- Text Font:
- Text Size:
- Line Height:
- Line Break Height:
He shook his head. "Too rich and white for me, lady. I hang at Latino clubs, you know, dance to real música." He raised his hands, snapped his fingers, and shimmied in his chair.
Sam saved her retinas by looking at a framed photo on the desk that depicted the company's owner standing in front of his pickup truck. Bud Montgomery had been a little on the beefy side, an average-looking, couch-potato type of guy. He had kept what hair was left on his head short, which Sam thought was more sensible than the ridiculous long-haired comb-overs some balding men insisted on doing to themselves. The skimpy goatee he had worn, however, hadn't done much for his plump face or even faintly disguised the fact that he sported a hefty double chin.
He had his head back and looked down his nose at the camera without smiling, but the effect was more smug than sneering or stern. I'm the boss, the photo said. Don't you forget it.
"You should go with me some night, chica," Hector was saying. "We could have us a party, you know?" His shifty dark eyes finally decided to settle on her breasts. "A real good time."
Dwyer had said that to her once, when they were patrolling. Someday, Samantha, I'm going to show you how to have a real good time.
She had to stop thinking about the weasel in the department and concentrate on the weasel she was interviewing. "Did Mr. Montgomery ever mention the club? That he liked it, or was going to meet someone there?"
"His mamacita find out? She'da kicked his ass." Hector laughed. "She key him up all the time on the radio." His voice rose to a falsetto. " 'Jason, I need you get me prunes from the store. Jason, you late for dinner. Jason, come home and suck my saggy old titties.'"
Sam decided she had exhausted Hector's minuscule store of information about his employer and her own scant supply of patience. "All right, I think that's all I need. Thank you, Mr. Ladega, you can go back to work."
Instead of leaving the trailer, Hector stood and leaned across the desk. His breath smelled of some garlicky meal, and under that, halitosis so thick it could probably melt the chrome off a Harley at twenty feet.
"So what do you say, chica? You change your mind?" He thrust his chin out and dropped his eyelids as if trying to get a peek down the front of her blouse. "Let's go out tonight."
"I'm not interested, thank you." She rose and walked around the desk, mostly to get away from the stink of his breath.
"Come on, come out dancing with me," Hector said, reaching out.
Sam didn't know why until she felt something squeeze her right buttock. She didn't think; she reacted, and pivoted around to seize his wrist. With a reverse move she'd learned in hand-to-hand in the academy, she slammed his arm down on the desk and held it there.
Part of her saw his openmouthed shock; the other saw the grinning, taunting face of Wesley Dwyer. "You sick little shit."
"What?" Hector was stunned. "I didn't do nothing—"
"You want a dance?" She grabbed his collar and twisted it until he choked. "I can dance on your face, and then book you for assaulting a police officer. Want me to do that?" He shook his head, and stumbled back when she released him. "Let me know if you change your mind."
She didn't have to tell him to get out. Hector shot out of the trailer like a bullet, nearly knocking over Harry, who was on his way in.
"What's his deal?" her partner asked.
"He needs a hand chopped off." Her mobile phone rang, and she slammed the lid down on her temper. Dwyer's transferring to Homicide had her too riled. She switched on the phone and answered, "Samantha Brown."
"Detective Brown, this is Dr. Bill Weylen from the University of Miami. I run the archaeology department down here, and your forensics division asked me to give you a call when I had some results on a cross they sent over for ID and dating."
"What can you tell me about it, Dr. Weylen?"
"It's an excellent forgery, for one thing," he said. "I haven't seen this quality of counterfeiting since the James ossuary. However, the real Noir cross is on permanent display at the Louvre in France."
"Excuse me, you called it the Noir cross?"
"Yes. It was named after its original owner, a Templar knight known as Noir de L'Anfar, and it was made of gold and precious jewels. This fake is pure copper, and the cabochons are paste."
Sam wrote everything down on her PDA, thinking how the forensic tech would be disappointed about his guess on the cross's age. "How does someone make something like that? Can it be traced?"
"Not this time. The cross isn't as old as the original, but no one made it yesterday, either. To be on the safe side, I carbon-dated it. Given the amount of soil and metal oxidation, I'd say someone buried this in the ground about two hundred years ago."
When they drove down to the strip, Sam saw the line of patrons waiting to enter the nightclub stretching around the block. Most of them looked hot, bored, and unhappy, as if they had been standing there for at least an hour or two. Among them, Sam saw a vivid head of cerulean blue hair, and swore under her breath.
"Problem?" Harry asked.
"I think my new neighbor, the underage brat, is here." Sam felt more like swearing. Hadn't the kid heard anything she'd told her?
"We could bust her for fake ID," her partner suggested.
Sam saw a couple of girls talking with Chris, and relaxed a little. If she stayed in a group of friends, then she'd probably be okay. It was the loners who drew the predators. "I do that, she'll never sign for my UPS packages."
Given the amount of road and foot traffic, and the scanty spaces left by packed-in cars, Sam decided to park in the back of the nightclub and walk around to the front. This time, the bouncer seemed to be expecting them.
"You the cops?" When Sam nodded, he unlocked the entry door. "Enjoy."
"Aren't we friendly tonight," Harry muttered. "Last time we almost had to swear out a warrant to gain access to Mr. Lucan."
"Could be he wants to see us." Sam stopped to let her eyes adjust to the dark interior of the club. "Montgomery would have made the six-o'clock news."
Unlike on their last visit, the bar was almost empty. There were no employees on the floor or behind the counters, and only a few scantily dressed girls sitting at a cluster of small tables that had been pushed together. They were talking, smoking cigarettes, and drinking something with tomato juice out of tall glasses sporting rims of black crystals. One of them, a hard-looking woman with purplish-red hair, glared at Sam and muttered something to the girl sitting next her. They both eyed Sam and laughed together.
"I know that one," Harry said, nodding toward the purple redhead before he started coughing and waving a hand in front of his nose. "Her name's Alice, goes by the name Alisa. We busted her giving blow jobs over at that fetish club on the north side two years ago. Got her tongue stud caught in some guy's cock ring. We had to call the paramedics to get them apart."
"Lovely. We'll catch her on the way out." Sam scanned the room looking for Lucan, and walked with Harry to check the office, which was locked again.
"I beg your pardon, Detective Brown?"
Sam turned to see a worried-looking man hovering behind her. "I'm Detective Brown," she said over Harry's coughing attack, which hadn't abated yet. "Who are you, and where is Lucan?"
"I'm Burke, the nightclub manager. My mas… Mr. Lucan is in the penthouse suite, and asks that you join him there." He gestured toward an elevator, but eyed Harry, who was struggling for air. "Sir, would you like to sit down?"
Harry took out his inhaler and used it before he could speak. "Sammy, I've gotta get my pills from the car," he told her. "Meet you upstairs, okay?"
Sam looked at the elevator, torn between helping her partner and getting to Lucan. She needed to see Lucan badly, to know he was all right, and she had absolutely no idea why. "I'll go with you."
"No need, I'm fine." He made a shooing gesture. "Go on; get started on him."
Burke escorted Sam to the elevator but did not step inside. "It will take you directly to the penthouse," he said as he inserted a key that made the doors begin to slide closed.
"Wait, my partner needs to know—" Sam released a frustrated breath as the panels sealed and the elevator began to rise.
Something was wrong at Barbastro Abbey.
John had a vague sense of it from the day he had arrived. At first he had blamed it on the difference in Mercer Lane. His friend had changed dramatically from the man he had met in Chicago; now he was just like any other pompous, denigrating church official. Sometimes when the abbot was speaking to him, John felt as if he were back in Chicago again, being patronized and misled by Bishop Hightower.
"David might have been a shepherd, but God didn't want him squandering his life on herding sheep," Mercer said during one evening meal when the Bible figure's life was being discussed. "That's why he gave him the slingshot. So he'd practice and prepared himself."
"David composed most of the Psalms when he was a shepherd," John said, surprised at the abbot's militant opinion of the biblical warrior. "Bethlehem, where he herded sheep for his father, is known as the city of David."
"David's humble beginnings were not what made him king," Mercer replied. "They are only to teach us that we must all be ever vigilant, and keep ourselves ready for the Philistines and Goliaths of the world."
Soon after that other, smaller notes of discord became apparent to John.
A seemingly constant, invisible tension kept the brothers at the abbey on edge. They tried to hide it by putting on a false front for John's benefit, but their behavior vacillated between overly friendly and inappropriately lofty. The youngest of the brothers barely spoke to him at all, and they went out of their way not to be alone with him.