Stay Close

Page 14


“Yes. But I’ll be back.”
Agnes spread her arms. “Can you stay close for a little while longer? Not long. I know you need to be on your way. But a few minutes won’t make a big difference, will it?”
Megan shook her head. “It won’t make any difference at all.”
BROOME HAD JUST STARTED GOING through the surveillance videos, watching various idiots stumble out with drinks, beads, party hats, and girls, when Rudy from La Crème called him.
“Carlton Flynn had a favorite girl,” Rudy said.
“Tawny Allure.”
Broome rolled his eyes. “That her real name?”
“As real as anything else on her, if you get my drift,” Rudy said.
“Yeah, you’re the master of subtlety. When will she be in?”
“She’s here now.”
“On my way.”
Broome was about to switch off the television when Goldberg, his superior and a dickwad of biblical proportions, said, “What the hell is this?”
Goldberg leaned over him. He reeked of beer, sweat, and tuna.
“Video feed of La Crème the night Flynn vanished.”
“Why you checking that?”
Broome didn’t really want to get into this, but Goldberg wouldn’t just let it go. Goldberg wore a beige button-down dress shirt that’d probably started life off as bright white. He snarled when he spoke, figuring that bluster would hide the dim. So far, it had worked for him.
Broome rose. “I’m seeing if there is any connection between Stewart Green and Carlton Flynn. Both men vanished on the same date.”
Goldberg nodded as though in deep thought. “So where you off to now?”
“Back to La Crème. Flynn liked one stripper in particular.”
“Hmm.” Goldberg rubbed his chin. “Kinda like Stewart Green?”
Broome pulled the flash drive from the computer. Maybe he’d have Erin look at the footage. She had a good eye for that kind of thing. He could drop it off on his way. He hurried past Goldberg. As he turned the corner, he looked back, worried Goldberg would still be on his tail. He wasn’t. Goldberg was hunched over the phone, cupping the mouthpiece like that did some good.
Twenty minutes later, after quickly dropping off the flash drive at Erin’s, Broome sat across from Tawny Allure in La Crème’s quietest booth. Rudy stood behind her, arms crossed. Tawny was all attitude and implants and daddy-didn’t-love-me-enough self-esteem issues. That was the cliché in a place like this, and truth was, most of the time the cliché applied. Tawny was young and brick-house built in a surgically enhanced way, but she had the kind of harsh face that had already seen too many guys sneaking out at daylight and then changing their cell phone numbers.
“Tell me about Carlton Flynn,” Broome asked.
“Carlton?” She blinked with eyelashes so fake they looked like dying crabs baking in the sun. “Oh, he was a sweetheart. Treated me like gold. Always a gentleman.”
Tawny wasn’t a very good liar. Her eyes darted about like scared birds.
“Anything else you can tell me about him?”
“Not really.”
“How did you meet?”
“He bought a lap dance,” Tawny explained. “They’re legal, you know.”
“And then, what, he took you back to his place?”
“Oh no. We don’t do that here. This place is totally legit. I’d never.”
Even Rudy rolled his eyes at that one.
Broome sighed. “Tawny?”
“I’m not vice, so I don’t care if you bang monkeys for doughnuts—”
“And I also don’t think you had anything to do with what happened to Carlton. But if you keep lying to me—”
“I’m not lying!”
Broome held up a hand for her to shut up. “If you keep lying to me, Tawny, I’ll nail you for it and put you in jail, just for kicks. I will frame you and make it look like you murdered him because, really, I’m bored with this case and need to clear it. So you can tell me the truth, or you can end up serving time.”
It was, of course, an idle threat. Broome almost felt bad about it, what with this girl who was too dumb to get out of her own way. She glanced behind her at Rudy. Broome wondered whether he should tell Rudy to take a hike, but Rudy nodded for her to go ahead.
Tawny looked down. Her shoulders slumped. “He broke my finger.”
She had been keeping her right hand under the table. There was a red glove covering it—the color matched her bra top—and when she took it off, Broome could see that it hadn’t been set right. The digit was pointing to the side, the bone still nearly poking through the skin.
Broome shot a glare toward Rudy. Rudy shrugged. “What, you think we got a good medical plan here?”
A tear ran down Tawny’s cheek. “Carlton is mean. He likes to hurt me. He said if I told anybody or complained he’d kill Ralphie.”
“Is that your boyfriend?”
She looked at Broome as though he had two heads. “My poodle.”
Broome looked at Rudy. “You know about this?”
“What, you think I keep track of the girls’ pets?”
“Not the dog, dumb ass. Carlton Flynn being a sadistic prick.”
“Hey, if anybody hurts my girls, I tell them to take a hike. But if I don’t know about it, what am I supposed to do, am I right? It’s like that tree falling in the woods or whatever. Does it make a dent if you don’t hear it? If I don’t know about it, I don’t know about it.”
Rudy, the gentlemen’s lounge philosopher.
“Did he hurt you other ways?” Broome asked.
Tawny nodded, eyes squeezed shut.
“Can you tell me about it?”
“So you hated him.”
“And now he’s missing.”
Tawny’s fake lashes flew open. “You said you didn’t think I had anything to do with that.”
“Maybe not you,” Broome said. “Maybe someone who cares about you. Maybe someone who wanted to protect you.”
Again she gave him the confused look.
“A boyfriend, a parent, a close friend.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
Sadly her confusion was justified. She had no one, other than a poodle named Ralphie. Dead end.