Sensual nights and long, hot days. That’s what Detective Maria Selena knew now that the stranger had his lustful hold over her. She searches her contacts to find out more about him, but trouble and dead-ends dog her footsteps. A danger lurks closer as she finds herself caught in a seductive net of mystery and a hint of something supernatural that her detective skills may not be able to get her out of.
It was like a bad rerun. I woke up naked in my bed with a delicious sex hangover. The warm sun through the windows told me I was late to work, if I had work to go to. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and ran a hand through my wild hair. This was getting nuts. I had this murderer wooing me like he was some sort of midnight Casanova. And what the hell was with that warning?”
“Don’t try to find me. . .” I whispered.
I raised my head and grinned. Ominous and probably good advice, yes, but a stupid thing to say to me. Anyone who gave me an order was daring me to disobey it. That meant Challenge Accepted, and to hell with the consequences. That is, if I could actually pull it off. I had bits and pieces of the puzzle, but no picture yet and the box was lost. That meant a lot of footwork for me today.
But first, I had to play with an old enemy of mine: paperwork. I still had to turn in my statement to Howard, not that it’d help him much.
Still, I had one hell of a problem, and it had to do with a certain shadow.
I stood and paced the room. To tell them or not to tell them about my liaisons with not only a murderer, but the murderer they were looking for. I had proof it was the same guy. The hair did that. I was an upstanding-well, I was a fellow cop. That counted for something.
I heard a knock on my door.
“Selena? You home?” It was Randy.
I glanced down at myself. Still naked. I peeked my head outside the bedroom and looked to the door. “Gimme a sec!” I slipped back into the bedroom and hopped into some clothes that weren’t torn to shreds. Those got tossed under the bed with the monsters.
“If you’re just getting dressed, I could help you,” he called back.
I hopped into one sock and rolled my eyes. He was happily married and had a kid. I hopped into the other sock and to the door, and opened it. Randy stood on my threshold with a small yellow envelope in his hand. He held it out to me.
“Happy birthday!” he quipped.
I raised an eyebrow, but took the envelope. “It’s not my birthday,” I reminded him.
He grinned and shrugged. “I know, but Jim wanted you to have this. He called me up and asked me to hand it to you personally. Something about he didn’t want you to ask him any questions.”
I frowned and tore open the envelope. “He’s pretty sneaky for a geek. . .” I muttered.
“I think it’s because he’s a geek that he’s so sneaky,” Randy commented. He looked past me at my apartment. “How you doing, anyway? The chief told me you were off for a couple of days. Needed a vacation or something?”
I snorted as I pulled out a slip of paper. It had Jim’s handwriting on it. The hair samples were at the bottom in a small plastic bag.
I turned the paper around so it faced Randy. “You ever able to read Jim’s writing?” I asked him.
“Never tried.” Randy leaned forward and squinted. “Looks like something about no much found in the bagelbase.”
I flipped the paper around and tucked it back into the envelope. Randy’s partial decryption told me what I wanted to know, but not what I wanted to hear. “Maybe I’ll just go bother him about it later,” I mused.
Randy straightened. “Don’t you have a statement to turn in today?” he reminded me.
“I was just about to start it when I heard this knock on the door,” I told him.
He grinned. “Glad I could help. Anyway, the chief said to take that down when you’re done. Be seeing you.” He turned, but paused halfway and glanced over his shoulder at me. His eyes narrowed and studied me. “You do something different?”
I frowned and shook my head. “No, why?”
“You just look different. I don’t know, just something about your hair or your clothes.” He studied me for a while longer and then shrugged. “Guess it’s just me. Anyway, good luck on the statement. I know how we all love doing paperwork.”
I grabbed the door and smiled. “And we never do it enough,” I quipped.
He smiled and nodded. “Yep. Anyway, see ya.”
“See ya.” I closed the door behind him and turned away. My eyes widened. I swung the door open and jumped into the hall. Randy was halfway down and near the stairs. “Hey!”
He paused and glanced over his shoulder. “What?”
“You answer the call about the bodies they found in the river?”
Even at this distance I could see him roll his eyes. “Really? Here?”
“Did you?” I persisted.
Randy threw up his arms. “No, I was too busy with this idiot detective who doesn’t know when to call for backup. Besides, the chief said no-go on telling you anything. You’re on vacation, remember?”
I snorted. “More like solitary confinement, but I get your point.”
Randy walked down the stairs and out of sight. I returned to my apartment and shut the apartment door, this time for good.
“Damn. . .” I muttered.
There went the easy way to learn the location, and Jim wasn’t talking, either. I’d just have to go to another source for the info. It wasn’t reliable, but it was a source.
My source was located in the seedier part of the old downtown where the buildings had flat roofs, few floors, and a clientele that made the Wolf’s Den look chic. Skyscrapers were those dark shadows far away in the sky and the shadows in the alleys weren’t as tantalizing as the one that haunted my nights.
The particular hangout for my source was a small bar at the corner of hopelessness and desperation. The city blocks around the squat, single-floor building were filled with vacant apartment buildings and office buildings with false fronts and false advertisement. Some said they were lawyers, others shoemakers, but they were all holes for drug dealers and swindlers. Maybe not in the order, but you get the picture.
The name of the bar was the Rusty Knife, a fitting name for a building that was held together by rust and bird shit from the pigeons that hung out on the roof. I walked through the stained wooden door and into the dark, smoke-filled room. The walls were paneled in a depression black color that probably increased their customers’ consumption of their cheap liquor and cheaper beer. Round tables sat in odd spots around the small room. Some had chairs, some didn’t, and some had broken chairs that had limped through their sorry existence for more years than I’d lived.
The place was its usually rowdy self. Some people sat in their chairs slumped over the tables, others were slumped over the bar or coddling a large mug of the cheap alcohol. There were a few pool tables at the rear of the place. That was where the best light was to be found so nobody could cheat with weighted balls.
My target was a table in one of the darker corners at the far back. It was close to the bar, but not close enough that somebody on the stools could get a good look at the guy who sat there by himself. I walked through the mess of tables and some of the unconscious figures revived themselves enough to give me some tasteful compliments.
“Wanna fuck?” one slurred man asked me.
“Go fuck yourself,” I quipped as I, like life, passed him by.
I came up to the table drenched in shadows and folded my arms across my chest. Before me sat a man in a heavy overcoat with a baseball cap pulled over his face. He wore black gloves and had an untouched mug of beer in front of him. On the table was a smart-phone with a large, bright screen. The screen was made so it could only be viewed from the front, so I couldn’t make out what was on it. That was probably for the best. I would’ve had to arrest him fro some of his shady dealings.
Now you know how Quinn Stewart rolled in the underworld, and he was the one who would have the answers for me.
“You busy, Quinn?” I asked him.
His voice was scratchy, but strong. That spoke of youth, or at least some years fewer than his husky, twelve-packs-a-day type of voice. Even after dealing with him for five years I still couldn’t place his age. “Yep,” he quipped.
I slid into the chair opposite him. “Good, because I want some info.”
He didn’t lift his head from the screen. “You ever take a hint?”
“Nope, but I’ll take some info. That is, if you have it,” I quipped.
Quinn never could resist a challenge, especially when it pricked his pride. He lifted his head high enough to glare at me with his dark eyes. His face, what little I could see between the cap and the high collar of the overcoat, was pale. Sunlight wasn’t usually on the agenda for him.
“I’ve got everything.”
I leaned back in the chair, folded my arms across my chest and shrugged. “You might not have this info.”
He shook his head and returned his attention to the smart-phone. “I’m not letting you do this to me again, detective.”
“Do what?” I innocently asked.
“Give you info without the dough. No dough, no info,” he insisted.
“I’ve got dough, but how much depends on the answer,” I returned.
He shook his head. “I don’t work that way, not with customers,” he persisted.
“What about old friends?”
He snorted. “I didn’t get into this business to make friends, now show the dough or leave.”
I rolled my eyes, but plopped down a small roll of bills. Quinn raised his head and reached for them, but I grasped them in my palm and slid them out of his reach. “You’ve seen the dough, now let’s see if you’ve got my answer.”
His eyes flickered to me and he retracted his hand. “Shoot.”