Stay Close

Page 15


“When did you last see Flynn?” Broome asked.
“Night before he, uh, left or whatever.”
“Where did you two go?”
“Here first. He liked to watch me dance. He’d buy random guys lap dances and he’d smile and watch and then he’d take me home and call me a slut for dancing with them and hurt me bad.”
Broome tried not to show anything. You want to come here, get your rocks off, whatever, he didn’t judge. But the thing they never tell people is, it’s never enough. So Carlton Flynn started off as some two-bit player, getting some ass, but after a while, you crave more. That’s how it always works. Everything is a gateway drug to the next. Broome’s grandfather said it best: “If you were getting pussy all the time, you’d want a second dick.”
“Did you make plans to see him again?” Broome asked.
“He was supposed to meet me the night he, you know, disappeared.”
“What happened?”
“He called and said he’d be late. But he never showed.”
“Did he say why he’d be late?”
“Do you know where he went earlier that day?”
Tawny shook her head. The stale stench of hairspray and regret wafted toward him.
“Anything you can tell me about that day?”
More head shaking.
“I don’t get it,” Broome said. “This guy kept hurting you, right?”
“It was escalating.”
Broome bit back the sigh. “Getting worse and worse.”
“Oh. Right. Yeah.”
Broome spread his hands. “How did you think it’d all end?”
Tawny blinked, looked away, considered the question for a moment. “The same way it always does. He’d get tired of me. Move on to the next thing.” She added a shrug. “Either that or he’d kill me.”
THE WORDS “LAW OFFICE OF Harry Sutton” were stenciled into the pebbled glass. Old-school.
When Megan gently rapped on the pebbled glass, Harry answered with a resounding “Enter!”
She reached for the knob. A few hours ago, she’d called home and told Dave that she wouldn’t be home till late. He wanted to know why. She told him not to worry and hung up. Now here she was, back in Atlantic City, in a place she had known all too well.
Megan opened the door, knowing that doing so would probably change everything. The office was still a seedy one-room operation—small-time with a lowercase s—but Harry would have it no other way.
“Hey, Harry.”
Harry was not an attractive man. His eyes had enough bags under them to take a three-week cruise. His nose was caricature bulbous. His hair was a shock of white that wouldn’t come down without the threat of gunfire. But his smile, well, it was beatific. The smile warmed her—brought her back and made her feel safe.
“It’s been too long, Cassie.”
Some called Harry a street lawyer, but that wasn’t really what Harry was. Four decades ago he had graduated Stanford Law School and started on a partnership track at the prestigious law firm of Kronberg, Reiter and Roseman. One night, some well-meaning colleagues dragged the quiet, shy attorney down to Atlantic City for gambling, girls, and general debauchery. The shy Harry dived in—and never left. He quit the big firm, stenciled his name upon this very office door, and decided to champion the city’s underdogs, who, in many ways, consisted of everyone who started out here.
Very few people you meet have a halo over their head. They aren’t beautiful or angelic or working for charities—in Harry’s case, he definitely preferred the sinners to the saints—but there was just an aura of trust and goodness about them. Harry was one of those people.
“Hello, Cassie,” Harry said.
His voice was stiff. He shifted in his chair.
“How’ve you been, Harry?”
His clear blue eyes looked at her in a funny way. This wasn’t like him, but it had been nearly two decades. People change. She started to wonder if coming here had been a mistake.
“Fine, thank you.”
“Fine, thank you?”
Harry nodded, biting down on his lip.
“What’s going on, Harry?”
His eyes suddenly brimmed with tears.
“Damn,” he said.
“I promised I’d keep it together. I’m such a wuss sometimes.”
She said nothing, waited.
“It’s just that… I thought you were dead.”
She smiled, feeling relief that, yes, he was the same overly emotional guy she remembered. “Harry…”
He waved it away. “The cops came here after you vanished with that guy.”
“I didn’t vanish with that guy.”
“You just vanished on your own?”
“Sort of.”
“Well, the cops wanted to talk to you. They still do.”
“I know,” Megan said. “That’s why I’m back. I need your help.”
WHEN TAWNY ALLURE FIRST SAW the smiling young couple standing near her doorway, she sighed and shook her head.
Tawny’s real name was Alice. She had used it at first, going by the stage moniker “Alice in Wonderland,” but her given name made it easier for those from her past to recognize her. Right now, with work behind her, she wore a loose, can’t-tell-implants sweatshirt. She’d traded in her stiletto heels for low-top tennis shoes. She had scrubbed off the spackle-thick makeup and thrown on a pair of celebrity-in-hiding-size sunglasses. She did not, she thought, look anything like the exotic dancer she was.
The smiling couple looked as though they’d just wandered away from a Bible study. Tawny frowned. She knew the type. Do-gooders. They wanted to give her pamphlets and save her. They would have some corny catchphrase like “lose the G-string and find Jesus,” and she would respond, “Does Jesus tip well?”
The smiling blond girl was young and pretty in a wholesome way. Her hair was tied back in a cheerleader-bouncing ponytail. She wore a turtleneck and a skirt that would normally work at the club for a school-girl fantasy number, complete with bobby socks. Who wore that in real life?
The cute guy with her had the wavy hair of a politician on a sailboat. He sported khakis, a blue button-down, and had a sweater tied around his neck.
Tawny was not in the mood. Her finger throbbed and ached. She felt weak, beaten, defeated. She wanted to get inside and feed Ralphie. Her mind was still on that cop Broome’s visit and, of course, the missing Carlton Flynn. The first time she met Carlton he wore a tight black T-shirt that read “I’m Not a Gynecologist, But I’ll Take a Look.” Talk about a big-time “Keep Away” sign. But stupid Tawny had giggled when she read it. Sad when she thought about it now. Tawny had some decent attributes, but her asshole-dar was always off when it came to men.