Sweeney had heard what had happened. The street cop had ruined God-only-knew how many months of undercover work. It had been a bad scene. He’d heard a couple of detectives talking about it in the coffee room that afternoon. From what he’d overheard, Buchanan had turned into a frickin’ superhero. He’d gotten the cop out of the drug hole while the guns were blazing. Buchanan would probably get another commendation, but from the look on his face, he wanted someone’s blood, not medals. Sweeney assumed Buchanan was out to get the stupid kid cop, but after watching for a long minute, he realized the detective’s anger was directed at Lieutenant Lewis. Maybe it was because he’d been assigned with Tanner, who everyone in the department knew was a loose cannon.
Speaking of the devil. Tanner came flying through the room, a look of pure hate in his eyes as he shoved a detective out of his way and barged into the lieutenant’s office. He was shouting before he’d shut the door.
This was better than one of those old movies on television. All he needed now was a beer and some popcorn.
“What’s going on?” a detective across the room called out.
Another detective answered. “Buchanan’s trying to save the kid’s ass. Tanner wants him hung out to dry.”
Sweeney rolled his eyes. Frickin’ saint, that’s what Buchanan was. Sweeney enjoyed watching Lewis get all bent out of shape. His face was bright red. Maybe he was gonna have himself a stroke. Wouldn’t that be nice?
He checked the time again. Fifteen minutes to go. Damn, he was thirsty. He needed to get the hell out of here so he could start drinking. The lieutenant sure wasn’t paying any attention to him now. Sweeney turned to his computer, shoved the papers back into the file, and stuffed the folder into his “who gives a damn” drawer. He was pushing his chair back when he happened to look up. A sweet young thing was coming up the stairs. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. By the time she reached the reception area, he was salivating. He wasn’t the only one. The noise had subsided in the room, and Sweeney guessed the other detectives were looking her over too.
A kiss-ass detective on the opposite side of the room all but pole-vaulted over his desk to get to the woman and offer her assistance, blocking Sweeney’s view. He glanced behind him. The men inside the lieutenant’s office were all still engrossed in their argument.
The detective trying to sweet-talk the woman reluctantly pointed to Sweeney. The woman began to make her way around the cluttered desks to get to him. Sweeney hastily adjusted his tie to hide the ketchup stain, sucked in his gut, and pulled a folder out of his drawer so he would look busy.
She was a knockout with those full, luscious lips. To say nothing about the soft curves and long legs. Maybe she was one of those-thousand-dollar-a-night whores he’d heard about but had never actually seen. Wouldn’t that be a piece of luck? He thought he was smart enough to figure out a way to make her put out for him. That would certainly be something to remember on long, lonely nights. He could just picture her down on her knees, her long curly hair brushing against his thighs …
He forced himself to stop the budding fantasy before he got too horny. His chair groaned as he leaned back and watched her walk closer. Classy bitch, he thought. Too classy to be a high-priced whore. He spotted the sapphire ring and knew it had to be the real deal. No phony stones for this broad. No ring on the left hand, though, so the sapphire hadn’t come from a rich husband. She either had a wealthy father or a sugar daddy paying all her bills, and Sweeney, cynical to the bone, opted for the second possibility. Pretty-girl reeked of money. He could almost smell it on her, and his mind raced for a way to get some of it.
Maybe she would turn out to be his one big score. Everyone had secrets, even classy ladies like her. He licked his lips in anticipation, but caution set in quickly. Stop being a fool, he told himself. His eyes narrowed as he watched her. Deep inside he knew she was out of his league. Resented it too. She had that rich, well-scrubbed look he rarely saw these days. Pretty-girl had striking blue eyes, a shade lighter than the stone on her finger. Rich and beautiful. Out of his reach, all right.
She stopped in front of his desk. Before she could speak, he said, “Can I help you?” He knew he sounded surly. He didn’t care.
He pointed to the nameplate with his cigarette-stained finger, then realized his name was facing him, not her. He leaned forward, turned the nameplate around, and in the process spilled half a cup of cold coffee on his keypad. Muttering a foul word, he grabbed a sheet of paper and wiped up the liquid.
“That’s me, sweetheart. I’m Detective Sweeney.”
He could tell she didn’t like being called sweetheart. Her eyes narrowed ever so slightly. Tough, he thought. He didn’t care if he pissed her off or not. Since he’d already figured out he didn’t stand a chance with her, why bother to be politically correct? Besides, his good friend Jack Daniel’s was waiting for him.
“My name is Regan Madison,” she said as she placed her briefcase on the vinyl chair facing his desk and stood next to it.
“Are you here to report a crime?”
“No. My friend, Cordelia Kane, asked me to stop by and find out what developments have been made regarding her complaint against a psychologist named Dr. Lawrence Shields.”
He didn’t pretend to know whom she was talking about. “Who?”
She repeated word for word what she’d just said. He still didn’t know who or what she was talking about. He hemmed and hawed, trying to bluff his way with the catchall phrase he used on nearly every inquiry he received over the phone. “Oh, yes … that’s still an ongoing investigation.”
“What exactly has been done?”
“Look … you’re gonna have to refresh my memory. I’ve got so many cases to oversee …”
He left the sentence hanging and let out a loud yawn. What a colossal waste of time, Regan thought. Cordie was right. Sweeney was obnoxious and obviously incompetent. His I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude infuriated her.
He was also a lecher. He was too busy ogling her chest to look into her eyes. With effort, she held her patience as she explained who Dr. Shields was and what he had done to Mary Coolidge. Sweeney was still looking clueless when she finished.
“Your friend … what’s her name?”
“What’s your connection to her?”
“I said, what’s your connection to her?”
“Cordelia’s my friend.”
“No, not her. The other woman. The one who killed herself.”
“Her name was Mary Coolidge.”
He was making sure she knew he wasn’t really interested in anything she had to say. His eyes were half closed, and he was rudely yawning every other second now. God, he was such a jerk.
If he leaned back any farther in his chair, he’d land on his backside, and she began to hope that he would.
“I’d like to talk about the investigation, Detective. Do you have any idea …”
He waved his hand to stop her. “It’s all coming back to me now. Like I was telling you, I’ve got so many cases it’s hard to keep track of all of them. I remember now. Your friend was really angry with this Dr. Shields. Told me she was sure he was responsible for the old lady killing herself. My investigation is in my pending file,” he added with a straight face as he pointed to his desk drawer.
“What progress has been made with the investigation?”
“Well, the truth is …”
He shrugged. “I’m working on it.”
She wanted to scream. She took a breath instead. Antagonizing him wouldn’t help her get any straight answers. “I see. Could you tell me—”
It was as far as he would let her get. “I’m going off duty now. Why don’t you come back tomorrow and inquire?”
Regan’s temper was near the boiling point. “I’m afraid that won’t be possible. Is Lieutenant Lewis available?”
Pretty-girl was becoming a pain in the ass. Sweeney’s resentment turned into hostility. How dare she try to intimidate him by pulling rank on him.
“The lieutenant’s busy,” he said, nodding his head to the office behind him. “Besides, he will only bounce you back to me, and I’ve got nothing to report.”
“Has anything been done? Has anyone talked to her neighbors or—”
“The way it looks, this Shields guy didn’t do anything illegal. I know that’s hard to swallow, but that’s the way it is. The woman willingly gave him all her money and then committed suicide. Simple as that. Case closed.”
“So the investigation isn’t really pending, is it?”
She was furious. Her face was bright pink, but he didn’t care. Shrugging, he said, “Sure it’s pending. Pending on getting some real evidence.”
Regan glanced around the room for help. She looked at the four men inside the glassed-in office at the back of the station. The man standing behind the desk was evidently the lieutenant. He was shouting and waving his hands around.
One of the other men drew her attention then. Dressed in filthy clothes and leaning against the window, he said something that infuriated the lieutenant, who was now pounding the desk and shouting. The tantrum didn’t seem to faze the man.
The lieutenant turned his wrath on the uniformed policeman. Even with the door closed she could hear a few of the vile insults and threats the lieutenant was making. The man leaning against the window came to the policeman’s aid. He got in front of him and said something to the lieutenant that sent him into a rage.
Regan wasn’t about to interrupt. She didn’t want to have anything to do with this lieutenant, and she certainly wasn’t going to ask him for help.
Deciding that she’d done all she could, she picked up her briefcase and left the station. The second she reached the sidewalk, she pulled out her cell phone and called Sophie.
“I talked to Detective Sweeney.”
“The man’s a mess.”
“That’s what Cordie said about him,” she said. “But was he useful? Did he give you any information that might be helpful?”
“No, nothing,” she said. “I don’t think anything’s been done. He couldn’t have cared less about poor Mary Coolidge.”
“You read the journal didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did. Dr. Shields needs to be stopped.”
“Which is why you went to the police station to find out—”
“Sophie, there is no investigation under way.”
“Did you talk to Lieutenant Lewis?”
“No,” she said. “He won’t help. He’s worse than Sweeney, if such a thing is possible.”
“I thought you didn’t talk to him.”
“I saw him in action,” she said. “He was screaming and carrying on.”
“Exactly what did Sweeney tell you?”
Regan walked along as she related the conversation she’d had with the obnoxious detective. “I’m telling you, it was a complete waste of time.”
She ended the call just as she turned the corner. She thought she heard someone shout and instinctively turned around.
The crash was inevitable.
ALEC BUCHANAN WAS IN A HURRY TO GET TO HIS CAR AND DRIVE so that he could get out of the filthy clothes he was wearing. He felt as if he had bugs crawling all over him, and all he wanted to do was take a long, hot shower. He was all but running as he turned the corner and damn near rolled over the woman standing there.
He hit her hard. Her briefcase went flying in one direction, and she went flying in the other. He caught her around the waist and lifted her just as she was about to go headfirst into the brick building.
Alec held on to steady her. Damn, she was pretty. Smelled nice too. Surprising that he could smell anything today after his night in the garbage.
He released his hold, picked up her briefcase, handed it to her, and then stepped back. “Sorry about that.”
She nodded to let him know she’d heard his apology. She couldn’t speak. She looked into his eyes, tried to smile, then turned and walked away as fast as she could. She took deep, gulping breaths, trying not to gag. Dear God, the stench radiating from him made her eyes tear.
She burst out laughing. When she looked back, he was still watching her. She smiled but turned the corner and began laughing again. The man with the beautiful white teeth reminded her of a childhood trip to the zoo. Her brother Aiden had taken her when she was seven or eight years old. She remembered they’d gone inside a big, gray stone building. It was crowded and musty inside, but at the end of a long aisle was the new gorilla habitat. The finishing touches hadn’t been put on the gorilla’s new home. There was a double set of bars separating the gorilla from the crowd, but a thick, unbreakable Plexiglas pane hadn’t been installed yet. Regan pulled away from Aiden and ran, darting in and out of the crowd to get there before anyone else noticed there was room right in front of his cage. She made it all the way to the first set of bars before the smell knocked her to her knees. The stench was overpowering, and she began to gag. Aiden had to pick her up and carry her outside to fresh air.
She still remembered the horrible odor from the gorilla’s cage. The man she’d just run into smelled much worse.
Laughing about the old memory put her in a much better frame of mind. Unfortunately, her good mood didn’t last long.
She had just left Neiman Marcus and was hurrying down a side street with her briefcase and shopping bag in one hand and her purse in the other when a man twice her size bumped into her. What am I? Invisible? she thought. Twice in one day men had tried to walk through her.
This one didn’t bother to apologize. In fact, he seemed to deliberately step on her foot. He never looked back as he hurried down the street. Her toe stung where he’d stomped on it, and she walked at a slower pace toward Dickerson’s Bath Shop. The day was only half over and things could improve, she told herself. What good were negative thoughts?
Then she walked into Dickerson’s, and staying positive just wasn’t possible. The salesclerk, a woman wearing the name tag, “Ms. Patsy,” was leaning against the cash register and talking on the phone. She had the receiver cradled in the crook of her shoulder while she filed one of her fingernails.
Ms. Patsy’s face was such a bright red she was obviously worked up about something. She spotted Regan, impatiently waved at her to wait, and continued her conversation. The woman was in her late fifties or early sixties, but she was babbling on the phone like a teenager. She was apparently talking to a friend, filling her in on the latest gossip she’d heard about another woman named Jennifer. Regan wasn’t trying to listen in, but she couldn’t help overhearing a little of what she was saying, and she was appalled by the woman’s cruel remarks.