Stay Humble

Sometimes it’s a good thing to get your teeth kicked in.

At least, that’s what Harry told himself as he lay on the cold concrete floor of the warehouse. He paused to consider how long he’d be taking the beating from the three thugs surrounding him, but time moves differently when all you’re seeing are stars and your ribs are being realigned inside your torso.

A beating keeps you humble, he told himself.

As one of the thug’s dirty work boots made contact his shoulder for the sixth time, he considered everything he could have done differently. The fact that he could coherently consider anything at all told him that this beating had been going on for quite some time.

He remembered the way that Felicia had looked at him the first time she’d come to his office: Curly blond hair, perfect body, dressed to kill, and eyes full of desperation, which switched over to confidence after several visits. She knew that going to the police was out of the question and she hoped that Harry might be the one to help expose her husband’s illegal drug trafficking habits.

In retrospect, Harry knew that the job was too big, but the economy was tough and not a lot of folks had extra cash lying around anymore—especially not to hand over to a Private Investigator. Felicia was different. She was a woman who genuinely needed help and didn’t know where else to turn. The way she told it, she needed an out from her marriage. Harry had never met Donovan, but he gleaned that he was mean, abusive, and had a penchant for getting mixed up in stuff that no authority in the country would turn a blind eye to. Felicia had had enough. She believed in Harry and in turn gave him confidence in himself. Why he thought a nighttime trip to the docks would be a good idea, he wasn’t sure. Perhaps if the beating continued, he’d have time to ponder that as well.

Four knuckles colliding with his cheekbone brought Harry back to the present.

They’re laughing at me, Harry realized as he shook away the fog in his brain. Who am I kidding? I am a joke.

Harry’s typical client needed photos snapped of a cheating husband or a worker’s comp collector jogging healthily through the park. Those cases rarely put him in any real danger. He found himself amazed at what he’d agreed to do for fifty thousand dollars… not to mention the attention of a gorgeous woman.

What was I going to do? Harry wondered to himself as a man’s calloused hand slammed his head against the concrete. I was going to find proof…take some pictures.

Harry couldn’t help but smile as he spied the remnants of a smashed digital camera, the pieces of which were scattered across the floor several feet away. His grin was missing several teeth at this point, though he was oblivious to the fact.

Then what? He asked himself. Tell them to cease and desist?

No, he was going to turn over the evidence to the police and let them do their job. With Donovan in jail, Felicia would finally be able to divorce the scumbag and Harry would get his big payday. He’d hoped to take a vacation afterward…maybe Felicia would go with him.

As one of the thugs pulled Harry to his feet by his hair, he was able to see them with the eye that wasn’t swollen shut. Three male dockworkers that could have doubled as Olympic weight lifters stared back at him. Harry was physically outmatched. In fact, he’d flunked Physical Education in high school. Harry watched stoically as one of the thugs, a bulky, Irish-looking fellow, removed a revolver from somewhere near his lower back.

This is it, then, he thought to himself. This is what I get for getting in over my head…for going out and not telling anywhere where…for letting a pretty lady boost my ego.

The thug raised the gun to eye level. In the dim light of the warehouse, Harry was able to look straight down the large barrel of the weapon. It was pitch black down there. An abyss. It was a dark hole full of regrets and poor decisions.

He’d taken his lumps and he knew his time as a Private Investigator was quickly coming to an end. He realized himself a fool to sneak onto private property owned by a criminal. He had truly believed that he could get the evidence for Felicia and she’d be able to leave her husband. Maybe Harry would even get the girl. As it turned out, all he’d gotten was in over his head and now he had to learn his lesson. Somewhere between the pounding headache and hemorrhaging, Harry managed a final thought.

A beating keeps you humble.

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