‘Hi brah,’ he said, as we stepped out of Barry’s van. He moved across to Lector. ‘This bad ass giving you a hard time?’
Lector glared at him. ‘Who the hell are you?’
Smokin’ Joe glared back, eyeball to eyeball as if it was the fight weigh-in.
Janet’s voice behind me said - ‘Boys … no need for that. It’s cool.’
Barry Kay was with her. He held up an apologetic hand – the ID was all a mistake – the kid should have known better, but he was a greenhorn, just learning the ropes.
Lector wasn’t impressed. ‘Let’s see what the cops gotta say.’
As if on cue, I heard the sound of a siren.
Janet shrugged. ‘Bad timing,’ she said.
Detective Patterson threw the book at me.
‘Read that,’ he said. It was almost a snarl. ‘Conditions of bail … pages 223-226.’
I didn’t need to; breaking and entering using a false ID wouldn’t be there.
We were sitting opposite each other back at the station, his desk between us. I stared at his weather-beaten face between mountains of files and documents piled high as the Rockies. At least my handcuffs had been removed. That gave me hope he wouldn’t ask the judge to rescind my bail.
I opened the book to the page. I wasn’t going to argue. He was several rounds ahead on points. I could sense him staring at me while I read through it; it was unnerving, as if he was waiting to pounce.
I finished and closed the book; looked up. He was writing something in a file.
I waited. His cell buzzed. I heard “Janet” and “Is that so?”, while he glared at me. He sighed, ended the call and went back to his note, scratched something out and scribbled some more. He finished it and showed me the file. It was mine.
‘You’re lucky, kid. Had a call from Janet. Plumbing’s fixed. They’ve dropped charges.’
I smiled, but he soon wiped it off my face, as he hit me with a low blow.
‘Did you locate Linda Adams’s cell phone?’
He looked at me as if I’d questioned his punch. ‘The one you extracted from your coveralls and handed to Miss Taylor. That cell?’
The handcuffs sat on top of a pile of files; freedom or detention – my choice.
‘Yes,’ I said.
Patterson gave me a hard stare. ‘You want to walk out of here, I want a list of the calls made and received.’
‘Yes,’ I said.
He moved a paper mountain to one side. ‘See this stack …’ He shook his head. ‘Keep me going until I draw my pension.’
I guessed about five years ahead, his thin hair was graying and his gnarled hands had liver spots on the back.
He pointed his pen at me. ‘Suppose I’m all heart … but if we get any more calls to the station…’ He didn’t have to spell it out; his expression told me I’d be screwed.
He waved his hand, dismissing me. ‘Now get the fuck outta my sight.’
Looking back, he should have locked me up.
Outside, I crossed over to the pizza parlor where Janet and Smokin’ Joe were waiting. Iwalked in and sat down at the table beside Janet – Smokin’ Joe took up both seats his side – and picked up the menu.
‘Been there, done that’ said Janet, with a slight grin on her face. She sipped a can of Diet Coke through a straw.
Smokin’ Joe laughed. A deep baritone. ‘Had an extra large, myself, but I could make room for another.’ He poured a glass of soda from a pitcher and took a slug. ‘I’ll have the Hawaiian.’
Ham topped with pineapple sounded awesome – family-sized for the heavyweight, regular for me, and a mug of Kona coffee with cream.
Janet turned to me. ‘What did Patterson trade for your freedom?’ She put out a hand and touched my arm. ‘No, let me guess. The cell phone numbers, right?’
She could read me like a book. So could Patterson. No wonder I’d lost a chunk of money at the poker tables.
I nodded; chewed on a piece of pizza - the pineapple was tangy, just how I liked it.
Smokin’ Joe gave me a wide toothy grin, pointed his fork at me. ‘Feint with the right, brah, before slamming in the left uppercut. Like Henry Cooper when he knocked down Muhammad Ali.’
My mind cleared. Smokin’ Joe had opened my eyes. I needed to be smart; a whole lot smarter with my game plan if I was going to nail those motherfuckers.
I seemed to be nodding a lot. ‘Thanks for being there,’ I said.
He waved his fork at Janet. ‘Thank Missy Taylor … she’s the brains, I’m just the muscle.’
Janet laughed. ‘Muscle … you know how many calories in a family-sized pizza?’
Smokin’ Joe winked at me. ‘See what I mean, brah.’
Half-smiling, I glanced out of the window and into the street. The sidewalk was full of scurrying office workers holding umbrellas. Showers were forecast, which dampened my mood.
Janet dug me in the ribs. ‘Linda received two calls on the twentieth … one was from Patrick Stern and the other was from the Kandoo service contractors.’
I frowned. Stern was the key, I was sure of that. ‘That confirms Stern’s mixed up in this … I need answers.’
She arched a brow. ‘Bullshit … you’re grounded and he’s in Hollywood.’
Mission Impossible came to mind. I punched my arm in frustration.
Smokin’ Joe leaned across and gave me a tap with his finger. ‘Feint with the right, brah.’
That was it. I felt blood rush to my face. I grabbed hold of Janet’s arm. ‘We create a crisis at the mansion … don’t know … something that’s going to cost megabucks. Stern’s the money one … he’ll want to figure it out.’
Janet looked at me as if I had overdosed on adrenalin. ‘It’ll cost megabucks setting it up, too.’
The waitress brought us drink refills while we boxed around with the idea. Outside the rain was splattering on the glass. I hoped the shower would pass; I wanted to surf with Janet.
Half an hour later the weather had cleared, and so had our minds with nothing to show for it.
Or so I thought.
When I mentioned surfing, Janet’s back arched. She stretched her arms and took in a deep breath.
‘I think I know how to get Stern back to Hawaii,’ she said, signaling to the waitress for the tab.