The sweet burn of the well-distilled whiskey teased the back of his throat. It was a familiar feeling, one that gave a pleasant satisfaction, while doubling as a stab in the ribs from the dagger of nostalgia. All the close calls, the beautiful women, the lost friends and the missed opportunities; it all came flooding back to him with every sip from his glass.
That was the last sip from his fourth glass today.
No longer was he Aiden Maelstrom, bounty hunter. He was Aiden Storm, a talented private investigator for the mid-rim worlds. New career, new name, new life.
Sure, life now was significantly less exciting, and had more rules. “Tag and bag” might be pretty simple, but they could go bad in a hurry, and Aiden was too old to have to deal with so many hypotheticals. Especially no more assassinations. Sure, the money was better, but you don’t see too many old Hunters around. As you got older, you got slower, and the narrow escapes get narrower and narrower until one day, you don’t hear that storm trooper coming down the hall until your insides are burning or your brains gave a certain new decor to the walls. Aiden managed to avoid that grim fate better than most, and the quiet life of a backwoods private investigator gave him just enough of an adrenaline rush every week to keep him from becoming a fat former Bounty Hunter. Old, he could handle, fat and old, not so much.
He looked up to the large sign in his office, an eye within a swirling vortex of flames. Next to it, written in now faded black ink, “Eye of the Storm Investigations”. Even now, a good decade or so since he had put that sign up, it still made Aiden chuckle a bit. He had made an offhand comment while drinking one night, and his charismatic assistant, Jentha Thorn had decided that no other name would do.
Suddenly, he was reminded that he really wanted more bourbon.
“Aiden,” Came Jentha’s pleasant voice over the intercom, “You have a client here, a Miss Dagan?”
“Sure, send her in,” Aiden replied, tucking the used glass and the bottle of whisky in the desk drawer. He had found that drinking in front of clients wasn’t always well received. “Image management” and all that nonsense.
The woman who walked in, although older, was strikingly beautiful. Quite shapely and tall for a woman, she walked into Aiden’s office like she owned the place. Briefly pushing her bangs away from her face, she scanned the room curiously with the most piercing set of blue eyes Aiden had ever seen. Professionally, she looked at the former hunter, and waited until he waived permission, before she adjusted her pencil skirt and sat opposite from him.
“Allow me to introduce myself, Mr. Maelstrom. My name is Ginnifer Dagan, and I would like to hire you and your firm for a job,” she said cool, “But first, I would like to know a little about the man I will be hiring.”
“Well, Miss Dagan, that is a bit unexpected. Most who come through that door only really care about the quality of my work, and the quote.”
“Well, Mr. Maelstrom, I believe that you may come to the conclusion that I am not, after all, most people.”
Aiden smirked. Most people wanted to consider themselves special. In fact, he had heard that line so many times, that he could have quoted it alongside his prospective client. Although Miss Dagan’s words were familiar, her demeanor wasn’t. This didn’t appear to be a pleasantry, she seemed as if she was honestly asking about him.
“Of course. What sort of questions can I answer for you?”
“What sort of jobs do you normally do? I have heard your name bandied around a bit. I imagine that you have a varied amount of work?”
“Honestly, Miss Dagan, most of what I do involves,” Aiden paused to watch the older woman’s face, “catching spouses in their infidelity,” He was expecting some sort of reaction from her, even just the slightest twinge of recognition. Instead, stone-faced, she kept listening. “In fact, now that I think about it, I think that every time I have had an older man or woman dressed to the nines enter this office, it has been about their spouses.”
“Sometimes I work with private security firms to locate suspects, or find kidnapped children, but those instances are rather rare. For the most part though, I find the spouses in question, trail them, catch a few holograms of them and their attractive younger date and then report that information to my customer.”
“Ah, I see,” She replied, “And how long have you been doing this line of work? Finding people?”
“I opened the business about ten years ago. An on the job injury forced me to choose a profession that was a bit less physical.”
“And what did you do before this?”
Aiden narrowed his eyes. A bit of small talk wasn’t unusual with new clients, but Jentha Dagan seemed as if she was probing. His pulse quickened a bit, and he leaned back in his chair, opening up a clear view of the DL-44 he had hidden under the desk, making sure not to make eye contact with it.
“Construction and demolition,” Aiden replied warily.
“Ah. I suppose you could call it that, couldn’t you? However, you certainly didn’t do as much building as you did demolishing,” She said, leaning forward. Seamlessly, her posture seemed to flow from a quite, reserved grace into a predatory, almost feline confidence. Her piercing blue eyes locked onto Aiden’s black orbs, and she smiled almost cruelly.
“You carefully and meticulously sought out and eliminated members of the galaxy and stuffed your accounts with credits. Sometimes, you were an assassin, sometimes a kidnapper. Regardless, either role probably prepared you very well for your current line of work. After all, a career change was necessary, was it not? Bounty hunters are hardly a welcomed sight. Am I right Mr. Maelstrom?”
“Without a doubt, completely correct Miss Dagan,” Aiden growled through clenched teeth, “Now what in the hell are you doing in my office? I don’t imagine that you came in here just to gloat about your own snooping skills.”
The woman took on a rather smug look that instantly turned her forty-something face twenty years younger. She straightened her blouse and sat back in the chair nonchalantly.
“Why, Mr. Maelstrom, I am surprised that you haven’t already guessed. I want you to kidnap my husband.”