Page 28

 Laura Thalassa

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“I will,” I insist, “I just …”
Would you like a demonstration?
You would enjoy yourself, Callie. I would make sure of that.
Des might as well be in the room, I can hear his voice so clearly right now.
“… don’t know how I feel about it at the moment,” I finish.
Temper nods sympathetically. “Fine, screw talking about it. Want to grab drinks tonight, piss off a bartender for being rowdy, and pick up some eligible bachelors?”
“Um, raincheck.” There’d be no drinking and dating in the near future for me.
“Hmmm, well, you’ll let me know if everything isn’t okay, won’t you?” she asks.
“Of course.”
“You’re such a goddamn liar, Callie,” she says, shaking her head. “Fine, tell me when you’re ready.”
But when it comes to the Bargainer that’s the thing: I’m not sure I’ll ever be.
After taking care of several odds and ends—including memorizing the list of interview questions the Bargainer gave me last night—I leave the office and head out to interview the primary person of interest in one of the cases I’m working. Most of my job is simply this: cornering people, glamouring them, and forcing them to confess whatever they know.
Today it’s about a client’s missing daughter.
“Where is she?” I demand, crossing my arms.
The suspect: twenty-four-year-old Tommy Weisel, local drug-dealer, community college dropout, and ex-boyfriend of sixteen-year-old Kristin Scott, who’s currently missing.
Tommy sits in one of his kitchen chairs, pinned in place by my glamour. He squirms in his seat, unable to stand, his throat working as he tries to suppress his answer.
As usual, it’s all in vain.
“She-she’s in the basement,” he says, his upper lip quivering.
Once the words are out, he scowls at me. “You coc—” The rest of the sentence dies in his throat.
Another order I gave him: no swearing and no putdowns. It’s really for his own good. The siren in me loves nothing better than to reward hate with cruelty.
“How did Kristin get into your basement?” I ask.
Tommy licks his lips, his gaze darting to my phone, which is just out of his reach and currently capturing this all on video.
“I … led her there,” he says.
The side of my mouth curves up, and I prowl closer to him, stroking his face with the back of my glowing hand. “Led? Is that you trying to be clever?” I tsk, shaking my head. “It was a good try. Let me rephrase: is Kristin there against her will?”
He squeezes his eyes shut as sweat beads on his forehead.
“Answer me.”
“Yeeeeeessss.” The word hisses out of him, and then he’s panting, trying to catch his breath. His shoes slam against the linoleum floors and he screams out in frustration. “You motherfu—” His voice cuts off in a gurgle.
I lean in close to him, ignoring his oily hair and the smell of stale B.O. wafting off his clothes. “This is what you’re going to do,” I say. “You’re going to release Kristin, then you’re going to turn yourself in and confess to everything you’re guilty of, and you’re going to work with police to prove your guilt. And you are never, ever going to harm Kristin, her family, and any other girlfriends or exes you have ever again.”
He shudders as my glamour takes hold of him.
“Now get up and release your girlfriend.”
Without any further prodding, Tommy leads me to Kristin, who’s cowering in his basement.
Several minutes later, a crying Kristin and I are in the foyer of Tommy’s house.
The drug dealer looks scared and angry as he watches us, forced to stand over ten feet away from me and Kristin thanks to another order I gave him.
I lead Kristin to the front door, using my jacket to turn the knob. One can never be too careful about leaving fingerprints behind. Guys like Tommy are sometimes wilier than they appear.
I usher Kristin out, then pause, glancing back at Tommy, who’s glaring at me.
“Remember,” I say, “you’re going to turn yourself in right after this.” I begin to close the door before I pause again. “Oh, and I was never here.”
As soon as I get home, I drop my things and head for my bedroom to fetch my swimsuit. Today, I’m getting in the ocean.
Now that I’m officially not drinking, swimming is one of the only other ways that I relieve tension. And interacting day in and day out with some of the greediest, least scrupulous people in L.A., I have a lot of tension to relieve.
I never make it past my living room.
My front door rattles, then metal groans as someone breaks apart my doorknob. A moment later the door bangs open.
I only have enough time to call the siren to the surface.
Instead a familiar form comes storming in.
I clutch my chest. “Crap, Eli,” I say, my voice ethereal, “you scared me.” And then I realize Eli just broke into my house.
I glance back at the door. “Were you … waiting for me?”
He doesn’t respond, and there’s an intensity to his features that makes me tense up.
He crosses the foyer, his attention focused wholly on me. Without speaking, he closes the last of the distance between us and pulls me into his arms, kissing me hard.
“Whoa,” I say, managing to break my lips away. The rest of me is still crushed to him. “What’s going on?”