Karen Stillwater eyed the man before her with distaste. Though a few inches taller than she was, something about his sloping shoulders and somewhat drooping face made her think of him as a little man. He wore a dirty jacket, shirt, and unkempt tie and hung a battered felt hat on the peg by their table. Everything about him, she thought, screamed ‘crook.’
But if she’d wanted to associate only with decent people, she wouldn’t have become a cop. So, carefully concealing any sign of either her suspicions or her dislike, Karen listened as Nick “Breezy” Windworth told his story about happening, during the course of one of his apparently numerous con-jobs, to run across a murder plot involving John Chen’s daughter, who, according to her senior partner, Detective Crane, was in the hospital recovering from a bad bout of influenza. According to Windworth, he’d heroically pieced the information together and arrived just in the nick of time (he had used that pun himself in the course of his story) to stop the assassin after braving imprisonment and torture by Tony Mistretta, the top local gangster.
This, Windworth assured them, had led to a fight to the death in the hospital elevator, during which he had used a concentrated anesthetic to kill the other man in self-defense, explaining the report from earlier that evening about a dead man discovered in the hospital elevator while another man, dressed as an orderly, disappeared out the back amid the confusion.
“You do realize,” she said when he’d finished. “That this would most likely be the first case of self-defense with poison gas in recorded history?”
“Technically, the gas wasn’t poison,” he said. “Just very dangerous.”
“Also that you’re admitting to killing a man under suspicious circumstances, not to mention several other crimes?”
“The thought had occurred to me,” he said. “That sound like something a lying man would do?”
“No one’s accusing you of lying, Breezy,” said Crane. “At least, not yet.”
Windworth shrugged. “I figured it was implied by the fact that you’re speaking to me.”
“Are you a liar, then, Mr. Windworth?” asked Karen.
He turned mischievous eyes on her.
“Everyone lies, Detective; how many lies make a liar?”
“Enough,” said Crane. “We’ll let your story stand for the moment. What I want to know is whether Mistretta and Gallano are really working together, because if so that changes the whole setup.”
Karen pushed her annoyance with the witness out of her mind and considered the matter objectively.
“It certainly would explain a few things,” Crane went on. “Like how Gallano’s able to keep himself so squeaky clean even as his boys tear up the city. Anything too close to him he farms out to Mistretta and the other local gangsters.”
“Meanwhile,” Windworth put in. “He’s able to run you guys ragged trying to keep up with this war of his with El Jefe.”
“Who?” asked Karen.
“Oh, you didn’t know?” said Nick. “That’s what these Mexicans call their employer. No name, just ‘the Boss.’ Apparently he’s a big deal south of the border.”
“Well, we can’t worry about that right now,” said Karen. “Our business is putting Gallano and Mistretta and anyone else involved away for good, preferably before anyone else gets killed. How do you propose we do that, Mr. Windworth?”
He laughed at the appellation.
“That, Detective, is your business. Literally. I told you what I know, now you’re the one who’s gotta figure out a way to use it.”
She scowled at him, but as she started to reply Crane nudged her and she fell silent.
“What I’m thinking,” said the senior detective. “Is that maybe we can use Mistretta to get to Gallano. He’s a weaker target.”
“Don’t know if I’d say that,” said Windworth. “Most people around here are more scared of him than they are of Gallano.”
“That’s exactly the point,” said Karen. “If Mistretta’s at the forefront of Gallano’s power in this area, then he’ll have to be more actively engaged and run more risks. That makes him more vulnerable.”
“Sounds like your girl knows what she’s doing.”
Karen scowled, but refrained from comment.
“We’re going too fast,” said Crane. “First we need to confirm that they’re even working together at all. I’m not saying you’re lying, Breezy, and I’m not even saying I don’t believe you, but it’s only your conclusion, and that from evidence that we haven’t seen. Taking on Mistretta will be a pretty big job, and we can’t afford to waste resources on a wild goose chase these days.”
“No, I see your point; gotta ration the number of lives you’re willing to throw at this thing.”
If that was a joke, Karen thought it in bad taste. Windworth leaned back in his chair, studying the ceiling.
“If it were me,” he said after a moment’s consideration. “I think I’d check out Mistretta’s headquarters. He operates out of a garage on Pico Boulevard; it’s a front for a chop shop. He likes it because there are all sorts of horrible instruments handy in case someone annoys him. But the point is that I’d imagine there’d be some kind of evidence, or paper trail, or something of the kind in his office there to link him to Gallano.”
“Why would he keep something like that?” said Karen.
“That’s the nice thing about us criminals, Detective; we know better than to trust one another. Most of us would turn on each other at the drop of a hat to save our own skins, and since the ones who survive know that perfectly well we tend to keep insurance. Mistretta’s sure to have dirt on Gallano somewhere, just in case the other guy ever tried to turn on him, or just in case he decided it was worth his while to turn on Gallano. Handy, isn’t it?”
“That’s a fine way to live,” said Karen. “Always looking over your shoulder to see who’s ready to stab you in the back.”
“It’s only a matter of being aware, Detective,” he said. “Criminals are no different than anyone else except we understand the world we live in and accept it. I mean, can you honestly say you’ve never been betrayed by anyone?”
Karen shifted uncomfortably, remembering Detective Pallin.
“Never mind,” said Crane. “You say Mistretta’s likely to have dirt on Gallano?”
“Probably a lot of other people too,” he said.
“Do you think we’ll be able to get a search warrant on his testimony?” Karen asked, pushing her discomfort aside.
“Oh, I suspect you would, but wouldn’t find anything,” Windworth said.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Crane asked.
“Only that if Gallano, Mistretta, and their friends have compromised some of the police, they’re likely to have compromised lawyers as well. Probably even a judge or two. By the time you got the warrant, Mistretta will have been tipped off and all your evidence will be gone.”
“He’s right,” said Crane. “We don’t know how connected these guys are. We’d best keep it to as few people as possible until we’re ready to move.”
“And how do we know he isn’t going to tip Mistretta off?” Karen asked, nodding at Windworth. He grinned.
“You don’t,” he said. “That’s the point I was just making. Though if it’s any comfort, he is looking to kill me, so it wouldn’t exactly be in my own self-interest to walk into his shop with all the drills and blow torches and asked to speak with him.”
“If Breezy wanted to do that he wouldn’t have come to us in the first place,” said Crane. “What I think it comes down to is that one of us will have to go in undercover, or sneak in, and see what they can find.”
“Good idea, Detective,” said Windworth. “The best part is that I can’t volunteer, since Mistretta knows me and hates me.”
“Guess it’s up to me then,” said Crane.
“Uh, I wouldn’t do that,” said Windworth. “He knows you too. Most of the crooks around these parts know you, Detective; you’re practically an institution.”
He looked at Karen.
“When did you join the force, anyway?”
Karen saw where things were going and did not like it. In fact, she was surprised by the vehemence of her own revulsion from the idea, but she carefully kept her feelings hidden.
“About two weeks ago,” she said.
“And you made detective that quickly?”
“I was a detective in Springwood,” she said, unable to keep a trace of irritation out of her voice. “I have been a police officer for nearly eight years.”
“Must’ve started young,” he said. “But the point is that you haven’t been around here long enough for the local toughs to have gotten to know you very well. I mean, I didn’t even know you’d taken up with Crane, and I usually know these things.”
“Won’t Pallin have told them about me?” she said.
“He worked for the Mexicans,” Crane reminded her. “I doubt they’re sharing intelligence.”
“Besides,” said Windworth. “You won’t go as a policewoman; we’ll work something out and dress you up so as to draw attention away from your face.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” she demanded in a more startled tone than she had intended
He laughed. Even Crane seemed to be keeping his composure with difficulty.
“You’ll figure it out,” said Windworth.
She still didn’t seee what he was getting at and didn’t think she wanted to.
“So, just so we’re clear, you want me to go in undercover to try to get this supposed evidence from Mistretta?”
Crane and Windworth exchanged glances, and Karen felt a subtle shift in the conversation. Before now it had been her and Crane against Windworth. Now the two older men were arrayed on one side and she was on the other.
“Well,” said Crane slowly. “We may have to think about this, but at the moment it doesn’t look like we have much choice. Like I said, it’s hard to know who to trust these days. And Breezy’s right; you’re the only one of us that Mistretta probably won’t recognize straight off.”
“Okay, but even if he doesn’t, and assuming we come up with a good cover story, how am I supposed to find this supposed evidence?”
“If it’s at the shop at all it’ll be in his private office,” said Windworth. “All we need is to get you in there alone for as long as possible. It won’t be anywhere obvious, like a drawer or filing cabinet, but if you search smart you should be able to find it.”
“You know; use your brains. I assume you have some.”
“As a matter of fact I do,” she said. “But why would Mistretta take me back into his private office to begin with?”
Windworth’s eyebrows rose.
“Detective Stillwater, are you really asking why a man would want to be alone with you?”
Karen opened her mouth, then closed it again without speaking, feeling her face growing hot. She saw what he was getting at. On the one hand, his flippant, cynical manner annoyed her and she did not like the idea of relying on her looks – of which she had never had a high opinion – to get her through a dangerous mission. But, at the same time, and to her own surprise she couldn’t help being rather pleased that Windworth seemed to think she could. In spite of everything, it was rather flattering.
“Of course, the problem is that accent of yours,” said Windworth. “What is that anyway?”
“British father, Mexican mother,” she explained.
“I see. Can you lean it more to the maternal side?”
Karen considered a moment, then asked, in a voice that would have been appropriate to someone born and raised in Juarez, “How’s this? And what are you planning anyway?”
“Perfect,” said Windworth. “So, here’s what I’m thinking…”
The large garage from which Mistretta ruled his kingdom stood on a corner in one of the nastier neighborhoods of LA. A couple unpleasant-looking youths were lounging by the entrance, smoking and leering at passersby. In the neighboring alley a few wino dozed against the side of a dumpster, while stray cats slunk in and out of sight amid piles of trash.
Karen hesitated on the corner across from the garage. She was surprised by how nervous she was, and didn’t like it. Ordinarily she had a very cool head for danger; she remembered once partaking in an armed raid on the home of a trigger-happy meth-head and she hadn’t felt this nearly this uncomfortable. Perhaps it was the prospect of trying to fool a very dangerous man, or that she felt self conscious in her tight, cleavage-bearing crop-top and short skirt. It wasn’t the kind of thing she’d ever consider wearing normally, but it fit the character she was meant to portray.
Who was she kidding? She knew why she was nervous and knew why she had been so reluctant to accept this plan in the first place. It was the simple fact that she’d already cheated death once this week and didn’t fancy the prospect of trying her luck a second time.
That, and she didn’t trust Windworth, whatever Crane said. He struck her as a fundamentally weak, cowardly man who would do anything to save his own skin and had never once lifted a finger to help anyone else. She disbelieved his whole story of saving the girl and thought that he probably had some kind of agenda of his own.
In any case, he was gone now. After they’d worked out the plan Crane had asked him to stay and help them nail Mistretta.
“No sir,” he’d answered. “This is all your problem now. First thing tomorrow, I’m hopping the first train to anywhere not Los Angeles. Just an expression, Detective,” he’d added at Karen’s disgusted look. “I’ll pay for my ticket like an honest citizen.”
“You know,” she replied. “There really isn’t that much difference between an honest coward and dishonest one.”
He had almost laughed at that, confirming her worst ideas of the man.
In any case, this meant it was only her and Crane to try to pull off this scheme. She didn’t like it, but it was their best chance to finally start to make some progress on this case.
With that in mind, she squared her shoulders, threw out her chest, and sashayed across the street. She wasn’t exactly the flirting type herself, but she’d been through vice squad training and so knew the basics. She saw the two sentinels watching her with leering enjoyment and flashed them a vapid smile as she strode right past and into the shop. They didn’t try to stop her, probably figuring she was no danger and that doing anything would only attract more attention than it was worth.
Inside the shop was crowded and noisy. Several men were working on a rather expensive-looking car set up on a rack while rock music blared from a boom box. Workbenches and racks of tools stood along the walls and between the three large garage doors, while the air reeked of gas and oil. The men looked up as she came in, and they continued to look as she sauntered up to the nearest one and demanded: “Where is Mistretta? I have something he wants to know. I mean to tell him something.”
The man she accosted looked at her with a leering enjoyment.
“He’s busy,” he said. “Sure we can’t help you with anything?”
“I don’t need help,” she said. “I’m here to help you. I got something he’ll want to know, and that I want to tell, see? You let him know that. It is about El Jefe’s people.”
That changed the tone of the conversation at once. The men looked at each other, then one of them hurried back to an office in the rear of the building.
A few minutes later, Mistretta himself came out. Karen had never seen him before, but Crane had told her what to expect. He was hard, compact, and square-jawed, without an ounce of fat on him. He wore dirty jeans and a work shirt with the sleeves rolled up, showing the hard muscles of his burly arms. Karen saw his cold grey eyes sweeping her body with a hungry expression. That was good as far as it went.
“You Mistretta?” she said.
“I got things to say to you. Things you’ll be wanting to hear, right?”
“I think so,” he said, with a nasty smile. “Come on back and we’ll discuss it.”
He took her arm, not forcefully, but Karen was immediately aware of the terrible, crushing strength of this man’s body, like a chimpanzee. Though she was a strong and athletic woman, she thought he could probably break her arm with ease if he wanted to.
His office was a crowded, narrow space of metal cabinets and a steel desk jammed against the corner. The cinderblock walls were stained and water-damaged, probably with leakage from the bar-covered window looking into the alley. Oddly, there weren’t many papers or typical office equipment in view, though there were several tools lying on the desk.
Mistretta placed Karen in the chair opposite his own, but didn’t sit down himself. Instead, he continued to stand over her, one hand on the back of her chair, leaning over her. It was a very alarming position to be in, and it took all of Karen’s considerable self-control to act as though she didn’t notice it.
“So,” he said. “What do want to give me?”
She gave a vacant smile.
“I don’t like getting’ involved in no trouble,” she said. “I keep clean, see? But I don’t judge neither. So, I am seeing this man, Juan Estravedos. He does things for me, buys me things, takes care of me, see? So I don’t ask too much about what he does for then money. I hear a few things, I see a few things, but I don’t think I care, because I am taken care of, yes?”
“That’s the way to do it,” he said. One of his fingers began fiddling with a stray lock of her black hair.
“But then…” she said. “These last days, I find out that he’s been going about with this blonde piruja. All this time, he’s two-timing me!”
She spat on the floor.
“So,” she went on. “I think, how do I get back at him? Maybe I tell some of things I hear, and maybe he learns what happens when you cross me.”
“And so you came to me?” said Mistretta.
“That’s right,” she said. “I think ‘there is this big fight going on. These gangsters are shooting each other up. I would be glad to see the bastard shot, so I will tell someone how to do it.’”
“You are a nasty bit of goods, chiquita chiquita.”
Karen squared her shoulders and flicked her head to pull her hair out of his reach.
“I have myself to look out for,” she said. “Maybe my next man knows not to try two-timing me.”
“So, what exactly…” Mistretta began, but at that moment there was a knock at the door and one of his thugs poked his head in.
“What is it?” the gangster snapped.
“Sorry, boss,” said the man. “There’s a cop here, says he’s got some questions for you. It’s about…” he glanced at Karen. “About that thing yesterday.”
Mistretta swore and looked down at Karen.
“You just wait here a bit, chiquita,” he said. “I’ll be right back.”
“Oh, I’ll wait,” she said with a smile.
With that he followed his man out, shutting the door behind him.
I cannot believe that worked, Karen thought as she immediate stood up and began searching the room. She didn’t know how long Crane could stall him; probably about five or ten minutes at best.
Windworth had said that the evidence wouldn’t be anywhere obvious or easy to get to: not in a drawer or cabinet, for instance. That honestly didn’t leave much. Karen drew a deep breath and forced herself to look at it calmly.
If she were a gangster, and meant to keep dirt on her associates just in case, where would she hide it? It would be somewhere that no one would just happen upon by accident, but also somewhere you could get at it fairly quickly.
She looked behind the cabinet, but nothing there. She eyed the ceiling, but it was solid plaster. Then she wondered whether there might be a hidden drawer or compartment in the desk.
Karen tugged open one of the bottom drawers, intending to feel about on the inside for a false bottom or a hidden lever. But when she opened it, she found that it contained nothing but bricks. Ordinary masonry bricks, stacked two deep. She checked the drawer on the other side, and it was the same.
Drawers full of bricks. And the desk itself was a heavy, solid, metal affair. It would take a strong man to move it at the best of times, let alone weighted down.
Karen knelt down and looked under the desk. The inner left corner, which, facing from the door, would be right behind Mistretta’s chair, and which bore the brunt of the weight from the bricks, was missing its leg and instead was propped up by a couple of thick leather binders.
She looked over her shoulder. She didn’t know how long Mistretta had been gone. It felt like a long time, but objectively she knew it wasn’t more than a minute. Could she possibly get the binders out of there before he came back?
Karen felt them, but as she’d expected they were wedged in tight and impossible to move. If she got the bricks out she might be able to shift the desk enough to retrieve them. But would she have time?
More importantly, would she ever have another opportunity?
With a hasty glance at the door, Karen began piling bricks out of the desk setting them on the floor. They were heavy and scratched her hands, and every time she set them down on the tiled floor they gave a ‘clunk’ that she felt must be audible from the main shop. But no one came; no angry faces burst in on her.
She was able to take about two bricks at a time, and in about half a minute had cleared out one drawer and started on the other. Her heart hammered painfully against her chest, and the tight skirt she had to wear didn’t make lifting the bricks any easier. Every second she expected Mistretta to return and catch her. The music still blaring into the shop outside made it impossible to hear any signs of his approach.
The second drawer was cleared. Karen ducked under the desk and tugged at the leather binders. Even without its load of bricks, the desk was heavy; too heavy for her to lift by herself. She bent and braced her back against the top of the desk and pushed with her legs. It lifted, not much, but just enough. The binders came free.
For a moment, Karen felt exulted with triumph as she tucked the binder into her purse. But then she realized that, first, she now needed to put all the bricks back before Mistretta arrived, and second that without its brace the inner corner of the desk sagged noticeably; Mistretta would know something was wrong the moment he returned.
Thinking quickly, Karen seized one of the bricks and jammed it in under the desk. The game would be up the moment he looked at it, but at least the desk wouldn’t wobble too much. This done, she began piling the bricks back into the desk. Time was running out; she could feel it, but she didn’t dare go any faster lest the bricks clang loudly against the steel.
Back and forth, two at a time. Every time she looked at the door, she expected to see it open, to see Mistretta standing before her. She had no idea what she’d do if that happened: she had her sidearm hidden in her jacket pocket, but at this close range she didn’t fancy her chances of getting it out in time.
The left hand drawer was filled. Now for the right. Seven bricks to go. Five. Three. One…
Karen pushed the drawer shut, then noticed the dust and crumbs that had come off of them. Hastily, she seized a ledger from the desk and swept it as best as she could out of sight under the desk. It made a nasty scratching sound against the tiled floor. Putting the ledger back as close as she could to where it had laid, heart pounding with her triumph, she threw herself back into her chair.
As though it had been a signal, not five seconds after she’d sat down the door opened and Mistretta came in. He seemed in a bad temper.
“Now,” he said with an attempt at a suave smile that reminded her of a dog baring its teeth. “Where were we?”
He ran his hands along her shoulders and felt at the edges of her shirt. Karen pulled away, standing up.
“Not that far by a long shot,” she said, waggling a finger at him and leaning against his desk. She hoped very much she was screening the brick from sight.
“You all right?” he said. “You seem nervous?”
“Nervous? No! I am angry!” she said. “I think of what this man has done to me, and then I am kept waiting for so long, it is enough to infuriate!”
“Cops,” he said with a shrug. “What’re you gonna do? Anyway, what’s this you want to tell me?”
Karen willed herself to focus through her fear. Though her heart was hammering and she expected every minute for him to peer through the lining of her purse and see the stolen binder, she nevertheless stayed in character and gave her spiel. The information was all fake, but just close enough to the truth to be convincing. She told him where one of the Mexican gangs supposedly had its hide out and their schedule for receiving shipments.
“If you time it right,” she said. “You not only kill many of these pigs, but you get a nice bonus for yourself, eh?”
“I’ll take a look,” he said. “If it checks out, then I’ll owe you chiquita.”
“Just kill Juan Estravedos,” said Karen with a convincing approximation of a hateful snarl. “Then I will be happy.”
“Well, that’s the important thing,” he said.
Karen nodded, as if to say they were done, and started for the door. But Mistretta put a hand on her shoulder to stop her. Once more she was aware of that terrifying, animal strength.
“You know,” he said. “There are ways to make you happy right now.”
Karen feigned a flattered smile even as a faintly sick feeling came into her stomach.
“Thank you, but I’m not that kind of girl.”
“Oh, I think you are,” he said. His grip tightened on her shoulder. “Or else you wouldn’t be here, would you.”
Karen swallowed and her smile faded, replaced by a hard, watchful look. Her mind was running through several possible gambits to get out of this situation. Once she tried one, she’d be all in, and none of them seemed to offer good odds.
“Take your hand off me, please,” she said.
Mistretta’s face twitched. Instead of complying, he seized her right arm in a grip that made her wince.
“What’s the matter?” he said. “I’m not good enough for you?”
“You’re hurting me,” she gasped.
“Don’t worry; you’ll get to like it before long. They all do.”
Time was rapidly running out. She needed to act now or not at all. She’d knee him in the crotch and make a break for the door, drawing her pistol as she went. With luck, the pain would make him lose his grip, and she’d be armed and out of reach before he could recover…with luck. But if it didn’t work…
Before Karen could start, however, there was a heavy knock at the door to the office. Mistretta clapped a hand over Karen’s mouth and shouted “Not now!”
The door opened, and Karen’s confusion (and probably Mistretta’s as well), one of the winos from the alley stumbled in. He smelled rancid, and a half-empty bottle dangled from one hand.
“Sho-sorry,” he muttered, clearly in an advanced state of intoxication. “I’m jush looking for a bathroom…”
“How the hell did you get in here?” Mistretta snarled, throwing Karen into the chair by the desk. She seized her chance to reach into her jacket and pull out her sidearm…but then something very strange happened.
The foul-smelling wino had stumbled into the office and seemed to be trying to find his way among the metal cabinet. Mistretta gave him a hard shove to the chest, meaning push him out through the doorway. But as he did, the wino suddenly turned with the blow, and using Mistretta’s own momentum pulled him off balance, slamming him face-first in the cabinet. While the gangster was still reeling from the blow, the wino smashed his bottle across his face, dropping him to the floor in a cloud of blood and broken glass.
Karen hadn’t quite registered what had happened when the wino seized her hand and pulled her to her feet. They were out of the office and into the main shop before she had realized what was happening. As they ran through the crowded, noisy space, she saw that Mistretta’s men were all lying incapacitated against the workbenches or stretched out on the floor.
The next minute they were out the door, down the alleyway, and had emerged on the opposite street, where they slipped into the foot traffic. Karen hastily returned her gun to her pocket.
The ‘wino’ kept moving until they could duck into another alleyway and out of sight of the street.
“You all right?” he asked, and his voice confirmed what Karen had been vaguely aware from the moment he’d entered the office.
“Please, not so loud,” he said. “I’ve got a price on my head, remember?”
“But…what are you doing here?”
“Saving your hide; what’s it look like?” he said. “Would have been there sooner except I had to deal with the guards.”
“Wait, but, how did you know…”
“I was watching, of course. Through the window. You weren’t lying about having brains, either; figuring out the deal with the bricks was smart work. Gutsy too. Took me a while to get what you were doing.”
Karen brushed a stray lock of her hair out of her face. She was trembling and breathing hard, though she thought she could pass that off as due to running.
“You knew something like this would happen, didn’t you?”
“I knew it was the weakest part of the plan,” he said. “I don’t mean to get sappy, but you are a very beautiful woman, detective. I knew that a man once alone with you would need a lot of self-control to keep his hands to himself. And Mistretta’s not the self-controlling type. So I kept an eye out to see if things got out of hand, and obviously they did, so I came running.”
Karen wasn’t really sure how to respond to that, both because the comment on her looks made her uncomfortable and because she’d never really been rescued before.
“You smell terrible,” she said by way of buying time to collect her ideas.
“Thank you,” he said. “It’s part of the disguise; don’t want someone looking too close, discourage them from getting too close.”
“Well, thanks for the help,” she said. “Where did you learn to fight like that anyway?”
“Boy Scouts. By the way, did we actually get anything from all of that?”
In the excitement of the escape, Karen had almost forgotten the binder. She took it out and flipped it open to find it contained hand-written notes, photographs, and memoranda, which a glance told her pertained to criminal activity.
She smiled broadly, too exhilarated and too frazzled to hide her feelings.
“Got them,” she said.
“That’s a relief,” said Windworth. “Best get that to Crane; I’m gonna get out of town before Mistretta wakes up. This is all your problem now, detective.”
She gave him a shrewd look.
“That’s what you said yesterday, and yet here you are.”
He looked at her with a strange expression she couldn’t quite place, then shrugged.
“What can I say? I’m a liar.”