Ego Maniac(6)

By: Vi Keeland



“I’m so sorry I’m late.” Her coat was open and her pale cheeks pink as she panted from her sprint up the block. She looked different than she had the other night. Her long, wavy hair was down, and sunlight picked up little flecks of gold in its copper color. She attempted to tame it as she spoke. “I took the wrong train.”

“I was just about to leave.” I looked down at my watch and caught tiny droplets of sweat beading between her cleavage. Clearing my throat, I padded how long I’d been waiting. “Thirty-five minutes. That’ll be $350.”

“What?”

I shrugged and kept my face stoic. “I bill at $675 an hour. You made me waste more than a half-hour of my time. So that’ll be $350.”

“I can’t afford to pay you. I’m broke, remember?” She held up her hands in exasperation. “Swindled into renting your fancy office. I shouldn’t have to pay you that kind of money just because I overslept.”

“Relax. I’m screwing with you.” I paused. “Wait. I thought you took the wrong train?”

She bit her lip, looking guilty, and pointed to the door of the police station. “We should go inside. I’ve kept you waiting long enough.”

I shook my head. “You lied to me.”

Emerie sighed. “I’m sorry. I overslept. I couldn’t fall asleep again last night. This all still feels like a bad dream to me.”

I nodded and uncharacteristically let her off the hook. “Come on. Let’s see if there’s a chance in hell they can catch this guy.”

Inside the police station, the desk sergeant was talking on the phone when we walked in. He smiled and held up two fingers. After he finished telling the caller that stolen supermarket circulars would be a matter for the US Postal Inspector and not the NYPD, he extended his hand, leaning over the counter.

“Drew Jagger. What brings you down to the dregs? Slummin’ today?”

I smiled and clasped his hand. “Something like that. How’s it going, Frank?”

“Never been happier. Go home at night, don’t take my shoes off at the door, leave the seat up in the bathroom after I take a piss, and use paper plates so I don’t have to wash jack shit. The single life is good, my friend.”

I turned to Emerie. “This is Sergeant Frank Caruso. He keeps me in business the way he goes through wives. Frank, this is Emerie Rose. She needs to file a police report. Any chance Mahoney is on today? Maybe he can help her out.”

“He’s out for a few weeks. Twisted his ankle chasing a perp on a B&E. But I’ll take a look at who’s in the bullpen and get someone good. What’s up? Domestic issue? Husband giving her a hard time?”

“Nothing like that. Emerie’s not a regular client. She leased space in my building a few weeks ago.”

Frank whistled. “Space on Park Avenue. Pretty and rich. You single, honey?”

“Don’t you ever learn your lesson, old man?”

“What? I’ve only tried ugly and broke. Maybe that’s my problem.”

“Pretty sure that ain’t your problem.”

Frank waved me off. “What seems to be the issue? Landlord giving her a hard time or something?”

“She leased my place for $2,500 a month. Paid $10,000 up front. Problem is, she didn’t lease it from the landlord. Got scammed by someone posing as a leasing agent while I was out of town and my office was getting renovated.”

“$2,500 a month. For your building?”

“She’s from Oklahoma.”

He looked to Emerie. “No Monopoly in Oklahoma? Couldn’t figure out that Park Place was five times the price of Baltic?”

I cut Sergeant Wise Ass off before he made Emerie feel worse than she already did. After all, I’d ridiculed her judgment the other night when she’d surprised me with a welcome home I wasn’t expecting. Enough was enough. Frank gave her some paperwork to start filling out and showed us to a private room to wait. On our way, I stopped to talk to an old friend, and Emerie was nearly done with the forms when I joined her.

I shut the door behind me, and she looked up and asked, “Do you do criminal work?”

“No. Just matrimonial.”

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