Home > City of the Lost (Casey Duncan #1)(8)

City of the Lost (Casey Duncan #1)(8)
Author: Kelley Armstrong

I stifle a sigh. You seem like a sweet kid, Ricci. Really you do. And I’d be more than happy to discuss interview techniques with you. But that’s not what you’re asking, is it?

“I need to meet a friend for dinner,” I say, which is technically true.

“Oh, okay. Maybe after? Or—”

“How about coffee tomorrow? At the Grounds.”

It’s the shop right beside the station, which means this will be business only, and his voice drops as he says, “Uh, I guess so?”

“Totally up to you. If you want to, just pop by my desk.”

I sign off and turn on CBC, hoping to distract myself. It’s midway through a story about one woman’s hike across Alaska, and as I listen, I imagine myself doing that, and I’m swept away by a feeling that is so normal for others and so rare for me—that little thing called daydreaming.

I pull into the station’s underground lot and park my little Honda. It’s the first car I bought, almost a decade ago, and it was well used when I got it. The guys in the department prod me to buy something newer, safer, with air bags and ABS brakes. It’s not like I can’t afford it. My parents left me with a seven-figure bank account. But the car runs. When it doesn’t, I’ll replace it.

I get about five steps when I realize someone’s watching me from the shadows. I don’t see him. Don’t even hear him. I just know he’s there.

I stop mid-stride and take a long, slow survey of my surroundings. On the return sweep, I spot an arm poking from behind a van. Then, slowly, the arm withdraws, the figure vanishing entirely.

I walk toward the van until I can see him through the window. The image is blurry, but I can tell it’s a guy. Late twenties. Short, curly dark hair. Looks Italian. Also looks familiar.

“Ricci?” I say.

He drops from sight as if ducking.

“Hey!” I say. “If that’s you, Ricci, this really isn’t the way to get my—”

I hear a scuffle and realize, three seconds too late, that he didn’t just duck—he bolted. I jog after him, but when I get to the exit, there’s no sign of anyone. I shake my head and continue up to the station.

Five

At seven, I call Graham’s hotel, and I’m told he checked out early. That’s a good sign, but I still don’t dare spend the night with Kurt. I really need a break, though, and Diana’s going stir-crazy enough in my apartment to agree to return to Kurt’s bar.

Kurt doesn’t seem happy to see me. I think at first it’s because I’m with Diana. But the looks he keeps shooting me suggest he has something to say … and it’s not good. I realize what’s coming. The point of having a regular hookup is the “regular” part, and I’ve been too busy, and as nice a guy as he is, he’s realized it’s time to move on.

“Just a sec,” I say to Diana, who’s on her second lemon drop. “I’m going to talk to Kurt.”

She drains her glass and wordlessly hands it to me. I take it to Kurt.

“Everything okay?” I whisper as I slide onto a bar stool.

He shrugs and makes the lemon drop. Then he says, “If I knew you were coming by, I’d have told you not to.”

I force myself to say, “Okay,” as casually as I can. “You want me to just … stop coming by, then?”

“Huh?” He catches my look. “You think I’m—Hell, no.” He leans forward, his forearms on the bar, his face coming down to mine. “I’d like to think if I decided to end it, I’d do it with a little more class than that.”

His fingers hook mine, a discreet bit of physical contact. “When I said I’d have told you not to come by, it’s because I got a couple calls earlier. A guy phoned the bar and asked for me by a name I don’t use anymore.”

From the old days, he meant. Kurt had grown up in the kind of neighbourhood where making a name for yourself almost certainly entailed jail time. He’d dropped out of high school and worked as an enforcer for a local “businessman.” After his second stint in prison, he cleaned up his act before a third strike stole his last chance.

“Someone trying to pull you back in?” I ask.

“Dunno. Can’t imagine why. I’ve been out too long, but maybe someone got my name, figured I might be tired of the straight life, looking to make some fast money. I said I don’t know anyone who goes by that name anymore. Hour later, I get the same call to my cell. I delivered the same message. That’s why I was going to suggest you stay away for a few days. Give me time to sort this. I don’t want you getting involved.”

“I’m a cop. I can handle it.”

“Right. You’re a cop … which is why we’ve been keeping this on the down-low.” He casts a meaningful glance over at a table of detectives in the corner. “You don’t need the bullshit of dating an ex-con. I get that.”

“Umm, no,” I say. “If I’m discreet, it’s because I’m always discreet. I save my energy for private displays of affection.”

His grin sparks then. “Which I totally appreciate.”

“Glad to hear it. However, if you want, I could make an exception right now.”

I reach and wrap my hand in his shirt. He grins but shakes his head and jerks his chin toward the back hall. I lead him into the single-occupancy ladies’ room and show him how much I’ve missed him. It doesn’t go beyond kissing, though. A quickie in the bathroom isn’t our style. Given that he might not want me coming by for a while, though, I consider making an exception. When I tell him this, he chuckles.

   
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