Ted Ogden hated his life. Nothing he was supposed to have ever worked out. Instead everyone always expected more from him than anyone could possibly give.
Get a good job? You’ve got to get a better one. Get a hot wife? Now you’ve got to have kids. Got a family? Better start raking in the big bucks because there’s college and cars and vacations and on and on and on. Every time you thought you’d won, every time you thought you were finally better than the competition, another problem would rise up to cut you down.
Ted was done with that though.
He spun into a hard stop that left his car straddling two spaces in front of the Silver Crescent hotel. They’d tow him if he stayed like that but it wasn’t going to matter. His business was going to be over nice and quick and then he’d never have to worry about any of the hassles that were plaguing his life anymore.
Pulling on a fresh pair of gloves, he grabbed his briefcase off the passenger’s seat, flung the car door open, and marched into the hotel’s lobby. The elevator wasn’t ready for him. Of course. He punched the button for the 8th floor and ignored the receptionists “Can I help you sir?” question. He didn’t have time to waste on peons. Room 808 was were his problem was and all he had to do was deal with it and move on.
Six other people joined him at the elevator before it finally opened up, and each one of them punched in a different floor. Ted gritted his teeth and fumed as they stopped at every floor. Every time the doors opened he had to wait for people to figure out it was where they needed to be and extricate themselves. By the time it was his turn to exit, his blood pressure was high enough to burst a steel pipe, but it didn’t matter. He knew just how to calm down. Eliminate a problem or two and the world always seemed a lot better.
He checked his briefcase. It only held one thing, but that was all that he needed to conclude this meeting. He smiled at thought. Always best to keep things simple.
“You’re late,” the Latino girl who opened the door to Room 808 said after he knocked. Like he cared. Like he was supposed to march to their time table.
“You’re asking for a lot of money,” Ted said. “That takes time.”
He wasn’t carrying any money, but the dead lady walking didn’t need to know that.
“We’re glad you choose to join us, Mr. Ogden,” a white haired woman said. She was sitting on a coach beside a younger Asian lady. There was a laptop open on the low table that was in between the couch they were sitting on and the couch facing them where the Latino girl was leading Ted. The rest of the hotel room was an open plan, except for the bathroom near the door which Ted could see was empty.
That was perfect. Three of them and not a gun in sight. The idiots seemed like they thought this really was going to go down like a simple business deal.
“It’s not like I had a lot of choice right?” he said
“People make all kinds of poor choices all the time.” The old lady’s voice had the hint of an accent. Russian maybe? If she’d been younger, Ted would have been all over that, but he didn’t like his hookups to be past their 30 year expiration date. Any older and they got all wrinkly in his view.
“Poor choices? Yeah, I see a lot of those too,” Ted said. “Speaking of which, you said you had something I had to see right?”
“Yes. As we mentioned there is some video footage from Judge Klairborn’s office on the night of his murder that you’ll be interested in,” the Asian woman said.
“And how’d you get this footage?” Ted asked, sitting on the couch but keeping his briefcase at his side.
“Hidden surveillance camera,” the Asian woman said.
“That’s illegal,” Ted said, trying to wriggle out of being caught even though he had no intention of leaving anything unfinished by the time he exited the room.
“Yes it is,” the Russian woman said. “Judge Klairborn was ruling on some matters that interested our client however and people who play by the rules get left behind.”
She was preaching to the choir on that point as far as Ted was concerned.
“Why didn’t the cops pick this up then?” he asked.
“They did,” the Russian woman said. “But we have friends in a lot of places. The recording you’re about to see was stored on a drive within the camera, which, officially, is still in police custody. It hasn’t been reviewed yet as part of the case, and if our business concludes satisfactorily it never will be. Otherwise the drive will be returned to the police lockup and they’ll receive a tip to review it tomorrow morning.”
“You can’t use illegal recordings in a court case,” Ted said, quoting something he thought he’d heard on a TV show somewhere.
“That’s true for cases of entrapments,” the Asian woman said. “Interesting legal tidbit though, because it wasn’t the police or the government surveilling Klairborn, the recording we made can be entered in as evidence. Same as with footage from store security cams, or ATM monitoring devices.”
Ted had heard of ATM footage being entered in cases but he had no idea if that was true for criminal surveillance too. Whether it was or wasn’t didn’t matter though, he couldn’t allow the recording they to be seen by anyone else.
“And just what does this recording show?” Ted asked.
“See for yourself,” the Asian woman said, and turned the laptop to him.
A video window on the laptop showed a black and white scene of the judge’s office. In the video, Judge Klairborn sat in his chair, blind folded and struggling with his bonds as a figure about Ted’s size stripped a broken wire down to bare copper and then taped it to Klairborn’s chest.
Ted watched as the figure went back to the wall and plugged the wire in. The lights flickered as a surge of electricity stopped the Judge’s heart like a hit from a freight train.
Something seemed weird about the scene. The timing was a little off, and the movements sort of alien somehow. When the figure turned to look into the camera though, all of Ted’s doubts were swept away.
He was staring at himself on the screen.
He couldn’t remember the infinitesimal details of how things had gone but he couldn’t deny his own face.
They had him dead to rights.
Proof positive that he was Klairborn’s killer.
They could ruin everything.
Unless he ruined them first.
“That’s a bit of something you’ve got there, that’s for sure,” he said, gripping the handle of the briefcase even tighter. “How do I know you’re going to delete the copies you have though? Seems to me like this is a lot of money to pay for a product you can just keep reselling.”
“Any copies of this drive would be useless,” the Russian woman said. “With no chain of evidence to back them up, and no legal right to exist, it would be impossible to prove a copy wasn’t just a clever digital forgery.”
“I guess that’s all I needed to know then,” he said and pulled the handgun from his briefcase. It felt nice and heavy in his gloved hand. Powerful. Just like he was supposed to be.
The Russian woman didn’t seem impressed.
She was an idiot, but a scary looking one Ted had to admit.
Klairborn had been better. He’d been impressed with having a gun shoved in his face. One moment all ‘you can’t be in here’ and then next all nice and scared enough that he’d left himself be tied up, blindfolded and gagged. Probably never guessed what was really going to happen to him.
“I see you didn’t bring the money,” the Russian woman said. “What’s your plan? Kill us the same as you killed Judge Klairborn?”
“Nah,” Ted said, lying. “You said it yourself. I don’t need to kill you. Once I have that drive no one will ever be able to prove what I did. I’m just going to tie you up so you don’t make any trouble for me.”
Klairborn had believed the story. When it was that or get shot in the face, Ted guessed that everyone would choose to believe what he was saying.
“And if we resist?” the Russian woman asked.
“Then you get the same as Klairborn got,” Ted said.
“I don’t know,” the Asian woman said. “That looked kind of sloppy on the video. More like a crime of passion. Do you really have what it takes to kill someone in cold blood?”
“Please? I started planning Klairborn’s death the minute my ex went off on him,” Ted said, affronted that anyone would think a murder he’d gotten away with was poorly executed. “The pathetic twit could have caught me lurking in his closet at any point before Tessa came in, but did he even think to check? No, because he was an idiot, just like you three are.
The Latino woman was still standing to the side of the couch he was sitting on, but she had her hands raised like a good little robbery victim. He’d take care of her last, he decided.
“You killed Judge Klairborn in cold blood just to frame your wife?” the Russian woman asked. “Are you sure that wasn’t a crime of passion? It seems like a lot of work to go to for a custody battle.”
“It wasn’t about getting custody,” Ted said, anger starting to boil his already overheated blood. “I killed Klairborn because my ex made it so damn easy to. You think coming up with a plan like ‘plug him into the wall’ was a hard thing to do? No. What was hard was getting Tessa to show up there at the right time. She never did anything I told her to do right. Once she was played her part though? Oh killing Klairborn was simple as hell. And watching Tessa get dragged away for it? Pure heaven. I hope she rots in jail forever after what she did to me.”
“And what did your ex-wife do to you that warranted premeditated murder?” the Russian woman asked.
“She left me. She made a promise, she was supposed to be mine forever, and she had the gall to say we were done. Well, I’m the one who gets to decide that. Not her. So, yeah, now I’m done with her.”
“Sounds like you wanted to kill her too,” the Asian woman said.
“That would have been great, but you can’t be obvious like that. Woman dies, her ex is the one who did it, nine times out of ten. I don’t need that kind of hassle. Frame her for a Judge’s murder though? That’s so much better.”
“Indeed. Quite clever really,” the Russian woman said. “Is that sufficient?”
“Sufficient?” Ted asked.
“She wasn’t talking to you,” the Latino woman said, pointing to a purse that was placed on the table behind the couch the Russian woman was sitting on.
“Who’s that?” Ted asked, fear flooding through his veins when he caught the dark glint of a camera lens from the side of the bag. “Is someone watching us?”
“Detective Tonya Esteban,” the Russian woman said. “She and her partner will be here shortly since you’ve been so good as to confess to Judge Klairborn’s murder.”
“What? But the video?” Ted asked, trying to understand how the situation was spiraling out of his control so quickly.
“So, yeah, video forgery? It’s an actual thing,” the Asian woman said. “Surprisingly easy too if you’ve got a few pictures of the guy you want to cast as the murder. I mean it’s not my best work, but it was good enough to fool you, so mission accomplished I guess.”
Ted choked and blinked for just a second as blinding rage filled his world.
“You’re dead!” He tried to bring the gun to point at the Asian’s face but before that could happen it wasn’t in his hands any longer.
And he wasn’t on the couch.
And his face had glass in it.
From the table he’d been smashed through.
His wrist was bending in a place it wasn’t supposed to be either.
And there was pain.
So much pain.
Tessa Ogden was released that day and reunited with her children as she exited the police holding facility.
“How can I ever thank you enough?” she asked, trying to clear her tear streaked eyes.
“No thanks are necessary,” Anna said, lifting her motorcycle helmet from her handlebars and fitting it snugly over her head.
“JB’s a part of our team, and we wouldn’t be half as efficient without them,” Val said, putting her helmet on as well.
“They were the one who got me the production studio time I needed to make our fake video,” Tam said.
“And they hooked us up with the actors to play the parts,” Val said.
“And coordinated with the local police to have an official witness to our discussion with Theodore,” Anna said.
“Yeah. There is no chance he’s going to beat those charges now. Not with the confession he gave and the attempted murder charge we gave our sworn testimony too,” Val said.
“Not that he’ll be fit to stand trial for a while,” Tam said. “How many broken vertebrae did you give him?”
“I might have hit him a little harder than intended,” Val said. “In my defense though, he really shouldn’t have tried to point a gun at you.”
“Well his time in the hospital will give him a chance to reflect on where he went wrong,” JB said. “And maybe his time in prison will give him a chance to start over on a better path.”
“Second chances come in all different forms,” Anna said, and hopped her bike, ready to ride to their next case.