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The Private Detective and the Bootlegger

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Steve Rogers unlocked his office, kneeling down to pick up the mail before standing up and opening the shades. He grumbled at the bills, tossing them on his secretary’s desk before he went into his office. He opened the shades in there as well before turning on the overhead fan and sitting down. He just finished a case, husband cheating on wife, but it was only a distraction. He turned, unlocking his file drawer, and pulled out a thick file on one Tony Stark. He’d been following the guy ever since he heard Stark make the move from New York to Chicago. He knew it had been at the suggestion of Stark’s father, Howard, but that was all he knew.

He looked up as he heard the door open, closing the file and putting it out of sight quickly. He rose as a beautiful red head came into his office and closed the door behind her. “Good morning, ma’am. Can I help you in some way?”

“I wouldn’t be here if you couldn’t,” she said with a soft smile. She sat down in the seat opposite of Steve and he sat down after her. “I really hope that you can, considering the last three private detectives I went to refused to even listen to me.”

He raised an eyebrow at that. “Let’s start with your name and go from there.”

“I’m Natasha Stark,” she said.

This is something new he thought. In all of the research he did, he never knew that Stark had a sibling of any sort. If anything, he was thought of as an only child. “You’ll forgive me if I don’t believe you at first, I hope.”

“Of course,” she said. “Until a few years ago, I was living with my mother, Maria Romanov. They thought it was better, considering father’s line of work and that mother really never wanted anything to do with it in the first place. Since Tony was first born and he was older, he stayed with father. When Tony met me in New York and we hit it off, he suggested I come back to Chicago with him. I agreed, met my now husband, and everything’s been fine until three months ago.”

“What happened then?” he asked.

She smiled, relaxing more into her seat as it seemed he believed her. “Tony disappeared for a week. Clint, that’s my husband, went with him. It’s the only way I knew something horrible wasn’t happening. When they came back, Tony was sporting multiple bruises, Clint had a broken wrist, and both had blood on their clothes. Neither of them will tell me what happened. It’s a meeting that happens monthly, sometimes with the meetings lasting anywhere from a day to a week, and both of them come back either bruised or in a funk.”

“So you want me to follow them and see what’s happening,” he said.

“Yes,” she said. “Plus, it won’t be all that hard. He’s noticed you around and doesn’t really seem to care that you’re following. I think he likes it.”

“Ah,” he said, grabbing a pen and a piece of paper, writing down a number on it. He passed it across the desk to her. “Starting price.”

She didn’t even look at the piece of paper. “I knew coming to you was the right thing.”

“You don’t even want to look?” he asked, leaning back in his chair.

“I’m good for it,” she said, standing up. “You work alone, right?”

“On unofficial cases. If I need help, I usually call in my backup. His name is Bucky Barnes.”

“So double whatever price it was?” she asked. “Not that I mind, I just want to keep my head around when our book keeper asks about what I’m spending my money on.”

“Yes,” he said, deciding to push his luck.

She took the piece of paper and stood up. “It’s been a pleasure doing business with you. I hope to see you again.”

He stood up as well, getting the door for her. “How do you want to be updated?”

“We’ll figure something out. If not, then I’ll come by in a week, week and a half, and see how you’re doing. The meeting just happened, so you have a couple of weeks to do whatever it is you do,” she said. “Thank you again for this. It’s hard knowing who to go to and Sam Wilkes spoke highly of you.”

“He’s always been a good friend,” he said. “I’ll talk to you soon.”

“That you will,” she said with a smile, walking out of the office. “Thank you,” she said to Bucky as she walked out.

“Yeah,” Bucky said, following her with his eyes. “Another husband?”

“Brother,” Steve said. “You’re never going to believe this.”

“You forget the rule – the prettier the woman, the crazier the case,” Bucky said, scooting into Steve’s office. “So, lay it on me.”

Steve explained what Natasha wanted them to do, sitting down in his chair and adding a note about her in Tony’s file. He looked up at Bucky when he was done, seeing that the man was hanging onto every word. “Okay, what is it?”

“You don’t think it’s a trap?” Bucky asked. “It’s just too convenient, especially when you have nothing about bruises or anything of the like in that big ass file. Which, as I’ve said before, just points out that you have a crush on the man and are too chicken to do anything about it.”

“There are ways to cover bruises, Bucky, you know that,” Steve said, ignoring the last comment. “If there’s something happening, then I want to uncover it. And who knows, it might be enough to get information on his bootlegging and get it to the right authorities.”

“If they didn’t all have eyes for Capone, you mean,” Bucky countered. “I’m not saying not to do it. I’m saying to be careful and that I’m behind you on this.”

“I know,” Steve said. “I’m just going to need you in the office and handling the smaller cases. Along with using your charm to make everyone let us keep the fans going.”

“Got it,” Bucky said. “I’d say have fun, but I already know you will.”

Steve didn’t reply, watching Bucky leave the office before snapping the file close. As much as he tried to push his friend’s strange comment out of his mind, it just kept burrowing in deeper. But nobody in their right mind would be with someone of the same sex and he was of the right mind. He would have to be to get through this.