He told us to politely fuck off.
Until I name-dropped Van Grossman.
Dicks seemed startled. ‘Ah ... why didn’t you say so? Of course, I’ll be delighted to assist.’ But he held up a hand, like he was on point duty. ‘After I check with Mr. Van Grossman.’
We let him save face by not laughing as he groveled into the phone, or when he turned to us and said it was a minor bookkeeping matter, not a managerial one.
‘Thank you, sir,’ said Janet. ‘If you would kindly show us.’
He didn’t. Got Butterfly to show us instead.
‘Tell Kay to cooperate fully with Mr. Van Grossman’s ...err ... investigators,’ he told her.
We were in.
Kay was a homely, middle-aged woman with a hairy lip. She had her locks in a bun with a green pencil stuck through the knot. She stared at us through bifocals as though humans never existed in her world.
But she made us drinks, and was cooperative once Janet explained what we wanted to examine. All of Van Grossman’s records for the last year — transaction history, persons hired, and service costs. I focused on the hired hands, while Janet struck up a mutual accounting relationship with Kay.
I ran into a hitch during the first half-hour. While some were regulars, and had complete background histories, others seemed temporary, with little detail. And some of these temporary hands — domestic staff — were Asians.
I asked about it.
Kay seemed to hesitate. I sensed a reluctance to explain, but then she shrugged. ‘Paula ... Ms. Swain handled all of that.’ She pushed up her bifocals and rubbed her nose. ‘It’s good business for us. Our Asians ... mainly young women ... work for minimum wages. Even in five-star hotels.’
My mind flashed back to Wang.
‘I don’t have anything that could destroy Lo.’
‘Maybe you didn’t look hard enough.’
I tried to keep emotion out of my voice. Thanked Kay as if it was no concern and told Janet I was going to stretch my legs and visit the john.
But it was Butterfly, I wanted to talk to. Reception was empty — no Dicks prowling around — and she was alone at her desk. A pack of Marlboro Red and a disposable lighter were resting on a Yellow Pages directory. She seemed startled when I approached her. Scared. I tried to put her at ease.
‘Hi there,’ I said. ‘I’m Shayne Reeves. ‘Can we talk?’
A line creased her forehead. ‘Talk, already,’ she said.
My fault — my questions needed to be clearer. ‘What’s your name?’
‘How long have you worked at Kandoo, Dia?’
Dia touched her lips with a finger. ‘Not long. Maybe go soon.’
I was intrigued. ‘Go where?’
‘Mr. Clive. Up to him.’
I needed to get it straight. ‘You go with Mr. Clive?’
Her fingers reached out for the Marlboro pack. She nodded.
Her eyes blazed, and made me think she was going to reject the thought, but her body seemed to shrink. She sighed and picked up the cigarettes and the lighter. ‘Go smoke,’ she said.
I followed her out to the entrance, and she lit up outside — took a huge drag that stopped her trembling. I guessed what was bothering her — and it was bothering me.
‘Show me your ID,’ I said.
She stepped away from me. I thought for one minute she would run away. Instead, tears began to drip down her pale cheeks. She opened her mouth; I barely heard the words.
‘Am I in trouble, Mr. Shayne?’
Yes. Big time.
‘No,’ I said.
I could have told her the truth. It wouldn’t be me who would make her life hell. Dicks had got there first. And behind Dicks, stood Lo — an evil racketeer who saw young girls as a commodity.
What could be worse than drugs? I had my answer...
—.‘Dia ... what are you doing?’
I turned and glared at Dicks who had crept up behind us. ‘Cigarette break.’
‘I didn’t ask you.’ He clutched Dia’s arm. ‘Why are you crying?’
‘Smoke in eye,’ she said.
He started to pull her. ‘Come inside, now. Go and wait in my office.’ He pointed a finger at me. ‘I’d appreciate it if you could see to Van Grossman’s business, not mine.’
I didn’t want to land Dia in any more trouble, so I let it drop. I hoped she’d have the sense not to mention the ID.
Or my evidence might land up in the Pacific.
When I returned to Kay’s office, Janet was all smiles. ‘We pinpointed the perpetrator … McNally, the security chief. From the tabs submitted, Kay concludes that Van Grossman’s weekend parties gave McNally the opportunity to charge whatever he liked. A few hundred here, a few hundred there ... it all adds up to a sweet rake-off.’
‘Right,’ I said. I didn’t care.
Janet must have sensed my mood. ‘What’s up?’
‘I’ve got what I came for,’ I said.
One thing about Janet, she was as sharp as cut glass, but in her case it was more like diamonds. She knew exactly how to wrap up matters with a client — this time Kay — without revealing any suspicions. McNally’s card had been marked — no doubt Dicks would fire him — and Van Grossman would be getting a substantial refund on his next return.
‘Thanks for everything, Kay,’ she said, giving me a frosty glance as we walked together towards the exit. ‘It’s been great working with a pro, again.’
Kay waved Janet’s business card. ‘Much appreciated.’
Outside, Janet grabbed my arm. We walked over to her Mini. The Chevy had gone.
Janet pointed to the empty space. ‘What are the odds we disappear, too?’
Smart lady. My fate -- a gamble.