The next two parts of "The Cold Slope Incident". Here are parts 1 and 2 in case you missed them . . .
He was supposed to take care of her. He'd been hired three and a half years ago to watch over her and that was the whole of his job. The be all and end all.
Birkman had gotten his name from Woodson's old boss at the MPD. Apparently he'd only asked two questions: who was the best, and could he keep his mouth shut? That was Woodson, who had moved to his uncle's house on Spartan Lake near the western border of the county. Jennifer had divorced him eight years ago and all he had to do until he punched out was fish and drink and look at the girls at the beach down the road.
"I'll pay you. More than you've ever made before."
Somehow that hadn't gotten Woodson to move.
"What do I need money for?" He looked out over the water from the porch at a motor boat cruising by. It was supposed to be no-wake at his end, in the shallows, and he knew the fish were scattering away from his pier as he watched.
"It's important to me, Mister Woodson. It's my daughter. I'm afraid that she's in danger." Birkman did not waver. Woodson let the phone drop from his ear and held it over the hook. He'd had enough of this man, his flat unequivocation like the force of gravity smoothing the waves on the surface of the lake. Pete was coming down that night for dinner. They'd probably play darts and drink. He put the phone back to his ear.
"Are you there?" Birkman seemed uneasy for the first time during their conversation. "Detective Woodson."
"I'm not a detective anymore. What kind of danger?"
"Her boyfriend. I think he's involved in drugs."
"Lot of kids are into drugs."
"That's not what I mean. I understand if you're hesitant to take my offer. But you have to believe I won't be denied this."
Woodson didn't doubt it.
"If you won't agree now, maybe you'll meet with me so I can explain the situation better? At Richie's Pub?"
"That's only twenty miles from here."
"I don't have much time, Woodson. I'll be there in an hour." Birkman hung up before he'd had a chance to tell him to stuff it. But was he?
Woodson changed his shirt and put on his hat, and paused at the top of the hill that ran down to his pier and the beach further on. The waves had yet to settle and he heard children scream playfully behind him as he ducked into his car.
Woodson arrived early so he could settle into the booth and get comfortable with a glass of beer. But she was already there.
The woman sat at the corner of the bar facing the door, her arm resting on the burnished counter as her bright blue painted fingernails tapped the wood. She wore a cream colored sweater under her dark jacket and an orange scarf around her neck - a wisp of a throat rigid and spitefully angled. She was pale with crystal sharp features. Her eyes shone with rage.
"The man my father hired to babysit me." She stepped towards him and her heel echoed on the floor. The men in the bar stared deeply into their glasses. Victor the bartender was at the other end but wasn't coming over. "You're older than I thought."
Woodson started to turn, tearing his gaze away. He didn't need this. She was ready to brawl. He said, "I'm retired." She grabbed his arm before he could open the door.
"I'm talking to you." Her teeth were visible in a line behind her lips. Very red.
"Let's sit down," he said.
She took her jacket off as they took a booth in the front. He knew what she was trying on him.
"How did you know your father contacted me?"
She smiled without losing edge, a slight turn of her chin summoning Victor with drinks she'd already ordered.
"His secretary told me. He's a man."
"And you want me to miss this meeting. To disappear."
"No. I want to hire you. I have plenty of money."
"We haven't said anything about money."
"I did. Two-hundred a day. You tell him what I want. Where I am. Who with. That sort of thing."
The drinks were scotch neat, the best they had at Ritchie's, which wasn't that good but enough to prove her point. She drank hers without a single wrinkle forming on her nose.
He hadn't agreed to anything but it all seemed settled.
"He'll be here any minute. This is my number." She'd written everything he needed on the inside of a match book. As she slid it over to him the chain fell out from under her scarf.
He had another drink before Mister Birkman arrived. He was with his secretary who stopped short inside the door as if a pain shot through him on entering. Three-hundred and fifty a day, that was his offer, but Woodson knew who he was working for regardless of this effort.
Woodson called his brother when he returned to the cabin. This was more his line of work. He knew people who would find ways in between Miss Birkman and her problems.
"I'll call Tony Riordan. He's familiar with all the dark corners of Cold Slope. Code Nope, he calls it. You should stay away from there, I'll take care of everything."
Woodson missed his brother but there was nothing he could do about that. That cord had been severed.
"There's enough money to spread around?"
"Of course." The next morning Woodson locked up the cabin. He put his fishing pole in the trunk of his car but that he didn't open again for years, after these people were dead or gone.