Stay Close

Page 30


“Like now?”
“I don’t know. I guess.”
Broome could look that up when he got back to the station. “Were you the lead?”
“Nah, I was still in uniform. Morris caught it, I think, but I was there on the bust. Well, not really there. I was backup to the backup. Barely got out of the squad car. The perp surrendered easily.”
“The case was cleared, right?”
“Yeah, it was pretty much a slam dunk. A love triangle or something, I don’t remember. I remember the perp was all crying, said he didn’t even know the guy, that his girl would never cheat on him, the usual.”
“They get a confession?”
“Nope. Guy swore he was innocent. Still does, I think. But he got life. I think he’s serving it in Rahway.”
ARTERIES HARDENED AND LUNGS blackened just by opening the door of the Weak Signal Bar and Grill. The seedy crowd brought plenty of colorful terminology to mind, but “health conscious” and “long life span” were not among them. The television behind the bar played SportsCenter. There was a neon sign for Michelob in the window. According to the chalkboard, tonight was “Ladies Night” featuring “Dollar Drafts for Chicks,” a marketing ploy that drew in, it appeared, a certain female clientele. For example, one straw-haired woman, who was cackle-laughing in a “notice me” manner, wore a yellow T-shirt that read “Sloppy Seconds,” which, alas, seemed all too apropos.
Megan felt as though she had to wave away the smoke, even though no one was smoking. It was that kind of place. The décor was dartboards, shamrocks, and sponsored sport team photographs. She was decked out in suburban-mom wear, a camel hair coat with a Coach bag, and while that look definitely stood out in here, no one really stared. This was a bar where plenty of people came because you did not know their name. She probably wasn’t the first seemingly content wife who’d wandered in here from the convention center looking for anonymity.
Lorraine had described Fester thusly: “Cue ball bald and slightly larger than a planet.” Strangely, there were at least three men in here that fit that description, but this was hardly the time to worry about shyness or niceties. She took a quick glance around, hoping that maybe Ray was here too. That would make it easier, wouldn’t it? Eliminate the middleman. Her heart did a little two-step at the thought.
Was she really prepared to see Ray? And when she did, what would she say to him?
No matter. Ray wasn’t here. One of the possible Festers was giving her the eye. She approached him and said, “Are you Fester?”
“Honey, I can be anyone you want me to be.”
“If I had more time, I’d probably swoon and demand that you take me. But I’m pressed for time. Which one of you guys is Fester?”
The man scowled and pointed toward another guy—the biggest of the possible Festers—with his thumb. Megan thanked him and approached.
“Are you Fester?”
The man had forearms like marble columns at the Acropolis. The beer mug looked like a shot glass in his enormous hand. “Who wants to know?”
“Who do you think? Me.”
“And you are?”
“My name isn’t important.”
“Are you a process server?”
Megan frowned. “Do I look like a process server?”
He looked her over. “Kinda, yeah.”
Man, Megan thought for the second time today, she really had changed.
“I’m looking for an employee of yours.”
“To serve him a subpoena?”
“No. I’m not a process server.”
“Who are you looking for?”
“Ray Levine.”
If Fester knew the name, he didn’t show it. He lifted his beer and took a deep swig. “Why would you be looking for Ray?”
Good question. She wondered what to say here and went with the truth. “He’s an old friend.”
Fester studied her a little more. “What do you want with him?”
“No offense, but are you his employer or his mother?”
He smiled at that. “Let me buy you a drink.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“It’s okay. I’m harmless. What’s your poison?”
Megan sighed, took a deep breath. Her phone kept buzzing. She reached into her purse and put it on silent. Slow down, she thought. Don’t press it and maybe you’ll get what you want. “Fine, whatever you’re having.”
He ordered her some kind of light beer with a fruit in it. She hated light beer, especially with fruit, but it was too late. She took a sip.
“What’s your name?” Fester asked.
Fester nodded slowly. “You’re the one, right?”
“The one what?”
“The one who broke Ray’s heart. The one who crushed his soul and left him the wreck of a man he is today.”
Megan felt something in her chest give way. “He told you that?”
“No, but it’s obvious. How do you know he wants to see you?”
“I don’t.”
“He’s working a job right now anyway,” Fester said, his eyes narrowing. “Wait, don’t I know you? You used to work down here, right?”
This wasn’t good.
“I was a bouncer,” Fester said. “Back in the day. Who are you again? I know I’ve seen your face.”
“I’m just looking for Ray,” she said.
Fester kept studying her face. She didn’t like that. She was about to leave when, without warning, Fester took out his phone and snapped a picture of her.
“What the hell did you do that for?”
“My porn collection.” Fester’s huge fingers were working the keyboard. “Actually, I’m sending this pic to Ray. If he wants to see you, he’ll let me know and then I can let you know. You want to give me your cell phone number?”
“Then how about another drink?”
Barbie lovingly packed away her favorite new tool—the soldering iron with a sharp needle tip. It still reeked of scorched flesh. Through trial and error, Barbie had figured out the most sensitive spots, the nerve endings that when merely touched, not to mention penetrated with scorching heat, caused the most searing pain, and applied those lessons to the lawyer named Harry Sutton.
Barbie took off her hospital scrubs, her surgical hair cap, her latex gloves, and packed them away. Ken would do the same but not right away. He knew that no matter how careful you were, DNA got left behind. There was just no way to prevent that completely. Laboratories could do amazing things nowadays, and the best way to handle that was to recognize and respect it.