might want to take his keys so he doesn’t kill himself.”

Nodding his head, the bartender made his way over to the booth, and as Mr. Bradshaw started to yell, I knew it would be safe to leave him for the night.

If he didn’t end up in jail for throwing a punch, he’d be put in a cab headed home. Turning around, I made my way outside to my car as a wave of exhaustion swept through me. I thought about how amazing my pillow was going to feel when I got home, and my lips curved up into a tired smile.

The drive down to my apartment on Buffalo didn’t take very long at 12:20 AM, and before long I was making my way up the two flights of stairs to my apartment as the sounds of Mr. and Mrs. Petrovos’ evening fight filled the air.

Thanking my lucky stars that someone thought to double insulate the walls in my building, I shook my head at their bickering and slid my key into the lock. I lived in a sweet spot between two of the more rundown neighborhoods near downtown Las Vegas, so my rent was really cheap without giving up on the quality of the apartment, and I loved it.


As I walked inside and the warm smell of vanilla filled my nose, I closed and locked the door behind me quickly. Slowly stripping off my clothes as I went, I walked through the living room, making a trail of clothes from the front door into the bedroom. Falling into my bed, I closed my eyes as the soft sheets enveloped me and I reached sweet oblivion.

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