Luke walked up the flight of steps leading to his office. On the second floor of the small building was a door with letters stenciled on the glass.
HERO FOR HIRE
0672 EAST 42nd STREET
Luke opened the door and went inside. Gladys Rosenbaum, the elderly lady who was the receptionist, was at her desk in the small area that was the office's lobby. She looked up at Luke, her thick glasses magnifying her eyes two fold.
"Morning, Mister Cage," she said.
"Luke, Gladys. Call me Luke, you sexy thing."
"Sexy thing, he calls me?" She said to herself. "I'm thinking, if I were twenty years younger, I would act on my impulses."
"Oh, Gladys. If only you weren't a grandmother of eight."
"Why should my grandchildren matter? What I have in mind, they won't want to be around for."
"Ha," Luke said with a short laugh. "How are you today, my dear?"
"I could complain," she said with a shrug. "But I won't."
"Good," Luke said with a soft smile. "I ain't got all day."
"Considering you have a client in your office, I would say so."
"A client?" Luke asked with an arched eyebrow. "Already? How long has he been waiting?"
"Came in about fifteen minutes ago. Skinny man in a fancy suit. Looks like he'd be a good tipper."
"Right," Luke said with a nod. "I'm going in to meet him. Hold my calls."
"If you actually get any, I'll do that."
Luke walked into his office. A skinny, gray haired man in a dark three-piece suit was sitting in the chair opposite Luke's desk. "Mister Cage," the man said as he rose. "Good to meet you."
The two shook hands and Luke eyed the man. "I'd say the same, but I don't know your name..."
"I'm John Phillips," he said. "I'm a special adviser to the governor. She's in dire need of your services."
Luke sat down behind his desk and propped his boots up on the desk. "Alright, what's going on?"
"Before I get into that," Phillips said, pulling a pen and checkbook from his jacket. "I want to pay you a retainer in advance, to let you know I am serious about employing your services."
Phillips hastily filled out the check and passed it to Luke.
"Wait," Luke said, taking the check. "My usual retainer fee is...," Luke stopped talking when he saw the amount on the check. "...that's a good chunk of change. Please tell me you don't want us infiltrating HYDRA or something?"
"No," Phillips laughed. "Nothing that... heroic. Last night, there was a break-in at the governor's Manhattan home. Among the things stolen was a USB flash drive with some sensitive information was taken from it. We want you to retrieve it. As you can tell by that check, we're very serious about getting it back."
Luke's eyebrow shot up in suspicion. When someone starts talking about money before they even discuss the job, it almost always means they're not telling you something.
"Why me? Governor has NYPD and State Police at her disposal. Why she hooking a brother up like this?"
Phillips picked a piece of lint from his lapel before he spoke. "Are you familiar with Sam Lamport, Mr. Cage?"
Luke shook his head.
"Sam Lamport is the president of the New York City teamsters union. He's been butting heads with the governor. She's tough on unions, trying to cut their benefits, and Lamport doesn't like it. A few nights ago, they were both at this charity event downtown. He and the governor got into it. Suddenly, there's this break in at her house."
"Right," said Luke. "So, what's on this flash drive?"
"Far as you're concerned you don't need to know what's on it. That's what the bonus is for. Just get it back without any questions asked."
"Yeah," Luke tapped the check with his forefinger. "The money's cool, but I don't feel comfortable taking a job without knowing what I'm getting into."
"Alright," Phillips said with a sigh. "In case you two haven't been following the news, the governor is a major up and comer. This time next year, she'll be in Washington. Secretary of State is the worse case scenario, the White House is the best case scenario. The things on that USB drive could ruin her career, which is why discretion is the key here. Get it back, stop her from any potential blackmail or scandal, and you get paid. Even better, you'll have a powerful politician who will owe you a favor. Sounds like a win-win to me..."
Luke leaned back in his chair and sized Phillips and the potential job up. Why is it that all politicians seem to have dirty secrets, he thought. He knew he was in no position to judge, though. After all, Heroes for Hire came about as a way to atone for all the crap he'd done in the past. Still, something continued to rub him the wrong way about the job. But getting the willies is no good reason to turn down a paying job, especially a high paying job. Least of all when it's sponsored by an elected official. And, Luke thought, Mr. Phillips may be right: there may come a day when he'd need someone with political clout in our corner.
"Alright," Luke said with a shrug. "I'm on the job."