Ask me what is the most dangerous part of the job. Trailing some low-life thief who has scammed an old lady out of her life savings? Videotaping some hulking behemoth of a longshoreman who’s collecting a phony disability? Worming your way into a drug ring operating out of some company’s warehouse? Yeah, I’ve done all those things. One slip of the tongue and you’re in for a beating, or worse. But I never felt I could lose control of any of those situations. It’s different with infidelity cases. I wish they didn’t make up 90 percent of my business, but they do. They’re our bread and butter.

The most dangerous part of the job? I’ll tell you for sure, it’s when you hand that envelope over to the client. Doesn’t make any difference if the client is a man or a woman, husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend. Once they break that seal and look inside all bets are off. Sometimes they want to grab the nearest living thing and kill it. Yeah, I’ve had clients go ballistic on me. I still wince at the time, maybe two years ago, that two of my associates had to haul this little wisp of a woman off me. She tried to gouge my eyes out after seeing the photos of her sister playing 69 with her husband.

I remember her perfectly manicured nails digging for my eyeballs as she screamed, “Bastard, bastard!” She needed to blame someone, so she blamed the messenger. She apologized after she calmed down and settled up her bill right then and there.

They don’t all react that way, but you can pretty much count on one of about four stock responses. There are the ones who lose it, like the eye-gouger.

Then there are some whom I label ‘triumphant.’ They practically devour the evidence, usually photos. A little sneer appears on their face, as if to say “I’ve got you now.” This happens more with women, but I’ve seen that same sneer on the faces of men.

Then there are the ones who just scan the photos and the logs, and take forever to read the report. Blank expressions, no emotion at all. They’re the ones who scare me the most and the ones I insist pay before they leave. That’s because they’re the ones I expect to show up on the evening news as the latest murder-suicides.

At last, there are the ones who won’t even open the envelope. I keep a box of tissues close at hand for these sad sacks. First the tears spill over, then the sobbing. I’m talking pain like you don’t want to be around. I’ve seen women and men both break down and blubber like babies. Later you want to get drunk and punch someone.

In the end, I don’t really prove anything to anyone. As soon as the client walks in my door he or she already knows the truth. I guess I just make it official; give them something to take into court.

It’s moment-of-truth time for Arthur Marcinkus. He is an average-looking, pleasant enough guy. Mid-50s. A pretty successful business man, too. He owns a chain of photography shops and a decent restaurant downtown.

His wife, Alicia, is in her early 30s. They were married five years ago, a first for him. Some digging revealed she had been married at 18, but the marriage was dissolved. Now she is carrying on simultaneous affairs with a 20-something art student and a 33-year-old bartender at one of the downtown clubs. Appearances are deceiving. She doesn’t look like the cheating hottie. Always seems to dress down, even dowdy. She is attractive enough. Kind of tall, dark blonde, nice figure.

I remember when Marcinkus came to me. He could barely mouth the words. It was one of the shortest conversations I ever had with a client. His eyes watered right on the spot. So I figure he’ll probably collapse into a sobbing wreck. Still, I don’t want to take any chances.

He said he wanted me to see him at his restaurant around 3 p.m. It was quiet then, he said. I prefer to have the client come to the office, where I have better control of the situation and a few associates standing by to jump in just in case he loses it. But, Marcinkus insisted. In fact, he said he’d treat me to lunch.

I want backup, but everyone is off on an investigation or lunch break. So I grab Candy Toretelli, a new kid I just hired as a favor to a friend. She is eager, but she doesn’t know dick. Still, for some reason, I think if there is a woman there he won’t be as likely to erupt on me.

We arrive at The Adriatic just a few minutes past three. Except for a bartender and a couple of waiters the place is quiet. Marcinkus sits at a booth to the back of the dining room. He waves at us to approach. He is pleasant and gracious, which sets me a bit more at ease. He orders up some wine and begins to chat with Candy, inquiring perhaps if he might know her father. This goes on for a good ten minutes. Maybe he is just trying to put off the inevitable.

Finally, we get down to business. I tell him my operatives have observed his wife on 16 occasions at restaurants, theaters, motels, hotels, parked cars, in public parks, with the student and the bartender – separately of course.

Then I hand him the envelope with the photos. My man, Rupert, is a throwback to the old days. He wangled his way into an adjoining room and used up two rolls of color film snapping Mrs. Marcinkus and her bartender.

“I have to warn you, Mr. Marcinkus. These photos are very graphic. They show your wife engaging in a variety of sexual activity.”

He looks at me for a second then pops the seal. He slides his hand into the envelope almost reverently and withdraws the photographs.

He places the first on the table in front of him. It is of his wife and the art student kissing on a park bench. He looks at it for a long time, his jaw muscles seeming to twitch.

The second photo is also of his wife and the art student. They are standing with his back to a tree. Both are smiling, and Mrs. Marcinkus plainly has her hands inside the front of his pants. Marcinkus looks at this one for a long time too. It’s so quiet I can hear Candy breathing.

Finally he comes to the series shot with Mrs. Marcinkus and the bartender. They are outside the Adelphia Hotel. His arm is draped over her shoulder and his hand is inside the top of her dress caressing her left breast.

Now the photos taken inside the hotel from the adjoining room. Marcinkus lingers on every one. They are arranged to tell the story; the bartender slowly stripping the wife, then the wife performing the same for the bartender.

In the next series he lies across the bed. Mrs. Marcinkus, feet on the floor is sucking his cock while holding herself above him in a stationary pushup. The angle of the shot shows a lean, lithe body with hair cascading over her shoulders.

Candy touches my hand. I look at her but she just shakes her head and looks away.

Marcinkus studies the photo, and then he says something totally unexpected. “Isn’t she beautiful?”

“Sorry?” I say.

“Lissa, she’s so beautiful,” he says, and places the next photo before him. In this one his wife is riding atop the bartender plunging down his cock as he cups her ass.

“This is very good photography,” he says then.

I’m not quite believing what I’m hearing. I mumble something about Rupert being very fussy about his photo work.

“He’s very good,” Marcinkus says, but his breath is raspy, as if he’s trying to suppress a sob.

The photos continue to show the couple in various positions until the final shot. Mrs. Marcinkus is looking right into the lens, tits swinging and hair swirling as the boyfriend plows her ass.

Marcinkus puts the photo down. Candy stares at the floor.

“She asked me to do that,” he says, pointing to the anal shot. “I couldn’t, though. I was afraid I would hurt her.”

“Mr. Marcinkus,” I say, “There’s nothing more I can do for you. I would advise you to keep calm. Perhaps you want to contact a lawyer, or someone who can advise you from here.”

My words blow right past him. I can see the tears welling in his eyes.

“It’s not her fault, you know,” he says, his voice wavering. “She’s younger. These men can do things for her that I probably can’t. A young woman has needs, I think.”

Again, I don’t know what to say. He looks at Candy now, his eyes imploring, “A young woman has needs, yes?”

Candy is squirming and her face has gone scarlet.

A single tear trickles down Marcinkus’ face. “It doesn’t mean she can’t love me anymore. These trysts mean nothing. She just has … needs.”

I stand up and pull Candy up with me. Marcinkus sits. He is a deflated man.

“Mr. Marcinkus. Please, get some professional advice, a lawyer, or perhaps a doctor.”

“Yes, Mr. Flynn,” he replies flatly. “Send me your bill. It will be paid promptly. Goodbye.”

I take Candy by the arm and we hurriedly step out into the bright afternoon sunshine.

“I feel lousy,” Candy says. “Shit, I feel fucking dirty.”

“I’d say if you want to stay in this business to get used to it, but you never get used to it.”

We get in my car and as I pull away, I say, “I need a drink. How about you?”

“Yeah, maybe two, or three …”

“No sweat, it’s on the expense account.”

© 2001 by R.E. Buckley. Not to be reproduced without permission of the author.

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