Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Walt Murphy – Part Two – 22




Our pizza arrived half an hour later. By then we were both sprawled out on the sofa, Ricky's head on my lap, sipping our drinks. I groaned when the doorbell rang. Ricky sat up, saying he thought he could handle answering it.

I noticed after he turned off the security, he left the chain on until he'd checked to be certain it was the delivery boy. Normally he'd have just opened the door. When he came back and set the boxes—because we'd also ordered cinnamon breadsticks as well—on the coffee table, I commented on that.

He shrugged. "Just getting into the right habits." He sat down then bounced up, saying we needed plates and napkins.

"Ricky…"

Stopping, he sighed. "I had visions of the person who shot at us standing there; ready to try again when I opened the door."

I understood completely. The thought had flicked through my head for a brief second before I dismissed it as implausible. I told him so, adding, "He's not that stupid. Besides which, how would he know we'd ordered out?"

"If he was watching from that car across the street, and saw the main chance."

"What car?" I was on my feet seconds later, going to the front window.

"The green one." Ricky joined me, as I cautiously pulled back the curtain an inch to peer out.

"There's no green car," I told him.

"Well there was. It was there when we got home from returning the truck, and it was still there a minute ago. Honest. I'm not seeing things."

"When were you planning on telling me?" I asked, feeling more than a bit worried.

"I… Okay, I thought it probably belonged to a neighbor, but still… it gave me a creepy feeling. Then I figured I was letting my imagination get the best of me."

"Did you see anyone in it?"

"No. But when you're staking out some place, I bet you don't just sit up where anyone can see you."

"Actually I do. That's why I have tinted windows—so I don't have to spend my time slouched down below window level. That sort of defeats the purpose of watching a place. I sit on the passenger side and usually have something like a magazine or a newspaper—to make it look like I'm killing time while waiting for the driver to come back—just in case some nosy parker approaches to see if the car's vacant or not."

"Well that car had normal windows and I didn't see anyone."

"Then it was probably belonged to someone visiting a neighbor. So don't worry about it. Let's eat before the pizza gets cold."

He looked relieved and I figured I'd managed to dispel his anxiety. I, on the other hand, was going to be on the lookout for any green cars in the neighborhood, or anywhere else. Yeah, what I'd told him was probably the reality of the situation. But I wasn't taking any chances.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Walt Murphy – Part Two – 21




Once we were seated in the restaurant, and had ordered lunch, I think what happened finally hit Ricky. He shivered, saying in a shaky voice, "Not an auspicious start to my moving in."

I reached over to grip his hand. "Look at it this way. It could have happened if you'd only come by to visit and we'd decided to go to lunch, which we often do."

"True, I suppose," he didn't look convinced. "Do you think I'm right? That it had something to do with the murder?"

"A fairly logical conclusion. I'm not involved in any case that someone might want to scare me away from. And last I heard, clients don't shoot their accountants."

Ricky chuckled. A sign he was a bit less afraid. "Only in their dreams." Or not. He took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "Thank God they missed us."

"That or they didn't intend to hit us in the first place. It could have been a warning. Probably was since it's the middle of the day. They waited until there wasn't anyone close by, and my suspicion is they were driving, not walking. Pulling out a gun in broad daylight would be fairly obvious."

"So would a couple of dead bodies," Ricky muttered. "Whoever it was, were they trying to warn you off of having anything more to do with the Engel case?" 

"That would be my guess."

"Then how about we take a long vacation to the Bahamas until Detective Sharp finds her killer?"

"The Bahamas?" I said, playing along to help him calm down, if that was possible.

"First place that came to mind." He smiled weakly. "Hell, I'd settle for Alaska."

"Not me, thanks."

Our food arrived just then. Ricky looked at his sandwich as if it was the last thing in the world he wanted, but began to eat when I suggested we needed energy if we were going to get the truck unloaded before midnight. He chuckled at that, pointing out it was barely past one so we'd better be done well before then.

We actually finished getting his things into the house by five. I'll admit that every time a car drove by I flinched, waiting for another gunshot. Ricky was just as tense, spending as much time looking around when we were outside as he did paying attention to what he was getting from the truck.

By the time we finished, he was a total bundle of nerves again, so I broke out a bottle of Scotch I'd been saving for a special occasion. That seemed to help—for both of us actually. We got his clothes put away and found a spot in my study—as I pretentiously called it—for the antique desk that had belonged to his grandfather. The boxes of books ended up on the floor in front of the bookcases in the living room since neither of us had the energy, or the desire, to deal with them at the moment. Hell, we barely had the energy to return the truck. But we did.

"Pizza?" I asked when we got home, figuring it was time to eat again, given that it was going on eight.

"Does it go with Scotch?" he inquired, finding his empty glass that he'd left on the kitchen counter.

"Babe, pizza goes with anything, and so does Scotch, so that would be a yes."

"Then an extra large with everything."

"You got it. I think I'll have the same."

"Uh-huh. Even you couldn't eat a whole one by yourself."

"Bet me?"

"Umm. No?" He poured himself another drink while I ordered pizza. Just one despite our kidding around.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Walt Murphy – Part Two – 20




Sunday dawned bright and sunny. A good omen, I figured, for Ricky's move into my house. After breakfast we took off, stopping at the rental place to pick up the truck he'd reserved before going to his apartment. We also got a ton of boxes since he admitted, rather sheepishly, that he'd only managed to pack his books before running out of the ones he cadged from his local grocery store.

We avoided any talk of Ms Engel's murder while we packed the rest of what he was bringing with him. Most of the furniture, other than a few favorite pieces he didn't want to part with, he had donated to the local homeless shelter. They were scheduled to pick them up around noon. Two young men in a battered long-bed truck appeared right on time and between the four of us we managed to get everything into it and tied down.

After they left, Ricky and I hauled way too many boxes, and the remaining furniture, down to the rental truck. We arrived at my, well, our house now, and parked in the driveway.

I got out of my car, going over to the truck, leaning my arms on the window sill. I guess that's what it is, even in a vehicle. "I opt we go get lunch first before tackling unpacking," I told him.

Ricky agreed wholeheartedly. There's a small but decent restaurant only two blocks from the house, so we decided to walk. We were halfway there, taking a shortcut through a vacant lot, when I heard, first, a small popping noise, followed almost instantly by the sound of something zinging by my head. Now maybe I was overreacting but I grabbed Ricky, shoving him to the ground, with me right beside him in the tall weeds.

"What the hell?" he sputtered angrily.

"Shush," I growled. Cautiously I lifted my head to see if I could spot anyone—because I was damned sure that hadn't been a riled-up bee that flew past me.

There was no one in sight. I slowly got to my knees, checked again, then stood, offering Ricky my hand.

"What was that all about," he asked after I hauled him to his feet.

"Unless I'm very mistaken, someone took a potshot at us."

Ricky paled. "I didn't hear anything."

"They used a silencer. Luckily they were a lousy shot."

"Why? I mean, why shoot at us?"

"If I knew that, I'd know who it was."

His thoughts obviously went the same place mine did because he said, "If you're right, it has to have something to do with Ms Engel's murder."

"A likely conclusion, unless you've got a jealous lover hidden away."

"This is not a laughing matter!" he spat out. But he did smile. Barely. "Or you do," he countered. By then he was looking a bit more like himself, albeit with dirt and broken weeds on his jeans and shirt.

I was in the same shape, so we brushed off as best as possible before I asked, "Do you still want to do lunch?"

"Damned straight. No punk is going to scare me off. Well, not from decent food anyway."

Wrapping one arm around him, I kissed him lightly. Then we proceeded on our way with me keeping a wary eye open for anyone who might look like they intended to play 'shooting gallery' again—with us as the targets.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Walt Murphy – Part Two – 19




Tom asked, "Is there anything else you can tell me that could be relevant to her death."

"Hell, everything I told you so far could be, although I doubt it is. Wait, I take that back. She got a phone call while we were at the bar. That's why she left. She said it was from, how did she phrase it? Oh yeah. One of her people who wanted a special session."

"You're sure she said 'people', not 'clients'?"

"Yep. It made me wonder if it was someone she worked with for the gym, or something else, but I didn't ask."

"Maybe you should have."

I nodded. "In hindsight, yeah, but I really wasn't expecting her to get murdered."

"No kidding," Ricky muttered. He'd been awfully quite so far—at least for him. Then he asked Tom, "What makes you think it wasn't just a random mugging gone wrong?"

"At this point, that's one option. I'm here because she was holding Walt's business card when she was killed. Holding it, not carrying it in her purse."

Ricky frowned. "Maybe someone's trying to frame him for the murder?"  

"Possible. Or she saw someone in the lot…let's say the boy's father, and was going to call Walt to tell him."

"What if he's the one who called her at the bar?"

"Nope," I said before Tom could reply. "I'm sure if it had been him she'd have told me. After all, she wanted to hire me again. This time to look for him. I declined by the way."

"All right," Tom said. He glanced at his notepad before putting it back in his pocket. "I have no more questions right now, although"—he smiled slightly—"I'm sure I'll have more later on." He stood, thanked me for my time, and left.

"Whew," Ricky blew out a relieved sounding breath.

"Yeah, I feel the same way." I grinned at him. "You didn't decide to take things into your own hands and deal with, what did you call her? That predatory female?"

"That's not even funny," he muttered.

"I know. None of this is. Especially the fact that someone seemed to want make certain my name was brought into her murder. Because I don't for a second believe she just happened to be holding my card when she was attacked. Hell, if that was the case she'd have dropped it while trying to defend herself."

Ricky nodded. "And given what she did for a living, she would have defended herself, which Sharp said she didn't. She wasn't some weak, girly-type woman from what you've said."

"Not at all. Oh, she could pull out the tears when she thought it would work to her advantage, but yeah, she definitely wasn't a delicate flower of femininity."

"So now what happens?" he asked, staring at me. "Are you going to stay involved in spite of what Detective Sharp said?" 

"Definitely. But not tonight. I have other things I need to do."

"Such as?" Ricky wanted to know, cocking one eyebrow.

"Working on relieving the tension we're both feeling," I replied. "I think a long run in the park…"

"Like. Hell!" My lover pointed to the stairs, saying "We're going up there. Now." as if he was already living here—which he would be as of tomorrow I suddenly realized—and half-boss of…well everything. Including me.

Not being one to offer debate at a time like this, I got up, pulled him to his feet and we retired to my bedroom for some 'tension relief' of the best kind.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Walt Murphy – Part Two – 18




"Is that her handwriting?"

I took another glance at the card and shook my head. "Hers is more…delicate for lack of a better description. Look, why don’t you come inside. You know I'll tell Ricky everything anyway. At least this way, he can hear the rest of it firsthand."

Tom paused then agreed. When we got inside, he nodded to Ricky before sitting on the chair across from the sofa, taking out his notepad and a pen. I sat my usual place, next to my soon to be housemate.

"Before you continue your conversation," Ricky said, "I heard almost everything you two were saying so you don't have to fill me in." He turned his full attention to Tom. "Do you think Walt had something to do with the woman's death? Because if you do I'll swear he never left the house after he got here, and that was around five-forty-five."

"Real quick drink at the bar, then" Tom commented, glancing at me before answering Ricky's question. "There's nothing that puts Walt at the scene of the crime and I suspect he can prove what time the two of them left the bar."

"Actually, she left before me but yeah, a couple of the regulars that I know were there. They can vouch for us coming in together and leaving separately."

"Next question. What did she hire you to do?"

"To find her son." I filled him in on the bare details.

"At any point, did you get the impression she thought she might be in danger?"

"Quite the opposite. She struck me as being the type of woman who was totally in control of her life and wouldn't let anything faze her."

"That didn't quite answer my question," Tom said.

"Okay. No. If she had been, or thought she was, I suspect she'd have told me."

"She didn't seem nervous or…wary, this evening?"

I almost laughed. "I think I was the nervous one, since she was coming on to me."

That raised Tom's eyebrows. "She didn't know about you?"

"There was no reason to tell her." I heard a disgusted sniff from Ricky and patted his leg. "Well there wasn't, since I did my best to rebuff her attempts as nicely as possible, without playing the gay card."

"Okay," Tom said. "You mentioned the man who was—is the boy's father. Did you get in touch with him during your investigation?"

"Yes. We've talked twice. Both times at my office.  As a matter of fact, he hired me to do a background check on her."

"Why?"

"For the same reason I was willing to do it. We both wanted to know what prompted her to suddenly decide she had to find the son she gave up over twenty years ago."

Tom looked dubious when I said that. "She didn't give you a reason?"

"She said she wanted to make amends. There was just something…iffy about that. When I found out that the kid stands to inherit a fair sum of money, I had to wonder if she knew. It made a hell of a lot more sense that was the real reason behind her search."

"I take in the boy's father agrees with you?"

"Yeah." I left it at that. I wasn't going to reveal that Carlo knew where his son was, unless it became necessary. True, it was sort of moot now, with Ms Engel being dead and all. Still, it wasn’t my story to tell as the saying goes.

Tom leaned back, looking at me. "What's the father's name?"

Since he'd find out anyway, I told him. "He seems like a good man, from what I can tell," I added.

"Even 'good' men have been known to kill off women if they felt threatened in some way. If he didn't want his family, or his wife, to know what happened…"

"His family knows, and he's not married. However, I did discover Ms Engel was, or had been, apparently. I haven't pursued it past learning she was once Coleen Engel Whitmore. I was planning on following up on that Monday morning."

"No, Walt. You're out of it now. With her murder, this becomes police business."

"How did I know you'd say that?" I replied dryly.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Walt Murphy – Part Two – 17




When I got to my front porch, Ricky sniffed as he hugged me. Then he sniffed again and stepped away. I expected some sort of explosion. Instead he shook his head and chuckled. "I take it you had a run-in with Ms Engel."

Relieved he wasn't pissed, I replied, "Now what makes you think it was her?"

"Because, lover"—he stressed the word—"she had better be the only woman who would dare get close enough to you to leave her scent on you, and"—he rubbed a finger over my cheek—"her lipstick."

"I swear," I muttered as I let us inside. "I wonder if she did that on purpose, thinking I had a lady friend who'd be jealous."

He snorted. "Not a lady here, and not jealous. Much. Okay maybe a trace. So she'd better find someone else to try to get her claws into." He grumbled a bit more about predatory women until I went upstairs to change clothes. When I came back down he was in the kitchen, looking to see what we could fix for dinner.

Before anyone wonders, we might not be living together—yet—but he has free run of the house when he's here, just as I do with his place.

Two hours later we were finished with dinner and in the middle of watching a show on TV when my doorbell rang. Glancing at Ricky, who shrugged, I went to answer it. Police Detective Tom Sharp stood there. Tom was an old—well I guess we were friends in that we sometimes helped each other out.

"I need to have a word with you, in private," he said, looking past me into the living room.

"Yeah, sure." I stepped onto the porch, half closing the door behind me. "What's going on?"

"Do you know a Ms Coleen Engel?"

I nodded. "She's a client of mine. Or was up until yesterday."

"Is that the last time you saw her?"

"Mind telling me why you're asking?"

"In a minute." He looked expectantly at me.

"Okay. No, it wasn't. I ran into her this evening, just after I left work. She was waiting for me at my car. She suggested we go for a drink, so we went across the street to the Back Room."

"And?" he asked when I quit talking.

"And nothing. We talked a bit. She wanted to hire me again, for something else, then she got a phone call and left." I leaned against the doorframe, crossing my arms. "What gives? Why the questions?"

"Ms Engel was found an hour ago, in the parking lot behind the gym where she worked. She'd been stabbed several times, possibly by someone she knew, as there were no defensive wounds. She had this in her hand." He took a plastic evidence envelope from his pocket. Inside was one of my business cards. Turning the envelope over, he showed me the back. Someone had written my license plate number on it, along with the address of the lot I park in, and a time—five pm.

"Before you jump to any conclusions," I said, "that is not my handwriting."

Tom smiled—slightly. "I know. But is the time right for her being at your car to meet you?"

"Yeah."

"Would she know your handwriting?"

I had to think about that for a moment. "No. Well she saw my signature because I signed the contact with her, but that's all."

Friday, September 18, 2015

Release day for 'Henri - To Catch a Kidnapper-Book Two'

Henri - To Catch a Kidnapper-Book Two

http://firebornpublishing.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_bookx_info&cPath=5&products_id=138

Blurb:
Allyn and Ransom's new friend coywolf shifter, Henri, has been hiding at Allyn and Miranda's house to avoid an insane abductor. Finally deciding he'll be hostage to his fears no more, Henri enlists his friends to help him lure the maniacal murderer into the open so they can catch him, once and for all. They have to get his attention and a ritzy outdoor party thrown by gallery owner Taegan Sauvage is just the place.

Taegan doesn't realize, when he meets his friends at the party, that the man accompanying them will awaken his protective urges. Being a shifter too, he joins the group in their effort to end the threat on Henri's life. What he didn't plan was a serious attachment to Henri.

Will the attraction between Henri and Taegan have a chance to grow or will their search end in death for one or both of them?
CONTENT ADVISORY: Order of series matters in this series. Please do not read out of order.

Excerpt:
Henri stood on the third floor balcony of Miranda and Allyn's mansion, looking wistfully toward the skyline of New Orleans. He missed the freedom of being able to go there whenever he pleased. He hadn't been able to since the day he'd escaped from Xavier's clutches. He had thought it would be safe in the city, when he'd became a "pet dog" in the home of Mrs Graham and her children.

"At least they thought I was a dog," he said under his breath, "and it served me well for the time I was there." Then Xavier and his man had found him.

Henri shuddered as he always did when he remembered how the two men had slaughtered the woman and her children because of him. He had narrowly escaped then was offered sanctuary on Allyn Warwick's estate.

I've been here six months and I have no idea if Xavier is still searching for me or if he's finally given up.

"You're in a blue study," Miranda said from the balcony doorway.

Henri turned to smile ruefully at her. "I suppose I am."

"How did the hunt go?" she asked, joining him at the railing. "My brother, of course, hasn't bothered to check in to tell me."

Chuckling, Henri replied, "I suspect he had more pressing things on his mind--like Ransom. The hunt went well. We found the remaining pack members--all two of them, at this point, I'm afraid--and convinced them to move to a safe area Allyn knew about. Then we drew the hunters away before those two were killed as well."

"Fantastic. Allyn says you're a wonderful asset."

Henri bowed his head, embarrassed. "I'm...trying to be."

She hugged him, just as her husband came onto the balcony.

"There you are," John said. "Should I be jealous?"

Miranda laughed. "Nope. You're the only man for me and always will be."

"I know." He walked to her side, ruffling her hair, eliciting a growl from her. Then he studied Henri. "Something wrong?"

Henri shrugged. "Nothing I can do anything about."

John seemed to understand what he meant because he said, "Surely it's safe for you to venture out now...more than just to accompany Allyn on his jaunts to save the wolves."

"I keep telling myself it should be," Henri replied. "Then I think about what will happen if I'm wrong."

"We have to figure out a way to find the bastard," Miranda stated emphatically.

"Don't you think I've tried...with Ransom and Allyn's help? It's hard when we don't know where he took me. Ransom's scoured every database he has access to--and that's a lot. Xavier hasn't shown up on any of them." He smiled wryly. "The good detective has picked my brain dry, which wasn't hard. All I remember is bits and pieces of the lab. That's no help when it comes to locating Xavier."

"Why not use them to teleport back there?" Miranda asked.

"There's nothing distinctive, from what I recall of the place. I was sedated twenty-four-seven, so things are hazy at best. Cage bars, a food bowl appearing on a dirty floor, the kind of generic bathroom you'd find in a million hospitals around the world... The one time I wasn't doped up, I saw a ceiling, since I was strapped to a lab table. It was the day I escaped. However, the only thing I was thinking about right then was where I'd end up, not the room I was leaving."

"You think it was a hospital?" John asked.

"What hospital has cages? I only used that as an example because... Well, it's what the bathroom reminded me of."

"At least Ransom knows what he looks like, after putting you with the sketch artist," Miranda said.

"It hasn't done a damned bit of good," Henri replied morosely. "As he said, there are no wants-and-warrants for anyone named Xavier, last name unknown, who looks like him."

"What if Xavier is his last name?" John said.

"Ransom tried that too. Still no luck."

"It might not be his real name, you know."

Henri nodded. "Ransom figured it was a possibility. Unfortunately, no one resembling Xavier has shown up in any files--police, military, what have you."

"The great and mysterious Wizard of Oz." Miranda smiled, patting Henri's arm.

"He might as well be. The problem is, we haven't found the curtain he's hiding behind." Henri pounded his fist on the railing. "I want my freedom back, damn it!

"Maybe," Miranda said pensively, "if we tested the waters?"
 
"How so?" John asked.

"The three of us go out somewhere--or even the five of us." She nodded, then smiled. "John, you remember Taegan, don't you?"

"Vividly," John replied. "Amazing hair. Yeah, I know. I shouldn't be checking him out, but it's not often you see a man with black hair striped with white. When I first met him, I thought he was going for a Goth look and had added white streaks--until you told me it was natural because he's a timber wolf shifter."

"Eastern timber wolf, to be precise," Miranda said. "Anyway, he's throwing a party and we've been invited."

John groaned. "Another one?"

"Yes, dear." She patted his arm. "You will survive."

"Promise?"

She laughed before continuing. "It's a barbecue, and he's rented the Peristyle at City Park."

Henri sucked in a dismayed breath. "That's awfully public."

"That's the idea," Miranda pointed out. "If we're going to do it, go all the way."

"I suppose. Still..."

"I'll make you a deal," Miranda said. "Before we decide, we'll run it by Ransom and Allyn. If they say no--"

"We'll do it anyway, knowing you," John interjected, grinning.

She grinned back. "Maybe?"


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Walt Murphy – Part Two – 16




After Carlo left I settled down at the computer to check the easily verifiable things about Coleen Engel. I knew her phone number was legit. After all I had called her. I checked with the manager at the apartment building she'd listed on the contract, and found out she did live there and had for the past two years.

The man I spoke with at the gym told me she'd worked there for two years. I sensed a pattern here and made note to find out if she had only been in the city that long. 

Next I did the normal criminal records check, not really expecting to find anything. I didn't. She'd gotten her state driver's license—big surprise—two years ago as well. I knew she'd lived here before, while she was in school twenty years ago. She'd had a license then which expired four years after she graduated. She hadn't renewed it at that point.

So where had she been between then and now? I went to a website I belonged to and entered her full name and DOB. Gotta love it when you can let someone else do the busy work. It came up with five addresses, one from before she entered college, one here while she was in school, her present one, and two that were out-of-state. There was also a hit I hadn't expected, considering she'd told me she had never been married. There was an AKA of Coleen Engel Whitmore. Possibly an alias, but why use her first and present last name, if that was the case.

By now it was closing in on five and I was ready to call it a day. I shut down the computer after printing out the information I'd come up with before heading home.

At least that was my plan—to head home.

Ms Engel apparently thought otherwise. When I got to my car—in the lot down the street where I rented a spot—she was standing there. Or to be more correct, lounging against my car in what I can only presume was what she thought of as a seductive pose.

I debated telling her to move then decided to find out what was going on. So, plastering a smile on my face, I said, "Fancy meeting you here."

She smiled in return. "I was in the neighborhood and thought maybe, if you're free, we could go over there"—she nodded toward the Back Room, a small, local bar across the street—"and have a drink." When I hesitated, she looked pleadingly at me. "Please."

"What the hell. Sure. But only for one drink."

This woman, who was ten years my senior, simpered like a giddy teenager as she linked her arm with mine. It was not a good look on her.

When we got into the bar, a couple of the regulars looked at me in surprise. I didn't come here often, but when I did it was usually with Ricky. I knew they were wondering what was going on since Ms Engel was practically plastered against my right side now. I frowned and gave a brief shake of my head to let them know not to say anything. Thankfully they went back to their drinks and conversation.

Ms Engel steered me to an empty table in a dark corner of the room. When the waitress came over she gave me a questioning look but said nothing other than to ask what we wanted to drink. We told her and she left.

"So," Ms Engel—Coleen—said, stroking a finger over my arm, "you know all about me and I know nothing about you other than that you're an investigator. A very handsome one I might add."

I looked at her, smiling slightly. "Do you always come on this strong?"

She shrugged, grinning. "With a man I find interesting? Sometimes. So spill all."

"Not much to spill. I'm a workaholic who likes his job, born and bred here, have a house, no pets and"—I tapped a finger on the table as if I was thinking what else to say—"I'm thirty and counting."

"Oh my God. That makes me a cougar," she replied in mock horror just as our drinks arrived. After she took a sip of her Scotch and soda she veered the conversation away from where it had seemed to be heading. Looking sadly at me she said, "I wish you'd been able to find my son. Do you suppose there's any chance you could talk to the bastard who… I mean talk to Carlo and maybe convince him to go to the agency with me? I know I asked before and you didn't sound as if it would work, but…"

"First I'd have to find him."

"There is that," she agreed, stroking my arm again. I moved it away to take a drink of my beer so she looked pulled out the 'please help poor little me' look again. "Maybe I could hire you to do that?"

"Coleen, you don't need me to find him. I'm sure you could use any online people-search site and he'd show up."

"You finally used my first name! I was beginning to wonder if all you saw me as was a client. Well, an ex-client." She was back to being seductive again, curling her fingers around mine the moment I put down my drink. What the hell was with her? She was more mercurial than a… yeah, a giddy teenager.

"Well you're not my client now," I pointed out.

"I know. Which means I'll never see you again unless you come by the gym."

"Or you lay in wait for me," I replied with a tight laugh, trying to untangle our hands. I was successful but only because her phone's ringtone sounded. 'Let's Get it On'? Damn. Fit her though, from what I had seen since she first came into my office.

She answered, turning away from me. After a few intelligible words on her part she hung up. "I have to go. One of my people wants a special session."

I had to wonder exactly what that meant. Personal training or something else? Either way I wasn't about to ask.

She dropped her phone back in her purse, dug around for a moment and pulled out an envelope. As she handed it to me she said, "The passes I promised you. I also put the hours I work there, and my phone number so you can set up an appointment." Then—not too much to my surprise—she kissed my cheek. "So do it," she told me before taking off.

I watched her weaving between the tables to the door. She glanced back at me, waved her fingers and left.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Walt Murphy – Part Two – 15




"This may sound crazy," Carlo said once he'd taken a seat in my office, "but I want you to find out about what's gone on with Coleen the past few years."

"Is there a reason behind you're needing to know?" I asked.

"A very illogical one. She was, to put it bluntly, a gold-digger when she met me. A nascent one at that point, but still… Anyway, I'd like to know if I'm the only one she's gone after."

"Why?"

"Ammunition if she decides to cut to the chase and try to get back into my life."

"She doesn't want to, at least to hear her tell it. As a matter of fact, she said rather blatantly that she had no desire to have anything to do with you. Still"—I remembered what she'd hinted at yesterday—"she did say something about how, between the two of you, you might be able to convince the adoption agency to tell her where Ben ended up."

Carlo snorted. "The one she claims she used, which I know for a fact she didn't?"

"Yeah, that one." I drummed a finger on my desk. "If she did want to do that, she wouldn't need me to find you for her, which was what she hinted at. You're not exactly invisible."

"True, but I'd sure as hell tell her to get lost."

"Something I never asked, or checked on when I was searching for you. Are you married?"

"Nope. I've contemplated it a couple of times but when it came down to it I figured if I had to weigh the pros and cons I probably didn't love the woman enough to commit to her permanently."

"Smart man."

"Are you speaking from personal experience?"

I chuckled. "Not the way you mean it. I am in a committed relationship. Enough so that I finally decided I wanted him to move in with me, despite the inherent dangers. Dangers that—he pointed out quite often—exist whether we live together or not, since we're open about being a couple."

"Well I'll be damned. I wouldn't have figured that from looking at you. Sorry, that wasn't quite…politically correct."

I shrugged. "I've heard it before."

"Still…sorry for saying it," he said ruefully. Then he laughed. "Does Coleen know?"

"I…umm, sort of neglected to tell her. I figured she might be more willing to talk openly if she didn't know."

"Smart man," he said, echoing my words from a moment ago, before getting back on topic. "Can I hire you to do what I guess you'd call a background check on Coleen?"

"Yes, because I'm rather interested in finding out about her myself."

After that, we did the cost and contract necessities, he wrote out a retainer check and I was hired.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Walt Murphy – Part Two – 14




Ricky managed—quite valiantly I thought—to refrain from quizzing me about my day until after dinner. But as soon as we settled down in the living room with our coffees he asked, "So is Mr Donati the bad guy in this scenario?"

"Not even close. He took Ben when Ms Engel gave him up to be adopted. Of course she doesn't know this."

"And you're not going to tell her."

"Hell no. Even if I did, and I'm not that much of an ass, I couldn't tell her where he is, or what name he's using, because Carlo wasn't about to give me that information."

"Smart man."

I shot him an indignant look. "Meaning I wouldn't keep my mouth shut?"

"Not at all," he replied, leaning over to give me a hug. "I only meant the less people who know, all things considered, the better. Did he have any idea what's behind her looking for Ben?"

"No We did come up with one possibility, although it's sort of far fetched. Carlo's father died six months ago. According to his will, his estate was to be divided between his wife, Carlo, and any children Carlo might have at that point."

"A large estate?"

"Carlo didn't go into specifics, but I suspect it's more than you or I will see in our lifetime."

"There was no mention of Carlo's wife, if he had one, getting part of the inheritance?"

"Apparently not," I replied.

"So if Ms Engel happened to find out about the will, she'd figure the only way to get her slimy hands on some of the money would be through Ben."

"Slimy hands?" I chuckled.

"Yeah. Ms Touchy-Feely, from what you told me about your first meeting with her. Ergo, she's got slimy hands as far as I'm concerned. Speaking of which, what are you going to tell her now?"

"I already talked to her and severed our contract, on the basis that there was no way I would be able to find Ben, given the adoption laws."

"Good. Then she's out of your life."

"Possibly."

"Possibly?"

"Carlo wants to hire me and the only reason I can see for that is, either he wants me to be certain she doesn't find Ben on her own, although that's not possible. If it was, she wouldn't have hired me in the first place. Or he wants to find out something about her. Like what prompted her search in the first place."  

"Something you'd like to know too."

"Big time. I don't enjoy being played. And, she's"—I thought about her offer of passes to the gym—"very good at that."

"Meaning?" Ricky gave me his 'tell me or else' look.

I grimaced. "She told me to stop by the gym where she works and she'd give me some free passes."

Ricky huffed. Something he's quite good at when he gets annoyed, but not at me. "I hope you told her no deal."

"Actually, I just thanked her since she was on her way out at that point."

"Never to be seen again."

I shrugged. "Depending on why Carlo's interested in hiring me."

I found that out the next morning.